Affiliate marketing is one of the best and most popular ways to earn money online in today’s world. Whether as a main business or as a sideline, any website with a certain reach could make online sales with affiliate marketing.
At the time of writing this article, I am already generating several thousand dollars income every month with affiliate marketing. In this article I will explain exactly what is important for successful affiliate marketing.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing always consists of two sides:
For those who want to sell their own products, affiliate marketing is an effective channel in the marketing mix.
For the other side, who have a certain reach in a suitable target group, it is a business model. In this post I want to focus primarily on the other part, i.e. affiliates who make money through referrals.
The “online” restriction is also included here because there are also “offline” affiliates. Even if that is not always the case, insurance agents or real estate agents, for example, are only affiliates (who receive commission for sales).
How Affiliates Make Money?
Classic online affiliates have a blog or website and regularly create good and relevant content. This content is found by interested readers (mostly via Google) and the reader is provided with the answers they were looking for.
The specialty of Affiliate Content is the focus on purchasable products. It’s rarely about lifestyle or personal stories, but rather about experience reports on sought-after products.
It doesn’t really matter whether these are physical products, software, contracts or knowledge products such as courses or eBooks. Anything a reader can theoretically buy is good.
It is crucial that the affiliate can describe and recommend the products in their texts (ideally based on personal experience) and lead the reader to the product provider as directly as possible.
If the interested party buys a product there, the affiliate receives a commission from the shop or product provider. How high it is exactly and how long it is paid for, for example, with regular sales (memberships), depends on the individual offer of the provider.
Why affiliate marketing is better than drop shipping?
In affiliate & drop Shipping, a third party will send the recommended product. With drop shipping, however, the website operator would be the shop itself and sell a product directly to the customer.
In affiliate marketing, on the other hand, the affiliate has nothing to do with the customer. The sale to the customer (and thus also the liability, returns processing, invoicing, etc.) takes place completely elsewhere.
That is also the reason why affiliate marketing is so attractive. No products, no customer relationships, nothing … The affiliate only earns from the recommendation and can concentrate fully on the marketing of products.
Cons of Affiliate Marketing:
While the advantages of affiliate marketing are evident, there are disadvantages too. Affiliates have neither influence on the conversion rate in the shop nor on the products themselves. In addition, the affiliate margins are usually significantly lower than those of manufacturers or retailers.
Imagine you are an affiliate and have built up content and good rankings for a certain product over months – and then the provider decides overnight that he no longer wants to offer the product.
This is certainly an extreme case, but for Amazon Affiliates who recommend a large number of products, for them, it is actually a regular challenge.
It is uncommon for new providers to appear or disappear again. And if a potential referral customer can’t buy anything, there is no affiliate commission.
Vigilance and regular maintenance of the affiliate post are just as important as having alternative offers in the back of your mind if the going gets tough.
Second, an affiliate has to trust that the shop itself does everything to ensure that products are sold as efficiently as possible (keyword “conversion rate optimization”).
This starts with website speed and continues with product images, descriptions and testimonials – right up to the trust the brand and the support – further. As an affiliate, I have no influence on what the shop does (or not). The optimization for the affiliate stops with your own website. This is definitely a disadvantage once the commissions have been paid when something is sold.
Incidentally, this problem is also one of the reasons why so many bloggers like to rely on Amazon. The commissions there are relatively low and the cookie life is underground, but Amazon knows how they sell.
The conversions are usually well over 5% (at least 5 out of 100 recommended visitors also buy something) where other shops are happy about 2.5% market average. Small shops often offer very long cookie runtimes of 30 or even 90 days.
That means, even if a recommended reader decides to buy clearly after the recommendation click, this will still lead to a commission. For comparison: At Amazon, the purchase must be made within the session in which the recommendation was made. By the way, I have more about Amazon Affiliate and a few numbers already written here.
Not only can the sale be repaid:
… but also visitors (traffic) or free and non-binding registrations (e.g. for software) are already worth affiliate commissions for some companies. Because a recommendation funnel typically works as follows:
For example, the affiliate places a recommendation link on his blog and generates a referral, i.e. a visitor to the product provider’s shop.
2. Lead / Signup
This visitor registers with the product provider based on the recommendation (e.g. for a free test of a software). Money does not usually flow here yet. However, the visitor introduced himself to the provider by, for example, leaving his e-mail address to interested parties. The provider can now send further offers or information, by email.
A sale is when a product is actually bought.
Not every click leads to a lead and not every lead leads to a sale.
Nevertheless, at all of these points it can make sense for a product provider to remunerate an affiliate. If the remuneration is agreed in step 1 (cost per click / CPC), the affiliate has less risk and can control his success 100% (namely generate the click on the company’s website)
If he is paid for a signup first (step 2. / Cost per Lead / CPL), the affiliate bears the risk that the company’s website is inviting and leads to the goal (the sale) as well as possible.
If the site is poorly conversion-optimized, the affiliate is doing bad business. Because with a good website optimized for conversions, he would have had more success with the same effort (the same number of clicks).
The affiliate bears the greatest risk in step 3 (cost per sale / CPS). Here it not only depends on the signup process working well, the purchase decision and the buying process must also work.
As a rule, the affiliate has no influence on the onboarding and sales process of the company for which he has made a recommendation.
How do you become a successful affiliate marketer?
A lot of work is required before one can think of the supposed “passive income”. I am trying to show the essential and most important steps in the required order.
First of all: If you are very impatient, don’t like creating content (especially not videos or texts) and don’t have the time for it, then you can stop right now and look for another online business model.
Affiliate Marketing is a Job!
There is no passive income. I would therefore speak of indirect income. Successful affiliates – who can live off their affiliate earnings – have taken years to get there.
My personal assessment is that at least two years of intensive time investment (with appropriate knowledge) are required in order to be able to generate reasonably relevant sales.
That of course depends very much on the niche and the products selected, but it takes longer than a weekend.
If I were to create new content every day (like this article here), it would look different. Such an article costs me several hours to create.
Creating something like this every day would be a full-time job! This expectation should be clear to anyone who seriously wants to consider affiliate as a business model.
Quality Content Is Everything:
If you start from scratch, the first thing you need is a website or a blog. If that does not already exist, then I recommend this article.
Once the blog is up and running, you can start. Think about the topic, acquire knowledge and start producing!
If you really strive for the affiliate business model, I recommend above all to run a blog. Products can also be recommended via Instagram and Youtube , but affiliates live mainly from SEO traffic.
This can still work well on Youtube (because videos are also searched for and found), but at the latest on Instagram it becomes much more difficult. If you don’t post new pictures, you can’t make any new sales. In addition, purchases outside of your own shop on Instagram can only be achieved via the detour “Link in Bio”.
But the expectations of readers and viewers are also different on Youtube and Instagram than on blogs. Visual content is primarily about fast-paced entertainment.
From my experience a good piece of text on a blog is about acquiring knowledge can better lead to purchasing decisions. Reading is more strenuous to look at pictures and videos. More commitment is required. Therefore: Blogging for Affiliate Marketing is good!
So that blogging works well and the texts can be found, please pay attention to proper search engine optimization (including backlink building) from day 1. If the texts are not found in the end, then even the best recommendation is of no use!
I myself often write articles in my blogs first and only think about months later, when the rankings and traffic are there, which products I can incorporate and recommend in the texts and how subsequently. Not the other way around! Every affiliate text is touched regularly anyway.
How much money do you earn as an affiliate?
It depends … The right selection of products is just as important as the right placement. And above all it is about addressing the right target group for the products. There is no ultimate truth, but in the end everything has to fit together. Ultimately, it’s about trying out what works where and how well.
Here is the best courses that work pretty well for me:
The 12 Minute Affiliate System
After the articles ranked well, we gradually built in products from Amazon, which we now recommend in the articles. For the position and placement, we have chosen a table with a maximum of 3 products in a row, which always appears after the first paragraph of the text. Every product has a name, a short description, a picture and a button that shows the current price.
Important rules in affiliate marketing:
If you are motivated now, please read this section through to the end. Because you can do a wrong way and get nothing in the worst case. In my opinion, these rules are inevitable for everyone who wants to get started as an affiliate:
An affiliate first has to make advance payments and generate a lot of content. That takes time and is an effort that nobody pays at first. The currency in affiliate marketing is ultimately relevant Google rankings or relevant traffic. Then nothing!
If you start a blog with the wrong content claim, you will not get anything and will disappear into the lower ranks in the search engines. In addition to the quality of the content, the amount of fresh content is also decisive. Successful affiliates write consistently over the years and keep improving existing content. Anyone who do blogging knows how difficult discipline can be.
Advertising that is too aggressive doesn’t work
Unfortunately, there are fewer pages that consist primarily of banners. That has never worked. The job of a good affiliate post is to explain a product and build a certain amount of trust for it.
This works best with pictures, videos and above all personality. If, as a reader, I have the feeling that the blogger / author has dealt with the product and convincingly conveys to me that he thinks it is good, then I only think about clicking on the offer.
It is therefore best not to use banners at all and rather use links in the body of the text or on your own buttons. Banners only distract and look unprofessional in 99% of all cases.
Choosing the right partners
The best affiliate programs are not the ones with the highest commissions, but the ones that sell best to the target audience they can reach.
As a travel blogger, what good is it to recommend a large, heavy coffee machine when my readers are looking for travel recommendations? The context of the website must be clear and the appearance must be professional. The right affiliate products must be selected according to the content.
Please do not build an impersonal and generic comparison page
Unfortunately, there are still far too many of them: comparison sites. Even if there are great WordPress themes for this that automatically pull products into the blog and provide them with affiliate links, I advise against it!
Comparisons of products are generally good and useful. However, in order to recommend products effectively, you should take the time and really deal with them.
For example, if you want to recommend software, test it personally and in the way a reader would use it. This is a greater effort, which is added to the pure writing of the texts and should definitely be taken into account when creating the content.
In the case of physical products, you should ideally buy the products yourself and deal with them.
Choose the right partner for you
It doesn’t always have to be Amazon. I recommend keeping your eyes open and consciously looking for affiliate offers that suit your site and your traffic.
If there is still no offer, feel free to approach the potential partner and, if necessary, to build an individual solution together.
Amazon is great too, but it is clearly a mass business. It might also be enough to recommend two handfuls of homepage builders per month to be able to make a living from it.
As a pure Amazon affiliate, this goal requires around 200,000 monthly readers from my experience. They have to come from somewhere first.
My conclusion on affiliate marketing
I think that affiliate marketing is a sensible and attractive business model in the long term, if you consider the way to the goal. Success doesn’t come overnight and requires a lot of work.
If you have the discipline and manage to reach a relevant target group with regular traffic on your own site, all options are open to you.