If you have your own website or blog, or any other source of traffic such as a social media account with a fairly large audience, you might have considered your options for monetizing that traffic. There is an abundance of options and networks that help creators to do just that which can be overwhelming for a beginner. In this article, we will talk about one of the easiest ways to monetize web traffic: affiliate programs, and find out how it can work for you.
What is an affiliate program?
“Affiliate program” or “associate program” is a marketing strategy where a merchant pays someone to generate sales of their product. That is done by the affiliate (person who is doing the promotion) advertising the product to their audience, on their website, or just simply suggesting it to their friends and relatives. The rewards are usually counted for every purchase that is made with the personal referral code or link of the affiliate.
Before the mid-1990s, marketing was heavily dominated by the concept of “referrals”. To make the concept simple, referral marketing is described as a tactic that makes use of “word of mouth”, recommendations from one individual customer to another. A bright example of what results can be reached with this tactic is the lasting success of direct sale companies such as Avon and Amway. Their business strategy relied on their partners to sell products directly to their real-life acquaintances which proved to be highly efficient. However, as time and technology changed, marketing methods have evolved.
Amazon’s impact on affiliate marketing
In 1996, a patent for the new concept of customizing marketing was filed by William J. Tobin, founder of an online flower shop. Tobin’s shop PC Flowers & Gifts launched the first official affiliate program on the Prodigy Network in 1989 and just 3 years later, the commissions from it were generating more than $6 million dollars a year for Prodigy. This success encouraged Tobin to patent the idea and the patent was granted to him in the year 2000. Many businesses picked up on this novel idea of generating new clients and online traffic and adapted affiliate marketing for their own use.
A pioneer of this practice was Amazon.com that used it to motivate website owners and bloggers to become Amazon Associates and advertise products sold on the Amazon marketplace. The now-famous Amazon Associates program, however, is a result of over two decades of extreme growth and advancement. It might have come from humble beginnings but now, 2-3% of all websites that use advertising networks are members of Amazon Associates. This is a massive percentage and a huge chunk of the affiliate network for only one program to engage. The reasoning for this popularity is obvious — big e-commerce players are more likely to be trusted, and those that begin at the onset of affiliate marketing were able to get a massive head start on the competition.
How does it work?
To participate in an affiliate program, one needs to follow these simple steps. They may vary depending on the program you choose but most steps will be relevant for successful participation:
#1 Choose a platform where you can place the affiliate link or code
Deciding on a platform is not only the initial step, it can prove to be one of the most crucial. Some of the biggest are YouTube, Twitch, and various websites where ads can be placed. It is important that the platform where the referral link or code is placed offers valuable resources to the audience so they see the recommendations as trustworthy and are more motivated to purchase products offered by the marketer.
#2 Find your niche
Affiliate marketing is already considered a niche within itself; so find your niche within the niche. Popular niches include e-commerce, travel, and fitness programs which can interest wider audiences. However, the options are near endless, and this aspect really boils down to the person involved and their interests.
#3 Find an affiliate programs to join
This may be achieved through a simple search online through one of the many available search engines. Amazon Associates has already been mentioned as one of the biggest and most trusted platforms. However, there are a plethora of other options out there as well, such as Clickbank and ShareASale. Large programs will usually offer better incentives but lower commission rates. Smaller platforms are unable to offer as many perks but they attract users with higher rates. It’s important, however, to keep an eye out for fraudulent networks that don’t pay their partners at all.
#4 Create great content
Engaging content is what will draw traffic, and online traffic is the basis of the entirety of affiliate marketing. The higher quality content that is created, the more likely this entire process will go smoothly.
If creating content isn’t what you do for a living, it will take a lot of effort to do everything right: doing research, analyzing competitors, finding relevant keywords, etc. Instead, choose a topic that you are interested in and know well. At first, it might seem that you don’t have a subject that won’t require in-depth research or that your thoughts on it won’t be interesting to the readers. However, that isn’t true: you can write about your hometown (you have to know a lot about it), review nearby shops and restaurants or talk about the most recent TV shows you have watched. This content will be unique because it comes from you and there is no one else who thinks exactly the same. Use this to your advantage.
#5 Drive traffic to your affiliate site
This may be achieved through not only the creation of great content but also in presenting and promoting the content itself on your other social media. You can find other content creators in your niche and agree on cross-promoting each other’s accounts or websites. Slowly but surely you will acquire an audience that will be interested in your subject and, therefore, remains active and dedicated.
#6 Get clicks on your affiliate links
All clicks begin with views, but not all views will convert to clicks. Your resource needs a lot of quality content and not just ad after ad. The smaller your audience is, the more non-sponsored posts need to be done in order to keep their interest. Don’t try to sell anything even when you are making a post to include your affiliate links, write from your honest perspective and share your real-life opinions. Be genuine cause people trust other people. If you actively interact with your audience and remain your authentic self, people will be drawn to your content.
#7 Convert clicks to sales
If you have done all the previous steps, the program should start bringing the desired results. To make sure your strategy is working, find a way to measure the conversion rate of each campaign to find out what is working best.
Begin converting sales into profit
So making an affiliate program work for you is not that simple but it’s fairly transparent. You can assess your capabilities and make a decision if becoming an affiliate will be beneficial for you. Make sure you look into which program offers the best incentive/rewards ratio for your content and that you qualify to become an affiliate.
There are a lot of affiliate programs out there but you are only one person. Your main resource is the platform where you have an audience and your content. If you want to generate income with affiliate programs, be prepared to work hard on growing your influence and bettering your content. Then you can always try different programs and find what fits you best but the most important thing is to remember what your audience wants and needs.
Affiliate programs benefit all parties involved: the merchant sells their products, the affiliate gets a commission, and the consumer often receives additional perks such as discounts and gifts.
Evaluate where you fit in this scheme and don’t be afraid to try yourself in a new playing field. Stories of millions of affiliates all over the world confirm that this goal is realistic and achievable. You can say that it’s just like driving a car: might seem scary and difficult at first but when you learn it and use it every day, you won’t be able to imagine your life without it.
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