Affiliate Marketing Unmasked

If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet in the past few years, you’ve probably seen the words affiliate marketing.  But unless you are already involved in some form of online marketing, the words probably don’t mean a whole lot to you.

In its simplest terms, affiliate marketing is using one website to drive traffic to another website.  More precisely, it is usually meant to drive sales to another website.  However, that depends on the type of arrangement the affiliates or publishers have with their merchant partners…we will get into later.  To make it perhaps even more simple, it is like a commission.  If one person ends up purchasing something on a website because it was mentioned on another website, the website that sent them there will get a portion of the sale.  Of course only if there is a pre-existing agreement between the two parties.

For example, if you blog about how great a particular book is and you provide a link to Amazon.com using your own affiliate code or ID and someone clicks on the link and buys the book, you get a commission.

Although affiliate marketing is growing exponentially, it is still definitely one of the lesser known and lesser used forms of online marketing.  Search engine optimization (SEO) pay per click (PPC) and Google Adsense are almost household terms these days.  But affiliate marketing is still in its infancy and hasn’t grown to the same levels as these other methods of online marketing.

One of the reasons for this is that although you can certainly make a great deal of money through affiliate marketing, it isn’t always easy and depends on a number of factors.  First of all, you need to have trusting readers who are willing to accept your suggestions.  Also, you need lots of them.  The more traffic to your site, the better your affiliate marketing program will fare.  You also need to push quality products.  If word gets out that you are backing a lesser product, in no time at all your referrals will diminish.

Who Can Use Affiliate Marketing?

One of the major niche markets of affiliate marketing is in the blogging industry.  Since successful affiliate marketing depends on having a trusting client-base, a blog can be the perfect spot.  If you regularly read a weekly blog about new cars and the writer happens to mention a new product, you might be more inclined to check it out since you already value their judgement.

Theoretically anyone with a website and the software to run an affiliate program can benefit from it.  But simply setting up a website and crossing your fingers isn’t going to do the trick.  You need to make connections with other like-minded service providers and create arrangements to link back to one another.

How to Make Money from Affiliate Marketing

For the sake of being forthright, we all know the bottom line reasoning for anyone getting involved in affiliate marketing: money.  Of course, there are countless other benefits, but if you are just at the start of the game, you can probably see those dollar signs dangling before your eyes.  But in order to turn those dollar signs from a mirage to a miracle, there are a few things you need to do.

Affiliate marketing is broken down into two categories of people: affiliates and merchants.  But no matter which side of the coin you are on, the possibilities to make money beyond your wildest dreams are very much a potential reality.  A merchant can be described as someone online who has a specific product or service to sell.  Obviously, the more product’s you sell, the more money in your pocket.  And that is where the affiliate steps in.  It is their job to recommend your product through their own online avenues, such as blogs, websites and newsletters and convince their readers to purchase your product.  Once the transaction has gone through, the affiliate will collect a percentage of the final sale.  So, in the end, both parties come out on top.  The merchant increases their sales and the affiliate makes a few bucks.

But in order for this to work, merchants and affiliates need to work extremely closely.  Without one, the other will flop.  But if a merchant is succesfully paired up with an affiliate who stands behind their product and also understands the ins and outs of their particular business, then you are well on your way down the path of financial freedom.

However, the working relationship may not end up being fruitful if both ends of the spectrum don’t fully understand and believe in the product they are trying to sell.  From the affiliates point of view, recommending an inferior product to clients can be devastating for their reputation.  Since almost all of this type of work is completeted online, word about a bad recommendation can travel quickly and cover the whole world wide web in a matter of hours.  Therefore, it is important to only recommend a product that you legitimately would use in your own personal life.

As important as it is to learn techniques to use, it is equally important to discover techniques to avoid.  If you are on the affiliate side of things, the biggest mistake you can make it marketing too many products that aren’t connected to one another.  Your prospective clients will quickly be able to see that you are just trying to make a quick buck and don’t actually stand behind your recommendations.  This will in turn result in fewer sales and fewer customer referalls.  But if you stick to the same line of business, like for example recommending camping products on your outdoor living blog, your chances of success are much greater.

Whether you are an affiliate manager or a merchant, the bottom line to success in this field is hard work.  Especially in the beginning.  If you talk to anyone who has been succesful in this business, they will likely tell you that once they got started, their income rose while their hours of work decreased. This too can be your future as long as you play your cards right and put in some hard and dedicated work.

Affiliate Marketing Tips

Unlike many other forms of online marketing, there are no ‘secrets’ to success in the affiliate business.  The basis of a proper and successful affiliate marketing campaign, whether you are on the merchant or the affiliate side, is hard work.  But if you are ready, willing and able to put the hard work in, then you are already well on your way down the yellow brick road of success.

Whether you are on the merchant or the affiliate side, one of the most important tips is to work in a field that you are knowledgeable about.  If you don’t appear to be an expert in what you are talking about, your potential customers will quickly catch on.   And in this field, just as any other, the customer is the one who pads your pay check.  Therefore, it is of utmost importance to keep any customer you have, and to keep them as happy as can be along the road.

If you are on the merchant side of things, you probably became aware of this market due to some online publication promising to increase your sales with affiliate marketing.  Although this is certainly possible, and true in many cases, the fact of the matter is that it depends on having a quality program manager.  That not only includes having one that understands the business of affiliate marketing but also someone who understands your particular business strategy.  Also, they need to be experts on the particular type of service you are offering and who exactly your target demographic is.

It is also advisable to have someone who works with you, instead of for you.  You never want to engage in a battle of affiliate versus merchant.  But if you can find the right partnership that places the two parties as a team instead of opponents, you are well on your way to affiliate success.

If your knowledge of affiliate marketing is less than complete, you may wish to enlist the help of an outsource affiliate program management specialist.  These types of specialists earn their living by helping merchants like you get the word out about their products and services.  Therefore, they will have your best interests on their bottom line.

One of the other most important tips in any facet of performance-based marketing is to always be on the cusp of new developments.  This is a vast and ever-changing field, and if you aren’t aware of all the nuances and changes to the market, you will quickly be left in the dust.  By constantly searching for new information and educating yourself about market changes, you will easily place yourself above your competitors.

The bottom line is that affiliate marketing is based on partnership marketing.  There always needs to be two sides to the coin for a successful affiliate campaign, no matter which side you find yourself on.  But if you have a good working relationship with your business partner, the sky is literally the limit.

To sum it all up, unfortunately, there are no hidden secrets to success in this field.  It all comes down to the matter of hard work and a working partnership between affiliate and merchant.  If you have these few elements, then success is only a few steps away.

Building Your First Affiliate Marketing Site

So you’ve decided to try your hand at making a few bucks in affiliate marketing. But before the money starts rolling in, you need to figure out how to set up your first affiliate marketing site.

Before you even get into the technical aspect of creating a website, it is important to decide what your niche will be. As you enter the world of affiliate marketing management, deciding on your niche market is one of the most important decisions. Too many affiliates make the mistake of having a broad range of topics and lose out on big money by not focusing on one simple area of personal expertise. When choosing your niche, it is important to pick something that you are personally interested in. This will make the process seem much less like work if you are in the business of talking about your love of golf, landscaping, gardening or kayaking. And if you are already an expert in your targeted niche market, it makes it much easier to bring aboard prospective clients. [Read more…]

Reach Out and LISTEN! – Some Rules & Lessons Learned About Affiliate Communications

When I first started managing client’s affiliate programs I dreaded the thought of becoming inundated with emails from anybody with a website. I figured I’d get umpteen questions like: “I joined your affiliate program, so how do I start making money?” or “How is this code going to turn into a banner on my site?” or worse yet, “I just bought a $20 product on your site, so where’s my commission check?”

With visions of overflowing inboxes in my head, one of the first things I did was to create an information page to put on my client’s sites that answered many of the basic questions neophyte affiliates may have. This then evolved into a full-blown section where I was able to provide extensive training and tips to all of their affiliates on an ongoing basis

Both of these site enhancements have been well received and I encourage you to do the same, but the question remains – Did it I still become inundated with inquires?
The answer is no, but I don’t believe it’s because of the plethora of information that I provided on the merchant site. It’s really because affiliates, for the most part, just don’t communicate. Consequently, as an affiliate manager you must follow these communications standards: [Read more…]

Taking the Usual Affiliate Marketing Tips to the Next Level

Part I – The Envelope Please…

How many times have you read articles and listened to speakers spout the ‘same old stuff’ — ideas and tips that you’ve heard over and over. You think to yourself, “This is a waste of time — I know this — it’s sooo basic.” To this I say, “Sure you do, but are you actually DOING it? And are you taking these basic concepts and BUILDING on them?”

As a direct marketing professional for the past 20 years, I sometimes feel I’ve built my career on the ideas of others. That said, I truly believe the keys to my success have been the following: [Read more…]