How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing

For many online entrepreneurs affiliate marketing is THE holy grail to a significant passive income. Affiliate marketing can provide you with a location independent, around the clock way of earning your money.

You can earn money when you’re asleep, when you are sipping Pina Colada’s on a tropical island, when you’re playing with your kids or when you are having dinner with your wife.

All you have to do is recommend people to purchase somebody else’s product or service. If this turns out successful you’re given an affiliate commission.

Because of the huge potential in affiliate marketing, there is a lot of competition in it. To beat this competition you need a good strategy, determination and some expert tips you will find in this guide.

In this affiliate marketing guide I’ll cover everything about affiliate marketing from A to Z.

Why affiliate marketing?

“Why would I choose affiliate marketing?” is a question that people often ask me. Evidently, there are so many other ways to earn money online besides affiliate marketing.

Most people will argue that if you manage to successfully sell someone else’s products as an affiliate, you could as well sell products of yourself and double your profit.

What these people forget though, is that there is a huge difference between affiliate marketing and having an actual e-commerce store.

When you own an e-commerce store you do a lot more than just selling. You have to purchase the goods, manage your stocks, deal with shipping, returns and customer contact. Unless you find an inventive way to outsource all these things against moderate costs, you’ll likely be stuck to one location for as long as your business runs.

So.. let’s get back to the question.

“Why affiliate marketing?”

For starters, affiliate marketing is low-cost and incredibly easy to start. You don’t have to deal with product design, negotiate with vendors or invest a lot of cash upfront for your stock.

The second reason is that it provides you with a potential location independent business. All you need to run your business is a laptop and an internet connection. You can run your business from home but also from a beach bar in Thailand.

This might not be your first concern but as your business grows it might become a concern later on. If you play your cards right, your affiliate marketing side business can become so profitable that you can quit your day job. This, in turn, provides you with a lot more freedom.

Freedom to pursue other activities like extended travel.

You might not be concerned about this now, but when the time finally arrives you don’t want to be shackled to a business that requires your constant physical presence somewhere. Cause then you basically spent years working and preparing to trade on day job for a new day job.

Next to location independence, affiliate marketing also provides you with time independence and scalability. This makes affiliate marketing the ideal business to start as a side business next to your full-time job.

You can work in the early mornings before your family wakes up or at night when your kids have gone to bed. If you feel busy for a few weeks and want to tune down, this is entirely possible.

With an e-commerce store this is different. If you promise your customers to ship their orders within a single day you can’t just vanish for two weeks. Next to that, an e-commerce store will make you committed to customer service hours as well. Evidently, you can outsource all this but this on itself requires time and money. Which in turn will cut your profits making them come close to the profits in affiliate marketing.

At last, affiliate marketing has huge profit potentials. There are millions of people who practice affiliate marketing as a full time job. Once you get a successful business running it becomes highly scalable. Earning six figures with affiliate marketing is no exception.

How does affiliate marketing work?

Affiliate marketing is very simple. I’ll shortly explain you how it works below.

  1. Person A sells a product.
  2. Person B recommends this product to person C.
  3. Person C ends up buying the product after the recommendation.
  4. Person B gets a commission for referring person C to person A

The concept behind affiliate marketing dates back hundreds of years ago. Back then, the deal between merchant and affiliate would be made by a verbal agreement, and the referral would happen by word of mouth.

Nowadays, the deal is made by digitally signing up for an affiliate program. The referral happens online and is tracked by cookies. In affiliate marketing there are a few parties involved. There are merchants, affiliate marketeers, customers and in many cases there is an affiliate network.

Below I’ll explain you the role of each of those parties.

The merchant

The merchant is the party that sells a product or service.

In most cases the merchant owns an e-commerce store but a physical store is in rare cases possible as well. One strategy that e-commerce stores often employ is affiliate marketing. For the merchant, affiliate marketing is away to increase store visitors, leads, sales and gain exposure.

The benefit of affiliate marketing for a merchant is that it is performance based. This means that an affiliate marketeer only gets paid for reaching a certain measurable objective such as clicks, leads or sales.

The affiliate marketeer

The affiliate marketeer is you, but then a few weeks or months from now. An affiliate marketeer is someone who recommends a merchant’s products or services to potential customers. He or she has various ways of doing this, which will be covered in the rest of this guide.

The affiliate marketeer is paid a commission for every customer who ends up making a conversion with the merchant. There are different commission models which will also be covered later in this guide.

The customer

The customer is the party who ends up getting connected to the merchant through the affiliate marketeer.

Most affiliate marketing models revolve around the customer making a purchase from the merchant. However, next to purchases, affiliates can be rewarded for so called “soft conversions” as well.

A soft conversion is not a final purchase but something that gets the customer halfway. It can be a newsletter sign-up, a request for quotation or a free sample request.

The affiliate networks

In many cases, the merchant doesn’t have the time nor the resources to maintain a direct relationship with all its affiliate marketeers. Maintaining relationships take time a money but also require that you maintain the technology that is used to track the customers from affiliate marketeer to the merchant.

This is where affiliate networks come into play. Affiliate networks are organizations that connect merchants and affiliate marketeers. They provide the technology to track customers, they provide rules and guidelines and screen affiliate marketeers.

Affiliate marketing price models

In affiliate marketing there are several different price models. People mostly refer to them by their abbreviations.

Below I’ll explain you the different price models and tell you what you need to be careful for when picking a price model. When you start with affiliate marketing you not only select a merchant to partner up with on its products but also on the price model this merchant has to offer.

CPM – Cost Per Mille

CPM is a metric that tracks the amount of impressions. The merchant supplies you with display advertising material such as an online banner. You put this banner on your website or blog and will be paid a small amount of money for every 1.000 impressions.

CPC – Cost Per Click

As the definition gives away, you are paid for every click. You get a fixed amount of money for every visitor who clicks on your affiliate link and then ends up on the merchant’s website. This can be a text link but also an advertising banner or a link that is shared via social media.

CPL – Cost Per Lead

With the cost per lead metric you simply get paid for every “lead” you generate for the merchant. What qualifies as a lead is up to the merchant to decide. Usually a lead is a soft conversion. It’s when a consumer leaves his contact details for additional info on a product or service. Or when a consumer signs up for a test product or newsletter.

CPS – Cost Per Sale

With the cost per sale metric you get paid for every sale you generate for the merchant. If you refer a consumer to the merchant and he or she ends up buying a product then a sale has occurred. The cost per sale metric has two variants. You either get a fixed amount of money or a percentage from the sale value.

CPA – Cost Per Action

Cost per action is a bit of a variable pricing model that is often used in affiliate marketing as well. You are paid when a consumer makes a predetermined action. This action can be a newsletter signup or any other traceable digital action.

Affiliate Marketing Price Models

What you need to know about the price models

Before you start with affiliate marketing there are several things you absolutely need to know about the price models. Consider them insider trading tips. Tips from someone who made mistakes and learned from them so that you don’t have to waste your time making the same mistakes.

First, CPM and CPC are more or less advertising based models and not really affiliate marketing models. Hence, you will not see them in affiliate marketing very often.

Nevertheless, if you see them, you’ll need to be somewhat wary of the models. Unfortunately, both models are very susceptible to fraudulent activities. Activities like click baiting and impression fraud.

Because these activities happen on large scale, the remuneration of CPC and CPM models have gone down to correct for the fraudulent impressions and clicks caused by these activities. After all, a consumer who gets click baited into clicking on an affiliate link is potentially worth much less for a merchant than one who clicks on the link out of genuine curiosity.

The profitability of CPM and CPC models nowadays is often a little on the low side for honest entrepreneurs. So if you encounter a CPM or CPC model, be thorough in your estimates as to how profitable they are for you. On average, only merchants who do thorough quality screening and checks are able to provide an honest remuneration for CPC and CPM models.

Cost per lead (CPL) and cost per sale (CPS) are models you will find more often in affiliate marketing. Contrary to CPM and CPC they are less susceptible to fraud. However, from my experience, cost per lead is a model that requires to be carefully assessed.

As an affiliate, there is one big danger tied to the CPL model. The issue with CPL is that it is often tied to products and/or services that are moderately expensive and that are a big step for consumers to purchase on their first encounter.

You will often encounter CPL with pricey services like education, insurances, financial loans and so on. Consumers who stumble upon these services are often hesitant to make a purchase right away. This is why the merchant has implemented soft conversions like a newsletter signup, a request for more information, a request for quotation or a trial lesson. All the consumer has to do is fill in their information and the merchant will be in touch.

When the consumer fills in his or her information, you as an affiliate, will get a commission for providing a lead.

Now here comes the issue…

Once you have provided the merchant with a lead, the merchant has enough possibilities to turn this lead into a valuable sale outside the affiliate system. The merchant can contact the lead, and vice versa, via various channels like email or phone.

This contact is arranged outside the affiliate circuit and you will have to rely on the merchant’s integrity to also give you a commission for the sale. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen. In the end you get paid a little commission for providing a lead without getting the commission for the sale.

So, if you stumble upon a CPL model, take some time to investigate the product and service.

There are definitely situations where CPL can be a serious monetization for you. Just be wary of situations where the CPL commission is very low and the probability to make an actual sale on the first referral is low as well.

In that case you’ll just be scrambling pennies from leads while the merchant is turning these into valuable customers without paying you fairly for your effort.

How does referral tracking work?

So far, I have explained you how affiliate marketing works and what kind of commission models there are. I also explained you that affiliate marketing has evolved from something brick and mortar in the middle ages to something fully digital we have today.

Essentially, to make affiliate marketing work, all you have to do is to make consumers click on a special hyperlink that leads them to the merchant. This hyperlink is also known as an affiliate link. It is a hyperlink that points to the merchant and contains a tracking ID that can be used to identify that the link originated from you.

When the consumer clicks on an affiliate link, a special kind of tracking cookie is created and stuffed into the consumer’s internet browser.

This cookie is harmless and is used to track when the consumer makes a purchase with the merchant. This way, the cookie ensures that when the consumer makes a purchase, the merchant knows that this consumer originated from you. This cookie is not only used to track if the consumer makes a purchase right after he or she clicked on the affiliate link. The cookie can remain in the consumer’s browser anywhere between 1 and 365 days.

This means that if a consumer clicks on the affiliate link, ends up with the merchant, then leaves and returns to the merchant’s website two weeks later to make a purchase, the cookie will point out that it still is your referral. How long the affiliate cookie will last is determined by the merchant. Most merchants use 30 or 90 days but some choose to apply a shorter or longer amount of days.

The image below is an example of the cookie that is stuffed in your browser when you click on my Bluehost affiliate link.

affiliate cookie example Bluehost

The cookie length is a criterium that some affiliates take into account when selecting a merchant to do business with. Merchants with a high cookie length are often considered more affiliate friendly than those who have a short cookie length.

After all, it would be unfair not to credit you for a referral, only because the consumer made his purchase two days later instead of immediately after being referred.

Some affiliates make a big deal out of cookie length but I think that there are way more important things to take into consideration when selecting a merchant. Research into affiliate marketing shows that roughly 94% of the purchases occur right after the consumer got referred to the merchant. The graph below shows the rest of the research results.

cookie length and sales in affiliate marketing

This makes it evident that cookie length is one of the last things you should worry about when selecting a merchant. When selecting a merchant there are plenty of other things to take into consideration. What these things are I’ll explain you later in this article.

Tracking models

When you dive into cooking lengths there is one more issue that pops up. What happens when a consumer clicks on two affiliate links from two different affiliates and then makes just one purchase?

Imagine a consumer browsing for a product. He clicks on your affiliate link, ends up with the merchant but then decides not to purchase. Three days later he makes up his mind, starts googling again and ends up with the merchant through another affiliate.

So, what happens when the consumer makes a purchase? Evidently, the merchant isn’t going to give every single affiliate a full commission for the referral.

How this issue is addressed is determined by the merchant. There are a few different models to determine how the commission is distributed.

Some merchants apply the first come first serve model. This means that the first affiliate to make the recommendation gets the commission for as long as the cookie lasts.

Other affiliates apply the last recommendation model. This means that the last affiliate to make the recommendation gets the commission.

There is also a model where the commission is shared between the affiliates. This can be 50/50 but other distributions like 60/40 or 80/20 are possible as well.

Nevertheless, as I mentioned, roughly 94% of the purchases are made right after the referral. Thus, as cookie length is not something to be really worried about, neither is worrying about how the affiliate commission is shared in the exceptional cases when there are multiple affiliates.

Getting started

Up until now I’ve explained you a lot of basic knowledge about affiliate marketing. But how do you get started? We’ll cover how you get started with affiliate marketing below.

Pick a niche, a product or a service

The first thing you need to do is to pick a niche, a product or a service. There are two possible approaches to this step.

The first approach is picking a niche and then looking at a range of products or services that fit this niche. The second approach is picking a product or service and then looking for a niche that fits the product or service.

Pick whichever approach you find the most suitable.

The niche approach

Nearly any small business nowadays is focused on a specific niche market. If you’re reading this guide I’ll assume that you’re not Jeff Bezos but that you are an entrepreneur with a limited budget and a limited or no team at all. If you fit this profile I can give you one solid advice.

Pick a niche and don’t try to compete in the mainstream market because this is going to be a hell of a job. If you want to sell products in the mainstream market you’ll end up competing with giants like Amazon and AliBaba who have gazillion dollar marketing budgets, hundreds of UX specialists and perhaps a thousand data scientists are able to figure out exactly what consumers want before the consumers themselves even realize what they want.

There are thousands of niches that have little competition and are large enough for you to make a decent profit from. However, picking the right niche requires a careful and thoughtful research process.

If you pick the wrong niche you’ll end up putting a lot of work in a niche that isn’t profitable for you. For the sake of this article’s length I won’t dive into all the details on picking a niche. If you want to read an extensive guide on picking a niche, read it here.

Below I’ll just go over the basics of picking the right niche.

Characteristics of a good niche market

  • A good niche market has a clearly identifiable fit between product and customer
  • A good niche market has a lot of growth potential
  • A good niche market has an easily identifiable customer base
  • A good niche market is based on a product/service that is procured online

Characteristics of a bad niche market

  • A bad niche market is based on a product that consumers only purchase once in their life
  • A bad niche market is a market with zero competition (unless you really found a unicorn niche, which is very unlikely though)
  • A bad niche market has a product/service that people are not used to buying online

The product/service approach

The second possible approach is not picking a niche first but trying to find a product or service you would like to recommend.

But.. how do you find a suitable product? The most recommended way is trying to select a product or service that you have experience with. A product that you own and like to use.

The reason behind this is simple. It’s easier to sell a product that you are excited about than it is to sell a product you have absolutely no affinity with. Having experience with a product will have two positive consequences.

The first is that you are easily able to produce a lot of high quality content about it. Guides, blueprints, reviews and so on are all easily written and often of high quality. If you’re excited about the product you’re selling, this is often noticeable in the quality of the content as well.

The second benefit is that you will be easier motivated to keep on working on your business. Selling a product you’re excited about is fun and makes it feel less like you’re working.

When picking an affiliate product or service there are some other conditions that a product must have. Next to the product itself there’s also the merchant behind the product. Multiple merchants selling the same products can be hugely different in how they approach the merchant-affiliate relationship.

Product characteristics

  • Find a product that is sold by more than one merchant. If you select a product that is sold by just a single merchant you might get into big trouble when the merchant decides to quit doing business with affiliates.
  • Find a product that is primarily sold online. There are still specific products that people prefer to buy inside a physical store and that don’t sell well in an online environment.
  • Find a product that is easy to purchase. Don’t burn your hands on ridiculously expensive products that people are hugely hesitant to purchase right away.
  • Find an evergreen product. A product with a very long lifecycle that isn’t bound by a trend or seasonal change. If you promote Christmas trees, don’t expect to earn any money in the summer.

Merchant characteristics

  • If there are multiple merchants, do your research into which merchant has the best service and quality. When a consumer makes a purchase and sends the product back you will not earn a commission for the sale. Ergo, the height of your commission is somewhat dependent on how satisfied the end customer is about his purchase.
  • Take a good look at the commission structure of a merchant. If there are multiple merchants, compare them to each other. Some merchants have a fixed cost per sale commission and others have a percentage based commission. Try to make an honest estimate about the average order amount and which structure would earn you the most money.
  • Take a good look at the rules and guidelines of the merchants. A merchant is quite free to determine the rules and guidelines that an affiliate must comply to. Some merchants prohibit the use of email marketing and others prohibit the use of their brand name as target keywords. By checking out the rules and guidelines you’ll find out if you could work with the guidelines and rules.

Pick a way you want to do affiliate marketing

As I’ve explained before, affiliate marketing is based on recommendations. How you end up making these recommendations is entirely up to you. As long as the recommendations are digitally traceable towards you.

This means that there are numerous ways that one can do affiliate marketing. You could for example start a blog and recommend someone else’s products or services in a blog posts like I do with this post.

But, there are a ton of other possibilities as well.

  1. You could print your affiliate url in front size 72 on a piece of paper and attach the papers on all the street lights in your city
  2. You could graffiti your affiliate url on a wall somewhere public (using graffiti in public places is illegal and considered vandalism, I hope you realize this is a joke)
  3. You can share your affiliate url in a vlog on youtube

Virtually any way to share your affiliate url with other people could be a form of affiliate marketing. How you practice affiliate marketing is obviously entirely up to you. In my opinion your choice should be based on two considerations.

  1. What do you like to do?
  2. What kind of way is a good fit to the product(s) or service(s) I’m promoting?

Does the idea of creating vlogs make you feel excited and the idea of having to write a 2000 word post for your blog turns you off? Then don’t choose blogging as your method of affiliate marketing.

So essentially, your method of doing affiliate marketing should match your interests and passions.

The second consideration is that the way of affiliate marketing should match the product or service you’re promoting. Don’t get me wrong, most products and services are applicable to any way of affiliate marketing.

But, some combinations simply do better than others. Physical products that you can demonstrate evidently do better in vlogs. This is why a lot of vlogs are focused on unboxing toys and beauty products. Services on the other hand do better on blogs.

Obviously you can always use a combination of channels to get your product or service towards the consumer. You can combine vlogging and blogging, build a storefront and get traffic through a blog or combine social media like Facebook or Instagram with vlogging/blogging.

Whatever channel you choose, I’d always recommend you to have some sort of website.

Find a hosting for your blog/website

The first thing your website needs is hosting. Without hosting you can’t run a website. There are tons of different hosting parties out there.

The hosting party I would recommend is Bluehost. Bluehost provides cheap, simple and fast hosting for over 2 million blogs and sites on the web.

Register a domain name

The second thing you need for a website, blog or storefront is a domain. Choosing a domain seems rather simple but don’t be fooled by that idea though.

As of January 2019 there were over 350 million different registered domains in this world. The odds that the perfect domain for you is still free are unfortunately rather small. But… what is actually the perfect domain for you?

Are some domains better than others? And what causes that difference?

When choosing a domain there are some essential things you must keep in mind. Below are 6 tips on how to select the perfect domain.

  1. Make sure that the domain is easy to type. Don’t use difficult words or a composition of two words that is difficult to write. When visitors try to browse to your website you don’t want people to misspell the domain.
  2. Keep it short. A domain that consists of just one or two simple words is better than one that contains a half sentence.
  3. Put relevant keywords in in your domain if possible. If for example, you sell cheap towels, see if you can register a domain with the exact keywords like cheaptowels.com.
  4. Avoid usage of hyphens and numbers. Hyphens are generally a bad idea because Google considers them as bad. They can negatively affect your ranking because the usage of hyphens would allow you to make duplicates of well-known websites like face-book.com or net-flix.com. Numbers can in times be a bad idea because it makes it confusing for people to verbally share your domain with others. If your domain is toys4children.com it can easily be misinterpreted as toysforchildren.com.
  5. Make sure the domain is easy to memorize. This might be the most difficult tip to implement because it’s difficult to grasp what makes something easy to remember. Ideally you’ll want your domain to be catchy in some way and that is among others determined by simplicity and style.

It’s best to register your domain with the party that also provides your webhosting. Most hosting parties, including Bluehost, offer you the opportunity to host a domain as well.

If you do this you are often able to connect your hosting to your domain immediately and the website will be live very quickly. If you register your domain elsewhere you'll end up wasting your time and energy trying to move the domain to your hosting provider. This is extremely unnecessary.

Select a content management system

Every website has a content management system a.k.a. a CMS. A CMS is the software in which you can build your website.

Luckily for you we no longer live in 1998 and you don’t have to hard code your entire website yourself.

If you’re going for a simple website or a blog I’d recommend you to use WordPress. WordPress is free, it’s the most used CMS in the world and its very user friendly. The only cases where I perhaps wouldn’t recommend WordPress is if you’re about to build a heavy customized platform.

You can simply install WordPress from the BlueHost Cpanel section as explained in this link here.

Develop your website, storefront or blog

After you have a hosting, a domain and a CMS it’s time to develop your website. This means that it’ll need a theme, a design and content.

How you design your website is evidently entirely up to you. In this blueprint I’m not going to cover all the steps of developing a website because that will require far too much content.

Nevertheless, I will get you through the basic steps and provide you with some simple tricks.

Develop a style

Every website has its own style. A style consists of a combination of colors and a layout. When you start building a website it’s a good moment to think about how you want to style your website.

So.. ask yourself. Which colors do you want to combine? Do you want a header image or not? And what about a sidebar? How about white space? How much of it do you want to apply? And what kind of font will you use?

In WordPress, the style of your website is mainly determined by your theme. WordPress has thousands of different themes that you can download and install on your website.

My advice is to create a general idea of how you want to style your website and then start looking for a theme that has what you want.

Changing the colors in your theme is not so difficult but changing the visual layout of your content area’s is more challenging. And also very unnecessary. With thousands of different themes you should be able to find something that fits your needs.

So, if you have a theme that requires too much customization, you have the wrong theme.

Produce your content

As an affiliate marketeer you’ll have to produce content in some sort of way. This content is designed to attract new visitors and make visitors convert into making a purchase with the merchant.

How you create your content is entirely up to you. Some people blog, others vlog, other have a website with static pages and other people build a storefront.

All these different types of content have one thing in common though. The content has to be attractive. It has to resonate to people on an emotional level.

The difference between good content and great content on the surface is very small. But below the surface this difference is huge. It’s a bit like photography. Anyone can pick up a camera and shoot photo’s. The difference between a mediocre photo and a professional photo is in tiny details but is also huge at the same time.

So how do you produce great content? Producing great content mostly takes practice. Just write, and write and write.. However, there are a few basic tweaks you can implement to gain a few quick wins. These are:

  • Write from the heart. The content you produce
  • Pick words with a clear meaning and avoid using too many words that have a vague meaning. So avoid over usage of words like “things” and “stuff”.
  • Avoid over usage of superlatives. Over usage of superlatives is equally lame as over usage of boring words. In many blogposts these days every mildly interesting thing is “totally awesome” or “incredibly unbelievable” or “really amazing”. These superlatives are so overused that they have lost their meaning and are often experienced as cheesy.
  • Don’t be afraid to write thought provoking things. If all your content is the plain Jane in the world of content then it will not stand out in any way. Do be careful though that having an unpopular opinion can also make your content less appealing for certain groups of people.
  • Put extra effort in your headlines. Headlines is what attracts visitors in the first place.
  • Ask your audience what they think of your content.

Pick one or multiple merchants

This step and the previous one are not necessarily followed in the order they are written in. It’s actually a bit of a puzzle which order you should follow.

On one side you’d want some guarantee that a merchant is willing to do business with you before you spend time producing your content.

On the other side, a merchant would want some guarantee that you are serious and that you are able to produce quality content before they go into business with you.

So, if you produce your content before or after you have selected a merchant depends on the situation. Are you going to promote a group of products or a product that is sold by multiple merchants it won’t hurt to produce content beforehand. This way you will have a bigger chance of being accepted by a merchant because you seem more serious about your business.

On the other hand, if you are planning to promote one specific merchant tied product, it might be better to contact the merchant first. Perhaps the merchant is about to go out of business or doesn’t want to take in new affiliates.

This way you won’t risk spending time on content for which you can’t promote the products.

Earlier in this blueprint I already mentioned what to take into account when selecting a merchant. It’s mostly about quality, the commission structure and possible guidelines.

Measure your progress

The old saying “what gets measured gets managed” is absolutely relevant for affiliates. As an affiliate marketer you’ll want to know where your visitors come from, how they interact with your website and how many of them ultimately convert.

There are several tools you can use to measure your progress. Below are examples of the mostly used tools.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a Google tool that tracks how visitors interact with your website. You can see from which source (direct, referral or search engine) your visitors come. You can find out how many of these visitors are brand new and how many are returning to your website for a second, third or perhaps fourth time.

You can also find out how long they stayed on your website, which pages they navigated through and where they dropped off. This gives you a lot of insight in how your visitors interact with your website. Which part of your website causes people to stop engaging and how long they engage with your website.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a tool that tracks how your website behaves within the Google search results.

How many times are your pages viewed in the search results? For which keywords and at which positions? How many people clicked at the results? And are there possible errors in your website that prevents Google from indexing them properly?

The answer to all these questions and many more can be found in Google Search Console.

Bing Webmaster Tools

Even though Google is by far the most serious search engine, Bing has a serious user base as well.

Bing Webmaster Tools is the equivalent of Google Search Console but then for Bing. If your affiliate website means serious business you’ll want people not only to find it in Google but also in Bing.

Affiliate network statistics

Affiliate networks play a large role in connecting affiliates with merchants. Most of them provide the affiliates and merchants with a load of useful statistics.

They track the amount of ad impressions, affiliate link clicks, the amount of leads, sales and your revenue from each merchant. You can, for example, use the statistics to find how effective the merchant is in converting the consumer after he was referred by you. You can compare different merchants as well and track your finances.

Mouse tracking software

For those who want to take the measuring to the next level should implement mouse tracking software.

Mouse tracking software tracks the movement of your visitors mouse cursor. Your website contains a lot of content of which some things are more important than others. You’ll want that your specific call to action objects such as subscribe buttons, affiliate links and so on are well noticed by your visitors.

That they stand out from the rest of the content and that they attract your visitors to click on them. What makes your call to action objects stand out depends on a variety of factors whose impact are often researched in light of topics like neurology.

Academic research shows that mouse movement and eye movements are highly correlated. If you know where your visitors mouse cursors are you know where their eyes are.

By using mouse tracking software you can track which objects on your landing pages attract the most attention and if those objects are the right objects.

Attract visitors

Attracting visitors is an art to itself. Ideally, you’ll want that your new visitors find you through several different channels.

Implementing multiple channels to attract visitors increases your total outreach, and the diversity of having multiple channels also ensures that you don’t risk losing your entire visitor stream when a channel breaks down somehow. Below are some examples of channels and what you need

Organic search traffic

Organic search traffic consists of visitors who find your website organically via a search engine like Google or Bing. They execute a search query and your website happens to pop up somewhere in the results. Organic search traffic is valuable because it’s free and relatively stable.

To establish and increase your organic search presence there are a combinations of activities you need to do. These activities are:

  1. Technical website optimization
  2. Creating a backlink portfolio
  3. Becoming active on social media

Referral traffic

Referral traffic occurs when visitors are being directed to your website because someone else, on his website or perhaps social channel, referred you to them.

Referral traffic occurs when someone mentions your website on social media. Or perhaps your website is mentioned in someone else’s blog post.

You can improve your referral traffic by publishing mind blowing epic content and by actively sharing this content for others to pick up.

Social traffic

With social traffic I mean traffic coming from your social media channels. It’s visitors who found your Instagram, Pinterest or perhaps Facebook page on social media and started to follow it.

From there they end up on your website. Most entrepreneurs who run an affiliate business utilize one or more social media channels.

Paid traffic

Next to organic search traffic there are many ways for you to attract visitors through paid traffic. You can think of advertising on other websites, on search engines or perhaps social networks.

Paid traffic is usually not something I resort to easily. But, for some types of affiliate marketing paid traffic can work very well. When it comes to paid traffic there are two things you’ll need to ask yourself. First and foremost you’ll need to ask yourself if you’ve done everything required to optimize the other, free traffic sources.

I see many entrepreneurs who resort to paid traffic too easily because they find it difficult to attract visitors through other traffic channels. Paid traffic should be an extra traffic source next to a strong organic and social presence.

Not a substitute for other traffic sources.

The second question you’ll need to ask yourself is, if paid traffic is profitable.

I’ll assume that you track what happens on your website and with your visitors. This way you know what percentage of your visitors convert and how much you earn on average for every conversion.

With these two metrics you can calculate what your average income per visitor is. On the other side you know what you need to pay for paid traffic. This leads to a simple comparison of earnings per visitor and costs per visitor.

Make visitors convert

Attracting visitors is one challenge, making them convert is a whole other challenge. To make your visitors convert you’ll need several ingredients.

Quality and engaging content, optimal user experience, good segmentation and clever call to actions for example. What works for your competitors might not work for your audience so don’t simply copy what they do and think you have an optimized website.

What makes visitors convert is an intensely complex combination of factors.

The entire decision making process of converting versus not converting happens in your customers’ brains. A large chunk of this decision making process isn’t even rational and therefore can’t be rationally explained. So.. how do you optimize your website for an optimum conversion rate? You test. A lot.

This testing, most often known as A/B testing is simply the practice of testing two or more different designs and comparing how well they make your visitors convert.

You create two page designs and randomly show design A or design B to a visitor. You can use different colors, different content, the same content but then in different places and so on. If you test with enough visitors you will start to see that one design outperforms the other and this is what conversion optimization is about.

Most professional affiliate marketeers utilize A/B testing to see what works best for their audience.

Next to A/B testing there I also have some simple tips to improve your conversion rate. Call it general wisdom.

Segment your visitors

Not all visitors are alike. Some visitors are a first time visitor, others might be on your website for the second, third or perhaps even fourth time.

One visitor might know a lot about the product you’re promoting and the other might be totally blank.

Different visitors, different background, different knowledge and at last.. different needs. Segmenting your visitors allows you to make different landing pages for each segment so you’re able to provide them with an even more tailored offer.

Use testimonials and social proof

Research shows that testimonials and social proof are positively beneficial. New visitors consider you trustworthy if they are able to read positive testimonials of previous visitors.

Use a mouse tracking tool

Mouse tracking software is an ideal tool to use for conversion optimization. You know what your visitors are and are not looking at. This will give you insights in what triggers the attention of your visitors and how you can implement this strategy for your call to actions.

Give visitors a reason to return

Once you’re attracting new visitors it would be nice if they returned to your website once in a while. Research shows that returning visitors are easier to convert than first time visitors.

Especially if you blog or vlog about a subject, returning visitors are important.

Evidently if you want visitors to return to your website now and then you’ll have to give them a reason to. To make visitors return you’ll have to provide them with quality content first and foremost and find a way to notify them of your fresh content.

Generally, affiliate marketeers use two different ways to keep in touch with their visitors. Email newsletters and social media. As you can see on the front page of my blog as well, there’s an opportunity to leave your email address.

I will then keep you notified of any new content and interesting ideas. Many blogs have an email signup form where they collect email addresses of those who find their content interesting.

A different way to keep in contact with your visitors is social media.

A lot of affiliate marketeers have one or multiple social channels that they use to keep their followers informed of new content and ideas. The ultimate goal is to create a group of fans who love to consume your content and return once in a while to do so.

Automate

Maintaining a website, blog or storefront and several other channels such as email marketing and social media can be a time consuming job. Luckily there are a lot of possibilities to automate tasks.

Especially WordPress has a large set of plug-ins that you can use for automization. You can automate that your new blogposts are shared on your social channels. You can also automate that everyone who signs up for your newsletter receives an email with an opt-in and an automated verification.

You can even automatically segment your email sign ups according to a set of rules and both send them a different verification email.

A last tip

I hope that the previous 7500 words have given you plenty of insight in how you too can earn six figures per year on affiliate marketing. If you require more information about certain topics regarding personal finance, income growth or expenses, sign up for my newsletter below and I’ll send you an exclusive blueprint with the best information and strategies on these topics.

I’ll end this article with a last and valuable tip about building online businesses.

In their quest for growth, entrepreneurs often implement new features and ideas to make more visitors convert. Many entrepreneurs seem to have the idea that their lack of converting visitors is because their call to action features are not present enough.

And that the way to deal with this is by simply implementing more call to action features. They push this idea further and further and eventually cross a line where their call to actions become pushy and negatively impact the experience of their visitors.

Their sites become these pushy marketing machines with nasty pop-up’s and more advertising banners than you have fingers to count. Plenty of academic research into behavioral economics has shown that trying to force consumers to do something often backfires.

For example, shoving a full page newsletter pop-up in someone’s face as soon as he lands on your home page is, in my opinion, not going to work in your favor.

At least, when I get confronted with such pushy ways to make me convert, the first thing that comes to my mind is doing the exact opposite of what you want me to do. So instead of giving you my email address I just leave your website and find whatever I’m looking for elsewhere.

What my tip comes down to, is that with every feature you implement, you have to ask yourself the following question:

“If I were to visit someone else’s website that has this feature, would I experience it as positive?”

If you can’t say yes to this question, don’t implement the feature.

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