Affiliate marketing refers to the process by which marketers promote a product or company and receive a commission on each sale generated by their marketing. A Mediakix article recently reported that, as of 2016, 81 percent of brands and 84 percent of publishers use affiliate marketing programs. Marketers looking for opportunities in affiliate marketing need to constantly improve their strategies in order to be successful, so we asked experts to share their most successful affiliate marketing approaches.
Here are 28 affiliate marketing tips from the pros to get you started.
1. Learn to Outrank the Competition
Mícheál Brennan, Content Marketing Manager, Design Wizard
Most affiliate marketers concentrate their efforts heavily on SEO to gain traffic for their site so, if you want to become a successful affiliate marketer, you’ll need to become an SEO shark. Affiliate marketing is becoming more popular, so if you want to get one of those coveted top three spots, you’ll need to learn how to outrank your competition. Personally, I favor white hat SEO over black hat as I believe it’s more sustainable plus, as an affiliate marketer, if you create content that is hugely resourceful, it’s going to keep visitors on your site longer. They are going to be more likely to click on your affiliate links resulting in revenue for you. I also believe that you should concentrate heavily on building a list because, if your site does eventually get penalized, you can still generate revenue by sending offers out to your list.
2. Do (Lazy) Research
Danielle Edwards, Project Manager, Artonic
Always be on the lookout for eye-catching affiliate ads as you browse the web. Keep a document or Pinterest board of great ads that you can reference. This helps you in many ways — you’ll stay current on design trends, you’ll see what competitors are creating and you’ll be inspired. Plus, when the time comes to create an amazing ad, you’ll be ready.
3. Select a Profitable Affiliate Program
Dhruv Patel, SaaS Enthusiast, Co-founder, SalesHandy
There are tons of products available for affiliate marketing. It’s never easy to choose the best product to promote as an affiliate marketer. Consider these pointers while selecting the best affiliate program to make more money.
- Always choose a product that appeals to your niche. Make sure that you have enough experience and influence in the segment to make an impact.
- Do not run only behind big brands (or popular products). With such products, the competition is high, which makes it difficult to get conversions. Instead, choose a product that has low competition, giving you higher chances to convert from the audience that you build.
- Always prefer a product that offers recurring commissions.
- It is best to have a limited number of products in your portfolio so that you can promote them effectively. It will ensure a high return on investment.
- Make sure that the program you select provides all the necessary resources related to their product, making it easier for you to build value around it.
4. Believe in the Product or Company You’re Marketing
Aaron Hall, Content Management Specialist, BestCompany
You need to make sure that the product or service you’re affiliated with is something you really believe in. It’d be easy to just form a partnership on the basis of making an easy buck, but what does that say about your brand? Before you shake hands and sign contracts, ask yourself if this is a product or service you would want yourself. If not, just look for the next opportunity. Building relationships with a company that you would stand by as a customer will provide authenticity and integrity to your brand, and that builds invaluable loyalty.
5. Use Low-cost Tools for Your Marketing Campaign
Megan Headley, Research Director, TrustRadius
One of the pros of affiliate marketing is the low cost. Use a free or “freemium” email marketing tool such as MailChimp to allow you to build an email list and send out newsletters or offers. When looking to understand the quality of your affiliate partners, use a social media monitoring tool like Mention to track what their customers say about them. There are also free surveys or website pop-up tools to understand what kind of content your audience would be interested in. Lastly, you can track and analyze how your affiliate marketing initiatives compare to other types of advertising on your site with tools like Google AdWords.
6. Avoid the Common Pitfalls in Affiliate Marketing
Gayathri Ravichandran, Marketing Lead, Freshworks
Affiliate marketing is a great way to earn fast and easy money provided you target the right audience. However, there are some common mistakes affiliates make when it comes to promoting. If you are new in the affiliate marketing field, you might want to keep the following points in the back of your mind.
When does affiliate marketing fail?
- An affiliate goes over the top and bombards his or her followers with requests to try the product he or she is promoting
- When the product or service is promoted in irrelevant groups and forums
- The affiliate keeps emailing and messaging user groups every day or, worse yet, every hour
- When the affiliate does not capitalize on right opportunities at the right time — for example, during holiday seasons to promote coupons or products
- The affiliate does not spend enough time to research and find the right target audience for the product or service
- When they fail to verify that the people trying the product they are promoting have all the information that they need to know about the product
- The affiliates do not pay enough attention to their social presence
- When they do not realize that building a strong affiliate marketing structure takes time and effort, and they give up during the initial stages of becoming an affiliate
7. Create Product Tables
Nick Daniels, Owner, Daniels Industries, LLC
This has been my go-to strategy for the last year or two. Making tables that summarize product features and ratings allows visitors to your website to compare reviewed products easily. In the product tables I make, I include product images, product rating, price, pros and cons, and a buy button with an affiliate link. Be sure that your table is mobile-friendly so that visitors on phones and tablets will be able to view your content. Some good WordPress plug-ins to use for creating tables include TablePress, TableLabs, GoPricing and Ninja Tables.
8. Regularly Check Your Site for 404 Errors
Max Robinson, Owner, FishTankBank
Something I’ve learned to do through the years is to check my site regularly for broken links. Retailers delete or redirect pages all the time, and there have been times where I’ve been sending people to deleted pages without realizing, missing out on a load of potential commissions. I now use Chrome extensions like Check My Links and tools like Ahrefs to check my site regularly for broken links to prevent this from happening.
9. Remember That Payout Isn’t Everything
Marie Soltis, Account Manager, RingPartner
When starting out in affiliate marketing, it’s easy to be lured by sky-high payouts. However, before you leap, it’s important to do a little research to find out why those payouts are so high. Start by looking into the stats that can shed light quickly on the health of the campaign, such as earnings per click (EPC), conversion rates and geo-coverage. If any of these are low, it’s a sign that the high payout is indicative of the difficulty of landing a qualified lead. Next, ask your account manager if it’s a highly competitive campaign or if it has extremely low volume so while the payouts are high, they could also be infrequent.
Finally, pop into your ad account and look at the keyword prices because expensive keywords can also drive up the payout to make the final earnings competitive but still not be necessarily outrageously high. Avoid running campaigns just because of high payouts. Otherwise, surprise factors like the ones outlined above can quickly eat up your expected earnings.
10. Reward Customers Who Refer Friends
Marc Prosser, Fit Small Business
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to generate more business and sales. The easiest way to do this is with a customer referral program. ReferralCandy is an easy-to-use plugin you can add to your eCommerce store that lets you create customized rewards for customers who refer their friends. Customers get a unique, memorable referral link they can share with friends, and you can promote your program with beautiful widgets and email templates—no designers or developers needed. Click here for a free 30-day trial.
11. Stay Away From Bad Links
Paul Bromen, CEO, Upon A Mattress
New affiliates who just learned what the letters S, E and O mean when put together develop a maniacal desire for links to their website. To satisfy their new addiction they go to the Internet’s dark alleys searching for a magical link elixir. Some of these probably work, but I take the position that you never want to bet against Google. Anything that works will get popular and anything abusive and popular will get squashed. The short-term boost that these bad links may provide will be erased by the time it takes to chase them. Don’t chase bad links. Instead, focus on nurturing one to two great links and building out your content.
12. Communicate Regularly With the Business Owner
Mark Aselstine, Founder, Uncorked Ventures
As a small business owner who has had an affiliate program from the beginning, it’s incredibly important to keep up with it. There was a point when I thought my program should run itself — that it should keep building if the conversion rate was good enough and if people were being paid automatically. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
It turns out that affiliates, like anyone really, need to hear from you. As a business owner, it can seem trivial to spend an hour or two every few weeks writing affiliate newsletters but those are important. An email every month or so for larger affiliates is also important. Continuing to have creatives deposited and offering discounts or other promotions tied to different holidays or the time of year all help affiliates make sales for your store.
13. Beware of Fraud
Monica Eaton-Cardone, Co-founder and COO, Chargebacks911
While affiliate marketing can be used to successfully monetize a site, there are risks involved that marketers need to be aware of. The one area I see consistently under-acknowledged is the ever-increasing danger of fraud. Affiliate marketing has its own unique range of fraud challenges. Cookie stuffing is a great example. That’s where the affiliate, unbeknownst to the advertiser, attaches cookies from multiple advertisers to every visitor — whether that customer clicked on an ad or not. If the shopper later makes a transaction at any of those sites, the affiliate can attempt to claim a commission.
Another huge challenge is ad placement fraud, where affiliates stack multiple 1-pixel ads within an iframe. These virtually invisible ads can reside under every legitimate advertising button on the affiliate’s site, meaning that if users click on one ad, they effectively click on all of them. Again, the affiliate stands to collect an unearned commission.
14. Focus Heavily on Your Content
Simon Slade, CEO and Co-founder, Affilorama
Content marketing is at the core of affiliate marketing, making it beneficial to both businesses and customers. Customers benefit from the helpful content and businesses benefit from the resulting sales. Affiliate marketing offers significant income potential to both businesses that offer it and professionals who employ it. Taking the time, energy and money to create an affiliate marketing website scares away many would-be affiliate marketers, but I think if more people simply tried to affiliate market, they would find it’s easier and more profitable than they had imagined.
15. Start With the Basics
Victoria Sawtelle, Community Manager, Uptowork
For beginners, it’s best to start with the basics so you don’t end up on spammy websites or being flagged for deceptive practices. First, get acquainted with the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines for affiliate marketers. The original document is a bit heady, but there are blogs that have summaries of what to avoid. Second, vet each program fully. There can be a tendency to go after every affiliate program in your niche to make quick cash, but just make sure to be upfront with your readers and follow the rules. The last thing you want is to ruin your readers’ trust with scams.
16. Identify the Industry You Relate to the Most
Shashank Mangal, Co-founder, Geeks of Digital
If, today, you wake up and think of having a passive income through an affiliate channel, the first and most important step is to identify the area, domain, category and industry with which you can relate yourself to the most for being an affiliate. When I say relate, it means you firmly believe you have an at least minor inclination of interest and experience toward what you are getting into. There is another way as well. For those who are driven by just the motivation of earning loads of money, start by researching an area, domain, category and industry that is highly dependent on affiliates or having an extremely high rate of commission. Once done, the individual or company can narrow down based on his research. Why is this important?
At the core, affiliate marketing involves marketing of products and services. It is just a fancy term for those companies who are outsourcing their marketing effort to outside individuals or companies against a commission. The affiliate can market and sell only if it can convince the people about the product or service (usual marketing methodology). Hence, the above two ways will help the affiliates majorly in getting the motivation of “convincing” the users to buy.
17. Be More Than Just a Clickstream
Michael Hayes, Founder, Darby Hayes Consulting
A ton of players in affiliate marketing are just middlemen, getting in front of audiences through SEO or PPC or email marketing and shooting them off to the storefront as quickly as possible. I’d wager that most of them never even touch or interact with products they review. Even really huge players in the game don’t really add much value, and this is where you can stand out from the competition and perhaps even develop your own dedicated audience. Try to provide insights that can’t be garnered by the end consumer alone, such as hands-on product review videos (great for gadgets, tech and fashion), custom pictures and images that aren’t available elsewhere and use-cases about how products fit into your daily life. All this is a lot of additional work but will end up with a final product that outshines your competition.
18. Use a Link Localizer for Your Affiliate Links
Zack Gallinger, Site Owner, Baller Shoes DB
Our site gets traffic from around the world and most of our affiliate links point to Amazon. If we were to direct every site visitor to Amazon, we would miss out on many opportunities for conversions for people outside the United States. Instead, we added a plug-in to our site that redirects the user to the country-specific version of Amazon to make sure that they find the page that they’re looking for. Specifically, we use the WordPress plug-in VigLink as it’s free and is easy to set up.
19. Don’t Be Afraid to Voice Drawbacks
Megan Marrs, Founder, Life Health HQ
In affiliate marketing, you may end up feeling inclined to give better praise for an affiliate than may truly be deserved. This is a huge mistake as it can erode trust with your readers. Instead, don’t be afraid to detail any concerns or misgivings you have with the affiliate product or service. In many cases, drawbacks aren’t necessarily going to be deal breakers. Many readers will appreciate your candor and may be more likely to purchase since they know you’ve given them the full information, rather than half-truths.
20. Add Your Own Bonus
Tyler Bream, Founder, TylerBream.com
If you are selling someone else’s product you can “sweeten the pot” by adding something that only your subscribers will get. For example, if they buy the affiliate course you are promoting, you’ll give them special access to a private Facebook group filled only with people who have purchased it through your link. If you are promoting some else’s retreat or weekend intensive, you can bundle a free hour or two of consulting after they attend the intensive or retreat. They are already on your list because they believe in you, so this makes them feel like they are getting special treatment for buying your affiliate product.
21. Join a Marketplace
Ken Leren, CEO and Founder, Tech Essence
Affiliate marketing inherently involves using middlemen, so marketers need to be cautious and aware of whom is getting a piece of the profit pie. Joining a marketplace to reach and engage new customers and effectively maximize the interest in your business is the right way to go. By joining a marketplace, you will find a wide selection of partners that suit your preferences and maximize your earning potential. Examples of marketplaces as networks are HasOffers, Affiliate Window and Impact Radius and platforms are Marketing Town, Cake and Lead Intelligence.
22. Don’t Forget About Mobile
Sean McDevitt, Partner Manager, Offers.com
As shopping trends during holiday 2017 showed us, consumers are more comfortable browsing and shopping on their phones than ever before. Affiliate marketers may immediately think about optimizing their desktop ads, but leaving mobile out of the equation results in roughly 50 percent of their content and deals not being seen by shoppers.
23. Try the Product Out for Yourself
Rebecca Bertoldi, Account Director, Meehan Digital
So many people think you can just put an affiliate link on your site, say a few things about it and the money will start rolling in. It takes a fair amount of work upfront to build trust and get good results.
Start by experiencing the product for yourself. You’re now going to be representing it, so you need to know what benefits it has to your audience. Offer the product to your readers in the way you think they would be using it. Photos and videos of you using the product in ways readers relate to will help build trust with you. Always keep your users’ experience in mind, and they will feel like it’s a recommendation just for them and be more willing to buy.
24. Develop Your Marketing Angle
Stewart Small, Affiliate Manager, Kttp Inc.
Affiliates need a marketing angle of substance. Having a website that is niche-specific is a good starting point. I see many affiliates with a good idea; however, they make the mistake of adding coupon codes to their site. They think this will add some value to their offer but, most of the time, it takes away value. Coupon code sites are a dime a dozen and this only reduces the commission rate a merchant is willing to pay. There are already big players that offer coupon codes and most are willing to accept a commission of 1 percent or less. You should think twice before offering or including coupon codes on your website. More times than not, it ends up hurting your earning potential rather than helping it.
25. Nurture and Maintain Credibility
Sowndarya Kishore, Content and Social Media Strategist, Social Animal
Affiliate marketing involves a long-term strategy, so it’s important to have consistency and credibility. Do not sign up for too many affiliate programs. Promoting too many products may cause your audience to doubt your authority. When you include affiliate links to certain products in a post, tell your audience the reason for recommending them and don’t forget to track your links. You should be able to see what links have the most hits and which one don’t. This will let you know what your audience is most interested in.
26. Avoid the Coupon Sites
Melanie Balke, Head of European Markets & Growth Strategist, BAMF Media
Once you sign up for affiliate marketing with a site like CJ or Pepperjam or maybe even utilize an agency, you are supercharging your affiliate marketing. However, often coupon sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com will become part of your affiliate network and will likely drive the largest chunk of revenue. On paper, the numbers look great. They’re your top performers. The reality is a little different.
Coupon sites usually don’t drive new traffic. They don’t even help convert site visitors into customers. Instead, what happens is your site visitor has already decided they want to purchase but is looking for a discount on the Internet. When they Google, regardless of whether you have a working coupon out or not, sites like RetailMeNot will show up (they even show up when you are not paying them to be an affiliate). Once your user clicks on them, their cookie gets placed and the sale gets attributed to them. That means you’ll have to pay your affiliates commission for a sale that would have happened anyway without their involvement.
27. Work Through Partner Networks
Andrey Priobrazhenskyi, CEO, DiscountReactor
Beginners in affiliate marketing should first work through partner networks — do not try to directly contact advertisers. Young sites are often ignored. In this case, partner networks, in turn, provide the ability to connect to many major sites. You can collaborate with several partners since the stakes are generally the same but not always. With partner managers, you can agree on higher rates.
28. Focus on Building Quality Partnerships
Robert Glazer, CEO, Acceleration Partners
Rather than letting as many partners into your program as possible, evaluate your partners for quality. You want to ensure their efforts are brand-aligned and delivering the outcomes you want. Focusing on a select group of partners can have a positive impact on the experience your affiliates have and your program’s conversion rate. Having quality partners is much better than managing fraudulent issues with partners on a regular basis.
BONUS: Don’t Rely on a Single Traffic Source
Gurbir Singh, Digital Marketing Consultant, SEO Discovery
One mistake that you should avoid at all costs is to put all your eggs in one basket, such as relying on a single traffic source. Anyone who has spent even a few months in the world of Internet marketing will be able to tell you that everything is changing constantly. Google’s Penguin algorithm led to many affiliate sites shutting down and recently, Facebook decreased the organic reach of pages. There is nothing worse than having to go to sleep worried about Google rolling in a new update and penalizing your websites. That is why you should focus on diversifying and driving traffic through multiple sources.
Over to You
The demand for consumer attention is highly competitive, so it’s important that marketers stay creative in to set you above your competitors. Get your inspiration from these affiliate marketing tips and turn your profits from extra income into a major source of revenue.
Have more inspiring affiliate marketing tips? We’d love to hear from you! Share them with us in the comments below.