If you’re like most people new to affiliate marketing, you probably get starry-eyed thinking how much money you’ll make just by plastering a bunch of affiliate links on your blog. But as the days roll into months, reality sets in and you start wondering why things didn’t go as planned.
So you start looking for answers, thinking perhaps you missed out on some secrets of affiliate marketing you weren’t clued in on. Well, you might be surprised to know that many of these so-called “secrets” in the industry come down to basic overlooked factors and that’s the focus of this article. So, let’s get to it!
13 SECRETS OF AFFILIATE MARKETING
1. Pick a Niche You Have at Least Some Interest in
When choosing a niche, affiliate marketers tend to focus on money at the exclusion of everything else. But that way of thinking can set you up for failure. I get it, we all want that big payout but it’s hard to achieve when you don’t care about the niche you’re in.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be passionate about your chosen niche, but at least enough to keep you motivated to work on it every day. Think about it, presumably, you’ll be spending countless hours researching and writing about a selected topic, right? So why make things harder on yourself by jumping into a field you can’t stand?
And keep this in mind, the more interest you have for a given niche, the more genuine you’ll come across to your readers. Your writing will be more engaging, thus attracting readers and ultimately leading to better conversions and sales.
Another thing… Make sure to zero in on a sub-niche instead of choosing a behemoth topic like Paleo Diet or Pregnancy. You’ll have much quicker gains when you start small and work up from there. For example, your blog could focus on workout tips for post-pregnant women and then branch out into other topics related to pregnancy once you’ve established yourself.
2. Find Good Companies to Partner With
As an affiliate marketer, you have your pick of thousands of companies to partner with to help sell their products and services. Sounds amazing, right? Well, there’s more to it than that. You have to do your due diligence before choosing to sign up with these companies.
First, make sure the company is reputable. You can find this out just by reading a few reviews online to verify their legitimacy. The last thing you want is to get involved with a company that shortchanges their affiliates by not paying them on time or sometimes not at all. Believe me, it happens more often than you think!
Also, make sure you’re happy with the commission rates as well as affiliate tools and resources.
3. Work With More Than One Company
As great as affiliate marketing can be, one of its downsides is lack of control. You never know from one day to the next whether the products and services you’re promoting get taken off the market or the company manufacturing them goes belly up.
Even worse, some merchants can even ban you for violating often vague and ambiguous terms. For example, Amazon Associates has been know to terminate accounts without recourse.
The best way to get around this problem is by diversifying. In other words, you always want revenue coming in from multiple sources, in case one or more affiliate partnerships dry up for whatever reason. This way, you can better protect yourself should you lose one or more revenue streams.
4. Promote Quality Products Only
Many affiliate marketers focus only on products with the highest commissions even if they lack quality. That’s not a good strategy.
As you know, it takes a long time to build organic traffic to a website, and even longer to gain the trust of readers. By promoting crappy products, you run the risk of losing the trust of your readers over time, resulting in fewer sales. And as you probably know, once trust is lost, it’s hard to regain.
That’s why it’s best to stick to quality products only, even if it costs less and doesn’t offer as high commissions. Now, if you really want to kick it up a notch, consider only promoting products you’ve personally used yourself. That way, your authenticity will shine through, leading to better conversions and sales.
5. Know Your Audience
It’s tough to promote products and services to an audience you know next to nothing about (this goes back to point 1 about taking interest in your niche). So to become a better affiliate marketer, take the time to understand your audience’s pain points, learn how they think, and uncover their hopes and dreams.
In other words, learn to relate and empathize with your audience and make sure to reflect it in your writing. No doubt, your readers will pick up on this, thus earning you their trust and making it much easier to promote useful products and services to them. Ask any copywriter, if you don’t believe me!
6. Be Transparent With Your Audience
Going along with our theme of building trust with your audience, make sure to also disclose your affiliate links for everything you promote.
I know it may seem counterintuitive to make your readers aware that you earn money whenever they buy through your links, but they’ll actually appreciate your transparency and feel more comfortable buying through you as a result.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to point this out for every single link, but it may be worth alerting your readers at least somewhere on your blog, whether it’s in the side-column, footer, or in the blog post itself. And don’t spend much time crafting your message, it can be as simple as:
FYI, I receive a commission when you purchase through my links. Thanks for trusting my recommendations!
7. Write Good, Helpful Content
Long gone are the days when you could rank competitive keywords with 400-word articles of pure fluff. To get anywhere now, your content needs to go above and beyond expectations.
So what makes a good article? First, it needs to provide value in some form. Filler content won’t cut it any longer. Also, you have to be able to connect with your audience, and that’s best achieved by being conversational and relatable in your writing.
In other words, write like you’re talking to a friend, not a scholarly paper. To give you an idea, just take a look at some email exchanges you’ve had with friends over the years.
Also, avoid hard sells in your writing. The moment you start saying “buy Buy BUY!” in your posts like a sleazy used car salesman, your readers will bounce. While it may seem counterintuitive, softer sells are much more effective. When you’re not pushy or overbearing, readers will feel more comfortable and thus be more willing to buy through you.
For example, when talking about the benefits of using coconut oil, you could casually mention how a certain brand made a big difference in your life and simply link to it.
8. Understand the Customer Purchase Lifecycle
A lot of people new to affiliate marketing aren’t familiar with the concept of the customer purchase lifecycle and so they wonder why their promotions don’t perform well as they should.
In a nutshell, the customer purchase lifecycle is basically a three-phase process a typical customer goes through before deciding to purchase an item:
- Informational Phase – This is where customers gather information about a product to learn more about it. Since customers are only collecting data and not actively looking to buy a specific product yet, it’s a much harder sell at this point.Thus, for information-based articles, it’s best to get readers to sign up to an email list or follow your social media channels so you can continue to interact and eventually sell to them down the line.Examples of blog topics in the informational phase: “How to Tie a Bow Tie,” “What is Açaí?”
- Decision Phase – This is where customers typically compare different brands of the same products against one another to help hone in on what they should buy.Examples of blog topics in the decision phase:“iPhone vs. Android,” “Shopify vs. Etsy”
- Purchase/Action phase – At this point, customers are ready to take some kind of action, such as buying the product, filling out a lead form, and so on.Examples of blog topics in the purchase/action phase:“Best Running Shoes for Seniors,” “Samsung Galaxy S9 Review”The better you understand the customer purchase lifestyle, the more you can fine-tune your blog posts for better conversions. For example, one good strategy is to link from information-based blog posts to purchase/action phase posts.
To learn more about the customer purchase lifecycle, check out this training.
9. Stick to One (Maximum Two) Modes of Traffic Starting Out
Traffic is the lifeblood of an affiliate marketer; without it, you’ve got nothing. That’s why it’s tempting to want to master every source of traffic out there, whether it’s SEO, social media, YouTube, PPC, email marketing, and others.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these methods, the problem lies when you try to tackle everything at once. When you do, it’s easy to get quickly overwhelmed with all you need to learn and implement, which can eventually lead to burnout.
So don’t be a jack of all trades, learn one, maximum two traffic building strategies and see those through to success before thinking about adding others.
My recommendation for beginners is to stick with organic SEO traffic and possibly one social media channel (I like Pinterest personally, especially if you’re in a highly visual niche like travel or food recipes).
10. Get a Good Grasp of On-Site SEO
Writing article after article without proper optimization for SEO is a missed opportunity. Sure, they won’t necessarily be lost in the ether (Google’s too smart for that), but your articles may not rank as well as they could.
So, what do I mean? Well, that’s a whole subject onto itself, but here are a few basic on-site SEO tips to keep in mind for every post you write:
- Include at least one internal link to another article on your site
- Include at least one external link to an authoritative source
- Include at least one image using your keyword in the alt tag
- Include your keyword a few times in the article, mainly in the first and last paragraph (don’t overdo it!)
- Include your keyword in the URL
- Write a brief meta-description using your keyword
- Embed a video from YouTube
- Write 1500+ words per article
Taking these steps for every post may help you to rank better in Google, thus putting you ahead of the game.
11. Be Prepared to Experiment
So your articles rank well in Google and you’re finally starting to make sales. All you have to do now is rinse and repeat, right? Yes, that’s true, but did you know that tweaking your existing articles could increase your conversions even more?
It all comes down to split-testing: the process of conducting controlled, randomized experiments to optimize your web pages for better conversions. With this method, you can test almost anything from headlines and introductory text to the color of your call-to-action buttons and placement of ads.
Now, it’s easy to get carried away with this tactic, which is why you should never test more than one thing at a time. For example, don’t split-test different headlines at the same time as different colors of buttons as you won’t know which of the two changes had a greater (or worse) effect on your bottom line.
There are many tools available to split test web page components, including several free ones. Trouble is, they’re often a pain to set up, especially for newbies. But with a paid tool like Thrive Optimize (one of my favorites), you can set up your experiments super fast and start collecting data right away.
The point is to keep testing and experimenting to maximize profits on every web page.
12. Keep Up-to-Date with the Latest Trends in Online Marketing
When you compare common SEO practices from 2010 to today, it’s almost like an entirely different universe. As you probably know, the online marketing space changes fast. What works today might not tomorrow.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the fundamentals of this business will always stay the same. Picking good keywords, choosing great products to promote, writing helpful and engaging content, and optimizing your articles for better conversions aren’t going anywhere.
But when it comes to things like hot affiliate offers, new traffic channels, the latest cool tools and so on, those are areas you want to pay special attention to. For starters, follow some industry leaders like SmartPassiveIncome.com and Backlinko.com, and also check out news sources on a regular basis like Moz.com and SearchEngineRoundtable.com.
13. Treat Affiliate Marketing Like a Real Business
One of the worst things about online scammers — apart from stealing your money — is that they trick people into thinking that making money online is a walk in the park. It’s anything but.
Truth is, building an online business, whether it’s dropshipping, affiliate marketing or anything else, requires great focus, hard work, dedication and perseverance to succeed. In other words, it’s no different than any other type of business.
So if you want to make good money from this venture, be prepared to put in the time and effort. Yes, you’ll be grinding it out for months or even several years, but so long as you stick with it, you’ll eventually reach your goals.
SO, NOW WHAT?
As a business model, affiliate marketing is simple to explain, but often difficult to execute properly. While these 13 tips are a good start, you’ll likely need more guidance to get your affiliate marketing business off the ground.
So with that, I’d like to introduce you to the same training that taught me how to become a successful affiliate marketer.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!
Can you think of any secrets of affiliate marketing not addressed in this article? Leave your comments below!