The Internet has given everyone a chance to become a part of the business community from the comfort of their own home. An increasingly popular way of doing this is to delve into the world of affiliate marketing. So what is it, and how can you start your own affiliate marketing business?
What is affiliate marketing?
This uniquely 21st Century form of marketing is performance-based, and works by rewarding ‘affiliates’ for every visitor or customer they direct to the primary business through their own marketing efforts. So it’s not exactly ‘word of mouth’, but requires some effort on the part of the affiliates to create a marketing strategy that will bring in customers for the primary business. Basically, it’s a method of ‘outsourcing’ your advertising to satellite affiliates.
There are four primary players in this particular marketing strategy:
- The merchant, also referred to as the brand or retailer
- The network, which includes offers by the merchant that the affiliate can select and also deals with payments to the merchant
- The affiliate, also known as the publisher
- The customer
How to get started in affiliate marketing
Choose a subject you know about. The more you know personally about the subject, the more attractive, informative and engaging you can make your website and the higher your traffic flow will be.
Pick a decent web address – one that gives browsers a good idea of the products you will be promoting. The easier it is for your target audience to find you, the more likely they are to visit you and then click through to your merchant’s site.
SEO (search engine optimization) is a crucial aspect of the process, so make sure you understand what keywords are being used to search for the products you are promoting, and that they form a part of your content. But remember not to overdo the keyword ‘stuffing’ to avoid being penalized by the search engines. Talk to an SEO professional if necessary before starting work.
Get a good web host to look after your website. The best way to find a good host is to talk to people who have already gone through the process and find who are the ‘hosts with the most’! Of particular importance when choosing a host is the bandwidth. This will determine how much traffic your website will be able to handle. The basic rule is the more bandwidth you can get, the better!
Design a site that is eye catching, engaging and, above all, easy to navigate. Keep the ‘bells and whistles’ to a minimum because apart from being annoying, data-heavy gifs and flash graphics will slow the download time for your site, possibly encouraging browsers to bounce away.
Make sure that your content is relevant, up to date and readable. Remember that browsers are not keen on scrolling down through reams of information, so keep pertinent information ‘above the cut’.
To earn your affiliate commission you will need to drive traffic that’s been specifically targeted towards your website. Ensure that you have a small business accounting software such as QuickBooks by Intuit so you will be able to keep track of all commission payments for your end-of-year tax returns and to keep an eye on how financially viable the venture is.
The more traffic you get, the more chance of making sales you have, so you will need to market your site. You can use several different methods to do this:
- Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising – make sure that the cost of the PPC doesn’t outweigh the projected benefits, and keep an eye on costs very carefully, especially at the start of the enterprise
- Article marketing – write informative, interesting and relevant articles that are related to your affiliate products with a link to your website and publish them on article sites such as eZines.
- Social networking – forums can be a great way to encourage traffic towards your website, but be aware of each forum’s regulations regarding posting links to avoid being flagged as a ‘spammer’ or ‘troll’.
- Post on YouTube – a video that goes viral can drive thousands of browsers to your website, as well as giving you an opportunity to showcase your affiliate products.
Carlo Pandian is a business writes and blogs on entrepreneurship, finance and online marketing. When he’s not online, Carlo loves visiting the countryside and going around town with his bike.