Digital Marketing

What is Affiliate Marketing and How to Get Started (2021)

Affiliate marketing has become a popular and powerful method for marketers to generate quick cash with little or no start-up costs. As the internet continues to evolve and grow, affiliate marketing will be a significant source of income for many people in the future.

This blog post will serve as our definitive guide for anyone interested in learning more about this profitable opportunity.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is an online marketing technique in which you earn commissions when someone purchases something after visiting one of your website links.

You become an affiliate by creating your own website, blog, or social media channel and joining an affiliate network. The most common way to promote affiliate products is through your website and blog, using your content to drive traffic to affiliate links.

How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

The beauty of affiliate marketing as a business model is that you have a lot of flexibility. You can choose products from various niches and pick and choose which types of companies you want to work with.

You have affiliate opportunities in every niche—everything from loose leaf tea to major fashion brands.

We’ll cover where to find those programs shortly. But first, here’s how to get started with affiliate marketing:

1. Choose a niche.

The first thing you should do is choose a niche for your website.

If you don’t have a general idea of what types of products you would like to start promoting, it’s best to focus on one specific niche that appeals to you. You may want to read affiliate marketing forums online and see which types of products people are promoting.

For example, if you’re interested in the health and wellness niche, it would be best to choose a topic related to health and fitness: sports nutrition, keto, or other types of diets. Or maybe you want to write about yoga or topics centered more around emotional wellness.

You can also look at topics based on what kind of information you might like to share with your readers or promote in your blog or social media channels.

And if you’re just looking for something new or trendy to cover, there are sites like Exploding Topics and Google Trends that can help you find recently trending topics.

2. Create a website.

If you already have a website with content, you’re a step ahead.

If you don’t have a website, it’s best to start one.

First, decide what platform you want to use. For example, if you’re planning to combine e-commerce and affiliate marketing, you’ll probably want to go with something like Shopify that lets you efficiently manage products.

Suppose you’re planning on doing a purely informational site with regular affiliate links (versus affiliate product listings like you would find on an e-commerce store). In that case, WordPress is the most flexible option. (You can find more information on e-commerce platforms in this post.)

Once you have your site, post content regularly (weekly or more frequently if you can). Then, decide whether you want to write the content yourself or hire a writer to help you with research and content creation.

Lastly, you also have the option of buying a website that already has content. Some marketplaces let you purchase ready-made websites that already have content and a bit of traffic going to them. (Of course, you’ll want to check out their rankings yourself and make sure their stats aren’t just from paid traffic.)

3. Sign up for a few affiliate programs.

Start small! Sign up for a few affiliate programs that offer products you use yourself or are at least familiar with.

Affiliate networks like ShareASale, Rakuten, Impact Radius, and Awin have thousands of affiliate programs across various niches.

Shareasale is a beginner-friendly affiliate network that lets you get started quickly. Just fill out a bit of information and let advertisers know what your plan is—how you’ll market their products, where you’ll use their links, and share some information on your website and social media presence.

If you don’t actively have much traffic, share with them how you plan to increase it. Plan to work on SEO or use sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest to help get your traffic going, as well as whether you’re going to start organically or with paid traffic.

4. Add links to your site.

Once you’re in a program, your affiliate manager will provide you with tracking links, banner images to add to your site (if you’re also running ads), as well as graphics to use on social media.

Just make sure you’re using proper disclosure; the Federal Trade Commission requires you to disclose your relationships to brands when you’re profiting from readers’ purchases. On a blog, this is as simple as including something at the top of the blog post, like this:

“Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.”

On social media, this is as simple as including “#ad” or “#sponsored” in your posts so that people can clearly see your relationship.

5. Drive traffic to your site.

While affiliate marketing doesn’t need quite as much traffic as running ads to turn a profit, you’ll still need a decent amount of traffic to start seeing a significant number of sales.

One of the best ways to drive traffic to an affiliate website is through search engine optimization (SEO). However, building up SEO-friendly content can take months (sometimes even years), so you need a little extra help initially.

Sites like Pinterest are a great way to drive traffic to sites, especially if you’re writing about travel, fashion, food, or crafts. Of course, there are tons of other niches that do well on Pinterest, but if you want to make sure, just search for some of the topics you would be writing about!

If there are many quality graphics related to your niche, you’ll likely have an easy time getting started. You don’t need followers to see meaningful results from this platform, letting you start getting traffic with no followers.

Pinterest is more of a search engine than a social media platform, so if you’re already working on SEO, that foundational knowledge of optimizing keywords can be a massive help with Pinterest.

Lastly, you’ll also want to look into paid traffic if you’re going to get started quickly. Running search and social media ads can be an excellent way to get your traffic going a little faster. Here are some resources that can help you get started:

6. Work on traffic retention.

One of the most significant parts of effective affiliate marketing is retaining traffic.

You don’t want to rely on social media and SEO forever. Both of these are a part of every healthy marketing strategy, but you need to keep readers around.

One way to do this is with an email list. By starting an email list and getting readers to opt-in, you have a convenient way to reach them and tell them about new blog posts.

Consider offering a free download. If you provide your own products and services in addition to affiliate products, offer them a discount for signing up for your list.

You can also use browser notifications to help notify readers about new posts. I personally haven’t seen as much success with these as I have with my email list, but they still bring in enough traffic to make me want to keep using them.

The more ways you have to reach your readers, the less impact you’ll feel if a channel starts performing poorly. Your website and email list should be the priority since these are assets that you “own.” (Or at the very least, you have a lot more control of them than your social media channels.)

7. Keep going!

Once you have a decent amount of content on your site (about 100 posts) and a steady flow of traffic, you can start working on increasing the click-through rate (CTR) and improving your conversions.

As long as you’re promoting good products and they’re relevant to your niche, you’ll see some sales. The increase in CTR and conversions comes from improving your content and finding the best places to recommend products to your readers.

Every niche is a little different, so it’s essential to just stick with it and test things out as you go. Affiliate marketing is more of a long-term game, so don’t expect to see crazy results in just a matter of weeks. It can be months down the line before you start seeing meaningful results.

Further Reading

Once you’ve got the foundations of your affiliate website together, check out some other ways to help get your traffic going:

As you work on your site and improve your content, you’ll find more areas for opportunity. As you start to grow and expand, you can slowly increase the number of products you promote and sign up for higher-paying affiliate programs.

how to get started with affiliate marketing

By Lauren Connally

Lauren is a copywriter, blogger, and social media manager based in the Texas Hill Country. She works with bloggers and small businesses to help build their online presence.

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