Affiliate Marketing Business
Here on “Sumarketing” I will be introducing you to tried and tested strategies that are perfect for people who want to monetize their blog. For any business to succeed it needs to make a profit and be built on strong foundations, if it’s built on a wing and a prayer or has no income it will fail, no if’s, no but’s it will definitely fail.
If you’ve signed up for my email tips you’ll know I concentrate on income generation a lot. I like to cut to the chase and earn money, so do you, everything else is peripheral and should be secondary to earning money. This post discusses affiliate marketing from a blog perspective. It’s a taste of what my subscribers receive every month, the beauty of the topics I discuss is that anyone can copy them and there are no secrets.
Start a Business
In my opinion one of the hardest things about starting an affiliate business is getting started. That might sound a bit strange but it’s true. The world is full of would be entrepreneurs, some have fantastic ideas but the business never gets off the ground. Knowing where to start is the problem. The line between success and failure is a fine one, successful bloggers always cross the line, in other words they start and learn along the way.
Almost daily people get in touch to tell me about their ideas, now and again I check back to see how they are getting on, most never started or gave up too early. I don’t want you in that group; seriously if you are planning on giving it a go or thinking I will try to see how it works out, just stop right there! You have to start with a positive attitude, trying it out and giving it a go are absolutely “NOT” positive, they are weak, you are planning to fail, I won’t be surprised when you do.
I’m not going to do it for you, neither is anyone else, if you can’t pay the rent that’s your problem not mine, if you’re hungry it’s up to you to buy food, if you can’t afford the food your responsible for getting into a place where you can, weak efforts just won’t cut it! To succeed you have to be resolute, you are going to build a profitable blog and nothing else will do!
Ask yourself this: How long have you wanted to start a business?
Whatever your exact answer I’m pretty sure it’s been on your mind for some time, you may have started a few business before and failed, this might be your first venture, it doesn’t really matter to me because I’ve started loads and failed at loads. What matters is that I and hopefully you didn’t give up and we should commend ourselves for getting started in the first place.
Let’s forget the past and start on the future, my guess is you’ve learned plenty of useful lessons along the way so all’s not lost. What I’m interested in is succeeding in business; in my opinion monetizing your blog with affiliate programs is the best way for you to succeed too.
Become an Affiliate
To earn an income from your blog you’ll need to sell something, that’s fine if you are a designer or retailer but what can you do if you’re neither? The idea behind this site is to help you start a business not spend your money, the best way to achieve this goal without asking you to invest thousands of dollars is to “become an affiliate”.
You may be familiar with the term “affiliate” if you’re not let me explain. An affiliate is someone who sells or promotes products and services for someone else. Putting this into context what this means is that “you” can sell anything without buying stock up front; instead you simply introduce the buyer to the seller and receive a commission payment for your effort.
I’ve yet to find a product or service that can’t be sold through an affiliate program, if you think about it all you are actually doing is getting someone else more business; who doesn’t want more business? I will explain later where to find stuff to sell but for now concentrate on finding your “what”, the what being “what do you want to sell on your blog.” The first decision you need to make is your “niche” this will dictate what you can sell, you will hear a lot of talk about your niche so let’s discuss it.
Note: Niche is relevant to all online business models
In short a “niche” is an area of business for example fashion niche, finance niche, pet niche etc…I am sure you get the point. Here is my first tip; almost every niche is saturated with successful blogs and the chances of you as a newbie knocking them off their perch is slim. That doesn’t mean you should give up it just means you need to be a bit creative in your thinking, think “Micro Niche”.
A micro niche is a sub group of a broader niche, red high-heeled shoe is a micro niche or a sub group of the fashion niche, teaching a dog to sit is part of the pet training niche and so on. The reason I advocate concentrating on a targeted section of a broader niche is that this where you stand the best chance of success.
Take Sumarketing as an example: the niche of Internet marketing is saturated and is probably the hardest niche to gain a foothold. Fortunately most of the sites that work in this niche are absolute crap, they are simply rehashed content from more successful sites. Then there’s a smaller group who are fantastic at creating unique content and ideas that their audience demand, these sites are way ahead of the game in both time and experience, they have earned their accolades and quite rightly so, I simply have no interest in competing with them.
With that in mind I might as well just give up now; Right! Well actually no that’s wrong, I shouldn’t give up I just need to have confidence in my ability to bring something new to the party, I need to target my niche and create the kind of content my targeted audience wants.
Sumarketing essentially is for new blog owners who want to monetize their work, that doesn’t mean I exclude seasoned bloggers because these ideas will work for everyone; it just means I can concentrate on writing for a specific audience. I have nothing against established bloggers but they generally seem to believe their own hype, I’m much more reserved and sceptical so my style of writing needs to show that, once you understand your niche you are already way ahead of the rest.
There will be some that say writing for newbies is business suicide because you are excluding millions of potential customers, I would add there are plenty of people starting a blog every day and I am only targeting a tiny part of them. I have a better chance of connecting with this targeted portion than the masses. That’s the whole point of identifying a niche and making a success of it, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a little fish in a very big sea.
When deciding on a niche the best advice I can give you is this:
Choose something you’re passionate about or at least have some knowledge about. Yes you can learn but it’s much easier if you already understand your topic, it shows in your writing when you’re regurgitating someone else’s work. Your goal is to become the expert, the place where your readers know in advance they will get the right information.
Once you have a niche in mind, explore it in its entirety, how saturated is it, can you make money in it, are people interested in it, searching for what you want to sell and can you see where it will be down the road. I discuss finding niches in my exclusive emails so if you haven’t subscribed now might be the time.
Meet people already working in your niche, help them and they’ll help you back (sometimes).
Focus on one niche at a time and not the scatter gun effect, if your niche isn’t working after you have really tried “get out” and find another niche to concentrate on.
How do you become an affiliate?
It’s possible to approach the suppliers directly, most however won’t see the value in dealing with you in the early days, your best approach is to sign up with an affiliate network. To be fair the clue is in the name “affiliate network”, networks act as an agent between the publishers “you” and the merchant “supplier”. The benefit of using a network is that you can promote many items or multiple suppliers at once and the network will take care of the hassle.
As an example Amazon have hundreds of thousands of products, you can sign up as an affiliate and promote any of them on your site. I have to say I have had success with Amazon but soon moved on as the commission levels are quite low, it’s a good place to start for new bloggers. Selling or rather promoting products through Amazon will teach you how to be an affiliate, you might find that’s all you need or you can move on and find different programs. One thing to consider about Amazon is that quite often when people visit they buy multiple items which increase’s your commission; this alone could be a valid reason to use their affiliate program while you are learning the business.
I’m trying not to over simplify the process but to be honest it really is straight forward. There are plenty of networks out there; all of them have a similar process to go through when you are looking for merchants, first however you need to register with the network.
I will be exploring many of the top affiliate networks on the blog and in my emails, for now let’s discuss the main one’s I use. Affiliate Window and Share A Sale as these are good examples and generally cover most affiliate programs I promote.
Affiliate Window – Best for UK Affiliate Programs
Think of the AW as a wholesaler, like their offline counterparts they give you the opportunity to sell a range of products from different suppliers without having to buy individually from each.
Once you’re a member of AW you can search out specific brands, products and collections to promote on your site, all the merchants have tools in place to help you integrate their ads on your site. From a simple banner to individual items (deep linking) you can build your own unique offering and because you’re not holding stock you can change the offering as often as you like. Don’t worry that it may be too technical, it isn’t and there are help guides on the site to help you or you can contact their support.
When you apply to promote a merchant AW will take care of the introduction, you may be accepted straight away or the merchant might like to accept you after looking at your site. Each supplier has an affiliate manager, terms and conditions; these cover commission rates, promotion channels, restrictions, cookie length, links, banners, product feeds and payment terms.
When somebody visits your site, clicks on one of your ads then makes a purchase AW tracks it, the merchant pays AW a commission then you get your slice off that commission. The beauty of this system is that you receive one payment from AW and not a load of individual payments.
In my opinion Affiliate Window is the best network in the UK for physical products simply because of the amount of merchants that use them, I have never had a problem with their tracking and their support is easy to use with issues resolved quickly and without fuss.
Share A Sale – Best for US Affiliates
Although I’m based in the UK my blog has a global audience, for this reason I use Share A Sale again because they have everything I need. Many top brands use this platform, as do many top affiliates. I like the range of affiliate products and services available but more importantly I love the ease of use and support.
If your audience is a global one then I can highly recommend Share A Sale, it’s unlikely you’ll need any other network supplying your blog with links but if you do I will be highlighting other networks of interest in my emails.
Boring but Important
I mentioned affiliate managers and cookies, these two terms are very important. When you first start out it’s easy to sign up for loads of merchants, this approach doesn’t offer success. My advice would be get to know the affiliate managers, drop them a quick email, let them know what your plans are and build a relationship with them. These guys and gals are experts at what they do, they know how the system works, what’s working, what isn’t and they very often have custom offers that they can make available to selected affiliates.
Cookies are a little piece of code that’s left on your visitor’s computer; merchants use this cookie to track clicks, orders and commissions. You have very little control over this, the reason I mentioned them is to make you aware of cookie length. Each merchant stipulates the length of their tracking cookie, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days etc….what it means to you is that even if your customer doesn’t make a purchase on their first visit as long as they return within the cookie period your commission will still be tracked.
Where to be an affiliate?
OK if you are still with me we are nearing the end, so far we know what it takes to be a successful affiliate, we understand niches, networks and tracking but we are still missing the last piece of the jigsaw; where to promote your affiliate offering. Obviously you’ll be using your blog to sell but I thought it would be useful to look at opportunities available, these may be of use in the future.
I seriously won’t be able to explain every business model in this post so if you haven’t already; sign up for my email tips which is full of great marketing ideas. For now here is an overview of where blogging affiliates make their money:
Niche Blog Sites
Not so long ago affiliates were knocking out niche websites at an astonishing rate, a simple two or three page site littered with affiliate links would suffice, all they had to worry about was getting on page one of Google and the money rolled in! Google got wise to this, changed their algorithm and pretty much killed most of these sites overnight. If you don’t believe me have a look around the forums and you will find an infinite number of affiliates complaining about how they lost their income overnight, ironically many of these were the ones flogging crap, no offence!
That doesn’t mean that niche blog sites aren’t a viable business model, in fact I would say thanks Google for getting rid of the “get rich quick schemes” because they brought nothing useful to the party. Affiliates today need to be professional, add value, be experts in their field and understand their customers. Building niche blog sites has the potential to earn a lot of money for you but you must treat it as a business not a shortcut to untold wealth…I discuss this in more depth in my email newsletters.
I have no idea who said; there’s a book in everybody but they were right. I would like to add there’s a blog in everybody and it’s never been easier to get it out of you. Blogging is the perfect platform for affiliates because if done right you effectively have a captive audience who wants what you’re selling.
I want to dispel one myth right here right now “Blogging is Not Dead”, there I said it. I am sick to the back teeth reading post after post saying that blogs are dead. What they should be saying is “I am Crap at Blogging” then that would be closer to the truth. Blogging is not for everyone but neither is curry, does that mean curry is dead?
Sorry; mini rant over!
Blogging is a brilliant way of building up a following, you can nurture this following, gain its trust and down the road monetize it. I think one of the reasons people complain about blogging for money is that they want immediate results and you won’t get that with a blog. If you remember what I said earlier in this post about finding your niche, if you can create an authoritative blog in your niche then you more than anyone can make money from it, the income stream may not be obvious initially but without doubt you can find a way of turning it into a money-making enterprise.
My newsletters will be covering blogging for money in much more detail as will other posts on Sumarketing.
When you have been around the net for a while you will notice the phrase “The Monies in the List”, what this means is that if you can build up a list of people who are likely to buy what you have to sell then at some point you can email them and sell them something.
In my opinion that’s just crude, email marketing is big business in fact its massive business but it’s not necessarily the easiest to master. You might be thinking “hang on” isn’t this what you’re doing, the answer is an emphatic yes, that’s exactly what I am doing. I am asking you to sign up to my email list then sooner or later I am going to try to sell you something! Well to be honest it’s not exactly what I’m doing because I am actually giving you lots of free stuff, lots of ideas, lots of time-saving short cuts to get your business off the ground and I am not selling any of it too you.
Down the road I will talk about something I’ve written or created but I absolutely promise you I will not sell it to you, if you think it will be useful then of course buy it but under no circumstances will I hard sell it!
If you want to learn more about email marketing or email blogging as it is often called I can endorse ViperChill and the Cloud Blueprint program, it’s certainly been my best friend for some time.
I am aware of people making a good living from social media, who hasn’t heard of Facebook or Twitter, these are the tip of the iceberg as there are hundreds of niche social media sites where business is done daily.
I promised you I would always give honest advice and here it is about making money on social media sites “I haven’t got a clue”, I’ve never made a penny from social media directly and wouldn’t know where to start. I have however used social media to drive traffic to my sites which in turn often turns into followers, customers and every now and again friends.
During 2013 I will be learning all I can; specifically I am interested in social shopping, when I have something relevant to say about monetizing social media you will be the first to know via my newsletter.
Wow that was fun, the post started out as a short overview of how to become an affiliate but I got a bit carried away ending up with over 3500 words. I sincerely hope this post has given you something to think about, I am sure you understand there is so much more to making it as an affiliate online but hopefully you will have a better idea of what it involves.
Please, please ask me if you are unsure about something I have written, don’t head off and make mistakes when you could learn from me as I have probably already made them. If you’ve found this post useful then by all means share it with your Facebook friends or fellow Tweeters, leave me a comment or if I didn’t mention it why not sign up for my email tips and have this kind of stuff sent directly to your inbox; it’s free!