The first question everyone asks when they first hear about affiliate marketing is, “what is affiliate marketing, and how does it work?”. I can tell you one thing for sure, affiliate marketing IS NOT a get rich quick scheme.
In fact, it’s the complete and polar opposite.
What affiliate marketing is, is a lot of work and a long grind filled with plenty of obstacles to overcome.
But… If it’s done right, affiliate marketing can be one of the best ways to gain true financial freedom. Or, at the very least, generate a decent semi-passive income.
Have I piqued your interest? Assuming you haven’t hit the back button yet, let’s get into what affiliate marketing is… I mean, beyond failure, frustration, and copious amounts of work.
Before we get too far in, I should mention that affiliate marketing goes by a couple of other names. Most notably internet marketing as well as digital marketing. Some people like to think that digital marketing is different than affiliate/internet marketing… But it’s not.
At its core and as simplified as possible, affiliate marketing is just another way to say performance-based marketing. You, the affiliate, are paid a commission to generate sales that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
For instance, say someone types “best desk fan” into Google and you happen to know a lot about desk fans. You could use that knowledge to recommend what you consider to be the best options. Then people buy desk fans based on your suggestions via links with your affiliate tag, and voila, you’ve earned commissions.
When it’s explained like that, it sounds pretty simple, right? Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s actually A LOT more to it than simply selling.
What is affiliate marketing?
Beyond the basics we just covered, affiliate marketing is a lot of different things all wrapped into one short phrase. It requires knowledge in a wide variety of skills and you’ll often have to learn at least a couple of them. Some of the required skills might even be brand new concepts, but it’s okay because everyone has to start somewhere.
There are a couple of ways you can do affiliate marketing. The most common way is to build an affiliate website featuring reviews, information, how-tos, and things like that. Another popular method is video, whether that’s on YouTube or another streaming platform, or social media.
One tool you absolutely need is a computer. Whether that’s a desktop or a laptop, or even a tablet with an attachable keyboard. Whatever it is, you can’t do affiliate marketing from something like a cellphone. Not effectively at least.
Before people will actually see your roundup of the Top 5 best desk fans of 2020, that post/video is going to have to rank in a search engine – preferably Google. Not only will it have to rank, but it’s going to have to be near the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Report Pages) before many people will click through to your page.
It’s no different if you’re making videos on YouTube. Without an optimized title and description, your content probably won’t be viewed too often even if it’s amazing.
That’s what we call SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. It’s an essential part of affiliate marketing, if not the driving force behind it. Another route is paying for advertising, but that can get very costly very fast and if your idea isn’t proven it could be a huge waste of your hard-earned coin.
SEO deserves its own specific guide; but in short, like affiliate marketing, SEO is comprised of a bunch of concepts. You have on-page SEO like text and keywords, alt tags, outbound and internal links, anchor text, and more. You also have off-page SEO which primarily comes in the form of backlinks, but social media metrics can also play a small role.
Like I mentioned before, content for affiliate marketing can come in 2 different forms. On one hand, you have text via websites and social media, on the other hand, you have video via platforms like YouTube.
Ideally, you want to utilize both text and video, but it’s also fine to specialize in just one.
It’s not as simple as it sounds, either. Your content has to be both compelling and engaging for it to be effective. Meaning, people should feel compelled to keep reading, and your content should feel engaging on a personal level. This isn’t to say that you have to be an English major or a published author to be successful, but an ability for creative writing (or creative oration) is definitely an asset.
Like I mentioned before, your content plays a huge role in the SEO of your website. With that in mind, your content should be written with SEO taken into consideration. But… Not too much. At the end of the day, you want to be writing content for the people who are (hopefully) going to read it. Trying to trick Google by gaming the system via methods like keyword stuffing are simply going to ensure your site never ranks – not ideal.
I know what you’re thinking, “I can’t afford to spend $5000 on a website!” Well, I have good news, you won’t have to. With access to Content Management Systems like WordPress, building a unique website has never been easier. There’s still a degree of difficulty, but at least you don’t need to know much (if anything) about any kind of code anymore.
You don’t need the prettiest website with the most advanced features to be successful. A lot of people get hung up on this stage and quit before they’ve even written a single word of content.
All you need to be successful is a clear and concise website with a consistent design. Look at Neil Patel’s website as an example, it’s super basic in terms of design yet he’s arguably one of the most successful digital marketing “gurus” out there.
Like I’ve mentioned, affiliate marketing isn’t constrained to simply text and websites. A lot of (very successful) affiliate marketers exist almost exclusively in video format on platforms like YouTube and even social media to a degree.
Even if your goal is to run a profitable website, video reviews can be a huge asset to your business model. If this is your preferred route, then you’ll have to tack on recording and editing to your list of required skills.
As you might expect, marketing is a big part of affiliate marketing… In fact, it’s at least 50% of it. Based on that, none of anything I just mentioned will do much without a degree of marketing knowledge. You’ll need to know how to determine a good niche (profitable corner of a particular market) and how to target the demographic of that niche.
This is arguably the hardest part next to SEO.
Luckily, there are a lot of great resources available where you can learn different methods of marketing products digitally. There are tons of books out there like Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion that’ll help you understand the basics of marketing. There are other books like The Success Principles that’ll teach you how to build good habits, among other things.
Beyond that, there are online courses tailored specifically to teaching people affiliate marketing.
Wealthy Affiliate (this is where I started learning back in 2013) is a great option for beginners who want to learn the ropes. Not only do they offer training, but they also throw in hosting for your website as well as the ability to register your own domains. Like I said, definitely a good option for beginners.
Does it still work in 2020?
Short answer: Yes, absolutely.
Long answer: There’s a lot more competition across the board now than there was a few years ago, but affiliate marketing is still viable.
You’ll have to put in a lot of work to stand out from the pack, but it’s undeniably doable. Whether or not you can do it will come down to how determined you are. There’s no such thing as Easy St when it comes to affiliate marketing.
In short, affiliate marketing can be summarized as you marketing someone else’s product. In its most basic form, there’s not much else to it. In a way, it’s like working a 100% commission job – you’re only getting paid for results.
In reality, it involves a lot more than simply selling something.
You’ll need to acquire and then refine an objectively large skill set to be truly successful with affiliate marketing. First you have to find a profitable niche, then you have to figure out how to target its demographic(s), all while learning how to write high-quality content.
It’s a lot to juggle and can quickly turn into a full-time job. Minutes will turn to hours, hours to days, and days to pots of coffee.
But, when it’s done right, affiliate marketing can be like finding Willy Wonka’s golden ticket…
Only, instead of touring a chocolate factory, you get a semi-passive income that can scale basically ad infinitum.