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A Complete Guide on Affiliate Marketing for Beginners (2022)

Learn how to become a pro at affiliate marketing, how to get started, mistakes to avoid, how to set up affiliate program in WooCommerce, hacks, and more.

Last updated on August 23, 2022

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That same daily routine seems terrible right? Wake up early, rush through traffic, work tirelessly to bring sales and get nothing much in return.

What if you could eliminate these and generate money even while you sleep? Money you could earn without having to worry about stressful daily chores. Doesn’t that sound exciting?

That’s the power of affiliate marketing.

This article covers all a user need to know to make it big in affiliate marketing and also how a WooCommerce user can make a successful living through affiliate marketing.

What is affiliate marketing?

In simple terms, promoting someone’s products and getting a commission in exchange is affiliate marketing. You promote other products and earn money or others promote your products and get money in return; it’s affiliate marketing.

Remember this – Anybody can be an affiliate marketer. No matter what.

How does affiliate marketing work?

Now affiliate marketing is not a single person’s job. It involves three parties, each aiming for a win. And leveraging affiliate marketing as per their potential.

The purchase happens through a link or coupon code provided by the seller, promoted by the affiliate and clicked by the end-user.

1. Seller or creator
Seller can be an entrepreneur, store owner, merchant, vendor, etc. having a product to sell. The product can be physical or digital. The seller may not be actively involved in marketing directly. But may advertise the product. Or set-up their own affiliate program to allow affiliates to generate referral links and promote it.

If you are a WooCommerce user, here’s a very popular tool to set-up your own affiliate program.

2. Affiliates
Affiliates can be marketers, bloggers, publishers, influencers, deal sites, your customers, etc. They simply market the sellers’ products to consumers and earn money on a successful purchase. Remember, each affiliate marketer works as per their potential. For example, influencers can bring more referrals quickly.

3. Consumer
Without consumers, affiliate marketing is dead. When they buy the product, the seller and the affiliate share the profit. Sometimes the affiliate will disclose that they are receiving a commission. The sales happen normally and consumers remain unaffected by the affiliate marketing system in which they are a significant part.

Since we are into affiliate marketing, the prime focus will be on affiliates.

How affiliate marketers get paid and how much they can earn?

There is no limit on how much an affiliate marketer can earn. It depends on your niche and the amount of work you put in.

The most successful affiliate marketers make six or seven figures a month. Wow!

For example, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income made over $100,000 in affiliate commissions in December 2017.

The affiliates get paid on every successful referral. But this paid commission is not constant. It varies. Let’s see how:

Pay per sale / pay per order

Here, the affiliate receives the commission on the total sale made. That is when a customer purchases a single product or multiple products in a single order. The commission is more of a flat % one. However, some do offer flat rate commission.

And some offer different commission rates to different users based on who they are. Example – 50% for influencers, 35% for loyal customers, 25% for new customers.

Pay per lead

Another way affiliates get paid is when a lead gets converted. It can be a free trial converted to a paid plan or a visitor signing up for a free trial. Or a visitor subscribing to a newsletter.

This seems expensive as it is not sure whether the leads would successfully purchase something.

Mostly, the big shots or agencies afford to run pay per lead as their marketing and onboarding process is killer.

Pay per click

Again, a little expensive and needs strong marketing because affiliates get paid when the user gets redirected to the seller’s website using the link.

Affiliates need to write a strong copy or message to encourage users to click the link. And even more, an effort for the seller to convince those users to buy.

Bonuses

Affiliates also get paid based on their performance. And sellers must reward these affiliates more so that they keep on promoting more and stay for a longer duration.

Some affiliates may bring more referrals quickly than others. So based on what they bring to you or targets if you set out to encourage affiliates, you need to reward them.

Like an extra 5% commission after 100 successful referrals or an extra $300 bonus on bringing 30 customers who purchase the top plan and so on.

Pros of being an affiliate marketer

Now if you think it’s the money that encourages you to become an affiliate marketer, think again. There are other benefits of being an affiliate marketer.

Passive income

You earn money not only when you are awake but also when you are in sleep. Some investment in marketing efforts and the steady flow of income is on the cards. Another good thing, you don’t need to be at work or sit in front of those eye-straining screens.

No support

Since you are promoting other products, the support is handled by the seller’s team. It’s their job to keep customers satisfied. But you must select and promote products which are popular, useful to the audience and select sellers whose support is quick and reliable.

No tech mumbo-jumbo

As you are into affiliate marketing, you are not into product development, updates, and fixes.

Risk-free and cost effective

Developing and maintaining a product involves capital. While being an affiliate marketer, you are saving money here. You can get started quickly and without much hassle.

Flexibility

Since you can work anywhere on your own terms, you are free to set your own goals, select products, and niche, negotiate terms with sellers, work as and when required, etc. You’ll also be free from company restrictions and regulations as well as non-performing teams.

Rewards

Affiliate marketing is based on performance. The more you promote and bring customers, the more you earn. For that, copywriting and SEO are a must.

What are the best affiliate marketing channels?

Being an affiliate marketer, you need to amp up your marketing. Leverage the following channels for a fortunate affiliate marketing.

Copywriting and SEO

No one will come to your site directly and click on a link. Crisp copywriting powered with SEO will bring potential leads to your site. “Best tool for…, top ten plugins for…“such posts rich with keywords will attract quality traffic to your website.

Influencers

This person is in a great position to give you high traction. Instagram and YouTube are popular weapons for them today to reach out to the masses. They already boast an impressive following, so it’s easy for them to direct consumers to the seller’s products through social media posts, blogs and other interactions with their followers.

Here’s an in-depth guide as to how to use influencers for affiliate marketing.

Bloggers

Like I said about copywriting earlier, the list posts, reviews can also be written by bloggers. They promote your brand more compellingly, driving quality traffic to your site.

Social media

Influencers can leverage this channel the maximum to their advantage and yours. Courtesy the follower count they have and people believe and trust what they say.

Deal sites

Deal sites are hungry for commission. You can easily send affiliate links or coupons to these people and they can promote it.

Email list

Email is still and will be the king. Affiliate marketers will be having a list of an audience that may be interested in your products. Some may even build a list and then start promoting products to this list. Either way, promotion is on.

The best part of all these channels is your brand becomes visible to a wide audience. This also includes people who haven’t heard about your brand ever.

Well done! You are quite near on the path of being a successful affiliate marketer. Let’s see how to do affiliate marketing now.

How to get started with affiliate marketing?

Following these can be of real help while starting with affiliate marketing:

Choosing the right platform

Affiliate marketing can be done through any social platform and it can be promoted through that too. However, it’s much easier to build an audience and increase your affiliate sales via blog and YouTube.

Starting a blog today is relatively easy and cheap. There are plenty of tutorials online that teach you how to get started. The best part, it’ll likely cost you a few dollars per month.

Once your site is up, optimize it for search engines so that you have a better chance of ranking. From there, you’re free to add affiliate links to your content.

The other platform is YouTube. Creating and uploading content to YouTube is free, which makes it ideal for many people. Optimize your videos for SEO and include affiliate links in your description.

Select your niche

Let’s be honest: if you’re starting a blog today, you’re facing a ton of competition. To stand the best chance of success, niche down.

Choose a topic that focuses on a specific category. For example, the topic of “fitness” is an enormous category. Rather than tackling that, try something more specific, like ‘fitness with yoga’.

Keeping your topics tight can help you build a more focused audience and potentially help you rank higher in search engines.

Find and join affiliate programs

An affiliate program is an agreement that allows people to become your affiliates and earn commissions for sending traffic or sales your way.

There are three types of affiliate programs to choose from:

1. High-paying, low-volume affiliate programs:
These are affiliate programs for niche products with high payouts. Since you’re probably just starting, it’ll be quite challenging to make a meaningful amount of money competing against skilled marketers with deep pockets.

2. Low-paying, high-volume affiliate programs:
These are affiliate programs for products with low payouts but mass appeal. For example, take PS4 games. Lots of people play PS4, but the average cost of a game is only around $50, and affiliate commissions are usually in the single digits. This means you’ll earn $2-3 per sale if you’re lucky.

The redeeming quality of these types of programs is that they usually offer tons of products to sell. Take Amazon’s affiliate program, for example. You can earn up to 10% commissions on almost anything Amazon sells.

To make these types of affiliate programs pay, you’ll need lots of traffic.

3. High-paying, high-volume affiliate programs:
These are affiliate programs for products with mass appeal, which also pay high commissions. The biggest example is of credit cards.

Everyone needs a credit card, and most people stay with the company for years (sometimes even decades!)

The downside of these types of products is that they attract affiliate marketers with lots of expertise and deep pockets. Some also use spammy tactics that you just can’t compete with.

So which affiliate programs to join?
This depends on your niche and level of expertise.

If you’re targeting consumers, you’ll likely go with the second model of low commissions and higher sales volume.

If you’re going after a business audience, you’ll likely go for the first model: high-paying and low volume.

Create solid content

If you want your affiliate site to succeed, you need to create high-quality content where your affiliate links fit naturally.

Don’t just blindly curate products from Amazon’s best sellers. Take a step forward to make sure your content solves the visitor’s problem.

For example, if you’re doing reviews, purchase the product and test it. A review that sound natural will have more impact. A video review is better today.

Increase traffic to your affiliate site

You’ve created great content. The next step is to get more people to read it, so they will click on your affiliate links. Here are three traffic strategies to consider:

1. Paid traffic:
The advantage of paid traffic is that the moment you start paying, you get traffic. However, running ads will dig into your profits. It’s quite normal for advertisers to lose money before they make it, if they ever do.

You need to be realistic about how long it takes to optimize a paid traffic campaign. Once you stop paying for ads, your traffic will stop.

Generally speaking, ads are a great traffic strategy if you’re part of a high-paying affiliate program and can make the numbers work.

But if you’re completely new without a budget, then it might not be such a great idea.

2. Search engine optimization (SEO):
For as long as you can rank high in the search engines for your target keywords, you’ll get consistent and passive traffic.

On the most basic level, SEO is about understanding what your target customers are searching for, creating content around those topics and taking care of the ‘technical’ stuff to push these pages higher in the search engines.

3. Build an email list:
Use your list to tell fans about new content and keep them coming back to your site for more. This leads to more affiliate clicks and sales.

You can even send affiliate email promotions to your list directly.

To build an email list, you need to persuade the readers on your site to sign up. That means offering something valuable like a free ebook, an email course, etc. All you need is some creativity.

Get clicks on your affiliate links

Just because you have an amazing piece of content doesn’t mean people will click on your affiliate links. There are three things you need to consider:

1. Link placement:
If all your affiliate links are at the bottom of the page where people rarely scroll, clicks will be few and far between.

On the other hand, make every other word a link in your introduction and your content will look spammy. You need to balance link placement with the other factors below.

2. Context:
Let’s say you were writing an article on the best bluetooth headphones for under $99. Your introduction probably shouldn’t look like this: “Today, I’m reviewing the best bluetooth headphones.” The links look out of context and spammy.

Instead, this would make more sense: “Today, I’m reviewing three different bluetooth headphones you can buy on Amazon for under $99”.

3. Callouts:
Using callouts like buttons, tables and boxes can help attract your readers’ attention and make the post more skimmable.

Turn clicks into sales

In affiliate marketing, two conversions need to take place for you to make money.

The first conversion is the click to the product page. You’re 100% in control of this action. Use the tactics above to improve your chances of getting that click.

The second conversion is the visitor purchasing the product. In the case of affiliate marketing, the merchant controls the checkout, and their conversion rates are out of your control.

The trick is to play the game to your advantage and look for merchants with programs that convert well.

Benefits of having your own affiliate program

Being an affiliate marketer, you can have your own affiliate program or join other affiliate programs.

If you are a seller or a blogger having something to sell, it’s better to set-up your own affiliate program.

Why? Here are some of its benefits:

Exposure

Your business will be more visible. Have a dedicated landing page as well. Here’s our affiliate program landing page. Clear and simple. Join it and start minting money.

Lower costs

In other affiliate networks, there’s a membership fee, monthly fees and a transaction fee for every successful referral. Having your own affiliate program won’t cost you so much cash.

Full control

Other affiliate programs come with a series of complex features and clutter. But with your own program, you can customize it as per your needs and make it straightforward.

Dependency

Unlike earlier times, you won’t have to depend on any specific program to issue payments or meet conditions.

Consistent marketing

With your affiliate program, you can get people from across the globe 24*7.

Using WooCommerce? Here’s a popular plugin to set-up your own affiliate program

Affiliate For WooCommerce plugin makes it easy as a pie to set-up your affiliate program.

It’s simple, jargon-free and without complications, unlike other plugins. It’s one of the hot-selling plugins on WooCommerce.com.

Affiliate for WooCommerce plugin dashboard

Must have features in affiliate program / marketing

Your affiliate program must have the following features. And Affiliate for WooCommerce plugin provides all of these mentioned below and a few more:

Easy set-up

Programs that allow you to get up and running quickly can make a big difference to your workflow, momentum, and confidence. Affiliates get the link, promote your products and start earning.

Single-screen interface

Better to have all but only important details at one place. This makes the plugin clutter-free and gives users a better experience.

Manual affiliate approval

Quality affiliates matter. You want to manually approve affiliate accounts to avoid spam and fraud or weed out affiliates that aren’t relevant to your brand or goals.

Use coupons for tracking referrals

Social sites like Instagram don’t allow links. So coupons can be used as affiliate links. For coupons and deal sites too, coupons are more convenient than links.

Affiliate marketing campaigns

Create affiliate marketing campaign WooCommerce

Create unlimited affiliate marketing campaigns – add images, banners, email swipes, whatever you wish to. Your affiliates can use them to promote your brand better.

Payouts

You need to pay affiliates their commission on a timely basis. Having options like PayPal and manual payout are a must.

Real-time, accurate and advanced reports

Which affiliates are performing better, what products are getting sold, all such data in real-time is a necessity.

Multiple commission rates

Some affiliates bring more referrals than others. Some may be influencers. These people may also expect rewards for their hard work. So, set different affiliate commission rates for different users.

Get Affiliate For WooCommerce plugin

Mistakes to avoid in affiliate marketing for WooCommerce

Affiliate marketing has its shares of cons. Do it wrong and you’ll struggle. Avoid the following mistakes:

Put money above all

Amateur marketers are interested in money and not the value product delivers. Focus on what the audience will gain from using the products you promote. Also, don’t always fall to sellers offering higher commissions. The product quality may not be great. So think from the customers’ perspective.

Recommending what you don’t trust

You must recommend products that you have used and that gained your trust as a customer/consumer.

Your hands-on-approach will guide you in creating a genuine recommendation that will help your audience by making the right decision.

Wrong product, partner selection

If your audience is some health-conscious type, selling some other health-related products or organic foods will work wonders. And not selling some products related to electronics.

Like products, if you select the wrong partners, it can hamper your affiliate sales.

Ignoring SEO

If you have very comprehensive content but it’s not optimized for search, there is almost no point to it.

Make sure to carry out your SEO research before planning your article list.

Ignoring social media and emails

Go beyond SEO. You have social media, You have email. Utilize these mediums to promote affiliate products and earn good traction of traffic.

Not doing split testing

While preparing marketing campaigns like social media ads, Google ads or email campaigns, we often have many ideas to deliver the same message. But we rely on the first one.

So don’t refrain yourself from trying things out like running two sets of infographics from the same campaign or using two subject lines for the same email. This will provide you with the most important learning that is self-learning. Chances are, it can turn out to be a magical campaign.

Successful hacks for affiliate marketing

Competitor analysis

Analyze what your competitors are offering and at what price. It will help you make decisions on selecting products, setting commissions, agreements and targets.

Maintain the product quality

Successful affiliate marketing is not just about how high the commission or the money. It’s all about having a great converting product that has an edge over your competitors.

Remember, a great converting product is the easiest way to repeat conversions.

Claim a niche market

Don’t try to sell everything to everyone. You’ll surely fail. Identify where your product fits best and then promote it.

Segment your affiliates

You have a list of customers. Identify customers like top-spenders, new customers acquired within the first three months and so on. Try to make these customers as affiliates. See what works better and keep experimenting.

Take care of your partners

Communicate with them by welcoming them to your affiliate program. Send out updates on product additions or changes. Give them tips and advice on how to be successful in marketing your products. Always pay them on time. Give bonuses to some who give more sales.

For more hacks, mistakes, and content marketing ideas for affiliates, refer to this in-depth guide.

Conclusion

A simple and straightforward process, affiliate marketing is for everyone to make an income.

Although the success depends on the affiliate’s marketing skills, it can prove to be an effective way to meet your income goals as either a primary career or a profitable second job.

Follow the tips, hacks, ideas mentioned in this article, and you’ll have a thriving success.

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