The Affiliate Marketing Guide - 

How to make money from other people's products 


This affiliate marketing guide comes from both my experiences as a publisher as well as working with an advertiser, hopefully giving you a glimpse of both sides of the coin so that you can better understand what you're getting into.

In my experience, this way of making money can be either one of the most disappointing or rewarding of your online endeavors. My hope is that this guide will show you how to avoid the first and achieve the second.

My first experience with affiliate marketing was way back in 2000 when I set up a website for my online role playing game based on the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. [yes, I know I'm a geek] I learned a lot from that experience, not the least of which was that I'm a horrible game coordinator. At the time, my biggest learning curve was working with HTML, because affiliate programs were still in their infancy and it was up to you to create the right link using your affiliate code. The only affiliate marketing guide I used then was geared towards how to create these hop links.




That first site ran an Amazon.com affiliate program, of course, selling the books which the game was based on. I read their entire affiliate marketing guide and implemention guidelines. I was very hopeful that this would make me some money. However, I never made a penny. It was then that I began to realize the secret of affiliate marketing, which I would only fully understand when I saw the numbers for affiliate programs from the advertiser's side nine years later. 

What I eventually discovered is the key of this affiliate marketing guide - the way to make money is to have a site which has a large volume of traffic every month and which is pre-sold by you before clicking on any links.

Why an Affiliate Marketing Guide?

Affiliate programs are a popular way for online companies and websites to increase their targeted advertising monies by having niche publishers do their advertising for them. In exchange, they pay these publishers a percentage of all the sales that the publisher generates. This tracking is done by way of an 'affiliate code' which is placed in the URL that links from the content to the products. However, just placing the code isn't enough - this affiliate marketing guide will attempt to show you how to change passive visitors and clickers into active purchasers.

Affiliate marketing guide terminology:

Advertiser - these are the companies who sell products or provide services which they pay their affiliates to promote.

Publishers - people who sign up as affiliates with companies and put the links in their content.

Content - whatever is published online that contains the affiliate code. This can be as small as a Tweet or as large as a website. Emails and newsletters are also good mediums.

Hop Link - Also called an 'affiliate link,' this is the URL for the web address which contains your unique "affiliate code." Hop links usually refer to links which store a cookie on the customer's computer before redirecting them to the original URL. Using a hop link is great for the publisher because they get a boost in the search engines from you linking to them in this way.

Affiliate Code - A code which is tracked by the Advertiser to identify which publisher brought in the customer so that that advertiser can be paid for their work. In most basic affiliate programs, affiliates simply add their code to the end of a URL to create a trackable link to the product. Each program, however, has links created in a unique way so you should make sure to follow your program's guidelines.

Cookie - This is a small piece of identifying information that is temporarily stored on the customer's computer the first time they access a site through your affiliate link. This 'tags' them as your customer for a period of time, because not everyone purchases the first time they come to a site. Affiliate programs will identify in their terms and conditions how long they track a cookie for, common times are between 30 and 90 days.

Getting Started - 

the affiliate marketing guide for Beginners

Successful affiliate marketing requires a stable, high-volume traffic source to make any money. Therefore, it's not a great way to get started making money online - the delay between starting and actually seeing income is enough to discourage most folks. However, it can be a long-term cash cow that will send you money for years to come. If you do it right. So read and follow this affiliate marketing guide and don't expect overnight success.

That said, here's how to get started - my step-by-step introductory affiliate marketing guide :

Step One: Get traffic
This first step is vastly different from any other affiliate marketing guide I've ever read. Yet, it's undeniably the most important step. Without traffic, you'll never make a penny.

Create a high-volume (more than 100 visits per day, minimum) traffic source. The most common and stable way of doing this is to build a niche a website. For example, this website is a great example. I built this website using Site Build It! and the quality of its content is what attracts visitors.

Other ways that I've seen people gain a traffic source are:
  • Blogging
  • Email marketing
  • Twitter followers
  • Facebook, MySpace, and other Social Media outlets.
Step Two: Find Products to promote
Once you've got some good traffic going, you'll probably already have an idea of what types products your audience might need and want. Now all you need to do is find the specific product you're going to promote and where you're going to promote it for.

Create a list of all the types of products that your customers might be interested in. Then, for each product on that list, find an online source for it. Amazon.com is a popular place, however their commissions rates aren't that high, so make sure to check all your options. 

Step Three - Affiliate Marketing guide to deciding on the Program for you
Once you've looked around at all the options out there, you've got to decide which programs you want to participate in. And yes, you should probably be a member of multiple affiliate programs. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself when choosing an affiliate program:
  • What is the commission rate? Obviously here, higher is better.
  • Do they do their part to 'close' the sale of the product? Does their site make you want to buy the product? Once your customers click your link, you want to make sure that they're going to have a good experience.
  • How long do they track cookies? If it's an industry with popular repeat business, you'll want cookies that track the longer the better - forever is highly unusual, but 90 days is a great time span while 30 is a bit short.
  • What kind of affiliate center do they have? Most good affiliate programs will have extensive affiliate centers where they'll have tools for creating links, an affiliate marketing guide to setup, banners and promotional text, etc. 
  • Do they have someone to help you? Larger companies with good affiliate programs will almost always have someone you can call, email or instant message if you're having problems, if you code isn't working, if you didn't get your check, etc. This person is your Affiliate Rep, and will be a valuable resource for you. They frequently get paid based on how well you do, so they'll help you find good products to promote, get your stuff up and running and make sure everything in hunky-dorey.
  • Bonus Questions - find out how often and how you'll get paid as well as what the minimum pay-out is. $100 minimum payout by check is standard.
Step Four - Get approved to participate in the program
If you've done step #1 well, and you've got some good traffic, then they should be banging down your doors to get you into their program. While it's not impossible to get into programs without established traffic, it's harder and a waste of your (and the advertiser's) time. 

Before applying - check your Alexa and Google stats and make sure they appear to be accurate. Know what keywords you're showing up for in Google, how people are finding you and why you'll be able to sell them on products. 

Apply - fill out the application and include as much information as you can about your site. If you get an email back from the company asking for more information, respond immediately. Call them directly if it's faster and during business hours.

Get approved. Each program will notify you differently, sometimes instantaneously and sometimes taking up to a week to get back to you. Once you're approved you're good to go!

Step Five - Promote products
You're finally there - the cash cow is in sight! It all comes down to this final moment (actually ongoing expanse of time) when you promote the products you've decided to affiliate with. Heres a few affiliate marketing guide tips to creating success:

Do: Promote products that will pay you well and which will help your visitors, products that you would or you do use yourself.

Don't: Promote things unrelated to your visitor's interests and needs just to make a buck. You'll be seen as a sell-out schmuck and loose traffic faster than water through a sieve.

Do: Integrate your recommendations for products naturally with the rest of your content.

Don't: Never ever sacrifice high-value content for the chance to make a buck from an affiliate program.

Do: Promote products as a way to add value or functionality to the things people are already getting from your website.

Don't: Expect that throwing up a link or two will make you thousands of dollars - you've got to add something.

Step Six - Collect the money $$$
Woot! You've made money! Now all you need to do get that money out of the hands of your affiliate program and into your bank account. This can be easier said than done, unfortunately.

First of all, make sure you know when your affiliate program will pay out. I've seen and heard too many small affiliates calling at the end of every month trying to get a pay out below the minimum threshold. If you need that $98 to make rent this month, don't count on being able to talk your advertiser's affiliate program into sending it to you below the payout.

Here's why: From the advertiser's point of view, this is a pain in the butt and not worth the money you're making them. But that's not the main reason. The vast majority of the time, even if your publisher wants to send you the money, they can't.

Most affiliate programs work using an automated tracking, reporting and pay-out system that's integrated with all aspects of the advertiser's business. They literally cannot go in and manually cut you a check. Why? Because, frankly, you DON'T want them to be able to tamper with these things. Think about it, do you want them to be able to change the tracking manually? No, you want that sucker to be automated. 

Once you've met the publisher's minimum payout, you can also set your own minimum payout or frequency most times. How you do this is up to you, but here's a few things to remember:

Setting your pay-out to the minimum amount might mean that you have a lot of carry-over. 

Setting your pay-out to a revolving date (monthly, weekly, etc) can also have pros and cons as well. If you've set it to monthly, you better believe that your advertiser is making the interest on your $15,000 payout (hey, it happens) from the 1st until they cut the check on the 30th (or whenever your period ends).

If you're getting pay-outs on a daily or weekly basis, you're going to have to check the mail frequently and plan on lots of trips to the bank. However, if you're dealing with automatic deposits, then this isn't such a big issue.

You may not be able to choose some of these things. It's frequent that you'll get a monthly payout automatically, but only if you meet a certain minimum by a certain date. There may be no way to change this - so check into it and plan to do big pushes right before your cut-off date if you need to push over that minimum threshold.

Finally, you need to make sure you know how you're getting paid. Some affiliate programs charge for cutting and mailing checks, especially if they're below a certain threshold. Other affiliate programs won't do direct deposit, transfer or PayPal unless you're a large producer who needs pay-outs frequently.

Step Seven - Be the Golden Goose
Here's a secret that I've never seen found in an Affiliate Marketing Guide: Online businesses frequently make up to and over 50% of their income from affiliate programs. These earnings are in turn generated mostly by a top 1-10% of their affiliates.

Affiliates in this range can make 5-6 figures monthly from their sales. You want to be in this bracket.

Why? Because when your percent of each sale (usually 10-25%) is netting you $10,000+ per month, you can be sure that you're making that company at least 4 times that.

You're the Goose that lays the golden eggs.

Just like the story, they'll do whatever it takes to keep you from the giants. When you're a top producer, you'll be able to negotiate a higher percentage of each sale, payouts on your terms and in your way, cookies that last longer, help with your advertising, optimizing or website creation, and any variety of other things.

You can't negotiate these things when you're making less than 5 figures a month with most companies. It's just not worth their manpower. Some really big companies will need to see you in the 6-7 figure range before you'll be this valuable to them. The key, though, is to be the Golden Goose.

How to actually make money - 

Affiliate Marketing Guide 2.0 - Online Sales

Now that you've gotten the basics down of affiliate marketing, here's the affiliate marketing guide to making GOOD money:

In the intro affiliate marketing guide, I stressed how important it is to have traffic. Once you've got some traffic, you'll need some basic marketing techniques to get the click-through and sale. While online sales rests on the same principles as all sales, the actual practice is very different.

The basic principles for sales follow a standard pattern, referred to as the sales cycle. There's lots of books about this but here's the run down for purposes of this affiliate marketing guide: It is: Establish trust, create awareness of need, provide something that fills that need, continue the relationship after the sale.

Ready for the next level? Here's the advanced edition of the affiliate marketing guide:

Step One: Establish Trust
Establishing trust is the hardest part of the sales cycle when dealing online. That's why it's at the very heart of this affiliate marketing guide. Online users are savvy and wary of anything that might be a scam to part them from their money. Affiliate programs thrive online because they create trust for stores and brands in unique ways that traditional advertisements (banners, links, buttons, etc.) cannot.

As you generate traffic, you'll be creating an atmosphere of trust with your viewers. You'll know that they trust you if they come back. If most of your clicks/traffic/followers drop off after the first time they meet you, you're doing something wrong.

You can generate trust by:
  • Answering the question they're asking when they find your site. Don't charge them for this.
  • Only ever recommend products that you believe in, not just something to make you a few bucks.
  • Be open and honest about any draw-backs to the things you promote online. Unlike traditional sales, online customers specifically search for critical reviews of the products they're considering purchasing. If you don't offer this from the get-go when you're recommending something, they'll quickly find it somewhere else.
  • Share actual experiences. You own are great, but having someone who bought said product because you recommended it give a review will often tip the scale. Of course, you could take this affiliate marketing guide tip to the next level and do both!
Step Two: Create Awareness of Need
Chances are that the traffic you're getting isn't coming to you because they need to buy something. Thats what affiliate marketing guide books often fail to understand, they foccus on selling the PRODUCT. If visitors know what they need, they'll go directly to the source and bypass your site all together. They're coming to you because they're either looking for free information or because they're unsure of what they need.

Create awareness of need by giving them what they're looking for when they come to your site and then showing how buying the product you're recommending will satisfy them even more. This deserves an example, because it's frequently the hardest thing to grasp for affiliates (and therefore the most often reason why affiliates fail).

You run a site where you review books about architecture because that's your passion. Your affiliate program is with the giant, Amazon. Let's face it, people aren't coming to your site because they're looking for a specific book or even a review of a specific book. They're coming to your site because they want to learn more about the topic that the books you review cover. So, if you're reviewing or talking about are about Neoclassic Architecture, people like/follow/visit/friend you because you provide good information on Neoclassic Architecture. One of your most popular topics might be "Neoclassic Architecture definition." You better make sure that you have that definition, with examples and illustrations, on your site.

Here's how to use this affiliate marketing guide to turn this definition into a sale:

To promote your particular product, on your definition page you should talk about why Neoclassic Architecture is so hard to define (it's not, but work with me) and how 3 books define it differently. Give a brief synopsis of each book and why it's definition is authoritative and what it adds to the conversation. If you want, you can (and probably should) link to a deeper page about each book individually where the in depth review is located. Then, on that page, you'll have your book review and sales.

Did you see where the creation of need happened there? If not, let's look at it closer. It happened when you talked about the difficulty with defining Neoclassic Architecture. You subtly hint that because it's a difficult topic to understand in-depth on a website, reading a full book about it would be helpful to someone who wants to really grasp it.

This creates need because it makes the reader feel that their initial query, while fulfilled, now is a deeper desire to know more. Then you follow this affiliate marketing guide one step further - you sell them on your review page about how good the book is. When they click through to read about each of the books you review, and decide which one will further expand their understanding, they then click through to buy.

Step Three: Provide Something that Fills the Need
Once you've created a need beyond whatever got your visitor to your site, you better be prepared to fulfill it. If you're not, they'll rush back to the search engines and you'll end up loosing them.

Listen up! Here's the KEY to making money from this affiliate marketing guide:

Make sure the products you promote fulfill the created need EXACTLY.

It's really that simple. Once you've created the deeper need, visitors will be ready to think about buying. If you've followed this affiliate marketing guide, you've done that already. Don't take them somewhere with a mediocre product or a product that only fulfills part of the need. You'll loose not only the sale, but the trust you worked to develop.

Also, and this is my experience, don't take them to a general 'store' page. Unless you're shipping products directly yourself (in which case you're not an affiliate) having a 'store' page isn't how you're going to convert visitors. Sure, you might create an affiliate store or list of products you recommend which you link to from your sidebar, but don't expect first-time buyers to start there. Instead, link to a deep product so all they have to do is click "buy."

Step Four: Continue the Relationship After the Sale
This is very difficult to do with most affiliate programs, but it can mean the difference between being a $100/month affiliate and being a $10,000/month affiliate. You MUST create a way to follow-up with people who buy from your affiliate program after the sale.

There are many ways to do this, however email newsletter follow-up is the easiest and most effective. The exactly how to set up a newsletter is beyond the spectrum of this affiliate marketing guide, but is pretty self explanatory. The hard part of this approach is talking your publisher into getting you the email address of people who buy from you. Sometimes it will be easy to do, sometimes it will be almost impossible to do. Some affiliate programs even have email functionality built into them because publishers realize the importance of ongoing relationships with clients, but this is not yet the norm. If you're generating significant traffic and income, work with your affiliate representative at the advertising company to get this in place.

If you're just starting out, you'll need to do a work-around to maintain a relationship with these clients. The work-around is simple - treat every visitor as if they were already a customer. By this, I mean set up an email marketing campaign where you capture email subscriptions from all visitors and promote all products in rotation through email and through your primary marketing model(s). Adding something that regularly updates and changes, such as a blog, RSS feed, twitter account or rotating home page will enable you to promote different products at different times. Use this as you would a follow-up email list.

The advantages to this approach are two-fold. First of all, following up with customers will encourage them to buy more products from you and build ongoing trust. Second of all, if your visitor isn't a customer yet, it increases the chances that they will become one. Sales studies have shown that most people buy after they've been exposed to a product 5 times. So keep it coming!

Ready for Advanced Affiliate Marketing? Read more about becoming a Super Affiliate!

Affiliate Marketing Guide for Fools -

10 mistakes I made personally that you should avoid

I created this website because I've made so many mistakes from cobbling information together on how to make money online that I want others to be able to do it without having to make all my mistakes for themselves. Therefore, here are ten mistakes that I made which you, avid reader of this affiliate marketing guide, should also avoid:
  • Don't commit to an affiliate program before you have traffic specific to a niche.
  • Don't create content for the sole purpose of pushing your affiliate codes.
  • Don't put affiliate codes on every single link on your website/blog/MySpace/etc.
  • Don't waste money using affiliate codes with AdSense.
  • Don't forget to test every single affiliate link you put up to ensure it works.
  • Don't put up a link to one product/service/etc. and never test another one for better conversion.
  • Don't set an auto-delete or auto-archive filter for newsletters and promos from your affiliate programs.
  • Don't let creating a solid working relationship with your affiliate rep. slip through the cracks.
  • Don't ignore your mailing list.
  • Don't treat your affiliate marketing program as anything less than a business and expect to make money.

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