How Affiliate Marketing Works: Step-by-Step

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Essentially, affiliate marketing is when a merchant pays a commission to people who promote or endorse their products or services. In most cases, this calls for sending site traffic to a retailer’s website as well as receiving a commission whenever visitors buy the product or service you’re recommending. There usually are four parties in that process:

 

  1. The merchant: The company that creates or sells the product or service.
  2. The affiliate: The man or woman endorsing the product or service.
  3. Affiliate networks: Online channels where merchants list their programs and where affiliates go to look for them.
  4. The consumer: The potential buyer of an affiliate’s product or service

 

With this in mind, the following are the step-by-step guide to starting your affiliate marketing business:


  • Plan extensively.

 

You need a great deal of planning before you can start with affiliate marketing. There are no shortcuts. It will entail a considerable amount of time if your goal is to earn full time with it. You need to plan things out meticulously, set yearly targets for the very first three years, separate them down into attainable monthly targets, and effectively forecast the money and time you need to commit to getting results. Below are some factors you need to consider during the planning stage:

 

  • Cost of the following: website design and development, copywriting, advertising, images & videos, marketing tools such as analytics, email marketing, etc.
  • Target sales and profits laid in a detailed timeline, including how much affiliate income to make your strategy profitable
  • Traffic volume to your sites/ platforms and partner sites to hit target sales
  • KPIs and metrics to track and monitor performance


  • Select products that resonate with you.

 

Promote products that you know.

 

When you promote products and services that you know and love, it will resonate with your audience. You can’t recommend a product that you have not used, tested, or have expert knowledge of. It would be best if you had the credibility to speak about it in detail and give honest product recommendations. 

 

Instead, look at your professional and personal life to draw inspiration. It is the easiest and most natural way of successfully choosing what products to promote. Learn what your interests are, what hobbies you enjoy, activities that you find meaningful and purposeful, and so on. Then ask yourself this, “What are the products and services that you and others can use in pursuit of them?”

 

Affiliate marketing all boils down to having expert information about the products you are marketing to help less-informed consumers make better buying decisions. Or perhaps, at least make them feel as they are making better purchasing decisions. Your role as an affiliate marketer helps your audience make informed decisions, and the commissions you get are your reward.

 

Look for products in your niche with affiliate programs and affiliate networks.

 

When you have established your niche, you can now begin to pick certain products to promote. Search for websites that have these products or services with affiliate programs. If they don’t, you can still write about them in your content.

 

When you have created an initial list of target affiliate programs, you can expand further by searching for affiliate networks. Affiliate networks can be quite a powerful tool to achieve that. These are channels that link affiliate marketers to the merchants. This comes with a fee, of course, and saves merchants and affiliates alike from searching for each other.

Affiliate networks tend to be beneficial if you plan to add products that are new to an already-profitable affiliate site, or perhaps you are preparing to regulate multiple affiliate sites on one occasion. Nonetheless, for new online marketers, I’d suggest to start with the manual technique mentioned above and then look at whether you wish to utilize networks.

 

  • Exhaust several platforms where you post your content. 

 

Your next step is to choose what platforms you need to post or promote your affiliate offers. This is where having your website comes into play. Naturally, your website is the easiest way to post your links. But of course, you are not limited to your site only. You can choose other platforms to promote your content:

 

  • YouTube channels
  • Social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Email marketing


  • Target to build a large audience.

 

The best time to start affiliate marketing is precisely when you already have a massive following in your blog or website with a fairly regular number of new visitors every day. It is as long as you can use your strategy to fit your existing audience’s interest. Here are ways to build the traffic site you need.

 

  • Create high-quality content in your niche.
  • Develop your search presence, organically.
  • Use PPC ads to promote your content.
  • Take advantage of social media platforms to drive traffic to your site.
  • Connect with other sites.

 

  • Set up analytics, KPIs, and metrics.

 

As with any marketing approach, the only way to know precisely how well your strategy works is by tracking the appropriate KPIs and metrics. Conversely, the data you have to center on as an online affiliate marketer differs from marketers with other goals. To begin with, your most crucial KPIs are going to focus on your income: profit, ROI, total income, spend, ePC, payout, as well as CPC.

 

You’ll find many different metrics that you can use to track performance on a far more granular approach: site traffic, affiliate traffic, daily new visitors, conversion rate, PPC CTR, search CTR, bounce rate, affiliate link CTR, time on a webpage, and also page loading times.

 

You need to distinguish the KPIs as well as metrics that matter most to your strategy early on. Ideally, you’ll do this before you decide to get started or, at least, way ahead of when your content starts generating vast volumes of traffic. It is so you can gather the data you need to make decisions by the time you begin maximizing overall performance.

 

  • Maximize performance.

 

As soon as you have the proper metrics in place, this is the time when you would want to maximize your affiliate earnings. You can do this by doing the following:

 

  • Keep your visitors engaged on your page.
  • Direct visitors to click your affiliate offers/ links.
  • Draw in more visitors to sign up for your email list.
  • Improve the number of users to link to your page/s. 


  • Maximize your strategies in generating traffic site.

 

When your site is fully optimized, boosting the number of visitors who land on your pages is the most reasonable step to take. There are usually three primary sources of this traffic: organic search, paid search, and Social. Hence, you need to increase performance by:

 

  • Boosting your organic search presence through SEO
  • Optimizing ad campaigns through paid search
  • Optimizing social channels.



  • Optimize your affiliate programs.

 

Once the inbound marketing strategies are bringing in more traffic, and your website is fully maximized to generate optimal affiliate revenue, this is the crucial point where you need to consider optimizing your affiliate programs. You might want to raise your commission from each link and increase buyers’ percentage (after landing on the merchant’s page).

 

Real success comes from increased commission sales. Typically, what this means is signing up to affiliate marketing programs that are costlier than those you are promoting. But if you can negotiate a better commission by proving to your current partners that you can produce more business for them, you can opt for this.


  • Automate as many processes as you can.

 

Most of the areas I have covered involved manual work. But as your affiliate marketing business grows, it is inevitable to start considering automating your marketing strategies. You can apply this in the following areas:

 

  • Email marketing
  • On-page lead segmentation
  • Social media posts
  • Proofreading
  • App integrations

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