Affiliate Marketing 101 – What You Need to Know

What would you like to promote? Affiliate marketing is no stranger to the Internet, and certainly no stranger to network marketers and article marketing is still a successful way to promote your online business or blog. Affiliate marketing offers a phenomenal opportunity for people who do not have a lot of start-up capital or a lot of time to put together a giant campaign. Affiliate marketing has some very good advantages which include no product of your own, no inventory, no shipping or overhead and no real sales force. For the merchant it can also be a cheap and effective marketing strategy.

What are Affiliate Programs?
Generally speaking affiliate programs are marketing programs offered by web advertisers or merchants that recruit website owners and bloggers. The merchants provide banner ads, links and buttons for website owners to place on their website to market the merchant’s products. In turn, the website owner or blogger will receive a referral fee or commission when a customer purchases a product that is delivered via an affiliate link. One of the most common types of affiliate links are pay per click (PPC – Pay Per Click) however, increasingly now have been intertwined with email and content marketing.

The Product:
When you are looking for an affiliate program there are some things you need to consider before choosing which company you are going to take arms with. The product should be one of quality can also be a service. As long as it’s a product viable service and it offers something of value to the customer.

There are several types of compensation plans built into affiliate marketing programs, and one of them can be a residual program. However, not all affiliate marketing programs have residual programs built into them. If you can find one with residual funds, then that would be the way to go. However, there are some that actually offer a significantly high commission rate that may make up for the loss of the residual income. There are also others that offer a multilevel marketing structure of compensation. Now if you’re familiar with multilevel marketing than that may be an avenue that you would choose to examine.

But before jumping into any multilevel marketing program, you should read up on it and do a thorough analysis. The last thing you want to do is jump into an affiliate program that is going to be a serious waste of time.

Choosing an Affiliate Program:
Back in 1994 there weren’t very many affiliate programs to choose from and most of them were revolved around offensive content websites. Today, affiliate programs have a higher standard and it is a new way of doing business. There are many companies that have affiliate marketing programs lime Amazon, web hosting companies, domain name registrars, and electronic websites, Apple iTunes, bit defender, panda security, PC health boost, Commission Junction, eBay Partner Network, Google AdSense, VistaPrint and the list goes on and on.

You can find an affiliate program for almost anything you want to sell. It is a good idea to sell something that is related to your website, providing you have one. Not everybody that signs up for an affiliate program has a website to run it through. There are some that actually write articles and direct the URLs to their affiliate program.

Becoming an Affiliate:
If you want to become an affiliate it’s not that hard. You simply go to the website of choice and look for their affiliate link program. Usually what will happen is you will sign up and get a unique affiliate ID along with some banners and links. You then place these on your website so that your potential audience can click on those links which if they purchase, you will receive a commission. Just because you signed up for an affiliate program doesn’t mean that you’re actually going to drive traffic to your website. You still need to do something about driving traffic to your website or affiliate link like write compelling articles and become an expert in your field. These articles can be placed on article databases and are a sure way of driving traffic to your website or affiliate link.

What You Should Look For:
When you go shopping for an affiliate program, try to look for high affiliate commissions, long cookies and of course you would want to get a great conversion rate. Two-tier programs which have the same structure as a multilevel marketing organization and can be quite lucrative. Such organizations that earn billions in multilevel marketing and direct sales is companies like Amway which has been in business for 53 years, Nu Skin started in 1984 and Nature’s Sunshine started in 1972 so multilevel marketing has been around for some time. Residual affiliate programs is definitely the way to go. You continue to make money on that visitor month after month. The advantage here is that eventually your sales start accumulating where you’re making more and more money as opposed to the individual sale where you have to continuously make money to stay at the same level.

Where You Can Go:
There is services out there that have a database of a lot of companies that are doing affiliate program so you do not have to run around and seek out each individual program themselves. Companies like ClickBank where you sign up and select the affiliate program you wish to support.

Marketing Your Link:
Now let’s talk about that affiliate link for a moment. Most affiliate links are extremely long, hideous and some of them have special characters in them like a “?” or “=” sign. These links will not rank on search engines like Google very well and definitely cannot be added to pay per click like Google AdSense. What I would suggest is getting yourself a domain name and rerouting it to your affiliate offer. Let’s take for an example if I wanted to become an affiliate of a cell phone electronics company and I had a website I can actually write a review on a particular cell phone that I’m trying to market. If it’s more than one, then I could just pick a product or two to write my articles on. Anyway, I would try to register a domain name that may have something in it like cheap cell phones or something along those lines to help the search engines determine what your product might be.

Increase Your Sales:
What if you don’t have a website and you wish to increase your sales with affiliate marketing; what would you do? One way to market an affiliate program I briefly touched on is to write quality articles about the product that is being marketed. I truly suggest this strategy to increase traffic and sales. There are several article directories that you can post your articles to, but do not post the same article to multiple sites other than the article directory and your own site if you have one. Article directories can be a very good source of traffic because of their reputation and the amount of visitors they have each month reading your article. Of course, some of those readers will click on your affiliate link driving traffic to your affiliate program. I like Ezine Articles as an article directory, but there are others like; Goarticles, ehow, Examiner, Technorati, Thefreelibrary and much more, but that’s a good start. Don’t just read one article when doing your research and regurgitate the content from that one article. Try to do some in-depth study to get a complete understanding of what it is you’re writing about. Once you have that understanding, try to simplify your article by using either bullet points or topic list. To get people to click on your link you need to be compelled to do so, but the only way to do that is to write compelling articles.

Making money on the net with affiliate programs can be a rewarding experience if you know where to go the fine the right affiliate program and how to do the research needed. Just locating an affiliate program is not all you need to do, you need to weigh the gravity of that affiliate program. First determine what it is you would like to sell and do your research. Hopefully, you will look for something that accents your website or if you don’t have a website, something that you know a lot about so that you can write your reviews.

Web Marketing Channels Work As A Team, Not Individuals

If you read the excellent Hubspot blog, you readily come across the statement that “email marketing converts higher than any other form of web marketing.” One of the reasons I believe this to be true, is down to the fact that an email is very much like a one on one conversation, we’re focused on it’s contents. This is in contrast to social media, or generic web pages where there are all kinds of distractions to take us away from a specific message. Now this doesn’t mean that we should focus all of our assets and attention on email marketing exclusively. I never really see web channels as been better or worse than each other, instead I find it’s more a case of looking at where they fit in to the overall goal of discovering and converting new people to your tribe. How do your web marketing channels play as part of your web marketing team?

If we see an email in our inbox from someone whom we trust, or want to connect with, we read it with a more focused intention then we would do a quick, fun post on someone’s Facebook page. Email and social media are very different kinds of web marketing channel. As briefly discussed above, email is more like a one-on-one conversation. Provided we feel a certain trust with the person who originally sent the email, we are happy to give its contents the same kind of attention as if they were speaking to us via the phone.

On the other hand, social media pages are bit like being in a bar – often a very crowded bar! We don’t have a lot of airspace to say too much or to be too sophisticated. If it wasn’t enough to have many others messaging around us, social media also often limits the number of characters we can actually type. To entice people to listen to us on social media, we have to deliver a message quickly and with lots of strong energy. We can use images, or video, to capture people’s eyes, but whether we use words or more, our overall aim should be to entice them enough to click through and join us somewhere less crowded, i.e. our own web pages.

Even when people are on our own web pages we still can’t quite get all deep and meaningful with them like we can on email! Right now, we need to impress them. We have their attention, now we need to fuel it further. What better way than giving them something really useful, interesting and above all, free? In other words, we are treating them – because we want to get to know them better. This also sounds very much like we’re bringing in another web marketing channel commonly known as content marketing too.If our treat is enticing enough, we should get our visitors email address and permission to contact them again soon. It’s from here that we can really start to bring email marketing to the fore, we’ve moved from the noisy web marketing channel of social media, through the enticing temptations of content marketing to the more personal and thoughtful channel of email.

How long should we leave before we contact our new connections? We probably need to give them enough time to digests whatever it is we gave them as our treat. Things move quickly in the online world, the noisy bars of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have lots of beautiful and enticing messages to click on instead. So, a good guide is to leave your people alone for a couple of days and then email. We’re within our email channel now and we can be more thoughtful and insightful, provided we don’t become boring. Ask how they got on with our treat? Do they have any questions? Then cover off a common question that we are often asked that we want to share the answer to with them. Include information on who we are and what we believe in, what makes us different to everybody else they can find out there within our world. Always invite responses, questions and feedback – after all, you’re getting to know your new connection a lot better now. Managed well, by combining the different merits of social media and email marketing together within one overall web marketing strategy, you’ll start to turn complete strangers into leads who open your emails and seek to do business with you, when their need arises.

For the purpose of this article, we have focused on social media and email marketing as two web marketing channels working together, albeit with a little help from content marketing too. Instead of being viewed as individual lead generation channels, they actually all need each other in order to entice and develop new relationships online. On its own, email marketing will struggle to entice the connections that social media can bring, whilst social media will struggle to convey the deeper conversations that email can. Both of them would achieve little without the content “treat” on offer. Your web marketing channels are a team, each with their own strengths and weaknesses that in turn, help them play an important part within your overall web marketing goals. It’s really less about what working and what isn’t, and more about how everything is working together and how that can be maximised that leads to successful web marketing overall.

Farming Your Web Market

You’re going to get your hands dirty
A good farmer scoops up the soil in their hand and smells the earth, perhaps even taste the earth. The thing is that as a farmer you will be getting intimate with your market.

If the crop you plan to raise is made up of web users then your web page is the soil that they will grow strong on. The nutrients you add to your web page have a fragrance, maybe even a certain taste. And the richest addition you can add to your web page is your own personality.

Now, don’t get fearful
Perhaps professional marketers have told you not to get personal with your marketing, but that type of aggressive marketing is not what we are talking about here. To cultivate your market you need to talk to them in ways that nurture, and this means that you care enough to be yourself.

If you wanted to get to know someone based on a feeling of attraction would you analyze how to do this? If you overheard a conversation and the opinions expressed attracted you would you choose to get demographics and contact information before you introduce yourself?

The whole purpose of cultivating a market lends itself to casual and intimate conversations. And ‘intimate’ does not mean private and secretive, it means:

  1. Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity
  2. Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature

Most web marketing is done at arm’s length because the marketing people are not clear on the market being targeted. And the word ‘targeted’ is rather cold and disconnected emotionally. Targeting is an odd way to build relationships, but building relationships is exactly what we want to do.

Cultivating the market
The bigger portion of our market that we wish to cultivate is at earlier stages of the buying cycle and we are able to help them and build a relationship in the process. In this way we cultivate a much bigger market than trying to capture the smaller numbers that are ready to purchase.

Those members of our market that are ready to purchase have already been influenced. We cannot reach many of them now. On the other hand, the greater numbers that are early in their search can be cultivated, influenced and helped to make a smart choice and buy from us.

We need to design a web site that will allow us to be helpful and generous in sharing our information. Far too many small business web owners do not know what to share with their market. We are going to be different.

What do we feed our market?
We want our undecided market to choose our solution as their purchase. To do that we need to help them along, and this is where our web design comes into play.

Our page is jammed full of really good information but it doesn’t show everything at once. And then there are other pages doing the same thing. We are using HTML which stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. It is the hyper text that allows us to provide a selection and then deliver a choice.

We are no longer using limited space on paper, nor are we using limited time on TV. Web marketing needs to use HTML in its marketing to get the most out of the medium and yet the HTML in contemporary business designs is relegated to basic navigation and placeholders for content. Instead, we need to put HTML into our marketing methods and provide choices for all members of our market.

Talking all the way through
We will spend time talking to that portion of our market that doesn’t even recognize yet that they have a problem. We are going to help educate them so that they do recognize that their life could be better with our solutions.

We will spend time talking with those that are researching possible solutions and we will help them see all of their possibilities from all sides. We’ll look at the upside and the downside of various features. We’ll bring these people along our path of understanding so that they are ready to look at comparisons.

We will not be afraid to compare our solution with others available on the market. We want to nurture this stage of the buying cycle fearlessly and give them all of the choices available while building a relationship they can trust. We want to keep this stage engaged or they will leave our site looking for comparable products and solutions.

If we don’t feed them right now and right here their next stage of development is to make a decision to purchase and we could lose them at a crucial moment in the cycle.

Farmer or hunter
A hunter fears that the prey will get away. They target and shoot early when they can and short term goals are everything to a hunter. On the other hand a farmer has long term goals and works with the seasons. Six months can go by from planting to harvesting and a farmer knows that nurturing cannot be superficial or provided with impatience.

Our harvest will arrive and it will be our own if we provide the helpful nutrients. Spending time to create the best content is essential and the easiest way for our market to find the right content on our site is also essential. But it can all be for naught if we choke up at the end and impatiently push for the sale.

We need to honor our market and validate their choice even when the choice goes to our competitor. Most choices will come our way because we nurtured that market along and we have build up a relationship. All the rest will take care of itself. It does so because everything about the marketing process is as natural as sunlight and rain.

Pull Marketing
And when we market naturally we are attracting the best interest from search engines. We are providing volumes of our unique and original information that search engines and our market are attracted to. We are sharing information that creates growth while building relationships with our market. We are cultivating our market by solving problems and providing insight for our market. And the bulk of our information is work that does not have to be repeated over and over.

Our web pages may need some tweaking from time to time but our main effort is going to last for a long time to come. And perhaps one of the most valuable assets we develop with pull marketing is that nothing we ever do is lost. All of our marketing stays in place for years and as we build we grow stronger and stronger.

Unlike push marketing that requires constant feeding of cash for advertising, our pull marketing is more like putting money in the bank and building our reserves instead of spending them.

Farming our web market is a very different concept from that of an opportunist feeding off of the market. By farming we control our own market and build a richer relationship rather than rely on just the good seasons or good years to get us through.