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What is Affiliate Marketing and How Does It Work?

By ecommerceparadise | Podcast

Nov 12

In this article, I’ll go over how to make some passive income by writing articles around what you’re passionate about. With this information, you could potentially make a full-time income blogging while traveling the world.

The blogging process is pretty simple but there are some very basic guidelines you should follow. The most important ones are: do your research, create unique and valuable content, and create it on a consistent basis. At least once a week you should write an in-depth, unique, information-rich and highly valuable blog article filled with multi-media. You should repurpose your articles into videos, podcasts, and online courses so you can sell your information through other channels.

The first step to getting started is choosing your niche.

What is a niche?

A niche is simply a sub-segment of a larger market. Take classic cars, for example. Classic Porsches are an example of a niche because they are a sub-segment of the larger classic car market. If you’re going to succeed then you need to focus on one target market and the smaller that market, or more specific your niche, the easier it will be to reach them with your content.

How to choose your niche

Are you having trouble picking your niche? You shouldn’t. Just think of your skills or things you’re really passionate about. Write down a list of 5–10 skills and passions, and then research each one to find if there are popular products selling in the marketplace for them. You can use sites like Amazon.com, Google.com, and Ebay.com. Keep a list of best-selling products in each niche so you can refer back to them later when you want to buy those products to do review articles.

Best Affiliate Programs

The most popular affiliate program is the Amazon Associates affiliate program. It’s fairly easy to get approved and you can link to their expansive library of items for sale very easily using their “site-stripe.” Amazon’s program works on a tier system where the more orders you refer, the higher commission you make. You can start a niche website reviewing cheap products that will get your commission high, then start a site reviewing high-price items and make more commission when you make a sale. This strategy is used by the top super-affiliates.

Another great resource for finding products you can sell on your blog is the info product affiliate marketplace ClickBank.com. This is a platform for product creators to find affiliate bloggers, like you, who will market their products for them. The best part about this platform is the high commission rates. Instead of 5–10% for a commission like Amazon.com offers, you’ll get 50–75% or more of the sale when your blog refers a customer. I’ll go more in-depth on doing research on ClickBank later in this article.

Here’s a list of the other affiliate programs and marketplaces I’m signed up for:

The Importance of Research

Don’t skimp on this process, research is the most important thing you can do before you start a blog. Dedicate an hour a day to it for a week before making your decision. Even if you have a gut feeling about a niche, after doing some research you might find that there aren’t that many products selling in the marketplace, thus, your blogging efforts would be wasted if you want to make money.

If you are still having trouble coming up with an idea, here are the types of blogs that make the most money:

  • Relationships: Dating, marriage, friendship, it’s something we struggle with all the time. Everybody could possibly be a reader for one of these blogs. If you’ve been married for a really long time, you should start a blog about marriage. If you have been divorced, write a blog about how to cope with divorce and how to move on. If you have lots of friends and love networking, you could make a blog around one of those subjects. There are tons of products online in this market.
  • Wealth: If you are a CPA, bookkeeper, or financial advisor, then you have the skills to tell people all about building and managing wealth. If you are just someone who has made a lot of money, then you certainly could teach a thing or two about it yourself. Even if you don’t have much money, you could easily do some research and write articles about wealth. The E-Commerce Paradise blog is all about building wealth through e-commerce, blogging, and internet marketing, so you could say we are in the “wealth” market. There are more information products in this market than any other simply because everybody wants more money.
  • Health: If you love eating a healthy diet or exercising on a regular basis, then you might have what it takes to start a health blog. If you are a personal trainer then you definitely have the qualifications to teach about it online, you just need to conjure up the patience to write about it. Health is one of the most sought-after information topics online, and there are tons of affiliate products that you can sell which teach people how to get fit. Take it seriously and you could make some serious money.
  • Hobbies: If you’re a fanatic about a certain hobby, like flying quadcopters, or scuba diving then you probably have a lot of stories to tell and how-to articles you can write. There are a lot of blogs started about very specific hobbies where the authors write review articles about products and link to an affiliate partner where a reader could buy that product. These are often the most profitable types of blogs and they’re called ‘niche affiliate sites.’

How To Do Research

Figuring out what niche to write about is the most important thing when starting a blog. Be sure to put plenty of time into the research process and save the link for every product you find in a spreadsheet. You can use Google Drive for this, it’s free. Also, save links to relevant blogs, articles, landing pages, info product offers, social media sites, ebooks, pictures, videos, audiobooks, podcasts and everything else you can find related to your niche.

Sign up for a free account at ClickBank.com and click the marketplace link at the top. Find the category you want to research on the left side or type the niche you’re researching into the “Find Products” search box. You can look at the price that a product usually sells at and the ranking for how it has sold to see if it’s worth promoting or not. Click the ‘sort results by’ box and change it to Gravity. This will tell you exactly which products are the best sellers. Look for ones with a Gravity between 20 and 100, these are products that are trending and selling, but aren’t blown out with too many bloggers writing landing pages and paying for advertising to sell it. Click the “add to favorites” heart for each product so you can easily find it later.

Affiliate Offer Example

Eventually, you can start adding Click Bank affiliate offers to your reader base. An example of an offer that would be relevant to this article is this one by Affilorama. I like this offer because it’s a full training program for someone looking to learn how to monetize their blog with affiliate marketing. They offer a free sign-up, a $1 offer for the first 30 days, and they have a gravity of 53on Click Bank at the time of this writing. The other fact that I take into consideration before recommending an affiliate offer is reviews across the web. By typing in the affiliate program name + review into Google, it pulled up a few blogs where the authors already took the time to purchase, watch, read and consume the information of the course. The best ones will do a great job of talking about the pros and cons so you have an accurate idea of what to expect when signing up for any particular product. According to this article by WaysToAvoidScamsOnline.com, this online course is pretty good, enough to garner an 80/100 rating.

You should only recommend affiliate products you’ve used yourself. If you see something like this and you read good reviews about it on other sites in Google and the product doesn’t cost much, like this one, take a week, go through the content, take notes, and write a review article.

Look at other blogs in your niche. Just type in your niche to Google.com and take a look at some blog posts. The first few listings will most likely be either big information sites without any particular niche, or big box store sites. You may need to go to the second or third page in Google, but you’ll find some small blogs and can take some notes about how they do their site, content structure, pillar articles, theme style, and colors, and save a link to your research spreadsheet for later reference.

Content

The most important concept when it comes to blogging is creating content, but more specifically, what Yaro Starek of Entrepreneurs-journey.com calls, “Pillar articles.” He breaks down each these types of articles in his blog post as the following:

  1. How-to articles: specific articles covering one topic in depth that is evergreen (will still be relevant weeks, months or years later).
  2. The Definition article: An article about a word that’s common in your industry. Instead of going to Wikipedia, try to define it yourself. You can take excerpts to support your article but try to do most of the writing yourself to help build your reputation.
  3. The theory or argument post: This is great when you’re first starting out because it will draw attention to your blog. Be prepared to take some negative feedback for your opinion and respond in a professional manner. Ask people who love your idea to share it, and ask those who hate it to comment and start a discussion.
  4. The free resource: This is what every internet marketer and blogger with the goal of getting email sign-ups will create. This could be the culmination of a few blog articles or an all-together new document. It’s a great idea to get an email list set up with MailChimp or Aweber and create a free resource to incentivize people to give you their email address. Then you can send them your most recent articles with lots of value and eventually sell them an affiliate product or one you create on your own.
  5. The list articles: This is one of the most popular types of articles for a reason, they’re easy to consume when scanning over after someone clicks into it from an email you send them or a post on their Facebook feed. The content is short, to the point, and very relevant to the topic. Think outside the box and try to mix this one with the theory or argument style to get the best click-through and engagement from your target market.
  6. A technical blueprint: This is common among blogs related to something technical like, well, you guessed it, technology! Cars, health, and manufacturing of any sort are also common niches you can create a technical blueprint for.

For more information regarding blog article creation and blogging in general, be sure to check out Yaro’s free resource, the Blog Profits Blueprint: http://www.blogmastermind.com/blueprint/

Planning Your Pillar Articles

Find other blogs in your space that are creating really good articles and read them. This may take some hours to do, but it will definitely help. Absorb the information you read, digest it overnight, then, with a fresh mind, start the next day writing your own articles. This helps the creative process flow a lot easier.

Once you’ve done some research, begin to write some nice long, in-depth articles about your topic. This will give you a huge head start when you go to do the technical stuff to get your blog started. Trust me, this part is key.

Once you’ve made 5–10 “pillar” articles for your blog, it’s time to take the next step. To start a blog, you have some choices to make. You can start for free, but you won’t be able to monetize as well. The only way you’ll have full control of your site and the monetization structure is to buy your own “shared hosting plan.”

Hosting

There are a few major hosting providers I have used and love, but the one I stick with is Godaddy. They have a really easy to use interface, great 24/7 support, although their sales staff is a bit pushy, I still love them. Their hosting has improved a lot over the years and that’s why I’ve stuck with them. My biggest piece of advice, no matter which host you choose to work with, is to register your domain, and any future domains you buy, with the same hosting provider you use. This will make it easy to manage your portfolio of websites in the future if you plan to grow. Godaddy is one of the most popular hosts and domain registrars online.

To get a deal on Godaddy hosting click here.

Domain

There are many ways to name your blog and I challenge you to get creative with this one. Keep in mind that it’s good to keep it simple, as short as possible, and easy to remember. If you walk up to someone you don’t know and tell them your domain, is it one they can easily spell, remember, and write down without asking for a card? To choose a domain I came up with 3 ideas you can use as general guidelines.

  • Your name + niche: Choose this style because it fits your mission, your target market, and includes the keyword of your niche in the domain name which helps rank your articles in the search engines.
  • Branding + niche: Choose this because you want to convey a message with your blog and you eventually want to hire writers to create content for this blog on a consistent basis.

WordPress

If you are going to rank in the search engines, you need to use a blogging platform that they love, and that’s WordPress. This is the blogging platform used by all the major blogs and even more small blogs. There aren’t any other platforms that will be easy to use, build and manage while getting you ranked in Google.

All hosting accounts come with a WordPress application installer that will include a one-click install option. If you can’t find it then call your host or read their instruction manuals. Once you set your admin login info, be sure to choose to auto-update the plugins and theme if they give you the option to. Click install, then jump into your website’s ‘backend’ to start building.

This is where you’ll spend a lot of your time adding content, structuring your site, adding affiliate links and checking your stats. Get comfortable with it. Along the left side are your menu choices. The posts button is where you’ll make or add new blog posts. The pages are for your about page, contact us, privacy policy and things like that. You can change the look of your site under appearance — customize, widgets or menu. Plugins are things you can add to your site that will make it more feature rich.

Plugins

There are a few plugins I recommend starting with. Beyond these, you can search for your own, but keep in mind that the more plugins you add, the slower your site will run and the more of a chance one plugin will not play nicely with another, leading to your site crashing. Take it easy with plugins and only add them if absolutely necessary.

Here are my recommended plugins to start with:

  • Jetpack (create a Gravatar if you don’t already have one at Gravatar.com and connect it with your site through Jetpack)
  • Create a user with your First and Last name normally spelled as the username, and make the email address the same as the one you registered in Gravatar.
  • Enable one-click login as this will make it way easier to get into your blog every day.
  • Yoast SEO, or All-In-One SEO (the accomplish the same thing)
  • Add a target keyword and custom meta description to every page and post you make. This will make your listings stand out in the search engines.
  • Google analytics
  • Create a free account at Google.com/Analytics and link your account with your blog to keep track of visitors.

Once you’ve added these plugins, start customizing your site. If you aren’t the technical type and need someone to do this for you, I offer web design packages. Please contact me if you’re interested.

Pictures

Be sure to add lots of beautiful pictures into your blog articles to make them stand out and more fun to read. This helps drive your point home and will engage readers who like to ‘scan’ articles rather than read them in depth. You can do this easily by taking screenshots of relevant websites or media from across the web, as long as you attribute a link back to those same sources.

Marketing

Now that you’ve got your blog all set up, it’s time to get it out there. Keep in mind that you should put more time into creating content than sharing it. The marketing can come after you have finished creating your pillar articles and set up your email marketing. Regardless, it’s a good idea to get these channels set up and set up an auto-sharing app like IFTTT to make the publishing of your content easier. Here are some free marketing channels you can use to get your content into the blogosphere and onto your friends iPhone screens.

Email Marketing

This post wouldn’t be complete without a short bit about email marketing. Email is the best converting medium for marketing. This is because it can be super targeted. When someone visits your site and reads your article, you want to offer them a freebie so they’re willing to leave their name and email with you. With their information, you need to follow up with them at least 7 times before they will be ready to make a purchase.

Every time you follow up with valuable information, the more you’ll build trust with them and the more likely they’ll be willing to buy a product or service you recommend to them. Later on, you’ll be making your own products like ebooks, videos, podcasts, online courses and more, so by building an email list of people who trust you now, you’ll have a better time selling your own products later on.

Get an account set up with Aweber or the free service Mail Chimp, and start a list. Make a sign-up form to add to every blog article and different sections of your site. I’ll be covering more advanced email marketing topics like creating automated email flows in future articles.

The Next Step

The next step is to keep writing. The most important thing about blogging is that it needs to be something you’re passionate about doing. This isn’t a get rich quick scheme. This is a long-term plan for success. It could take months or years before you can make a full-time income from blogging, but for many people, that’s ok because they work a full-time job and know that passive income is something they are willing to work hard for since the rewards are so plentiful. The key here is to be sure to pick a topic that you can write about every week.

Plan, write and post at least one pillar blog post every week. Make sure it has at least over 1000 words of content, pictures, screenshots, video, and audio if relevant, and has a call to action at the bottom to sign up for your email list. You should create a pdf out of your best pillar article so you can give it away for email sign-ups. This free resource will increase your email list size ten-fold.

Action steps:

  1. Open a hosting account at Godaddy.com (comes with a free domain if you buy through my link)
  2. Set up your WordPress blog in your hosting account (free)

Watch this how-to video to set up a WordPress blog:

Next steps:

  1. Organize your blog by categories, tags, and pages.
  2. Categories will be the drop-down menus at the top
  3. Tags will be how you organize articles of similar topics
  4. Write your pillar articles
  5. Combing pillar articles together into a pdf and add plenty of links back to your blog posts
  6. Sign up with affiliate programs relevant to your blog at cj.com, clickbank.com, shareasale.com and rakuten.com
  7. Set up email marketing with Aweber. Read the how to get started guide.
  8. Add an email signup form to your website with an offer to receive the free pdf you created.
  9. make a page for your opt-in form “thank you”
  10. make a page for your email confirmation “success!” or “congratulations!” with a link to the freebie you offered.
  11. Set up a procedure for creating a weekly email on Friday that has recent articles you created, resources and affiliate offers. You can begin emailing every couple of days once you start making more content. Read Aweber’s what to write in your emails guide.
  12. Go to other blogs like yours and reach out to the owners via email or social media. Ask them to answer a few questions for you by email for an article you are working on your blog about them. They are usually more than happy to answer. Create an article on your blog about them with a link back to their site and send them a link. Then, ask them if you can create an article for their blog. At this point, if your work is good, they should accept and you’ll have a chance to get published on a blog with traffic which should drive traffic back to your blog.
  13. Keep producing amazing content, start a podcast, create videos, record audiobooks and reach out to more bloggers in your space. This is the path to success!

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