Once your blog begins to gain Google Search rank for money-making keywords, it’s time to learn how to start affiliate marketing. In this guide, we outline 13 affiliate marketing steps other blogs haven’t covered.
Scroll to the end of this affiliate marketing how-to guide to view our How to Start an Affiliate Site in 13 Steps infographic.
Note: This how to start affiliate marketing for beginners guide started off for travel affiliates, although as we continued we made it work for all niches, far beyond the travel industry.
Affiliate Marketing How-To
Before I begin this how to start affiliate marketing on your blog checklist, I cannot stress this one fact enough; running an affiliate website is sort of like a marriage –you’re going to be staring at it and working with it for a long time before it becomes successful, and for a long time after. Don’t choose a niche you’re not willing and ready to become an “information expert” in.
Before You Start Affiliate Marketing on Your Blog
As you learn how to start affiliate marketing on your blog, always keep in mind that you might sell it one day. Keep accounts, hosting, social media profiles and everything associated to it clean and organised so one day you might be able to hand the keys to a prospective buyer with minimal work.
Below we’ll outline some of our top search optimisation tips to help you be successful when after your learn how to start affiliate marketing on your blog.
How to Start Affiliate Marketing in 13 Steps; a Checklist
1. Choose a Very, Very Specific Niche
Bloggers who didn’t do enough research learning how to start affiliate marketing on their blog will often start off with a broad niche thinking they can earn more commissions by promoting a wide set of products. Some might also aim for an affiliate niche that’s already dominated by big brands like cheap travel deals or health products.
Our advice? Don’t go for niches that already have a high amount of (ad) competition; instead, aim for ones with low competition. That may mean lower traffic, but how much traffic were you going to get when competing with big money sites, anyway? In other words, reach for the low hanging fruit.
Consider using a tool like SEOMoz Keyword Difficulty Tool to determine how high or low the competition is for the niche/keyword group you are going for.
Start with a small, targeted niche and be very selective in the products you promote as to not spread your keyword pool too thin. You can earn enough money to travel forever by promoting the right products and services.
Niche down: Instead of a broad term like travel deals, you might want to focus on one specific challenge travelers face and work from there. Some ideas may include must-have travel items for a specific gender, traveling with a specific chronic illness, or traveling with children.
2. Use Websites like Amazon Associates, eBay, and Clickbank to Research Which Products to Promote
When figuring out how to start affiliate marketing on your blog in the early stages, it’s important to start qualifying ideas and researching which products sell well. Be careful when picking products you want to promote on your affiliate website. They must have a moderate amount of search traffic while having a reasonable commission rate.
After all, the money you make after you start affiliate marketing on your blog is proportional to the specific utility of products you promote. Some signals to help you determine the “saleability” of a product are the reviews, number of purchases, and how specific of a problem they solve.
For example, if someone is searching for an underrepresented solution, such as “traveling with eczema” –you can pretty much guarantee they’re going to be ready to pull out their wallet. Using Amazon and eBay are great to learn more about the saleability of a very niche product.
3. Get Keyword Ideas and Quality Links from Your Top Competitors
Learning how to do keyword research is an important part of how to start affiliate marketing on your blog. To get started, do a quick Google search and look for top blogs that belong in the same niche as you.
If your niche is about health supplement reviews, type in the keywords “health supplement reviews blogs”, “supplement review blogs” and other variations in the search bar. Write down the top 20 blogs that show up on Google.
Now open Google Keyword Planner and type in the URLs one at a time under the “Your landing page” field.
This tool allows you to see what keywords your competitors might be using.
From there, you can write your own keyword list and pick variations that might be useful to your affiliate site. Pick variations! There’s no point in trying to compete with a major player on keywords unless your doing an ad campaign.
Another thing you can take from your competitors are their links. Using a tool like Open Site Explorer, take a look at your competitor’s backlink profile and take note of the quality links. You can approach these sites to offer your guest post on a relevant topic in your industry.
You can also learn which content on their website is worthy of a backlink before you start affiliate marketing on your blog to ensure your content sings right out of the gate.
4. Use Informational and Commercial Intent Keywords Together
Example of an informational keyword: “What is Vitamin B12?”
Example of a commercial intent keyword: “best Vitamin B12 supplements”
Informational keywords cater to people who want to learn more about a product before buying it while commercial intent keywords are for those who are ready to buy your product. You will want to use these two types of keywords throughout your content.
Before you build your own affiliate website, we suggest you read our keyword drill-down post called “How to Increase Affiliate Marketing Sales by Tweaking Your Keywords“.
5. Insert Keywords Naturally into Your Content
These are some best practices for keyword usage when you start affiliate marketing;
- Include keywords in the title tag, header tags, and meta description
- Avoid stuffing keywords and only use them whenever necessary
- Use the appropriate keywords for every image’s filename and alt tag; avoid using underscores, spaces, or capital letters as these can lead to crawling issues
- Google put the most emphasis on the first link of a page as its anchor text so be sure to pick the most important keyword to use as an internal link
6. Your Brand Really Matters
Our next point in this affiliate marketing how-to guide is to treat your affiliate site like a big brand. Big brands don’t only use relevant keywords, they also use their brand name when optimizing for search. This sets them apart from the crowd.
Be sure to create a unique online presence for your brand. Your site will rank better for the niche keywords you are using once more people begin to Google your brand name, and they give you a leg up over competitors who used exact-match keywords in their website name, like “best-travel-supplements.com” (which Google doesn’t treat as kindly as it does branded URLs).
7. Build Links Correctly
Look for reputable high-quality websites within your niche and leave an insightful comment or ask to write a guest post.
This will help send traffic to your site so it ranks in search engines. You can also submit a press release to various press release directories which will often provide you with a dofollow backlink.
Ignore cheap, automated links; search engines like Google and Bing are good at ignoring such and if you do get caught, you may just get penalized. Always work on building good quality links and avoid cheap, spammy links.
To simplify the process of blogger outreach and link building we use Ninja Outreach. The amount of time saved and email subscription gained more than justifies the cost.
8. ‘Nofollow’ All outgoing Affiliate Links to Avoid Google Penalties
This has been a heated debate among SEO webmasters with some of them saying it’s unnecessary to do a ‘nofollow’ on affiliate links while others warn against it.
If you are consistently posting quality content alongside affiliate links, you don’t have to worry about getting penalized. However, if Google detects your site as spammy with little to no value to human readers, you may get penalized.
This is why it is recommended to place a ‘nofollow’ on affiliate links. Google’s own Matt Cutts encourages this, saying they “handle” a vast majority of affiliate links. So even if you do post quality content, you might as well update your affiliate links to be ‘nofollow’ if you want to be as safe as you can be from penalties.
On the flip side of the coin, ‘dofollow’ your blogger friends who spend time contributing to your success after you build your own affiliate website. WordPress dofollows links in posts by default, so no action required.
How to ‘NoFollow’ a Link:
- Hop into the Text editor in WordPress, as opposed to the Visual editor
- Find your link, and add rel=”nofollow” to it, like this: <a href=”http://affiliatesite/affiliate-id” rel=”nofollow”>buy product</a>
9. Write Unique and Helpful Content
Passing Copyscape’s standards is not enough. You have to satisfy your reader’s need for compelling content as they will be the ones who will purchase your product.
Aside from fulfilling Google’s standards, you also need to satisfy your reader’s need to learn more about the product you are promoting. An affiliate site that’s made to be a valuable and entertaining resource for your readers is the best safeguard against current and future search engine algorithms.
10. Be Unbiased When Writing About a Product
You don’t want to hard sell your readers, surely you respect them more than that. Always be unbiased when writing a review about the product you’re promoting. If you’re excited about something, great. A little passion is alright, but don’t gloss over the ugly parts.
Write about the upsides and don’t forget to include the downsides too, if there are any. Your readers are more likely to trust you and purchase the product with proper expectations set.
11. Include a Call-to-Action (CTA)
A call-to-action should drive your user to do something on your site whether it’s to buy a product, book a hotel, sign up for your email newsletter, or download a content asset.
The call-to-action will depend on what your niche is and what page the user is on. Avoid using more than one per page. Each page on your website should be geared towards one thing that you want your reader to act on.
If you have more CTA’s on a page to one, accept that you may be decreasing your chances of conversion. So if you do, make one stand out above the rest.
12. Create Social Media Profiles for Your Website
Figuring out how to start affiliate marketing is not just about the content you create on your own website; social signals can influence your site’s ranking and give you the exposure you need. The least it will do is provide a temporary spike to your site’s rankings which can help you secure permanent rankings later.
To start using social media for affiliate marketing, create a Google+, Twitter, or Facebook page for your blog. Instagram is great for the travel niche, and Pinterest is another search engine that’s great for beginners to tap because Google takes so darn long.
Be sure to only pick social media platforms that fit your niche, and don’t spread yourself too thin. Then use tools like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule posts for the entire week.
Make it a point to update your profile every time you publish a new post or find content online that’s relevant to your site. Jetpack’s Publicize functionality can do this for you, we use it to automagically share our content when we hit the Publish button (and it’s free).
Don’t forget to optimize your site for social sharing. Add share buttons in your post to make it easy for people to share your content across their network.
Pro-tip: Revive Old Post is a great free plugin to have your website auto-tweet your posts on a WordPress website at a specified pace. Premium options allow for several social profiles.
13. Build Your Email List
When you build your own affiliate website, your list is everything. It’s a lot easier to capture your reader’s email address when it’s in exchange for something valuable (free trial, free eBook, free video tutorial, etc).
Most users will not buy the first time they visit your website but by turning them into a warmer lead, you can maintain contact with them and continue to promote your content and products.
We know there’s a ton of options out there, but we like to use Ninja Popups (no connection to Ninja Outreach, the 2010’s just loved them some ninjas).
Email Autoresponder That Allows Affiliate Links
It’s important to know for certain if your email list automation tool allows affiliate link use.
We’ve used cheap/free email automation tools before and found that many of them do not allow affiliate link usage. In one case, Mailchimp locked an account just for suspecting affiliate link use in an email on a free account.
Aweber is an autoresponder that allows affiliate links and it meets all our needs for each of our affiliate websites. Click here to check out Aweber!
When it comes to learning how to start affiliate marketing, patience is the name of the game.
Getting traffic after you build your website and learn how to start affiliate marketing takes time, so putting in the extra effort and doing the tasks above will help you reap longer-lasting, reliable results that rival other forms of search engine marketing, like PPC.
If you found this affiliate marketing how-to guide useful, give us some love in the comments. If you think we missed something, let us know.
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