Would you like some extra money? Who doesn't these days. Do you have a web site or blog? Then you might want to explore the world of affiliate marketing.
Affiliate Marketing is an Internet marketing channel which started around 1994 with a pay-per-click program (PPC) hosted by an adult website. Amazon launched what it calls its“associate” program in 1996 and is considered to be the premier affiliate program. Since then, Affiliate Marketing has skyrocketed into a billion dollar industry with Forrester predicting that it will be a $4 billion market by 2014. There's no reason why you can't have a piece of that pie.
It simply involves generating sales or leads for a merchant or company who pay you a commission. This makes you their affiliate or "publisher" in the industry jargon. The easiest way is to put a link to that merchant’s site or products and have visitors to your site click through and make a purchase or provide their information. The commission rate can vary from 1% of the sale amount up to even 75% in some cases. Some companies will pay you a "bounty" for a lead which can be a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. Sounds easy, right? Well it is easy to get started, but to be successful takes a lot of work and maybe just a tad bit of luck.
If you already have a web site or blog you're all set to sign up for affiliate programs. Most are handled by what are referred to as networks. These companies oversee the affiliate link structure, track sales and distribute commissions. One advantage of networks is that you can have access to hundreds of affiliate programs across a broad spectrum of markets all in one location. The top two networks are Commission Junction and Linkshare as well as other networks such as ShareASale, Pepperjam, Google Affliliate Network (GAN). If there is a merchant or web site you think you'd like to partner with, you can usually find that info on their home page. Check down at the bottom or naviagtion bar and look for a link that says "Affiliates" or Affiliate Program". That should lead you to whatever you need to know in order to sign up. Some merchants run their own in-house affiliate program so if you don't see them in one of the networks or agencies, again, check their web sites. Geeks.com uses Commission Junction to run its affiliate program though it also has an in-house affiliate manager. Geeks.com pays 3% of the sale to its affiliates and you can learn more about the program at geeks.com/affiliates.
While it isn't absolutely necessary to have a web site or blog to do affiliate marketing, some merchants, like Geeks.com, require you to have one so make sure to check out their requirements. If you'd like to work with PPC and Adword campaigns then you can try that as well but it can require a significant up-front investment. Merchants usually have strict PPC rules so find out what they are before you get started.
Find Your Niche
The caveat to affiliate marketing is that it is not for everyone, though many get rich quick ads and websites will try and convince you otherwise. Your best bet to find a niche, a subject that interests you, something you're passionate about so you'll stick with it. If you're into organic gardening, quilting, motorcross, snowboarding, whatever, build your site/blog around that and look for merchants that are a fit with your topic. Then you can add their links to your web site. So far, so good. Now you can make money while you sleep, right? Hang on there, don't expect to turn your income on auto-pilot unless you have people coming to your site to click those links and buy those products. That's going to involve some search engine optimization (SEO) work and traffic-attracting content for your site. There are lots of resources to help you with that as well.
Affiliate Marketing isn't rocket science, and there's no need to try and re-invent the wheel. There are plenty of FREE resources available for you to learn the ropes. AbestWeb Forum is the world's largest affiliate marketing forum with 60,000 members. You can find information on everything affiliate there. Successful affiliate mentors like James Martell will share their expertise via free downloadable ebooks and blogs to get you started and advice on how to be successful in this constantly evolving marketing space. And if you really want to dive in, there's the semi-annual Affiliate Summit Conference hosted by Shawn Collins and Missy Ward. Affiliate Summit West '10, held in January 2010, was the largest to-date with more than 4,000 attendees, gathering affiliates, merchants, networks, agencies and services, in one location. Shawn is recognized as one of the premier affiliate marketing authorities and also offers many resources to those just getting started via his blog, AffiliteTip.
95% of People Who Try to Make Money Online Will Fail
As mentioned earlier, this isn't for everyone. So don't start out investing a lot of money till you're sure this is for you and you'll stick with it. To be part of the successful 5%, know up front that it's hard work, it's learning, it's time-consuming and it takes patience. But it can be exciting, fun and financially rewarding. You can make a few extra hundred dollars a month with minmal effort and there are affiliate marketers making 6 or 7 figure incomes. One of the most respected affiliate marketers is Mike Allen of Shopping-bargains.com. Mike turned his hobby of finding online deals for friends and family into a full-time netpreneur career. He currently has 8 employees, with 5 successful web sites including shopping-bargains sites for Canada and the U.K.
This is just a cursory look at affiliate marketing but gives you an overview of what's involved. Find your niche. Do your homework. Decide if this is a good fit for you. Don't fall for the get rich quick schemes. Don't invest more than you can afford to get started. Don't get discouraged. Have fun. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
Next week, we'll look at some free tools and other resources you can use to enhance your sites and affiliate sales.