Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to get started with making money online. It’s pretty simple – build a web page or write a blog entry, throw up a few links, then wait for the sales to roll in. It sounds wonderful… but does it work?
This page will explore some affiliate marketing basics and how to know if it’s a good option for you.
The first paragraph summed up the mechanics of affiliate programs, which are also called associate programs. You put a link on your site, somebody clicks the link, and if they buy the product, you make some money. It’s really that basic. Sometimes you might make money if they take a certain action, like filling out a form. This is called “cost per action” or CPA marketing.
Most of the time, though, you’ll be linking to a product. It can be a physical product, like a camera, or an information product, like an ebook or video course.
When you place the link on your site and your visitor clicks, they receive a “cookie” in their browser. This cookie records information on where they came from, giving you credit as the referring source. If they buy the product, the site’s shopping cart logs that and records it. You’re then paid a percentage of the sale. All percentages vary depending on merchant, so it makes sense to read merchant agreements carefully.
Usually percentages on physical products are lower, in the 4-20% range. Percentages on digital products are usually higher, often 50-75%. Services sometimes have affiliate programs, too. For instance, I make a commission if you sign up for one of the hosting services I recommend here on the site.
Sometimes commissions are fixed, meaning you’ll get a certain dollar amount for referring a sale.
The cookie placed with your visitor lasts a certain period of time… usually several days, though it can be several months. Note that usually another affiliate’s cookie will overwrite yours, so if a buyer clicks through somebody else’s affiliate link after yours, they’ll get that affiliate’s cookie.
Finding Affiliate Programs
You want affiliate programs that are related to your niche. There are some sites that people in many niches can use (such as Amazon.com’s affiliate program – be warned they have very low commission rates and only a short cookie window!). But you’ll probably need to look in your niche.
A notable exception is Clickbank. If you know that people are writing ebooks or selling audio/video products about your niche, there’s a good chance someone has their product on Clickbank. You just go to Clickbank and search by category, or put in a keyword search. It will bring up a list of products. You’re still looking for your niche, but it’s a shopping cart for many different merchants to use.
After you’ve checked out Amazon and Clickbank to see what you can find in your niche, you should take a look at the products you use most. Many, many companies have affiliate programs now, and you might find that your favorite product offers a commission for referrals!
Do a search on their site for “associate” or “affiliate.” You can also put the brand name plus “affiliate program” into your favorite search engine.
There are other affiliate directories to check out and find more programs. You can also do a search in the search engines for your niche’s keywords and affiliate program.
Using Links in Your Content
Don’t just dump banners all over your site and expect the money to come rolling in. I know you see that sort of thing all over the internet, but it’s not a good tactic. You may make a sale or two, but people are savvy now. They want to know and trust you. Use spammy tactics and no, affiliate marketing doesn’t work.
Don’t try to sell people. Use the products you recommend, and give them your honest recommendations. For instance, I recommend two hosting providers on this site – Bluehost and Site Build It. I use both of them. They have different offerings for different needs, but both provide an excellent product. I share my experiences with them, why I like them, and from time to time, something that annoys me about them.
Be honest. Be real. Then make your recommendations. People come to trust you because of the value you provide to them. They take your recommendations because of how you help them — not because of how you sell them.
Remember that affiliate marketing is relationship marketing. It’s important to build that relationship, then make the recommendations. Use links within your content. Don’t be afraid to use more than one link, but don’t fill your pages with banners and links, either. Common sense, solid recommendations, and a good reputation are the key to your success — if you follow these principles, affiliate marketing will work.
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