What is Affiliate Marketing? A Guide for Beginners
How many times have you tried to explain to your mum just how you managed to afford that new car, latest iPhone or a trip to Barbados despite just working part-time, only to be accused of being a closet drug dealer? If this is a frequent problem for you, you may want to hand her this article.
What is affiliate marketing?
We have a wealth of brilliant articles on our website covering the many various aspects of affiliate marketing in depth, however, for those of you who are completely new to the concept, I’m going to go back to basics and explain in detail exactly what affiliate marketing is, what it takes to succeed and how you could become a successful affiliate marketer, too.
Affiliate marketing for beginners
So, what is affiliate marketing? Well, it’s the practice of recommending a companies products or services to potential customers, generating a sale and earning a commission in return.
The process of affiliate marketing generally involves four parties: the affiliate website, the affiliate network, the advertiser and the buyer.
Many beginners find this confusing, but there’s no need. Let me explain in layman’s terms.
The affiliate owns a website. That affiliate could be me, you, or that weird guy next door. Seriously, it’s not that complicated to build a website suitable for the job (although marketing that website effectively is another matter, we’ll get to that later).
The website an affiliate owns contains details (or reviews) about a product sold on the advertiser’s website. It also links to the advertiser’s product page via a special link, known as an affiliate link.
The advertiser could be any business which sells a product or service online. It could be John Lewis, Amazon, a car insurance company, or even your local skateboard shop if it has an online store.
The affiliate network
The affiliate network drops a tracking cookie into the buyer’s browser when they visit an advertisers website as a result of clicking an affiliate link on the affiliate’s website. They are effectively the glue which makes affiliate marketing possible, and they’re the guys who send your payment to you.
A working example of affiliate marketing in action
As this article aims to cover affiliate marketing for beginners, here’s a little example for you. So, let’s assume John is an affiliate. He has a website which is all about skateboarding. On it, he has a blog where he shares videos of his latest stunts, pictures of the parks he’s visited, and in-depth reviews of the best and worst skateboards he’s ever used. The reviews contain a deep link to the page on the advertiser’s website where the recommended skateboards can be purchased. The key to this is that the link is not a standard link such as:
But actually, its an affiliate link, which looks something more like:
So, if a visitor to John’s site decides after reading one of the many raving reviews that they really want to buy one of these skateboards right here, right now, the affiliate will be rewarded with a commission for referring the buyer to the advertiser’s site. Result!
On the other hand, they may need longer to think about it. Perhaps they’re waiting for payday, or they’re not quite sure yet whether they prefer the blue one that they also spotted while browsing around the advertiser’s site. They may go away and come back in a couple of weeks’ time, no longer able to resist the urge to blow their wages on a better board.
The great thing is, the affiliate will still be awarded commission for this sale provided the cookie placed by the affiliate network remains in the browser.
A word about cookies
In case you’re wondering, there are a couple of ways these cookies can and will disappear:
- If the buyer clears the cookies in their browser, either manually or using a tool such as CCleaner.
- If the cookie expires. Most affiliate networks work with a 30-day cookie period as standard. MoreNiche is slightly different as the vast majority of our advertisers offer lifetime cookies. (That’s not the only reason we’re great – keep reading to find out more!)
Advantages for affiliates
The advantages of the affiliate marketing business model for the affiliate are quite obvious to anyone. Having the opportunity to effectively ‘sell stock’ without having any of the costs or responsibilities of manufacturing, buying or storing it is very liberating. In addition to this, when working with a high-paying network like MoreNiche, the profit potential is enormous.
If approached correctly, this can eventually turn into an almost passive income. While it’s likely you’ll always need (and want) to keep your eye on the ball, if you can get the business bringing in a substantial income, you may be able to outsource many of the routine tasks to freelancers in the long term.
Where many people stumble, however, is in believing that success in affiliate marketing is quick and easy. It’s not. It takes many hours of learning, commitment and a willingness to adapt to bring the best out of every changing situation.
Aside from the obvious advantages of running your own business, being able to work online from anywhere at any time, and having the freedom to choose just how hard you work, there are a few other perks. Affiliates with a strong social following (also known as influencers) can expect to receive freebies from advertisers looking to boost their brand awareness.
If an affiliate’s website is generic, such as a health and beauty blog, the possibilities are endless: from beauty creams to entire pampering sets, if you can give a company enough exposure, they will be begging you to trial their products for free!
Advantages for advertisers
Many advertisers are unaware of the potential of the affiliate marketing business model for their own businesses, in fact, most small businesses have never heard of it. But imagine marketing your products only to interested people for no upfront fee. Paying only when you get results is a risk-free way of advertising that requires no marketing budget to get started. As you can imagine, this is great for any start-up business with little funding for marketing their new brand.
Not only this, but what could be better than having hundreds, if not thousands of websites promoting your product? This is the perfect way to get people talking about your products, buying your products and generally just getting your brand ‘out there’.
How much can you earn from affiliate marketing?
This is a ‘How long’s a piece of string?’ question. Your income as a beginner affiliate will depend massively on several factors:
- The efficiency and reliability of the affiliate network you work with.
- The commission levels and conversion rates of the advertisers you work with.
- Your level of commitment.
- Your depth of knowledge and willingness to learn everything about your niche in order to succeed.
Networks and commissions vary widely. New affiliates could take over a year to make their first sale, but with the correct training (which MoreNiche provides for free) and persistence, you could earn anything between $5 and $100 per sale from products on our network!
It’s easy to see how this can add up to some pretty impressive earnings. Some of our top affiliates earn in excess of $8000 per week! Who needs to be Walter White when you can earn this much legitimately, online, from anywhere in the world?
Sounds great! Shall I hand my notice in now?
No. Before you get too excited, you must understand one very important thing. Affiliate marketing for beginners can be hard. It is, after all, a business. It is not a get rich quick scheme, and no honest affiliate manager will ever tell you it is. It requires patience, perseverance and heaps of learning. Sometimes it can take years to achieve the results you really want to see, although with the help of our affiliate management team, we hope you would see them much sooner than that!
Affiliate marketing isn’t something you can just walk straight into from your day job. All affiliates we know started off doing it as a sideline, and unless you have huge reserves of money to live on, it’s likely you’ll need to do the same.
Do I need to buy an affiliate marketing for beginners guide?
The simple answer to this is no, not if you’re working with MoreNiche! We can provide you with all the training and advice you’ll need to succeed with our advertisers.
7 reasons why so many people try and fail at affiliate marketing
Too many people start out in affiliate marketing with crazy ambitions such as dreaming they will earn £20,000 in their first year and be able to quit their job after 12 months. While it’s technically possible for this to happen, it’s not typical.
Are you an expert in conversion optimisation, sales funnels, SEO, website building, copywriting and proofreading? If so, you have a better chance than most newcomers. Chances are, if you’ve only just heard about affiliate marketing, you don’t have all or even any of these skills just yet. In this case, settle down for the long haul. This is going to take some time, but you will get there – as long as you don’t give up along the way!
- Lack of patience is the number one reason new affiliates fail in their endeavours. Set up your site and build on it. Just an hour each day may be all you can afford to give to begin with, but be patient and give it a chance. All good things come to those who wait.
- Lack of quality content is another stumbling block for many new affiliates. Your generic content needs to be both highly relevant and of excellent quality. Want to promote bodybuilding products, but know nothing about bodybuilding? Hire a writer, become an expert or choose a different niche! There is no in-between.
- Trying to cut corners with marketing methods is a huge no-no in affiliate marketing. By cutting corners, we’re talking specifically about black hat SEO. Get banned by Google, and you’ll be spending your time building a new site. Don’t learn from your mistakes, learn right now. Blackhat SEO only ever leads to a broken site. Google will hunt you down, and it will punish you!
- Not promoting the right products is a common issue with newbie affiliates. Would you purchase the product you are promoting through a website? Think about it. You can advertise a Ford dealership on your website until the cows come home, but will anyone seriously purchase a brand new car via a website without visiting a garage? I don’t think so. Don’t market cars, houses, wedding venues, perfume or dogs online. Do market products people will actually buy from a website without seeing them in the flesh!
- Many affiliates struggle to make enough profit from the sales they make to allow them to reinvest that money into more content or marketing. Once you do find a product that people can and will buy online, make sure it offers enough commission per sale to make it worth your while. There’s little sense in promoting light bulbs for 1% profit per sale.
- At the same time, go for an advertiser offering a long cookie period. If those light bulbs come with a 24-hour cookie period, you’d be quite lucky to make any sales in your first year!
- Too much too soon. Stick to one website to begin with. Don’t get distracted by shiny new niches. This will only dilute your efforts. It’s absolutely not a waste of time to spend hours on end researching the very best niche for you to enter into. The commission, cookies, product and even the advertiser’s website all have to be excellent. The last thing you want to do is invest money in creating your own site only to send visitors to an advertiser’s site that barely converts a single sale. Would you buy from the advertiser’s site? Question everything before you spend a single penny on building your new site.
Reasons affiliates succeed
We’re often asked, what is affiliate marketing all about? Show me someone who’s actually made some money in it! Well, we have several super affiliates on our network. They now earn enough through MoreNiche to work on their affiliate websites full time. And they all have several things in common.
Our top affiliates are:
- Passionate about their website, its visitors and their brand.
- Concerned about whether or not their site is genuinely helpful to their audience.
- Committed to making it work, even if that means sacrificing their free time after they get home from their day job.
- Willing to learn anything and everything that crops up along the way which challenges their abilities.