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Affiliate Marketing : The Beginner's Guide to Making Money Online

Aug 17, 2007
The lifeblood on any online business is traffic and visibility. To get the most traffic, merchants create affiliate programs, literally a 'virtual sales team' to help promote their site and products. Anyone can sign up to be an affiliate to most affiliate programs. You promote their products, they do all the customer service, shipping, and refunds of the product. You promote, and when the merchant makes a sale from a customer that you referred, you make a commission.

The merchant may choose to pay a flat fee or a percentage of the product's price. Let's say you're promoting a $149 product, and the merchant pays you a 50% commission. For every sale you refer, you earn a $74.50 commission. To track the people that you refer to the site, you're given an affiliate link. These are links that are coded with identifiable information so that the merchant knows that the customer came from your link and you are credited with the sale. Some merchants pay as high as 75% commission.

Affiliate marketing is probably the easiest way to start an online business. You don't need to have a website, products, a customer service or shipping department. You simply send traffic to the merchant's website, and earn commissions. While it is easy to get started in affiliate marketing, you still need to learn, understand and implement some basic business concepts to be successful.

Some of the things you will need to learn are:

1. Choosing the products that are best aligned to your chosen market
2. How to drive targeted traffic to your website
3. How to market your business or products
4. How to build an email list of potential customers
5. How to follow-up with your list and convert them to sales
6. How to write pre-sell and sales copy that converts
7. How to turn customers into repeat customers

All of these skills can be applied to most business models, whether it's affiliate marketing, selling your own products, or running an offline business.

What is the best way to select an affiliate program?

There are very few jobs in life that require so little time and effort in comparison to the rewards. Initially, while you are learning, you will need to put in maximum effort to get started. What you put into it will determine what you get out of it.

Here are a few tips to picking out the right affiliate marketing opportunity for you. When choosing products, don't be afraid to choose niche products, or products that appeal only to a small number of people. Build your website, blog, or other marketing materials around the demographic you're after. If you're selling life insurance or retirement planning, you'll want content that connects with mature people rather than the online gaming crowd.

There are many products with affiliate programs at clickbank.com, paydotcom.com, commission junction, and linkshare.com. In addition, there's others, such as MoreNiche, JoeBucks and many more. Just join those programs and browse their marketplaces to find products you are interested in selling.

Single-Tier, Two-Tier, and Multi-Tier Affiliate Marketing

These types of affiliate marketing are based on the different levels or tiers in the affiliate network by which payments are made. These structures offer more incentive and further motivate the affiliates to work harder and very quickly build a fleet of affiliates under the merchant.

In a single-tier affiliate marketing program, the affiliates are only paid based on the direct sales or traffic he has referred to the merchant.

In two-tier affiliate marketing programs, the affiliate is paid for the direct lead or sales he refers to the merchant, plus every lead or sales referred by affiliates who joined the affiliate program through his affiliate link.

Multi-tier affiliate marketing works the same way. The affiliate gets additional commission for affiliates they refer in different levels of the affiliate network, such as, 1st time sales, repeat sales, etc.

Residual Income Affiliate Marketing

In residual income affiliate marketing, the affiliate gets paid for the customer he refers to the merchant's site and for the customer he refers who returns to the site for a repeat sale or to purchase a different product.

As you can see, there are numerous ways to make money with affiliate marketing, whether by promoting merchant's products or by promoting the affiliate program and getting people to sign up through your affiliate link or a combination of both.

Building Traffic - The Foundation For Success

Now that you know what affiliate marketing is, you'll need to know the best ways that affiliate marketers use to promote products. The following are four popular ways to promote affiliate products.

Email Marketing:

Opt-in email marketing is a very effective method of promoting your affiliate products. To do this, you need what is called a landing page. You drive traffic to your landing page and then provide just enough information to get them to subscribe to the affiliate's opt-in mailing list. You then follow up by email, sending a series of emails, usually by using an autoresponder. You can use your opt-in mailing list to promote different products over time and earn from repeat business from existing customers. Successful affiliate marketers will tell you that there is nothing more profitable than having an opt-in mailing list.

Establishing a relationship of trust and credibility with your list will boost your conversion rates and make the list very responsive to your offers.

Content Websites and Blogs

You can market your affiliate products through relevant content on your websites or blogs. Relevant content would include articles, reviews of products, and other tools to keep your visitors coming back. You just create the content and include your affiliate links and/or banners where appropriate. Don't make the mistake of just throwing up a page of affiliate banners and links with no relevant content and expect to make sales. This type of site is rarely successful.

Blogs can also be used in conjunction with websites to drive traffic to the websites. You create your website, create a blog and include links to your website in your blog. Blogs, such as blogger.com and wordpress.com are spidered by Google frequently and help you to get your main website listed in search engines. Just update your blogs frequently and then go to pingomatic.com and ping the blogs to keep content updated in the search engines and to drive traffic to the websites you have linked in your blogs.

Data Feed Sites

Data feed sites are automated online stores with scripts built in to automatically pull in product information from the merchant's database. They are automatically encoded with your affiliate link. All the affiliate needs to do to make sales from these sites is to drive traffic to them.

Pay-Per-Click Marketing

Pay per click (PPC) is an advertising technique used on websites, advertising networks, and search engines. Advertisers bid on "keywords" that they believe their target market (people they think would be interested in their offer) would type in the search bar when they are looking for their type of product or service. For example, if an advertiser sells red widgets, he/she would bid on the keyword "red widgets", hoping a user would type those words in the search bar, see their ad, click on it and buy. These ads are called "sponsored links" or "sponsored ads" and appear next to and sometimes above the natural or organic results on the page. The advertiser pays only when the user clicks on the ad.

While many companies exist in this space, Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing, which was formerly Overture, are the largest network operators as of 2006. In the spring of 2006, MSN started beta testing their own PPC service, MSN adCenter. Depending on the search engine, minimum prices per click start at US$0.01 (up to US$0.50). Very popular search terms can cost much more on popular engines. Some of the pay-per-click programs available are:

Google AdWords
Yahoo! Search Marketing
MIVA
Enhance Interactive
GoClick
Microsoft adCenter
7Search
Searchfeed
ABCSearch

Now that you've seen some examples of how to best promote affiliate products, you've got to figure out where your traffic is coming from. It is essential to know which of your advertising methods work for you and which ones don't. You will need to tweak and experiment with your ads if you don't have a good response rate. The key is to have a consistent strategy... a plan of action.

It takes time to build traffic and build an email list. You often don't notice the results of your efforts the first couple of months. Remember, it takes patience, strategy and consistency. Do something every day to build on and improve your marketing efforts. Soon you will begin to see the results and sales from your efforts start pouring in.
About the Author
Suzanne Bucciarelli, owner of make-ez-money-online.com , provides articles and advice for people who want to start an online business. For more online business opportunities, advice and tips, visit: Make EZ Money Online.com
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