Friday, 3 January 2014

Ten Steps to Kickstarting Your Affiliate Marketing Career

A new year means new possibilities.

Let's face it, all of us want to be rich. We also want to have sufficient time to spend with our family and friends and feel a sense of independence. No one in their right mind would 'dream' to work away their entire lives cramped in an office only to be under-appreciated in the end with a meager pension and a bent back after years of confinement.

For many, entering into affiliate marketing programs presents the possibility of achieving their financial dreams. It's in fact an even more lucrative way to earn money than freelancing. Not only can you comfortably work from home without having to go out and slave away in some cubicle, but you are your own boss and decide how much or how less you want to work per day or week. Theoretically, you can work as little as a few hours a week and still make hundreds to thousands of dollars per month doing what you love!

But before you can start earning easy money, you have to first follow a few essential (and necessary) steps:

1. Research

Before doing anything else, you have to research your idea first. Pick a niche market or
industry that interests you - whether it's internet marketing, web design, pets, football, gambling, etc, just about any topic can be turned into an affiliate marketing opportunity. Just make sure that the potential programs you will be signing up for are legitimate and can guarantee you payments for your efforts.

It's important that you KNOW your potential audiences and customers. Find out everything there is to know about their likes and dislikes, spending habits, what websites they frequent, which groups they join, etc. Harnessing social media to impersonally connect with your potential customers is a great idea.

The next move would be to research the specific keywords that your website will focus on. Look for high-value keywords that also have minimal competition related to your niche and thus enables you to get higher page rankings on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

With your niche and keywords now decided on, finish the research part by conducting surveys and personal interviews with people you know are interested in your niche. They can provide great ideas and insights and can even guide you in the right direction en route to making your website and developing your site's content.

2. Get a Website

Once you have crystallized your niche and website theme, the next logical step is to obviously register for your own website. There are many hosting services to choose from, but we recommend you start off with either HostGator or iPage. They are the perfect solutions for anyone who's new to the world of both website making or internet marketing. Obviously as a newbie, you would want everything to be as clear-cut and simple as possible. So choose a domain and web hosting service that is fast and responsive, user-friendly, has great customer support and won't burn a hole in your wallet either.

For more detailed information on the best web hosts for you, then check out our previous article The Top 5 Best Web Hosts for Businesses. Also check out our article How to Find the Right Host for Your Business to get a better idea of the technical side of domains and web hosting.

If you sign up to HostGator now, then you can get an instant discount for launching your very first website.

Once you sign up for a host, then the next order of business would be to develop your website and layout bit by bit.

Of course, if you don't want to deal with all the technical aspects of building your own website from scratch, you can always outsource your work to a freelancer who will take care of all the site construction, coding and designing for you. It's your call.

3. Website Design

Make sure your website looks attractive while at the same time remaining functional and relevant. As previously mentioned, your website needs to be consistent with the niche that you will be focusing on and therefore should have an appropriate theme and layout.

You can either use free or premium templates from CMSs like Wordpress or or get more professional and customizable designs from ThemeForest. I recommend buying a custom design from ThemeForest as they have thousands of different web templates to choose from and have designs for all tastes - with prices ranging from as little as $1 up to $47 per design (still cheaper than many of the premium Wordpress templates).

4. Develop Content

This step is probably the most constant one there is. As you may have heard countless times in countless other articles, content is indeed king. How else are you supposed to direct traffic to your site if you cannot attract an audience with some form of meaningful, relevant and current content?

It could be anything from blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, press releases, white papers, ebooks, etc. (see our article The Wonders of Inbound Marketing for a more in-depth discussion of the powers of inbound marketing). Just make sure that your content relates to your chosen niche and theme and is compelling for your target audiences/markets.

A good way to start developing your content is to look around the blogs and websites of would-be competitors. Observe the topics they write about, the images they use, the videos they publish, etc. Frame your content to maximize the potential earnings you can make out of affiliate marketing.

5. Grow Your Content

Even before publishing your first set of articles or posts, you should write down a list of all the potential articles, posts and videos that you plan to make for your website. That way, you can incrementally add fresh and engaging content onto your site without any sudden gaps or thematic awkwardness. Ideally, you should publish new content every 3-4 days or weekly depending on how big your audience and archives get.

Over time, you will notice that your breadth and scope of articles and themes will increase the more aged your website gets. In as little as a year, you can literally have hundreds of ideas for new articles and content depending on how your website is running. Make sure to of course add new material gradually and avoid rushing into new topics and boundaries.

6. Update Your Content

This step is probably enduring. If you wish to continue making money online, then you HAVE to continue updating your website's content with new articles, press releases, infographics, videos and other content to attract new visitors (and potential leads) and to maintain your existing audience.

If you don't have the patience or mettle to update your sites or blogs regularly by yourself, you can always freelance the content creation to others. In fact, this is one area where freelance marketplaces like Elance and oDesk have such a competitive advantage over more formal and traditional classifieds owing to their huge pool of preexisting talent.

7. Make Your Content Meaningful & Useful

As you build your article and content material, you should always recognize that ultimately the success of your website (and the thickness of your wallet) will depend on how effective you are in attracting the right audiences. Just because you may have a large number of daily visitors or pageviews, does not mean you will be equally successful when it comes to high click-through rates and conversions.

Referring back to step 1, do your due diligence when it comes to knowing all there is to know about your audiences. By now, you should already know what their likes and biases are, so it is time that you exploit their preferences and generate content that will attract them. Build and update content that makes them genuinely interested, stimulated and wanting more. Here is where the power of newsletters (using tools like GetResponse) come in handy to keep them firmly glued to your website and coming back for more - which obviously increases the chances of you making a sale.

8. Establish Credibility and Trust

In addition to attracting and retaining the right audiences and leads for your website, you should also do your best to make yourself an authority on your chosen niche and theme.

Especially when first starting out, don't go overboard with your topic list and range of content. Be focused and specific - letting visitors know exactly what your website is going to be about. That way, you can write specific and highly-relevant articles and other content centering on your selected theme - which makes it much more likely that you will (at least over time) develop a certain expertise in the field. Another advantage of focus (especially early on) is that you can better align your articles and content with your advertisements and affiliate programs - which will increase the click-throughs of your posts, banners and other merchant links.

Another tip here is to respect your visitors. Don't post inappropriate content, be too personal with your audience or go overboard when it comes to selling your merchants' products. Respect their privacy and choices and let them figure out if the product is right for them. Writing up high-quality and fact-based product reviews (especially for your own affiliate products) is a great way to both build trust and sell your merchants' products through your website.

9. Manage Your Leads and Customers

Keep a constant watch of all of your existing visitors (both new and old). Be watchful over your customer base and make it a point to keep in regular contact with them and establish warm relationships. The longer you can hold on to customers, the greater the potential to upsell and cross-sell your other affiliate products. You can use free tracking software like Google Analytics to observe your audiences and then develop your marketing activites accordingly.
One of the best ways to keep in contact with both your customers and potential ones (ie leads) is through email marketing (more on this on another day). Use powerful and intuitive software like GetResponse or StreamSend to design, create and publish your email campaigns and autoresponders to customers and leads. The best part about these emailing systems is the detailed tracking and analysis capabilities enabling you to fine-tune your emailing campaigns to better turn leads into customers.

10. Diversify

Don't just sit back and rely on selling a few affiliate marketing products alone. Expand and diversify your affiliate marketing categories to cover broader, more general products similar to your niche's to further monetize your blog/website.

Then of course there's the dozens of other legitimate ways to earn money online. Whether it's freelancing, video marketing, consultation, ebooks or the old-fashioned route of selling your own products through e-commerce - there's no limit to how much money you can earn through your site.


We hope this article has been useful in providing you with grreat and concrete advice to help you kickstart your affiliate marketing career.

Embrace the new year with a new set of possibilities that can boos your earnings online. So don't delay, get started today!

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