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AFFILIATE MARKETING

8 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting Affiliate Marketing

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8 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Starting Affiliate Marketing


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Affiliate marketing is one of the most interesting and lucrative industries on the Internet, in which commissions are earned from promoting a company and/or driving a sale. It consists of a vigorous hub of web publishers who want to monetize their sites, and is a great opportunity for marketers and advertisers to partner with others to promote their products, services, brands or affiliate programs. I have been involved in this field as an affiliate marketer since 2007, and can safely say that I love what I do, not least because it allows me to connect directly with my audience without having many intermediaries.

However, there are a few things I wish I had known before I started.

1. Track success metrics

There is no way to grow an affiliate website or earn more from it if you don’t know how many visitors visit that site every day, and where they come from. Therefore, it’s critical to track analytics and determine which marketing channels are bringing in the most traffic so that you know where to focus efforts when it comes to promoting affiliate offers.

Here are some of the metrics you need to track:

  • Monthly visits and unique daily visitors. The more your site gets, the higher chances there are for making sales.
  • How many sales did you garner this week? Track each affiliate offer’s performance to determine which offers are converting the best.
  • How much was earned from each offer? It’s vital to track how many sales are generated from each affiliate program, since every publisher gets a different commission from selling the same product. This will help determine which affiliate network and products convert better for your site or blog, and to make better offers to get yet more sales.
  • Which countries are visitors from? This metric will indicate which country’s audience converts better to yours, and so help select the right offers for your market.

Related: Top Social-Media Marketing Essentials for Small Businesses

2. Don’t expect huge earnings overnight

If you’re just starting out as an affiliate marketer, don’t expect success too quickly, because thousands of web publishers have been doing this for years, yet still struggle to find revenue. I’m not suggesting avoiding goals, merely that it’s important to be patient and to work enduringly hard in order to see significant results. This is a business like any other, so income will depend on how much time, effort and patience you’re willing to invest.

3. Never stop learning

One of the most important lessons I’ve internalized over years as an affiliate marketer is that there is no end to learning or knowledge sharing. This industry changes very quickly; new trends appear all the time, and old ones die out quickly. So-called gurus retire their affiliate sites every few months only to launch new ones, so you need to be ready to take advantage of changes and to spend resources on learning — absorbing affiliate marketing blog posts, interviews and case studies along the way.

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4. Avoid overvaluing your product or service

One of the first things many marketers do when they start an affiliate website is to promote their own products and services, but it’s important not to overvalue them, because this will only backfire in the long run. Remember that you need your audience more than they need you, so provide valuable resources, information and insights that will help them to solve their problems. Start by building authority in a niche, share free content consistently and get involved in the community. Then, once you get real traffic coming to your site, create an offer that’s closely related to what you’ve already shared on your blog or website.

Related: 4 Fool-Proof Steps to Getting Your Authority Marketing Off The Ground

5. Don’t sell visitors short

One of the biggest mistakes I see affiliate marketers making repeatedly is trying to sell their visitors short instead of providing high-quality offers that match well with what they want and need. For example, if someone is looking for a dog bed or a leash, they wouldn’t buy an offer related to yoga classes, because it’s completely irrelevant and doesn’t match what they’re searching for. So, before trying to sell your visitors something, make sure that you’ve done research and arrived at offers that closely match what an audience is looking for.

6. Embrace testing

Another blunder I see often is guessing what works best instead of testing ideas before investing time, effort and money. This is why I suggest A/B testing tools for at least some campaigns, as they will give valuable insights on what’s working right now, without any risks.

7. Don’t leave money on the table

Many affiliate marketers are quick to start promoting a new offer the moment it goes live. Still, they fail to fully optimize and promote before making it available. In many cases, this means that you’ll be leaving a lot of money on the table by not testing your landing page, images, copy and ad copy first. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending days or weeks running A/B tests, but at least try to split-test before promoting an offer broadly. This will give you a better chance of converting more visitors into subscribers or buyers, because you’ve taken the time to work on optimizing everything from start to finish. This is the process I use for every new campaign for my online shop, and it works like a charm.

8. Don’t be afraid to give up

Lastly, remember that it is not a vice to give up on something that’s clearly not working. Even though it might be hard to walk away from an affiliate campaign or website, it’s vital to ask if results are worth the time and effort, then possibly put that energy into something that has a better chance of succeeding. Don’t let others make you feel bad about switching things up, because there is no such thing as doing everything right, so just do what makes sense.

Related: How Affiliate Marketing Can Work for Entrepreneurs

At the end of the day, there is no absolute right or wrong way to do affiliate marketing, but you should at least have a rough plan — one that includes knowing how much you’re willing to spend on advertising, where your niche traffic is coming from and what offers are converting best. The more time and effort you invest into learning and testing everything first, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed.

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AFFILIATE MARKETING

A Step-by-Step Guide to Your First Affiliate Marketing Campaign

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Your First Affiliate Marketing Campaign


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A newly-created project should manage significant issues to survive the first year of operating. The key target to hit, especially in a highly-competitive market environment, is finding product-market fitting. Affiliate marketing is giving a variety of instruments to reach that goal. And even more: It engages potential customers, who can become a core — and some can even become brand ambassadors in the future.

Here are some bulletproof tactics of how to launch a new brand, service or app using affiliate marketing channels.

Related: Use Affiliate Marketing to Create a Loyal Audience

Why affiliate marketing can be an effective strategy channel to use

An affiliate partnership is based on a сost per acquisition model (CPA). The advertisement provides results in the form of sales and target actions, which gives direct profits. Worth noting, the affiliate marketing advantages are:

  • The absence of reckless risk-taking investments.
  • Promotion is taking place only among the relevant audience.
  • The wide range of different niches to be efficiently used.

But the main thing is that the budget spent is under your control. The basic operating principle of affiliate marketing is you get what you pay for.

According to Publift, 86% of audiences are suffering from ad blindness, meaning they simply do not see the ads. To get confidence that the budget won’t be wasted on irrelevant clicks (cost per click) or views (cost per view), the affiliate partners’ reward depends on the success of the promo campaign.

Having all these advantages of affiliate-based tactics, it’s time to roll out our very first affiliate marketing campaign step by step.

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Related: An Affiliate-Marketing Program Might Be the Perfect Move

Step 1: Creating an in-house affiliate program or joining a travel affiliate network

Building your affiliate program is not a cheap exercise. However, big brands like or Booking.com could do that. So looking for a proper travel affiliate marketing network would be a more realistic option. Their framework and experience combined with the right tools should help you as well. The cooperation with external CPA platforms (i.e. Travelpayouts, CJ, AWIN, Partnerize or others) seems more manageable, especially for the newcomers.

Step 2: Propose a suitable affiliate offer

It must be based on an analysis of competitors and companies’ ROI models. The proposal should include commission rate, cookies lifetime and payout policy.

The cookies’ duration is the length of time when a customer and an affiliate are associated together. It starts from a client’s click on the link and may last from one session up to a year. If it has expired, the partner won’t receive a commission from a purchase.

Also consider determining a payout policy: a variety of actions, which are taken into account as target ones and being paid. Pay-per-click (PPC), pay-per-action (PPA) and pay-per-impression (PPI) models are concentrated on different aims — the number of clicks, lead generation and sales guarantee, respectively.

3. Get a list of top-notch affiliates

The subscribers and followers of a partner should be your final . For example, if you have a coupon service, the potential users’ audience from your partners should be interested in travel deals, coupons and discounts. Keep on the influencers with high-quality content. It’s okay if they’re local bloggers with fewer than 5,000 subscribers, compared to the more popular ones with 1 million or more subscribers.

The figures for the blogger subscribers are not as important as the quality of the audience — the major thing is how many sales a partner can attract. The affiliates with a low traffic volume can also become a great source for your actual sales among the loyal and active audience.

Related: 3 Tips to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

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4. Sharing your brand’s values with partners

The affiliates will recommend your service to their audience, so they should be aware of your brand values. A simple solution is to create a promo or landing page to share with potential partners. On this page, you can provide product features, strengths, tips, etc. Go even further, and create a media kit with a detailed description. But remember, not all the affiliates are willing to go through a 30-page document. So be sure to create a summary that includes all the basics.

5. Analyze the efficiency of the campaign

Usually, at the launch of an affiliate campaign, it’s enough to provide partners with affiliate links. By using them, an affiliate would provide and drive traffic to your site or link for app download. Efficient cooperation can also encourage other ways to contact the audience in the future as well. It could be such effective formats as search forms, banners or APIs. While affiliate partners attract their audience, your task is to analyze the quality of incoming traffic.

The essential point of the first stage is to inspect the affiliate campaign’s effectiveness (to improve it for the future). The initial traffic flow and sales will indicate further actions to be done. For example, you can try reaching partners with different target audiences or using additional tools to attract a new audience yourself. You could also try changing program conditions or pushing extra promotions. Traffic analysis is an everlasting process for the affiliate program optimization, as well as the identification of anomalies and possible violations on the partner’s part.

Related: How Affiliate Marketing Can Work for Entrepreneurs

Be patient

Affiliate marketing is not a one-shot game. So be prepared for different experiments with advertising formats and channels. Perhaps, you would figure out that social media promotion is a better way than traffic from travel blogs or vice versa.

This process demands flexibility, constant self-improvement and deep analysis of audience behavior. Don’t panic if the first results of the campaign don’t match your expectations. Launching an affiliate program is just the beginning of a long journey. Affiliate marketing is, in our humble experience, the most cost-effective marketing channel worth taking a chance on.



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