“I have ways of making money that you know nothing of.” – John D. Rockefeller
According to the most recent data, Internet commerce accounted for 5.8 percent of total U.S. retail sales in the second quarter of 2013, totaling roughly $65 billion. Forrester fully expects ecommerce to bring in $262 billion to the U.S. retail space in 2013, so clearly there is money to be made online.
The purpose of this article is to introduce you to affiliate marketing. If you own almost any type of website, you can potentially earn monetary commissions by referring visitors of your site to the site of merchants with whom you are affiliated.
So, what do you need to know and do in order to become a successful affiliate marketer?
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vince Lombardi
Just as one doesn’t open a store without first identifying the kind of merchandise to be sold or the location of the business, an affiliate marketer doesn’t just build a presence on the Internet without knowing what audience to target or what to offer visitors who come to their website. There are four basic steps a person must take to start the journey toward affiliate marketing.
Choosing your type of website
First, you have to decide what kind of affiliate you want to be and therefore what kind of site to create. There are a number of types to choose from:
These are probably the easiest types of affiliate sites to set up and one of the most popular. Blogs can be as informal, as interactive and as wide ranging as you want them to be. But no matter which direction you choose, in order for a blog to be successful these days, you must write about topics you’re passionate about and with which you have a real connection. Your content (which we’ll discuss more about in an upcoming post) should be original, targeted to your audience and updated FREQUENTLY. You want people to visit your site and also return to it.
Created with a sense of authority, review sites can also be flexible in their subject matter and in how the public interacts with the site. The key is to provide reliable and up-to-date information that the visitor finds useful. The content should compel visitors to return to the site and refer it to their friends.
Focused on the vast audience of bargain seekers, coupon sites can generate a lot of traffic, but as with review sites, visitors will expect up to date deals and won’t tolerate anything less.
Download sites are among the most lucrative type of affiliate sites, particularly if you can become an affiliate of a great number of companies. These sites are aimed at consumers who are looking to try software before they pay for it. The goal is that they’ll purchase a full version of the product after a trial period.
Choosing your domain
After choosing what type of site you want to use to refer visitors to affiliates, the second decision to make is choosing your domain name. This name is important and will be a huge part of your online presence. It may take time to settle on a domain simply because so many are already taken either because they are being used or have been previously purchased and are being held for later sale.
You’ll have to choose whether to buy the domain name from a third party (usually at a markup) or extend your research to find one that is available through the domain registrars. You may find that your chosen name may not be available as a “.com” but rather with “.net” or “.biz” extension.
Whatever you choose should reflect the kind of affiliate site you’ve decided upon. Choosing “BestCoupons.com” when your site focuses on reviewing appliances will not only confuse your visitors, but can also lead to bad word of mouth from the Internet community and penalties from the search engines (i.e. Google).
Choosing your host
The next step is to choose a hosting service, also known as an ISP (Internet Service Provider). This host will connect your site to the Internet. You will be paying rent, so to speak, to a company to use their servers and storage capacity for all your web files and data.
Many companies offer hosting service plans in addition to domain name registration but you should first know or have a good idea of what your particular needs will be so you can choose the plan best suited to your site.
Choosing your theme
Unless you know HTML and CSS code, in which case you can build your own website, a theme will ensure that your site is readable and functional. Website themes, written by experienced web designers, can be used for free or purchased. Generally speaking, purchased themes will allow you greater customization and provide more built-in features such as easy formatting and traffic analytics tools.
Keep in mind that paid themes can provide you with a “unique” look so your site can stand out from the crowd. They are also less prone to security issues, updated more frequently, and come with a higher level of support from the developers.
You need a clear understanding of what sort of affiliate you intend on being so you can choose a theme that is suitable for your needs. That being said, you’ll most likely want a theme that allows you to grow. You may not have any intention on including video now for example, but maybe in a year or so you will.
Deciding on your type of affiliate site, domain name, hosting company and site theme are only the first steps in creating an affiliate website. Continue investigating the process of website building and the world of affiliate marketing if you want to succeed. Below are additional resources for reference.
John Hernandez is an Affiliate Marketing Manager at cleverbridge
In an upcoming post, he’ll discuss best practices in creating SEO friendly content so that the search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, etc.) will organically rank your site high.