Affiliate marketing is a big field and it is growing in popularity.
Despite this, many people ask ‘what is affiliate marketing about?’, largely because no one has ever sat down to explain the basic concepts.
Simply put, affiliate marketing can be a very effective way of making money online for people who don’t have any past experience and who don’t have a product or marketable skill to sell.
It’s also a bit unusual in that it isn’t a way to ‘make money fast’.
Instead, this is comprehensive approach and strategy for developing a long-term business online.
This business might evolve into selling your own products in the future or it might continue to be affiliate marketing.
The other important thing about affiliate marketing is that it is flexible.
This is an approach to making money that lets you develop a site around what interests you and what you are passionate about.
So, with affiliate marketing you really can make money from your hobbies.
But, before we go any further, let me make one thing clear.
To be successful in affiliate marketing, you have to be realistic.
Any approach that claims you earn money easily or fast simply isn’t true.
Earning money with affiliate marketing takes time, patience, effort and a lot of learning.
This post highlights the fundamentals of affiliate marketing and what you can truly expect.
Making Money Online
People often learn about affiliate marketing when they are looking into ways of making money online.
This is an area that people research all the time because there is so much about making money online that is appealing.
After all, it is an approach that represents freedom from a traditional job and this is becoming ever important in the modern economy.
Realistically, having a job or a career this year is no longer a guarantee that you will have one next year.
Many people are finding that their jobs simply don’t have the security that they expected.
And this is where making money online really comes into play.
There is a wide range of different approaches for making money online and affiliate marketing is just one of these.
In fact, you probably didn’t start off with the question ‘what is affiliate marketing about?’ and you may well have stumbled onto affiliate marketing as a concept.
Some other approaches for making money online include doing surveys for money, binary options trading, and MLM (multi-level marketing) companies.
So, what sets affiliate marketing apart?
First of all, affiliate marketing isn’t the be-all and end-all for making money online. Some people would like you to believe that it is, but that isn’t the case.
There are lots of ways to make money online and a number of them are legitimate and are effective. However, there are some things about affiliate marketing that make it uniquely appealing.
Affiliate Marketing, Freelancing and Selling Your Own Products
In general, freelancing and selling your own products are the two other ways that I consider realistic for making money online.
By realistic I mean that you could actually turn them into full-time careers while you can’t really do the same with things like survey sites.
In fact, there are many successful people in all three of these areas.
The biggest difference between these three is what you are selling.
Affiliate marketing involves promoting and selling someone else’s products.
This set up means that you don’t get the full sales price. Rather, you earn a percentage. The exact percentage varies depending on what you are selling and the commission structure the company is offering.
This sounds like a bad deal, but it isn’t really.
For starters, you don’t have to make or own a product, which makes affiliate marketing easier for the average person to pick up.
There is also a huge amount of different affiliate programs out there, and the amount of products you can promote is basically endless.
This does include low quality, scam-like products, but it also includes decent products that people actually buy.
All you are really doing with affiliate marketing is providing a link between the consumer and the product. Often, this is in the form of a review or a recommendation.
This approach means that you aren’t responsible for dealing with the customer at all.
Not having to deal with customers is enormously appealing for a lot of people and customers really can be frustrating some days.
This also makes it possible to scale up your operation over time, increasing profit without increasing workload.
Selling Your Own Products
There are many different ways of selling your own products both online and offline.
One of the key challenges of this is actually having your own product and then finding ways of promoting and selling it effectively.
In many cases, this also involves making the products for each order (unless you are selling something digital).
In general, this means that selling your own products is harder and involves more time investment.
Interestingly enough, affiliate marketing can actually serve as a stepping stone for selling your own products online.
For example, some successful internet marketers started off in affiliate marketing and started to sell their own products off their site once they became successful.
This can actually be an effective tool because if you have a successful affiliate marketing site you have an interested audience whose needs you can potentially meet.
In general, most people interested in selling their own products online would benefit from starting off in affiliate marketing.
Taking that path can teach you a lot about what it takes to be successful selling things online, without the extra effort and challenge involved in selling your own product.
With freelancing, you are selling services rather than products.
Realistically, this is probably the easiest and the hardest of the three approaches I’m talking about here.
It’s the easiest approach because it is relatively simple to get into freelancing and there are a lot of sites out there that broker the relationship between freelancer and client.
It’s the hardest approach because it can be challenging to scale up and to get to the point where you are actually earning a decent amount of money.
As a way of earning money, freelancing is most effective when you have a skill that is somewhat unique or, at least, rare.
For example, some freelance writers specialize in creating high-quality content for internet marketers and have a working knowledge of what is needed in online content.
Good content writers that do this often earn upwards of $15-$25 per hour.
But, in many fields, there are also far more freelancers than there is demand.
This means that freelancers really have to work at building their reputation, and the process of finding clients can often be very difficult.
So, freelancing can be effective, but it involves dealing with challenging clients and earning more money involves either getting paid more for your services or doing more work.
Both approaches can be challenging.
Of the Three…
Affiliate marketing really is the clear winner out of these three for most people.
You don’t have to have a product or a skill, you don’t have to deal with clients directly and there is a lot of training out there for how to be successful.
There are always exceptions though.
For example, freelancing can sometimes be better for people who need money soon while selling your own product may well be the way to go if you already have a product to sell.
Scams really do give internet marketing a bad name.
At any given time, there are probably more scam artists out there trying to con people than there are people legitimately and honestly talking about making money online.
It certainly feels that way at least.
Scams are everywhere and they target people who are the most vulnerable, telling them what they want to hear.
I can’t even count the number of sites I have seen promoting a ‘revolutionary way to get rich’ or ‘an automated guaranteed system’.
Most of them focus on the idea of a rich and extravagant lifestyle, and a system that doesn’t involve much effort.
Others might tone it down a bit, but still suggest that you can earn a living online pretty easily.
In general, these products will cost to get involved with and they will rarely ever give anything close to what they promised.
At best, you might end up with a half-baked system that could work with a huge amount of effort and even then wouldn’t earn you much money.
At worst, you end up with something completely worthless.
With any approach to making money online, it’s so important to take the time to look into what is involved and whether it is true.
The information is normally available somewhere online if you look for it, often in the form of reviews.
You also need to use your common sense when looking at products and concepts.
If something doesn’t make sense or sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
Additionally, all the glowing reviews in the world doesn’t mean a thing about how good a product is.
Many scam products also have affiliate programs.
This means that people can earn money by promoting them.
Because of this, you will often see amazing reviews for products that are nothing but junk, because some affiliate marketer out there is trying to earn money.
But, as you will learn later on, selling bad products isn’t a good approach to be successful in affiliate marketing.
There are a range of approaches for making money online, including freelancing, selling your own products,affiliate marketing, surveys and other approaches. Some are more effective than others.
Hype and Myths versus Reality
Affiliate marketing is one of those fields that some people love and other people hate.
One of the biggest issues is that affiliate marketing is misrepresented so much of the time.
Here are some of the key myths about affiliate marketing as well as the actual truth.
#1 You Have to Have a Great Niche
A key component of affiliate marketing is your niche.
Your niche is basically your topic and your audience, and it is hugely important.
Certainly, a good niche can make internet marketing easier and it can potentially result in better profits, but this is far from a guarantee.
Realistically, your niche only affects your success to a certain degree.
The amount of effort you put into your site, as well as the techniques and approaches that you use all, play a much greater role.
In theory, you can be successful with just amount any niche as long as you approach it well and you know what you are doing.
Regardless of how big or small your potential niche is, it is still very possible to make money through affiliate marketing.
In many cases, you may find that the niche you have picked has much more potential than you first thought.
#2 You Should Pick the Most Profitable Niche
Niche selection is an important process and profit isn’t the only thing you should be considering.
In fact, if you pick a niche based on profit alone, you may actually be worse off.
In general, the more profitable niches are also the more competitive.
An example of this is niches like internet marketing itself, weight loss or beauty products.
All three of these are topic areas that are frequently searched for and there are a lot of products and affiliate programs available.
However, there are also a huge number of companies and sites vying for customers and it can be very difficult to rank and be successful in the niche.
Additionally, you are much more likely to be successful in a niche if you actually understand it.
If you enter a niche that you don’t know much about then you are fighting an uphill battle right from the beginning.
This can get much worse if your readers figure out you don’t know the area well, as connecting with your audience is a really important part of a successful affiliate marketing site.
A final factor is your own interest.
It is actually more effective to develop an affiliate marketing site if you pick an area that actually interests you, particularly if you are passionate about it.
Choosing for your passions might seem counterproductive, but it really isn’t.
If you choose a topic that you are interested in, then you are much more likely to stick with it long-term.
After all, it is much more enjoyable to spend hours each day researching and writing about something that you actually want to learn about.
Also, when you pick a passion, you have much more potential to connect with your audience.
For example, you might end up with anecdotes to share or pictures that you have taken.
I would always recommend picking a niche that you have some interest in.
That might be a niche that you are passionate about or it might simply be a niche that you want to learn more about.
Whatever you choose, being interested in the niche is only going to help your success.
#3 Affiliate Marketing is Dead
Affiliate marketing isn’t a new strategy for making money online and there have been a lot of changes over the year.
As Google updates its algorithms and other search engines do the same, affiliate marketers have to find new and better ways of getting their websites noticed.
This has made it harder to rank websites and has made many of the older approaches for getting traffic ineffective.
However, this doesn’t affect the process of affiliate marketing itself.
It still is very possible to rank websites in Google and other search engines and to drive traffic to them.
Additionally, affiliate marketing itself is a concept that makes a whole lot of sense to Google.
Good affiliate marketers provide important resources online and offer information that consumers actually need and are looking for.
As long as affiliate marketers focus on developing sites that help people, rather than simply trying to manipulate Google, it’s unlikely that affiliate marketing will ever die.
#4 Affiliate Marketing is Passive
This one might have been true once, but it certainly isn’t the case now.
You cannot develop a site, set it up and then leave it be.
Well, you can. It just won’t be a successful site.
To have a successful affiliate marketing site, you need to continue to drive visitors to the site and make sure you are ranking in search engines.
This means that you have to continue to work on your site, updating content and keeping up with the latest trends in the market.
Affiliate marketing is a good way of earning money - but it does take work.
Who Can Be an Affiliate Marketer?
Affiliate marketing is a field that pretty much anyone can get into.
There aren’t really any previous skills that you need and you can pretty much learn everything as you go along.
For example, sites like this one (Don't Get Rich Quick) try to provide information to set new affiliate marketers on the right track.
But, that being said, affiliate marketing isn’t for everyone.
Affiliate marketing is a long-term type of business and it involves a lot of learning, dedication and planning.
It was once possible to make money with minimum work in affiliate marketing by setting up small sites and manipulating Google, but this no longer works.
This means that you need patience for affiliate marketing and success will take time.
Additionally, to be successful at affiliate marketing, you need to have the dedication to continue to work on a project even though you won’t immediately see results.
In reality, there is no set length for how long it takes to make money with affiliate marketing or to be successful.
For some people it might take months or even (rarely) a year or more before they make their first sale, others might make their first sale within a month.
There really is no way of predicting how long it will take because there are so many different factors involved.
But, if you go into affiliate marketing expecting a fast and easy return, then you would probably quit long before you got to the point of making money.
Finally, to be a good affiliate marketer, you need the ability to consistently work on your site.
Affiliate marketing isn’t something that you can ‘set and forget’.
You don’t manually have to make every sale to every customer, but you can’t just set up a site and then ignore it either.
Instead, you have to keep working on and keep updating your site. This means adding more content, doing keyword research and staying on top of the game.
I’m going to talk about what is actually involved later in this article. However, if you don’t think you have the ability to continue to work on the site regardless of whether you are earning money or not – then affiliate marketing isn’t the answer for you.
Affiliate Marketing and Personalities
Some people find that affiliate marketing is a natural fit for their personalities.
This approach to earning a living is one that requires very little interaction with other people.
In fact, all of the interaction you do have can be done through email.
This is a fantastic advantage for people who find the physical work environment challenging. It also makes working online a more practical alternative for many people.
Additionally, this also means that affiliate marketing can work very well for people with some types of mental illness or physical illness, particularly those that make it difficult to get out of the house or to be social.
For example, some people with depression turn to affiliate marketing because they can structure their working around issues with their depression.
This might mean not working on the site on days where they have strong emotional issues but working hard on it on days that they do not.
This can work very well, but it is still challenging as you do have to find the motivation to keep going with the site.
While extroverts certainly can find success with affiliate marketing, and many do, this approach to earning money really is a natural fit for people who struggle being around others for whatever reason.
Anyone can be an affiliate marketer, but being dedicated and being able to plan are definite advantages.
What to Expect
So, What is Affiliate Marketing About?
As I mentioned before, affiliate marketing is about promoting products from other people.
It’s actually a very common practice and you may well have seen other websites do it, even if you didn’t notice it at the time.
Affiliate marketing gives you a lot of control and there are many different options about what you can do and how you can approach earning money.
The key element of affiliate marketing is having your own website.
It is possible to earn money through affiliate marketing without a website, but it isn’t very sustainable and is more chance-based.
For most people, being successful in affiliate marketing involves developing a site from nothing and growing an audience along with the site.
The approach sounds challenging, but it isn’t as bad as it seems.
In fact, affiliate marketing can be a lot of fun and can turn into a very profitable business over time.
If you’re going to be successful in affiliate marketing, you have to be realistic about what you expect in terms of work and profit.
It’s true that many many people enter the affiliate marketing field and fail.
For example, I’ve commonly heard that only 0.06% of affiliate marketers actually succeed.
I doubt that number is actually real because there isn’t really a practical way of measuring how many people try the field versus how many succeed (there isn’t even a universal definition of success).
However, it is true that many people fail.
This doesn’t actually mean that affiliate marketing itself is ineffective.
Instead, it means that people are going into the field without really knowing or understanding its challenges.
In fact, many websites promote affiliate marketing as being a fantastic way to earn money easily, without going into any details of what the process is or how long it can take.
Other people go into the field expecting to be earning a full-time income in a month or two.
That is a completely unrealistic assumption.
I’ve even talked to people who started affiliate marketing because they were broke, with no job and decided that it would be more productive than looking for a job.
Affiliate marketing can be a long-term and successful approach to business, and yes it can replace a traditional job, but it takes time to build up to that point.
If you enter affiliate marketing expecting quick and easy money, then you will probably give up long before you actually make money.
So, what can you expect from affiliate marketing?
#1 You Have to Learn
To be successful at affiliate marketing, you actually have to learn what you’re doing.
Internet marketing, in general, is a complex field and one that changes regularly.
You can’t just enter it and start up a site, assuming that you know what you are doing.
Well… you can… you’d just fail
It’s easy to think that setting up a site should be an intuitive process, but there are elements that you just don’t think about and don’t know about that can dramatically affect your potential for success.
There are also a lot of behind-the-scenes things that you have to deal with that you probably know nothing about.
So, you have to take the time to learn.
In fact, learning is one of the key aspects of affiliate marketing that you will do throughout your online career.
There is always more to learn and even the biggest experts in the field still learn more as the years go by.
One of the best ways to learn is to turn to an online training site specifically designed to teach affiliate marketing.
There are a few sites like this out there and I actually started my own learning on a site like that (and highly recommend it).
The advantage of learning this way is that you get a lot of information all in one place.
Additionally, you don’t have to sort through conflicting points of view about what to do.
Learning through a dedicated site can be a very effective approach, particularly if the site you choose is community-based.
If it is, then you potentially have a group of people who you can bounce ideas and concepts off.
This is invaluable to helping you get on the right track and just for keeping you encouraged.
If you don’t take that direction, there are other ways to learn what you need to know.
For example, on this site, I focus on providing as much information as possible for being successful online and in affiliate marketing.
There is no way that I can cover every topic and problem in the field, but I do offer a lot of information.
There are other sites like mine that do similar things.
By turning to sites like this, you can learn a lot about making money online and hopefully answer the question: What is affiliate marketing about?
However, if you are going to rely on different sites for advice and approaches, you do need to evaluate what you read a bit more carefully.
Often you will find that different sites promote slightly different approaches.
Okay, sometimes they are vastly different.
These approaches might be equally valid on their own.
However, there is no guarantee that two different approaches will work well together or that either will work with your site specifically.
This means that you do have to be critical when you look at advice and wherever possible compare the advice you receive across multiple sites.
The Work from Home Lifestyle
For anyone in a traditional job, the idea of working from home is pretty appealing.
After all, it must be wonderful to work without a boss and to have much more flexibility.
There are certainly some great things about working from home that is true.
For example, working from home does tend to give you more time with your family and you don’t have to spend as much time or money on the commute to and from work.
However, working from home comes with its own set of challenges and they aren’t for everyone.
In no particular order, here are five key issues with working from home.
It is so much easier to get distracted when you are working from home.
Family and friends can be a major cause of this.
Often, people don’t really have a concept that when you are sitting down in front of your computer that you are actually working.
I have frequently found that family members want me to help out around the house or friends drop by out of nowhere in the hours I have designated for working.
This can be pretty challenging and even if you have a family that understands what you do, they may still often interrupt you without really thinking about it.
You also have self-distraction to worry about.
Without a boss or a precise schedule, it’s pretty easy to get distracted or go off topic.
For example, browsing other sites for inspiration can easily result in you spending time reading things that aren’t even remotely related to what you are supposed to be doing.
Likewise, it is easier to find excuses to stop working.
Pets and young children can also be major distractions and they have no real concept of what you are doing or why you shouldn’t be disturbed.
Distractions also get worse if you live in a small space or if you don’t have a quiet place of your own to work in.
#2 Less Social Life
If you’re working in an office or a ‘normal’ job, you mightn’t realize just how much social connection you get from work.
Even if it is only brief conversations with coworkers, going to a job forces you to get out of the house and interact with many other people during the course of the day.
This isn’t something you get with working online.
In fact, working for yourself can be a very isolating experience.
Most interaction you have with others ends up being through email or through instant messaging, which isn’t the same as actually talking to someone face-to-face.
Many people also find they go out less often, partly because they don’t need to and partly because they get engrossed in their work.
If you do work from home, it may be necessary to consciously seek ways of increasing your social contact, such as attending groups or activities regularly.
If you don’t, this isolation can sometimes turn into minor depression.
#3 Hard to Stay Productive
It is much harder to stay productive when you are working from home.
Distractions are one reason for this, but there are countless others.
Another factor is that you rarely have any strict deadlines.
Even if you were trying to post on your blog every single day, there is nothing in place that actually forces you to keep to this commitment.
So it becomes easy to make excuses or to put less effort into a given piece of content.
#4 Extra Costs
Working from home does decrease your costs in many ways, but there are hidden costs too.
For example, you are not an employee of any company (aside from your own), which means that you don’t have any benefits, like health care or dental.
This means that you must pay health care costs out of your own pocket or get private health care insurance, both of which can be expensive.
Taxes can also be expensive although you can reduce some of these by paying careful attention to the way that you file expenses.
Likewise, you will find that working at home increases other costs, like the amount of power you use in a month and you will probably have to outfit whatever room you plan to work in.
Working from home is a legitimate way of earning money and it is becoming more and more common.
However, not everyone sees it this way.
Many people view working from home as inferior to having a job.
For example, it isn’t uncommon to have family or friends ask you why you don’t have a ‘real’ job.
This is actually one of the reasons why people who work from home find that friends and family members don’t seem to respect their working time.
Additionally, companies often don’t take working from home seriously.
This means that if you choose to go back to working for a company at a later date, your time working from home may be viewed as nothing more than a resume gap.
Affiliate marketing involves promoting other peoples' products. To be successful you have to be realistic about the advantages and challenges that you will face.
Key Elements of a Successful Site
Having your own website isn’t unique to affiliate marketing.
In fact, most realistic approaches to making money online rely on you having a website.
A website is actually a very important tool as it gives you the ability to develop your presence and reputation online.
As our society is becoming more digital and more interconnected it is becoming more important than ever to establish an online presence.
There might be a lot of differences between successful sites, but there are some key approaches that you can employ to make sure your site is successful.
Appearance (the site's - not yours)
The very first thing that people see on any website is what the site looks like.
It doesn’t matter how wonderful your writing is or what you have up on your site, if your site doesn’t look good to start off with, no one will ever get to what you have written.
This is, unfortunately, a mistake that a lot of people make.
The appearance of your site is something that you need to focus on and something that you need to get right.
Ideally, a site should be easy to read, easy to navigate and also suit its purpose.
For example, this part of the landing page for one food blog (ironically titled i am a food blog):
Everything about the design of the site ties in with its overall theme and topic. This includes being heavily image focused and using white space well.
A site doesn’t end up looking this good by accident and the author clearly put a lot of thought into the appearance and design for the site.
The key thing is that this works.
It has created a site that is very memorable and stand out in a field that has a huge amount of competition.
That is a testament to just how much value good design can have.
In contrast, this image from the site Nature Pictures is one example of what can happen when you don’t plan out your site appearance well.
Not only is the description text and headings for the pages cut off, but the main heading is in a font color that makes it almost unreadable.
Finally, here is a site design that is somewhere in the middle (this one belongs to Crazy Food):
This site uses a pretty common design and there is nothing much that stands out.
While the site is relatively easy to read and to navigate, there are also many areas for improvement, like reducing clutter and possibly having something other than just the blogroll on the main page.
One of the key tricks to making sure the appearance of your site works well is simply to take the time to plan it out to start off with.
For example, you can save yourself a lot of work if you figure out what categories and menus you want on your site before you start developing content, rather than afterward.
Likewise, you might want to figure out whether you want to home page to be static, to show the blogroll or to have some combination of the two.
There are lots of different options to go with, but it is normally a good idea to have at least one part of your home page that updates as you post new content.
While this doesn’t typically have much impact on traffic from search engines, having an entirely static homepage can make a site look old and outdated, which can decrease interest.
The phrase ‘content is king’ has been going around for a while now, and it is fairly accurate.
There are a lot of different elements that contribute to the success of a site, but one of the most significant ones is your content.
The term content is a little vague, but generally it refers the information that you have on your site.
Typically, this is in the form of written information, like a blog post, but the content may also be something like a video, a podcast or an infographic.
For this discussion, I will focus exclusively on written content because this type of content is the most relevant for ranking your site and plays a key role in your site’s success.
As with many elements of your website, you develop content with two different audiences in mind.
These are the search engines (particularly Google) and your readers.
In some cases, you might also be considering a third group, which are other sites or authors who may be interested in linking to your content.
Writing with more than one audience in mind can be tricky, but it is an important approach.
Writing for Search Engines
How you rank on search engines directly influences how much traffic your site is going to get.
Even with all the changes that search engines have made over the years, ranking well on a search engine is still the best approach for getting the traffic that you are looking for.
However, approaches for doing so have changed dramatically.
In the past, keyword research was the most relevant element of content creation.
This made it possible to rank well just for the keywords you used, regardless of whether your content was any good.
As a result, many people focused on making small, bare websites and using keywords to rank them and get traffic.
This doesn’t work anymore.
Search engines are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and better at figuring out the quality of content and how relevant it is to the keyword.
This means that if you were to use a keyword like “Where to Buy an iPad”, you would rank better if your site was about iPads or technical gadgets. You probably wouldn’t rank at all if your website was about cats, even if you used the iPad keyword extensively.
Context plays a huge role in this process.
In the case of Google (which is the leader of the game), changes to the algorithm are relatively common.
However, in fall of 2014, Google rolled out an update called Hummingbird, which dramatically altered the way Google approaches keywords, content and context.
Prior to this update, Google primarily relied on the words in the keyword to find search results.
So, if you searched ‘Best PS Games’, it would search each of those words individually.
Now, Google tries to figure out the context behind the question and come back with results that are relevant to that context.
For example, the top three search results for the term ‘Best PS Games’ are these:
Above those Google also has this bar:
In this case, it’s clear that Google interpreted PS in my phrase to mean PlayStation, specifically PlayStation 1, even though I never used the term.
You can even see this in the first search result:
Here the term ‘Best PS1 Games’ is in bold (the yellow highlight is my emphasis), even though, that wasn’t actually my search term.
This is becoming more and more common in search engine results now, and you will often see words in bold that you didn’t actually search.
In this case, Google did interpret my context correctly, but that doesn’t always happen.
For less common phrases or topics, Google can actually get the context entirely wrong – although it will probably get better over time.
Regardless, context is very important for writing for search engines.
It means that you have to consider much more than just an individual keyword.
You need to make sure that what you are talking about fits well within what Google thinks is related to the topic.
Some of Google’s tools can help with this and you can also look at what words are bolded in the search results and the related searches that are listed at the bottom of the page.
This can seem complicated, but it isn’t really.
Because of this approach, one of the simplest ways to improve the way a page ranks is just to write more on it.
By writing more content, you are likely to end up with more contextual keywords without really trying
The changes to Google’s approach have also meant that the whole site matters when you are trying to rank individual pages.
This means that poor quality pages can actually negatively impact the ranking of other high-quality pages.
Because of this, you have to pay attention to the quality of all pieces of content that you write and make sure that they are relevant to your site as a whole.
Writing for Your Audience
There are many crossovers with writing for your audience versus writing for search engines.
For example, in both cases emphasizing quality is important and the content does need to be relevant to your website.
However, just because search engines are going to like a piece of content, doesn’t necessarily mean that your audience will.
One of the first areas to keep in mind is readability.
You want your audience to be able to read what you have written easily.
To do this, you need some awareness of who your audience is and what they will and will not know.
For example, if you were writing a blog on nutrition geared at biochemistry nerds, you would be using some pretty complex language that most of us wouldn’t understand.
However, if you were writing a blog on nutrition focused on the everyday person, your language (and topic choices) would need to be simpler and easier to grasp.
You can also improve readability by using shorter paragraphs and having more white space on your page.
This makes it easier for readers to follow along, and they are more likely to actually read all of a piece of content.
Images can also help as they break up the monotony of a page and make it more interesting.
This is particularly relevant when you are dealing with posts that are very long or that have complicated content.
It can help to think about whether you would be interested in your own content.
You can also get friends or family to read it and suggest whether you are on the right track or not.
Content Creation in General
With content creation, you should always emphasize creating content that is high quality.
In general, that means focusing on content that is well written, doesn’t have errors, is relevant to your topic and your audience and that actually has a purpose.
These points might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how much content simply doesn’t follow these general principles.
For example, I have seen low-quality affiliate marketing sites try to promote a product by basically repeating the same concepts over and over without actually saying anything new or useful.
Likewise, I’ve seen content about ‘How to Gain Confidence’ and all the content does is talk around in circles about how confidence is important and how you just have to try.
If you’re not telling your audience something useful and interesting in your post, then there really isn’t any point of even writing it.
Similarly, there isn’t any point in writing yet another Top 5 list of the benefits of sleep, coffee, chocolate or anything else unless you have something unique to put on the list.
With the growing emphasis on quantity and quality of content in search engine rankings, it is becoming increasingly important to post content on a regular basis.
How frequently you post is up to you, but websites with a considerable number of posts tend to do much better on rankings than those with relatively few posts.
Challenges of Content Creation
Content creation can seem challenging, particularly for people just getting started with their own writing.
The idea of even making a 500-word post once or twice a week can be a daunting idea while the idea of making longer posts more regularly seems almost impossible.
It is this way for most people who get started writing content – but it doesn’t stay like that.
With time and practice, content creation does get much easier and you tend to get much faster at it.
For example, I write anywhere from 500 to 1,000 words per hour for a blog posts, depending on how much I am researching the topic as I go.
If I was to write entirely from my own knowledge without any outside research, that rate would be much higher.
These numbers aren’t unusual in the internet marketing field at all, and there are many people out there that write content for a living, all day every day.
To get better at content creation, the biggest thing is to keep trying and to keep writing.
Try not to get too bogged down in whether a piece is good or not, but instead focus on getting it written. You can always go back and fix up any mistakes later, but anytime you lose staring at the screen trying to come up with the best approach really is lost.
Personality and Credibility
Your own personality and the personality of your site, in general, help the site you make stand out from everything else online.
No matter what niche you pick, there will be a range of other sites within that niche that you have to compete against.
Some of those sites will be very low quality and will be easy to deal with.
However, other ones won’t be.
Competing against other sites means that you have to be better than them or at the very least different.
This is where your personality comes in.
Everyone has a different personality.
If you let it, that personality will show through in your writing.
It will be evident in the words you use, the way you write, as well as in the stories, anecdotes and even jokes you tell.
All of these things can play a large role in how successful your site is.
It’s actually really important that you don’t try to make your site sound like every other site that is out there.
When people first get started, they often assume that the best approach is to take what is successful out there and simply mimic it.
Sometimes this can work, but most often it leaves you with a boring site.
Additionally, you may find yourself copying approaches or techniques that simply aren’t relevant to your niche or your particular site.
That brings me to credibility.
Who you are as a person, plays a large role in the credibility of your site.
In general, credibility is how trustworthy your site is.
If you have high credibility, people are likely to believe what you say, which can lead to more sales.
In contrast, if you have low credibility, people aren’t really going to listen to you.
So, maintaining good credibility is important.
Letting your readers connect with who you are as a person is important in this because people trust individuals much more than they trust big businesses.
There are other ways of improving your credibility too.
One of these is to be honest.
For example, when I review a product, I look at both the positive and the negative aspects, regardless of whether I actually like the product or not.
After all, almost every product is going to have at least one positive and one negative thing, regardless of how great or crappy they are overall.
Likewise, even a really bad product can be suited for some specific situations (well… not always).
Sometimes this might also involve admitting when you were wrong, like a product that later turns out not to be as great as you thought.
Another approach for improving your credibility is to prove what you are saying in some way.
There are so many different posts and websites out there on any given topic under the sun – and they say different things.
If you can back your information up in some way then it becomes more than just your personal opinion, and that is really important.
In some niches, a key way of doing this is through referencing research.
Scientific research papers can be a particularly valuable way of showing that there is actually evidence for something you are claiming.
For example, if you were promoting a specific food for health benefits (like cinnamon for example), finding research with similar conclusions can be an important element of establishing credibility.
However, this doesn’t work in all niches. After all, not all things can be proven in this way.
Personal experiences are another good way of establishing credibility.
For example, if you’re talking about beer brewing, discussing approaches that you have tried, why you tried them and how they went, can work very well.
Likewise, you can take your own photos to show what you are talking about.
You can use other ways to grow your credibility too.
Some key approaches include testimonials, responding to the questions of your readers and simply being consistent in what you say.
To make a successful site, you have to pay attention to its appearance, content, credibility and how you present yourself.
Things to Consider
SEO and Traffic
One of the key ways to get traffic to a website is through search engines.
People use search engines to look for all sorts of information that they are interested in. If you can tap into this practice and the things that people look for, then you can use this to drive traffic to your site.
This is where the practice of Search Engine Optimization comes into play – SEO for short.
In general, SEO is the process of setting up a site and its content to best get traffic from search engines.
There are a lot of different elements of this, far too many for me to discuss in detail in this post.
However, one of the key elements to be aware of is keywords.
Keywords are basically the phrases that people type into search engines.
For example, a keyword might be “How to Brew Beer at Home.”
To rank for that keyword, you would focus on writing a post that tried to provide an answer.
You would also need to use that keyword exactly as written multiple times within the post.
With keywords, the idea is to find a keyword that has relatively low competition and relatively high traffic.
This takes a bit of research, normally through a keyword research tool like Jaaxy.
You also want to have a look at the SERPs – that is the Search Engine Results Pages.
This will give you an indication of exactly what web pages you are going to be competing with.
Let’s go back to the keyword “How to Brew Beer at Home.”
If I look up the keyword in Jaaxy, I get these metrics:
The first value (Avg) refers to the average number of searches for that specific keyword in a month.
Now, Google has made it so that services can’t access Google’s information, so sites like Jaaxy have to rely on search values from other search engines.
Nevertheless, it is still a good estimation.
If anything, the traffic numbers would be higher once Google was also taken into consideration.
The next value (Traffic) is an estimation of the number of visits your site would get if you were in the first page of Google’s search rankings.
Finally, the QSR value is Jaaxy’s specific measure of competition and it stands for Quoted Search Results.
This is probably the area that keyword research services vary the most in.
For Jaaxy, the QSR is a measure of how many competing web pages there are when you search the keyword in quotes.
In essence, this means that Jaaxy is estimating how many different sites you are competing against.
Some other services focus on the level of competition instead.
This is harder to measure, so approximations are used.
Regardless of what type of keyword research tool you use, it is still worth checking out the SERPs.
In this case, the following are the first few results for the keyword search:
You might notice that none of these results actually contain the keyword exactly as written.
This is actually pretty common and it’s one reason for always looking at SERPs.
In theory, pages that use the exact keyword do have an advantage when competing for ranking in search engines.
However, no one outside Google fully knows all the components of their algorithm or how those different elements are weighted. So, it’s hard to know precisely how much impact the exact keyword can have on ranking.
Nevertheless, keyword research is still a highly important component of getting a web page ranked and getting traffic to your website in general.
By looking at the metrics for a keyword then checking the SERPs, you can figure out a keyword that suits your content and that you have a chance of ranking for.
Regardless of your niche, a key element about being successful with affiliate marketing and with a website, in general, is knowing your competition.
Before you get too serious into site and content development, you want to take a look at what sites you are competing against.
In particular, focus on the key sites in that particular niche.
You can find these by looking at what sites reoccur in the rankings for a range of different related keywords.
Once you figure out what these sites are, you can start to get a picture of what’s already out there and what your audience will be comparing your site to.
You don’t necessarily have to out-perform your competitors at every level, but you need to have something about your site that makes you competitive.
For example, you might take a slightly different angle than the major sites in your niche, or develop content that is more comprehensive.
If you don’t pay attention to your competition, you risk developing a site that is inferior to your competitors.
Doing that would make it very difficult to succeed online.
An approach that is growing in popularity for getting traffic and interest in a site is outreach.
In general, this refers to approaches where you try to get links to your site posted on other sites.
There are many different ways of doing this and I’m not going to go into this in too much detail.
However, the basic idea is to find a site or page that might want to post a link to yours.
For example, if you developed a comprehensive article on healthy eating, a weight loss site might want to feature it or include it on a resource list.
Email and Email Lists
Another huge area of discussion is the importance of email lists.
Some sites put a lot of emphasis onto email lists while other sites basically ignore them altogether.
Basically, you can collect email addresses from your website by asking people to join the list and using opt-in forms.
This then gives you the potential to use this list as a way of marketing.
The people that do use email lists tend to take one of two approaches.
The first approach is very basic and is just set up through a plugin or a service.
In this case, once a person has opted-in and is on the email list, they receive an email whenever there is a new post on the site.
There are often ways to set how frequently readers get the emails, but many sites do just leave it at the default of one email per post.
This approach is very easy for the site owner to set up and doesn’t really involve any maintenance work.
Most of the time, the site owner doesn’t even customize the emails that go out to readers.
This is very hands off, but it also doesn’t offer all that many advantages.
The second approach is a more hands on one.
This involves managing the email list manually and setting up what emails go out and when.
For example, some websites have custom introductions to upcoming posts or additional information that only email subscribers see.
This creates value, giving people a reason to stay on the email list.
Managing the list in this way creates a lot more potential.
For one, it allows for a better relationship between you and the readers.
The readers also end up feeling like you are actually helping them, which can make sales easier.
Additionally, when you are engaged in the email list like this it is much easier to include marketing information and to promote different products.
For example, email lists are good tools for hyping the upcoming release of a book or a service, or for offering exclusive early-bird specials to subscribers.
Of course, the downside is the extra work involved.
Whether or not you choose to engage in an email list is entirely up to you.
They certainly do have a lot of potential.
However, you can always just set up the simpler version of the list and come back to it once you are in the rhythm of developing the site and getting content up onto it.
Picking a Domain Name
Your domain name is important for your site image, and also for helping people actually navigate to your site.
But, picking a good domain name can seem like a challenging task.
First of all, you shouldn’t be picking out a domain name unless you already have your niche figured at and have at least a rudimentary plan of how you are going to tackle your site.
If you don’t, then any domain name you pick out may end up being irrelevant for your final site or, at least, suboptimal.
There are two schools of thought for picking a domain.
The first is keyword-based.
This approach is based on the ability for keywords to draw traffic.
The idea is that having the keyword in your domain name can help you rank better and faster, particularly if you have an exact match domain.
For example, if you were going after the keyword ‘Best Chocolate Brands’, an exact match domain would be:
You can put words before or after the phrase, but for an exact match domain the keyword has to be in the domain exactly.
In contrast, a partial match domain has some of the words in the keyword phrase, but might not have them all and might have them in a different order.
This approach was effective – and some blogs still promote it today.
However, in 2012, Google launched an update that specifically penalized exact match domains, giving them much less power over ranking.
The following year, a similar update penalized partial match domains.
You can have an exact or partially matched domain if you want – and if it suits your site then it might be a good idea.
The changes just mean that having your keywords in your domain doesn’t really give you any advantages for ranking.
The second school of thought for picking a domain involves ignoring keywords altogether.
Instead, you look at picking a name that is more distinct.
The domain name may end up being partially related to your niche, or even not related at all.
Think about this…
That is the same approach that big brands take.
Names like Nike, Adidas and Apple have nothing at all to do with the product that they are selling.
Yet, the names are easily recognized and they are used in a lot of merchandise and branding.
Having a domain name that is distinct like this can help you to stand out among other sites.
These names tend to be very easy for people to remember, which makes repeat traffic more likely.
The internet never stays still and search engines tend to update their algorithms on a very regular basis.
Regardless of your niche, it is very important to stay up-to-date with changes in internet marketing and in search engines.
To do this, you need to take the time to watch out for news of algorithm changes or other significant changes that could affect your ability to rank or to be successful online in other ways.
This also means being very aware of how recent and how relevant any training or advice actually is.
For example, I still see articles every so often claiming that you should get links by posting articles at article directories (like Hubpages) or claiming that sites with hardly any content will rank well.
Both of these approaches are old techniques.
In their time, they were very relevant pieces of advice but they are not at all effective anymore.
Following bad advice in internet marketing is actually exceptionally risky because some techniques can significantly damage the ability of your site to rank.
Why is There So Much Conflicting Information Online?
There are some elements of internet marketing and affiliate marketing that just about everybody agrees on, but that doesn’t happen for most things.
In many cases, there isn’t a single correct approach to being successful.
Instead, there are multiple approaches and variations.
Some of these are better than others, but sometimes two approaches might be equally viable.
One thing that makes this complicated is search engine algorithms, particularly Google’s algorithm.
Search engines go to great pains to keep their algorithms secret.
This creates a challenge for anyone trying to make money online because ranking in search engines (especially Google) is one of the important ways to drive traffic to a site.
So, people have to use what knowledge they do have and what they can find out to work out the best ways of ranking a website while also keeping their audience interested and engaged.
Additionally, people tend to lean different ways in their priorities.
Some may focus almost exclusively in ranking in the search engines, assuming that whatever ranks well will also be desirable for audiences.
Others may look for a balance between the two while others might focus almost entirely on pleasing their audience and look for other ways to get traffic.
This is why you see people advocating for different approaches.
For example, some people suggest that short content is more interesting to readers while other people focus on long and detailed pieces of content.
Likewise, you see some sites with a large number of posts and an emphasis on short posts.
Other sites may only post once per week or even once every other week, but their content tends to be more unique and more detailed.
Neither approach is necessarily any better than the other, instead, they are different viewpoints.
Additionally, sometimes a specific approach might work better on some sites than on others, which is another reason for so many differences in advice and points of view.
SEO, traffic, competition, outreach, email lists, your domain name and staying up-to-date are all important areas to consider for any affiliate marketer or site owner.
With affiliate marketing, your revenue comes from getting people to buy whatever product (or products) that you are promoting.
Even though you are typically just earning a percentage of the sales price for that product, it can still be a very profitable approach.
After all, there are no real limitations on how many sales you can get.
However, to make money effectively from affiliate marketing, you do need to optimize your site to get the most sales that you can.
There are a few important things to consider in achieving this.
Approaches for Promoting Products
The way that you promote an affiliate product can have a big impact on how many sales you actually get.
Even if you just have a single product to promote, there are multiple different ways that you can use to promote the product.
Product reviews can be a major way to drive traffic to a site – particularly if you are reviewing something popular.
When it comes to reviews, it’s important to make sure you balance the positive and the negative.
Many sites tend to review the products that they are promoting in an overly positive light, masking over any issues that the product may have.
There is no such thing as a perfect product.
If you review a product by ignoring its bad points, then all you do is make yourself look biased.
Additionally, if people buy the product you are promoted based on your review, you may end up with some very disappointed customers.
This approach may lead to some income in the short-term, but it does absolutely nothing for the long-term success of a business.
In fact, this approach can damage the reputation of your site, making it more difficult to make sales in the future.
So, if you’re going to rely on reviews, it is more effective to be balanced and point out who the product may be suitable for and who it won’t be suitable for.
This can help to improve your reputation and increase how much people trust what you have to say.
Product testimonials can be effective for promoting a product, as they show that you are not the only one who feels like the product is worth purchasing.
The same caution applies though.
If your testimonials are too positive (or too cliché), then they risk looking fake and that will only damage your reputation.
In fact, many websites do use fake testimonials, often attaching a made up quote to an image of an unrelated person and most readers are aware that testimonials can be faked.
Engage Your Readers
If you want your readers to actually buy things from you, you have to keep them interested and engaged in what you are talking about.
This can include talking to them directly within the context of a post and also interacting with them one-on-one within the comments section.
You might also choose to issue specific challenges to your audience, which can be a tool to keep them interesting.
This could be something like losing a certain amount of weight using a product, and this could be within your own blog or even with members of other blogs also.
Having giveaways and discounts are also great ways to get engagement – particularly if your audience members have to do something to get the offered giveaway.
For example, I have seen sites periodically give away software to a random selection of members commenting on a specific post.
This approach can make members much more likely to comment because people love getting stuff for free.
Being personal is also a fantastic way of engaging your readers.
Sites often have an owner and writer who is faceless, and often just refers to themselves by the name of the site.
For example, ‘We at Totes ‘r’ Us think that…” – even if there is only one person behind the site.
It’s an approach that looks professional but is ultimately counterproductive for most sites.
If visitors to a website actually wanted a professional, they wouldn’t go to a blog for information.
When you make a site, who you are as an individual is actually one of your biggest advantages.
This allows you to connect with your readers on a personal level and keep them interested in what you are talking about.
This can be very powerful.
Think about it.
If you were into photography in a big way you would probably be very swayed by a passionate blog by someone with the same passions as you who talks about the same types of things that you would consider.
That really is the power of having your own website.
That connection is something that large websites and companies cannot get, and it can play a key role in getting sales.
In general, people like being guided on a website.
The end of a post is the perfect place for this.
When people get to the end of a piece of content, they are looking for some clue about where they should go next.
This is a perfect opportunity to guide them.
Many people use a call-to-action to achieve this.
Basically, a call-to-action (or CTA) is a specific instruction telling the audience to do something.
Sometimes this is in the form of a link and sometimes it’s an image, a banner or an opt-in form.
The basic idea is to step the reader down a conversion tunnel.
For example, the call-to-action at the end of a post might be to get readers to opt into an email list.
The site owner can then use this list as a way of marketing to subscribers, which can include promoting products.
Alternatively, a call-to-action might be a link to a specific page.
That page might be a comprehensive review of a given product or an introduction to the overall concept that the site author is trying to promote.
What works best depends largely on your specific site and your overall goals.
For example, an email opt-in call-to-action can be very powerful, but it’s largely irrelevant if you aren’t focusing on email much.
Having ads is an alternative way to earning some money on a website.
This involves using programs like Google AdSense, although some blogs with large followings also directly offer readers the ability to place permanent ads.
Some site owners choose to use ads in addition to affiliate marketing, as a second revenue stream.
This is an approach that can be good or bad overall.
For affiliate marketers, it often isn’t worth bothering with ads.
If you do affiliate marketing well, then the amount that you earn from ads is very small in comparison.
Additionally, you run into the issue that readers get frustrated by the ads and the ads can even diminish your authority and reputation.
This often isn’t worth it, because your authority and reputation play a huge role in how successful you are as an affiliate marketer.
Affiliate marketers have a range of tools and strategies for promoting products, including reviews, engaging readers and call-to-actions. Ads also act as an additional income source for some affiliate marketers.
Onwards and Upwards
Internet marketing is a complex field and one that continues to change and develop.
In this post, I have offered a comprehensive look into affiliate marketing and what is involved, but in many ways, I have barely scratched the surface.
As people get more involved in affiliate marketing and developing their websites, they begin to learn more and more about the processes involved and what works best for them.
For example, information about where traffic is coming from and which posts are most popular on a given site helps site owners to work out which areas need improving and which to put the most effort into.
Don’t be alarmed if affiliate marketing or making your own website seems overly complicated or challenging.
It is a field that you learn over time and you continue to improve at.
No one started off on the top of their game.
Instead, everyone learned as they were going online, working out what worked best for them and their site, and what did not.
Realistically, affiliate marketing is a fantastic field because you really don’t have to know anything going into it.
You don’t have to have a special set of skills or a product that you can sell.
All you really need is yourself and the willingness to put in the time.
If you can do that, then it really is possible to be a success in affiliate marketing.
As people begin to get successful in affiliate marketing and to understand the field, they find that their sites develop in ways that they didn’t expect previously.
For example, you might have started off with an affiliate marketing site, but end up selling your own books or podcasts based on your topic.
Often this outcome emerges naturally as your site grows.
It happens because you get a greater idea of what your readers actually want and you learn more about your field along the way.
At some point, you may look back and realize that you are somewhat of an expert in a field that people want to know more about.
Don’t despair if this idea seems impossible, you’ll be surprised at just how much you change as you become successful and competent in your field and your site.
Affiliate marketing isn't static and you will continue to grow and develop your site over time.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about affiliate marketing in this post and in many ways I’ve only just scratched the surface.
Building a website and making it successful is a complex task and it involves more than many people anticipate.
The nice thing about it all is that you do not need to learn everything about affiliate marketing all at one time. Instead, this is a field that you can learn as you go along and you can build up your site one step at a time.
By learning a little bit at a time and growing as a site owner, the process of making money with affiliate marketing isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds.
In fact, as you begin to understand the industry and what is involved in it, many of the lessons that you learn make a lot of sense and you even begin to teach yourself.
Even with the challenges involved, affiliate marketing really is something that anyone can pick up and learn as long as they give themselves enough time to go through the process properly.
Speaking of learning, one of the best places to get started in affiliate marketing is a site called Wealthy Affiliate.
Wealthy Affiliate is a comprehensive training site that is dedicated to teaching people about affiliate marketing and being successful in the field. It also offers training courses that teach you everything you need to know, starting at the beginning and gradually getting more complex over time.
It is a great place to begin, especially as the site has a large community of members that support one another.