If you write honest reviews, you will get something that SEO can’t provide, good word-of-mouth. Having good recommendations passed from friend to friend is important for every product, but it can really make or break a niche site. If you pick your niche well and create a reliable site that is full of good information, then you can be sure that the first people to come across your site will spread the word to their friends. The word-of-mouth effect is great because it compounds. In other words, one friend tells two friends and then those two each tell two more and so forth. The pattern continues until you saturate the market and become king of the niche.

On one hand, long and ugly affiliate tracking links are a straight giveaway to people that you want to sell them a product (and people may be uncomfortable clicking on them). Therefore, making your link shorter and "nicer" looking will it give a more professional appearance. One of my favorite plugins for making links look "pretty" is the Pretty Links WordPress plugin.

I went from making $20k in 2016 to $100k in 2017 by dropping my web design/SEO clients and doing affiliate marketing/blogging full-time. 90% of my (passive) affiliate income comes from SiteGround, a hosting company who awarded me affiliate of the month in July, 2017 when I made $9k in 1 month. Since then I’ve continued to hit numbers like this – the screenshot below is from March, 2018 when I made $14.5k in 1 month (just with SiteGround).
Just like everyone should be split testing, they should also be running their best campaigns on different networks and traffic sources as well. A great example of this would be if you were running an offer on Google Adwords that’s been profitable for quite a while. Since you already know which keywords and landing pages are working best, it wouldn’t be hard for you to take all of that same information and create a new PPC campaign through Bing.
This literally changed my life… I moved out of my parent’s house (sigh) into a nice studio in downtown Denver, bought my first car (a Mercedes c300), adopted 2 kitties, and my credit raised 45 points. I also donated $3,000 to Red Cross at Hurricane Harvey. I’m a humble dude but in affiliate marketing, the numbers do the talking. So… I want to show you how I did it :)
Theme – you don’t need a special theme for affiliate marketing, you probably just need a blog. I recommend StudioPress themes since that’s what Yoast, Matt Cutts (from Google), and I use. Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress also recommends them. One of the biggest mistakes I made was using a theme from Themeforest… since they’re built by independent developers who may stop making updates to their theme. This happened to me and I hear horror stories all the time about people having to switch themes and redesign their entire site. I’ve been using the same StudioPress theme (Outreach Pro) for 3 years. Their themes are lightweight (load fast), SEO-friendly via optimized code, secure, and they have a huge selection of plugins for the Genesis Framework and an awesome community in the Genesis WordPress Facebook Group. They include documentation for setting it up and will serve you for many, many years.

I could have promoted WP Engine (hosting company) for $200/sale with no tier program to climb – sounds pretty good right? But when I checked ShareASale I saw their reversal rates were 24%! Just to give you an idea SiteGround’s reversals are less than 10%. WP Engine starts at $29/month while SiteGround’s is $3.95/month, plus SiteGround has a better reputation. I had to climb a tier program to get SiteGround’s $150/sale, but long-term my research paid off.
Just like everyone should be split testing, they should also be running their best campaigns on different networks and traffic sources as well. A great example of this would be if you were running an offer on Google Adwords that’s been profitable for quite a while. Since you already know which keywords and landing pages are working best, it wouldn’t be hard for you to take all of that same information and create a new PPC campaign through Bing.
Banners – after testing them out I decided to take down my banner ads since they looked salesy and weren’t working like my affiliate links did. They’re easy to throw up, but distracting and probably won’t get great results. If you try them, be sure to show specific sidebar banners based on the type of content people are reading on your blog (for posts that fall under my SEO category I would show a banner related to SEO, and for posts under my website speed category I would show a different banner). You can do this using a plugin like Widget Logic.
There’s no point in lying about it: it’s not easy to make a lot of money through affiliate marketing. The best way to understand it is to think of it like a small business: you have to start at square one and build your business from the ground up. You have the advantage of not needing a business loan to begin with, and the fact that you can set your own hours for each day and each week, but you’ll need to invest a lot of time and effort into your affiliate marketing business before it will grow.

Michael, great article–lots of good solid ideas to get my affiliate (& my rear end), up and at it!! Also, love those falafels too! I am in the process of building a website that will have approximately 8-10 products offered over time. The products all come from the same niche. Do you think this type of site can have good success as well, or do you think just focusing on one product per website is the way to go?

If you are thinking of starting an online affiliate marketing venture from the ground up, now is the best time to do this! The affiliate marketing industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and opportunities are springing up everywhere. In 2016, retailers in the United States alone spent well over $4 billion on affiliate marketing costs. It is projected that by 2020, this figure will hit $6.8 billion.
A niche is a segment of the entire market population that you want to focus on. In this context, it’s a group or place where online users share common interests and similar behavior as consumers. Focusing on a niche lets you focus on the ins and outs of affiliate marketing on one particular consumer group, allowing you to maximize your results for less effort—that, compared with marketing in many different niches.
Great stuff here Sean – thanks for all of these insights and sharing some best practices when it comes to affiliate marketing. I’ve never been comfortable giving it a shot, but after reading this post and your perspective on how and when to do it, I may just have to give it a try. Especially considering I’m already mentioning and recommending services and products on my site, I’m just not getting the potential rewards associated with doing so. Thanks again.
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