Step-by-step guide to start with affiliate marketing
The simplest way to become an affiliate marketer is to create an affiliate website.
In this guide, I will explain this process step-by-step.
- Pick a profitable niche
- Set up the domain, hosting, and the CMS tools required to build your website
- Once your site is up and running, and all the tools are setup, you will need to think of a content strategy that will deliver affiliate sales
2. Find a profitable niche
“Find your niche” – probably you have already heard this phrase many times, but it is not a coincidence. Finding a profitable niche is crucial to be successful in affiliate marketing. You can have the world’s nicest website, but if it is about a niche that doesn’t have the potential to generate profit, your site won’t earn you passive income.
I suggest not choosing a niche purely based on the commission rate value. Everyone wants to earn as much money as possible, but not everyone is applying to bank and finance schools when choosing a career. If the person has no interest in it, he would probably end up as an unsuccessful banker. The same applies to affiliate marketing too. Some niches have more potential to be highly rewarding than others. The value of the commission rate shouldn’t be the main deciding factor when selecting your niche. You will be more successful in a niche you are passionate about.
You should pick a niche you are passionate about. It would be a topic you are interested in for a long time. A topic you used to google in your free time, not because you had to but because you are genuinely interested in it.
Let’s say you are interested in cars. “Cars” as a niche would not do well as this group is too broad. It is not efficient to target such a big audience that is interested in cars. Instead, you should target a smaller group of people interested in a smaller, more specialized sub-niche. A nice sub-niche could be the “caravans,” for example.
Also, be careful not to pick a too specialized niche either. For example, a niche like “used caravans in the UK” is too specialized, and your site’s earning potential would be very limited.
After you have selected your niche, it is crucial to check its earning potential. Check if there are any affiliate programs available for the products your site will be about.
Just as a general rule of thumb to check if an affiliate program is profitable or not for a beginner affiliate with a new site, you need to check if the program:
- can pay 50 USD or higher commission per sale
- or it has at least 20% commission per sale
If you already have a site with tens of thousands of visitors per month, your situation is completely different. In this case, you can apply for affiliate programs that pay less. Given the traffic you have, such an affiliate program would still be beneficial for you. But for someone who is just starting a new affiliate website, this model wouldn’t be very rewarding.
3. How to pick the perfect domain name?
Once you have selected your niche and confirmed it has earning potential, this is the right time to choose the domain name.
There are a couple of expectations your domain name should meet:
- It should be simple – as a general rule, try to pick a short domain name. It is harder for people to remember long domain names with three and more words. Also, try to avoid hyphens as it can hurt the credibility and authority of your site.
- Catchy and memorable – if your visitors can’t remember your domain name, it is less likely they will return.
- Self-explanatory – ideally, based on the domain name, the visitor should have an idea of what your website is all about. You may say that terms like “amazon” or “bing” are not self-explanatory either. That is true, but those are all well-established sites, and please do not compare your new site to them. You are not quite there yet.
- English alphabet only – try to avoid hyphens and numbers in your domain name. They will only confuse your visitor. Keep it simple.
- The extension – Everyone likes “.com”. It is just that simple. Which has more credibility, caravans.com or caravans.biz? If you can, try to register your domain with the “.com” extension.
- Future proof – Using the caravan analogy, right now, you might be only interested in the tiny teardrop trailers. One day you may decide to write about the fifth wheelers too. In that case, the word “teardrop” in your domain name wouldn’t be too fortunate.
- Do not rush it – maybe you came up with a great name today. Be patient, and tomorrow you may find an even better name. Once you have a few great candidates, you can select the winner and register the domain. In the long run, it doesn’t matter if your domain is registered this week or only the next one.
Buying a hosting plan is just like buying anything else. Before the purchase, you should do your own research to find out which companies out there can provide the hosting plans you are interested in.
Some key factors you should consider when selecting a hosting company.
- Well-established company – You shouldn’t host your website at a startup hosting company that is in the business only for a couple of months. You could save a few dollars short-term. In the long run, uptime issues, security issues, and performance issues can hurt your credibility and authority, so that risk is not worth it. Go with a well-established company with a huge client base which is on the market for years.
- Security issues – were there reports that the company had security issues in the past? Do they take security seriously?
- Uptime – 100% uptime doesn’t exist as maintenance of the sites is required from time to time. That’s perfectly fine, but the uptime of the hosting should be almost 100%.
- Performance – this is about the user experience. Does it take even well-optimized pages to load ages? If yes, it can and will hurt your traffic in the long run, so avoid hostings with performance issues.
- Customer satisfaction rate with the support – you might ask if the hosting is so great, why would I even need support? Interaction with the support is mostly not even about solving issues per se. You can have a technical question regarding a WordPress plugin, for example. And it matters if you got your response two weeks later via an email or within 5 minutes via the Support chat.
- Traffic – If you have a new website, you can go with the lowest plans. These are optimized for around 10 000 visitors per month. It takes your page around 35 weeks to get out of the Google sandbox. You won’t have to worry about traffic for a while. Hopefully, your traffic will grow over time, and then you can upgrade to higher plans. For now, it wouldn’t make sense to pay for the more expensive plans.
I am using the WordPress CMS. When I was deciding which hosting to go with, the official recommendation from WordPress was a great deciding factor.
The other requirement was that the hosting should be future-proof. Should my traffic grow, I wanted an option to be able to switch to the higher shared plans or potentially to their managed plans. In case even that wouldn’t be enough, then I can configure my own managed plan. The hosting won’t be a limiting factor.
You can find more information about the hosting here.
5. Content Management System
Now that you purchased a domain and a hosting plan, what should you do next? Well, no one will visit a site without content.
On a typical affiliate marketing site, by “content,” we mean mostly articles about the specific niche.
How to create a web page with content?
So to be able to create an affiliate site, you need to learn all of these technologies? Absolutely not!
This is where the CMS(Content Management System) comes into play. With a CMS, you can create a webpage without any coding knowledge. The CMS takes care of the coding behind the scenes.
The most popular CMS is WordPress. WordPress powers 39% of all the webpages. Unless you have a specific reason not to, I would suggest you go with it as well. Being in such a big family has tremendous advantages. There are excellent learning materials, video courses on WordPress. You do not have to worry that you will be stuck with something, or there is no one you could ask to help you with a specific issue.
Hosting providers know how popular WordPress is. They try to make the website owners’ lives easier. Features such as one-click WordPress install are very popular. They allow everyone to set up the WordPress site without any previous technical knowledge.
Now that you installed WordPress, it’s time to look at the WordPress Themes and WordPress Builders.
6. How to choose a WordPress theme?
WordPress themes are tools that define the layout and the design of your page. For example, a theme for an online shop can have a predefined layout for the home page, services page, the about page, etc.
There are literally thousands of WordPress themes, both paid and free.
Try not to waste your time browsing all of these themes and picking the right one. You will need a method to select the one you like effectively.
Aspects you will need to consider when selecting the perfect theme:
This is not optional anymore. More than 50% of all the internet traffic today is mobile traffic, and so your webpage should look great on desktops, tablets, and smartphones too. After you do a major content update or create a new blog post, do not forget to check your pages on a desktop, tablet, and smartphone.
Try to pick a lightweight, well-optimized theme. Lots of unnecessary features hurt page performance.
- Strictly separate design and functionality
Themes should control the layout and feel of the website, and plugins should control the functionality. For example, if you need a calendar element on your website, do not go with a theme that provides it. With this approach, you would be locked into this theme. However, if the design and functionality are strictly separated, you can easily switch to a different template in the future.
- Pick the right color theme
Your goal is to provide your visitors with quality content but also a pleasant layout. A single color theme and layout are not perfect for everything. Do a little research on what are the favorite themes in your particular niche. If your niche is about luxury items like watches, for example, a darker theme is appropriate. If your blog lots of long articles, your visitors would appreciate a lighter theme. They are more pleasant to read for most people.
- Should you choose a free or premium theme?
Purchasing a premium theme has its benefits such as:
comes with regular updates
provides developer support
offer more features
One of the most popular WordPress themes is Astra. It has a free and a premium version.
Now that you are familiar with the most important deciding factors, I would suggest you read a couple of “Best WordPress theme” reviews. You will notice that the Top 5 positions’ names are usually the same, just in a mixed order in different reviews. It is not a coincidence. Like with the hosting, I would suggest you pick from one of these well-tested and reviewed themes. You really can’t go wrong with either of them.
This site uses a layout from ElegantThemes.