What Is Affiliate Marketing & Why It’s Time To Introduce It To Your Marketing Strategy

Affiliate marketing is a way to share your insight into the quality or usefulness of various brands and earn a commission when your site visitors complete an action with that external brand.

what is affiliate marketing

You’re getting hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of visitors to your site. Your revenue generation is starting to crank along, but you always have the feeling that your site could be doing more.

What if you could boost your revenue from current site visitors without a ton of extra effort in your digital marketing strategy? While it may sound like magic, it’s not.

It’s affiliate marketing, and we’re going to walk you through everything you need to execute an affiliate marketing strategy on your site. Let’s dig in.

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    What Is Affiliate Marketing?

    Affiliate marketing is a way to share your insight into the quality or usefulness of various brands and earn a commission when your site visitors complete an action with that external brand.

    The easiest example of affiliate marketing is to think about social media. You’ve almost certainly seen a celeb promoting a brand on social media with a special link or “discount code” that is unique to that individual. You follow the celeb, so there’s a good chance that you might make a purchasing decision or sign up for more information based on their suggestion.

    When you do, the celeb, influencer, or website receives a little kickback: commission, discount on orders, or other valuable compensation for driving these actions.

    Your website, which is already getting tens or even hundreds of thousands of views per week, offers a healthy revenue potential simply by making thoughtful suggestions for brands you know and love.

    Think of it this way: You are being rewarded for having the trust of your audience, knowledge, or authority and reach by brands who want to expand their audience engagement — and sales.

    Sounds great, but how can you get started? 

    Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

    Getting started with affiliate marketing is surprisingly simple, with many brands offering free registrations that allow you to quickly generate a unique link that can be posted on your social media accounts, blog, or website.

    Rule #1 of affiliate marketing: It can easily be perceived as cheesy or sales-y, so you have to make every effort to be natural and genuine in your affiliate recommendations. 

    That means promoting brands, products, and services that you truly believe are good for your audience and will add value to their business, their life . . . or both!

    Affiliate Marketing Examples

    You may be thinking, “This sounds great, but what does affiliate marketing look like in a practical application for my website or social media?”

    Each business is unique, but here are a few examples of what affiliate marketing could look like for your brand.

    Promoting Your Favorite Authors and Their Resources

    Amazon.com has one of the world’s largest affiliate programs, with hundreds of thousands of individuals promoting books and products that are available to purchase on the site. 

    If you host an active blog site, raising awareness of new books from top thought leaders in your industry could be an easy win. You’re providing your audience with valuable resources that will help grow their business while also creating a new revenue stream.

    Promoting online courses from thought leaders can also be lucrative for the right websites or brands. 

    Partnering with like-minded individuals whose ideas build upon yours can be a great fit for affiliate marketing.

    Offering Professional Services Through Your Brand

    Consultants in the digital marketing space have a lot of opportunities for affiliate marketing commissions. 

    This starts with promoting top-dollar providers such as HubSpot, which offers a 15% recurring commission on sales driven through their affiliate network. As with many brands, you can choose between a recurring monthly commission or a flat-rate payout, depending on your unique situation.

    Earning your commission is simple: join the program, start promoting HubSpot products and services using your unique partner link and earn your commissions for each qualifying customer you refer to HubSpot!

    Find Specific Products or Services You Love

    Maybe you’re passionate about pet care or mad about manicures. No matter what type of products and services are a good fit for your brand, you’re almost certain to find affiliate marketing opportunities that would work.

    Is Affiliate Marketing Legal?

    In a nutshell: Yes! 

    Affiliate marketing has been growing dramatically in recent years, projected to reach over $8 billion in 2022 alone. Over three-quarters of both advertisers and publishers have taken the plunge and are offering affiliate marketing options that have the potential to dramatically expand their brand’s reach to new audiences.

    Source: Supermetrics

    Not only is affiliate marketing legal; it offers a win-win for both brands. 

    When you become an affiliate, a brand rewards you for expanding its audience and reach. For brands, affiliate marketing offers a cost-effective alternative to costly paid search and social advertising options and a way to reach niche audiences.

    How Do I Get Started With Affiliate Marketing?

    Think about the products or services that would be a great complement to your brand: perhaps some small overlap, but you want something unique to offer to your followers that they will use and value.

    This will vary based on your brand and also the platform that you’re using for promotion. For instance, quick-scroll ads on Instagram may not be the best way to pitch readers on complex new marketing automation software.

    If you’re promoting a new hair straightening tool or testing the types of gel nail polish sets on the marketplace, Instagram may be the perfect place to kick-start your affiliate marketing! 

    What’s important is that you match your audience and the platform to the brand that you’re promoting. It’s got to make logical sense to the reader, or you risk damaging your personal or professional brand.

    Are There Any Affiliate Marketing Pitfalls to Avoid?

    It’s vital that you take the time to research the quality of the products or services and also the customer service of the brands that you’re promoting. 

    The last thing you want to do is find that many of your brand’s followers are being poorly treated when they click through an affiliate link. Even though you aren’t technically selling anything, your brand will be tightly tied to any other product or service you recommend.

    What Are the Best Affiliate Marketing Products?

    Defining “best” can look dramatically different for your brand, so keep that in mind! 

    Here are a few groupings to get your creative juices flowing:

    1. Marketing / Automation Software

    2. Online Courses

    3. Retail Affiliate Programs

    Retail affiliate programs can vary wildly depending on the volume sold or referred and the brand.

    Some programs, such as ShareASale and GiddyUp, offer access to a broad range of brands and may help simplify getting started in affiliate marketing. 

    Be sure to read the fine print (terms and conditions) before signing up so that you fully understand the requirements for earning your commission dollars!

    How Do Affiliate Marketers Get Paid?

    It depends. Some affiliate programs pay out on a monthly, bi-weekly, or even weekly basis, while others focus on quarterly payments. 

    Some affiliate programs may even allow you to cash out your commissions on an as-needed basis, but that is rare.

    In general, you’ll connect your bank account and share your personal or business information in your affiliate profile, follow the brand’s instructions to get started and you’re well on your way to a new revenue stream! 

    Start promoting the products, services, or brands to your audience and watch your commission start to trickle in.

    One thing to remember: Don’t be surprised if you’re not making hundreds in the first month. It takes time to build engagement on your site with new offerings, and affiliate marketing is no different. 

    Only a portion of your audience will engage with the brands you are promoting but your commission fees will only build over time. Be sure to stay consistent with your recommendations, cross-promote on social media when it makes sense to do so, and you will see your efforts rewarded.

    Ready to Rock Affiliate Marketing? Boost Your Website’s SEO First!

    The key to successful affiliate marketing is making sure your content is seen. The best way to get eyes on your content is to create engaging and educational messages that your audience will look forward to reading (and sharing!). 

    Learn more about content strategy and boosting your site’s SEO through strong organic content when you take the Rock Content free assessment.

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