Why would someone want to consider affiliate marketing as their means of income online? The simple answer is money. When affiliate marketing is properly done it can generate a decent online income. We look at what affiliate marketing is, some examples of how to get started and what is involved in promoting your affiliate marketing business.

In its simplest terms, affiliate marketing is selling third party products for commission based reward. Let’s look at how you would go about doing that?

There are several ways to market affiliate products. The most popular way is to set up your own website or blog and advertise certain products that can be logically grouped together in what is known as a niche market.

For example, you may have an interest in pet accessories. You would research pet accessory manufacturers or retailers with affiliate programs and then advertise their products on your website. Your niche market would be “pet accessories”. When you join their affiliate program you are given a special affiliate link that identifies you as an affiliate. When a customer clicks on this special link on your website, it redirects then to the manufacturer’s website where they make their purchase. The link that brought the customer to them is tracked to you and you earn a commission on the sale you generated.

Another way is by joining one of the established affiliate marketing companies like Clickbank. With Clickbank, once you sign up, you choose which products you want to sell from their extensive database. Using the above example, you would search for “pet accessories”. You would select each individual product that in your opinion would stand a good chance of selling from your website. You create what is known as a “hoplink” for each product. This is a unique link that identifies you as the affiliate. You advertise the product on your website and when a customer clicks on your link, they are directed to the product owner’s website to make the sale. The difference here is that you are tracked by Clickbank and the commission for the sale is paid to you by them and not the product owner.

A common question is whether it is necessary to have your own website for affiliate marketing. Not to start with, however your own professional website will give you more credibility when selling any affiliate products online. Without your own domain you may find the going a little tougher building a regular customer base. As your affiliate marketing business begins to grow, you will find it most advantageous to have your own website and possibly more than one.

Once you have decided to have your own website, you should think of a good domain name, register it and then find a good professional hosting company. Avoid using free hosting, as you end up with a lot of irrelevant advertising on your homepage, which looks unprofessional and you are limited to bandwidth and disk storage size.

If you know how to build websites you already have a head start. If not, you can either learn, or use a free template, or pay someone else to build one for you. The options are many and varied.

A free alternative to hosting your own website is by setting up a blog. There you can advertise your affiliate products much the same way you would with a website. It’s always a good idea to promote the products by writing some sales copy for each one incorporating your affiliate link somewhere in the text.

Once your affiliate marketing website or blog is ready to go, you will need to advertise its existence to the rest of the online world. While most affiliate programs are free to join, your marketing methods will range from completely free (notwithstanding your time and effort) to very cheap through to very expensive. Now let’s look at the promotion of your affiliate marketing business.

The simplest and cheapest way to spread the news about your affiliate marketing business if you are using a blog is by using some of the free blog pinging services. Each time you update your blog, you ping. This alerts people to the fact that your blog has been updated and will generate visitors to it.

A more effective way of utilising this pinging service is to use your blog to generate traffic to your affiliate marketing website. You do this by writing a short piece of advertising copy about one of the products you are promoting with a link to your website where there is a more in-depth write up about the product. Then ping your blog. This has a twofold effect by alerting people to come and read your updated blog and if they are interested in the product they will follow the link to your website where you try to sell it to them again with more information.

Other methods of promoting your affiliate marketing website or blog is by making quality posts in the larger forums dedicated to your niche. In most forums, you are not allowed to advertise affiliate links, but you can put a link to your website or blog in your signature. So the more interesting or informative your post, the more of the members of that forum will read it and your all important signature.

There are also message boards that allow you to post an advert for your website or affiliate program, but these are less effective than forums as people who go to these generally only do it to post their own adverts and don’t bother to read anyone else’s.

Another effective way to build up a customer base is to create and build an email list. For this you’ll need an autoresponder to create your email campaign and to capture people’s email address when they sign up to your site. Autoreponders can be found for free with limited functionality. These are ok to begin with if you are on a tight budget. But once your affiliate marketing business grows, a professional autoresponder that you pay for becomes the logical choice. To get people to sign up, you will need to give away something, for example a free ebook or mini email course. It has to be good enough to entice them to give you their email address. You cannot go emailing all and sundry about your new website as that is spamming and will likely get you shut down quickly. Once you have your list, you can email each time you promote a new affiliate product.

Another method of promoting your affiliate marketing website is by using pay per click advertising from one of the major search engines, like Google or Yahoo. This will cost you money, so you will need to budget for this type of advertising campaign.

Whatever method you choose to market your affiliate products, you will need a way of being paid. Most affiliate programs have the facility to pay you via online payment merchants such as PayPal. PayPal answers most people’s needs, although there are still some countries that it doesn’t cover. Others pay by cheque or bank transfer, so a bank account is also a necessity. You will need to set up your PayPal account so that you can transfer your funds from there to your bank account in order to receive your money.

Often, people wonder if affiliate marketing is easy to do. Well it’s not too difficult to set up as we have seen, but the hard part comes in making it profitable. You do need to work hard at it. There are no free lunches when it comes to earning an honest income online. A lot of time, effort and hard work are required to make it work. But if you are prepared to put that time and energy into your affiliate marketing business, then you will, in time, reap the rewards of all your hard work.

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