Affiliate Marketing For Dummies book cover

Affiliate Marketing For Dummies

By: Ted Sudol and Paul Mladjenovic Published: 12-12-2019

Get Your Piece of the Hottest Business Online Today! 

Affiliate marketing is your route to earning some serious bucks. Thousands of companies both large & small like Amazon, Sears, Best Buy, Overstock, Lowe’s, Priceline & others have programs so you can profit from the thousands of products they offer.

Affiliate marketing is ideal for bloggers looking to monetize their work. This is a multibillion-dollar market, and there are 10+ million people involved in the biz worldwide. There’s always room for more because the opportunity keeps growing as more and more companies offer affiliate programs. Affiliate Marketing For Dummies shows you how to get a slice of the pie! 

  • Choose the right affiliate product or service for you
  • Find the best affiliate programs for you
  • Find the best affiliate marketing strategies

Affiliate Marketing for Dummies is your friendly step-by-step guide to getting in on this moneymaker—big time.  

Articles From Affiliate Marketing For Dummies

9 results
9 results
Affiliate Marketing For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-14-2021

You may have heard that affiliate marketing is a great way to make either a part-time or full-time income. What is affiliate marketing, you ask? You may have noticed all the personalities and stars on the Internet who are making recommendations for products and services they like that lead to links and wondered why. The answer is simple: money! You know the old adage that preparation is half the battle — they’re right! The same is true for affiliate marketing, and in this Cheat Sheet you find out how to lay the groundwork for your affiliate marketing success. After you have prepared for success, what’s next? Road maps can point you in the right direction. In this Cheat Sheet you get a ten-step road map to your affiliate success that shows you the way ahead as well as pointers for setting up an affiliate program and marketing your affiliate links.

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What is Affiliate Marketing and How Does it Work?

Article / Updated 02-18-2020

An affiliate marketer is someone who introduces others to products and services. The affiliate marketer doesn’t develop the product, ship the product, or handle the payment to the merchant. He simply refers others to products and/or services offered on the internet, and when a sale is made, he earns a commission. How affiliate marketing works Referral marketing has been going on for hundreds of years. In pre-internet days, you might have gone to networking events and handed out business cards. The hope was that you would be able to help out a fellow attendee by giving him a lead that would result in a purchase. The attendee you helped with the lead would return the favor. In a sense, referral marketing was a value exchange that could be summarized as “you help me and I’ll help you.” However, a lot was left to chance. You weren’t sure whether the cards and leads you handed out would lead to any reciprocal benefit from those you helped. There was no easy way of tracking when purchases were made and the referral sources for those purchases. The internet changed everything. Now there was an easy-to-use tracking mechanism (the cookie) that could show you when a purchase was made, what it was for, and the referrer who was due the affiliate commission. William Tobin, founder of PC Flowers and Gifts, was the first internet affiliate marketer. He started the PC Flowers and Gifts affiliate program in 1989. He was granted a patent for the idea in 2000. Amazon’s affiliate program was begun in 1996 and quickly grew in size and importance. The value exchange on the internet is the same as it was with networking events and business cards. The blogger or website owner shows you a new product, helps explain a problem you’re having in a post, or convinces you to buy a program. To return the favor, the affiliate marketer is hoping that you’ll make a purchase through one of his referral links. The cost to the purchaser who buys through an affiliate link is exactly the same as if he went directly to the manufacturer. When we visit websites and they give us solutions to problems we were having or otherwise help us, we want to reciprocate and help them out. We do this by purchasing through their affiliate links. Whether you realize it or not, practically every blogger, every celebrity, every website, and every company on the internet today is an affiliate marketer. They are all making money day after day from this largely passive means of earning extra income. See that ad on your favorite movie star’s blog? Click on it, and if it’s a pay-per-click ad, your star gets paid. See that link at the end of their recommendation? Click on it, and if you make a purchase, they get paid. There are also campaigns that are sent via email or social media. Click on the ad or make the purchase, and in most cases someone gets paid. See those links on someone’s Facebook or other social media page? Trust us; someone is getting paid, and you may as well join the crowd and start discovering how to earn your share. How affiliate marketing profits from Internet promotion Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing system. It basically means that if and only if a sale is made or a specific action is taken does the referring affiliate marketer get paid. In the following sections, you find out how the internet gives you plenty of opportunities for affiliate marketing, how the internet automates the process, and how affiliate marketing is different from other internet businesses. Multiplying opportunities with affiliate marketing As noted earlier, one of the problems with earlier versions of referral marketing was that there was no way to accurately track purchases and the original referrers who deserved the reward for generating the purchases. The internet changed all that. A system of cookies, or little bits of code stored in your browser and in your affiliate dashboard, is able to track purchases. The cookie can also track the affiliate marketer who promoted that sale so she can be credited and receive the affiliate commission. Companies just love a system of marketing where they have to pay for that marketing only when a sale is made. The salesperson (in this case the affiliate marketer) pays all the expenses of marketing (however minimal, like hosting, software, tools, domain registration, and so on). What’s not for a company to love? More and more companies are getting onboard the affiliate marketing bandwagon. So the opportunities for the affiliate marketer to profit are expanding with the growth of affiliate programs. The internet also multiples the opportunities you have to profit by orders of magnitude simply because of the size of the internet audience you can reach easily and economically. Depending on your product or service, your audience may vary from an enormous audience of millions down to a small, specific audience that is looking for exactly what you have to offer. In the past it would not be practicable, or economically possible, to seek out and advertise to these small, widely dispersed groups. In contrast, with the internet an affiliate marketer can potentially put her promotion before millions or even hundreds of millions of potential purchasers. The affiliate marketer’s offer of goods or services is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Any one of the billions of internet visitors could potentially visit the affiliate marketer’s site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and make a purchase. In essence the affiliate marketer’s “store” is open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Automating the money flow Now with the internet, a visitor to an affiliate marketer’s website can click on a link, make a purchase instantly and electronically, and have that order fulfilled and the physical product shipped within days by the company. The affiliate can both track the sale and depend on payment at the merchant’s or affiliate network’s next payout date. If the product is digital, often its delivery is within minutes. Setting up a way for people to pay on your website used to be a long, complicated process, sometimes requiring you to apply for and qualify for merchant status. Now it’s a simple, almost instantaneous process The affiliate program you’re considering usually has a number of banners, images, and graphics that you can simply copy and insert on your web page. You choose the sales piece that best fits with your site, product, and promotion. Copy the link the company generates, which has your unique affiliate ID, and paste it on your web page or promotion where and how you want it to appear. In addition to cookies facilitating the tracking of purchases and referrers, and directing the affiliate commissions to be paid to the right affiliate marketers, other changes facilitated money flow. Electronic payment vehicles such as PayPal became widespread and easy to use. Today it’s simple to put a PayPal payment button on your site to facilitate your customer making a purchase. PayPal can track the purchases, process refunds, and take care of other parts of the purchasing puzzle. There are also many “shop” building programs that can automate and handle many of the chores of setting up your “shop” where you can offer your affiliate products. For example: Shopify, a shop building application, handles many of the technical and design aspects of setting up your shop. They have a library of templates that you can use and modify to make them your own. Depending on your goals, this can dramatically speed up building your affiliate business. WooCommerce is another “shop” building solution. They call themselves the e-commerce solution. They are probably the largest shop and e-commerce solution around. The program is open source and built on the WordPress platform, so they are sure to be around for quite some time. Since WooCommerce is open source and the largest shop building or e-commerce solution, many software vendors and developers offer integrations, hooks, and extensions that integrate their product to work with it or extend its functionality. Over 400 extensions plus an equal number of integrations handle store chores such as payment, returns, shipping, marketing, shop management, and so on. There are both free and paid extensions and integrations. Distinguishing affiliate marketing from other Internet businesses There are many different ways of making money on the internet, and it seems new ways of making money are being developed every day. For instance, there are people who develop internet marketing programs and strategies for both big and small companies. Computer coders develop the software and plug-ins affiliate marketers use. Freelancers who develop a skill in writing, web design, graphics, and so forth and offer their services for hire on sites like Freelancer, Fiverr, and Upwork. There are closely related ways of making money like digital marketing, which is developing online marketing campaigns and strategies for companies. There are different variations of affiliate marketing. One main way affiliate marketing differs from other forms of making money on the internet is that, with a few exceptions, the affiliate marketer doesn’t develop, build, pack, or ship the product. He simply acts as the “referrer,” exposing the purchaser to a new product or service; when the sale is made, the affiliate marketer makes a commission. Thousands, if not millions, of companies offer affiliate programs — companies like Amazon Affiliate Program, eBay Partner Network, Sears, Target, Walmart, and many others. This flavor of affiliate marketing is easiest to understand. There are thousands of companies offering affiliate marketing programs, and there are millions of products to choose from to promote. The one criticism of offering physical products is that the commissions are lower than other forms of affiliate marketing. Another flavor of affiliate marketing is digital products. Most often these are either tools or courses for other affiliate marketers to use in developing their business. The advantage of this flavor of marketing is that the commissions are usually a lot higher. They can range from 25 percent to 75 percent of the selling price. The disadvantage of this flavor of marketing is that it draws other affiliate marketers to it who probably have more experience and more skill than you, so competition is tougher. The size of your potential market, or “hungry crowd,” is also a lot smaller. Part 3 offers examples of this type of affiliate marketing. The next flavor in affiliate marketing is where you develop a service and offer it to other affiliates to promote and market. In a sense you become the “company” offering the affiliate marketing program. You’re recruiting other affiliates to promote your product, in effect multiplying your promotional efforts by the number of affiliates who join your affiliate program. You can also offer your product to affiliate marketers through an affiliate network. If you have a great product, promote it well, and attract a large number of affiliates who promote your product to others well, you can make a lot of money. But first, you have to develop a compelling product other affiliate marketers will buy. Secondly, you must have already mastered all of the steps in affiliate marketing and have your own affiliate marketing setup. If your goal in the future is to develop, introduce, and market your own product, that’s great. But make it a step you take after you master the necessary steps in the easier “flavors” of affiliate marketing. That will set you up with a firm foundation as you plan more ambitious (and potentially more profitable) affiliate marketing pursuits. One things you’ll notice as you do your research is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of “review sites” claiming to be lists of the top ten affiliate networks, themes, or whatever you’re looking for. It’s important to realize that most of these sites are affiliate marketing sites that earn a commission when you click on a link for one of their recommendations. New affiliate networks, small affiliate networks, or ones with some problems may have a greater need for people to promote their product and be willing to pay a higher commission. No particular list is skewed in favor of higher-paying choices, but that is a distinct possibility. This is an internet safety tip that can help you in a lot of your searches. Have you ever searched for a stereo receiver or some other consumer good and found the largest and most well-regarded manufacturers missing from a list of a source’s top ten? But somehow the stereo receiver from a company you’ve never heard of is at the top of the list. Just consider the possibility that financial motivation may have skewed the results, and stay smart.

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The 10 Best Marketing Strategies for Affiliates

Article / Updated 02-10-2020

Success for the affiliate marketer boils down to lead generation and finding as many targeted eyeballs as possible for the offer you want them to see. Here, you discover the top ten methods to get those eyeballs onto the affiliate link you’re offering. here are literally hundreds of ways to market your affiliate offer, but the marketing strategies you find here are generally easy to do and essentially cost-free strategies. More importantly, they have been used profitably by successful affiliates. Drum roll, please . . . Guest blogging The advice you frequently get from marketing folks about your affiliate business is to do blogging to some extent. But for beginners that usually means starting from scratch and with no audience. Is there a way to short-circuit this process? Don’t get us wrong — blogging is good, especially for beginners. But you might consider doing some guest blogging, which entails providing content (an article or perhaps a video or audio) to someone else’s blog. Why do this? You’re doing an exchange: You provide them with content, and they, in turn, give you a ready-made audience. If you have an affiliate link to a great pet product, for example, then why not give some good content to a pet blogger who may have thousands (or more) readers (or subscribers) for you to get some great exposure? If thousands see you and (especially) your affiliate link, then this will be a tremendous boost to you (and your potential affiliate profits)! The best way to find guest blogging opportunities is to go to your favorite search engine and do a specific search for “guest blogging” + “[your topic].” There are also great blog directories and listings online such as Blogarama, Bloghub, and Best of the Web’s blog directory. If you want to drill down on blogging as a serious component of your affiliate marketing business, check out the latest edition of Blogging For Dummies by Amy Lupold Bair (published by Wiley). SEO strategies Having people do a search online and find you and your offering (in this case your affiliate link to a suitable offering) is an important approach for you. When people are searching for a product or service, that signals possible intent to purchase the product or service. Search engine optimization (SEO) helps you by maximizing the content on your site so that visitors have a much easier time finding you when they are doing their searches. The better that affiliates perform SEO strategies on their blogs, sites, opt-in pages, and so on, the greater the chance that customers will end up clicking on the affiliate offers you present. Getting a “pre-sold” prospect — a prospective, prequalified buyer for the product or service — coming to you is indeed the holy grail of affiliate marketing. After all, if they are going to buy anyway, they may as well do it through your affiliate link. Social media marketing In recent years, social media has become the ubiquitous beast that it is today. Just about everybody (including the Pope) is on social media. It’s generally free to get an account with venues such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and other popular social media platforms. Being on social media is now a natural part of the communication environment, and affiliate marketing is really about communicating the value of your affiliate link or offer to as many folks as possible. Here are some examples of affiliate marketing on social media: You’re in a Facebook group whose members are pet owners, and you’re active as an affiliate for merchants in pet products and services. You’re on Pinterest posting books on nature and the environment, and each picture is accompanied by an affiliate link to that book on Amazon. You are a skier and are in a Meetup group for skiers, and you’re an affiliate for a skiing products merchant. On LinkedIn you post a great article on job-hunting strategies, and this article has your affiliate links to job-hunting resources. As the latest controversy on Twitter rages about, say, organic umbrella stands, you chime in (Your idea goes here.) The only things limiting you here are your enthusiasm and creativity! Don’t be overpowering or too aggressive with your affiliate marketing on social media. Constant, pushy salesy-ness is a huge turnoff on social media, so figure out how to do affiliate marketing in a soft-sell, friendly, and judicious manner. Presenting the right offer to the right market in the right way results in greater affiliate success. The last thing you need after you painstakingly build a large following on Twitter or LinkedIn is to see them “unfollow” you in droves over what your audience perceives as obnoxious sales pitches. How quickly can you say “backfire”? YouTube marketing On YouTube, you can find millions of videos on virtually any topic ranging from bacteriology to that guy wearing gorilla suits jumping off roofs into tiny pools. Fortunately, there are plenty of affiliate marketing opportunities here for you. Here are some YouTube marketing points to ponder: Get a YouTube channel (free!) and create a video on your topic with your chosen equipment (video camera or smartphone), and then place affiliate links in the description. Some affiliates do a review video on the given product or service and have the affiliate link posted in the description. If there is a popular video on your affiliate topic, think about how you can take advantage. Some affiliates do joint ventures (JVs) with the video content creators and split the profits. Some affiliates buy advertising on YouTube so their offer is made available on popular videos. The point is that YouTube has powerful marketing features that savvy affiliates have consistently profited from, so consider this venue for your marketing efforts as well. Email marketing Email is typically the foundation of communication for millions of folks. Since email marketing is essentially sending a (hopefully persuasive) message to someone’s inbox, it is indeed fertile ground for affiliate marketing. That is truly an understatement. Email marketing for affiliates ranges from that initial email soliciting the reader to visit a landing page to sophisticated email campaigns making multiple offers or simply staying in touch with e-zines (“electronic magazines” or newsletters sent via email). The great thing is that sending an email is essentially free, and for mass email distribution, free or low-cost services are available for you to “scale up” your email marketing efforts. Content marketing Lots of folks are looking for free stuff — right now, as you’re reading this. Free stuff includes content that takes the form of online videos, audios, e-books (Kindle or PDF formats), how-to reports (typically in PDF or .doc formats), infographics, PowerPoint-compatible presentation files, and so on. Content marketing is so varied that it could easily be its own book or course, so here you find a batch of ideas of how content marketing can have a great impact on your affiliate marketing business: You just wrote a five-page report titled “17 Tips for a Healthy Dog” that you make available for free to dog lovers. There are affiliate links inside the report to dog products/services. This report can be made available on your blog or website or through email marketing. You do a brief, free course as a presentation slide such as “Six Steps to Great Tomatoes,” and each slide includes affiliate links to gardening products relevant to tomato enthusiasts. The presentation can be provided free at sites such as Slide Share. You do an infographic that provides an informative chart such as “The 12 Most Important Facts about Your Liver,” and you embed an affiliate link to product offerings for liver health. E-book publishing Publishing an e-book is certainly a form of content marketing (see the preceding section), but it has its own unique characteristics that are good for affiliate marketers. Think of the possibilities. What if you had a 20-page e-book on fashions (because you are an affiliate for a merchant that sells fashions, of course) and each page had your affiliate link? And what if that e-book were a Kindle book on Amazon, with the potential to reach thousands or millions of potential buyers? Some people give away e-books for free hoping that the book will spread like wildfire, meaning more folks clicking on the affiliate links inside those digital covers. Still others put in extra content to make that e-book worth buying plus the e-book has those affiliate links inside (double profit potential — sweet!). The marketing potential here can be great. Given that, go to the major e-book platforms and see how others are marketing their e-books and how they are including affiliate marketing. The main e-book platforms/formats are as follows: Kindle e-books: Find out how to create a Kindle e-book at Kindle Digital Publishing. Apple Books: Publish e-books through the Apple network and other platforms. Find details at Smashwords. Adobe Acrobat: Publish your book as a PDF using Adobe Acrobat software and other services. NOOK: You can find this format at venues such as Barnes and Noble. Joint ventures When you think about it, affiliates and merchants are really one of the most basic forms of joint ventures (JVs) — two or more parties that join together to share in the profits of a mutual venture. In this case, as the affiliate, you are the lead-generation JV partner being paid with affiliate commissions, while the merchant is the content provider (product or service) JV partner paying you commissions while keeping a portion of the sales amount for their costs and their portion of profits. Meanwhile, it behooves the ambitious affiliate to consider becoming a merchant so that you, in turn, can take JV opportunities to a more powerful level. Media interviews There are plenty of radio, TV, audio, and video programs that have an ongoing need for content, many primarily through having interesting and compelling guests for the benefit of their audience. So why not you? If there is a program on gardening and you are an affiliate specializing in marketing garden products (and of course you know something about gardening), you would make a natural guest. They have an audience interested in that topic, which means you have a targeted audience to whom you can introduce yourself and your offer. The most obvious approach here is to find those programs that specialize in your topic, which is easy using your favorite search engine. Use terms such as “podcast + [your topic]” or “radio program + [your topic].” You can also explore sites such as iHeartRadio, iTunes, and Podbean. When you’re interviewed, it will be too difficult or awkward to provide an affiliate link during (or at the end of) your interview. Given that, a memorable website domain name tied to your topic is essential. If you’re being interviewed about the benefits of sleep, for example, then mentioning your website with the same name works, and if that site is loaded with sleep-product-related affiliate links, you can then count dollars in your dreams instead of sheep. Smartphone apps The idea of creating a smartphone app may sound like it might be out of reach for most folks, but not anymore! Yes, some years ago it was too “techie” to do, even for a programmer, but today’s app-building tools and services now bring it within reach for any marketer — even for those with modest budgets and those who can’t even spell “app.” The concept of a smartphone app is quite simple. It’s really a batch of content such as news and posts typically including a collection of software programs. The app usually has a particular topic or theme, ranging from hobbies to business topics. A pet-care app issued by a local pet store, for example, may have the latest news and views from the pet-care industry along with tips and how-to posts for pet enthusiasts. In addition, it may have a reminder calendar for the pet owner for events such as veterinarian visits and other pet events. In the midst of all this content in the app are your affiliate links, of course. Since so many people are moving their computing and shopping needs to the smartphone, affiliate marketing becomes as easy as a few taps on the screen. With this affiliate marketing strategy, you can turn your smartphone from a cost center to a profit center (without the need to do a selfie)! To find out more about how to create smartphone apps and the latest marketing strategies, go to iBuildApp App Makr AppsGeyser

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The 10 Best Paid Tools for Affiliate Marketers

Article / Updated 02-07-2020

Scads of paid tools are available for affiliate marketers. This list of paid tools will highlight the most appropriate tools for beginning affiliate marketers. So — drum roll, please — here you find a list of the ten paid affiliate marketing tools that passed the test. This list has tools to help you get and generate content and send emails. By doing so, you can develop your relationships and build your lists so you can present future offers and have future opportunities to profit. Search engine optimization is getting harder every day, and the SEO tools that corporations are using are very expensive; those tools are trying to eke out the last bit of SEO juice for million-dollar companies fighting for market share. Despite all the things SEO gurus have been saying, the relative importance of SEO compared to other factors has been going down. That’s not where you, as an affiliate marketing beginner, need to be. Your SEO needs are handled by Yoast and Market Samurai. The software vendors of paid tools (as well as free tools and WordPress itself) have their own training libraries to help you understand the operation and use of all these tools. Usually the training is video, and sometimes it’s supplemented with text, examples, and screenshots. The training is usually offered free to purchasers of the product. It’s in the vendors’ best interests to help you make the best use of their tools. Market Samurai Market Samurai is the Swiss army knife of affiliate marketing tools. The paid version allows you to do many different marketing analyses that are important to the affiliate marketer. It combines the functionality of several different paid tools in one. You can opt for tools that offer great value while requiring only a one-time payment for lifetime licensing. Market Samurai hits the spot! Market Samurai is a one-time purchase of $149 unless there is a special discount, which sometimes brings the cost down even further. With the paid purchase, you have the tool’s full functionality for life. Market Samurai draws information from lots of other sources that would charge a monthly fee if you accessed them directly. But getting the data through Market Samurai saves you money and time. You can use the tool for keyword research, SEO, domain research, and monetization information. Keyword Revealer Keyword Revealer is a keyword research tool. Since keyword research and finding the right niche are so vital to your success as a beginning affiliate marketer, it pays to have a good keyword research tool. There are some good free keyword research tools, but they usually have limitations, making you jump between tools to get all the info you need or interpolate their findings from what they give you to what you want. Keyword Revealer has a keyword research screen. One great advantage of this screen is that it allows you to evaluate each keyword and comes up with numerical scores on how difficult the competition is for that particular keyword. It features a rank tracking screen and a keyword brainstorming facility that helps you come up with profitable long tail and low-competition keywords. The free version limits you to three searches a day and doesn’t show competitor data. There are three tiers of paid membership depending on how many searches you need a day. The middle level, which is called the Basic level, gives you 25 searches a day and costs $90 a year. This level is sufficient for the beginning affiliate marketer. However, the middle lifetime level, which offers the same 25 searches a day, is called the Marketer level and is $89 dollars for lifetime licensing. Some people have wondered what the difference is between Market Samurai and Keyword Revealer. Market Samurai has the domain finding module, the content finding and analysis module, the publish content module, and the promotion or backlink finder and analysis module. If your budget allows it, get both Market Samurai and Keyword Revealer lifetime plans. If your budget allows the purchase of only one, get Market Samurai. SpyFu SpyFu is all about spying on your competition and doing competitive research. Who better to learn from than your competitors? You can see where they had their successes and leverage what they learned. You can also see where they may have failed and find out how to avoid following in their footsteps. You can see what keywords they are ranking for and what they have done to rank for those keywords. You can see how the ranking changed over time in response to their marketing efforts. There is also a pay-per-click (PPC) analysis component that allows you to see how and where your competitors spent their ad money. The free SpyFu level allows you only a very limited view of the first few keywords. You have to subscribe to see the entire data. All the three different paid levels allow you to access all the SpyFu data. The higher levels allow you to track more keywords, give you more leads, and allow you to run more custom reports. The basic level suits the needs of the beginning affiliate marketer. The basic level of SpyFu is $33 a month if paid on an annual basis or $39 if you pay monthly. Elementor, Astra Pro Theme, and Ultimate Addons Elementor is a great tool that will make building web pages much easier and faster. By dragging text, video, and image blocks into the places you want, you can quickly build your desired web pages. You can drag pre-built templates onto a page. You can also save portions you build and reuse them repeatedly as templates With a page builder like Elementor, Thrive, or Beaver Builder, you can extend the functionality by buying the pro version. The pro version often adds extra formatting or extra blocks. One-time purchases with lifetime licensing is an affiliate marketer favorite and here’s a deal you’ll like. It’s a lifetime bundle of Elementor, Astra Pro, and Ultimate Addons for Elementor. The Astra Pro Upgrade adds more header designs, page layouts, footer widgets, and so on. You also have enhanced creative control with better typography and better color control. The Ultimate Elementor Addon includes 30 added customized widgets for things like pop-ups, video, an image gallery, a video gallery, buttons, creative widgets, and the like. You also have access to a large library of template and pre-built starter websites. Some of the starter sets are available to users of Astra, but additional starter sets and templates are available only to agency purchasers. This Mini Agency bundle is $499, which is higher than the price of paid plug-ins that is usually suggested to beginning affiliate marketers. However, this tool provides such value that it’s worth the price. Separately, the parts of the bundle have monthly charges of from $49 to $79; yearly charges range from $79 to $149. So the lifetime license quickly becomes the best deal. But it’s okay if you just don’t have that cash. You can start out with the Mini Agency bundle at $169 a year. So the lifetime option pays for itself in under three years. But there is one other reason to bite the bullet and go for the lifetime option. You can get free third-party training courses. Of course, Elementor and Astra themselves offer free training courses, but there are some third-party training better at distilling down and explaining the points. Often third-party training is video while the other training is text based. Content Samurai Fresh content is the lifeblood of your website. If you don’t have fresh content, it doesn’t matter how good your SEO is — the search engines will just come to your site, find nothing new, and move on, while your competitors who have posted fresh content will get updated by the search engines. Of all the forms of content — text posts, photographs, vector graphics, line art, and so on — video is one of the most engaging. Video is often termed a “long form” communication method. Your message unfolds over time, and your audience becomes engaged in your message and your offering. (How many times have you been sucked into watching a TV program?) Videos are also more highly shared on the various social media outlets like Facebook than text or images. Isn’t that what you want for your message: more sharing and more views? The problem with the traditional way video was done was that you had to have the equipment and the time. But Content Samurai is automatic video creation software. How about this: You write a script with your sales message for your video (or import it), pick the format you want, and then pick the images you want from their library of 390 million images (you can also choose video clips from the library) to be the background for your video. Or you can choose from their library of pre-done sales videos. Next you let Content Samurai go to work, and it will match the images you chose to the script. You can then choose either to record your voice for each slide or have an automated voice (you have a choice of either male or female and several accents). If the automatically determined slide timings are off, you can manually adjust them. If you recorded your own voice and weren’t satisfied, you can easily rerecord that slide or adjust the timings. Also, did you know there’s background music? You can add a music background from the Content Samurai library or upload your own. Then you post to YouTube or the video service of your choice. Time from idea to posting can be as little as ten minutes, and you’ll have a very professional video. The price for Content Samurai is $97 a month, but they often run specials for 50 percent off. When you start your subscription at 50 percent off, it remains that way for life or as long as you maintain your subscription. Don’t have a script with your sales message and stuck for ideas? Sometimes their specials also include Vidsy. Vidsy is an easy-to-use script-generating product that uses a question-and-answer template using your choice of the top four proven sales models. Your script will be done in five minutes, ready to import into Content Samurai and automatically generate your video. WP Robot A constant flow of fresh content is the lifeblood of your website and one of the keys to your success in ranking. Even if you’re enthusiastic about your niche, sometimes the writing well just runs dry. With WP Robot, you can add up to 32 different content sources and embed your affiliate link in setup. You can set up the percentages you want coming from each source, how often you want to post, and whether you want it to post directly or go into a draft holding for your review and changes. WP Robot can automatically embed your affiliate code once you set it up, so it’s easy to grow your affiliate business. It is $89 per year for three sites. If you purchase the full version of Market Samurai, one of the tabs goes out and finds content based on your keywords from 13 different sites versus WP Robot’s 26. It doesn’t automatically embed your affiliate links — you’ll have to do that yourself. But what Market Samurai does have that WP Robot doesn’t is the ability to analyze the content it finds so you can discover the most successful pieces of content in terms of reposting and the like. CleanTalk CleanTalk is a cloud-based anti-spam and spam firewall plug-in that can protect all of your website forms. The free Wordfence plug-in does a great job in protecting your website. But another type of fraudulent activity can cause you problems. Say a spam user or bot comes to your site and tries to sign up. If it’s successful in signing up, it becomes part of your email list. There are automated bots that may try to sign up to your site thousands of times a minute using various identifiers. (Wordfence does limit the number of sign-in attempts in a specified amount of time to try to limit this problem.) If the bots are added to your email list, your ESP (email service provider) may downgrade your sending capability, saying you have too many fraudulent emails or emails that have sent out spam. What CleanTalk does is compare that user to its cloud-based database of fraudulent emails, hard bounces, and so on, and cleans your list before you send it out. CleanTalk is $9.95 per year for one site or $19.98 for three sites. Sendinblue If you are looking for an easy-to-use all-in-one ESP that has tons of beautiful email templates you can customize, Sendinblue is a great choice. It is one of the few email providers that also offers you the ability to send transactional emails. Transactional emails are a great way to develop your relationship with your email list because your subscribers receive an email when they take any action. So, for instance, if a visitor makes a purchase, you can set it up so he gets a receipt. You define the triggers that cause a specific email to be sent, so it seems that someone is responding to a reader’s specific needs. Sendinblue also has an easy-to-use drag-and-drop newsletter editor with a library of 50 pre-done newsletters you can edit and make your own. For those with coding skill in HTML, you can create an email in HTML. With the free plan you get up to 300 emails a day, and that is a forever free level. The first paid level is the Lite plan, which has no daily sending limit and the monthly limit is 40,000 emails. The monthly charge is $25 for the Lite level. Usually most email senders have their logo on emails sent when you are on the free plan; however, when you pay for sending, their logo is removed. With Sendinblue you have to upgrade to their second level called either the Bronze or Essential Level at $39 per month to get the Sendinblue logo removed. This level allows you to send 60,000 emails per month. The next two tools, Amazon SES and Mailster, require a little more technical knowledge, so if that is something you don’t feel comfortable with, go with Sendinblue as an alternate email solution. Amazon SES Amazon SES is part of AWS, Amazon Web Services. You have to set up an account, but it is free. It opens up the vast world of Amazon Web Services like SES, SNS, S2, and so on. You’ll quickly realize you are not in Kansas anymore. This is where the big boys play. In fact, many of the ESPs are really just putting a pretty face on Amazon SES with their templates and newsletter builders and reselling it. Amazon SES stands for Amazon Simple Email Service. Amazon is basically selling computer time. This is really a bare-bones ESP. You will find no forms, no templates — none of the things you expect from, say, Sendinblue. You pay only for the CPU cycles you use. And that is where the dramatic difference is — cost. With even a modest email list, with a traditional ESP you pay $10–$50 a month each and every month, whether you send out your newsletter or not. With Amazon there is no monthly fee; you pay only for emails sent, and that cost is 10 cents for one thousand emails. To give you a comparison, a growing email list that would cost $200 with one of the familiar ESPs would cost $1 with Amazon SES. The downside is it does require a little more work on your part to set up. Amazon SES simply sends your emails that are prepared in some other application. One solid recommendation is Mailster, which you can discover below. Mailster Email marketing is one of the best ways to stay in contact with and grow your audience. You can use an all-in-one ESP like Sendinblue. Since they have a lot of pre-done templates, your life is made easier, and because you’re using only one company, setup is easier. Although you have a free tier, costs grow quickly as your audience grows. Or you can use Mailster to produce the emails and campaigns and use Amazon SES to send them. It’s a relatively easy and cost-effective solution. Not as easy as, say, Sendinblue, but definitely doable with a little work. One of the great things about Mailster is that because it’s a WordPress plug-in, you can develop your newsletters and campaigns with Mailster’s drag-and-drop editor right inside your WordPress dashboard. You don’t have to learn another email sending company’s system. And you don’t have to keep jumping between the two. You can use a combo; it’s a great time and money saver. You’ve built the newsletter you like, you can duplicate it and edit it for the next email send. This way you achieve a consistent professional look to your email campaigns but only have to pour the new posts, videos, and images into the newsletter shell you built. You also can set up a system of handling the bounces (non-deliverable emails) so that your email list is kept clean. You can set up autoresponders. Mailster also shows you the statistics on your campaigns — the number of opens, the number of clicks, and so on — so you can gauge how successful your campaigns are and fine-tune them. The cost for the Mailster plug-in is $59. Mailster has free lifetime updates, so there are no recurring costs. It comes with one free newsletter template, and a vast library of paid newsletter templates is available. Support is very responsive and they try to answer all questions. There is a cost, however, for support. Since you’re setting up a self-hosted email service, it’s important that you don’t use your host to actually send the emails. For that you use Amazon SES. As long as you do that, you’ll avoid all the problems more expensive all-in-one email solutions warn you about. The cost of Amazon SES is approximately 10 cents for one thousand emails. There is no monthly charge. If, for instance, you don’t send out an email, there is no Amazon SES cost. Use what works for you. Every affiliate marketer needs to tools that suit him best.

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What is Niche Marketing?

Article / Updated 02-07-2020

Defining niche marketing is a little difficult. Niche marketing is actually the conjoined Siamese triplets of niche market, niche product, and niche audience. Think about niche marketing in this context. You can’t really choose the products you’re going to market until you know the niche you’re going to address. You can’t really choose the niche market unless you know there are niche products that you can promote profitably. Of course, you can’t choose either the niche products you’re going to promote or the niche market you’re going to address without knowing that a smaller, well-defined niche audience of buyers ready, willing, and able to buy exists. What is meant by this? Niche marketing is going after a smaller, specific, defined area of the market. You’re interested in serving the subset of customers who are interested in this smaller, specific market area. So the first benefit of niche marketing is that you can more closely customize your approach to meet the customers’ needs and desires. The second benefit of niche marketing is you’re able to avoid being crushed by either well-funded corporations or experienced marketers fighting for top position in areas where the potential payday is much higher because of the higher number of searches. Do you want to be going head-to-head with the NFL, BBC, ESPN, and other well-funded corporate giants? Niche marketing is crucial to the beginning affiliate marketer. It’s even more important to the beginner than a more experienced affiliate marketer who has built up some credibility and a reputation. Why is that? Two words: competition and position. Today many affiliate marketers are looking for affiliate profits. Many of those affiliate marketers may be competing against you. They may be more experienced than you; their domain may be older and more established, which gives them more credibility. The products and niches that pay the best and have the most searches — which mean the biggest paychecks — have the fiercest competition. Do you want to go up against these affiliate marketing gladiators, who are often major corporations armed with million-dollar budgets? You could try, but getting in on this subsection of niche marketing would be like pounding on a brick wall. Rather than being a small fish (you) in a big pond (a high-competition area), you have a much higher chance of success being a big fish in a low-competition area (your niche). Beginning affiliate marketers are often seduced by the dancing dollars of high-competition markets. They start calculating in their heads — “Well, if Google says football gets 7.5 million searches a month and I target football, I’ll be rolling in dough even if I get just a tiny, tiny fraction of those web visitors visiting my site and making a purchase.” The Google search also shows there are 4.3 billion results (competitors) for this niche. But Google tells a different tale than the one the dancing dollars are telling you. In your Google search for football, you can see the top listings are the National Football League, ESPN, Wikipedia, BBC Sport, and CNN. As you can see, the first page of results consists of all major corporations or news organizations that have multimillion-dollar budgets, are well established on the internet, and surely have staffs of hundreds if not thousands of people to run their websites. If you were trying to get on the first page, you’d have some formidable competition. Enter niche marketing. A niche is a small, specialized area that may not get many searches. Since the imagined income is so much less, it attracts fewer affiliate marketers, which means less competition. Less competition means you have a reasonable chance, as a new affiliate marketer, to build a website or develop a social media campaign that will rank reasonably high, and you will make money. You’re also looking to cultivate a small, specific group of potential customers who are looking for the product you’re offering. For comparison, take the niche “football snack helmet.” It has a very low search volume, which means a much lower potential income, but it also has less competition. Google tells a much different story when you type “football snack helmet” into the browser. The top listing on the page is an affiliate marketer’s site selling Amazon football snack helmets and making a profit. So you, too, can find your own specialized niche, build your website to address the needs of your specialized market, and start to build your affiliate business around this niche by answering the needs of this specialize audience. How do you do this? By writing informative articles that answer the needs and questions this group may have or provide information they may find helpful. Niche marketing can help you from drowning in the competitive pools and let you find that specialized audience.

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Looking at Affiliate Networks: What Affiliate Marketers Need to Know

Article / Updated 02-07-2020

Affiliate networks bring together thousands of different merchants and affiliate offers into a single marketplace. They are the intermediary between you, the affiliate marketer, and the merchant — the person or company providing the goods or services. They often provide the affiliate programs and support for smaller companies that either don’t have the technical support staff to develop an affiliate program for their company or would prefer to have someone else develop and support their affiliate program. The advantages of affiliate networks One of the great advantages of affiliate networks is that they bring thousands of individual affiliate programs into their marketplace. So the selection of affiliate programs is easier for the new affiliate marketer. Because they also have thousands of affiliates, these networks usually have a feedback and support rating so a new affiliate marketer can see which products rate higher in terms of sales or profit. You can see which products have the lowest return or complaint rate. You can also see how many affiliates an individual affiliate program has, which gives you an indication of how much competition you will have. Affiliate networks typically have a more extensive training program to teach you about their network and how to be an effective affiliate. You may get a more complete training of the affiliate process through a network than an individual affiliate program, whose training focuses on its individual products and offerings. Another advantage of affiliate networks is that their larger size has attracted the development of third-party tools. These third-party tools make your affiliate life a lot easier. Many plug-ins are available, both paid and free. Many affiliate marketers prefer to use paid plug-ins. That often means they have a support staff that updates the plug-in both to remedy any newly discovered security problem and to remain fully compliant with the latest version of your online publishing platform (like WordPress). Hackers are constantly improving their hacks, requiring publishing platforms, plug-ins, themes, and other software to constantly update to close those security holes. A free plug-in may not have the support staff to close those holes quickly — if ever. The typical view is it’s best to stick with paid plug-ins or at least the free version of a plug-in that offers a pro version upgrade for a fee. That way you know that money is coming in to the developer to keep the plug-in updated. Here are two great third-party tools: EasyAzon: Makes it easy to add Amazon links in your posts. You simply add a search term in the EasyAzon search box to search for relevant Amazon products. If you know the exact product name or ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number), you can use that too and build your Amazon listing using any size Amazon graphics you like. There are free and paid versions; with the paid version you can add your Amazon affiliate code for all of the different country Amazon programs you are a member of and get paid when your international visitors make a purchase, for instance, from Amazon Australia. You can also add a payment button that gives you a 30-day cookie so all the Amazon purchases that purchaser makes for the next 30 days will be coded to you. WP Robot : An auto blogging plug-in that has up to 32 different modules for almost all the major affiliate networks such as eBay, Etsy, Amazon, and so on. This is a paid plug-in, but to my thinking it’s well worth it. You set up campaigns based on your search terms, and it comes back with content that has your affiliate link. Edit the content so you’re not just publishing duplicate content, and publish. What could be easier? Just because your online publishing platform hasn’t alerted you that an update for a particular plug-in is available, don’t assume all is well. It just means the plug-in developer hasn’t released an update. It may be that the developer has abandoned the plug-in or that it isn’t in the platform’s repository of approved plug-ins. You have to go to the list of installed plug-ins and click on the view details of each one to see whether it’s compatible with the current version of the platform. Otherwise, you may get a message like this one: Warning: This plugin has not been tested with your current version of WordPress. Finding and evaluating affiliate networks ClickBank, CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) and JVZoo are some of the largest affiliate networks out there, but you have dozens to choose from, such as ShareASale and Rakuten. Since affiliate networks are the intermediary between you and all the individual merchants, it’s important to carefully evaluate the affiliate network you’re considering. Study their affiliate agreement, and consider the following: Reputation: Among affiliates that have used them, what is their reputation? Have their payments been on time, and have they received what they were promised? Have there been complaints from affiliates about late payments, poor support, poor communication, or poor reporting? Vendor vetting: An affiliate network that has a vigorous vetting process for merchants in its network is actually a good thing, even though the process may be more complex and time-consuming for you. You don’t want to be promoting products of merchants who don’t support their product, whose products have a high return rate, or whose products are poor quality. You don’t want to be part of an affiliate network that just lets in anyone and gets a reputation as a source of scams and low-quality offers. The size of their slice: The affiliate network is an intermediary between you and the merchant. If your promotional efforts as an affiliate result in a sale, the commission from that sale first goes to the affiliate network. Why? The affiliate network provides you a convenient way to find and sell the products of thousands of merchants. Just think if you had to go around searching for all those individual affiliate programs, evaluating all those separate programs, and filling out and qualifying on all those individual applications. And that’s not all. You’d have to fill out all those individual W-9 forms — not to mention filing all of those W-9 forms with your taxes. You’d also need to visit all the individual websites of the affiliate programs to keep track of your commissions. All of this help and convenience comes at a price. The affiliate network keeps a portion of your affiliate profits for its help. The size of the slice of the profit they keep varies among affiliate networks. Some affiliate networks keep up to 25 percent of their affiliates’ profits. It’s up to you to determine whether their help is worth the cost. If you don’t feel it is, look for affiliate networks that keep a smaller percentage of your profits. Joining an affiliate network Affiliate networks have a review and/or application process to join. All the factors that apply to joining an affiliate program also apply to joining affiliate networks. However, the application process for networks usually adds a couple of steps. Affiliate networks give new affiliate marketers access to thousands of affiliate programs once their applications have been accepted, so the extra effort on your part in the application process is worth it. Affiliate networks usually ask how you have promoted products in the past and how you intend to do so in the future. They want to know about your experience as an affiliate marketer. Affiliate networks may also require you to achieve a minimum number of sales during a particular period to maintain your membership. If you don’t maintain that level of sales, they may cancel your membership, and then you have to start the whole application process again. Some affiliate networks require an additional application process. You may have to apply to the individual merchants in the marketplace for the right to sell their products. The merchants may also have their own set of requirements, such as minimum sales and their own set of affiliate banners and tools for affiliate marketers to use on their website in their promotions. Some affiliate programs are more rigorous than others in screening new affiliate applicants. and their review times will vary. Some applications are evaluated by computer programs, and those evaluations are relatively quick — one day to a week. However, if the automated evaluator picks up something that was flagged by its algorithm, the application gets kicked out to a human evaluator, and the review process may be a few weeks to a month or more.

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Digging into Affiliate Programs: What Affiliate Marketers Need to Know

Article / Updated 02-06-2020

Visit practically every web page on the internet today, and either right at the top or down at the bottom, you’ll usually see the words “Join Our Affiliate Program,” “Make Money with Us,” “Become an Affiliate,” or something similar. Companies want you to promote their products using affiliate marketing. Why? The answer is simple. If an affiliate marketer makes a sale, a merchant earns more profit. But best of all from the merchant’s standpoint, it has to pay a referral commission only if a sale is made. What’s not for a merchant to love? In contrast, with broadcast media such as newspapers, radio, and television, a company is charged for an ad based on the media outlets’ reach. The bill from a media outlet for advertising has to be paid by the company placing the ad, whether or not the ad brings in a sale. Interested in promoting physical products? Then there is no sense in joining affiliate programs that only offer digital products. Interested in promoting digital products? There are plenty of affiliate programs for those too and you learn about all of them here. There are certain factors that enable you to choose your product, like looking at the markets, judging the competition, and doing keyword analysis. You should also use your current passions, expertise, knowledge, and experiences to give you a head start in your affiliate marketing business. Then marry that with some market research, competition research, and affiliate marketing tools that help you peel away all the noise and find what will be profitable for you to promote. This gives you some additional insight to help you decide which affiliate programs and networks best match what you want to do. Assessing the advantages of affiliate programs One of advantages of affiliate programs versus affiliate networks is that you’re dealing with just one company. That one company may be huge like Amazon, allowing you to earn a commission on thousands of products, or it may be a small company that markets just the goods that would appeal to the niche market you’re addressing. That one company has one affiliate policy for all the goods they offer and one set of rules you need to follow — simple. Affiliate networks, on the other hand, are collections of companies or merchants that may not have the staff, money, or desire to administer their own separate affiliate programs. Affiliate networks often allow individual merchants the freedom to set, for instance, their own return policies, their own support polices, and so on. Finding and evaluating affiliate programs Thousands of separate companies offer you a chance to make affiliate profits. With all of these choices before you, how do you choose? How do you separate the good opportunities from the not so good? In this section you look at some factors you should evaluate, like reputation, payment requirements, and affiliate tools. You can choose from thousands of individual affiliate programs. A few examples of affiliate programs include these: Amazon: One of the oldest and possibly the largest affiliate program around, giving affiliate marketers the chance to profit from thousands of items. Walmart: One of the most well-known companies in the United States, allowing affiliates to profit from thousands of items. Bluehost: One of the many hosting companies offering an affiliate program. Notice the invitation right on the top of the home page to become an affiliate. AWeber: An email marketing service. Mailchimp: An email marketing platform. This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. You can find more affiliate programs by doing a simple internet search. The focus in this section is how to evaluate each one and decide which ones you will join. Reputation and support When you are evaluating affiliate programs, there are a couple of factors to consider: Reputation: Do an online search for user feedback about the affiliate program that you’re considering. Keep in mind that you’re looking for independent feedback, not someone who is skewing his review to get you to join an affiliate program he belongs to. One great place to go to for that independent opinion is user and affiliate forums. You can also find affiliate marketing groups on Facebook. If you’re looking for independent information, try joining a group that reviews applications and limits ad posting. It may have a questionnaire for you to give some information about your affiliate interest. If you join open groups that don’t require some vetting, you’ll find an overwhelming percentage of the posts from people promoting their own affiliate programs or products. Support: What support and training tools does the program have? Is there a support desk that responds to users’ questions? Is there a company-supported support forum? You may sometimes find independent support forums that are running without company support, and although the exchange of information among users can be quite valuable, it isn’t as complete as a support forum backed by the affiliate program, where program support personnel are fielding affiliates’ questions. Payment requirements and schedules of affiliate programs To get paid, make sure you’ve submitted all the information the affiliate program needs. Platforms that expect to make a payout of $600 or more to a marketer need a W-9 form (an IRS requirement) — after all, Uncle Sam demands his piece too! Payment methods, frequency of payment, and minimum payment are usually all spelled out in your agreement with the particular affiliate program. Most affiliate marketing programs and affiliate networks prefer not to send out checks, so they may require direct deposit to a bank account or PayPal account. It’s also important for you to know the affiliate program’s payment schedule. Some have a more frequent payment schedule for direct deposit but a longer payment schedule (30 days or more) if they have to mail a check. They may also have a minimum amount you have to earn before they will mail a check. In these cases, arranging for direct deposit is an easier and quicker way to go. Payments are usually schedule on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. More and more affiliate marketing companies are going with a minimum payment basis — in other words, you must earn a minimum amount in commissions before a payment is issued. If you have direct deposit set up, that minimum is usually much lower than if you require payment by check. That’s another good reason for setting up a digital payment method. You also want to find out about reporting — how can you see a record of the sales and commissions due you? It’s usually on the program’s website. In addition to helping you keep track of your earnings, it’s a good tool to show you the health of your affiliate business and allow you to fine-tune it and improve profitability. Is there a product that isn’t selling well? What is the reason? Is the promotion you’re doing not effective? Is the product just not popular with your target audience? A great strategy for finding out is A-B testing. Basically, you present two different sales letters with two different promotion strategies randomly, and then compare the results to see which one is better. Marketing tools What tools does the program offer its affiliates? Most affiliate programs offer banners, graphics, and links that new affiliates can use on their website or in their promotions. The links are automatically coded with the affiliate’s ID. Some companies’ affiliate tools are easier to create and use than others. For example, Amazon has a very easy-to-use link creation process. Some affiliate programs tools are harder to use, though. Can you find the affiliate programs tools easily? Are there some instructional videos to show you how to use the tools, or are you left to figure them out on your own? You also have to consider your customers: Is it easy for them to use the tools and make purchases? It’s usually best to test tools. First, place the affiliate link on your site or your post. Was it easy to find the affiliate program’s banners, pages, and buttons designed for use by affiliates? Was it easy to include the link on your page? Does it look good? Great. Now go to your website and click the affiliate link you just placed on your post (don’t go through and make the purchase, though). Does the link take your prospective customer where it was supposed to? Does it look professional? Does the message seem like it would appeal to your customer? Does it lead your customer to a purchase? If your answer to all these questions is yes — great! If you’re taken to a nonworking page, out-of-date information, an uninspiring message, or a complicated purchase process, those are signs that you may need to look for another affiliate company. Sometimes, primarily with smaller programs that may have smaller staffs, tools are sometimes out of date or refer to sales that are no longer active. With most affiliate companies, going this far to evaluate the affiliate tools is sufficient. You can be pretty much assured that if your customer makes a purchase from Amazon through your affiliate link, she will get the goods she has paid for. However, with some smaller affiliate programs, you have to make sure the payment button actually works (don’t actually make the purchase) and then monitor the programs to make sure the products your customers are purchasing are indeed delivered. In addition to the banners and graphics you can use on your website, many of the larger affiliate programs have training videos or training programs to help new affiliates make the best use of their program. For instance Amazon has a complete training program, which includes various reports, videos, and documents to help you. Their guides and training often show you what you should do and — just as important — what you shouldn’t do. Joining an affiliate program Different affiliate programs have different application processes. For some it’s as simple as filling out an online form. At the very least, in addition to submitting general information, you need to provide a W-9 form from the IRS so they can pay you. Most affiliate programs prefer to have a way to pay you without cutting a check. You can arrange to be paid by direct deposit to a bank account or to your PayPal account. Many affiliate marketers have affiliate programs pay a PayPal account. In today’s cybersecurity world, you may feel the fewer number of organizations that have my bank information, the better. With so many data breaches happening, you never know. Think your information has never been exposed in a data breach? Think again and enter your email address here to know for sure. If your data has been compromised, how many of those companies notified you? In my case the number was a really discouraging 10 percent of the occasions when my data was exposed in a data breach. But as affiliate programs have become more and more popular with millions of new affiliates joining all the time, affiliate networks have also become more selective and more security minded. Many no longer accept just your W-9 and a one-page form. You may be asked for additional information. Make sure your answers are complete and well crafted. You may be asked for any of the following: Biography or profile: Read the information on the program’s website. Find out what they expect of their affiliates, what promotional methods they like, what kind of customers they are looking for, and what products they offer. The websites of some affiliate programs are more complete than others. After you have researched the program, write your biography in a way that convinces the program you would be a great match for them. Affiliate marketing experience and/or knowledge is considered a plus. Social media pages and social media experience: The social media page you submit should be relevant to the affiliate program you’re trying to join. Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, the strength of your LinkedIn page may be your professional experience, sales experience, or the like that would have a wider relevance to many affiliate programs. Website: This is often the most important factor in your evaluation. Make sure the URL is correct. Make sure your website is currently complying with all legal regulations such as GDPR, disclosure, and web ID information. Make sure your website is up to date, is operating correctly, and contains no obvious errors, such as 404 page errors. No spelling mistakes; they make your site (and you) look sloppy and convey that you don’t pay attention to maintaining a professional appearance. Affiliate programs may feel you won’t present their products in a professional light either. Today most affiliate programs realize you may be a member of several programs, and most no longer demand exclusivity of their affiliates. So you may have a website that has some existing Amazon affiliate links. You’re not going to delete all of your moneymaking Amazon links so you can apply to another affiliate program. But make sure your site is still complying with all of Amazon’s requirements. For instance, if a program sees that you have Amazon links but do not have the required Amazon disclosure, they may come to the conclusion that you won’t follow their requirements. You are setting up a relationship with an affiliate program that will be paying you for your promotional efforts for many years. In fact, if you ever decide to show that your site is earning money with affiliate links, evidence of past income can dramatically boost the selling price. Take as much care as you can to present yourself in the best possible light on your website to convince the network program that you will make an excellent affiliate for them Promotional methods: Although your methods are not as critical a factor as when you are applying to an affiliate network, they are still important. The affiliate program you’re applying to may have methods of promotion that they prefer and others that they prohibit. Find out what the affiliate program is looking for and tailor your application appropriately. In most cases the review process is automated, and rarely are you given an explanation for a rejection. In many cases, however, appealing a rejection is possible, and that appeal is a manual, human-driven process. But with thousands of applications, the appeal process is often slow, and the outcome is uncertain and rarely in the affiliate’s favor. Some advice: if you aren’t approved or don’t hear from an affiliate program about your application, is to move on and apply to a different affiliate program. There are thousands of fish in the sea, so choose another.

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The 10 Best Free Tools for Affiliate Marketers to Promote Products

Article / Updated 02-06-2020

Affiliate marketing offers aspiring business people great opportunities. If you’re clever, you can even make the most of free tools. The internet is a vibrant entrepreneurial environment that is constantly giving birth to the new brainchild of millions of very creative people. Many of those products are launched initially as free products to gain visibility and users. Later, as they became more well known, they may change to a paid or “freemium” model, where a version with more limited functionality is free, but to unlock all the power, you need to pay. The tools here are free and have stood the test of time, so we don’t think any will become strictly paid products. They are great tools that you can use to help you develop your affiliate marketing business. Check to make sure that any free tool you want to use is still free. Make sure it is truly free, not just a trial that requires your credit card with the hope that you’ll forget the cancellation date. All the tools you find here are totally free or freemium, no credit card required, no trick trial. You want to be careful not to sign up for tools that will cost you money but you do not want. On the other hand, you don’t want to be dissuaded from signing up for a free account that is actually available just because it’s not obvious how to sign up for the free account. After all, these companies would prefer you sign up for a paid plan so they can make money, and that is often the focus of their web page. Stop and do not proceed if you’re asked for a credit card or other method of payment; you may be entering the “Payment Zone.” Although you may not experience some of the adventures described in the Twilight Zone, some of the funds in your wallet may be about to be levitated out. WordPress WordPress is so ubiquitous that many people think it is part of the internet, but it’s not. It wasn’t always that way. Years ago, when a marketer started a website on the internet, it meant having to be skilled in HTML and coding. WordPress is open-source software designed to ensure free access in perpetuity. It’s protected through the nonprofit foundation WordPress.org (not to be confused with WordPress.com) established by Matt Mullenweg. WordPress is an easy-to-use CMS (content management system) that allows you to very easily establish a website for your affiliate marketing business, edit it, add content, and make changes. Today most hosting companies have scripts that allow a one-click installation. You do have to add some information like username, password, and so on. After installation, you have to change the posts, pages, and other information to make it your own and match your own site goals Elementor Elementor is one of the most widely used WordPress page builders along with Thrive Themes and Beaver Builder. Page builders hit the WordPress world like a storm since they make building a great-looking web page as simple as dragging video, text, images, and other pre-built blocks into position on the page in the WordPress Editor. WordPress noticed the stampede of people to web page builders and tried to address the need with Gutenberg. At this point it doesn’t offer the power, control, or flexibility of Elementor. Of the page builders, only Elementor is a free plug-in. Beaver Builder is $99 a year and Thrive is $19 a month. Only Elementor is in the WordPress repository for plug-ins, which means it is open source and likely to be around for quite some time. Installation is as easy as going to your site, clicking “add new plug-in,” selecting Elementor, and then activating it after installation. Another advantage of Elementor is that you can get a bundle of Elementor, Elementor Pro, Astra Pro, and Ultimate-Ons for Elementor in a lifetime license package that also includes some training bonuses. You know how we like lifetime licensing, especially from Brainstorm Force, which is likely to be around for a long time because of its inclusion in the WordPress plug-in registry. (Brainstorm Force is the company that produces the bundle.) Page builders are great for the affiliate marketer because they dramatically speed up the time it takes you to create a post or a page. The pages are constructed by dragging blocks that can contain either images, text, or video. You can save blocks as templates you will reuse. Yoast Yoast is a great free WordPress search engine optimization (SEO) plug-in. You will be hit with a lot of things you need to master as a new affiliate marketer, and SEO is one of them. The good news is that Yoast guides you in the proper SEO setup of your site in an easy-to-follow, do-this format that shows you how close you are to the goal using a red, orange, and green rating system. Some of the SEO changes you make will also improve the content you’re writing in your posts and pages. In addition to the SEO tab, there is a readability tab. The readability tab rates your content on things like the Flesch Reading Ease Score, sentence length, word transition, passive voice, paragraph length, sentence length, and other variables. It grades you on each one and make suggestions for improvement where needed. You can see how you’re doing in an instant because each variable has a red or green circle showing you your grade. Since Yoast is open source, it is listed in the WordPress registry of plug-ins. Therefore, installation is as easy as going to your site, clicking “add new plug-in,” selecting Yoast, and then activating it after installation. A premium version is also available, which gives you some advanced SEO tools. Keywords Everywhere Keywords Everywhere is a great free Google Chrome or Firefox plug-in. After you install it, you’ll see search volume, cost per click (CPC), and competition data right on the browser bar. You can get your own free API (application program interface), which makes operation even more reliable. As you start your affiliate marketing efforts, you can easily save your favorite keywords and retrieve them for future analysis by clicking on the favorite button on the Keywords Everywhere icon after you have selected them. You can sort or export the keywords in the format you want, perhaps importing them into another program. The bulk import facility has been disabled because automated bots misused it, submitting thousands of queries per minute. Now if you want to be able to import a list of keywords (and other features), you have to upgrade to the paid version called Keyword Keg. Although some websites still say there is a free version, if you want to see any of your own data rather than the two sample words, you have to update to one of their paid plans, which start at $40 a month. SpyFu SpyFu allows you to spy on your competitors. You can see what keywords your competitors rank for and what they do to promote their keywords and site. This information allows you to learn from their successes and their failures. You get a fantastic boost up when you can learn from the best in your niche. You can capitalize on their successes and avoid the time and expense of their failures. This is especially useful for the new affiliate marketer who may not be exactly sure what the best topic, best keyword, and so on are. Blog Ideas Generator Your affiliate marketing success directly depends on your ability to produce a constant stream of valuable, engaging, and interesting content in the form of articles, posts, and pages. We all have periods where we just seem to run dry of new ideas, though. HubSpot’s Blog Ideas Generator allows you to add up to five words from which it generates a list of blog topic ideas. If you give it some information, it can generate a year’s worth of blog topic ideas. You can download that list to your computer for further use and analysis. The blog topic idea lists that you generate are great seed lists to generate your own ideas as well. As with most free tools, the intent is to entice you to use the paid version. However, you can still just enter your information at the website and generate the list. If you want more, you pay. Market Samurai Market Samurai is one of the first tools that was out there when affiliate marketers started to develop affiliate marketing businesses and other websites. It is the Swiss army knife of affiliate marketing tools, allowing you to do many different marketing analyses. However, the free version is actually a 30-day trial. The keyword research tool part of Market Samurai is free and will remain fully functional after the trial period. But after the 30-day trial is up, the other functions, such as the SEO competition, domain search, find content, monetization, promotion, and publish content functions, no longer work. The 30-day trial can give you a good sense of the power of the full version and whether it is right for you. Using Market Samurai as a keyword research tool, you can enter a keyword and have Market Samurai generate a list of related keywords. It can analyze the list based on up to 14 different factors that are important to the affiliate marketer doing keyword research — factors such as SEO traffic, competition, and commerciality. You can also use different filters to give you long tail keyword, golden keywords, and so on. Other filters are available, and you can even customize the filters so you get only the keywords that meet your specifications. It draws information from lots of other sources that would charge a monthly fee if you accessed them directly. But by getting the data through Market Samurai, you get it free. GTmetrix Today more than ever, people are impatient, and the speed of your affiliate marketing website is an important factor in its success. Recognizing this, Google considers how fast your website loads as a very important factor in its rankings. Today Google says that if your page doesn’t load in under three seconds, your visitor will probably click away and go to another site. There are many different metrics in measuring page speed — time to first bit, fully loaded time, and so forth. GTmetrix is a performance website that measures all the different factors that go into the overall speed of your site. It measures your PageSpeed score, your YSlow score, and your Waterfall, and it gives you a numerical score and colors those metrics in either green, yellow, or red. You can see at a glance whether you’re doing well or in which areas you’re falling down. Each of the different scores is broken down into the approximately 25 factors that make up those grades. GTmetrix tells you whether fixing the low scores is a high, medium, or low priority. Even if you don’t know what all of those factors mean at this point, GTmetrix can give you suggestions on how to correct those individual factors and raise your speed score. You can follow some of the GTmetrix suggestions by installing some of the free WordPress plug-ins that are designed to correct some of the speed problems. Using the free plug-ins alone, one affiliate marketer was able to raise the PageSpeed score on one of my websites from a C to an A. You’ll save yourself a lot of speed headaches if you choose a “clean” WordPress theme, which loads quickly (and is also mobile aware — another important factor today). You also want a theme that works well with your page builder if you’re using one. SimilarWeb SimilarWeb is a great tool for competitive analysis because it brings up sites that are similar to yours. You can put any website into the search bar and see what it’s doing to become successful. You can see the website’s traffic sources and whether they’re from searches or organic. It also shows you the top search keywords, and whether any traffic is coming from any of the social sites and which ones. So you can get great competitive analysis that shows you what other sites in your affiliate marketing niche are doing to attract traffic, what keywords they are targeting, and so on. In addition to competitive analysis, it’s also a great tool to help you track your own website. You can see whether your global rank and country rank are going up or down. You can also see the sources of your own traffic. You’ll get a good idea of which of your own campaigns are generating the most results. Are you wondering whether the latest internet guru and his offer are an imposter, a poser, or the real deal? Throw his website into SimilarWeb. It’s amazing how many gurus and miracle offers that claim tremendous traffic and interest barely register on the needle. Buffer Buffer is a great way to organize and schedule your social media campaigns. It’s hard to organize and schedule all of your posts when you are trying to promote to multiple social accounts. You can build up a queue of posts scheduled into the future so it will appear as if you’re continuing to feed your social accounts new content even if you’re taking a break. Using a tool like Buffer, you can leverage your social efforts by repurposing the content for different networks. You can also analyze the results to see which posts are most effective and fine-tune your social marketing efforts. Whenever you’re going on a vacation or otherwise interrupting the flow of your marketing efforts, make sure you schedule a queue of your posts or page on your website or social media platforms to keep your content pipeline full and flowing during your absence. Today’s competition is intense, and the internet hates nothing more than it hates a vacuum.

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The Pros of Affiliate Marketing

Article / Updated 02-05-2020

In contrast to affiliate marketing, a traditional business usually requires a big investment of both time and money. Because you’re making that substantial an investment, it’s not something you usually work on a part-time basis. On the other hand, affiliate marketing can offer many advantages over starting a traditional business for someone seeking to earn extra income, as you find out in the following sections. You can start your business instantly Affiliate marketing can be an instant business on your smartphone. Because you are earning an affiliate commission by promoting a product or service someone else has developed, you don’t have any of the headaches someone starting a traditional business has, as detailed earlier in this chapter. You have millions of physical products and thousands of digital products and services to choose from. If you are an Amazon affiliate, just think of the millions of products available. This offers your potential visitor a wider selection and increases the chance that one of the products or services you offer will be the one. In a traditional business, given all the time and money it takes to develop a product or service, you’re lucky if you can develop and offer one or two products. If it turns out your product is a dud on the market, you’re out of luck. You can choose your own path and lifestyle with affiliate marketing Most of us have gone through our entire lives with someone else telling us what to do and determining our actions. We go from our parents to school to a job. Frankly, most jobs are repetitive and boring. In most companies, telling your boss that he’s going in the wrong direction and that you have a better idea leads to an abruptly shortened career. Regardless of whether you consider yourself a rebel or a company man (or woman), having at least one part of your life where you can say you decided what to do can be very fulfilling and satisfying. Affiliate marketing can give you that path. You can choose your own lifestyle too. As long as you have access to a computer and an internet connection, you can be in business. Some affiliate marketers don’t even own a computer or subscribe to an internet service. They go to the public library and use theirs. For many, the most important aspect of becoming an affiliate marketer was freedom. Ted Sudol says, “When I worked as a network manager in NYC, it was up at 5 a.m., traveling on buses and subways for an hour and a half each way, and home at 7 p.m. When vacation time came, my boss said I could go anywhere I wanted to on my vacation as long as I could get back to work within four hours. With the traffic and traveling time in the metropolitan area, that didn’t leave many options.” With a computer and an internet connection, you can determine your hours and your schedule. You can work on a part-time basis and fit affiliate marketing into your current lifestyle. If you like the benefits affiliate marketing brings to your life, you may gradually want to work it more and make it a full-time endeavor, replacing your current job. But before you quit your job, make sure it is right for you and you can replace your current income. Want to disappear for a while at an exotic island location that doesn’t have an internet connection or computers? But worried the “hungry crowd” you worked so hard to gather will lose interest because there are no new website posts or you’re not sending them new, valuable information? No problem! You can write a quantity of valuable posts or new information before you leave and then schedule them to be sent out on a regular basis or any schedule you want. When you return no one will know you were gone unless you tell them about the amazing time you had. You can offer a diverse range of products One of the great advantages of affiliate marketing is that because you can choose from a wide marketplace of both physical and digital products, you can offer several different products through your affiliate links. You can track the results with your affiliate program to see what’s working and what isn’t. Since the affiliate program supplies the banners and links for all the products it offers, you can replace nonperforming products with products that are bringing in more income. In this way you can constantly improve your income over time with minimal cost or time. (See Chapter 6 for more information on choosing products.) Contrast that with a traditional business where you want to drop a dud product or service into which you’ve invested a lot of time and money — just to introduce a new product into which you’ll have to invest a lot more time and money. You have no product development and fulfillment with affiliate marketing As an affiliate marketer, you’re promoting a product or service someone else has produced. You’re simply earning a commission for presenting it to others. You don’t have to deal with the product development that’s covered in the earlier section “Surveying the Requirements of Starting a Traditional Business.” Have you ever worked fulfilling orders for a product? You have to select it off the shelf, find a box that fits, package it so it doesn’t get damaged, print the label, and take it to the post office. But don’t spend the money yet! You have to wait until the customer safely receives the product and is satisfied. Some returns and some packages will get lost in shipment. It’s your responsibility to reconcile these issues with the customer. Contrast that with being an affiliate marketer. There is no product you have to pack, label, or ship. If there is a problem with shipment or a refund request, the entity doing the fulfillment takes care of it all. You don’t have to be a technical genius with affiliate marketing You say you can’t become an affiliate marketer because you don’t know computer coding, HTML, and all the other computer geek speak? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to. Years ago, when people first started using the internet, knowing CMS, coding, HTML, and other technical things was a necessity. But that’s no longer the case. You can set up your affiliate marketing business in minutes on a smartphone by creating a WordPress site. Today, setting up a WordPress site can be a snap. Page builders have dramatically speeded up and simplified building a WordPress page. Now instead of inputting code, you simply drag and drop pre-built blocks onto the page where you want them. See Chapter 7 for more information. Your hosting company probably has a script that will set up the basic WordPress site for you with just the answers to a few questions, like what password you want to use and so forth. This gives you a basic WordPress site, and it is then up to you to transform it into a website visitors will want to come to for information (and hopefully make a purchase). Adding little WordPress customizers called plug-ins can change your website and do some pretty useful things for you, such as collecting email addresses, sending out newsletters or offers, and tracking the responses. That way you know which of your promotions work and which don’t, so you can fine-tune your approach. A lot of things you need to do to establish your presence are becoming a lot simpler and cheaper. Are you aware of the magic of using a “green screen”? With a video camera, some software, and background images, you can film yourself in front of a green cloth and then replace that with a background from the beach, an office building, an exotic location, or wherever you like. Some affiliate marketers promote their website and affiliate products with videos of reviews or interviews. You can replace the green screen background with a TV studio, a lecture hall, or an office building. A May 2019 article in the New York Times titled “How to Add Hollywood Special Effects to Your Videos” describes how you can produce a green-screen movie with a smartphone, a $2 to $5 video app, and a large piece of cloth. It may not have as many bells and whistles as a studio setup, but it may be all you need to promote your affiliate marketing product. Payment and accounting are automated in affiliate marketing Accepting and processing payments and managing accounting are other aspects of your affiliate marketing business that have been simplified. When some affiliate marketers started years ago, it was all about getting approved for merchant status and building payment gateways. Getting approved was tough, and merchant status was like gold because it was the only way you could accept payments. Today it’s as simple as pasting an Amazon or other affiliate company’s buy button on your website. Setting up to accept PayPal payments is also very easy. Many of the affiliate marketing companies already have PayPal buy buttons ready for you to use. You get company-supplied marketing materials Another bonus? You don’t have to design your marketing materials. You don’t have to go through the extensive process of testing different designs to see what works best. Most companies have an extensive assortment of banners, buttons, and graphics with your affiliate link already embedded. To start making money from the affiliate product, all you have to do is copy the link containing your affiliate from the company or affiliate network’s site and paste it where you want it on your web page. There are even plug-ins that make this already simple process even easier. You simply enter the product’s name in the plug-in search bar and choose the options you prefer regarding how you want your affiliate ad to appear. You can take advantage of tax deductions with affiliate marketing When you’re running a business from your home, many of the expenses you incur can become tax deductions for you. The computer, software, tools, hosting fees, and so on can all become tax deductions. Devote part of your house solely to your affiliate marketing business? Deduct a portion of your rent, heating, mortgage, electricity, or other bills. Affiliate marketing offers many pros. Why not get started today?

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