Are you finding it challenging to keep up with the high living costs and rentals? Do you spend most of your time trying to make ends meet and pay all those hefty bills? Perhaps a little extra side income would help. But, if you want to earn money outside of your job, you need to find a profitable side hustle.
Fortunately, the internet has opened up a plethora of new and unique opportunities for making extra money. From taking online surveys to becoming a professional proofreader – there are ample options to choose from. However, if your side hustle demands as much time and hard work as your job, it may not be worth the effort. The key is to find something that helps you make more money, without being overly time-consuming.
In other words, what you need is a source of passive income. Think of it like your very own hen that lays golden eggs. When executed judiciously, affiliate marketing strategies can prove to be sustainable as well.
Affiliate marketing is equally beneficial when you want to promote a new product and/or target a new demographic. However, ever since it has come into the limelight, affiliate marketing has been exploited by many brands and marketers. Therefore, if you want to turn it into a sustainable side hustle, you must leverage the best affiliate marketing strategies. You have to build your audience and earn their trust before you can make your sales pitch.
In the following sections, we will discuss some of the best affiliate marketing strategies for beginners as well as experts. Before we do that, let us first take a closer look at the concept of affiliate marketing.
Decoding Affiliate Marketing
In layman terms, affiliate marketing is the process of making money by promoting someone else’s product. You build an engaged audience and find a product that resonates with your online image. Then, you promote the product to your audience and earn a commission every time you make a sale.
Affiliate marketing typically involves three parties: the merchant, the affiliate, and the customer.
Image via CJ Affiliate
The merchant or advertiser is usually the creator or owner of the product. It can be a big brand, a small startup, or even a solo entrepreneur. The key is to have a sellable product. A merchant is also known by other names, such as a seller, retailer, vendor, brand, etc.
The affiliate someone who promotes and sells the merchant’s product in exchange for a commission. The affiliate needs to build a loyal and devoted audience before they can even start promoting a product.
It is equally crucial for them to establish their authority and promote only those products that are relevant to their niche. The affiliate can be a single individual or a full-fledged company.
The customer or consumer is the actual buyer of the product. In the absence of paying customers, even the best affiliate marketing strategies won’t be fruitful. It is thus important for the affiliate to have a good rapport with the customer. Otherwise, they won’t be able to convince the customer to buy a particular product.
Affiliates utilize various strategies to promote a merchant’s products. You can publish an authentic review of the product on your blog or YouTube channel. Alternatively, you can subtly plug the product in your weekly newsletters or social media posts. The key is to find the communication channel that your audience will most likely use.
As an affiliate, it is also essential to maintain transparency with your audience. It is recommended that you disclose the fact that the promotion is financially incentivized. This also ensures that you comply with the FTC guidelines and help you avoid legal complications.
It is vital to understand that affiliate marketing can be used to sell tangible as well as intangible products. Tangible products include anything that has to be physically created and shipped to the buyer. Intangible products are mostly digital products such as online courses, webinars, podcasts, etc.
Apart from the merchant, affiliate, and customer, you will encounter a few other terms while trying your hands at affiliate marketing. Here are a few of them:
• Affiliate network:
An affiliate network is an online marketplace where merchants can list the products they wish to promote and sell. To make money, you have to sign-up as an affiliate and find products that will appeal to your audience. When you select a product to sell, the network will provide you with a unique affiliate link. You can add this link in your blog posts, YouTube videos, newsletters, etc. to promote the product.
Image via Amazon
Instead of affiliate links, merchants can also provide affiliates with unique discount codes. These codes serve the same purpose as links.
• Affiliate link:
It is a trackable URL that is assigned to an affiliate. It contains a unique ID or username that helps identify the affiliate. This, in turn, helps attribute website traffic or a sale to the affiliate.
The affiliate usually advertises this link on their website and social media profiles. Take a look at the screenshot below:
Image via MonetizePros
• Affiliate commission:
It is the incentive offered to an affiliate in exchange for a sale. It is usually a percentage of the total sale.
• Affiliate agreement:
It refers to the agreement between the merchant and affiliate that outlines responsibilities, commission, timelines, etc. Most online affiliate networks have a pre-defined agreement. In case an affiliate network is not involved, the merchant and affiliate can mutually decide on an informal agreement.
Image via Amazon
It is defined as the credit or reward given to an affiliate when they drive traffic to a merchant’s website.
• Affiliate program:
It is the framework developed by a merchant to promote their products through relevant affiliates.
Now that we’ve established a deeper understanding of the concept of affiliate marketing and its terminology, let us look at an example.
Example of Affiliate Marketing
One of the most famous examples of affiliate marketing strategies is the rise of Daniel Wellington. Instead of running after top-notch celebrities, the Swedish luxury watch brand chose to focus on niche influencers. These social media influencers are gifted with DW watches in exchange for an Instagram post featuring their product with the branded hashtag #DanielWellington.
Additionally, each influencer is assigned with a unique promo code. This code can be used by their audience to get a discount on DW watches. It also helps attribute the sale to a particular influencer. This strategy has helped the brand attract more than 4.7 million Instagram followers and become one of Europe’s fastest-growing companies.
Image via Instagram
It is important to note how Daniel Wellington has achieved success by prioritizing relevance and engagement over reach. The brand often chooses micro-influencers with a fiercely devoted follower community. Choosing the right social media platform has also played a significant role. Daniel Wellington’s target audience mostly comprises young, free-spirited, and creative individuals who are more likely to use Instagram regularly.
The rise of Daniel Wellington proves how beneficial affiliate marketing can be for brands. The best affiliate marketing strategies let you harness the power of influence to sell your products. It is especially helpful when you want to break into a new market. You can leverage the affiliate’s authority and rapport with their audience to promote your product.
But, as an affiliate, how do you benefit from a merchant’s success? Let us find out.
The Importance of Affiliate Marketing
The biggest advantage with affiliate marketing is that it presents a win-win solution for both brands and affiliates. As a merchant, your products get increased exposure, and you get more targeted and focused traffic. It even helps generate qualified leads and drive conversions. Thus, it is not surprising that 38% of marketers agree that affiliate marketing is one of their top customer acquisition techniques.
The biggest benefit for affiliates is that they don’t have to invest time and resources to create a cutting-edge product. You don’t have to spend countless hours trying to develop a unique product and then testing it in the market. You don’t have to evaluate and find out whether the product will be met with high demand too.
That difficult task is already being taken care of by the merchant. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about logistics such as handling stocks, managing inventory, and shipping products. Thus, the initial setup cost for an affiliate is negligible.
You can get started with affiliate marketing as long as you have a computer and a stable internet connection. Moreover, you don’t stand to lose much even if a customer doesn’t buy the product. This is simply because you are not the owner or creator of the product. Thus, affiliate marketing is an extremely cost-effective and low-risk source of passive income.
Despite its lucrative benefits, affiliate marketing comes with its own set of disadvantages. The biggest drawback is that every other person is trying their hands on affiliate marketing. Even Google Trends indicates a significant increase in the number of Google searches for “affiliate marketing.”
This means that your audience is likely saturated with manipulative affiliate marketing schemes.
If you want to cut through this noise, you must leverage the best affiliate marketing strategies. You have to become a powerhouse of insightful content and win the trust of your audience. Additionally, you should believe in the products or brands that you promote. Otherwise, it will come across as a financially motivated endorsement.
Let’s take a closer look at effective affiliate marketing strategies that will help you drive sales. However, before we do that, let us understand how affiliate marketing works.
How Affiliate Marketing Works: An Overview
We have already discussed the different terms associated with affiliate marketing. In addition, we have elaborated on the various parties involved in this process. It’s time to delve deeper into the process and see how it works.
Typically, affiliate marketing involves the following steps:
• The merchant comes up with an idea for a unique/revolutionary product.
• The merchant validates the idea by testing the market and finding out if there is any real demand for the product.
• The merchant creates the product and launch it in the market; simultaneously; they set up an affiliate program.
• The merchant finds relevant affiliates and invites them to join the affiliate program. Alternatively, an affiliate can also approach merchants for collaboration.
• The merchant assigns a unique ID and affiliate link to the affiliate.
• The affiliate promotes the brand/product and includes the affiliate link in relevant blog posts, newsletters, social media posts, etc.
• When a potential customer clicks on the affiliate link and visits the merchant’s website, a cookie is generated and stored in their browsing device. This cookie contains the affiliate ID and helps identify the affiliate as the source of the traffic to the merchant’s site. It also helps attribute the sale to the affiliate, even if it happens days or weeks after the visitor clicks on the link.
• Whenever a visitor purchases a product, the merchant checks the sales record and finds the associated cookie. This helps identify the affiliate who drove the visitor to the merchant’s website in the first place.
• If the merchant finds a cookie containing an affiliate ID, the corresponding affiliate is credited with a sale.
• The merchant pays a cut to the affiliate at the end of each payment cycle.
Image via SmartBlogger
Alternatively, the merchant can list their products on an affiliate network. This eliminates the need to find and reach out to affiliate partners. Likewise, the affiliate can sign-up on an affiliate network and find products they would like to promote. The network assigns a unique ID and link to identify the affiliate.
Image via Amazon
You can leverage affiliate marketing in two ways – as a merchant or an affiliate. Becoming a merchant requires you to develop a sellable product. On the other hand, when you become an affiliate, the initial hard work is already done by the merchant.
The next section will elaborate on a few techniques and hacks that affiliate marketers can use to increase their passive income.
The Best Affiliate Marketing Strategies to Drive Sales
One of the most common mistakes that new affiliate marketers make is to jump right in without a plan. Just because the product has already been developed, it doesn’t eliminate the need for a concrete affiliate marketing strategy. In the absence of a solid plan, even the best product won’t find any takers.
Even before you collaborate with a merchant or sign-up on an affiliate network, there are a few things you should take care of.
The Prerequisites for Affiliate Marketing
Firstly, establish your brand and build your audience. Identify a niche that appeals to you the most. The next task is to develop your authority in the chosen niche. An easy way to do this is to start a blog or a YouTube channel.
Create and publish high-quality content in the form of product reviews, tutorials, how-to videos, etc. Make sure your content is unique and insightful and adds some value to the reader/viewer. It will be even better if your content addresses the pain points of your audience and resolves their problems.
This requires a thorough understanding of your audience. You must have a clear idea of their primary demographics, such as age, gender, location, education, profession, etc. You should also identify their likes, dislikes, needs, preferences, online behavior, etc. Dig deeper and find out the devices they use and their preferred channel of communication.
Not every content creator can become a successful affiliate marketer. You must build an engaged audience and earn their trust. Your audience comprises social media followers, blog readers, YouTube subscribers, email subscribers, etc. Host contests and giveaways to expand your reach on social media and win more followers.
It is also essential to create a lead magnet that will help you collect email addresses. A lead magnet is typically a piece of extremely valuable content that you can access by providing your email address. Popular examples of lead magnets include eBooks, case studies, whitepapers, podcasts, etc. You can even use the free trial or early access to your product as a lead magnet.
A lead magnet helps convert your website visitors and blog readers into leads. Once you have access to their email addresses, you can directly communicate with them to promote affiliate products. An effective way of showcasing your lead magnet and collecting email addresses from website visitors is to use popup boxes. You can even use exit-intent popups that are triggered when the mouse pointer hovers over the close button.
Image via Search Engine Journal
Likewise, you can use Hello Bar to convert website visitors into leads. The tool lets you add an omnipresent notification bar on your website. You can use this bar to prompt your audience to submit their email addresses.
Image via Dogs Naturally
Once you have built your audience, the next move is to find products that will appeal to them. Let’s say your blog talks about homemade vegan food. Your audience likely consists of vegans and vegetarians.
If you suddenly start marketing cold cut meats to this audience, it will drive them away. Apart from losing your audience’s trust, you will also jeopardize your credibility and authority as a content creator. It will come across as a sponsored endorsement and put your motives into question. Instead, if you promote a vegan replacement for meat, it will likely find many takers among your audience.
Thus, the selection of products that you will promote through affiliate marketing is one of the most critical aspects. Watch out for products that are relevant in your niche. Additionally, you should ensure that it adds some value to your audience.
It is also extremely important to make sure that you believe in the value of the product. If you aren’t convinced about the utility or quality of a product, you can’t encourage your audience to buy it. It will come across as overly promotional and drive potential buyers away.
One way to start with affiliate marketing is to promote products you already use and love. If the product appeals to you, it will likely resonate with your audience. Next, find merchants who sell these products and directly contact them to find out if they are running an affiliate program. You can also find affiliate programs by entering “affiliate program” + [product name] on Google.
Image via Google
In addition to product quality and utility, you should also take a look at the merchant’s reputation. Does the merchant have a transparent refund policy? Does the merchant provide excellent customer support? These factors are essential to ensure that your audience has a seamless shopping experience once you have driven them to the merchant’s site.
The alternative is to sign-up as an affiliate on an affiliate network. It is recommended that you spend time researching these products and invest money to try them out. The last thing you want is to happen is to lose credibility by promoting a low-quality and/or harmful product.
So far, you have garnered a loyal audience and identified the type of products you’d like to promote. Your next step is to outline a strategy that will help drive sales.
Here are the best affiliate marketing strategies that demand your immediate attention:
1. Leverage Product Reviews
Today’s internet-savvy consumers take help from search engines and social media every time they want to buy something. The sheer variety and choice often put them in a dilemma of what product to purchase. They tend to be skeptical about choosing a particular brand over another. According to a study by gen.video, 77% of the respondents claim to have used social media as an inspiration for buying new products.
You can monetize your audience by publishing authentic and high-quality reviews of the products you want to promote. You can write it as a blog post or create a video for your YouTube channel. The choice of medium depends on where your target audience is most active.
If you are writing a blog post, make it detailed and insightful. While you have to include the affiliate link, make sure you share your unbiased views on the product. List out all its pros, but don’t hesitate to brush past the cons. If your review isn’t genuine and helpful, your audience will immediately sense that you are monetarily motivated.
Make sure you feature the link to the merchant’s site multiple times in your content. This makes it difficult for the reader to ignore the link. It is also recommended that you maintain transparency by mentioning that it is an affiliate link.
Image via SmartBlogger
Make the review believable by sharing your personal experiences and stories of using the product. Additionally, you should use relevant and popular keywords in your content. This helps ensure that your blog post shows up in relevant search engine results. Optimize the layout of your blog post and use images and videos to make the review more engaging.
Alternatively, you can create unboxing videos and review affiliate products on your YouTube channel. Include the affiliate link in the video description as well as the end card of your video. Make the review interesting by including close-up shots of the product.
Image via YouTube
Another clever tactic is to publish reviews comparing the affiliate product with a direct competitor. Highlight the features that give it an edge over the competitor. Such reviews will likely send more qualified traffic to the merchant’s website.
2. Harness the Potential of Social Media and Influencers
Once you have published a review, you shouldn’t wait for your audience to discover it. Instead, you should actively promote it using various marketing channels. Share the review across all your social media profiles and include the affiliate link in your social media posts as well.
There are approximately 2.8 billion social media users in the world. Likely, many of them will qualify as your target audience. Yet, they may not be aware of your blog and its content.
The thing about social media is that if users like your content, they will share it in their own networks. This helps you expand your reach beyond your existing audience. It also lets you reach out to an audience that would have remained inaccessible otherwise.
Likewise, an influencer can help drive increased traffic to your website/YouTube channel. Influencers share a friendly rapport with their followers and have the power to shape their decisions and choices. They can be particularly useful when your audience includes millennials and Gen Z members. In fact, 70% of millennials claim they will likely get more influenced by bloggers than traditional celebrities.
This can be done by partnering with relevant influencers in your niche. You can collaborate for a cross-promotional venture wherein each party does a shoutout for the other on their social media profiles. You can even work with them to create fresh content featuring the affiliate product.
It is worth pointing out that you shouldn’t collaborate with any random influencer who has a massive follower count. Analyze their social media profiles to find out how well their audience engages with their content. Additionally, you should ensure that the influencer isn’t already promoting similar affiliate products.
3. Host a Live Webinar
Live webinars presents a great opportunity to interact with your audience and know more about them. It is also an effective technique of educating your audience about a product that you are trying to sell.
Let’s say you have tied up with a merchant and want to sell an online course on digital marketing. There’s no shortage of digital marketing courses available in the market, so what makes your course better? Why should a consumer choose your course over others?
A webinar gives you the perfect opportunity to address these concerns and answer all their questions. This, in turn, convinces your audience further about the product that you are selling. Additionally, a webinar acts as an excellent tool for lead generation.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind while hosting a webinar:
• Announce the webinar in advance and promote it across all your social media profiles.
• Use paid ads on social media and search engines to promote your webinar.
• Send an email to all your existing email subscribers, inviting them to join the webinar.
• Promote the webinar on your blog using a notification bar or popup boxes.
• Create a dedicated landing page where people can sign-up for the webinar. Make sure that the landing page is optimized for only one goal – getting a visitor to register for the webinar.
• Once you have gathered sufficient participants, hosting the webinar is fairly simple. You can use WebinarJam for this purpose.
• During the webinar, highlight all those features that distinguish the affiliate product from its competitors.
• Share your personal experience of using the product. Don’t hesitate to talk about its limitations (if any).
• Set aside a specific time to address all the queries and concerns of your audience.
• Share the affiliate link with all participants at the end of the webinar. Since they have invested so much time hearing great things about the product, they will be more convinced to buy it.
You can make your webinar even more engaging by hosting it in collaboration with a relevant influencer. It can increase the perceived value of your webinar and help you get more registrations. Additionally, try to get a special discount from the merchant for your participants. It will further motivate them to make a purchase.
4. Utilize Email Marketing
Email marketing is an effective way of maintaining direct communication with your audience. We have already discussed useful tips to collect email addresses from website visitors. Once you have built a robust mailing list, you must stay connected with them. You can do this by sending them valuable, engaging, and educational content.
Create a series of newsletters educating your subscribers about the features and benefits of the product. Make sure your mailers aren’t overly promotional. Instead, focus on giving real value to the reader. At the end of the series, you can make your sales pitch and offer them an irresistible deal on the product.
Additionally, if you are already sending a weekly newsletter, you can include the affiliate link in a relevant section. Make sure you don’t try too hard to sell the product. You can make your mailers more engaging and credible by including testimonials from existing customers. You can even announce special discounts or giveaways for your email subscribers.
The key is to ensure that you don’t force your subscribers to buy a product. Instead, you should focus on providing added value to them. For instance, you can include a link to a review of the affiliate product in your mailer, without showcasing the affiliate link upfront.
You can also use email automation software such as MailChimp to segment your audience. Create separate segments based on how specific subscribers engage with your audience. You can then send targeted promotional emails to each segment. Additionally, you can use autoresponders to automatically send the next email based on how a subscriber interacts with your emailer.
Another smart tactic is to create a series of emails unveiling a product. You can conclude the series by offering a special discount or early access to the product. This is particularly helpful when a merchant is about to launch a new product. It helps create a buzz and build an audience even before the product hits the market.
An effective email funnel is one of the best affiliate marketing strategies. It can help drive qualified visitors to the merchant’s website and convert them into paying customers. However, you should maintain a balance between educational and promotional content.
5. Leverage Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
PPC ads are one of the best affiliate marketing strategies because they offer multiple benefits. You can use them to build your mailing list, promote your webinar, and drive conversions. However, you can’t achieve all three objectives using the same ad. Instead, you should create a PPC ad that focuses on a specific goal.
For instance, when you search for “learn LeadPages” on Google, the first listing is a PPC ad by Leadpages. It promotes a 14-day free trial of their product.
Image via Google
When you click on the ad, you are redirected to a landing page. You are offered the aforementioned free trial in exchange for your email address.
Image via Leadpages
The above ad is a useful example of how PPC advertising can be used to generate leads and drive conversions. When a user clicks on the ad and opts for the free trial, they have to submit their email address. This helps grow your mailing list. Additionally, if they find the product to be useful during the free trial, they will likely return to get the paid version.
While running PPC ads for affiliate marketing, you should carefully outline your objective and select your keywords. Make sure you target keywords that exhibit an intent to purchase. Additionally, you should target keywords used by the merchant and your competitors. The best affiliate marketing strategies focus on using PPC ads to promote email sign-ups and webinar registrations.
Also note that your landing page plays a critical role in the performance of a PPC ad. If your PPC ad links to your blog post or product review, users won’t know what action they are supposed to take. Instead, you should use an optimized landing page with a clear call-to-action (CTA). It immediately tells the user what they should do on the landing page.
You can run PPC ads on multiple platforms – search engines (like Google) and social networking sites (like Facebook). Irrespective of the platform used, the underlying principle is that you pay money for every click on your ad. Therefore, you should run PPC ads only when your affiliate marketing business has garnered significant traction. Otherwise, you may not be able to recoup the expenses of these ads.
6. Announce Exclusive Discounts and Deals
One of the most best ways to drive sales is to launch promotional offers. This is because consumers love discounts and are always on the lookout for good deals.
Image via Blackhawk Network
You can do this by offering your audience with discount coupons and exclusive deals. It is one of the best affiliate marketing strategies that will help you drive conversions. Needless to say, you must do this with the consent of the merchant. Most often, the merchant will provide you with a trackable discount code.
Once you have created the offer, make sure you actively promote it on social media and through emailers. A webinar is also an effective way of promoting the offer to your audience. You can run PPC ads for the offer as well.
7. Create a Dedicated Resource Page
When trying your hands at affiliate marketing, you will likely not restrict yourself to a single product or merchant. You must be promoting multiple products from various vendors. It also helps if you have a specific page on your website that showcases all your affiliate products.
Moreover, make sure the page is easily accessible from different sections on your website. It helps ensure that irrespective of how a visitor lands on your website, they become aware of your affiliate products. It can be a landing page that lists all your affiliate products and links to the merchant’s site. It can also be a detailed blog post that highlights the benefits of each product.
Take a look at the screenshot below:
Image via SmartBlogger
Affiliate marketing is an extremely useful side hustle that can help you generate a steady flow of passive income. Being an affiliate marketer, you don’t have to go through the pain of creating and testing a new product. Your responsibility is just to identify the right products and promote them to your audience.
However, the journey of an affiliate marketer isn’t always a cakewalk. You have to utilize the best affiliate marketing strategies to build your audience and engage with them. You must leverage social media marketing and PPC advertising to expand your reach. You should also collaborate with relevant influencers to grow your audience.
A key proponent to affiliate marketing is to establish yourself as a valuable source of insightful content. This is essential to earn the trust of your audience and make it easier to pitch your sale. Moreover, you should utilize webinars and weekly newsletters to educate your audience about the product.
Have you used any affiliate marketing strategies to earn more money? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Richa describes herself as an avid dreamer and a curious soul! She is a certified Content & Search Marketing Specialist from Digital Marketer, USA. With an experience of 5+ years as a content marketer and researcher, she is in love with Digital Breakthroughs, Content Marketing, Startup Strategies and so much more.