What is Affiliate Marketing?
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that I’m a very big fan of affiliate marketing. But, what is affiliate marketing exactly?
That’s what we’ll go over in this post, where I’ll also be going over the benefits of affiliate marketing and a simple Affiliate Marketing blueprint.
There are 3 ingredients to constructing a New Rich life, and I’ll be using a car as a metaphor:
- Knowing where you are right now (net worth)
- Knowing where you want to go (your financial freedom number) (more about Financial Freedom number here)
- Driving towards your destination faster. (passive income)
So, where does affiliate marketing fit in?
It fits in that last ingredient. Because, if done right, affiliate marketing is a passive income source.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Say that you’re really into pizza, and you’ve just discovered this new pizza place that you simply love.
You like their service. You adore their original menu options, and you think it’s very reasonably priced.
So, what do you do?
You tell another pizza-lover about this great, new, and amazing place you just found.
That friend then orders their next pizza at that store.
She mentions that she heard about that place because of you, so the pizza parlor owner rewards you for sending them a customer by making your next order free.
You helped a friend.
You helped the pizza parlor.
You get rewarded for that.
Pretty sweet, right?
In a nutshell, this is affiliate, or referral marketing.
But, instead of getting your next pizza free of charge, you’re sent a piece of whatever your friend paid. This is also known as a commission.
If that same pizza parlor owner gave you $3 for every customer you send their way, you’re 33 friends away from making an extra $100.
That’s definitely not quit-your-job-money, but it’s maybe one less trip of groceries that you have to pay for.
Before I go into the step-by-step Affiliate Marketing blueprint, I want to discuss both the benefits and the drawbacks of affiliate marketing.
The benefits of affiliate marketing
There’s a reason why I rated affiliate marketing as the most beginner-friendly way to start making money online in this post.
You don’t have to create a product
This is already done for you!
Creating a product usually, and hopefully, comes after having done extensive market research. Something that costs a lot of time and a lot of money.
Then, there’s also the cost of actually creating the product, and refining it based on customer feedback.
You don’t have to do any of that.
No customer support
Because you didn’t create the product, and you don’t take care of the billing, you don’t have to spend time and other resources on customer support.
Low barrier to entry
Essentially, you can get started in affiliate marketing by just having 3 things:
- A product to promote
- Someone to promote it to
- A means of communication
Since you’re reading this, I’m gonna go ahead and assume that you have an internet connection. 🙂
This means that you can look for an affiliate program, and most either approve you within a few business days, or you’re approved automatically.
Then, you can probably think of someone who would be a good fit for that product/service.
And then you use one of your messaging apps to send your link to them.
And there you go, you just affiliate marketed!
It can be as simple as that.
If you just want to make some extra pocket money, then this simple setup is fine.
But, if you want to significantly supplement your income with affiliate income, and turn it into a predictable source of passive income, read along for the Affiliate Marketing Blueprint.
The drawbacks of affiliate marketing
If you want to be really serious about affiliate marketing and start making some significant affiliate income, the only drawback that I can think of is that you need to have an audience to promote your affiliate offer to.
While this can be a hurdle, and growth can feel slow at the beginning, it’s definitely not something you can’t overcome.
This brings me to…
The Affiliate Marketing Blueprint
Let’s go over this Blueprint and how you can use affiliate marketing to create another passive income source that may even allow you to replace your full-time, traditional employee income or just be a very nice supplemental income.
Step 0: Setting a Goal
Continuing with the car metaphor, you need to input your destination into your GPS system in order for you to know where you’re going.
There are all kinds of goals you can set for yourself when starting with affiliate marketing, but this one is only about a monthly income goal.
A word of caution, though:
Do not go for an outlandish goal.
In this post on the 6 reasons why you haven’t gotten any closer to financial freedom yet, the very 1st one is Intangible Goals.
Allow me to copy/paste from that:
You model your goals off of one, or both of these things:
Social Media Claims
You’ve seen the posts and ads all over the internet.
“How I became a millionaire with this supersecret method that nobody wants you to know in 3.2 seconds!”
Clearly, that’s an exaggeration. But you know what I mean.
You model your goals off of these outlandish numbers that you trust this complete stranger, to you, has achieved.
So, you think it’s attainable for most people as well.
You watch their webinar, buy the program on a payment plan, get in the exclusive Facebook group and then you see it…
A lot of people in the group are talking about how they’re struggling. And only a handful have had some significant, life-changing success.
This is not to diss any of those course creators. And I will always applaud ambition.
But, usually, they’ve gotten to that place not by focusing on this outlandish 7-figure number as a goalpost.
You model your goals off of this and/or this…
You just thought of a random number
Usually, a number that’s so big and large that in your mind has always been associated with financial freedom.
And most likely, that number is somewhere in the million dollar range.
Shooting for the moon is great, but first, you need to build a rocket that will get you there.
It’s either one, or both, of those things combined with
Not Believing It’s a Possibility For You
If you’ve never been around 7 figures, it’s hard to imagine what that feels or looks like.
Actually, no. It’s easy to imagine it, but it’s hard to believe it.
What happens here is that you may be able to conjure up images of what your life would look like when you’ve hit that big-figure number.
Maybe you even write it all down.
But because you’ve never been around that kind of money, there’s a part of you that stops you from believing that it’s a possible reality for you.
That is why you’ve failed in the past, and that’s why you will continue to fail, unless a stroke of luck happens, which neither of us can control.
To explain the solution, I first need you to do an exercise for me:
Imagine how you’d feel with 7-figures.
Now, imagine how you’d feel with 6-figures.
Still peaceful, right?
Now, imagine how you’d feel with an extra $2000/month.
Most likely, that thought of having an additional $2000/month in your current financial situation brings the same level of financial peace that 6- or 7-figures did.
So, let’s start with that: whatever you’re currently getting in income every month + an additional $2000/month.
Now, to the solution.
The way to make your mind believe that it’s attainable, it needs to be somewhat familiar to something it can wrap its head around.
$1M broken down over 12 months is $83,333.
$83,333 broken down over 30 days is $2,777.
So ~$2,777/day is what you’d need to reach those 7 figures.
The problem with this is that this is close, or maybe more than you make in a month. So your brain can’t wrap its head around making that in a single day.
And it starts sabotaging you.
Take that additional $2000/month.
$2000 broken down over 30 days is $66.66…
This is something your brain can wrap its head around.
Don’t focus on making 1M. Don’t focus on making $100,000. Don’t even focus on $2000.
Keep your focus on making $66.66.. a day.
Then, if you’ve been making that consistently, focus on adding another $66.66.. to that.
And once you’ve hit that goal post, move it up again with another $66.66.
This is how to make it attainable for you. This is the solution.
Not only does it build confidence, because you’re actually reaching your goals and starting to make some significant additional income, it also teaches you most of the skills that you’re going to keep needing as you move that goal post up and up and up again.
Use this to set your income goal.
Moving on, we’ll be going with an income goal of $1500/month, or $50/day.
Step 1: Your niche
Now that you have your income goal, you need to determine what niche you’re going to go in.
A niche can also be seen as a subset, or subset of a subset of a particular industry.
Niche exercise example:
Industry: Health & Fitness
Niche: Food & Weight Loss
Subset: Keto diet
Subset of the subset: Keto diet & lifestyle for men
Subset of the subset of the subset: Keto diet & lifestyle for men fresh out of college
I hope that example is helpful to you and allows you to grasp the concept of what a niche is.
As you can see in the example above, I went 4 levels deep (Food & Weight Loss -> Keto -> Keto for men -> Keto for men fresh out of college).
When you’re starting out, this is something that I recommend you do, as well.
Go for a very particular demographic within a niche. This will allow you later on to get the right kind of people to your affiliate offer.
Later on, once you’ve got some visible success, you can go and niche up (“keto for men”) or niche horizontally (“keto for first-time dads”)
A question you need to ask yourself at this point:
Should I choose a niche that I’m passionate about?
For some personality types, it’s an absolute must to choose a niche that they either already know, and have a personal interest or passion for it, in order for them to keep putting in the work.
It comes down to self-awareness. If you know that you absolutely need to care about a particular niche or industry, then do that.
On the other hand, there are personality types who can separate this.
For them - this includes yours truly -, it’s a business.
No one way is the better way.
But the group of people who can keep putting the work in, regardless of their personal level of interest in that particular niche, have more industries and niches to choose from.
Step 2: Finding an Affiliate Offer
Once you’ve decided on your niche, it’s time to find an actual offer to promote.
You can do a Google search for “[insert your niche here] affiliate programs” and get a lot of results.
What I recommend doing though is using a marketplace like Clickbank.
Signing up for an account with Clickbank is free and takes less than a minute.
Once logged in, you can see all the categories that they have offers in:
The criteria I look for when deciding on an affiliate offer
I look for a minimum of earning $20 commission with each affiliate sale
This is not a deal breaker for me, but this is definitely a preference of mine.
This is also what can make an affiliate marketing income source predictable.
Gravity is a Clickbank-specific metric that shows how much other affiliates have made at least one affiliate sale in the last 12 weeks.
This shows that the offer is actually something people want and are buying. This proves market demand.
This should be a minimum of 20.
How many people are buying the product and asking for a refund?
A high refund-rate means that the product isn’t one worth promoting. “High” is different for every industry. (For example, refund rates are historically higher in the online marketing space)
I’ve taken all of this criteria and, because we went with the Keto niche, landed on this offer:
To hit my daily income goal of $50, I’d need to make 3 affiliate sales/day.
Also look at the recurring $/rebill!
Let’s do the math on that real quick before we move on:
(Equation assumes that the 3 affiliate sales/day all sign up for a monthly subscription at $96.94/month in affiliate commission to me)
$24.9 x 3 = $74.7/day x 30 = $2241/month (in first-time affiliate sales)
90 (sales/month) x $96.94 = $8,724.60/month (in recurring monthly commissions)
Do you see how focusing on seemingly smaller numbers can make a very big and significant difference?
Step 3: Distribution vehicle
Still using the car metaphor, this is the step where you decide which car you’re going to use to get to your destination
Where are people going to find your affiliate offer?
Though there are some methods that are 100% free, these never last. (At the time of writing this, creating a Google Site is a great distribution vehicle)
Anybody that tells you that there are free ways, are either lying or trying to convince you of a distribution vehicle that isn’t going to last, and potentially doing all of this to get you to buy their courses or programs.
With my overall goal with this post and this blog being that you can set up another passive income source, it needs to be a dependable source of income for at least a year.
I will go over several distribution vehicles, with an estimated cost and end with the one that I think is best.
This is a method where you send people who’ve never heard of you to your affiliate offer.
You either buy a Solo Ad on a place like Udimi, buy email lists, or look for ways to scrape an email list yourself.
I’d only keep this as an option if your affiliate offer also has some form of recurring commissions.
PS: clicking that link will get you a $5 discount on your first Solo Ad order with Udimi
Landing Page software
Setting up a simple 2-page funnel on a tool like Clickfunnels can also do the trick.
The good thing about this way is that you can capture someone’s email address and build your own email list on something like ActiveCampaign, so you can keep sending that list follow-up emails to the same affiliate offer, or send another offer to down the line that’s related to Keto.
You can create an Instagram or TikTok account and schedule a bunch of posts that are designed strategically (with hashtags) to grow your account organically, and your “link in bio” can be your affiliate link.
Essentially, you can post manually, making this distribution vehicle the cheapest but this method also takes a lot of time.
My recommendation: your own blog
These are the best to create a predictable and sustainable source of passive income.
And this may also be the one you’ve got the least experience with and may feel the most intimidating. That’s okay.
Do it scared. Do it intimidated.
You see, your own blog is an asset.
If set up strategically, a blog can be some heavy lifting in the beginning, when setting it up, but eventually be something you only need to spend 1 hour/week on, to publish new content.
Take this blog for example.
I spent weeks putting it together. I spent weeks setting up the back-end and writing some posts, so that it at least looks real.
I worked on a traffic strategy (which is the next step) and now spend about 1.5 - 2 hours/week on the blog (updating plugins, writing/editing/scheduling content)
There is definitely a right way to start your own blog and a wrong way, and that needs to be its own post to do it justice.
Step 4: Traffic
Now that you’ve decided where people are going to see your affiliate offer, it’s time to get people to actually see it.
After all, if a blog is online, but nobody sees it, does it even exist. 😉
Let’s talk about traffic.
Nothing good in life is free.
It either costs money, or it costs you time.
Paid traffic is, as the name suggests, traffic that you pay for.
The internet is an attention game, and this way you can buy attention in a targeted way.
Paid Social Media Traffic
The obvious ones here are platforms like Facebook (that own Instagram, Messenger and Whatsapp) and TikTok.
Because of the vast amount of data these platforms collect on us, from our relationship status, to our age, to our geographic location, to the types of pages and videos we watch, you can use a platform like Facebook’s Business Manager to get really granular in who your ad campaign will be shown to.
Building off of the earlier niche example of Food & Weight loss -> Keto -> Men -> Men fresh out of college, this could be some good basic-level targeting to put your ad in front of these people:
One of the benefits of using paid traffic is that you can accelerate your business growth and this is a great way to direct people to one of your landing pages where you can collect their information like email so that you can do some follow-up before sending them to your affiliate offer.
Paid Search Traffic
While ad platforms like Facebook and TikTok are interest-based (ie: Facebook knows you like X, Y & Z, so they’re probably interested in your offer that aligns with X), Search platforms (Google & YouTube) have more of a buyer-intent.
Generally, people open up Instagram or TikTok to be entertained.
And, generally, people go to Google or YouTube because they have a question or a problem.
Your ad can be their answer.
The Google-owned platforms, or at least the Search platforms like its search engine and YouTube work on keywords.
You can pay Google to be shown as a search result when somebody puts in a search query for “what is keto”.
Just like with paid social media traffic, you can have that ad link to one of your landing pages where you collect their information (email etc.) before sending them to your affiliate offer.
When you’re using sponsorships, you’re buying attention on somebody else’s platform.
Here are some examples of sponsorships:
- Reaching out to a blog that is all about the ketogenic diet and paying them to be mentioned in their next email they send out to their email list.
- Looking for popular Instagram accounts, like this one, and paying them to create a post or Instagram Story talking about your offer. Where can their viewers sign up? Your landing page!
- Reaching out to a blog and paying them to publish an article on their blog as a guest author.
A solo ad is like a sponsorship, but it deserves its own section.
A solo ad is where you basically tell somebody who has an email list in your niche and tell them to send X amount of clicks to your landing page.
Or straight to your affiliate offer, but collecting their information first allows you to follow-up with them.
You can look into solo ads and even buy your first one on a platform like Udimi and get a $5 discount on your first order!
Paid traffic has the disadvantage that it costs you actual money without a guarantee that you will get any return on investment, or even recoup your investment to begin with.
But, if done right, this can be a very powerful and cost-effective force in your affiliate marketing business.
This is also referred to as free traffic, but keep in mind what I said earlier: it’s only free in actual dollars. It will cost you time.
Simply put, this is where you create a TikTok, Facebook page or Instagram account and publish content to it.
If done right, and this is specific to each platform, your content will get seen by an increasing number of people who then follow you and, more importantly, click-through to your link in bio.
When you’re starting out completely from 0, I would NOT recommend this route.
Social media posts have a very short shelf-life.
You may have one of your posts go viral on Instagram, and get an influx of new followers/comments/engagements - which is great -, but eventually that post will die down rather quickly.
And that’s even if your post went viral.
So this forces you to always be creating new content.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s the wrong thing to rely on for traffic if you want to create sustainable and predictable affiliate income.
The goal here is to create a passive income source, not create a new job for yourself.
Out of all the organic traffic sources, this is one of the absolute best, together with YouTube.
Being able to rank for a relevant, high-search volume keyword can put you on the map.
But I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners.
Because here's the thing: your SEO (search engine optimization) efforts can take a long time before they start to pay off.
On top of that, a big factor in getting ranked is the amount of quality backlinks you have, which - when starting from 0 - you have none of, and can take a long time to acquire.
So there is definitely a place for Google Search in your traffic strategy, but this shouldn’t be your primary focus in the beginning.
The second largest search engine, owned by Google and a platform you know.
Just like Google, if you do YouTube SEO right and can appear high in the search results or the Recommended tab for relevant keywords, YouTube can be a huge traffic source.
Where it can take months to see some actual results from your Google SEO efforts, ranking on YouTube is difficult but, usually, takes not as long.
The problem here is that you either need to hire someone to be the face or voice of your channel, and you need to be uploading content regularly.
This is harder to do if you don’t have the gear for it, and especially harder to do if you’re not passionate about your affiliate niche.
Again, a very good traffic source, since it’s based on user-intent (people are actively looking for keto content), but not the one you should be focusing on in the beginning.
My recommendation: Pinterest
Also known as the dumb Google, Pinterest is my recommendation for beginners and if you’re starting a blog around your niche, which is also my distribution recommendation.
(However, even if you don’t start a blog but rather a simple website with just a few articles published on it, I’d still recommend Pinterest)
While growth can be slow in the initial 30 - 45 days, after that it just takes off and can drive 10s of 1000s of visitors back to your blog.
Coming from a social media world (Facebook, Instagram) and some knowledge of the Search world, I didn’t know anything about Pinterest.
That’s why I looked for a coach who’s teaching me everything there is to know about growing your Pinterest account and, more importantly, make Pinterest a significant source of traffic.
She only opens up her affordable program a few times a year, but you can get on the waitlist here.
There’s no shortage of traffic sources and all of them require a different approach.
Some are free, some are paid. But they all cost you something. Patience and discipline are the name of the game. This is what will help you succeed in affiliate marketing, or creating an additional income source in general.
For long-term success the Search sources (Google, YouTube & Pinterest) should be the ones you focus on. With special attention to Pinterest if you’re a complete beginner.
Step 5: Analyze Your Route
Now that you’ve put into your GPS where you want to go, how you’re going to get there and which traffic route you’re going to take (and avoid), you can start driving.
Along the way, analyze your route. Look at the results that you’re getting, the actions that you’re taking and discern whether they’ll bring you closer, or faster, to your destination or if you’re taking unnecessary detour routes.
Are you writing the kinds of blog posts that invite people to check out your affiliate offer?
Are your pins reaching the right audience, and how much of your audience is seeing your pins?
What does your backend look like?
Are you capturing their email addresses? Is there an email sequence to guide your subscribers to your affiliate offer(s)?
Did you select the right affiliate offer(s) to promote? Did you go for the one that paid out the most commission, but it’s only a one-time transaction? Or did you choose one that has recurring options, which will also trickle down to you?
These are just a handful of the important things and metrics to track.
They will help you to make better decisions and course-correct if needed.
Was this helpful for you? Where are you in your affiliate marketing journey? Let me know in the comments!
ActiveCampaign (Email service provider I use & highly recommend, since it’s a great ESP that can grow with you as your business grows)
Siteground (the hosting platform I use. Although they’re on the more expensive end of the spectrum compared to others, you do get what you pay for)
Namecheap (the service I use to buy domain names)
Clickfunnels (the software I use when I’m just looking to set up landing pages)
Pinterest Info (this link will bring you to the waitlist of my own Pinterest coach for when her group program opens up again. If you submit your info, you’ll also be invited to join her free Facebook group on Pinterest Marketing & Strategy)