How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing

How to Make Money with Affiliate MarketingAffiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make money on the Internet.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation about how it works.

I’ve been an affiliate marketer for 4 years now and I’m always amazed by the sheer volume of crap that supposedly teaches this business model.

{To learn more, you should check out my course – Affiliate Marketing without the Bulls**t}

I feel affiliate marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, you can distill everything down into a simple step-by-step blueprint…which is what we’re going to do today. In this post I’m going to list the exact steps I’ve personally used to earn a six-figure income with affiliate marketing. 

(For more information read this article that defines affiliate marketing.)

Before we move on to the step-by-step guide let’s talk about an important concept…

…The Single Page “Mini-Site”

You don’t need a massive content site to make money with affiliate marketing.  In fact, you can easily do it with a single web page.  In the past, I’ve shown my friends the site I use to earn an online income.  Usually their reaction is disbelief or even outright laughter.  The reason is my entire business model revolves around a single page that’s damn ugly.

What I want to drive home is you can succeed with affiliate marketing with a single webpage.  Remember your business is about making money, not winning a web design award.  So forgot what you’ve been told about building a massive content site.  That’s great for blogging, not affiliate marketing.

The beauty of the single page “mini-site” is its simplicity.  You’re not asking people to read pages of content.  Instead you’re offering a free report which people get if they subscribe to your newsletter.  Either they say yes to join your list or they say no and leave your site.  This system works because you’re building a list of targeted prospects who will be interested in your affiliate offers.

Okay with that out of the way, let’s go through the blueprint.

Step 1- Find a Good Niche Market

Your affiliate marketing business starts by picking the right niche market.  This is the most important step in this entire process.  The wrong choice means you’ll waste time and money chasing after a niche that’s simply not profitable.

Here’s an example.  I love running and hiking.  But I wouldn’t go into this market because I know there isn’t a lot of money to be made.  On the other hand, I might choose the golfing market because most golfers are fanatical about their sport.  These people spend money on clubs, shoes, outfits and even information about how to improve their game.  This is a great example of niche market that has a huge profit potential.

To get started, I recommend reading about the my free PDF – THE Affiliate Research Formula.  This detailed report covers everything you need to know about finding that perfect niche!

The one thing I suggest in this document is to focus on what I call the “Big 4” of niche markets

  1. Health
  2. Wealth
  3. Relationships
  4. Passions

Now I’ve heard the argument that “passions” isn’t a real category.  I disagree.  Think of the guys who spend all their money tricking out their car.  Some make minimum wage and live in run-down apartments, but will still spend hundreds of dollars on a new set of speakers.  Don’t discount the passions niche because there’s a lot of money to be made here.

If you’re still stuck, then allow me to make a suggestion (or pitch) to download my free report on 41 Hot Internet Marketing Niches.  This guide is separated according to the four categories I just described with a whole bunch of ideas for affiliate marketing niches proven to be profitable.

Step 2- Create a Lead Magnet

The mini-site concept is designed around building a list.  How do you do this?  The key is to offer a free report (or “lead magnet”) that generates interest from your web visitors.  Basically you’re offering a valuable piece of content that people want.  All they have to do to receive it is provide their name and email address.  I consider this to be a fair trade because the subscriber is (hopefully) receiving great information and you’re getting somebody on your list who might be interested in an affiliate offer.

It doesn’t take much to create a lead magnet.  All you have to do is write 5,000 to 10,000 words about a major problem people experience in your niche.  My 41 Hot Internet Marketing Niches report is a good example because many new Internet Marketers don’t know how to find a profitable market.  Or I could even take this post and turn it into a lead magnet because it solves the problem of “how do I make money with affiliate marketing?”

Don’t stress over the process of creating a lead magnet.  Just write down a step-by-step plan for a popular topic in your niche and then put it into a PDF format.  If you’re still stuck then I recommend reading my blueprint for creating a top notch lead magnet.

Step 3- Create a Landing Page

The landing page is the mini-site I discussed in the beginning of this post.  This page is specifically designed with one goal in mind- Get people to subscribe.  You don’t link to other articles.  Or promote an affiliate product.  You only include enough information to convince the person to subscribe.  Nothing else!

A critical part of the landing page is integrating it with an email marketing service.  You make money by sending emails to the people on your list.  So it’s important to pick a quality company.  I recommend using the Aweber email marketing service.  I’ve used this company for four years now and they’ve provided a completely reliable solution for contacting my list subscribers.

What else is included on a landing page?  This varies from site to site, but I recommend having a few elements like a headline, a eCover image, video, and text describing the offer.  For more on this, I recommend checking out my post on the 13 steps for building a great landing page.

The perfect landing page is an art.  You have to do a lot of tweaking before you’ll come across a design that gets a great response.  The important thing is pay attention to your opt-rates.  If less than 25% of your web visitors are subscribing then you need to make some serious changes!  Perhaps your offer isn’t good enough or maybe the design isn’t maximizing conversions. No matter what, keep working on your landing page till you get a quality opt-in rate.

Step 4- Build an Email Relationship with Your List

“The money is in the list.” I’m sure you’ve heard this expression before.  When you have a list full of quality prospects you can practically print money on demand.  Want a new set of golf clubs?  With a good list all you would need to do is write an email and those clubs will be yours!  Which brings me to a critical point…

…Your list is an asset.  It’s more than a collection of names and emails.  These are real, living-breathing people with dreams and aspirations.  If only see dollar signs with your list then you probably won’t make much money.  A quality list is built by a quality relationship.  Your subscribers will know when you only care about money and they’ll know when you’re there to provide valuable information.

Don’t bombard your list with offer after offer.  I can speak from personal experience when I say this does not work.  Eventually people will unsubscribe or they’ll delete every message you send.  This is called “burning out a list” and it’s one of the worst things you can do in Internet marketing.

Like I mentioned before, I’m not perfect with email marketing.  In fact, it’s a skill I’m looking to improve when I get back from my trip through Europe.  But I have learned you can do a lot to form a relationship with your list.  This includes:

  • Send content filled articles solving a major problem
  • Create a video that subscribers will love
  • Talk about personal experiences and how they relate to your niche
  • Direct them to a useful blog post
  • Answer common questions most subscribers have

In a way, building a relationship with your list is like blogging.  You want to give more than 80% of quality content.  This means that 20% will be solo emails recommending an affiliate product or an embedded link.  If your content is good enough, subscribers will want to check out your offers. You’ve gained their trust so it’s only natural they’ll believe it when you say that a product is worth purchasing.  That’s the right way to earn an income with affiliate marketing.

Step 5- Get LOTS of Web Traffic

Read this paragraph carefully… You don’t want to people to visit your site.  You want them to check out your free offer.  This is a subtle, but important distinction.  This affiliate guide is built around the concept of the lead magnet offer.  Prospects won’t come to your site because you’re a cool person.   They’ll come if you have something valuable to offer them!  When it comes to web traffic it’s important to mention promote the lead magnet you’ve created.

As you probably know, getting lots of web traffic is pretty hard.  You have to be willing to work harder and smarter than the other people in your niche.  The good news is there are a few short-cuts when it comes to web traffic.  I prefer to break it down into two major categories:  Traffic to your landing page and traffic to your content site.  Let’s talk about both…

Traffic to your landing page– Certain web destinations work great with landing pages.  These are the sites that have a huge core audience.  What you do here is create a quality of piece of content that attracts their attention or pay for advertising.  Some examples of this are:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC)
  • Ezine advertising
  • Banner advertising
  • Ezine articles
  • Forum marketing
  • Video sharing sites
  • Web 2.0 destinations like Squidoo and Hubpages

All of this traffic should be sent your landing page because you’ve already “presold” them on what’s offered.  In a way, the web visitor comes to your landing page with a “buying mindset,” so it’s important to give them an offer!

Traffic to your content site– There are certain web properties that work well with a content site like a blog.  Most people on these sites won’t know a thing about you.  So it’s important to prove you know what you’re talking about.  You do this by directing people from these destinations back to your site or blog.  This technique works best with these type of sites:

The truth is most people won’t care a thing about you until you help them first.  Then all you have to do is convince them that your lead magnet has extra information that can’t be found elsewhere.

Like I said, it’s pretty hard to promote a site.  That’s why it’s important to create a step-by-step plan for traffic generation.  One of the best sites I’ve found on this concept comes from the guys at Bring the Fresh.  They have a unique traffic plan that involves targeting specific keywords in your niche that get a lot of traffic without a lot of competition.  My brother tried this system on a landing page I created last month and we’re already near the #1 spot for a popular keyword.  (Don’t worry I’ll discuss this in a case study later this week.)

Step 6- Test and Track Your Affiliate Marketing System

I like to use the word “system” when talking about affiliate marketing.  That’s because a system has many moving parts and can be tweaked in countless different ways.  When something goes wrong all you have to do is figure out the cause and make a small adjustment.

One of the keys to my own success is I’m pretty good at figuring how to tweak my affiliate marketing system.  I don’t make guesses.  I use hard, statistical proof from a program like AdTrackZ.  This software helps me track every traffic source and it also helps me improve my landing page.

Let’s talk about how this works…

The first thing you want to do is track each source of traffic.  For instance you could use AdTrackZ to create redirect links that look like this:

  • URL/article.html
  • URL/video.html
  • URL/blog.html
  • URL/squidoo.html

You could even take it one step further.  In the past I’ve used a tracking program to create redirects for over 500 articles.  That way I can look at my stats and immediately know which articles are knocking it out of the park. Then I created articles that were similar and duplicated my success!

Tracking your traffic sources is incredibly important.  When you know a promotional method is working you can put it into overdrive and maximize the results.  On the other hand, if you’re spending hours on a traffic method that’s not working, then you know to stop doing it!

This was done with my affiliate marketing site a few years back.   I tried over a dozen different traffic methods.  I found I was getting the best results from article and video marketing.  So what did I do?  I ditched the other methods and concentrated just on these two traffic techniques.  That’s the beauty of tracking your different promotional method.  You discover what works and you do more of it.

In addition to measuring your traffic, you could use a tracking program like AdTrackZ to do split-tests.  Basically a split test is a way to divide your landing page into two versions- Page A and Page B.  Let’s say you have 1000 visitors to your site.  500 will see Page A and the other 500 will see Page B.  AdtrackZ measures which version has the most actions.  So if Page A has 200 subscriptions (40%) and Page B has 150 subscriptions (30%) then you know Page A is the clear winner.  You now have statistical proof that one page produces a measurable result.

Why is this important? With split-testing you’re continuously improving your opt-in percentages.  This means you’ll get more subscribers without having to work harder.  As a result you’ll increase profits.

Okay, before we move on.  If you don’t have the funds for the AdTrackZ program you can use the Google Analytics and the Google Website Optimizer programs to track your stats.  I personally haven’t used either, but I know a number of other affiliate marketers who recommend these sites.

Step 7- Fix What’s Not Working

Again I want to drive home my point of an ‘affiliate marketing system.’  Like a machine there will be times when things go wrong.  It doesn’t mean you’re a failure.  It means you have to figure out what part is going wrong in your system.

I recommend taking a mechanic’s approach when something’s not going right.  Take a look at each section of your system and see if it can be tweaked.  Ask yourself if it can be improved…in all likelihood it can!

For instance, let’s say you’re not getting enough subscribers to your newsletter.  This means you either have to increase your traffic or improve your landing page.

Or what should be done when you’re not making enough sales from your emails?  The solution is to improve your email marketing techniques or focus on getting better ‘open rates’ for your messages.

As I’ve said before, I’m not the smartest or most creative person in the world.  What’s made a difference is I’m able to learn from my mistakes.  When things go wrong in my system, I’m not afraid to rip it apart and figure out how to improve it.  You need this kind of attitude to achieve success in affiliate marketing!

Final Thoughts on Affiliate Marketing

I find it fitting that I’m writing this post in Amsterdam.  Back in September 2006, I started my first official affiliate marketing site.  I worked day and night for two months, without making a dime.  Then in November I hopped a plane and joined my ex-girlfriend in Amsterdam.  We spent a few enjoyable days and near the end I checked my email.  What did I find?  My first affiliate sale!

Amsterdam will always remind me of that feeling like affiliate marketing can be a legitimate full-time income.  It hasn’t always been easy.  But ever since that day I’ve made an ever-increasing amount of money with this business model.   So while I’m not an overnight success, I can say I’ve had fun mastering the business of affiliate marketing.

Finally I want to emphasize that you don’t need to be one of those sleazy pitchmen who promote every product under the sun.  You probably noticed that I made a few recommendations in this post.  I didn’t set out to promote an affiliate product.  But as I wrote this article, I realized there are certain products that have helped me along the way.  Some are free and some aren’t.  I feel confident linking to both types because I know they provide real, genuine value.

The key to making money with affiliate marketing is you’re telling people about a product that can solve a real problem the person is experiencing.  My rule of thumb is, “would I make the same recommendation I didn’t make any money?” Hopefully you’ll say yes every time!  Otherwise you’re not trying to help another person you’re trying to help yourself!

Finally, there is a lot more that goes into this income model.  That’s why I recommend you check out my page on Six-Figure Affiliate Marketing Strategies.

Take Action. Get Results.

27 thoughts on “How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing”

  1. Finding the best keywords and optimize pages accordingly is one of the most important aspects in affiliate marketing. I use the google trends and google’s keyword selection tool to find booming niches and the right keywords that generate traffic.

    • Yeah, using good SEO and optimizing for keywords is a must. Many of those sites have built in viewers so there will be a initial surge of “some” people to your lists regardless, but it may not seem like enough to justify the effort unless you use SEO and use it well enough to ensure a steady stream for a decently long time.

      I have articles written three years ago that still send me 5-10 people a day. Not everyone will place so well on SERP results, but if you attempting solid SEO is the only way to have a real chance

  2. Thanks for this post steve it is an area i am looking into and trying to find the best program to join seems i might need to turn to you for advice brilliant article steve

    • Glad you liked it!. Article marketing is great. There is a lot of up front work where you may not see a ton of results, but once they start coming it is worth it.

  3. Good morning Steve:

    This post is outstanding and very long. Just seven steps to go through. Wow sounds great. I have a feeling it will take less time than writing.

    You are a great writer as far as blog goes. You do a great job posts after posts. And again you have managed it everyday.

    I have been thinking affiliate marketing, and now your post is giving me more temptation to think about it seriously, along with writing. Writing is my passion from the school years.

    Have a great day and enjoy your vacation
    Fran Aslam

    • Fran, Glad you liked it. I try to put a ton of really good content into my ‘monday’ post. If you are thinking of trying out affiliate marketing this should (hopefully) give you a pretty good idea on ways to get started.

      AM is not as easy or “instant” success as some of the “gurus” would have you believe, but it is also not as difficult as some would have you believe either.

  4. Fantastic write-up as usual, Scott!

    One thing that I took away from the very helpful information here is to have a system in place and to tweak that system when it’s not working optimally.

    The steps are pretty simple (that’s not to say that they are easy to do), but there are people that are using AM as a full-time income so it can be done. You’re one of them and you’re very inspirational to others. Even if one doesn’t end up making tons of money each month, devoting hours of hard work into AM, can pay off handsomely for a small income each month. Every little bit helps.

    • Karen,

      Yeah, article marketing surely isn’t the easy, few clicks to success, that some people might say. But it is far from being difficult. The system is pretty strait forward and it gains momentum over time. Particularly as your pages get ranked higher and higher on SERP results through that tweaking.

  5. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for sharing the comprehensive affiliate post. I like your step-by-step analysis of what made you successful; it’s easy to follow and digest which is another key to your success.

    Great point about getting readers to want to check out your offer. Getting traffic is fine but getting traffic interested in your offer is what improves lives and puts some scratch in your pocket.

    Thanks again for sharing your insight.


  6. Glad you liked it Ryan. I do believe there is little need to complicate what is by nature a pretty simple system. One single AM attack and landing page will not make anyone a millionaire. But a couple hundred easily could. A lot is based on how much effort you put into it.

  7. Hi Steve,
    Incredible guide on affiliate marketing. I like your idea that you are not getting people to come to your web page, instead you are getting people to download your free gift. it got me thinking about how to re-tool how my offers show up on my blog. Thanks.

    • Thanks Richard,

      Glad you liked it! Building a solid list and then nurturing it over time is a way that will get you many returns over time, where simply making a sale or adding a reader does not nearly do as much for you for “long term” potential.

    • AM is not an instant path to success, but it is a lot quicker path than blogging and there are a lot of similarities in SEO and traffic generating processes. Might not be a bad idea for you to try it out.

  8. Hi Steve

    This is seriously a ‘wow’ post! You have provided kick ass tips and advice on AM and I really liked the part about creating a landing page – kudos.

    I will implementing these strategies as I want to start to get things moving, not just with AM, but also my writing and editing service.

    Thanks mate. You have helped lots.


  9. Michael,

    Thanks a lot for your kind words. Glad you liked it and I hope you do find it useful :). There is generally not much better way to see if something is working or not than split testing. You can go with what you “think” is a good idea all you want. It is odd because I find that what I “think” is best often is not, at least when it comes to results.

    Something like a blog, it is harder to “split test” because it is difficult to know what people leave feeling. But on anything that you have one simple goal. to get them to follow some link, or sign up or not sign up, it is easy to see if you achieved the goal or failed

  10. This is something that I’m looking at, building a few niche sites to help contribute to my income funnel.

    I agree with you passions is overlooked. I have a friend who earn’s over $100k a year selling car covers…

    • Niche sites can be a very good ROI for another stream of income. They can be REALLY good if you get lucky and hit something that later trends hot.

      It is funny that covers sell so well. I was just reading about people that made a whole bunch selling Kindle covers honestly something I wish I had thought of at the time.

  11. Hi Steve,

    This is an awesome post. I’m currently building some of these niche sites so your advice comes at a great time for me.

    Your plan is really easy to understand and follow. So, hopefully I’ll be able to get some results soon.

    Also, thanks for your report on the 41 Hot Niches. I picked up some great ideas.

  12. Thanks for this post steve. It’s vey informative. I actually like you 4 categories of niches. I thinks that’s a really concise way of describing the popular niches.

  13. Scott,

    Really great write-up here. I’d be really interested in what methods you use to create your site (in more detail).

    Fantastic stuff that really can’t be digest in just one read…

    • Moon,

      As it happens I am working on a pretty specific post that should be coming up about specific things I have done to rank one of the more recent sites in SERP. Likely nothing you do not know but a lot more specific and specific. Although I do not go into specifics about my site my “info income” series (boring title, I know…) Really gives a step by step blueprint of the things I did to really kick things into overdrive. The important part is having all the connections in your niche ready to go when you release your product. The info income series is not yet quite “complete” but it is getting there. Lots of reading though….

  14. Ok, I am in shock. I am pretty sure that this kind of post (included in an ebook) would cost a lot of money.
    It’s astonishing how simple it looks to make money when it comes from the mouth of an expert :P. But i bet that if I would try the same thing I would fail miserable.
    Can I ask you on how many email do you usually start to push products in?
    And about helping people, do you just send them emails about pieces of information you think they would enjoy?
    I am also interested in how you make them subscribe, if your page is ugly and doesn’t look to professional with little to no content on it?
    Boy I have so many questions, but I will read your blog twice or even more to learn how to do this myself!
    I wish you like and I hope my question aren’t to indiscreet or to difficult to answer.
    If I have a lot of adult traffic what method should I use to make money (what affiliate, method …) Thank you very much!

  15. Interesting and useful post.

    I love the point # fix what is wrong.

    This is a good way to be more success in our internet marketing stuff.

  16. Hi Steve,
    I love your no fluff approach and letting people really understand
    making money online is a process, not an event.
    The reason so many people quit is they have unrealistic
    expectations their computer is going to print money and
    when it doesn’t they give up.
    Sadly in most cases it is what they have been told

    I have really enjoyed reading your posts and passing the info
    onto my followers

    Thank you for your contribution,

    • Thanks Jeff,

      Glad you are liking the articles. I liked your line making money online is a process, not an event.

      Well said.

      The scammers try to pump people up with these unreal expectations and when they (of course) fail it is not “their system” that gets the bad rep. but the whole field itself.

      I wish more people understood that this business is like any other. It takes time, learning, effort and a little bit of luck to make a living.

  17. Thanks for those two ebooks, I’ve read them all and it was very helpful.

    Do you think creating one page websites can still make you money after this Google Panda Update?

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