8 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Starting Affiliate Marketing
Tips to help you avoid common mistakes, and save time and money, when starting in this specialized business.
Affiliate marketing is one of the most interesting and lucrative industries on the Internet, in which commissions are earned from promoting a company and/or driving a sale. It consists of a vigorous hub of web publishers who want to monetize their sites, and is a great opportunity for marketers and advertisers to partner with others to promote their products, services, brands or affiliate programs. I have been involved in this field as an affiliate marketer since 2007, and can safely say that I love what I do, not least because it allows me to connect directly with my audience without having many intermediaries.
However, there are a few things I wish I had known before I started.
1. Track success metrics
There is no way to grow an affiliate website or earn more from it if you don't know how many visitors visit that site every day, and where they come from. Therefore, it’s critical to track analytics and determine which marketing channels are bringing in the most traffic so that you know where to focus efforts when it comes to promoting affiliate offers.
Here are some of the metrics you need to track:
- Monthly visits and unique daily visitors. The more your site gets, the higher chances there are for making sales.
- How many sales did you garner this week? Track each affiliate offer's performance to determine which offers are converting the best.
- How much was earned from each offer? It’s vital to track how many sales are generated from each affiliate program, since every publisher gets a different commission from selling the same product. This will help determine which affiliate network and products convert better for your site or blog, and to make better offers to get yet more sales.
- Which countries are visitors from? This metric will indicate which country's audience converts better to yours, and so help select the right offers for your market.
2. Don't expect huge earnings overnight
If you're just starting out as an affiliate marketer, don't expect success too quickly, because thousands of web publishers have been doing this for years, yet still struggle to find revenue. I'm not suggesting avoiding goals, merely that it's important to be patient and to work enduringly hard in order to see significant results. This is a business like any other, so income will depend on how much time, effort and patience you're willing to invest.
3. Never stop learning
One of the most important lessons I've internalized over years as an affiliate marketer is that there is no end to learning or knowledge sharing. This industry changes very quickly; new trends appear all the time, and old ones die out quickly. So-called gurus retire their affiliate sites every few months only to launch new ones, so you need to be ready to take advantage of changes and to spend resources on learning — absorbing affiliate marketing blog posts, interviews and case studies along the way.
4. Avoid overvaluing your product or service
One of the first things many marketers do when they start an affiliate website is to promote their own products and services, but it's important not to overvalue them, because this will only backfire in the long run. Remember that you need your audience more than they need you, so provide valuable resources, information and insights that will help them to solve their problems. Start by building authority in a niche, share free content consistently and get involved in the community. Then, once you get real traffic coming to your site, create an offer that's closely related to what you've already shared on your blog or website.
5. Don't sell visitors short
One of the biggest mistakes I see affiliate marketers making repeatedly is trying to sell their visitors short instead of providing high-quality offers that match well with what they want and need. For example, if someone is looking for a dog bed or a leash, they wouldn't buy an offer related to yoga classes, because it's completely irrelevant and doesn't match what they're searching for. So, before trying to sell your visitors something, make sure that you've done research and arrived at offers that closely match what an audience is looking for.
6. Embrace testing
Another blunder I see often is guessing what works best instead of testing ideas before investing time, effort and money. This is why I suggest A/B testing tools for at least some campaigns, as they will give valuable insights on what's working right now, without any risks.
7. Don't leave money on the table
Many affiliate marketers are quick to start promoting a new offer the moment it goes live. Still, they fail to fully optimize and promote before making it available. In many cases, this means that you'll be leaving a lot of money on the table by not testing your landing page, images, copy and ad copy first. This doesn't necessarily mean spending days or weeks running A/B tests, but at least try to split-test before promoting an offer broadly. This will give you a better chance of converting more visitors into subscribers or buyers, because you've taken the time to work on optimizing everything from start to finish. This is the process I use for every new campaign for my online shop, and it works like a charm.
8. Don't be afraid to give up
Lastly, remember that it is not a vice to give up on something that's clearly not working. Even though it might be hard to walk away from an affiliate campaign or website, it’s vital to ask if results are worth the time and effort, then possibly put that energy into something that has a better chance of succeeding. Don't let others make you feel bad about switching things up, because there is no such thing as doing everything right, so just do what makes sense.
At the end of the day, there is no absolute right or wrong way to do affiliate marketing, but you should at least have a rough plan — one that includes knowing how much you're willing to spend on advertising, where your niche traffic is coming from and what offers are converting best. The more time and effort you invest into learning and testing everything first, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor