What is Affiliate Marketing and How does it Work?

What is Affiliate Marketing and How it Work?

Written by Make Money Online

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Webster defines Affiliate Marketing as….oh I’m kidding. Who gives an F what Webster says affiliate marketing is. Here’s exactly what affiliate marketing is in a nutshell:

Affiliate Marketing = Making Money In Your Sleep.

Below is a brief explanation:

What is Affiliate Marketing?

That’s it in a nutshell, no matter what you’re selling. While you sleep, people are purchasing DVDs that you have linked to on your DVD deals website. While you sleep, people are going through your casino links and martingale at Blackjack. While you sleep, people are doing shopping for their kid’s birthdays, thanks to your handy price comparison website.

You are an affiliate for online stores and properties. You can be promoting Full Tilt Poker or Toys R Us; Amazon or Dell. Your job is to sell people on these websites or the products that they offer.

How you do that is up to you – it can be via simple banner ads, or via informational and trustworthy websites. As an affiliate marketer, you have to not just send people to these websites, but convince them to purchase whatever is on offer at that website.

That’s what an affiliate marketer is. It’s not easy – believe me. You don’t just “throw up a blog” and make money instantly. It takes hours and hours and hours of work. Good affiliate marketers can work up to 10 hours per day – there are times where I’ll work 16 hours per day for a week straight.

It’s a hell of a lot of work. But when you wake up after a good night’s sleep, check your stat programs and see you made $1,000 overnight…

It’s all worth it.

Search Engine Optimization is exactly what it sounds like: a website that is optimized for search engines.

You’ve probably heard the infamous quote from time to time “It takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master”. That’s Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, in a nutshell.

Ultimately, search engine optimization is optimizing your website for search engines. The basics of that include allowing search engines to actually visit your website, having an easy navigational structure for the search engines to understand, and having a well laid out website with well-structured content so that the search engine robots are able to index your website with ease.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that – and that’s where optimization comes in. It’s not enough to just appear in the search engines – you need to optimize your website and your pages so that they rank higher than all other pages for specific keywords.

If someone is googling “play poker online” and you’re #180 in the Google search results, you’re going to make $0 from people searching for that keyword. Compare that in contrast to if you were #1 for that phrase, where you’ll earn enough money to buy your own island.

You have to optimize your website via a variety of means, which include internal and external linking, keyword density, domain name, permalink structure, and oh so much more. It’s very hard to summarize because there are literally thousands of books and websites on the subject of search engine optimization.

The main thing is not to get overwhelmed with it – start with the basics of SEO and work from there. Do a search for any random phrase, then ask yourself “Why is this website listed at #1 and this website is listed at #10?”

SEO is one of those things you won’t learn immediately – however, it’s one of those things that if you are a good affiliate marketer you’ll never stop learning.

Before we get into building you your first website, let’s quickly talk about mistakes I see from many affiliate marketers:

1: Affiliate Marketing Is Easy. It’s not. No matter what product you are promoting, it’s not going to be easy. It takes a lot of work, and you need to be smart. You have to keep updated on what’s going on in the world, especially when it comes to search engines. Trust me – you’re not going to throw up a WordPress Blog and start making money immediately. I know some successful affiliates who took over a year to get their first real money player at poker. Their secret? They just kept trying.

2: Content Is King. You may hear this phrase a lot when it comes to affiliate marketing, which is that Content Is King. Hell, I’ve actually written an article stating that Content IS in fact, King. The phrase itself isn’t incorrect – however, content is just one large part of affiliate marketing.

There are so many other important factors including link building, search engine optimization, visitor optimization and calls to action to name just a few. If you’re not making money on a content-rich website and you keep just throwing content at it – you’re making a big mistake.

3: Affiliate Marketing is Oversaturated. It’s true that there are a lot of affiliate websites out there, however, there is still room for many more affiliates. Sometimes, you just have to focus on a smaller niche. For example: let’s say you want to build a website around “poker strategy”.

Unfortunately, if you search poker strategy you see a large variety of websites and realize that you’re unlikely to take over any of these sites in Google rankings. In this case, just start to add more words to look for a niche to dominate, like “razz poker strategy”, “horse poker strategy” or “7 card stud poker strategy”. Suddenly the websites listed there aren’t too intimidating, and it’s easier to take over them in the rankings.

4: SEO is Easy/Overwhelming. I hear conflicting reports from new affiliates on search engine optimization: “it’s super easy” or “it’s very overwhelming”. Let me clarify this: basic SEO is easy. The most basic of SEO, like using H tags, and keyword phrases, and keyword density – all that is easy.

However, to really get ahead in this world you need to learn advanced SEO techniques. This isn’t overwhelming – it just takes time and takes a lot of trial and error.

5: You Need Money to Make Money. A lot of people seem to think that to get into affiliate marketing, you need money. However, while you need SOME money for the basics like website hosting and domain registration, you really don’t need a lot of money. You can start with as little as $20.

You don’t need to pay people for a design, you don’t need to pay for good links, and you certainly don’t need to pay for those “How to make $100k a month” ebooks that you see all over the place. So if you’re concerned about needing money to start with don’t be – other than a domain and web hosting, you can do everything for free.

Welcome to the most important part for any affiliate – the planning stage.

I know you’re probably getting antsy. You want to get your domain set up, get a design on there and start making billions. However, I’m going to stop you right there; the next few steps are the most important in affiliate marketing.

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything in this guide – I’m going to lay it out for you straight. The next series of articles is all about planning out your first affiliate marketing website, and if you decide to skip over this stage then you hate money. That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

Rushing through the next few steps and starting a website without any planning is a recipe for failure. When I build a website, I usually spend at least a month planning it all out. While I don’t expect you to do that – I just want to stress how important the next few steps are.

They can be the difference between success and failure.

Planning is everything when it comes to affiliate marketing. Over the next series of articles, I will help you plan out your website from the design to the content. By the end of this, you’ll be able to completely visualize your website in your head, and you’ll be able to picture your website a year from now, with all its amazing content and all the money that it is bringing in.

Affiliate Marketing is a marketing technique in which an online merchant rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate's own marketing efforts.

Let’s get to planning out your affiliate website…

For all you new affiliate marketers – I’ve seen many affiliates make these mistakes time and time again. So I’m going to get you started on the right track.

1: Don’t Steal Content. I’ve no idea why people think this is okay – but it isn’t okay to steal other people’s work. Don’t just copy the whole Yahoo Answers website or some websites Bodog Casino Review and claim it as your own. Not only is it wrong, but it will actually hurt your website! Search engines recognize that you have stolen content and you can get penalized and it will hurt your own rankings and your website as a whole.

2: Don’t Steal Images. This goes hand in hand with #1. Google Image Search is evil in this regard as it makes it so easy to just take images from anyone. Be sure to check that every image isn’t copyrighted or for sale first – and if it is, buy it. Also, ask the webmaster if you can use their images – most will as long as you provide a link to their site.

3: Be Willing to Learn. By reading this guide it’s clear you’re following this – just continue that. Put your ego aside, put any prior knowledge aside, and read everything I write and many other internet marketers write and be sure to learn from that and understand it. Be sure to put time into finding out exactly why some affiliates are successful, and others aren’t.

4: Don’t Half-Ass It. Just do it right in the first place. Don’t throw up a 250 word Full Tilt Poker review with the plan to “write a better one later”. Do it right in the first place!

5: Get in the Right Mindset. I’ve left the important one to the very last. We’re all out to make money – however, I want you to get that idea out of your head right now. Start thinking more about wanting to create the best and most informative website for the products that you are marketing.

Promoting Transformer Toys? You want to create the most informative guides for these toys, for both parents and children alike. Doing reviews of online sportsbooks? Make sure you cover absolutely every detail, providing the best resource for any punters out there.

By having the mindset of creating the best possible resource you will actually create the best possible resource, and it’s the best resources that make the most money. You can read my article The Best Advice You Will Ever Get for a more in-depth discussion on this topic.

It’s very likely that you already have a website in mind however please don’t skip this step – it will help you in REALLY getting in touch with the core of your actual website.

While you may have grand plans for your website(s), it’s best to start off very small, because no matter how smart you think you are, or how hard you follow this guide – you’ll make mistakes. Guess what? I have 10 years of experience in affiliate marketing and have over 100 websites and I still make mistakes when launching a website!

So think of the general topic of your affiliate marketing website. Then break it down into a very small niche. If you want to start a website about online poker, then a Rakeback site or a poker strategy website isn’t a small niche. A website about one specific poker room is a small niche or a website about one specific poker player. That’s another small niche.

Here are some more examples:

General Term: “Casino”

1: List of casinos that use certain software.
2: Site dedicated to specific game strategy Blackjack or Slots Strategy website only.
3: Site dedicated to one form of a game, like European Roulette, or Interactive Slots.
4: Site dedicated to one specific progressive jackpot.

General Term: “Books”

1: Focus on one niche like “mystery fiction” and aim to dominate for that.
2: Write about one specific author who has a series of books. Lot easier to dominate for that, and if someone discovers one of the books and wants more in that series, it’s an easy big sale.
3: Books that got turned into movies.
4: Book recommendation on a specific niche like “romance novels”.

General Term: “Video Games”

1: Video game website dedicated to popular franchises like wrestling video games.
2: Combine two niches into one: “Wii games” and “Video games for Kids” and have a Wii Games for Kids website.
3: Video game informational website for a specific game, ie: the Fallout Wiki.
4: Video game site focusing on a small niche like “easy achievement/trophy games”.

Hopefully, you understand what I am getting at here. I’m not telling you to build a small, 5-page website. I’m telling you to break down your target market and focus more on an exact market than a broad market. You’re never going to dominate a popular term like “play online poker” but if you add more words to that term, you’re more likely to succeed. “play 7 card stud online poker” or ‘play razz online poker” are just two examples.

While your ultimate goal is to create the best website possible for the topic you are covering, you also need to determine how the website will make you money.

This is a very important stage because you need to really sit back and think outside the box for this one. If you were building a website dedicated to wrestling video games – well, the obvious one is by selling wrestling video games on the website. Reviews and previews of wrestling video games, with links to Blast4Traffic or whatever.

However, there are many more methods for that website to make you money. You have to think about your target market, and what they like. They like video games, and they like wrestling.

So you could market the following to them:

  1. Wrestling merchandise, t-shirts, replica belts etc.
  2. Wrestling DVDs & CDs.
  3. Tickets to WWE Events, even promote hotels in the area.
  4. Sell advertising to the likes of Wrestling Observer/Figure Four.
  5. Reviews and news of other video games that wrestling fans may be interested in.
  6. Wrestling books & reviews.
  7. Information about wrestling schools; sell ad space to wrestling schools.
  8. Official strategy guides for wrestling games.
  9. Links to sportsbooks who offer WWE betting events. Yep, there’s the complete guide to your affiliate process too
  10. Wrestling tournaments online. People pay a buy-in, winners get 90% and you keep the 10%.

These are just ten of many potential ideas for a wrestling video game website. You don’t have to implement all these ideas immediately, but it’s a good idea to have these thoughts in your head going forward with your website.

It’s very important to identify your visitors while keeping an open mind. Don’t think about what a wrestling video game fan wants from your website; think about what a wrestling video game fan wants in general, then market to them based on that.

At this stage, you should have a good idea of the main topic for your website, be it “Harry Potter Books” or “Interactive Slots Strategy”.

Before going any further, you need to check out the competition, purely to see what you’re up against. Search a phrase like “Harry Potter Books” or “Interactive Slots Strategy” and look at what websites are in the top 10 in google.

By quality alone, ask yourself: “Can I offer a better resource than these people?”

Searching “Harry Potter Books” for example makes me think that – no – based on quality, we can’t actually offer anything better than the existing sites there. As of this writing, there are lots of top-quality websites in the top results like JK Rowling’s official website, Scholastic Books, and other websites which offer a great deal of information on the Harry Potter Books.

So at this point, you may need to go back to the drawing board slightly – try phrases like “the order of Harry Potter books”, “Harry Potter audiobooks” or “buy Harry Potter books online”. Even use this Google Keyword Tool to offer suggestions.

“Interactive Slots Strategy” on the other hand, you’ll see at this point absolutely no competition. That may actually not be a good thing: if theres’ not one website optimized for the phrase, it may mean no one really cares about the phrase. So you might want to use Wordtrackers to see if anyone is searching for the phrase.

Even if it looks like it isn’t a competitive phrase, sometimes it’s best to just to go for it. It may not be a popular niche or searched term now – but if it becomes popular in a few years then you’re sitting pretty.

I remember when Cake Poker first launched – I was one of their very first affiliates, and I started promoting them like crazy even though no one actually cared about them at that time. They could have gone the way of many a poker room that closes after 6 months but they didn’t; they grew, they prospered and they became hot.

Guess what? I reaped the benefits because I was dominating the search engine results and had got in before everyone else.

Overall though – check out the competition, see what you’re up against, and if you can tell yourself “I can be one of the top 3 sites for this term” then you’re good to go!

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