For most people affiliate marketing is the best way to get started in online business. You build a website, get traffic, promote products and get paid. It’s much easier than eCommerce because you don’t need to deal with inventory, customer service, and product returns.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know to start an affiliate marketing website. It provides step-by-step instructions as well as the best resources in the industry for starting your site. There are also warnings about major mistakes people make such as choosing small markets which limit the profits that can be made and picking bad web hosting; both of which are incredibly common mistakes for beginners to make.
This guide will teach you how to:
- Introduction to affiliate marketing
- Choose a niche (vertical)
- Evergreen verticals
- Keyword research
- Free keyword research tools
- Content planning
- A list of affiliate networks
- Finding affiliate networks
- Choosing a domain name
- Domain registration with Namecheap
- Web hosting with Siteground
- Assemble your domain from Namecheap and hosting from Siteground
- The best CMS (WordPress)
- Setting up an email with MailChimp newsletter
- Choosing a WordPress theme (StudioPress is great)
- Essential WordPress plugins
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This guide has affiliate links to certain products. If you choose to signup through those links the original author of this document receives a small payment. It is good karma in the affiliate world to signup through other people’s affiliate links!
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing – an arrangement where a business/brand pays commission to an external website on sales generated from its referrals.
When you build a website and monetize it with affiliate marketing you will create content (usually blog posts) and place an affiliate link in within a post that will lead readers to that product or service.
For example, a travel blogger will write about her experiences travelling and include an affiliate link to the luxury hotel she stayed at. For every reader that clicks through that link and books a vacation she earns $200-$400. You can see how good money can be made if you know what you are doing!
Is it hard to drive sales with affiliate marketing? I will let the statistics speak for themselves – 16% of all online orders are generated through affiliate marketing. Do a lot of companies have an affiliate marketing program? Yes almost all companies use affiliate marketing, 81% of brands use affiliate marketing.
Personally, I believe affiliate marketing is the best “work from home” business anyone can start. The most successful affiliate marketers make tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands per months.
This guide will provide all the resources you need to start a website you can monetize through affiliate marketing. I wrote this guide as a “one-stop-shop” for building an affiliate website. This guide has everything you need for success and has the best recommendations in the industry.
Taking the first step is the hardest, but once you earn your first affiliate commission you will realize it really is possible to make good money online. Stop living like everyone else and start taking action. Make a choice today that will change the course of your life forever.
Vertical selection is a place where many people make a massive mistake. When you build an affiliate marketing website you are not choosing a niche, because a niche is too small of a market for you to target. Let’s look at the definition of a niche.
Niche – Denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.
So, if you need clarification of why this is a bad idea – it’s because there is very limited money in a niche market. Choosing a niche market greatly limits the maximum profit you can earn with your website, instead you need to choose a vertical.
A vertical is a massive industry that has billions of dollars being spent in it yearly. So, if you establish a 5% share of one of these industries you will be making millions of dollars per year. You want to keep the potential scope of your site wide, so it is worth the effort you put in.
Evergreen verticals are industries that will always exist and always have massive amounts of money in them. If you choose to do affiliate marketing in an industry that is not on this list, you will regret it. You are getting into affiliate marketing to make money first and foremost, remember that.
- Health and Fitness
- Drugs and Alcohol
- Politics, Safety, and Crime
- Sex and Relationships
- Business and Finance
- Home and Garden
In this list you should be able to find a topic you are either passionate about or knowledgeable about. Ideally, you would be both passionate and knowledgeable about this topic. I know there is a topic you are passionate about on that list and you have at least a modicum of knowledge about – if you are hesitant about vertical selection choose that topic.
Do not be worried about competition in your vertical. There will be plenty of competition in your vertical, and that is a good thing. If there were no competitors or commercial websites in your vertical that would be a huge issue. That would mean that no one saw a marketing opportunity in that area – and therefore there is no money in it.
Before you start writing content for your website you need to understand keywords. Keywords are what users type into search engines such as Google or Bing for their queries. When you understand what people are searching for, you can target these words and earn higher profits. Before we dive into the action let’s define a couple of terms.
Long-tail keywords – this is a keyword term that consists of more than 3 words. It’s considered long because it has multiple words. An example of a long-tail keyword is “espresso machine with milk frother”. A page or post you have created targeting this long-tail keyword will also rank for “espresso machine” and “cappuccino machine” in Google. Long-tail terms they are more likely to generate a sale because the user has more intent and requires more specific information.
Short-tail keywords – this is a keyword term that contain 1-3 words. An example of a short-tail keyword is “espresso machine”. Naturally, these terms are high in traffic but less likely to convert to an affiliate sale than a long-tail keyword.
When you target long-tail keywords you will rank the corresponding short-tail keywords as well. Therefore, it is better to target the long-tail keywords with the content you create.
Free Keyword Tools
The three tools above will help you get started with keyword research, however there are also great keyword tools that you can pay for. As a beginner I do not recommend doing that because the free tools will work just fine for now.
You need to brainstorm and come up with a list of keywords that you can build content for to rank in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Create a list of keyword terms in an Excel file that you want to target and then you can plan your content around them.
Planning your content is the first step towards having a well built and professional website. Hopefully you did the keyword research recommended in the previous chapter. Now you have a collection of keywords you will be targeting with the content you create.
You want to look at your keywords and think about what type of content would work best for them. Every piece of content you create will be in one of two categories – evergreen content or trending content. Evergreen content will last forever because it is eternally relevant, trending content is only relevant for a certain time period.
Types of evergreen content:
- How-To Articles
- Case Studies
- List-Type Posts
- Tools or Applications
- White Papers
- Original Research
Since evergreen content lasts the test of time, you will want to spend more time creating evergreen content than trending content. Trending content tends to be shorter and intends to capitalize off getting views in the short-term.
Types of trending content:
- Blog posts
- Press Releases
- Company News
- Quizzes / Polls
Naturally, the content you create for your website will be constantly evolving as your website grows. The best tip I can give to a new online marketer is to publish first, and perfect the content later. On a new site it is better to have many pieces of imperfect content rather than having a handful of pieces of mediocre content.
One part of your content to heavily focus on is your headlines. People make a split-second decision to decide whether they want to read about or not. There are a lot of people who dislike clickbait titles, but this is because they have a consumer’s mindset. This is because they are viewing them as a consumer.
As an online marketer you should absolutely love clickbait titles and creating controversial/polarizing content. It leads to more views on your content and more money in your pockets. Do not be afraid of being too polarizing or too persuasive. You are becoming an online marketer you need to learn to think like one.
Creating great content is the difference between becoming financially independent from your website, profit and simply make $100 a month. Amazing content will keep your readers coming back and will establish you as an authority in your vertical.
This is the sexy part of starting an affiliate marketing website. You want to know how much money you can make, right? Making money online follows an extremely simple mathematical formula.
Traffic (views) * Conversion rate (sales/view) * Commission (per sale) = Profit
Write this on your wall, make it your desktop picture, get it tattooed on your arm, this is the most important thing to remember as a beginner in affiliate marketing.
This formula explains why you don’t create a blog and try to monetize it by advertising books on Amazon. The affiliate payout for each book sale will be $0.50. This is because the affiliate commission is 4%, and 4% of $10 is $0.50. Selling 1,000 of these books will only make you $500. If you choose a good vertical, you can be making $50 per sale for average products. Selling 1,000 of these will earn you $50,000 – that’s decent money but $50+ per sale is nowhere near the high end for affiliate offers.
Amazon can get away with paying low commissions because they are one of the biggest companies in the world and they have the oldest online affiliate program in the world (started in 1996).
Finding Affiliate Networks
Hopefully for your website you picked one of the big evergreen verticals. This ensures your have a sky-high profit potential. Now you can start finding high paying affiliate offers in your vertical. Each vertical has different products and services to advertise through affiliate marketing.
An affiliate network is an intermediary between publishers (affiliates) and merchant affiliate programs. Affiliate networks help publishers find affiliate programs to participate in and allow the merchants to reach a larger audience through visibility from the websites advertising them.
You sign up for an affiliate network and usually wait a week or two to be accepted. After you are accepted to their program you can start advertising the products in their network and collecting commissions when someone buys a product through your links.
An Affiliate Network List
A lot of beginners think that affiliate marketing is about making a site where you advertise products that are listed on Amazon. There is nothing wrong with this and some people make $10,000 to $100,000+ per month. Amazon affiliate payouts max out at 10% commission on the value of a product.
The issue is people thinking affiliate marketing is all about Amazon, let me emphasize again, it is not. Some of the other affiliate networks listed above have a ton of products (physical and digital) that have affiliate commissions between 25% to 75%. Think about it – Amazon has a highest commission of 10% some other companies have a consistent 50% payout.
When you build your website within your vertical, you will naturally use a few different affiliate programs. Whatever you do, do not limit yourself to the idea you are building an “Amazon niche site”. Instead, think of yourself as an online marketer building an authority site in your vertical.
Choosing A Domain
When you choose a domain name you need to make sure it’s the right one for your website from the start. The worst thing that can happen is putting the work into growing a website and then realizing your domain didn’t fit or was too narrow for your business.
- No numbers or hyphens. The best practice is to not use numbers or hyphens in a domain name. They make it harder to remember and harder for a user to type into their browser.
- Choose a brandable domain. A brandable domain is a domain that you could turn into a real business and brand. Think of the difference between starting a domain called calvinklein.com vs. deluxmenswear.com.
- Stick to .com extension. People choose alternative extensions because the .com version is already taken. If the .com version of a domain you want is taken, you need to choose a different domain name.
To buy your domain name you need to use a registrar. A registrar is a company that is licensed to register and sell domains.
There are a ton of domain registrars on the internet – in my opinion (and many others agree) the best is NameCheap. They have a very simple interface, on their homepage you simply search the domain you want. Add this domain to your cart and then buy it.
NameCheap has competitive prices and 2 key features that are shown in the image below.
- Free WhoisGuard
- Domain Auto-Renew
WhoIs is a free online database where anyone can access information about a website and its owner, whether it be an individual or a company. This information will be stored in current and historical WhoIs records – your name, address, telephone number, email address and physical address.
WhoIsGuard protects this information and Namecheap provides this service for free. The domain auto-renew feature ensures your domain doesn’t expire at the end of one year. This will save you a world of pain and it’s also free. I highly recommend you keep WhoIsGuard and Domain Auto-Renew turned on for the duration of time you have your domain.
Web hosting is the service that makes your website accessible on the World Wide Web. Web hosts provide space on a server for individuals and companies. There are a thousands of hosting companies – it’s incredibly important you choose a reputable company, the best web hosting for beginners is Siteground. They have excellent customer service, a very simple setup interface, and a free SSL certificate (added security) along with other great features.
You will want to use a shared web hosting service. There are different types of hosting and Siteground allows you to upgrade later on if you need more server space. I will explain step by step how to build your website, but if you need assistance the staff at Siteground are great.
Siteground has excellent customer service, if you need help setting up your website or have general questions, they will always be there to help you out.
The Startup plan is the best to start with. Select “Get Started” and you will be redirected to a page to enter the domain you bought from NameCheap. Then on the next page you input your personal and payment information.
Now that you have your domain and hosting, you need to connect them, so that your website works properly.
Connecting Your Domain and Hosting
Connecting your domain and hosting is not hard, but it is venturing into the great unknown for beginners. Now you need to connect your Hosting to your domain. This is the point where many beginners get confused and spend hours trying to figure out what to do. If you follow this guide step by step you should have no issues. If you do get confused, you can reach out to Siteground support staff.
- Log in to your Siteground account and click on the tab called “Manage Account”.
- Click on the tab called “Information & Settings”
- The second option reads “Account DNS” and includes the information about your two nameservers, they should look like this: ns1.siteground###.com & ns2.siteground###.com
- Log in to your Namecheap account and click “Domain List”
- To the right of your domain click click the box that says “Manage”
- The 4th section will say “NameServers”
- Input your information
- On the dropdown bar select “Custom DNS”
- On the two dotted lines below copy and past BOTH your name servers
Now you will need to wait for the name servers to update. This may take up to 48 hours, but usually takes only a few hours. Once the name servers update you will have a fully functioning (albeit empty) website!
Content Management System – WordPress
Now you are going to want to install a content management system (CMS). This CMS will allow you to easily create, add, modify and delete content on your website. I recommend using WordPress, this is the most widely used CMS on the internet and it powers 28% of websites. For a small business or personal website, it is the best and easiest way to create a website.
With Siteground there is a very simple way to install WordPress. Under “MyAccounts” select the orange button that says “Go to cPanel”. Then click on the WordPress icon under the AutoInstallers section.
This is an autoinstaller, but you still must make a few selections. This includes things like your URL structure, site name, site description, username and password. Fill that out and then you can set up an official email for your website/brand.
Setting Up Email On Your Website
You will want to create an email associated with the website you create. This can be easily done with cPanel as well. Under the heading “Mail” click the option called “Email Accounts”. This will bring you to a very simple interface to create an email account. You can then connect it to your primary email address so you can send and receive emails from ONE inbox. This can be more convenient than using multiple inboxes. Simply Google “Connect Siteground email to MyEmailProvider” and include your email service (e.g. Gmail) in the place of MyEmailProvider.
I recommend you choosing one of the following email formats
Choosing A WordPress Theme
The WordPress theme you choose will determine the look of your website. There are professional designers that build WordPress themes for a living. It would be a disservice for me to tell you which theme to pick, however a premium theme will be worth the investment.
You are building an online business so investing $50-$100 on a beautiful web design for your site will be worth it. It will increase the authority of your website, build the trust of your readers, and increase your profits.
I have linked to what is in my opinion the best theme company – StudioPress. They create very high-quality themes, I recommend you look at their websites and the themes they have for sale. Take a look at the three StudioPress themes below, they are great options for affiliate marketers.
“Form and function converge at Eleven40 to create a look that will draw your readers in no matter what device they are on. The intelligent design of Eleven40 incorporates mobile-responsive flexibility and HTML5 to deliver the right look at the right time.”
Description from the StudioPress website.
”Presenting Metro, a modern magazine-style layout built on an optimized mobile responsive platform. The spacious frame highlights your online publishing for a wide-screen world, and the sleek social features will help to build your audience fast.”
Description from the StudioPress website.
“Put yourself on the front lines of online publishing with the up-to-the-minute, high-gloss look and feel of the Magazine theme. Your online features never looked better than with the versatile layouts and media-ready design of the Magazine theme. A stylish frame speaks volumes about the publisher.
Description from the StudioPress Website
StudioPress themes are built for SEO (search engine optimization), mobile responsive (massively important), and are easily customizable with different layout options. You need to have a well-built WordPress theme because poorly made themes can slow down your website or even inject malicious code that leaves your website vulnerable to hackers.
Essential WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins are applications you can install to your website to add certain functionality. There are thousands of free and paid plugins. I have only included free plugins that I believe are essential to starting an affiliate marketing website.
Akismet – The best anti-spam plugin on WordPress. Without Akismet your website will begin to look like a spam warzone.
UpDraftPlus – The world’s highest-rated and most installed WordPress backup plugin. Updraft Plus allows you to schedule automatic backups of your WordPress website to Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.
Yoast SEO – The best free SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plugin.
Contact Form 7 – This can manage multiple contact forms, plus you can customize the form and the mail contents flexibly with simple markup. Contact Form 7 supports CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and more.
SG Optimizer – This plugin will link your WordPress website with all the performance optimizations provided by SiteGround. This plugin can add SSL security to your website (essential) and can make your site load faster with caching. Check out Siteground’s official SG Optimizer Tutorial.
Mailchimp for WordPress – This will make it easier to add a Mailchimp email signup for for your website.
Setting Up an Email Newsletter
A huge mistake people make when starting an affiliate marketing website is not collecting emails on day 1. You will want to have an email newsletter that is extremely easy for people to signup for. I recommend having a signup form on your homepage and in a sidebar on your website. Adding an incentive to signup is also helpful, e.g. a free ebook or guide about something in your vertical.
The best email newsletter service for beginners is Mailchimp. They are free for up to 2,000 subscribers on your list. You can set up your Mailchimp email newsletter with your website’s email address “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
Once you have signed up for Mailchimp configure your settings and design your email template. Then go into your settings and find your API key. Go into your settings for Mailchimp for WordPress plugin and paste your API key. Now you can make signup forms easily built into your WordPress site. You are now ready to start making boatloads of money online.
This article provided you with all the resources you need to create an affiliate marketing website. I can’t overestimate the importance of building a site in a vertical rather than in a niche. Learn to think like a marketer, make your first affiliate commission, and start paving the road the financial freedom.