Putting Skin in the SEO Game

How to start affiliate marketing
For almost 7 years, I’ve done marketing for other people’s websites. Lately, I’ve been wanting a bigger chunk of the pie and that has led me to delve into the world of affiliate marketing.

I’ve dabbled on the edges of affiliate marketing for past employers. They were mostly into lead generation, but the principles of getting a website in front of people and designing and writing it so it converts visitors is essentially the same.

In writing this, I admit I have hopes of putting together a tutorial of sorts, a map by which others can learn from my mistakes and successes. The harsh reality is I’m no Pat Flynn and my successes will most likely be minor and my failures many. I’ve read so many blogs about affiliate marketing, listened to podcasts, and taken online courses. Too many of these people, whom I never have heard of, claim to be making so much money doing this, yet they spend most of their time – at least from what I can tell – trying to sell each other ‘their secret formula’.

When I worked on the lead gen side of this business, I saw real money can be made out there (the question is, can it be made ethically?) so I’m going to have to forge my path.

I’m going to take lessons learned from my past, from Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week, as well as respectable sources that have been doing and writing about this for a long time like the aforementioned Pat Flynn.

What is the first step in affiliate marketing?

Research.

I have actually been researching which industry I want to pursue. I have a background in wine, in financial products, and even e-cigarettes. I’ve handled beauty products and novelty items. Some of these have a great potential to earn a lot of money but come with great moral cost (financial products). Some I would love to craft a website and podcast and all sorts of content for  but has a lot of potential legal issues (wine).

My current job is in hospitality so I need to steer clear of any conflict of interest.

I am now researching areas where I have enough knowledge to create valid quality content and areas where it is possible to earn a decent amount of money from the marketing.  And since I will be doing this via digital marketing, I need to make sure the area is conducive to online transactions.

And Then What?

Commission Junction.

There are actually a few sites aggregating affiliate marketing offers, CJ just happens to be the one I am most familiar with.  I will need to locate one or two good products I think I can market on a website using the magic of ‘content marketing’.

In some cases you need to be approved to be an affiliate which means having a working website up and running.  A well designed website with quality content doesn’t spring up over night but luckily there are many ways to accelerate the process.

One of the best lessons I learned from previous employment is to hire writers. No matter how well I think I write, the time I am spending writing is not the best use of my time. The time spent editing other people’s writing is.  Being in contact with three or four writers will speed the process of launching the website dramatically.  If all I have to do is SEO the copy and let someone else tackle the initial creation, I can save days of time.

Followed By…

Unless I somehow hit upon a hidden niche to sell whatever product I find to, I can’t expect a lot of immediate income. I’ll need to bolster the site with other offers.

Amazon.com

I’ve attempted to use Amazon in the past to make money for my podcasts and other sites and have had very little luck.  The issue, I believe, was my lack of commitment to it. I put up a single ad on my site and hoped people would click away and earn me lots of money. They didn’t. Amazon closed my account.

The traffic volume will need to be sufficient enough to have spill-over into the related products from Amazon I present on the site.

What About the Legal Stuff?

Yep, have that covered as well. You can’t have a website linking to Amazon products and other products you earn money from without making it clear you earn money from them.

In a way, it is a weird handcuff to place on a website, because you wouldn’t walk into a gift shop and expect to be told the owner of the shop makes money on the things they suggest you purchase. What if the gift shop was dressed up like an information kiosk and the product recommendations appeared to be neutral recommendations from an unbiased source? That is where it gets tricky.

Transparency is the key. And I think it works. 

I was a fan of Woot.com and am a fan of Meh.com. Both sites make if very obvious they are stores making money off of the products they present. I can’t remember if I’ve ever purchased anything from either website, but the reason I was a fan was the quality of the write-ups.  Come to think of it, Groupon also started with quality writing.

When I worked wine retail, we launched a website called Wine Bandwagon and sold one wine once-a-day at a (supposed) bargain. The price was important but so was the write-up.

Give people a story, give people a reason to be emotionally vested in the product and you increase your chance of selling to them.

The Follow Up

Over the next month or two, I’ll provide detail of the process I am following and if I give up, I’ll make sure to make a note as to why.

My goal with this is to use the money earned to seed other ventures and truly create a solid passive income source so I can live wherever in the country I want, see more of the world, and finally write all those sci-fi and fantasy novels I’ve been dying to write but work keeps getting in the way of.  At the very least, I would like to make enough money through affiliate marketing to fund all my other pet projects so I stop taking my hard-earned money and flushing it down the podcasting hole (ohh! Heil PR-40 studio mics!).