Affiliate marketing isn’t that tough… if you’ve got attention and trust.
You can gain attention and trust through your relationship with people who agree to receive content from you. And you can gain attention from people via search engines because Google trusts your content.
Ideally, you want both.
Of course, there are ways to make money with affiliate marketing that don’t involve content at all. You can use search marketing to send traffic to pre-sell landing pages, and sometimes even directly to the merchant offer (see Affiliate Project X for those strategies).
Different strokes for different folks… but I like to build online assets. Building a subscriber list is a valuable asset, because you can market to these folks over the long-term with multiple offers if you preserve the relationship. Likewise, a site well-positioned for valuable keywords in search engines is an asset that can bring targeted traffic and revenue for years.
Let’s take a look at three affiliate marketing strategies that build assets and sustainable businesses. The first focuses on list building, the next on link building, and the last on both.
List Building with Paid Traffic
This is a classic online list-building strategy that still works wonders in email-friendly niches (and things are still more email friendly than some of you might think). The goal is to drive traffic to a landing page that persuades the visitor to opt-in to your newsletter, either with effective copy or a sample of the content. Targeted traffic should ideally come from search engine pay-per-click ads, but other advertising methods can work if they’re cost effective.
List building is all about opt-in conversion rates and the value of each subscriber over the life of the relationship. This is where valuable content comes into play… you’re not going to get someone to give up their primary email address unless you promise and deliver valuable content in return. And your lifelong customer value will be lower if you don’t maintain a good relationship with your list.
Here are 3 quick tips that make this affiliate marketing strategy work:
- You can’t be shy about promoting, or else you won’t make any money. But you also need a balance between solid content and affiliate offers to maintain a positive relationship. Crafting content that offers independent value but also naturally leads to a product recommendation is one smart way to do it (more on this in the next installment of the series).
- You’ll do better with Google Adwords by having a high quality score for your landing page. The best way to do that is to host the page on a domain with plenty of content and a decent amount of inbound links. So consider marrying this tactic with a blogging strategy that provides the content links you send to the list.
- Beyond opt-in conversion rates, your main concern is recouping advertising expenses as soon as possible. One way to do that (and also make immediate profit) is to send the new subscriber to a highly-relevant affiliate offer as soon as they opt-in.
Link Building on Keyword Domains
This is primarily an SEO strategy that takes advantage of two key factors: Google’s current algorithmic preference for exact-match keyword domains, and social media link attraction strategies (aka link baiting). The idea is to build up link equity and trust in the domain itself and then rake in search traffic for lucrative keyword phrases.
Your first task is to invest in the right keyword-match domain. I say “invest” because if it’s an exact-match keyword phrase that pulls significant traffic, someone already owns it. And I say “right” keyword-match domain because these keywords must revolve around a topic that is supported by lucrative affiliate programs.
Next, you must come up with a social-media friendly content strategy. So while the main portion of your site is professionally designed to make authoritative affiliate offers (say for credit cards), your blog must contain a steady stream of Diggable and bookmarkable content. What you’re after are the links more than the direct traffic, because you want to build the overall authority of the domain from a search engine standpoint.
To pull this off, the content strategy is just as crucial as the domain name, and it has to be aimed squarely at what people have demonstrated they want. Social media news sites love big resource posts related to getting ahead and getting things done. So if you’re promoting a credit card site, you need to promote content with financial “life hacks” that show people how to get more for their money, eliminate revolving debt, and live life well for less.
Building Authority Sites
Building an authority site allows you to enjoy the benefits of subscribers and search traffic, and it can be done without advertising or expensive domain names. You’re more focused on building a real brand and a site that also ranks well in search engines. If you take the time to do it right, you have a truly defensible online business that can’t be crippled by an algorithmic alteration.
Authority sites come into being because they deliver great content that people have demonstrated they want, and they make money by covering topics that can be supported by (among other things) lucrative affiliate programs. Your overall strategy involves matching up desirable topics with profitable products and services.
You don’t need a huge audience to make good money from affiliate marketing, but you do need a strong relationship with the right people. Publishers often worry that they’ll lose part of their audience if they make affiliate offers, even if those offers are highly relevant.
My response to that is, unless you’re using the wrong tactics (which we’ll explore in the next installment), people who desert you for making relevant offers are not the right kind of people. Put another way, would you rather have an audience of 5,000 that makes you $10,000 a month, or an audience of 40,000 that makes you $3,000 a month?
Sure, you want subscribers… and when you dish out great content on a regular basis, you’ll have them. But when it comes to making money with affiliate marketing, what you need are buyers. People who won’t even consider buying are not good for your business.
Copywriting Tactics That Work for Affiliate Marketing
Up next, we’ll explore various copywriting techniques that can be used to maximize affiliate sales. The key is to match up the right copy approaches with your content model and audience.
About the Author: Brian Clark is the founding editor of Copyblogger, and co-founder of Teaching Sells.