A guide to affiliate marketing

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By Anna Bella Burjak

Affiliate marketing dominates the modern digital environment, and yet, many Internet users have no idea what it is or just how prevalent it’s become. Popular among self-employed professionals and small business owners, it centers around a seemingly simple concept: promoting a product or service from another business in exchange for a commission.

This strategy is far from new, but it remains as prominent and as effective as ever. Keep reading to learn what affiliate marketing is, how it works, and how you can make the most of this exciting opportunity.

What is affiliate marketing? How does it work?

At first glance, affiliate marketing looks a lot like traditional sales. The affiliate marketer essentially acts as a middleman, introducing consumers to exciting offerings that they might otherwise never discover. The difference lies in the sales environment and methodology.

With affiliate marketing, the process occurs strictly online and involves a targeted affiliate link. The goal is to get the user to not only click that link, but also to complete a specific action, such as purchasing a product or signing up for a service.

To entice users, affiliate marketers share compelling details about products or services on blogs, social media updates, and even YouTube videos. Affiliate links should be easy for readers or followers to find, but they also need to know why they should click through and how they’ll benefit from completing purchases or other desired actions.

Finding the right niche

There’s more to affiliate marketing than simply slapping a link on a page and letting users take care of the rest. It takes skill to make these links visible — and to convince users not only to click on them, but also to follow through. While no one strategy will work for every affiliate marketer in every situation, certain approaches tend to deliver a better return on investment.

Above all else, it’s important to find and stick to a niche, as it’s otherwise easy to spread yourself thin. A variety of factors should inform niche selection, such as:

-Your experience or qualifications

-Your current following and online reputation

-The range of products available for promotion

-Current competition within preferred specialties

Once you’ve determined which category is the best fit, you’ll delve into specific products and networks. Ideally, you’ll understand how to promote these offerings effectively — otherwise, you risk wasting a lot of time and effort in exchange for limited commissions. Success also relies on finding the right affiliate networks, as some offer far better commission rates than others.

The need for compelling content

No matter how confident you feel in your specialty, your affiliate network, or the advertised products, you won’t get far without enticing content. If your page or platform fails to attract visitors or provide them with something of value, you’ll never get them to click through or complete purchases.

Content must be highly targeted based on your previously identified niche. This begins with finding your target consumer: Who is most likely to benefit from purchasing the products or services you’re trying to promote? What do these consumers value most? What are their pain points? Do your research to determine what they want to learn or accomplish and craft your content accordingly.

The power of data-driven insights

No affiliate campaign should become stagnant. While early successes will no doubt prove exciting, the status quo won’t cut it; there’s always room for improvement. Data-driven insights verify whether your strategy is having the desired impact, and how you can score an even higher ROI.

This goes beyond simple website traffic or even click-through rates. You’ll also want to get a feel for conversion rates, net sales, and your overarching revenue as an affiliate marketer. Use these insights to determine which types of content resonate most with your audience, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Even after you find an effective formula, your approach will require tweaking over time. New trends and technologies are sure to arise. Currently, for example, social media is in the midst of an affiliate takeover.

Soon, voice search, artificial intelligence, and even podcasts could have an outsized impact on the industry. Keep abreast of these trends to ensure that you continue to meet your followers’ needs and exceed their expectations.

Make the most of affiliate opportunities

Affiliate opportunities abound. All signs suggest that this strategy will be profitable far into the future. Play your cards right, and you could reap considerable profits doing what you love: informing consumers about products or services that could make a real difference in their everyday lives.


Anna Bella Burjak is director of Business Development for AdStyle, driving quality content recommendations around the web. She brings years of experience in the company’s advertising industry in direct sales, customer relations and marketing.

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