7 Ways to Know if Affiliate Marketing is for You
Affiliate marketing can seem like a logical next step in the era of content creators and side hustles, but it's not the right choice for everyone.
6 mins to read
We live in the age of the side hustle. Affiliate marketing promises passive income that pays without having to actively engage with customers. At first glance, this trend sounds like a fantastic way to make easy money, but let’s explore how it really works.
Affiliate marketing, for beginners, takes work. Both anonymous and affiliate marketing that leverage name and reputation are effective but poorly understood. Both can be profitable. But these programs require more time and effort than often assumed.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile endeavor, but you should do your research before you take the plunge.
Affiliate marketing is a form of sales commission that is generated via the internet by content creators, influencers, and other subject matter experts. The content creator makes a piece of content (such as a social media post) that includes a link to another business’s products or services. If a customer clicks the link and makes a purchase, the content creator earns a commission on the sale! These “affiliate links” appear in relevant content like reviews, videos, or blogs that discuss a problem the product can solve.
The reader clicks a traceable link unique to each product and makes a purchase, otherwise known as conversion. The original lead generator, or the affiliate marketer, gets a percentage of the sale. They earn this commission for each sale, which adds up significantly with the more visitors they attract and convert.
Unlike salesmen, content creators can make multiple sales at a time because they can influence customers and followers to click links without a live conversation. Websites are also accessible 24/7, which makes affiliate marketing a viable source of passive income.
So, how do content creators know if they should give it a try?
Trust matters in affiliate marketing. Potential customers trust influencers to recommend products they can use.
Affiliate marketers build trust by creating valuable content that applies to a business sector they are experienced with. Industry knowledge highlights the creator as an expert, therefore garnering more trust from their targeted audience. Consistent appeals to the same niche help build a base of repeat readers, as customers might not have an interest in one product but could purchase a similar item.
Beginners have two options when it comes to choosing a niche:
There’s no shame in following the crowd. Profitable niches exist because customers respond to and engage with the content. These high-demand areas include:
These niche topics target basic emotional needs with passionate fandoms and online communities providing actionable feedback on common, relatable topics.
A large audience promises high profits. But entry-level affiliate marketers and content creators face legions of veteran competition. Content creators can stand out by pivoting to a specialized niche within a larger group, such as specialized computer builds designed for niche tasks. Or, they can attract smaller, special-interest customer bases left by the wayside by prominent marketers.
Specialized marketers can leverage previous expertise to target smaller customer groups. Highly engaged or qualified customers flock to one of the few content creators ready to cater to them; therefore, smaller niche marketers can capitalize on an audience with little to no competition for their attention.
There are many ways affiliate marketers can build an audience.
Affiliate marketers can write informative blogs like this one. Blogs that discuss products and how they solve specific problems help educate the reader, thus piquing the interest of the reader, and finally, with the goal of converting the reader to a paying customer. As soon as they see a call to action.
Web designers create social media accounts to share links and discuss their content or projects. Marketers use social media platforms to actively engage with their audience and answer questions. Influencers use social media primarily for their affiliate marketing and partnerships because of their well-established and highly engaged audiences.
Trust matters. Honest, unpaid product or service reviews are a great way to build trust with the reader. These testimonials prove the marketers tried and experienced the product for themselves.
Content creators with an affiliate partnership make an average of $70,000 annually. These averages account for both the highs and lows—including everyone who didn’t earn anything.
Starting small means affiliate marketing might work better as a side gig. Until marketers establish an audience and the money starts to roll in, most shouldn’t quit their day jobs. A lot of new content creators make less than $10,000 a year, which works out to be less than minimum wage.
The high average and six-digit peak earnings give beginner influencers something to aspire to. But they must put in the work.
Time is an investment. The more time put into creative marketing, the more content made, and the more partnerships started, the higher the potential earnings.
There’s no way to predict how much time affiliate marketers need to hit the big time. Internet audiences are fickle, and timing plays as much of a role as skill as well as consistency.
Marketers increase their odds of getting lucky if they do more than write.
Influencers and YouTubers can use affiliate marketing to double up on income from their existing audiences. This approach works great for users who struggle to earn enough ad revenue to sustain themselves.
Affiliate marketers can use their connections with businesses and brands to do more for their audiences. Not only can they spread the word about brands and products, they can make that merchandise easier to buy! Everyone loves a bargain, and potential customers always appreciate an exclusive deal.
Discounts from affiliate offers show effort on the marketer’s part; this single benefit transforms the content creator from a salesperson to a provider of a valuable service.
Video content is the preferred format, but it takes more time and effort to create. Video tutorials and testimonials allow marketers to dive in and explain the details of the products and services they care about.
Long-form videos combine the educational benefits of in-depth reviews with visual information. Live webinars and online classes provide a live interactive experience unless they are pre-recorded.
Content creators need to find a program or business agreement with a paying business to make money. Would-be marketers must learn which programs sell products in their niche and whose rules and rates suit their style and readers’ needs.
Influencers who want to keep a following must build trust. They should promote products they would actually use in a niche they believe in and enjoy. Rather than market anything and everything, they should find a few core products they trust and make honest recommendations.
If a product wouldn’t work for their audience, they should say so—the honesty will pay dividends later. Customers listen to people who are genuine and take their best interests into account.
The world of affiliate marketing isn't all easy money. There are many rules and regulations that marketers must follow to avoid heavy fines.
Websites have global reach, and different countries have different laws. Learning the rules will take time, but compliance is necessary.
Every program has rules. Affiliate programs are, first and foremost, a business partnership. Marketers who want to continue doing business must learn the rules lest their business partners terminate the relationship and future agreements.
As a federal governing body, these rules apply to anyone who operates in the US. However, all affiliates of companies based in the United States must abide by these rules, even if they reside in other countries.
In 2018, the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation. This sweeping consumer privacy omnibus introduced extensive consumer protections that target these software tools.
GDPR laws bar websites from providing cookies without the user’s explicit consent. It also requires that websites allow users to access the site if they decline.
Content creators who make money on affiliate marketing. should research cookie alternatives if needed, follow the law to the letter, or both. Fines can reach as high as 20 million euros for serious violations.
These amounts demonstrate how seriously the EU takes internet consumer privacy. Because web access is global, these rules apply to US sites that may have visitors or email subscribers who are citizens of the EU.
Affiliate marketing has the potential for enormous returns. Affiliates have many avenues for success, but finding the right path takes work.
Alan + Co. can help. The performance marketing consultants at Alan + Company work with you to construct a digital marketing strategy for any business. Whether you want to enter the world of anonymous affiliate marketing or simply want to build an online business. Reach out to learn more!