Wade Tonkin - Affiliate Manager at FanaticsYou get introduced to the concept of affiliate marketing and it sounds great right off the bat.  I mean, it’s easy right, just pick up your free website at Blogspot.com or set up a site on Geocities.com or Webs.com and you are off and running on the path to riches.  Not so fast.

What’s wrong with those platforms?  The price (free) is right isn’t it ?   You are 100% dependent on those companies to stay in business and to allow you to serve up ads the way you want to.  What if they prohibit affiliate linking?  What if they “scrape” affiliate ID’s from your links without you knowing it?  What if they insert their own ads on your site that you don’t get paid for?

I know this happens because I get several affiliate applications a day that prove it.  Sadly, most of these applications will get rejected because of the platform they chose to build their site on.    Do yourself a favor as an affiliate at the early stages and put together a solid multi-channel marketing platform that you can use to connect with shoppers and build relationships with them that will drive sales.  Best of all, if you integrate your social media integration correctly, your new customers will even promote you to their friends.  Sounds difficult and expensive right?  Not at all.

Here’s what you need to get started.

  • A well thought out domain – if you can get a domain that is an “exact match” domain that plays into your Search Engine Optimization strategy without having issues with Trademarks, all the better.  Get the “dot com” version if you can help it –  “dot com” domains are the ones people will remember and have a credibility advantage (should cost $11 or less.)
  • A hosting account – you need a hosting account because you need to have full control of your site (should cost $10 per month or less.)
  • A self hosted installation of WordPress.    Once again- you need to have complete control of your content and your ads.   WordPress is powerful and surprisingly easy to master.  If you can use Microsoft Word or a similar word processing program, you can run a WordPress site.  (Free)
  • A Facebook Page that shares the name of your site. (Free)
  • A Google+ business page that shares the name of your site. (Free)
  • A “social sharing” plugin for WordPress that allows visitors to “share” “like” or “retweet” your content.  (Free)

The idea is to set up a professional looking platform that brands you as an authority or trusted source of information (your WordPress powered site or blog) through a large and growing amount of consistently updated UNIQUE content on your topic.   This will help Google send you free targeted traffic.   If you set up your social sharing tools, it will allow the people who find and appreciate your unique content to share it with their friends (more free targeted traffic)   You can then invite your audience to follow your Facebook Page or your Google + business page and this will give you the opportunity to continue the discussion with fresh content on these platforms.    Again, Google will find this content and deliver more free traffic.

Once you have this platform built and see traffic coming in, you can start to surround your content with ads.    Pushing ads before you have established a relationship based around content is premature.   You’re building a trust relationship that is going to lead to your followers trusting you and your recommendations.    Put it in this context; if you are walking down the street randomly shouting out promotional messages for a business, will anyone take you seriously and check out the business you are ranting about?  Probably not, and if they do, it will be to ask “what’s up with the crazy guy shouting your name?”   However, if you spend some time putting out information that is helpful to others and developing rapport,  people will start ASKING YOU for recommendations, and when you do share recommendations via your ads, they will be taken more seriously and you’ll get the targeted clicks you need to make sales (and commissions.)

Building a business on a platform that you don’t have 100% control of is risky and crazy… don’t do it.

There are some awesome cheap and free resources out there that can help take the guesswork out of this process.  Here are a few I like:

ExtraMoneyAnswer.com (Free) – Shawn Collins from Affiliate Summit takes you through how to build the platform I outlined above.

Affiliate Marketing Plan  (Free with some upsells)  great content including an ebook called “The Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing for Beginners” from Affiliate Marketing Legend award winner Todd Farmer.

Affiliate Summit Forum – got some questions you need answered?  Want feedback on your site?  Curious about a WordPress plugin, or want feedback on an affiliate program you are thinking of joining?

If you want to do  this, but feel intimidated and want to shorten up the process by having someone set up your hosting and WordPress for you – have my good friend Jim Kukral’s team set up your blog for you.

I’ll post in more detail on how to optimize your WordPress set up, what Plugins to use, and how to work your social media promotions next.