The Beginner’s Guide to Building a Successful Affiliate Site

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By Boris Dzhingarov

On paper, affiliate marketing sounds easy enough. A business model where you can forego product development and dive straight into marketing and sales, promoting products and services on behalf of another company in return for a commission is a popular business idea to get into.

But, is successful affiliate marketing really all that simple? It can certainly sound it – you promote products or services for somebody else, and they’ll pay you when a sale is made through your channel. If you know how to do your research, you can build your affiliate website entirely around proven third-party products that you are confident will sell well. And better still, there’s no need to put your energy into selling new, untested and unproven products or services.

However, this doesn’t mean that there are no risk factors to consider when you are thinking about starting an affiliate marketing business. Here are our top tips for building a solid, successful company that’s also saleable.

1.      Be Aware of the Risks:

Although affiliate marketing may sound like a great and easy way to make money, it’s imperative that you are aware of several risks involved in building and running your affiliate business. Small mistakes could be fatal for your new brand; because of this, it’s crucial to never approach starting an affiliate site without first getting a better understanding of not only what the risks are, but how to avoid them.

2.      The affiliate program you’re using:

Are you working with an established company? How long has it been around for? Is it currently growing, and at what rate? How long is it likely to be around for? Amazon, for example, probably isn’t going anywhere soon and is an established, well-trusted brand around the world. So, setting up your affiliate site with Amazon Associates means that you’ve got a reliable partner for the long run. It can be tempting to partner up with smaller, lesser-known companies when you first start out, but this could make your job much harder. You need to check the company that you partner with and determine whether it’s likely to have longevity.

3.      The product or service:

Secondly, take a look at the product or service that you are promoting. How big is the demand for the product? Is it likely to continue to enjoy demand, or is it a trend that’s more likely to phase out over time? Certain products are simply passing trends that aren’t going to be popular for long, whilst others, known as ‘evergreen’ products, are always needed and don’t die out as quickly. Trending products will likely make you a lot of income in a short period of time but will leave you constantly chasing the next big product.

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4.      Your strategy:

Starting an affiliate business often seems easier than producing and marketing your own new products or services. However, it’s still absolutely important that you have a viable business strategy. The best affiliate marketing sites are those that operate as a well-known brand all on their own. For example, think of your favourite energy comparison site. You probably know it as its own brand, but it’s unlikely that it actually sells any of its own products and services. Start by putting together a business plan and coming up with set targets and goals for how much you would like to profit. Figure out if you need advanced things, like free YouTube subscribers, or you can use regular growth strategies.

5.      Link Building and Search Engine Optimisation:

Affiliate marketers who fail tend to have a key thing in common – they don’t work smart enough to make their brand known. Affiliate marketing isn’t new, and you can guarantee that somebody else has already thought about promoting the same products and services that you are planning to. There are literally thousands of comparison, ‘top ten’, review, and other affiliate sites promoting almost every product and service under the sun. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with doing something that’s already been done before, the work of making yours stand out from the rest is going to be harder.

6.      On-site factors:

First of all, it’s important to look at the design and layout of your site and how it contributes to your SEO efforts. Sadly, you can build hundreds of high-quality links and put all the right keywords in all the right places, but if your site itself isn’t up to scratch, Google won’t give you the top search results that you’re trying to achieve. Some important factors for your site include:

  • Mobile friendly – a responsive design that works well with any device is key. Google will penalize any site that doesn’t work well on a smartphone. So, don’t risk it!
  • SSL Encryption – it’s a common myth that you don’t need SSL encryption if you’re not taking payments directly on your website. But even if you’re redirecting to third-party sites, it’s worth investing in the extra security. SSL encryption helps build trust with your customers, which in turn lets Google’s algorithms know that your site is worth ranking. And if you ask for any customer details, it’ll ensure that these are safe.
  • Easy-to-use navigation – users who can’t find their way around your website easily are going to quickly leave and try another. This leads to a high bounce rate, telling Google that your site isn’t somewhere that people stick around for long. As a result, your ranking will suffer. Make it easy for customers to find everything that they need.
  • Quick load speed – users will wait three seconds for a site to load before giving up. If your site is taking longer to load, your SEO efforts will be negatively affected.
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7.      Link building:

Many affiliate site owners make the mistake of focusing on just one or two keywords with high buyer intent. And whilst using relevant keywords in your content can help, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved. Instead, focus on keyword diversity since relying too heavily on just a couple of keywords can lead to your site being penalised by search engines.

Secondly, be aware that whilst purchasing links or using private blog networks can certainly be useful at times, there’s a risk that this will negatively impact your site over the long run, particularly if you rely on them too much. Instead, it’s best to focus on natural link building. Getting your site mentioned and linked to naturally on another is always the better way forward. A few ideas for achieving this include:

  • Do something newsworthy – news websites are usually considered high-authority, and most tend to have a high level of traffic. Doing something to get your brand name in the news will not only increase traffic to your site but also boost your reputation and market reach.
  • Partner with authority bloggers – instead of paying for your content to feature once on a blog, spend some time building strong relationships with authority bloggers who have high followings. Getting regular guest spots on high-authority blogs will provide a mutual pay-off; you get a high-quality link and they get great content for their site. Come up with guest posts that showcase your authority and provide readers with incredible value.
  • Get professional help – successful high-quality link building isn’t always an easy task. If you’re new to the world of SEO, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Outsource the work to a reputable SEO agency or link building service if you’re looking for peace of mind and want to grow your business as quickly as possible.
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8.      Choosing a Product to Promote:

Choosing the product or service that you’re going to promote can be one of the most difficult parts of getting your affiliate business started. If you want to succeed, you’ll need to choose the right product niche. Consider:

  • Search affiliate marketplaces – you can find great products and services to promote on sites such as ClickBank or find out what’s getting the most traction on Amazon.
  • Search your keywords on YouTube – this allows you to immediately see how many videos there are on a particular topic, which can help you get an idea of how popular a niche really is. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are also hugely useful for this purpose.
  • Consider the product’s social virality – how many shares does it have on Facebook? Who’s mentioning it on Twitter? How does it rank for pins on Pinterest? The more social ‘buzz’ there is around a certain topic, the more popular it will be.

9.      Coming up with Content:

When it comes to getting both organic search traffic and successful sales, many affiliate businesses can’t do without content. It’s one of the most crucial components to your site’s success, so be aware of the following:

  • Your content needs to be high-quality – since your content is going to be a huge part of your sales and marketing strategy, you need to ensure that it is of high quality in order to attract visitors organically. It’s worth investing in a professional content creation service to make sure that it’s both relevant and informative to your customers.
  • Content should be varied – don’t just rely on one type of content to promote your site. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, meaning that relying on one specific type of content can be risky. Diversify your content with blog posts, articles, infographics, videos, and more.

Finally, whilst all the strategies described here are effective, they all require determination and a long-term commitment to growing your business. There are no shortcuts when it comes to successful affiliate marketing.