In recent years, affiliate marketing emerged as a necessary and sustainable revenue stream. In this article, we unpack what you need to become an affiliate publisher, start an affiliate marketing blog, and set yourself up for success.
U.S. businesses expect to spend $8.2 billion on affiliate marketing in 2022, almost $1 billion more than the year before. There’s a lot of opportunity for publishers — even if you’ve never built a website or published a post.
Luckily, anyone can become an affiliate marketing publisher. Simply build an affiliate marketing website and partner with brands to earn money.
- Do you need a blog or website to become an affiliate publisher?
- Creating an affiliate website in 8 simple steps
Do you need a blog or website to become an affiliate publisher?
Technically, no. You just need an audience and a place to distribute affiliate links to get started.
Many affiliate publishers make money without having a website or blog. Instead, they promote brands to their audience via social media. While you can make a living this way, having a website or blog has many additional benefits.
Ownership and control over your content
With a website, once you buy the domain, you own it. But with a social media profile, you don’t own the posts — private companies and shareholders do. When you build your brand exclusively on social, you’re essentially building your business on rented land.
Establishing an affiliate business exclusively on social media limits your growth potential and puts you at the whim of outside forces. Changes in platform ownership, policies, algorithms, and pricing can have a huge impact on your business.
You know when you check your social media notifications and realize the entire platform looks different after updates? Well, no one has control over that. You may get a heads-up a few days before the changes take place, but it’s inevitable.
The unpredictable nature of social media platforms can be frustrating, but as a content creator, it also directly affects your income. The digital media company founder Joe Speiser reported losing over $100 million after Facebook’s sweeping algorithm changes in 2018 — one of many stories about companies losing big when they invest too heavily in social.
Gain traction with SEO
When you house your content primarily or exclusively on social media, you can’t build up SEO relevance in a particular topic area. Search engines don’t index social media posts, making it more challenging to establish consistent passive income from any popular piece you write.
Fixed costs for better budgeting
You can set up a social media profile for free, but that doesn’t mean people see your content. Gone are the days when posts could organically rise to the top of people’s feeds.
Today, most social media platforms follow a “pay-to-play” model. You need to invest in targeted ads and boosted posts to get seen. Over time, this becomes expensive — especially when it’s your primary channel for promoting affiliate links.
When you invest in a website, you pay upfront development costs, but after that, expenses are relatively small for hosting and maintenance. You can then focus on ways to drive traffic, such as email and search engines. This allows you to diversify your traffic sources and give your business more stability in the long run.
Social media works well as a marketing channel — not as your primary “home” online.
Creating an affiliate website in 8 simple steps
You may find starting your journey as an affiliate publisher easier than you think. If you have a laptop and wifi, you’re halfway there. Here’s how to get started in eight simple steps.
Step 1: Choose a topic
First, think of what you want to write about. What’s your hobby? What’s your passion?
It might be running, collecting toy robots, quilting, or growing spicy peppers. While these topics may seem obscure at first glance, they’re all good fits for an affiliate website.
Niching down works for affiliate publishing because you can more easily:
- Identify your audience demographics
- Address your audience’s pain points
- Establish authority on a topic
- Promote products that meet your audience’s needs
Above all, make sure you find the topic interesting. You need to create content about your topic regularly. The best way to build an audience for your website is to post consistently and develop a distinct voice.
If you’re already creating content in a certain niche, you’re one step ahead. Simply create a website about your topic and use content from other platforms — such as YouTube or a podcast — to populate your website.
Step 2: Buy a domain name
The core focus of your website can help you come up with a website URL. There are many angles you could take when creating your URL. Maybe you want to go in a funny direction and pick HotPepperCity.com for your website about growing chilis. Or you can get straight to the point and pick FransQuiltBlog.com for all your thoughts about quilting.
Confirm the availability of a URL you want by using a hosting site like:
Simply select your hosting site of choice, search available URLs, and buy one in just a few minutes.
Step 3: Build your site
You can hire an experienced web designer or agency to build an affiliate marketing site, but that’s not your only option. Many hosting services — including Shopify and Squarespace — offer easy do-it-yourself tools for website building. Even a novice can publish a professional-looking website in a matter of hours.
Make your user experience shine
No matter how you build your website, select a layout that’s true to your brand and simple to use. User experience is essential when it comes to building and maintaining an audience. According to Amazon Web Services, 88 percent of website visitors are less likely to return to a website after a poor experience.
Optimize your user experience by:
- Choosing a responsive, mobile-friendly layout
- Checking your website’s loading speed regularly
- Keeping your pages clutter-free to spotlight your content
Want inspiration? Look for similar, successful websites in your industry or niche to see what a high-quality user experience looks like.
Step 4: Get familiar with publishing.
No matter what hosting service or publishing platform you choose, familiarize yourself with the controls. Don’t worry; it’s not rocket science. Most content management systems (CMS) are intuitive, so it only takes a few minutes to learn how to publish a post, add links, and insert photos and videos.
Before you move on to the next step, write and publish a few posts. Find article formats that feel comfortable and repeatable. Develop a unique voice — your voice — that engages readers looking to learn about your niche.
Remember, you’re creating content about your passion, so find a way to let it shine through.
Step 5: Sign up for affiliate programs
Believe it or not, you’ve already reached the point where you can start signing up for affiliate programs. Find and join affiliate programs in one of two ways.
Work directly with a brand
Over 80 percent of advertisers have an affiliate marketing program, so a few of the brands or retailers you already love likely have their own programs.
To find out if a brand has an active program, simply search for the brand name and “affiliate program.” For example, a search for “Target affiliate program” leads you to partners.target.com. The retailer lays out its affiliate program clearly, right down to the potential commission rate.
Join an affiliate program
While many brands offer easy sign-ups directly from their websites, others more actively court partners using affiliate programs.
Amazon Associates operates one of the most famous affiliate programs in the world. While Amazon is the biggest online retailer, it doesn’t pay the highest commissions. Rates vary depending on product category, but most only offer single-digit commissions.
Fortunately, companies like impact.com built their business around managing affiliate programs for hundreds of brands, making it easy for large and small publishers to sign up.
The impact.com Marketplace connects you directly to brands that match your interests – making it easy to find products and services that appeal to your audience. Better yet, these brands usually offer higher commissions than Amazon.
When you join a larger affiliate platform, you also gain the opportunity to:
- Forge a direct relationship with brands of your choosing
- Negotiate specific contract terms tailored to your needs
- Optimize your partnerships as your business evolves
Step 6: Add affiliate links to your site
Now that you’ve successfully joined a brand’s affiliate program or an affiliate network, it’s time to start earning money!
You’ll find most modern affiliate programs straightforward to use. Brands let you search through lists of products and choose what you’d like to promote. Many affiliate publishers like larger affiliate networks because they offer more product options that potentially suit your audience. The brand then provides automated, customized affiliate links to embed within your content.
Each link is unique to you. Whenever a reader clicks the link, the brand knows that you sent the traffic their way. When customers purchase on the site, you earn a commission on that purchase.
Step 7: Drive traffic to your website
Increased website visits mean additional opportunities for successful sales. As an affiliate publisher, every sale means more commissions for you. Even if these new visitors don’t necessarily buy anything using your link, you captured the attention of someone that may purchase in the future.
Invest in these organic marketing methods to drive more traffic to your website.
With Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can get free, organic traffic to your website using popular keywords that resonate with your audience. The more you invest in organic search, the more traffic you receive. BrightEdge research found that 53.3 percent of all web traffic comes from organic search, with the vast majority of users only clicking through the first five results of their search.
Not convinced? Consumer behavior reflects the power of investing in search-optimized content and other SEO efforts. In fact, a recent survey showed that 49 percent of shoppers use Google to discover or find a new item or product.
Maintain an email list
Email marketing has an average ROI of $38 for every $1 spent and still stands as one of the best ways for publishers to promote products.
When you build and maintain a healthy email list, you always have an owned database of subscribers who opt to hear from you. Even if subscribers don’t purchase products directly through your emails, you can still benefit from the traffic emails drive to your website.
Stay active on social media
Choosing to build your content business’ home base on a website instead of social media doesn’t mean you should swear off these platforms altogether. Research which platforms your audience gravitates to and build a profile where they are.
Social media can be a valuable source of exposure for your content and traffic to your website. Internet users spent an average of 147 minutes on social media daily in 2022, and marketers named increased exposure and traffic among the top social media marketing benefits.
Think of social media as a marketing channel rather than your online home. Stay active and engage your audience by consistently linking out to your content. Always experiment with new ways you can encourage social media followers to click away from the platform to your website, email list, and other owned assets.
Write guest posts
Broaden your scope by guest posting on other websites in your niche, linking out to your website. It may seem counterintuitive to spend time creating content for someone else’s website, but guest posting can directly increase traffic by exposing your content to a new audience.
Guest posting also comes with other benefits that indirectly boost traffic, such as:
- Connecting with a broader audience and potentially gaining followers
- Building bridges with other content creators
- Establishing yourself as a thought leader in your niche
- Growing domain authority and boosting SEO efforts
Step 8: Consistently publish high-quality content
Major publishers with huge newsrooms may promote some of the same products you already link to on your website. To remain relevant in today’s competitive affiliate publishing world, you need to develop an audience and earn their trust with high-quality content that soothes their key pain points.
Consistently publishing insightful, original content on a set schedule assures your audience that you can answer their questions and provide solutions to their problems.
Some ways to continuously come up with topic ideas in your niche include:
- Sharing solutions to common challenges your audience encounters
- Addressing new, relevant research and trends
- Comparing similar products as they’re released
- Compiling roundups of products that address specific pain points
- Highlighting success stories and case studies
- Creating new content based on seasonality
Remember we advised you to write a few posts and develop a voice? That voice also earns your audience’s trust. That trust, in turn, leads them to click on the products you promote and endorse, and that paves the road to greater affiliate revenue.
Grow revenue with impact.com’s affiliate marketplace now
Join the impact.com affiliate marketplace to find the right brand partners for your content. Build your affiliate program, discover new brands, and start earning more revenue.
Seamlessly blend your content and the products you promote. A suite of automation tools helps you continue building deeper relationships with both brands and your audience.
Want to know more about affiliate publishing? Check out these resources: