A couple of months ago I asked our readers what affiliate marketing questions they would like to have answered. I then analyzed the submissions and filtered out the 15 most common questions. After that I sent the questions to three friends of mine who are affiliate marketing rock stars, and the result is what you will find below.
These guys need no introduction, but here we go anyway. Shawn Collins started doing affiliate marketing in the 90s, and today he is one of the most respected names in the industry. Jonathan Volk is the CEO of Surge Marketing, an affiliate marketing company that generates million of dollars in affiliate sales every year. Zac Johnson started making money online when he was 15, and today he is one of the most successful affiliate marketers around. Make sure to subscribe to all three sites if you want to learn more about affiliate marketing. Now to the questions and answers.
1. How do I get started with affiliate marketing if I am a complete newbie?
Shawn: I created a video overview on the steps I would take to set up a new affiliate site.
Jonathan: I would start out by joining some of the internet communities and reading the blogs. I think it’s a great idea to give you a head start. Additionally, on many of the blogs they have some “Getting started with affiliate marketing” type guides that can really help you to start your make money online journey.
Zac: The best way to get started is to get familiar with the lingo and how networks, cpa/cpc, social marketing and all aspects work. There are plenty of paid ebooks and “teaching” programs out there, but none of them are necessary. Do a simple google search and you will come across a ton of marketing blogs offering the same newbie information for free. Everything you need to get started is already out there for free if you just look for it.
2. Do I need to spend money (e.g., PPC, paid advertising, etc) to make money with affiliate marketing?
Shawn: There are many different ways to make money as an affiliate. If you have money to invest, and you’re willing to put a lot of time into testing, you can make money fairly fast with PPC. But if you have more time than money, and you want to build a long-term site, I’d suggest focusing on building a blog on a topic that interests you. This can be done for very little cost.
Jonathan: Yes. There is always going to be at least a minimal investment needed. You’ll need a website, domain, etc. You don’t have to pay for traffic but it’s the FASTEST way to begin to earn a living online. I would recommend starting out paying for PPC traffic and just setting your daily budget to whatever the affiliate commission is. Let’s say you earn $20 bucks per lead for an offer. Set your daily budget to $20 and see if you get anything.
Zac: As mentioned, everything is already out there. You definitely DO NOT need to spend money to make money online. However, it is all relevant in terms of how fast you want to make money and how much. When I first started making money online over a decade ago, I was making 5 figures a year without spending a dime on advertising costs. This took much longer to build up content and get search traffic… but didn’t cost any money.
3. Suppose I already have a website or blog with decent traffic. How can I use affiliate marketing to monetize my site?
Shawn: Find out which companies in your niche have affiliate programs and apply to them. Check them against each other to see which have the longest cookie durations, best payout, highest EPC, etc. Then start testing creative from these companies to compile data and determine which perform best for you and your audience.
Jonathan: First, you really need to know your demographic. Who visits your website? Then using that information go to your affiliate manager and ask them what particular offers might be working well for this demographic. For example, if your site primarily caters to 35-50 year old women, weight loss offers might be and offer you want to try.
Zac: Depending on the type of site you currently have, its likely one of the major affiliate networks will have a relevant CPA offer for you to blend in with your content. You always have the option of Google Adsense, but that is usually a last resource for seasoned marketers. The key is blending in relevant content/ads and making it look real.
4. Do you start by choosing an offer, and then building a website/email list/PPC campaign around it, or the other way around (i.e., first build a website or email list and then try to find suitable offers)?
Shawn: I choose offers that fit my sites, because I am more likely to maintain a site if I have an interest in it. But there are plenty of successful affiliates who are essentially mercenaries that create sites to capitalize on whatever is hot.
Jonathan: I actually find the market first. What I mean by this is that I find where there are high volumes of traffic and try to cater to their needs. That way I know the traffic is there, it’s just a matter of finding out what will convert profitably for that particular area (or demographic).
Zac: Personally, if I am selecting an offer from a network, I will go through their available offers. I already have a good idea of whats on every other network and most likely saturated, so I want to choose something that looks a bit unsaturated and not already being pushed by a ton of affiliates. This is usually a hard find, but if found, usually it is much easier to promote and make money.
5. What is affiliate scrubbing/shaving, and what do you think about it?
Shawn: I focus on retail/revenue share and this hasn’t been an issue for me.
Jonathan: Scrubbing is when an advertiser (not the network) scrubs out bad leads and you do not get paid for them. This is very common and happens on a majority of the advertiser pages. This could be as simple as scrubbing someone from another country when the advertiser is only asking for US based leads or as complicated as the lead having bogus information such as a fake email address (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org).
Shaving is different. Shaving is when an affiliate network shaves leads from your leads. So maybe one in 100 of your leads does not get counted. The network still gets paid from the advertiser for this but you will never see anything. There are times when shaving is intentional (and some networks have been proven to shave) and sometimes when it is unintentional. Either way, it can be prevented by simply split testing the offer across multiple affiliate networks if possible.
Always remember that you should not accuse anyone of shaving unless you have a statistically significant number of leads to prove it. If you only have 10 leads per day on average and one day you have 5, it doesn’t mean the advertiser is shaving. It could mean a lot of things.
Zac: Since affiliate marketing first started online, it’s always been a scary issue and always in the back of our minds. Years ago, you pretty much had to rely on what the networks stats reported, but with more advanced reports and pixel/cookie tracking, you can compare network stats against your own. Unfortunately there are always going to be cheaters, lairs and people looking to take advantage of you. Before pushing some serious numbers with a company, make sure you can trust their stats and know who you are working with.