Did you know that affiliate sales reached nearly $4.5 billion USD in the US alone? Don’t you think that this kind of business is an incredible opportunity for online entrepreneurs?
This article provides tips, insights, advice, and guidance on how to start a digital goods affiliate business from scratch, optimize your website for better conversions, learn how to get and keep clients, understand how to pick the right partners - in a word, how to build a successful affiliate business.
Are you ready to get to the tips?
Choose a niche. Do your research, find a need and provide a solution. Today, when both big and small businesses strive to present their services online, web design is a good way to go.
If web design and development is your passion - bet on it. The more knowledgeable you are in a certain field, the more successful you’ll be in providing content and solutions to your target audience.
Getting the Right Website
Use a simple and intuitive design. The design and colors on your webpage shouldn’t be visually overwhelming. Make sure not to distract the users with too many buttons, banners, widgets or unnecessary text. A cluttered or unstructured resource can frustrate the users leading to the website abandonment. A clean design with delimited sections providing a structured and intuitive hierarchy of information is a perfect match.
BTW, the speed of your website is utterly important. It should load quickly. You can measure and improve your page speed with the following free online tools: Google PageSpeed Tools, GTmetrix, Pingdom Tools, and WebPagetest.
Choose a responsive design theme. Mobile shopping is growing rapidly and is making a tangible impact on the eCommerce world. If you want to stay afloat, having a website that looks good on all devices is a necessity.
Make sure every product has its own page with pictures, a description, “share” icons for all the Social Media channels, download button, buy button, editor’s review, publisher’s description, quick specs, full specifications and also user reviews - all organized in a clear and logical manner.
If you have a lot of text, break it up with clear, relevant headings to make things easier to read. Keep only the relevant aspects that can drive conversion, such as features, price, etc.
For example, you can use two separate columns for Pros and Cons and two different tabs for company analysis and users’ opinions.
Have the most important action buttons (“add to cart”/“buy now”) above the fold. If the customer has not added goods to the shopping cart yet, locate the button prominently.
Highlight your upcoming campaigns in the news section of your website. Announce the best coming deals at least one week in advance, but don’t reveal all details.
About the Traffic
Monitor for what people search on your website. Maybe there are products you don’t promote yet, but should. For example, if you get a lot of searches for landing pages and you only sell website templates, consider doing a promotion on landing pages.
Make use of all the current tools available to create and improve your website. For instance, the WordPress platform is recognized for having some great, useful widgets, such as AffiLinker Affiliate, Easy Affiliate, Affiliate Power, Thirsty Affiliates, etc.
Build more backlinks to your website. Supplement your brand visibility activities, list your website on forums and reputable directories that represent your area of interest. You can include a forum section in your website if you’re an established expert in your field.
Improve SEO; this makes your website easier to find on search engines, besides it boosts the web traffic of the site (read, increases the number of potential customers). You can do it yourself or work with an agency or a freelancer.According to the AffStat Report, 14% of affiliates use Guest Posting, Comment Marketing and Offline Marketing as ways to increase their website traffic. Over 20% prefer Videos and Images as well as Display Advertising; 40% are devoted to PPC and Email Marketing; 30% rely on Word of Mouth; 50% are targeting Blogging and Social Networks to gain visitors, and a 70% majority use SEO for a good Google ranking.
Do your keyword research. This is crucial to your Quality Score on Google. Think about the terms people would use searching for you on Google and keep these keywords as close as possible to your ad copy. Use Google Discovery’s Research Tool and look for the terms with a higher CPC.
Use affiliate link cloaking plug-ins. They help you manage the links on your website. They also make it easier to send affiliate links and raise the shopper’s trust level, although you shouldn’t “spam” your website visitors with affiliate links on each keyword within an article.Please don’t forget to A/B test your product pages. Use the page that sends you more traffic or converts better. Never stop testing your product pages.
Allow your customers to filter and compare products. This is especially important if you’re promoting multiple products from the same niche. A well-informed customer is more likely to convert than one who lacks information that is not available on your website. You can allow users to compare products and grade product features in order to make an informed purchase decision.
Provide only the latest versions of your promoted products. Regularly update your marketplace with the newest versions of your promoted products so that you don’t lose sales. Using network feeds for this is the most convenient way to ensure all of your products are up-to-date.
Test different headlines for your website to see which ones do and don’t work. Use headlines that clearly state the biggest benefit(s) that your product or service offers. Tell people exactly what they can get on your web page.
Personalize your website based on visitor location (offer a free delivery, a city-specific event invitation, etc.). If you’re going international, localize the content (translations, products, etc.).
Make use of automation (automation tools, like network feeds, filters for auto-approval of comments, etc.) Turn the time-consuming, manual tasks into standardized repeatable processes. Standardizing your processes and setting expectations for service levels, you can increase customer loyalty, leading to improved retention rates.
Close the loop with affiliate links. In other words, if you’re sending your visitors outside your website for more information on a certain product, use an affiliate link. This way the tracking cookie will be in place before the customer leaves your website.
Create newsletter campaigns. They can be monthly, bi-monthly, weekly or daily newsletters, depending on your business, to drive traffic. If your email marketing has a commercial goal such as informing your subscribers about deals, discounts or new product releases, make sure that you embed the right affiliate links in your email template. You can use Sendgrid, a complete email marketing solution provider, as well as MailChimp, which delivers a complete guide to making a perfect email marketing plan.
Optimizing the Shopping Cart
Use optimized shopping carts for best conversion. Review your vendor’s shopping cart and ask them about their average conversion rate. If you have your own template that converts better, implement it on the network side.A/B test shopping cart templates. Test different layouts of shopping carts to see which one converts better. Here are some popular A/B testing tools: Google Website Optimizer, Visual Website Optimizer, LiveBall, and A/Bingo.
Display all cart items. It is essential for your customers to see exactly what they are purchasing. Not knowing exactly how much a purchase is costing, freaks out customers and causes abandonment prior to the checkout process.
Single Page Checkout. Sometimes checkout processes have multiple steps in the purchase flow such as delivery address, discount codes, payment details, etc. Remember, the more steps and pages the customers need to complete, the higher are the chances of their abandoning the purchasing process. Better advice is to offer a single page checkout. Customers can input their details and purchase right then and there.
Display a clear progress bar. If you can’t offer a single page checkout, then use a clear progress bar. Customers want to know what is involved with purchasing from you and what comes next. If you show them exactly where they are in the purchase process, they will feel more secure in continuing with the purchase.
One column design for shopping cart. Keep the customers’ eyes focused on the order, with everything designed as one column, without distractions to the right or left (such as additional columns). Additionally, single column cart designs will display better on mobile devices.Display trustworthy logos in your shopping cart. The shopping cart should display trust elements like credit card logos, certification from security audit companies, etc. to inspire buying confidence in your customers.
Avoid forcing customers to register in order to buy. Completing registration forms, as a condition to proceed with an online purchase, is a not a great idea. However, if registration is required, then try to keep the process as simple as possible in order to minimize cart abandonment.Offer customers incentives for registering (exclusive discounts, reward points or other loyalty items if they register with you or enroll in your email database). Consider offering a one-year subscription to the best-selling cloud service, a 50% discount coupon on the first purchase, etc. Promise great freebies, market tips, trading ideas, product specials and the latest news if a customer subscribes to your mailing list.
Disclose additional costs upfront. Supplementary costs include: shipping, handling, taxes, and the like. Don’t hide this information until the last step. Customers need to know the total cost throughout the purchase process.
Use thank you pages after every purchase and make sure you send an order confirmation via email or phone. Thank you pages are an opportunity for future conversions and an additional interaction with the client, so make sure you include up-sell and cross-sell promotions such as: “You might also be interested in…” or “Customers that bought this item also bought…..”, etc. Don’t forget to ask them to share their experiences on social media.
Verify payment methods. Test the payment process regularly. Research payment method updates, test them personally, check for affiliate leaks, and fix whatever issues arise.Offer a wide variety of payment options. Make sure that you offer as many payment options as possible. Customers have their own preferences for how they want to pay. The simplest example is to make sure you don’t just offer credit card purchases, but also PayPal and potentially other options like Google Wallet.
According to the AffStat Report, 42% of the affiliates questioned prefer direct deposit, 34% use PayPal, and 12% use check, while 12% prefer wire transfer.
If you’re targeting territories with specific local payment methods, be sure that your vendor supports those in order to increase conversions.
Monitoring, Measuring, and Results
Monitor your campaigns and offers. Pay attention to your seasonal campaigns, and you will notice that your sales are not constant all year round. The basic indicators you should watch are the number of clicks sent, a number of orders, volumes transacted and a number of returns. Measure the purchase intention. Ask visitors who leave your website why they’re leaving, and, if possible, offer them a discount for the product they were interested in purchasing. See if you can insert a small two-question survey to measure their satisfaction with your website and services. You’ll find out vital information for your business.
Engage with web analytics tools. Google Analytics or another tool you prefer will give insight into your site’s performance. If the performance is poor, the reasons why are also in the reports. For example, maybe the words in your ad don’t perform well and you need to change them. If this is too time-consuming for you, you can engage the services of an agency or a specialist freelancer.
Add grades to the products based on customers’ feedback. People tend to trust other people’s ratings. Enable a customer feedback option under the “add to cart” button to increase the product’s perceived value. Most affiliates integrate a grading system for their promoted products. For example, users can assign up to 5 stars for the products they bought and tested.Make it easier for customers to send feedback. The majority of disappointed customers don’t complain - they just walk away and you don’t know why. If customers have a poor experience on your site, they will likely tell other people about it, so providing a system that allows them to express honest feedback is essential to your business.
Actively ask for your customers’ opinions. Create a survey and include it in your newsletter. It’s a great way to find out your customers’ opinions of your business and what you can do to improve it.
Use post-order emails to get customers’ opinions on products they just bought. It will provide insights regarding the quality and popularity of certain products, as well as user-generated content.
Deliver Original Content
Talk about the latest available products and services along with related offers and campaigns on your website. It is the best way to create and promote original content. For example, you can display on the left side “Most Popular Downloads”, “Latest Tech News” and “Latest Forum Posts” sections which are user-friendly and easy to browse.
Work on your user-generated content. Encourage your followers to state their opinion and contribute to your brand image with their feedback and reviews. Actual customer opinions have a big impact on the overall perception of your business and products. Even a comments section for each product where users can share their thoughts is useful
Get advice from experts. Influencers and experts are trusted by consumers and are a big plus to your brand. On average, expert content lifts familiarity 88 percent more than branded content and 50 percent more than user reviews; it lifts affinity 50 percent more than branded content and 20 percent more than user reviews; finally, it lifts purchase considerations 38 percent more than branded content and 83 percent more than user reviews.
Have related resources available for each product you’re promoting. Make sure customers can download specification PDFs, installation manuals and other information related to the products you’re promoting.
Craft your own reviews for products and services. Create honest and objective reviews by showing both pros and cons. You can integrate content and downloads.Read articles on copywriting to create the titles and content that boost sales. Check out websites like MonsterPost for ideas.
Post interviews and testimonials. People love to read about other people’s product experiences and are eager to find out opinions of influencers and experts.
Syndicate content. Syndicate both your own content and content from related websites and blogs.
Don’t copy content directly from the vendor’s website. Websites built with the sole purpose of placing affiliate links will be ranked low by Google.
Incentives and Promotional Strategies
Offer your customers gifts within the purchase process. Promote less popular products with an additional bonus or gift or as a discounted cross-sell option to other best selling products.Send your loyal customers gifts on their birthdays. This is a good way to show that you take care of your clients. You can offer them a new subscription to their favorite product or online magazine, or a free trial for a product they might like.
Don’t miss the big discount campaigns of the year. Keep an updated calendar of key campaigns throughout the year, plan your promotions and communicate them to your audience in adequate time to achieve campaign success.
Here are some dates you should keep in mind: Black Friday, Winter Holidays, New Year’s Sales, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Summer Clearance, Back to School, Labor Day.
Make sure that you have everything ready that is marketing creative related, tested and optimized (a set of banners and visuals for your websites, display, retargeting or email campaigns and/ or a new copy for your search ads).
Organize localized campaigns. If your affiliate website has localized versions, it’s a good idea to implement regional campaigns. For example, you can organize a contest on July 4th for your American customers for Independence Day.
Complement your reviews with promotions. Whether it’s a discount, a bundle or a chance to win more loyalty points, incentives are a great way to reward loyal customers. Bundle current products with content subscriptions. This way, your customers will see the added value and you will see additional revenue in your account the following month when some (most) subscriptions will renew.
Establish a loyalty program. Offer your customers Membership cards or loyalty cards, rewards cards, point cards, advantage cards, or club cards. Customers can use these cards as a form of identification when they interact with you. By presenting a loyalty card, a customer typically receives either a discount on the current purchase or an allotment of points that can be used for future purchases. When a customer asks for a loyalty card, you collect identifying or demographic data, such as name, address, email address, age, etc.
Organize contests. People love contests. Pick a theme that’s relevant and challenging - take time to think about the procedure and prizes. Make sure you can collect demographic data or at least find out essential information from your customers. Ask people to share the contest details via social media. For instance: a Social Stock Contest.
Ask your partners for exclusive deals. Enjoy a promotional price/gift/discount from them. It is a loyalty tactic and a win-win situation for vendors and customers.
Create bundles or special product deals. Customers buy bundles in order to benefit from discounts on each of the products in the bundle compared to the price of the products / services when purchased separately. Many affiliates practice this kind of promotion.
Organize special events with partners (summits, gatherings). Build trust with them; show you’re an important affiliate that can promote sales. Special events can generate more business and strengthen relationships with your merchant partners.
Offer an incentive to new email subscribers. There’s no better way to acquire new prospects than with a free magazine subscription, a 50% discount for the best-selling product, or 1000 loyalty points.
Newsletters need targeted promotions. Your subscribers will more likely open and click on a link in one of your newsletters if you provide the products for which they’re looking, with a special offer. For example, if you know someone recently bought a template from your website, maybe you’d like to offer them customization services.
Run cross-selling campaigns. Recommend similar, related, or dependent products to ones previously purchased, ones that other visitors were interested in, or products that other customers bought after viewing the item.
Use custom discount codes. Apart from the product feeds that a network should have to simplify your work, a feature that allows you to create custom coupons, generated from your own commission, will be a nice bonus.
Choose the Right Network and Products
Before starting to promote a product, conduct some research. This is very efficient for the affiliates that rely on paid traffic rather than organic. The purpose is to buy traffic at as low a cost as possible and sell your products at the highest price. The elements that are worth considering: Affiliate Commission, Product Price, Product Price if Discounted, Traffic costs, and Conversion rate from Click to Sale.Product conversion rates. If you are using paid search or media buying, ask the affiliate network to give you information about the products’ conversion rates (Click to Sale or Click to Lead acquisition) and EPC (Earning per Click). If you are considering promoting products or services that work on a ‘freemium’ or limited free-trial model, ask them about the conversion from trial to sale.
Do competitive research on the web to see how other affiliates or resellers are marketing and pricing the products/services you promote. You can use tools like SimilarWeb or SEMRush to see from where they’re getting their traffic, what active campaigns they are running, and what discounts/incentives they are offering to their audience.
Good tracking is essential here. Plus you need a variety of ways to be able to promote what you are selling. Whether it is link variety, a good selection of banners, custom builds, or something else – the more tools in your toolbox, the better off you’ll be.
Look for product variety and relevancy. People love options, and even if they know what they want to buy, they like to have the opportunity to choose something else, similar, maybe even better than their first choice.
According to the AffStat, 21% of the affiliates place Product and Services Relevancy at the top of their criterion list when choosing a network with which to work, followed by Brand Awareness at 16% and Affiliate Network Reputation at 15%.
Dedicated customer support. An affiliate network should provide customized offers for its affiliates. This way, an article becomes even more valuable to the reader. A really good affiliate network provides many vendors an understandable and clearly structured website, and engaged customer service.
Commission is important. Apart from the fact that you love what you do, you expect to earn money, that’s why the payout a merchant offers is important to all affiliates.
Brand, Loyalty, and Trust
Out-of-the-box happenings. Organize a small gathering for your customers or show up at a business-related event where you can offer your prospects flyers, bonus cards and other promotional materials that can drive traffic and grow your business.
Create, maintain and segment your subscriber list. This is one of the most important assets for your business. It paves the way to increased conversions and provides you a constant audience for your promotions.
Create sticky email subscribing forms on the most visited pages of your website such as your Homepage or campaign landing pages. You can use the tools offered by the email marketing providers like MailChimp or dedicated optimization tools like PadiAct.
Actively manage your social media accounts. Distribute content adapted to each channel - YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr or whatever Social Media platform is best suited for your activity. Try to alternate your unique content (blog post, video or infographic) with the promotional content containing your affiliate links.
Display all essential information in your Terms & Conditions. For example, if you decide to charge an extra fee for delivering in remote areas, ask your customers to verify if they live in the designated area so they will know upfront how much delivery will cost.
Awareness and Advertising
Change the advertisements, especially during special campaigns (Christmas season, Easter, etc). Make up to 20 versions of the same advertisement, test them and keep the ones that drive the most sales.
Promote your offers via SMS. Confirm the order was received, send an alert when the order has been delivered and follow-up with the customer to ensure everything went well
Pay for advertorials in relevant online magazines or web directories. It provides you the visibility you need from the target audience.
Don’t buy PPC ads containing the vendor’s name or product name unless you clear it with the vendor first. Most vendors do not want you to put a sponsored ad next to their #1 result for their own product name. They will lose money, in addition to the commission they’re already paying you.
Visit forums and get involved. The best advertising is where real people are having real conversations, so, forums are goldmines.
The Products and Services You Sell
Product or service integrity. There needs to be a consistency in what you advise or recommend to your clients and the quality of the products you promote for your long-term success. There must be an overall coherence in your brand’s image, the products you promote, the tone you use and the way you care for your customers.
Promote products from different merchants. Try not to become a one brand fan. If you’re an affiliate and sell ready-made designs, pick various web design companies to promote and continue reviewing new product opportunities. Even if you are a fan of one company, you have to offer your customers choices.
Offer samples and free trials. The best way to make a potential customer consider buying from you is to offer him a free trial or sample of the product he wants. This way they will know for sure that you’re not trying to sell products that do not meet the quality expectations you already set.
Remember, vendors are there to help you succeed. Ask them for any marketing collateral you need, free stuff to giveaway, exclusive discounts etc. If your volumes make sense, don’t be afraid to negotiate a higher commission and let them know that you’re going to invest part of the extra money in more advertising for their products.
Create your own product. You can create a mobile app related to your field, a special seasonal bundle with products from different merchants, or an Ebook. Become the expert, get recognition and the customers will come to you, not only for advice but also for shopping.
Get inspired. Many good ideas can come from product lists and reviews, available in multiple categories. Also, keep a close eye on your competition. If they’re running PPC campaigns, look for what products they are promoting on their top landing pages.
Keep your business relevant. Successful entrepreneurs know how to keep their business relevant during changing financial and socioeconomic times. If people have moved on from a particular product, there’s no point in continuing to promote it.
Now that you have the information, it’s time to take action! Enter our affiliate network. By joining our network you could considerably reduce the time on building the framework for your business and focus on driving revenues - adding your personal touch and the spark of passion every affiliate business needs.
As our affiliate, you will have:
- Up to 50% Commission
- Growing Catalogue of Over 46,000 templates
- Comprehensive Reporting
- Flexible Discount Opportunities
- Localized Carts
- Automated Data-Feeds
- Dedicated Support
- Flexible Payment Methods