Best Affiliate Programs
If you’re hoping to earn a living via your website or social media profiles, affiliate marketing is one of the most viable means. With properly focused content and strong overall search engine optimization, you can even create several evergreen sites that keep drawing visitors and affiliated purchases every single day, thereby providing the basis for reliable passive income.
You can rack up quite a pretty penny if you can dedicate yourself to the daily grind as well. Just be sure to temper your expectations: as with any online marketing endeavor, there are no quick and easy ways to rise to the top.
If you’re willing to put in the work early on however, you’re already well ahead of the curve. If you’re ready to get started, there are a few things you need to take into consideration up front. You can go about your affiliate marketing career in a variety of different ways, but it’s always best to have some form of audience already established.
Many of the best affiliate programs require approval before you join up. If you can show that your links are sure to receive some degree of attention, your approval will be far more likely. (One useful way to expedite the process is to buy followers for a Twitter or Facebook profile, but it’s honestly better to build a legitimate audience instead.)
Establishing yourself online is quite an expansive topic all its own, so let’s say for argument’s sake that you’re already well on your way in that regard. If you already have some attention or you at least know how to get it, the hard part comes in knowing which affiliate programs are actually worth your time.
There are a literal myriad of options in front of you, making it quite difficult to know where you should turn when you’re first starting out. After a lot of trial and error from many other webmasters and internet influencers, something of a consensus has finally formed. To expedite your own journey into the world of online earnings, here are the best affiliate programs you can apply to:
1 – The Amazon Associate Program
First and foremost, joining the Amazon Associate program is an absolute must. Amazon is one of the leading retailers in the world, online or otherwise. With their highly competitive rates, nearly universal stock, and well renown customer service, there’s already a strong level of trust in the company from the customer perspective. If you’re linking to an Amazon product, there’s a good chance it’s going to hit quite a lot of the marks that someone interested in the product will need in order to go through with their purchase.
Another huge advantage of the Amazon Associate program is that its links still point directly to Amazon, with very little to tip anyone off that it’s affiliated within the URL. Many other programs require strange looking URLs by default, something that a lot of the most careful internet users will naturally shy away from. You can set up your own links through your website of course, but having relatively normal URLs right out of the gate makes gaining more clicks an absolute breeze.
This program is also incredibly easy to receive approval from. They might not let you in if you’re literally starting from scratch with your online presence, but you can get in even if you’re a beginner. As such, this is undoubtedly the best place to get started with your affiliate marketing career. There are quite a few savvy webmasters out there who make their living through this program alone. It’s easier said than done, but that could very well be you as well someday.
The only real downside to Amazon’s affiliate program is that it starts you off with a fairly low commission rate. You’ll only earn 4 percent of every purchase at first, with the opportunity to earn even more after you’ve hit certain thresholds. They also offer higher rates through special promotions from time to time. It’s also worth noting that citizens of some states aren’t eligible to join the program at all, but that list is thankfully fairly short.
2 – Commission Junction
Unlike Amazon, Commission Junction isn’t a store in and of itself. Instead, joining with Commission Junction will allow you to apply with a number of different programs. It’s a full fledged affiliate network that has partnerships with various online merchants. The upside here is that you’ll be able to laser focus on certain stores that fit your niche. You’ll most likely find a store that’s partnered with Commission Junction first, but it’s advantageous to go ahead and apply for a partnership with them so you can start browsing for merchants that seem to be a nice fit.
When you sign into the site, you’ll be able to easily track which merchants you have approval with and how well your links have been performing as of late. You’ll see the status of pending applications, and everything you need to build working links to specific products will be provided for you right within your dashboard. It’s incredibly easy to keep track of everything, and the layout will allow you to build basic goals for yourself as you move forward.
The first real downside to Commission Junction comes from the default format of the link URLs. They appear a bit off-putting at first, but you can always merely throw them into a link shortening program like bit.ly. Provided you maintain a trustworthy rapport with your audience, you shouldn’t have a problem getting clicks regardless.
It can also be a bit difficult to earn the approval of certain merchants. Many of them are less kind to newcomers than the likes of the Amazon Associate program. Fortunately, there are so many to choose from that something is sure to be a decent fit for you. There are thousands upon thousands of merchants partnered with CJ already, and more are jumping on board every single day.
Finally, the payments can take a bit of time to go through. The money needs to be sent over from the merchant’s side over to Commission Junction itself before it can then be sent to you. You’ll eventually fall into a rhythm that works for you, but it can be frustrating when you’ve just gotten your start and the money hasn’t started coming in yet.
You should also look into Rakuten Linkshare. This is a platform that’s much like Commission Junction, with a number of different merchants to choose from. If a store you like isn’t partnered with CJ, they’re likely using Linkshare. It’s one of the longest standing affiliate networks, and it has remain relevant ever since its inception.
Outside of having a wide array of merchants to potentially partner with, there are a number of useful features that you’ll likely fall in love with if you decide to use Linkshare. For example, they give your ads dynamic rotation, meaning specific ads will be shown for certain users, and they can even filter through so that new products can be shown on every single page that a visitor of your website loads.
You’ll likely hear back about your initial application quite quickly. If you happen to be turned down, don’t fret; you can always reapply once you hit your stride with the amount of website visitors or social media followers they happen to be looking for. In all likelihood, you’ll probably be able to receive a basic account without fail. The real trick is to please the individual merchants that you hope to partner with from there.
The disadvantages here aren’t terribly different from those present with Commission Junction. Your experience will likely depend largely upon the merchants that agree to work with you, and how well you’re able to drive customers to their links. You can find plenty of advice below to help you build a more successful affiliate campaign of your own.
4 – Find The Program Of Your Favorite Stores
It’s going to be a lot easier to promote products or stores that you’re already familiar with and a regular patron of. With that in mind, simply browse to the bottom of any online store you visit habitually. Nine times out of ten, you’ll likely see an option listed there for affiliate sales. Even sites like Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, Walgreens, CVS, and other major retailers all have affiliate programs of some form. eBay also has an incredibly lucrative affiliate program.(In most cases, you’ll find that merchants of this ilk are partnered with networks like Commission Junction.)
Much like the Amazon example, partnering with a major name will help give your links a level of legitimacy that will help them perform. The downside to smaller niche sites is that you’ll always have an uphill battle when it comes to driving successful sales. That said, don’t feel as if you need to shy away from smaller names altogether. There may be a necessary degree of experimentation once you start receiving approval for certain programs.
How To Easily Promote Your Links
Now that you have a general idea of which affiliate programs are the best, you’re going to need to learn how to promote your links once you’re ready to go. You’re going to have quite a few options ahead of you in this regard as well. If you don’t want to waste too much time wondering what you’re going to do however, here are the most reliable ways to get your links out there:
- Website Product Reviews
The most reliable method is through writing product reviews on a well optimized website. It’s best to use what you know to your advantage, but try as hard as you can to cater to certain niches if you want to bring in the most traffic possible.
For example, let’s say one of your biggest hobbies is collecting and building Star Wars LEGO sets. You could easily put together a website that offers reviews on all of the latest releases in the toyline, targeted towards parents that aren’t sure which sets are worth buying for their kids.
By pointing out all of the features, fun, and advantages of the product in well written, original review content and then sharing your affiliate link in a “where to buy” section, you can easily rack up plenty of affiliate sales in the process.
- Social Media Platforms
You should also rely heavily upon social media profiles. Random spamming of links isn’t going to get you anywhere, however. You can use the same review-style approach as described above, where you express excitement over receiving a product, share a quick image, and then end with an affiliated link.
Just be sure to pepper in plenty of posts that aren’t strictly for promotional purposes; you’ll be able to build much more of an audience. If you’re genuine, your engagement will have a much higher chance of thriving, and people that follow you will be far more likely to trust links that you share.
Twitter and Facebook are the most reliable social media platforms as of now. On Facebook, you can even buy ad space that sends people over to affiliated products if the platform can match certain profiles to that particular interest. You don’t have to pay for anything at all in order to be successful however.
Just be sure to post regularly, engage with your audience in an organic fashion, and make clever use of relevant hashtags. Also, be sure to post your links a few times throughout the day to increase visibility, especially when it comes to Twitter.
- Youtube Videos
You should also consider starting a Youtube channel, again with the same basic angle. You’ll likely be able to find many successful examples if you look around even casually. There are plenty of channels that cater to specific interests like makeup, cameras, action figures, video games, shoes, art supplies, computer parts, and literally anything else you could possibly imagine.
With each product review you post, you can easily link to it in the description and inspire plenty of purchases. Consistency is important with this platform if you’re ever going to gain traction however, so be sure to post daily if possible or on set days with a regular schedule.
If you’re clever, you can even work products into your videos that aren’t technically being featured at the time. For instance, people are sure to ask which microphone you’re using if it’s in frame and the audio is of decent quality.
You’ll likely also receive comments asking about the clothes you’re wearing. You can even jump a few steps ahead and offer purchase information for such things in your descriptions. There’s plenty of potential to lead people to affiliated links within every single aspect of your video, so don’t miss out!
- Always Promote Sales
No matter the platform you use for your affiliate links, you should also be sure to point out discounts and sales on items that are related to your niche. Simple posts that point out major discounts on worthwhile items have a fairly high success rate. This is especially useful around the end of the year since there are so many holiday related sales going on, but you should use it to your advantage all year long. If you’re an Amazon Associate, keeping an eye on their daily lightning deals is an absolute must.
- Build An E-Mail List
If you have a website or blog, you should also build an e-mail list for your audience to sign up for. You shouldn’t really waste too much effort e-mailing about any specific products, but weekly e-mails summarizing the content you’ve recently shared will make sure every review or product feature you’ve recently posted will receive as much attention as possible.
Along with all of the new organic traffic you bring in from your search engine optimization, this will keep people that enjoy your content coming back time and time again. You may think e-mails are outdated, but even the biggest online retailers still use the newsletter platform to drive sales. It can work for you as well!
- Cross-Promotion And Guest Blogging
If you really want to maximize the potential of your affiliate links, you’ll cross-promote by using every single option listed above. You should always use social media to promote the content on your website, and the site itself should lead right back to those profiles.
It may seem as if you’re spreading yourself thin, but you have to remember that certain members of your audience will likely only associate you with one particular corner of the web. You can also make sure to keep your content relevant throughout the entire day by spreading your updates out one platform after the next.
If you want to earn more attention for a blog or Youtube channel that you’re trying to get off the ground, you should also find similar outlets and offer to do a guest review for them. You likely won’t be able to put any of your own affiliate links on the material, but you’ll definitely be able to send people to your own site at the very least.
You can see this in action on Youtube in particular with the high amount of collaborations. By working with others, there’s an understanding that the individual audiences may cross pollinate to a certain extent. Everyone is hungry for more content these days, so it won’t be terribly difficult to find someone willing to play ball as long as you’ve already established yourself to some degree.
The Importance Of Search Engine Optimization
Though already hinted at above, be sure not to gloss over search engine optimization! This is an absolutely crucial aspect of success with affiliate marketing, even if you’re mainly focusing on Youtube or social media. It can really help push you into the stratosphere as far as earning traffic from the likes of Google, Bing, and even Yahoo.
SEO is a means of focusing all of your content with certain keywords that match your niche. Everything you place online should have the sole intent of offering solutions to something that internet users might be searching about. Going back to the example of Star Wars LEGO, searches like “which Star Wars LEGO sets are the best” or “what’s the most affordable Star Wars LEGO vehicle for Christmas” are being used all the time.
If you can provide those answers within your content while keeping an overall focus on the same themes, you’ll naturally rank higher on accompanying search result pages. Web traffic is highly reliant upon organic search engine use these days, so it’s crucial to make sure your rank is as high as possible.
This is only a bare bones, layman’s run down of how SEO works of course. That’s it’s own topic that you’re going to have to put a separate degree of time and effort towards. You can always consider working with an optimization company if you’re struggling to figure it all out yourself, but be sure you do plenty of research beforehand. Even a cursory understanding of SEO can set you apart from the multitudes of content creators that just throw random content at the wall in order to see whatever might stick.
Consistency And Hard Work
Now that you’ve been pointed in the right direction towards some of the most worthwhile affiliate programs and you have a better understanding of what it takes to get your links and content noticed, the ball is entirely in your court. You have to understand that overnight success stories are actually quite rare when it comes to any form of internet marketing.
There are simply too many competitors already vying for the same audience that you’re hoping to cater to by now. If you can dedicate yourself to building the best website, social media profile, or Youtube channel you possibly can however, you can definitely carve out your own degree of success. If you can keep pushing through even the dullest of days early on, that persistence alone will take you far.