Dianne asks: What would you suggest as far as affiliate programs when you are just getting started? I understand there's CJ, ClickBank etc. Did you start out with one affiliate program and eventually add others?
This is a great question Dianne. I actually addressed this in depth in a post on the best affiliate programs (video/text) as it's a very common question.
I like to create niche affiliate sites around topics, not around products or merchants. And so you'll want to choose affiliate programs that are a good match for your topic and your target market.
When you're just starting out, it's best to start with the larger networks like: Commission Junction, Share-a-Sale, LinkShare, etc. I'm not a huge fan of ClickBank or Adsense, but they do have their place in some niches...
By going with the larger affiliate networks you can work with multiple merchants, and get paid for all commissions in one payment. This gives you a variety of merchants and products to work with, and helps you reach your minimum payouts easier by combining merchants from one network. It's also easier for tracking & organization as all of your stats are in one (or just a few) major affiliate networks.
For each niche affiliate site that I create, I usually have a minimum of 3 affiliate merchants. I made the mistake of creating my first affiliate site around ONE merchant (great merchant - high conversion, good payout, awesome products, etc). That merchant closed their affiliate program within a year, and I was stuck with an un-monetized site. I've had a hard time replacing them too!
I now have at least 2 back-up merchants for any site I create. Amazon.com is one of my common back-ups as they carry most products you might want to promote.
Dianne asks:When you started out did you put an affiliate link in EVERY article you wrote or what did you find that worked the best after you got started?
Not all of my niche affiliate sites are content-based. Some of them are set up more like a basic ecommerce site or online store that features specific products.
To answer your question, every page or piece of web content that I create does has a specific objective. So yes, I include a link on every page - whether that's a link directly to the merchant, or a link to a related page on my affiliate site. You always want to include a call-to-action and give your visitor the "best next click".
Dianne asks:When you do have that handful of products, do you recommend putting them on a rotating cycle in articles that you write (i.e. use #1 on first day, #2 on second day, etc. until you get to # 5) and then start over again with #1? Or do you recommend putting them in the sidebar as widgets or both? And then, slowly add in more products?
I wish I was that organized with my schedule! LOL
First, I rarely use sidebar widgets. The best way to market affiliate links is to put them in the content areas of your blog or site. So I create pages about products, or content about topics that lead into a buying decision for the visitor.
The recommendations (and affiliate links) are right there in the article or blog post, within the actual content of the page.
I actually work on my affiliate sites from my keyword list instead of my merchant or product list. I start by choosing a Primary Keyword Phrase for the main page of the site/blog. This is the phrase I most want the main page to rank well for in the major search engines.
Then I choose categories or topics I am going to cover on the site, and use those keyword phrases to create the navigation. The more specific keyword phrases, ie long tail keywords, are used to create the content or product pages within each category.
Once I create the site structure (see example in my Web Page Optimization post) I begin working on the content. And from there I add in the affiliate links or product recommendations as they fit into each content page.
I hope this helps, and gives you an idea of how to create your own niche affiliate sites. Everyone does it differently, but I use the SEO model and work with long tail (super-specific) keyword phrases. For that reason my strategy revolves around keywords, and what the market is searching for specifically. From there I create the site, target those searches, and connect the buyers with the merchants.
p.s. The absolute best investment to shave months – or even years – off the learning curve for getting your first affiliate site off the ground and actually making sales: Download the Super Affiliate Handbook by Rosalind Gardner. She turned me into a successful Super Affiliate, and her model is the one I still use today.
See In-Depth Overview of the Super Affiliate Handbook
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