To some folks, ‘affiliate marketing strategies’ might sound like an oxymoron. After all, aren’t affiliate marketers those types that spam their links everywhere?
Sadly, that’s often the case. The ease with which one can earn money in affiliate marketing causes some people to try to skip straight to getting clicks. For real marketers, sharing the link is almost an afterthought to building trusting relationships. In this article, I’ll explain five current working strategies and give you the first steps toward getting started with any or all of them.
Ever since I started promoting GrooveFunnels (mostly passively via my GrooveFunnels review) I’ve been paying close attention to the affiliate marketing strategies of some of Groove’s top affiliates. These are the five strategies which I see used successfully the most. Each strategy will be reviewed and explained with some basic pointers, and I’ll provide links to additional training so you can learn more.
Disclaimer: This article contains referral and/or affiliate links to products or services you may find useful. If you follow them and make a purchase, I may receive a commission.
Note that this is a long, in depth article that explains a number of potential paths. If you find it helpful, you may want to bookmark it and/or share it on social media so you can visit again easily in the future.
Let’s get started! (Table of contents coming soon)
What is Affiliate Marketing?
If you’ve ever referred someone to a product or service and received any form of reward, you’ve come close to affiliate marketing. It’s the practice of selling products and services on behalf of someone else as their affiliate partner. The seller is usually called the vendor or merchant. These days most affiliate marketing centers around special links that contain tracking codes. If someone clicks your affiliate link and then makes a purchase, you’ll receive a pre-determined commission.
So why do I say affiliate marketing is mostly about building trusting relationships? Because few people will buy through you unless they know, like, and trust you (or, at least two of those three). Since it’s easier to get paid more with “high ticket” products and services, a significant level of trust is often required to drive sales. Regardless of the strategy you use, you’re unlikely to become successful if you can’t get your audience to at least trust you.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Clicks on affiliate links can be tracked using browser cookies, allowing the vendor to know who referred a sale even if the buyer leaves and comes back a few days later. There are many ways to manage affiliates, ranging from a big affiliate network akin to Clickbank or WarriorPlus to a wide array of WordPress plugins, to solutions such as GrooveFunnels and ThriveCart. All that’s really needed is a means off connecting the merchant with the affiliates and allowing them to collect name, email address, and payment information. The important thing is that everything is tracked and automated, although you need to be able to intervene easily if someone starts gaming the system.
In an open affiliate marketing program such as Clickbank, it’s easy to become an affiliate. You don’t even have to buy the product first (although you should, to be honest and become a successful marketer). In some cases your name, email address and (sometimes) phone number is all that is required to sign up. Then you can start driving traffic to the offer using any method approved by the merchant.
Want more information on what affiliate marketing is? Follow that link to my in-depth article on the subject. It also lists some of the best affiliate programs you can join.
Why You Need Affiliate Marketing Strategies
If you want to make money reliably with affiliate marketing, the most sustainable method is to build systems that drive traffic that aren’t entirely dependent on your constant input. This is often referred to as “passive income”. The exact definition of passive income varies. Some folks consider writing a blog article and making money from it months later passive income, while others would insist that doesn’t count if you put time into maintaining and updating the blog.
Affiliate marketing and passive income are not the same thing, nor are they dependent on each other. But the fact is, if your strategy doesn’t involve some element of automation, you’re essentially just creating a job for yourself rather than a scalable business. You’ll also need to decide whether to focus on promoting lots of products to increase your earnings, or few products that have a higher commission.
Lead Generation Through Various Marketing Channels
If you have a website, you have most of what you need for lead generation already. The average website builder comes with the ability to create a form that captures emails or other contact information. The best method is usually to offer a tempting lead magnet such as a step by step guide, a top 10 list, a mini online course, or even case studies.
Common Mistakes New Affiliates Make
The idea of getting a big commission for something as simple as deciding to promote a product on your website or blog is enough to make some new affiliates get ahead of themselves. When all you see is dollar signs, you’re unlikely to read the terms and conditions properly. If you then end up violating those conditions, it won’t matter how much traffic you send to the offer; your affiliate partnership can be revoked at a moment’s notice if you go against the terms.
I strongly advise that you read documentation attached to any product or service you use or promote. As a marketing affiliate it’s your responsibility to represent the merchant and the affiliate network in a positive light. Claiming all products are amazing just to get someone to buy the product will not only hurt your relationship with your audience, it may make it hard to get paid. So make sure you read the appropriate instructions, make sure you genuinely support the product, and create genuinely helpful content. Whether you reach out by email or social media, your audience will be much more receptive to genuine help than constant sales efforts.
Remember; good things take time. While some individuals are able to make their first online sales easily with little to no help, that kind of success in any affiliate program is rare. Most of us will need some help and guidance in order to learn the ropes of creating content, building audience relationships, making sales, and driving targeted traffic.
Top Recommended Affiliate Marketing Tools
GrooveFunnels – I think anyone who wants to make money online should have at least a free GrooveFunnels account. That way you can build all the landing pages and funnels you need, as well as sell products and join/create affiliate programs. While some affiliate marketing strategies do not require web pages, I recommend using them in most cases.
Rebrandly – Rebrandly is a link shortener with an awesome free tier. You can use it to create short links, and also to create “pretty” links that use your domain name. Being able to manage your links properly is key in all of the affiliate marketing strategies outlined below.
GetResponse – GetResponse is one of the few email marketing providers that actually encourages affiliate marketing via their platform. That’s why I chose them, but I’ve been 100% happy with the service since I started using it some months ago.
With those three tools, you’ll have everything you need to build a variety of sales funnels and optin funnels, follow up with your audience, and make affiliate sales.
Free Webinar Training – This is John Crestani’s recently updated free training webinar. Crestani is a famous and successful affiliate marketer who gives away a ton of knowledge in his trainings.
Google Trends – with Google Trends you can stay on top of what’s new and trending, so you stay aware of any high commission new offers you may decide to promote.
5 Affiliate Marketing Strategies I’ve Used Or Observed in 2020
These are five affiliate strategies I’ve either used to make money or have seen others use to make money. A huge part of any kind of marketing is networking, and whenever I meet someone who is obviously successful I make a point of following them on social media and observing their tactics. When I meet someone who is newer to marketing, there are often a number of tools I can recommend that will help them.
Strategy #1: Organic Facebook Marketing
This one surprised me when I first started seeing affiliates have success with it. After all, it’s fairly well accepted that organic reach on Facebook has become more and more difficult to harness. And yet, earlier this year I started noticing folks boasting about how they earned through Facebook “without spending money on ads”.
I guess it makes sense; according to a HubSpot study, most people are 71% more likely to make purchases if referred to a product by social media.
Facebook (similar to most of the big-name online platforms) uses an algorithm to determine how much organic reach any given post receives. Once you figure out how to give it what it wants, you can reap the benefits as long as you show up consistently and play by the rules.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what seems to be working on Facebook, organically speaking, in 2020:
- Posting in groups and on personal profiles gets better reach than posting to business pages, so many marketers are focusing their energy in those two places.
- Groups are a great way to connect with your target audience. You can either create your own group and build a community in it or join other groups and connect with others in them. In groups that you own you get to make the rules (aside from obeying Facebooks terms and policies).
- Some groups can be joined as a business page, but many require that you use your personal profile. Once you have met someone in a group and mutually added them as a friend, you can market to them (tactfully, please) via timeline posts, direct messaging, and by inviting them to follow your business page.
- Posting images, 3D images, or videos gets better reach than posting plain text. Because of this many marketers prefer to post an image/video and then deliver their link either in the comments or via direct messaging or chatbots.
- The best way to make new friends from groups is to help people; answer questions and making posts that teach or inspire others. If you do this right, folks will already know and trust you by the time you send them a friend request.
Here are some things to bear in mind about affiliate marketing on Facebook:
- Posting actual affiliate links can get you in trouble, so it’s best to use a URL shortener or a redirect. Many marketers use bit.ly for shortening their URLs, but I think Rebrandly is a better service with a more robust free plan.
- A lot of newbies do this (and even more TRY to do it), so you really have to be careful about where you post and why. You could get reported and/or kicked out of groups if others think you’re trying to game the system rather than providing real value.
- Facebook can be a finicky platform. Even if you follow all the rules, you could still end up getting your account banned. I personally don’t recommend relying on this strategy exclusively because it makes you dependant on Facebook as a platform.
You should take those points into consideration and do your own research before you start marketing in any way on Facebook, or anywhere else.
If organic Facebook marketing sounds as though it’s accessible of these affiliate marketing strategies and you want some help getting started, you’re in luck! I know of two impressive training programs that focus on it exclusively.
Work With Sebastian is a high-ticket training with a low-ticket price. It has helped many online business owners walk the path to becoming successful affiliate marketers. While the program is largely centered around using ClickFunnels, you can apply the lessons learned to just about any niche and use any software you want. I’m a member of Work With Sebastian and have found his training and guidance helpful in refining my affiliate marketing strategies.
Sebastian Gomez Mentoring is a much more expensive program created by the same Sebastian as the program above, but it takes things to the next level. If you have a solid marketing budget and you want to get everything absolutely dialed in, this is a great option. Sebastian is an advocate of multiple marketing strategies including email marketing, content marketing on YouTube and other platforms, and both Facebook organic and Facebook ads.
Strategy #2: Facebook Advertising
Advertising on Facebook can be profitable for affiliate marketers, ecommerce owners, and just about anyone else with a Facebook-friendly product to sell. While I have seen some get away with using affiliate links in Facebook ads, it’s generally a bad idea. Instead it’s best to send your audience to a bridge page or a landing page.
A bridge page is a simple web page that features any links you want people to click on. A landing page uses a lead capture form and then redirects the visitor either to the offer’s sales page or to a squeeze page / thank you page that advertises it.
There are two main challenges in Facebook advertising; getting your ads approved and getting them to convert. Getting ads approved is harder than you might think; even agencies full of experienced advertisers have to deal with undeserved (and sometimes deserved) disapprovals and even ad account bans. I personally once had my ad account banned when I wasn’t running ads. As soon as I contacted support the ban was removed, but it goes to show that Facebook is indeed a finicky platform.
To increase your odds of success advertising on Facebook, follow these steps:
- Take a paid course with up-to-date lessons that covers how to run Facebook ads comprehensively. If it also focuses specifically on how to use them for affiliate marketing, so much the better.
- Study material on blogs, YouTube, and in Facebook groups related to running ads in your niche. You can avoid a ton of common mistakes just by paying attention to what other people do wrong, and by reading and understanding Facebook’s ad policies.
- Use a Facebook pixel to track visitors and set up your autoresponders/email marketing campaigns in advance so that you can retarget and/or create lookalike audiences. Be aware, some email platforms such as Mailchimp and Mailerlite frown on affiliate marketing; on the other hand you should be alright with Aweber or GetResponse.
The key to making money through Facebook ads is to focus on optimizing your sales funnel to the point where you’re breaking even on the front end, i.e. before you start emailing your leads. That way you can reinvest some of what you make on the back end in more ads, optimize them further, and scale.
Work With Sebastian – I recommend this program whether you want to use content marketing, website or funnel building, or any kind of Facebook marketing. As a marketing affiliate it’s best to understand how to use a variety of tools. Sebastian provides a ton of help here, ensuring that you’ll always have another method to earn commission online if your primary method fails. Whether you have your own products to sell or you just need an affiliate marketing landing page, this program can help you as it has helped hundreds of other affiliates.
Strategy #3: Search Engine Marketing (PPC)
If you’re selling an affiliate product that has heavy relevant search volume, search engine marketing can make a lot of sense for driving targeted traffic. SEM refers to ads placed above and around the organic results displayed by search engines. In most cases with SEM you will pay per click, hence the name PPC.
For running search ads, you have two main choices: Google ads and Microsoft ads (formerly known as Bing ads). Microsoft ads run on both Bing and Yahoo search engines. While these platforms have much less volume than Google, they’re also much less expensive and competitive. If you choose your target keywords well, you can end up getting clicks for a fraction of the cost of equivalent Google ads.
Here are some simple actions you can take to improve your odds of success with SEM:
- Learn copywriting. Whether you take a course or read a dozen articles on the topic, you need to understand what type of text will actually make people click on your ad. Ad copy is always important, but it’s especially important in SEM because the user’s focus will be on the words from the start.
- Understand the platform you’re advertising on. This could mean taking a course or watching a dozen YouTube tutorials, but it should definitely include reading their terms and conditions.
- Split test 2-3 different ad copies, and then scale what works best and split test elements of the existing copy. I personally start my budget low and only increase it when I see a positive ROI. You can be more aggressive if you like and/or do more testing, but that will potentially involve using up more time and money without guaranteeing a higher payout.
There’s more than one approach you can take with SEM. For example, if you’re promoting a funnel builder such as GrooveFunnels, you could target “GrooveFunnels review”, or you could target keywords such as “funnel building software,” or you could go broader and target something along the lines of “how to start an online business”.
Both Google and Microsoft ads have built-in keyword suggestion tools, and I highly recommend using them. Browsers often search on fairly odd combinations of words – keywords you would never think up on your own. The suggestion tools take guesswork out of the game.
Google and Microsoft ads also both come with a ton of built in training, and if you ever need to go one step further I recommend watching the latest YouTube tutorials and webinars.
Strategy #4: YouTube Video Marketing
You don’t need a webinar if you can put your video content in front of an interested audience reliably. That’s what YouTube marketing is all about. As the second biggest search engine on the internet, YouTube is a powerful marketing channel for anyone who can create appealing content consistently and adopt best practices for SEO.
With folks spending more time on YouTube via both computers and mobile devices, optimizing for traditional search and voice search becomes a factor. Because of YouTube’s robust analytics, getting consistent watch time and social shares is also important.
That might all sound a bit complicated, but the bottom line is that you need to put helpful and interesting content on YouTube consistently in order to succeed there. If you want to build a presence on YouTube, start with the content and everything else will follow with time.
There are a ton of approaches you can take on YouTube, from doing reviews of affiliate products to creating partner videos for your blog posts to creating guided meditations. Like blog posts, YouTube videos are much more permanent than social media posts, and may continue getting you affiliate sales long after you post them.
Here are some pointers to get you started with video marketing on YouTube:
- Install the VidIQ browser extension and use their free keyword research tool to find out how many internet users are searching for your target topics.
- Include your main keyword for each video in the title, tags, and description. Make sure you say it verbally near the beginning of the video as well, assuming your video has speaking in it.
- Use attractive thumbnails and promote your videos immediately after publishing; views within the first 24 hours seem to affect future organic reach.
If you like the idea of appearing on video, or even the idea of creating videos that you don’t appear in, YouTube marketing might be a great path towards affiliate income. If you’d like a little more guidance, I highly recommend Paul Murphy’s Affiliate Tube course, linked below. Paul is a genius when it comes to YouTube marketing – I thought I knew what I was doing with YouTube before I took his course.
Affiliate Tube Webinar: You can get a ton of value for free just by watching this webinar put together by Paul and Mike Filsaime. Paul’s promoting of the GrooveFunnels affiliate program is what pulled me to it in the first place, and one of the elements that helped me build more affiliate marketing into my career.
Strategy #5: Authority Blogging
Authority blogging is the practice of creating blogs that gain a devout following and become easy to monetize as a result. Authority blogs can write a combination of product reviews, interest pieces, and educational articles in order to attract an audience that knows, likes, and trusts them. Authority blogging is also a great way to build a responsive email list, because each blog post is a unique opportunity to offer a lead magnet. This form of marketing works wonders, but it can take a long time to make money by comparison to other methods, but every single strategy has its merits.
I’m a blogger at heart, so learning SEO and building authority blogs is a logical extension of my business. My current blog’s estimated value by Ahrefs is over $600/month, which is more than many websites with twice its authority and traffic earn. That’s not so impressive, until you consider the fact that I built it entirely in my spare time while also learning to run my first business and focusing on my clients. And… my actual affiliate income is considerably higher than the estimate! My site earns most of its income from product reviews and sidebar ads.
One of the reasons my blog is able to earn as much as it does with low traffic is that I focus on high-converting products with great payouts. If I was relying on the Amazon affiliate program with their 1-2% commissions, I would likely be struggling to break $200 a month. Another factor that works in my favor is a strong conversion rate – I’m a pretty good copywriter and stay honest about the products I promote – people appreciate that.
Working in content marketing has been a huge advantage for me as a blogger, because it gave me opportunities to see the blogging and digital marketing world from multiple perspectives.
While blogging can be seen as more reliable than other systems because it allows you to pick your platform, it also involves a broader skillset than the other options on this list. For example, making a fully mobile responsive blog is not always easy, and using Google Analytics feels to technical for some folks.
Note: An authority blog is not a review site or a coupon site. Review sites tend to focus exclusively on the products and as a result are much less likely to earn backlinks and dedicated followers. If you are going to start a blog just to promote products, a review website may work for you. But if you hope to make money in a program such as amazon associates, you may need to do more than just recommend products in order to build website authority.
Authority Hacker Webinar: AuthorityHacker.com is one of the best go-to resources for SEO and content marketing news and knowledge. I took their flagship course, The Authority Site System, and it was one of the first courses that really supercharged my SEO. On this webinar you can get some great free training and learn more about their system and courses.
Authority Hacker Sales Page: If you’re interested in The Authority Site System, you can can grab it here from this direct link to the sales page. I really can’t recommend this course highly enough if you want to learn SEO, content marketing, and authority blogging from the best.
Frase: Frase is hands down my favorite SEO tool; I use it to speed up my research and outlining as well as to optimize my content for topical coverage, but it does more than that! If you’re already invested in SEO, getting a Frase account will help you take your skills to the next level.
Bonus Strategy #6: Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is the process of paying an influencer to shout you out on one of their social media pages, and you get a flood of temporary traffic to your target URL. This strategy can be a great addition to most of the other strategies outlined above. If you have obscure products or only a few products to promote, an influencer can be a great tactic to get traffic to your website. You’ll get best results here if you time the influencer’s shout out to your affiliate product well, and if your offer is something that will speak to their audience.
What You Should Know Before Starting as an Affiliate Marketer
If you like the idea of using a combination of affiliate marketing strategies such as social media, email marketing, and other digital marketing tactics, this can be a good business choice for you. But keep in mind that your are building a business. There will be a lot of hard work involved (it’s almost never as easy as the guy on the webinar claims).
As an affiliate marketer, you’ll need to wear multiple marketing hats. You’ll need to be able to optimize your conversions rates, improve your brand awareness, provide client and customer support, and a number of other activities. It’s not all just “promote products and make money”, although some “super affiliates” would have you think so.
It’s true that there are people who make good money just by repeating singular, simple systems… but I don’t advocate that because if you only have one machine and it breaks down, you’re left starting over. It’s much better to have multiple irons in the fire and understand how digital marketing actually works than to rely on copy-and-pasting someone else’s work.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
How do you leverage affiliate marketing?
There are quite a few ways you can accomplish this – for example, I’ve had people who reach out to me about affiliate products I promote convert into clients.
Who is the most successful affiliate marketer?
That’s really an impossible question to answer, but a decent answer is John Crestani. Crestani has earned millions via affiliate marketing and is a game changer in the industry. You can check out his educational webinar for free by following that link.
What are the highest paying affiliate programs?
There are many high paying programs in many niches. Generally speaking, if you want high commissions it’s best to promote digital products such as online courses, ebooks, and software. Because digital products are so scalable, the vendors can usually afford higher payouts. If you’re looking for a good high paying product to start with, I recommend GrooveFunnels.
Can I buy through my own affiliate link?
It depends on the program, but buying through your own affiliate link is almost always strictly forbidden.
How can I improve my affiliate marketing?
One of the best ways to improve your skills is by practicing and researching all aspects of marketing. Read books and blogs, listen to podcasts, watch video training, and implement what makes the most sense!