I got the following affiliate marketing basics from one of the world's leading affiliate marketers, Matt McWilliams. We did an interview together, but unfortunately, my MacBook decided to not record it.
Since I didn't want to take up his time again, as he's busy in a launch currently, I decided to do a full write-up of the interview. It looses his fantastic energy (he's buzzing on video!) but it includes all affiliate marketing tips he shared with me.
Let's dive right into it!
Monetize your site from Day 1
From all affiliate marketing basics he shared with me, this one had the biggest impact.
I certainly did not monetize my first website from day one, neither did Matt. In fact, he invested months and months in just creating content and "building his platform" without making a single dollar in revenue.
The same is true for me - and it probably sounds familiar to you as well.
By not focusing on monetization though, your blog basically is an expensive hobby and not a business.
You have to make a mindset shift, in that you need to monetize your blog. Without money coming in, you cannot continue to serve your audience.
And more importantly, you cannot provide support for your family. Getting blog comments is nice and encouraging but doesn't pay the bills for shelter and food.
Hence, you need to get your mindset right and focus on monetizing your blog, WHILE providing free content to your audience.
To build a business, you need to:
- Build a platform by creating exceptional free content for your readers
- Monetize that platform by following the affiliate marketing basics you're about to learn in this post.
If you cannot do one of those two things, your blog merely is an expensive hobby.
Affiliate marketing basics: Selecting products
You can't promote an affiliate product without first choosing a product, right? So let's talk about principles you can follow to select a product.
Maybe you can't think of a product to promote in your current situation or you aren't sure what your audience really wants?
Matt shared a powerful lesson with me during our conversation:
Think about how you started and which products you used.
What you've got to remember is, that you're further away into the journey as your readers.
You are more experienced in your field and you can leverage that.
In my situation, those products are:
- web hosting companies I used in the past
- training programs about building businesses online that I took
- WordPress plugins and themes I have experience with
- complimentary software like SEO tools, backup services, etc.
Take a step back from your day-to-day work and think about how you built your expertise.
I'd be willing to bet that there are products, training programs or services that helped you along the way.
To find out if they have an affiliate program, simply go to Google and enter
product name "affiliate program".
For WP Engine, this looks like:
As Matt explained in our conversation, you can promote products that you don't actually use. But those have to meet two requirements:
- You must be 100% confident in the quality
- They need to help your audience solve a problem
Ideally, you promote something you either used in the past, know the creator, or are currently using.
Applying to affiliate programs
When applying to affiliate programs, you need to convince the affiliate manager why you're a good fit.
Don't just explain how you're going to promote the product/service.
It's part of the affiliate marketing basics to blow affiliate managers away with your application.
- Explain why you want to promote the product/service
- Share your story that relates to the product (e.g. how you used it in the past or how it'll help your audience)
- Describe how you're planning to promote the product
- Give background information about yourself
- Lastly, emphasize that you're playing the LONG GAME and want to become an active part in their community
To quote Matt:
Because if there’s one thing that affiliate marketing satisfies in a way that marketing your own stuff alone never can, it’s belonging to a community and contributing to a higher purpose.
That's what affiliate managers are always looking for!
In the next days and weeks, I'll share swipe files with my email list.
Focus on your first promotion
Focus easily was the one lesson of all the affiliate marketing basics that stuck with me the most.
I have done affiliate launches in the past, e.g. promoting Virtual Summit Mastery for virtual summits or Internet Business Mastery for building online businesses.
But I never really focused on them.
In fact, the past weeks after working with Matt are the first time in six years that I'm producing high-quality content consistently.
Of course, I'm going to be an affiliate for the upcoming launch of his course "No Product, No Problem". And I am super focused!
As you can tell from my newsletters over the past weeks, I already started sharing tips on affiliate marketing.
Not just any fluff, but actionable advice.
By focusing on just that promotion, I set myself up for success.
I can exactly see what topics get the best engagement on my email list and I can understand what my subscribers are interested in the most.
Matt recommended in our conversation that every beginner should only focus on their first launch.
In fact, his own goal for his first affiliate promotion was to make 1 sale for Michael Hyatt's "Best Year Ever".
He ended up making $588 in commissions and got hooked.
Just as anything in the world of blogging and building online business platforms with WordPress, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the opportunities you have.
Make one step after another.
Affiliate marketing basics: Four ways to promote
Way 1: Your regular blog posts
You're already creating content on your blog, which is great.
In those contents, you can easily include affiliate links on places where they deliver value to your readers.
E.g. in my round-up post on tips for monetizing your website, I could simply replace the links to the services and programs of the contributors with affiliate links.
Or in my explanation of the WP Mastery redesign, I could include links to books on Amazon that talk about web design, marketing psychology, or any other topic that's related to online marketing.
Those are just two examples of how I could add affiliate links to my posts, I hope they give you a starting point for going through your own content.
Way 2: Write review posts
Review posts are one of those affiliate marketing basics that you should definitely leverage.
They are intended to help your audience decide on whether a product is a good fit for them or not.
A common mistake that affiliate marketers make in these review posts is trying to sell too hard.
Don't make the product look better than it is. Be honest about it.
Focus on the benefit of your audience: what problem does the product solve for them?
For example, I know that you need to generate email subscribers when building an online business. So I wrote a review post about my favorite lead generation plugin for WordPress.
Writing review posts can follow certain templates, which I learned in Matt's program.
There are free templates that are (though not as detailed as Matt's) also helpful, e.g. from Niche Hacks.
Review posts are especially popular when you're in a niche that has multiple well-known products or services.
For WordPress, this can be review posts about hosting companies, lead gen plugins, SEO tools, etc.
In the competitive nutrition space, it could be a review post about blenders.
And as a third example, you could review fitness programs like P90X and compare them to e.g. program plans for TRX.
As you can see, the possibilities for writing review posts are endless.
Way 3: Email marketing
My favorite part in our conversation was, when Matt touched upon the affiliate marketing basics for email marketing.
I'm not going to talk about list building 101 here, but I want to break down a strategy that Matt shared.
As with the first two types of promotions, you need to focus on delivering helpful information to your email subscribers.
That cannot be done by constantly promoting affiliate products. Imagine how you'd feel if I were just selling you in every single email you'd receive from me.
Instead, Matt suggested to just focus on 3-5 affiliate promotions PER YEAR to promote to your list.
By doing that, you can promote in cycles. Between each promo, you'd be sending out emails with free resources, blog posts, and other actionable content - without selling anything.
After all, the most thriving businesses are those that help their audiences solve problems.
That is what you should focus on (if that isn't clear by now).
You're building trust with your free content and regular emails. You're establishing relationships.
Go in soft, provide value, provide value, and build relationships. - Gary Vaynerchuk
Especially with a small list (at the time of this writing, I have less than 3k people on my combined lists!), you can get into conversations with your subscribers.
Good luck with replying to all messages you receive when you have 10k or 100k subscribers.
Once a launch starts, you can then leverage that trust and go all-in on selling.
Most product launches come with a clear content calendar and suggested dates on emailing your list.
That makes integrating the promo emails with your regular content strategy a breeze.
Focus on that next promotion only and keep in mind that, for the weeks after the promo, you'll continue to put out free content via email.
Don't burn your list by over-selling. But be bold when a launch is going on - as what you're promoting is solving problems for your subscribers!
Again, those are just affiliate marketing basics.
I cannot dive deep into how you can segment your list after the affiliate launch is over or advanced strategies like sending emails to the un-opens to increase your overall open-rates.
But I can tell you that email marketing will be one of the pillar income streams in my business this year.
Way 4: The resources page
Lastly, we talked about the famous Resources page.
That's the page where you can list all the tools and services you use, used in the past, or recommend for your readers.
On my Resources page, you'll see what hosting companies I recommend, what themes and plugins I think are worth using, and third-party services for SEO or website security.
Keep in mind that this page will be changing over time.
You might build it once and not touch it for months.
But then you come across this new fantastic service that you think your audience should take advantage of.
By simply adding an affiliate link and an explanation to your Resources page, you're making it super easy for your readers to find out more.
Matt has written a comprehensive piece on building profitable Resources pages.
How to get started
I want to end this post with this last recommendation, as I think we touched upon enough affiliate marketing basics for you to get started.
The best decision I made to start with affiliate marketing was to sign up for Shareasale.com.
That is a platform used by companies like WP Engine, StudioPress, and many others to run their affiliate programs.
So by signing up for Shareasale here, you can apply to hundreds of affiliate programs in all niches you can think off.