How to Make Money Online in 2018: Affiliate Marketing

Learning how to make money online can be a long process of ups and downs. Over the years I’ve tested and perfected many methods of generating income from the web, and have had more than a few failures. By stepping onto the global stage of the web, you’ll be competing with everyone else in the world for a buck. And if you think job interviews, navigating corporate politics, or freelancing is tough, wait until you get a load of the passive income world.

They say there’s no free lunch, and if you want to learn how to make money online from a website or social network like Instagram you’ll need to put in the hours. Using this guide you may be able to get a better handle on where to start, which method fits your interest area and lifestyle, and how much time you’ll need to put in if you want to see success.

To help keep you sane, I’ve divided this long article into three key areas you should learn about. Each has pros and cons, and each one will take significant work to develop. Click below to jump straight to any section, or read through to get the full content in the order I intended.

How to Make Money Online Series

  1. Affiliate Marketing – You Are Here
  2. Drop Shipping – Coming Soon
  3. Become a Social Media Influencer – Coming Soon

how to make money online

How to Make Money Online: Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing means providing a path to someone else’s product or service, and then taking a cut of the resulting sale. Think of it as becoming a salesperson for literally anything on the planet. Your job as the affiliate is to get a website visitor or social media follower from your site to someone else’s. That means you have to work in two stages: 1) Attracting users to your online property, and 2) convincing them to buy something elsewhere. Affiliates use special code to track clicks from one site to another, thus earning credit for each purchase.

How much money can I actually make with affiliate marketing?

Great question, though a complex one to answer. There are entire companies making millions of dollars every year with affiliate marketing. As a solopreneur, you can expect to start small (think under $10 per day) and grow from there. But hey, that’s lunch money, right? Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch after all.

A lot of people believe affiliate marketing is a dirty term. And it certainly used to be that way in the Wild West days of the internet. Today things are a lot different, and totally legitimate companies like Amazon rely on affiliate marketing to generate huge sales. Did you know that if you sign up as an Amazon affiliate, you can earn 4.5% of every sale for people you direct to their site? The potential is huge!

The biggest mistake I see people make when exploring how to make money online is to skip over affiliate marketing and try to tackle more complex methods like drop shipping. Mastering affiliate marketing is basic training for capturing and directing a complex flow of web traffic toward things that make you money. It will teach you what works and what doesn’t, and how to deliver a best in class content experience around a niche topic. Speaking of which…

Step 1: Selecting an Affiliate Marketing Niche

It’s easy to go wrong when you start out with affiliate marketing. Before you make a website, design a logo, or do anything else to start your new project you need to do the most important thing: select a niche. That means picking a very specific area to create content around. This area does not have to be super popular or mainstream. In fact, the more weird, quirky, or specific you get the better. It means you’ll be able to target a very specific group of people with best in class content about something they are highly motivated to explore.

Many people choose physical product niches, because it’s straightforward to send someone to a trusted website like Amazon where they can purchase a product. While you can pick any product, you should follow a few good niche selection rules of thumb.

Pick a niche you are passionate about. Do you love fashion and accessories? Love to tune up old cars in your spare time? How about organizing company kickball? These are all areas that can be monetized with the right strategy. So pick something you love, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time working with it if you want to grind out your first affiliate payments.

Common sense can also prevail when selecting an affiliate marketing niche. Pick something regular people need to buy once in a while, and that has relatively affordable cost options. This is going to allow you to quickly figure out how to earn more affiliate sales, and will give you better data sets to call on. Be aware of seasonal products. In my last example, I would bet that kickball accessories sales are not great in most countries that have a winter, whereas tuning up old cars happens inside a garage, and probably has good year round traction.

Step 2: Researching Your Affiliate Niche

Now it’s time to go to work on research. This is where a lot of people tap out from affiliate marketing as things get technical pretty quickly. First, I’ll share on of the biggest secrets in how to make money online: Google rules. It’s the single best place to capture traffic from people actively looking to purchase something. If you aren’t selling a product that you manufacture directly, there’s simply no other choice. So to get that money flowing, your website needs to show up at the very top of Google searches that have to do with your niche.

Getting search terms to show up at the top of Google without paying for them is a discipline of marketing called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. There are hundreds of thousands of people all over the world studying how Google’s algorithm works to show search results every day. Once they think they understand what’s going on inside Google, they create web content that matches those preferences, and in theory rank higher than competitors.

Researching your niche means finding the search terms and phrases that a lot of people want, but nobody has good answers to. Because you are going to focus on just that niche, you can teach Google that you are the authority that should be listed at the top. You can use tools like Moz, Ahrefs, and Mangools to easily discover keywords in your niche, and data that will help you assess how hard it will be to capture that first page Google ranking. All of the products I just mentioned have excellent resource centers to help you understand how search works, and how to achieve your goals.

There are so many variables to SEO it can be mind numbing. In another article, I walk through several key areas that allowed me to double search traffic from Google to my website in just a short few months. The good news is that you can begin to create content now, and go back and optimize it later. The important thing is that you begin to build momentum, and start making your new affiliate marketing project a daily routine.

Step 3: Building Your Affiliate Website

While it may be popular to sell things on Instagram (more on this later), for affiliate marketing to really work as a passive income stream you will need a website dedicated to the niche you are focused on. The website should be all about your niche – from the branding to the URL people see when they visit. All of this information will help build trust with website visitors, and generate more clicks on your affiliate links.

You will want to consider building your website on a proven content management system like WordPress. That way, you can select templates that look professional without having web design and programming experience. You can also host your new website on a WordPress-specific hosting platform like WP Engine, where maintenance and troubleshooting is provided as part of the service package. This can be a little more expensive than hosting in bargain platforms, but the time savings and added affiliate sales you will earn more than makes up for the monthly fees.

Once you’ve picked a name, registered a domain, and set up your new WordPress template it’s time to create written content. Planning ahead is very important here, as you will want single, cornerstone pages that are designed to capture a specific search phrase in Google. You should already have a list of the phrases you are going after from your research phase. Picking 5-10 different phrases in your niche is a good starting point. Make sure your research told you how many average monthly searches those phrases are currently getting in your target country! Anything below 500 searches per month probably isn’t worth pursuing. Some affiliates say that number should be more like 2,000!

There’s a super helpful plugin for WordPress called Yoast. It comes in free and paid versions, and will help you write content that Google loves. It’s one of the tools in every good affiliate marketers’ tool belts to make sure they are maintaining best practices for content writing. I recommend installing the free version and trying it out. Use their website to learn more about writing great content and how the plugin itself guides you.

I’m glossing over many steps to setting up a successful affiliate website. Since this article is starting you down the path of how to make money online I will save more detailed information on building a website for later.

Step 4: Select an Affiliate Program

Choosing the right affiliate program can make or break your plan to learn how to make money online. There are thousands of retailers and service businesses that offer affiliate programs. Basically, this means you sign up with a retailer and if they approve your pitch, you get to claim credit for traffic you send to their site. But… And this is a big one: You must choose wisely. Many first time affiliate marketers get caught in a very simple trap. They are lured by high payout rates. While getting paid more is nice, you really want the most trusted program when you are starting out.

In my opinion and experience, this means you must go with Amazon Associates. Doesn’t that make your life a bit easier? Not only does Amazon provide comprehensive tools including custom ad units, and API, and a WordPress plugin for affiliates, it’s also the most trusted and used online retailer in North America. That means you’ll be much more likely to get paid for traffic you send to Amazon, as it requires no leap of faith when purchasing. You also get a bonus: Amazon will pay you for every sale you generate through your affiliate links, no matter how many products that purchase generates. The clock resets after 24 hours, but it’s a generous window where people can fill their baskets with all sorts of goods.

Once you’re up and running, insert affiliate links into the content you built. Before you take this step, be sure to closely read Amazon’s program policies and adhere to them. Amazon and other affiliate program managers aggressively police affiliates to make sure they are in compliance. There’s a lot of reasons why they do it, but know this: If you break the rules they will ban you, keep any money that they owe you, and make it very hard for you to get back in.

There are certainly risks. Amazon regularly updates their affiliate program, and per the terms of use can make any changes they want at any time. For example, affiliates used to earn a sliding scale up to 10% of sales. Once day Amazon decided to cut that number in half. Imagine working for years to build your website, earn traffic, and send hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to Amazon only to have them cut your payments by 50%. As you can imagine, many people claimed to be leaving the platform when this happened, though it’s likely few carried out their threats. After all, 50% of any passive income is better than no passive income, right?

To mitigate risks, you should have a plan. That’s why this is just the first in a series of articles covering how to make money online. The articles are designed as more of a course, with affiliate marketing being the jumping off point. Once you start to control your own sales, you’ll have less risk related to a single affiliate program like Amazon, and have a more diverse income stream to boot.

Step 5: Experiment and Grow Your Affiliate Marketing Project

While everybody niche is a bit different, you’ll want to begin shaping your content and website around what is getting you results. If one page is generating more sales than any other, analyze what’s going on there and try to build that knowledge into other pages that are less successful. If you are wondering how to make money online with affiliate marketing, that daily, weekly, and monthly grind is the real answer. Eventually you’ll learn how this all works. Most importantly, you will know how to acquire and direct website traffic to purchase a real product. Granted, it’s not buying the product from you, but it is an important step on the road to e-commerce riches.

While it’s not a slam dunk, starting your journey in the world of affiliate marketing will give you a crash course in the modern web, how it’s used to generate wealth, and a slew of technical skills that are unknown to most people. Using affiliate marketing, you can easily scale from making $1-5 per day to $100 per day in 6-12 months. It takes dedication, constant maintenance, and a strategic mindset to learn how to make money online, but it can be done!

Next up… Drop Shipping – Coming Soon