This guide to affiliate marketing for beginners comes from Michael Benkovich, who’s been making a living online since 2007 from a variety of projects including an anatomy course and even a carpet cleaning site. Throughout that time he has developed skills in everything from affiliate marketing to product creation.
Starting with simple projects a decade ago he managed to move on to larger and larger businesses, culminating this year when he sold his largest business to date.
This guide doesn’t cover any of the complexities of that process. Instead it gives you a clear roadmap for getting started and shows you exactly how you can make your first few hundred dollars online.
You’re gonna love it. Take it away, Mike!
Getting started making money online is as easy as following a few steps — steps that I’m going to outline for you in this how-to guide.
What you’ll learn is a step by step process that is all but guaranteed to make you a couple of hundred dollars per month via affiliate marketing.
The setup is minimal and once things are flowing it really is as close to passive income as you can get.
But before we get to that…
Who I Am And Why I’m Worth Listening To
To be completely honest with you, as Internet marketing gurus go, I’m a nobody. You won’t find anything about me on Google, I have no social media presence and no blog.
Truth is, for every Neil Patel, there are hundreds of anonymous people making a living online. The only difference is we have no personal brand and nothing to promote.
Why am I telling you this?
It’s simple! I have very little to gain by giving away my method other than the fun of sharing it. I hope that instills some trust in my advice.
The process I’m going to teach you is exactly how I got started 9 years ago. Since then I’ve traded my way up in business size. I moved from affiliate marketing to creating digital products. From there I launched my own agency then moved into creating software.
It all culminated this year when I sold my largest business to date and am now enjoying a mini-retirement.
In short, I’m nobody special and if I can do it so can you.
See? Here’s me with my 3 favorite things: hummus, falafel, and juggling.
Proof My Affiliate Marketing Method Works
Before I break down the method let me tell you how it came about and how I used it to trade my way up to larger projects.
In 2008 I first became interested in affiliate marketing. I attended a “make money online” seminar run by some sleazy internet marketer. The seminar was a total scam (nothing but upsells) but it piqued my curiosity enough to keep digging. It wasn’t long until I stumbled across a method that worked.
I know what you’re thinking… “Michael, why are you talking about 2008. The internet has changed and nothing that worked back then will work today”.
I deny that, and can prove it.
In April 2017 a friend asked for my help getting started in affiliate marketing. Below are his results so far by using this technique:
Nick’s Notes: This screenshot was taken in mid-December, so you can project out what the full-month might look like.
In less than 6 months his website was making around $200/month. Not bad for a complete noob who knew nothing about affiliate marketing.
You see, good marketing never goes out of fashion.
Imagine you did this 5 times to generate $1000/month. That’s what I did and it gave me the leeway and funds to invest in more significant projects and build a business.
Who Is This Method For?
Those looking for their first side hustle or just starting in affiliate marketing will find the most value here.
If you have advanced marketing skills or already have something in the pipeline with potential don’t get distracted with this. Keep chugging away and kick some goals with your current project.
If, however, you’ve tried and failed a few times or don’t know where to start then this guide is for you. It will help get ‘learn the ropes’ and get started with your first affiliate marketing side hustle.
Convinced? OK, Let’s Get Down To It
You’ll be building a small affiliate site that generates revenue via one product line. Specifically, you’ll create content around reviews and information on the product.
I call it a ‘niche product affiliate site’.
You won’t have to do much convincing for people to buy the product. Instead you’ll be the last link in the chain and will be driving buying traffic for people who already know about it.
The plus side is that the competition is low and conversions super high.
I’m going to run you through everything step by step. If you follow this guide I see no reason why you can’t be generating a couple of hundred dollars per month.
I’ll cover the following:
- Finding a market
- Finding a product to promote
- Validating the product
- Building the website
- How to come up with content ideas
- Marketing The Site
Do Small Affiliate Marketing Sites Still Work?
I understand the concern.
There’s a stigma around small sites and concerns that they’ll be punished by Google.
In my opinion small sites aren’t the problem. Crappy sites are the problem!
The real problem is that many people are simply too lazy to do this properly. They cut corners, do a bad job and then complain when they get punished by Google.
Don’t be one of those people!
I’m not advocating building low quality sites. I’m advocating building high quality sites with a very narrow focus and hyper targeted audience.
Google wants to deliver the best content it can to its users. Be the provider of that content.
For This Guide, Let’s Look at a Test Market
I would love to show you the actual site I’ve been working on with my friend, but I know that story ends with a boatload of competitors — and I’d like to stay friends.
For that reason I’m going to build the case study around a market that I’m not involved with.
1. Find a Market
Selecting the right product is the most important part of the process.
You need to select a product that’s in a market with high demand. I can’t tell you which market to enter but I would encourage you to select one you’re interested in. It will make the process more tolerable.
Start high-level before exploring the market for a product to promote. To do this, use Google trends.
Trends is an awesome free tool that will show you search volume over time.
After some brainstorming I came across the term ‘Nootropics’. Nootropics are supplements that enhance brain function.
The Trends data for the last 5 years shows an increase in searches. Last year was a little flat but there is still a huge demand:
This looks like a good market to enter.
Nick’s Notes: My interpretation of Google Trends is that it shows relative search interest over time, not necessarily raw search volume. But it makes it easy to see if interest is increasing or decreasing over time.
Consider The Piggyback Principal, in which you try to “piggyback” on the popularity of another product, service, or trend.
2. Find a Product to Promote
The next step is to find a product to promote.
Type the following into Google (or whatever keyword you found in Step 1):
- best nootropics products
- compare nootropics products
- top 10 nootropics
Spend some time researching the products that are out there. Add the most commonly mentioned products to a spreadsheet as you go to keep track.
Once you find a few products that look promising go back to Google Trends and compare them all. What you’re looking for is a product that has an upward trajectory.
For example, in the Nootropics market, I found ‘Mind Lab Pro’ whose data looks like this.
There is an upward trajectory in search volume for this product name. Very promising!
Double check the product itself has some direct demand by using Google’s Keyword Planner tool. This tool gives you data on exactly how many people search for a specific keyword.
Type in the <product name> as well as ‘<product name> review’ to see how much search volume there is. Here’s the data for Mind Lab Pro:
If you’ve never run an Adwords campaign before you will receive a range. In this case 1K – 10K. If you have active campaigns running (which I don’t) you will see a specific number.
I never fixate too much on exact numbers. If there are at least 1000 monthly searches that is more than enough demand to move on to the next step.
Nick’s Notes: Keep in mind the “Competition” score inside the Keyword Planner is for advertisers, not necessarily for SEO — though it stands to reason that “high” competition paid keywords are likely highly competitive in the organic listings too, and vice versa.
If you’re stuck, I also compiled a giant list of the best affiliate programs here.
3. Validate The Product
We’ve discovered a product that has plenty of interest, but that’s only the first piece of the puzzle.
Do some further validation on the product to make sure its worth your while to promote it via a website.
Make Sure There’s an Affiliate Program
Simply Google ‘<product name> affiliate’ and see what comes up. I prefer to promote products that have their own affiliate programs rather than one through a 3rd party website.
The exception might be if they sell on Amazon and you can use the Amazon Associates Program.
Nick’s Notes: I don’t have any issue with a third party affiliate network, so don’t let that deter you if the company runs their affiliate program through Shareasale, CJ, Rakuten, or others.
Make Sure the Payout is Decent
You don’t want to be making all this effort for $1 or $2 per sale. Try to find a product that is going to pay you at least $10/sale or more. For my friend’s site that’s earning $200 a month, he receives between $5 and $30 per sale.
Nick’s Notes: Unless it’s a really high-priced product, $10 per sale is going to be tough if you’re relying on Amazon Associates, due to the average 4% commission rate.
Make Sure the Product is Legit
The last thing you want to do is promote a dodgy product so I try to make sure it has a solid track record.
Jump over to Google and search for ‘<product name> scam’ and see what’s being said.
If it looks legitimate, has been around for a while and is well-reviewed then you’re good to go.
Check the Organic Competition
Your goal is to rank for ‘review’ and information type keywords related to the product. Head over to Google and search for ‘<product name> review’.
If you see a bunch of high authority websites ranking you may want to avoid the market. However, if you see a lot of other affiliate websites, the product’s own website or low quality pages then you’re golden.
Nick’s Notes: You can use the free Mozbar Chrome extension to help gauge the competitiveness of the top 10 results. In my conversation with Joseph Hogue on SEO for bloggers, he said if the average of the top 10 had a PA (Page Authority) of 25-35 or below, you’ve got a good shot at ranking for that keyword if you can write a great resource.
Here’s what the results for “mind lab pro review” look like:
The PA is the first number underneath the search results, and based on these results, it doesn’t seem horribly competitive. The average of these first 9 results is 24.67.
If your product doesn’t fit any of the above criteria then go back to the drawing board and look for something else.
For Mind Lab Pro everything looks good. We now have our product! Let’s move on to building the website.
Related: For more on building out authoritative review sites, check out my interview with Robert Brandl, the founder of ToolTester.net.
4. Build the Website
Now this is where the rubber hits the road and you start building things. If you’ve never built a website before, have no fear as Nick’s free tutorial will walk you through the process step-by-step.
The first thing you’ll need is a domain name, like SideHustleNation.com, your home “address” online.
Choose a Domain Name
I prefer to register a domain name that looks like the following:
In this case, it would be something like mindlabproreview.com.
Important Note: Some companies will not allow the use of their product name in the URL as part of their terms. (Check the affiliate program terms and conditions.)
If that’s the case it’s not a cause for concern. Try to come up with a variant that doesn’t infringe on the trademark. For example:
My philosophy is to shoot first and ask questions later. You can always buy a new domain and 301 redirect it if the company doesn’t like it.
I was once approached by a company to change the URL but was able to negotiate with them to keep it after convincing them of the positive image it portrayed to the company.
What About Google’s Exact Match Penalty?
Again, Google doesn’t want to punish good sites. They want to punish crappy sites!
EVERY domain name is an exact match for something. Focus on building a quality website and keep the keywords within the domain targeted to the content of the site.
The website is one of the most important parts of this side hustle, but I won’t go into the specifics of how to build the site here. Nick has a great write up on how to launch your own website cheaply.
That being said here is some additional advice when building the site.
Have a Logo Designed
Don’t use generic text for your logo. Instead, hop on over to Fiverr and have a custom logo created. It’s a minimal investment and will make the site look more professional.
Nick’s Notes: Definitely an inexpensive way to build trust.
I use the Avada theme as it allows virtually unlimited variations. My layouts usually look something like this:
Nick’s Notes: The library of free and premium themes is one of the best reasons to go with WordPress. After your Bluehost account is set up, they’ll walk you through a theme installation on your new site.
Don’t Go Crazy with the Affiliate Links
It can be tempting to splatter your affiliate links all over the site. Try to avoid this trap if you can as it makes the site look cheap.
Instead, place a few affiliate links in obvious places rather than everywhere.
This is the part where a lot of people get stuck.
That’s because they procrastinate over the little details. Remember there is no such thing as perfect other than in your own mind. An imperfect site launched is better than a perfect one unlaunched.
Nick’s Notes: Amen to that! Remember Reid Hoffman’s (founder of LinkedIn) quote: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
5. Create Killer Content
Good quality content is the life blood of any website. Here I outline a bunch of ideas to generate content that will drive traffic.
You should ensure you only place very high quality content on the site. Don’t simply rehash some ‘me too’ content around the product. Make the review your own, give it a personal touch and a story to go along with it.
On a very basic level you should ensure your website has the following pages:
- Homepage – Review the product. Make this at least 2000 words and include images and video.
- About Me – Describe yourself and why you are writing about the product.
- FAQ – Source questions from forums about the product and place them here.
- Customer Reviews – Collate reviews from around the web, Rotten Tomatoes-style.
- Contact Me
- Blog or News
- Discount Coupon Page
5 Ways to Generate More Content Ideas
1. Buy the Product
If you are reviewing the product it only makes sense to go and buy it first.
This will give you a lot of ways to create further content by way of images and videos. On top of that you will actually be able to write a REAL review, which sadly most affiliate websites don’t do.
2. The “Alphabet Auto Suggest” Method
Use Google auto suggest and type in the product name followed by each letter of the alphabet. For example
- <product name> a
- <product name> b
- etc. for every letter
See what suggestions are thrown back at you. Create pages around the ones that look relevant.
3. The “vs” Method
Type the following into Google:
- <product name> vs
You’ll be presented with a whole list of products to compare yours to.
Go ahead and create a page based around each of these and let Google do its thing.
In my experience these are the pages most likely to be shared on social media. Be sure to do a good job of them by using images, ratings, videos, and comparison tables.
Nick’s Notes: I’ve been using the free Table Maker plugin to build comparison tables.
4. The “Google Search Console” Method
If you’ve done everything right you should start to receive your first trickle of traffic after a couple of months. My next method for generating content ideas is to use Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).
It will show you not only the traffic you are getting clicks on, but the traffic you may be showing up for and getting impressions on. Often times these will be semi-relevant to the content you already have on the site.
Go down the list and look for search queries you are receiving impressions for, but the ranking is very low. Then, create a page of content targeting that keyword specifically.
The keywords marked in RED above are good candidates. The site is not ranking well but the impression count is very high. That means there are a lot of search and even a slight ranking improvement should increase traffic.
Nick’s Notes: I was able to increase search traffic 24% just with some simple tweaks inspired by the Google Search Console reports.
5. The “Ask a Question” Method
Create a page on your website that invites people to ask you questions. You can add a special contact form on this page. You will be surprised at how often people will fill this out if they want more information.
Then, every time someone asks a question use the question to create a new page on your site, or add it to your FAQ page.
Nick’s Notes: You could even encourage people to ask questions via a live chat widget … which you could just set to offline when you’re not available.
6. Market the Site
By this stage you have a solid website up with useful content that Google will love.
Now, I firmly believe that the best way to attract visitors is through keyword research and quality content. If you create a high quality site Google will reward you in time by increasing your rankings as you receive more visitors.
That said, it never hurts to give things a little push.
To begin marketing the site do the following:
- Submit the sitemap to Google Search Console.
- Go to Fiverr and find a gig that will setup and pre-fill social profiles.
- Leave comments on several blogs in the niche.
- Make your posts easily shareable on Facebook and Twitter.
Remember we are just trying to do the basics here. Assuming your content is good and useful the site will rank in Google, particularly the informative stuff like the vs. pages.
Asking how to market a website is a little like asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’ I could go on for days and go through common link building methods, but that’s a little beyond the scope of this post.
If you would like to know more please leave me a question in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer it as thoroughly as possible.
Timeline and Roadmap
My recommendation is to continually add your content and marketing over 3 months. The simplicity of this method means that you won’t have to spend a lot of time on it.
In my friend’s case he worked on the site for 4 months for no more than 2 hours per week. Since then he has spent less than an hour per month on the site adding content based on questions received via the “Ask a Question” method above.
If you follow the outline above you will have a revenue-producing asset within a few months.
As a guide this is the traffic volume to his website from April until today. You can see he now regularly receives over 100 visitors per day.
So there you have it folks! This is a tried and true method for building a successful niche product affiliate site. It won’t make you millions but it’s a good method to get started on your path to success.
What do you think?
Do you have any suggestions, comments or concerns about what I’ve outlined above? If so please share your thoughts in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer them.