I was thinking about what goes into creating a new affiliate site, and I’ve outlined the seven important elements when I start up a new affiliate project.
This primer is intended for folks that are just breaking into affiliate marketing. I know some people are searching for a “get rich quick” lesson, and that’s not the way it works with affiliate marketing.
Affiliate sites should be viewed as long-term projects, and not quick hits.
As far as the prevalence of affiliate programs among retailers, Internet Retailer magazine recently released their list of the Hot 100 Retail Web Sites, and 75% of those retailers had one or more affiliate programs in place.
Anyhow, here are the seven things to consider when setting up an affiliate site. Note that the various services I mention are those that I use personally. I mention them, because I’ve been happy with the pricing and service and would personally recommend them.
Also, I would create a new site with WordPress as the content management system, because of the ease of use and flexibility of the platform. You can get WordPress for free. If you’re not familiar with WordPress, I’d suggest reading through WordPress For Dummies
2-3 topics you care about
When starting a new affiliate site, don’t try to leverage the latest trends. Instead, focus on topics that interest you. Try brainstorming 2-3 areas where you are passionate and create your site based on the one that you think you’d like to focus on the longest.
You’ll need a domain for your new site. I use GoDaddy.com, where you can get a .com domain for around $10 per year. Don’t obsess about your domain name – I’d say you shouldn’t spend more than 20 minutes picking it out. Just get something relevant to your topic, and the shorter the better. Start with a registration of one year, because you can extend it at any time, but if you decide the domain stinks, there is no use being locked into multiple years.
There are many options for hosting your site. For the purpose of simplicity, there are two main types of hosting accounts you can get: shared servers and dedicated servers. The former is a cheaper option where your site is on a server with lots of other sites, while a dedicated server only has your site(s) on it. When you’re starting a new affiliate site, a shared plan should suffice. Currently, I use LivingDot for some new, small projects and RackSpace for my main, important sites. LivingDot is low-cost and they will install WordPress on your account for you. RackSpace is a bit pricey, but you’re paying for excellent support and uptime.
One of the key methods for driving traffic back to affiliate sites is to work with an email service provider that enables your visitors to opt-in to get updates, newsletters, etc. from you by email. I use AWeber to manage my email lists and messages. AWeber enables me to provide an option for visitors to subscribe to my blog RSS via email, as well as newsletters, and series of follow-up emails on various topics.
This is the cheapest and most important part of a new affiliate site: patience. Resist the temptation to put up ads right away. Instead, focus on building content to give people a reason to visit your site. When the time comes to incorporate ads, focus on relevant ads, and not those that pay the best. I’d suggest posting ten or more times (or longer) to a blog before any ads are up there. When you do put up ads, go beyond the banner. The vast majority of my affiliate commissions come from text links.
So, if I am writing about a new camera or computer, I’ll link the name of the device to a place where it can be purchased. That’s far more effective than a banner for the product. But it’s essential that you constantly test different ways to run advertising on your site to optimize the advertising strategies and phase out things that don’t work. Use an ad server like OpenX to run A/B testing.
Also, you don’t want to hear this, but you shouldn’t expect much money for months. It takes time to build up a site and an audience. It can be a grind, but stick with it.
Find your voice
People will follow your affiliate site as they get to know you. Odds are that you’re not a journalist, so don’t pretend. Just be yourself and write in your voice. It can sometimes get tough to think of things to wrote on your blog, so make it a practice to have an editorial calendar where you will schedule topics to write in the future. I frequently send myself email with ideas for future blog posts.
Also, consider setting up a page where people can ask you questions about your topic and answer them on the blog. I use Freedback.com to manage this process. And you can bulk up the content of your site with targeted articles from EzineArticles.com. I not only publish articles from there, but write them, too, so I can get more exposure for my site.
Where to find affiliate programs
There are a variety of ways that affiliates can find affiliate programs. The 2009 Affiliate Summit AffStat Report breaks out all of the ways that affiliates are finding out about affiliate programs to join.
I mostly search in Google for affiliate programs that make sense for my affiliate sites. For instance, if I have a site about Halloween costumes, I’d search for costume affiliate program to find merchants to promote.
Good luck with your affiliate site!