Affiliate programs are a great way to generate income if you don't have a product of your own to promote yet. You know that already. But it's NOT, despite what you've heard, just a simple matter of signing up for this or that affiliate program and placing free and paid classified ads all over place to generate traffic to website they give you or to get people to click on your autoresponder link. There's more to it than that. Much more.
When I started out in this business in May 1999, I signed up for Cookie Cutter. Like many of you I thought that I could simply absorb information provided and then resell it to others. I followed all advice about advertising in other people's ezines and all of that. I looked forward to some very round numbers. Well, I got one alright. A big fat ZERO. And that's how it stayed until I realized truth. That if I was going to make any money in this business I had to start from scratch. In saying that, I don't want to take anything away from Cookie Cutter. It was and is a marvellous product in terms of what it can teach you in a very short period of time if you're starting from ground zero. (Debate rages about its merits in terms of a business opportunity but that's another story.)
In this article, I tell you what worked for me. It's nothing earth- shattering or particularly profound. It's simply reality and common sense. Here's what you need to do to make any significant income from promoting other people's products.
YOU NEED A WEBSITE
Sorry, but yes, you do. A lot of people pushing their affiliate program will tell you, if you ask question "Do I need my own website?", "No, you get this beautiful 25 page website for free!" Great. How are you going to get people to visit it? And how are you going to get people to visit YOUR YouBeaut.com website in preference to everyone else's YouBeaut.com website (all 50,000 of them)?
Well, let me tell you, time, effort and expense you would have to spend would be MUCH better invested in your OWN unique and interesting website that will attract traffic simply because it IS unique and interesting.
That said, you pick your affiliate programs to fit in with and complement your website. Not other way around. You do NOT create your website to fit in with and complement your affiliate programs. So, start with what you know, what interests you, what you're passionate about. THAT should be subject matter of your website. Then, and only then, should you start researching which affiliate programs out there fit in with website you have created. More about that later.
YOU NEED AN EZINE
You should support your website by publishing an ezine at least on a monthly basis but preferably weekly. Why? A few reasons:
First, it reminds your readers that your site exists (assuming they signed up at your site in first place) and hopefully prompts them to visit again.
Second, you develop a targeted mailing list of subscribers interested in subject matter of your ezine and subscribers that you can direct mail to (judiciously, of course).
Third, you can accept paid advertising in your ezine once it hits 1000 subscribers or so and fourth, you can use it to advertise your affiliate programs.
In addition, assuming you take your ezine publishing duties seriously and it's not a mere regurgitation of other people's articles without any purpose other than to keep your name in front of an audience (and an ever-decreasing one it will be if that's all you do), you can use it to develop your reputation as an expert in your field by making original articles you write for your ezine available to a wider audience by submitting them to other ezine publishers. Believe me, there's no shortage of ezine publishers out there who rely exclusively on other people's work!
Establishing your own website and ezine takes serious time and work. You can't build either in a weekend. It will take you several weeks of effort to get it into good enough shape to take it public (and even then you won't be satisfied but you have to start at some point). And it will take several more weeks of time and effort publicizing fact that your website and ezine exist and to start seeing some traffic trickling in.
SELECTING AFFILIATE PROGRAMS
Once you have an established website and ezine, you can start using them to promote your affiliate programs in a serious way. You can, of course, start promoting affiliate programs from day one, it's just that you won't see any results until you reach what I think of as "established" stage. By this I mean you have a few hundred subscribers to your ezine and maybe a hundred unique daily visitors to your website. These numbers are on very low end and your sales will reflect that but you'll at least be on your way by this point.
Once you reach "established" stage, you need to be very selective about affiliate programs you choose because you are only going to select a very few of them and they need to be good performers. Some internet marketing so-called experts will tell you to pick one or two programs and market them exclusively for big returns. That's good advice on one level - it keeps you focused, and that's important - but on other hand you're at mercy of owner of affiliate program. If they go out of business so do you.
So, pick a small handful of programs to promote but make sure they complement each other (so that someone who is interested in one program is likely to be equally interested in others). It should be obvious but it bears stating - don't pick programs that have no relevance to subject matter of your site! Your chances of selling to your website visitors are much higher if what you sell is closely related to subject matter of your site. It was subject matter of your site that attracted them in first place. They are already a qualified prospect if what you sell from your site is relevant to that subject matter.
If you have a mega traffic site, then you can make up for in volume what a particular program's commission structure may lack in terms of straight dollars.
But if you have a lower traffic site, then you need to make sure your traffic is very targeted, but go for higher commission programs.
In other words, if you're a mega traffic site, by all means sign up with Amazon.com and make maybe three bucks a sale. If you make a hundred sales this week you've got three hundred bucks you didn't have before. But if you're a lower traffic site, focus on making just three sales a week of a product that pays a hundred bucks a pop and you're even with your mega traffic brethren in commission stakes.