If you’re new to Affiliate Marketing, you may well be finding everything a bit confusing. There are lots of terms people use, lots of complicated software, and it’s easy to feel like you don’t know where to start.
So here’s a five-minute guide to the very basics of Affiliate Marketing!
UPDATE: Check out the new Getting Started In 2013-2019 Guide!
How Affiliate Marketing Makes You Money
Affiliate Marketers make money by persuading people to sign up to websites or buy products online.
That’s it. That’s the simplest version of what we do.
Let’s say Adam runs a dating website. He gets money from his users, but in order to grow his business, he needs new people to sign up all the time.
So he offers a free trial of the site.
But he still has to find potential users and persuade them to sign up. So he offers a "bounty". Anyone who can persuade a user to sign up gets $4.
Bernhard, the affiliate, hears about this, and thinks he can persuade people to sign up to that site.
But where’s he getting the people from?
Well, that’s where Chanin comes in. Chanin runs a massive, free social networking site. Because it’s free, he sells advertising space to make money.
Bernhard buys advertising space from Chanin, creates some great adverts that attract the attention of Chanin’s site’s users, and sends people who click on those adverts to Adam’s site. A fair number of those people sign up with Adam’s site, and Adam pays Bernhard $4 every time someone signs up.
If it costs Bernhard less money to buy the advertising space than he make from people signing up to Adam’s site, he’s in profit!
And that’s the basics of how affiliate marketers work.
We find large numbers of users (usually by buying advertising), and we create adverts that persuade them to sign up to "offers".
The amount of work to create an advert is the same whether 10 people, 1000 people, or 1,000,000 people see it. But the amount of money we make, assuming we’re making a profit, goes up corresponding to the number of people who see our advert. So we can make quite a lot of money for comparatively little time.
What You’ll Need To Start Affiliate Marketing
First and foremost, you’ll need some money that you can spend on learning. Almost no-one starts making money in affiliate marketing on the first day. Most people take a couple of months to learn the ropes and see solid profits. Generally, you’ll need a budget of around $3,000 over a few months, although it’s possible to learn with less. $1,000 over a couple of months is about the absolute minimum.
You’ll also need:
- Tracking Software and a Web Server to run it on. Tracking Software lets you find out what ads persuade people to sign up to your offers and what ads just don’t work – it’s pretty vital for success. Note: standard Web Hosting WILL NOT WORK, you’ll need a Virtual Private Server or a dedicated server. The easiest way to start up at the moment is to rent a "Starter VPS" from beyond hosting, who specialise in affiliate marketing. They can install Prosper 202, the free tracking software, which will let you get started straight away.
- You’ll also use that server for your Landing Pages. Landing Pages are micro-websites, single pages, which help you persuade users to sign up to your offer. Here are some example landing pages you can use to get started.
- Some knowledge of HTML (the language websites are built in) or a Web design program like Dreamweaver or Adobe Muse. You’ll use these to create or modify your landing pages.
- A graphics program with which to create adverts. Most people use Photoshop, but if you can’t afford that, Photoshop Elements or even Paint.net (free) are perfectly good to start with.
- A friendly and helpful community to learn from – well, you’ve found that here at Stack That Money, so you’re ahead of 99% of all affiliates already! DO ask questions and share your progress – we love helping new people see their first profits.
- An Affiliate Network. Affiliate Networks bring offer owners and affiliates together. Stackman suggests a few good ones to apply to over in this post.
- A Traffic Source. This is the big decision you’ll make when you’re starting out. Traffic Sources are huge websites or networks of websites you’ll buy advertising space from, like the free dating website Plenty Of Fish or even Facebook. They’re all different – some of them are very lax on what they’ll accept, some of them are very strict, some of them have more or less options, some of them have more or less competition. Here’s a guide to the best traffic sources and verticals for new affiliates in 2013.
- A "Vertical". "Vertical" is the term for the general area of advertising you’ll focus on. It’s not a good idea to skip around when you’re starting out – choose a single area, like Dating, Adult Dating or Gaming, and stick with that until you’re profitable. What Vertical you choose is affected by what Traffic Source you choose – if you choose Adult traffic sources, for example, you’ll probably also want to focus on Adult Dating or something else that people on porn sites are likely to want!
What you don’t need:
- Tons of technical knowledge. It can be helpful, but many of the most successful affiliates aren’t necessarily uber-techies. If you have a basic knowledge of HTML and can upload a website, you’ll be fine.
- Genius. The most important factor for success in affiliate marketing isn’t being a genius, it’s determination and consistent hard work. If you stick at it, keep launching campaigns, and keep learning, you’ll most likely be making $100 a day or more in no time.
What You’ll Actually Be Doing
When you’re doing affiliate marketing, you’ll:
- Choose an offer you want to promote – or a few offers in the same area. Your Affiliate Manager at your Affiliate Network will probably be able to recommend some offers.
- Get a Tracking Link from your affiliate network for each offer – this is a unique link that tells the offer owner that you are the person who they should pay when people sign up or buy through it.
- Create adverts and a landing page for that offer. The adverts will be small normal JPG or GIF images, and the landing page will be a simple web page – here’s STM’s collection of sample landing pages. They’ll probably feature an "angle" – a reason you’re giving people to sign up to your offer. That could be anything from quality ("We’re the best adult dating site in town") to niche ("we’ve got redheads looking for men like YOU right now!") to something entirely different. Read this post for an excellent description of Angles.
- Input your Tracking Link into your Tracking Software and add some very simple code to your landing page to let your Tracking Software track it. We’ll have guides on exactly how to do this soon, but feel free to ask in the meantime! Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to see how many people click on your offer from your Landing Page, which will help you decide whether or not the page is working, or whether you need to improve it.
- Get a special link from your Tracking Software that will let it track people clicking on your ads. You’ll then upload your adverts – linked to this special link – into your Traffic Source. You can now tell how many people are clicking on each ad, and whether they they click through to the offer.
- Finally, you need to know if they actually sign up for the offer! You’ll use a feature of your Tracking Software called a "Pixel" or a "Postback URL" to do this. In both cases, you take the code for the Pixel or Postback URL, which your tracking software will provide, and input it back into your Affiliate Network’s systems. They’ll then use that code to alert your Tracking Software whenever someone signs up from your landing page, and thus generates a payment for you.
- Now you pay for your advertising space, and your Traffic Source shows your ads to thousands of people! Your Tracking Software will let you tell which ads work and which ads don’t, and you’ll take the ads that don’t work off the Traffic Source. You can also make changes to your Landing page as you see how well it does, and even change or choose Offers depending on how often people sign up to them.
- Over time, you’ll be able to improve your ads and your Landing Page until it’s costing you less to buy the traffic than you’re making in sign-ups to your Offer. And at that point, congratulations – you’re a professional Affiliate Marketer!
And that’s it for now! Still confused? No problem at all, ask anything you like below – there are no stupid questions and I’ll be grateful for you helping to point out things I haven’t explained well enough!
Great info! thank you
Thank you for all the information! I am doing PPC with success but still need to learn more about media buying and tracking software.
Perfect simple beginner guide, the one thing to always remember is not to expect to strike gold, but a slow learning pace will win the race.
To the point for beginners like me. Thank you!
Awesome thread Caurmen!
But honestly "Chanin" what kind of name is "Chanin"? And "Bernhard"?? I’ve never heard two such ridiculous names used in an example hahaha.
…Please use them more often!
Heh, thought I’d go a bit more international with our example names I actually know a professor named Bernhard, which is why I thought of that
I shall return to https://www.studentsoftheworld.info for more fun names in future!
(Incidentally, if you’re doing profile landers for dating sites, that’s a *great* resource for getting the most common names in any country you’re targeting.)
Hey guys I have two questions based on the requirement below:
"Tracking Software and a Web Server to run it on. Tracking Software lets you find out what ads persuade people to sign up to your offers and what ads just don’t work – it’s pretty vital for success. Note: standard Web Hosting WILL NOT WORK, you’ll need a Virtual Private Server or a dedicated server. The easiest way to start up at the moment is to rent a "Starter VPS" from <a href='https://stackthatmoney.com/beyondhosting' rel="nofollow" target='_blank' onmouseout='UnTip()' onclick="Tip('
‘, BGCOLOR, ‘#DDDDDD’, BORDERCOLOR, ‘#000000’, BORDERWIDTH, ‘1’, WIDTH, ‘-500’, TITLE, ‘beyond hosting’, SHADOW, ”,FOLLOWMOUSE, 0, OPACITY, ’95’, FADEIN, ‘300’, FADEOUT, ‘300’, CLICKCLOSE, true,FOLLOWSCROLL, true,CLOSEBTN, true, PADDING, 0)” style=”font-style:Normal;text-decoration:None;text-transform:None;font-size:100%;”>beyond hosting, who specialise in affiliate marketing. They can install Prosper 202, the free tracking software, which will let you get started straight away."
1) Why doesn’t standard web hosting work / why do you need a VPN (or dedicated server)?
2) In what kind of situations do you need to use tracking software? I’ve been doing affiliate marketing for a couple of months with Market Health and Clickbank products on my niche product review sites, and haven’t once read about needing tracking software. I track clicks in Google Analytics (with sub-IDs) and can see all my sales stats in the dashboard of my Market Health / Clickbank account. Never tried other forms of affiliate marketing so I’m just curious when you need to use this software and for what purpose.
I have my own server (HP ML110 G5 running Windows Server 2003). Can I use this to install Prosper202 and track my campaigns?
Just wanna say thanks for all the great info made available to newbies like me.
I am in dire need of some prosper202 installation.
I’ve got the zip file ready and I have a web server. What am I suppose to do now?
I used to have a friend help me out with this 5 years ago when I tried out AM.
I am back again because I finally have the resources to make it worth while.
Any help would be great, I am sure there is some post on here already, and I have been looking but have not been successful at finding the appropriate instructions, or I am just really bad at following instructions.
Thanks for the advice.
^^ I’d advise you to use the server bar in the top right hand corner. Of these forums. Most common processes in affiliate marketing have been well documented on STM.
@leanne – Standard web hosting doesn’t work well because you don’t have control of all your resources. Tracking is very, very intensive on database use, and if you’re sharing your database with other users, things go wrong frequently – and they’re very hard to diagnose. See this thread for more on that.
You need tracking software because optimisation is much more important when you’re arbitraging paid traffic. If you’ve got one ad that doesn’t translate to a conversion on the back-end ever, that can drain a lot of your profits away.
Google Analytics *can* do this sort of tracking, but it’s really not designed for it – you’re better going for a system that’s set up with that in mind.
I am a newbie here. For every landing page I create, should I need to have a domain(.com or .net) bought? Or I can use the same domain to create different landing pages?
When a user clicks on an ad, we can directly take them to the affiliate site rite? Or its mandatory to have a landing page.
You guys are doing a great work here.
No you can use the same domain, register a domain like prmadhav-co.net then use sub domains like maturedates.prmadhav-co.net
Yes this is called direct linking, 99% of the time unless you’re doing gaming you’ll want to use a lander, it gives you the ability to pre-sell the offer using different angles and will almost always increase conversion rates.
the vps server is linux right? i have never used that before is it close to windows?
You don’t have to worry about it at all on a managed server, you will be most likely using a web hosting control panel GUI called cPanel, very easy to use.
It can provide you with a drag and drop web disk which you can use to upload your files to the VPS just to begin with.
You can also use an FTP program called Filezilla to upload your files, it’s also really easy to use.
Are you making your own websites?
@talontron – exactly as craigm says, if you get a managed server (like the ones from <a href='https://stackthatmoney.com/beyondhosting' rel="nofollow" target='_blank' onmouseout='UnTip()' onclick="Tip('
‘, BGCOLOR, ‘#DDDDDD’, BORDERCOLOR, ‘#000000’, BORDERWIDTH, ‘1’, WIDTH, ‘-500’, TITLE, ‘beyond hosting’, SHADOW, ”,FOLLOWMOUSE, 0, OPACITY, ’95’, FADEIN, ‘300’, FADEOUT, ‘300’, CLICKCLOSE, true,FOLLOWSCROLL, true,CLOSEBTN, true, PADDING, 0)” style=”font-style:Normal;text-decoration:None;text-transform:None;font-size:100%;”>beyond hosting, for example) you won’t have to worry about the Linux side of things. Just learn a little bit about cPanel and FTP (there are tons of great tutorials for both online – here’s a pretty good cPanel tutorial, for example) and you’ll be good to go!
@craigm yessiri i am making my own. sweet i am familiar with cpanel i used to create tons of websites for seo but i hate seo and haviing to wait
thank u guys
im also guessing that you buy one domain name and add pages for landing pages for all your campaigns?
@talontron – yep, that’s correct.
Thanks, a great gude for us that are just starting out!
this is to the point. great great thread. thank you
very helpful thread , cheers mate