5 Strategies to Make Money as an Affiliate Marketer

Since John’s blog is primarily about making money online, I thought I’d come up with a post that shares some tips on how you can make an excellent income as an affiliate marketer. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mitchell Harper and I’m co-founder of BigCommerce, ecommerce software which you can use to sell physical and downloadable products (such as eBooks or music) online. We have 40,000 customers between our Interspire and BigCommerce products.

We’ve recently launched our BigCommerce affiliate program which pays $300 per sale. Now to most this is extremely generous – after all, our highest plan is $149.95 a month, but why do we do it? We do it for two reasons:

  1. So we can attract the top 1% of affiliates. We have two affiliate programs – our own in-house program and our Commission Junction (CJ) program. CJ is the biggest affiliate network in the world and in order to recruit their premium affiliates your offer needs to stand out. Offering (significantly) more commission than our competitors – GoDaddy, Yahoo Stores and Network Solutions – made us stand out because affiliates are always after the BBD – the bigger, better deal.
  2. So we don’t have to expand our internal sales team. Affiliates are like a sales team for a company – except they work for commission only and no salary. An affiliate program is the smartest way to increase your sales without increasing your expenses, because you only pay affiliate commissions when a sale comes in.

So now let’s look at the other side of the coin – being an affiliate marketer. I’ve learned a lot about affiliate marketing in the last few years (our Interspire affiliate program has over 3,000 active affiliates and our BigCommerce affiliate program is pushing 1,000 active affiliates even though it was only launched last week) so I wanted to share some strategies which you can use to make money (and even a full-time income) as an affiliate marketer. Feel free to add your own strategies in the comments section below.

Here they are:

  1. Take the time to write detailed reviews for the products you’re promoting and get them listed in search results. For example, did you know that Top10Reviews.com is one big affiliate site? The key is that they provide excellent quality reviews and comparisons between similar products, but no matter which product you choose they get their affiliate commission.
  2. Use video to promote products. Grab your MacBook or a digital camera and record an unscripted review of the product, just like how CNet does. Be honest and talk about both the pros and cons of the product you’re reviewing. People appreciate honesty and you’ll build up an excellent following if you’re honest with your reviews.
  3. Use offline marketing methods such as postcards to reach prospects. Let’s face it. AdWords is expensive and there’s so much “noise” online that it can be hard to reach the people you want. Why not try a more traditional marketing activity such as postcards? Just create a domain name such as AcmeProductTrial.com (where “Acme Product” is the name of the product/service you’re promoting) and forward that domain using your affiliate link.
  4. Pick up on the pain points customers are having using products similar to those you’re promoting and address them. For example, if someone is having trouble using Intuit QuickBooks and you promote Microsoft Money, create a website with a comparison table and reviews from happy Microsoft customers and have a big “Try It!” button which of course links to the Microsoft Money website using your affiliate link.
  5. If you can afford it, run Google AdWords ads which take visitors to a survey. Ask them questions about their particular situation (such as Internet security if you promote McAfee products) and if it makes sense, show offers for 2 or 3 related products after they’ve completed the survey. Clearly tell visitors you will use their responses to create a website with more information and even ask for their email address so you can link them to that site when you’ve built it. This way you can get real insight into their pain points and what they’re looking for out of the kind of products you’re promoting and you’ll make your affiliate commissions. You can then use the information you learn to setup landing pages addressing their concerns which of course include your affiliate links.

I could write a few dozen of these strategies because I know they work time and time again, but I’ll leave it at five for now. Remember, if you’re looking to make money as an affiliate marketer you need to promote products with a high conversion rate, large audience of potential buyers and excellent commission. The BigCommerce affiliate program, which pays up to $300 per sale is a great place to start 🙂


89 thoughts on “5 Strategies to Make Money as an Affiliate Marketer”

  1. Ben Pei says:

    Writing reviews for your affiliate product is definitely a good thing to do but it sure takes some skill to do a good job. I would say invest in some reading to hone up writing skills or simple.. OUTSOURCE it!

    1. EarningStep says:

      i know you have it ben pei.. writing skills ,.. unique idea… you have all of them..hope can be like you

      1. Benjamin Cip says:

        Unfortunately having good writing reviews doesn’t mean you’ll sell the products. You need at least as much visitors as John Chow has, to have a chance to interest someone to buy your affiliate product. Another problem is that there are a lot of affiliate marketer that promote the same product so it’s a big competition.

        1. Sahil Kotak says:

          Yeah, One of the example is it self Hostgator, every knows about them but then also in many sites you will see Hostgator’s banner. 😉

          1. gaban says:

            and need to work harder

          2. EarningStep says:

            never forget to find news and up to date product to make money

          3. I know! I swear I see the Thesis or Host Gator banner on nearly every single page I visit. It’s hard to decide who to give my money to 😉

          4. Sahil Kotak says:

            Yes, I also had to face the same situation.

        2. Lee Ka Hoong says:

          Strongly agree with you Ben, good reviews with good writing skill doesn’t mean you can make a sale. Driving maximum visitors to the blog can increases the chance for the visitor to buy the product. But I think it depends on how popular is the people who promotes the product, if visitor trusts him then they will definitely buy the product.

          1. Ben Pei says:

            Ohh yeah you are kinda right too there Lee..

        3. That’s a great point.. There is a ton of competition in the affiliate marketing arena. Someone like John Chow is going to have a much greater chance of selling a product because he has already earned the reader’s trust…

          1. Benjamin Cip says:

            It’s not only a question of competition. If for instance someone find John Chow’s site and click on his affiliate link to check the AWeber offer for instance, even if he decided to buy AWeber by using your affiliate link, it’s John who will get the commission instead of your, if you didn’t remove all your cookies before purchasing from your link. It already happened to me with AWeber and they told me it’s because of a cookie problem.

          2. This can’t happen often enough to really be a problem, you think? And anyway shouldn’t it go to the person who made the person aware of the offer in the first place. Isn’t that why they pay affiliates?

        4. You need to rank well for your chosen keywords, and that will help with the traffic issue, Ben. You are correct though – having a high-profile blog with tons of traffic like John’s will definitely make a huge difference.

          1. EarningStep says:

            you mean quality traffic off course , some of blog have ton’s of traffic but not quality traffic and this make huge difference too

          2. What kind of traffic isn’t quality? Like paid to surf traffic?

          3. Paid to surf traffic is garbage. They’re getting paid to surf, they aren’t interested in your blog at all.

      2. Ben Pei says:

        Oh my! Can’t believe I am reading this.. Thanks!

    2. nathan says:

      Writing from experience is good since you have actually tried this things and worked before you even share it to us.

      1. gaban says:

        the key point is how long to wan to spare your time to build massive networking
        john has done this

        1. Yeah and now he can relax.

          1. Bayseec says:

            Some affiliate networks won’t accept the publisher even got every skills in their hand…so many things have to deal with.

  2. well written article, but nothing really new here. The post cards (cold calling) can cost A lot of money.

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      You’re right Carl. There is nothing new in this post, but it’s a good reminder.

      1. Sahil Kotak says:

        I agree, with you both. Nothing new.

        1. Benjamin Cip says:

          That’s why this post was written… 🙂

          1. not really – probably more to promote the mentioned affiliate programm

            Btw, just 78 days left until Christmas – Get Your Sites Ready for teh Holidays!

        2. nathan says:

          I second the motion.

        3. Sahil Kotak says:

          That’s why the article is written. 😉

          1. If you guys know and have good experience about affiliate than this is nothing new for you.

            But just recall those days when you were new bie. I am sure at that moment this will be all new for you. Similarly there are thousands of new bie joining internet world daily to earn money and for them this is really new.

    2. That is true, but it is well proven that offline marketing tactics such as the postcards and selective magazine ads, banner sponsorships for events and the like are very effective methods of getting your URL out there. Budget ultimately determines ones marketing approach though.

    3. yeah and heart ache, cold calling is one of the hardest things to do.

      1. Bayseec says:

        But at least people that are interested can join the BigCommerce affiliate program… 🙂

  3. I’m really struggling to find decent affiliate products for the lifestyle design niche. Any good resources out there?

    1. I wonder if something like Amazon might be good for you? I saw that you had a book review/recommendation on your site.. If you do several of those, I could see Amazon at least making you a little money. I’m not sure how good the payout it though…

      1. Benjamin Cip says:

        The best is Ebay Partner Network, especially if you use either BANS or phpBay.

  4. I have an ebook that I’m selling online and with the help of affiliates. It’s amazing to me how hard it is to get affiliates to sign up when they could easily make money by reviewing the book. It’s 30 minutes of work for them and passive income for months to come yet so few take the offer. It seems that people know how to make money through affiliates but just don’t put forth the effort.

    1. Money-Era says:

      What about promoting the site, getting the traffic and conciving people to buy?
      30 minutes to write a review is just a beginning and the easiest part of everything.
      There will be no income for affiliate when he/she cannot be found.

      1. Benjamin Cip says:

        How do you intend to promote you site? Blog commenting? creating an Adword campaign? social media network?

        1. Money-Era says:

          Exactly what I mean. Preparing a product page is just the beginning

      2. nathan says:

        I know selling things offline but still having difficulty online.

        1. Ben Pei says:

          Creativity in promoting your websites comes in almost any form.. Do whatever you can come up with with your means and planning.

  5. That’s an awesome payout. I’m checking out your site as soon as I’m done posting this.

    I’m also impressed with your marketing already. By writing your own post as a guest post, you get free advertising that would normally cost $500-$750 (I’m not sure which it is anymore). Smart Smart! 😉

  6. EarningStep says:

    yeah.. i am one of thousands cj member . i already made mroe than hundred sales.. i love cj just like i love clickbank…lol

    1. I’ve never heard of CJ until this post…. I’m going to have to check it out if you’re having that much success with it!

      1. Lee Ka Hoong says:

        CJ has been launched for quite some times, I’ve seen many people doing well with that, but not me, lol! Just give it a try.

        1. gaban says:

          me too Lee:)
          i removed it then

          1. Ben Pei says:

            I think CJ has more of physical products as much as CB has on digital products.

        2. Jenny says:

          I have the same problem with CJ. Besides clickbank, do you have any others that you would recommend?

          Thanks,

    2. I haven’t had great success with CJ. Clinkbank has been ok. But I love clickbooth.

  7. true iam also making good money with CJ.i write articles for my products and submit them to my blogs and articles directories.Discuss them in forums.

    1. Lee Ka Hoong says:

      How much have you made from CJ? I believe that you do have some affiliate marketing tips to share with us too? 🙂

      1. Benjamin Cip says:

        I’m not sure but you have to pay to create a C.J account, right?

    2. nathan says:

      Share us some tips if you will so we could all learn from it. Wish you the best for CJ.

    1. Lee Ka Hoong says:

      You can either review the affiliate product in your blog, or promote in article directories. I’ve some good experienced by doing article marketing to promote the affiliate product, and I received some sales too. 🙂

      1. Benjamin Cip says:

        I noticed you wrote an AWeber article on Ezine, did you generate some sales from it?

  8. Affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to make money online. We don’t have to stock products, deal with packaging and shipments. All we need to do is writing. So the best goods to sell on the internet is information.

  9. fas says:

    Haha, running Google Adwords for nothing is a bit far fetched but worth a try nonetheless.

  10. Fakhrul Alam says:

    Thanks Mitchell Harper for sharing this useful information and very great tips.

  11. Finch says:

    Sure, these strategies might work. But what is anybody going to get out of them?

    It’s airy fairy advice.

    1. Do some stuff on the Internets.

    Most people already know that they need to do the above. Their execution is just too poor, and their ideas too retarded.

    The reality is that if you do all of the above, it’s already been done before, so you better have a unique selling point.

  12. Nathan says:

    Most important is to get traffic to your site first.If you dont have visitors you dont sell.

    1. Well these are the thumb rule like if you want to cook anything you will need flour and vegetables.

    2. Jake Brady says:

      That’s right, Nathan. Right after that, it’d be conversions. Traffic + Conversions = Profit. 🙂

  13. Money-Era says:

    I agree with Mitchell a lot: what he presents is one of the sales techniques of presenting alternatives. When a customer is presented with good choices, he makes a choice!
    This is why comparison tables work so well. They dissolve objections and lead to making a decision to buy.

  14. IMO it’s better to start something new and fail than do nothing and blame yourself later that you didn’t get a try.
    Very competitive market? Oh ya, but if there is no competition, no money.
    Other side of the coin – marketing. It’s everything. Even when you have fantastic product and people need it, without marketing this product is dust.

    1. Money-Era says:

      Well, if there is no competition, then there is monopoly. The quality of products/services deteriorates, but the monopolist makes a lot of money for inferior service. So I disagree that no competition means no money.

      1. Let me clarify, Money-Era what I mean by that.
        Let say your business is selling floppy disks, no competition 🙂 nothing else. Thanks for comment anyways 🙂

        1. Money-Era says:

          Hey, you mean no competition because floppy disks are obsolete? Or you mean that you do not diversify your portfolio of products for sale (“nothing else”).
          Please clarify as I have hard time understanding this 🙂

  15. Well I do know how to make money.But not as a affiliate marketer.

    1. Bottom line is you should earn money through legal and ethical manner. Now if you earn through your steel factory or through affiliate is not vital.

  16. Adarsh says:

    I like this post. Affiliate marketing is always a lucrative option for people thinking beyond adsense. I have had good experience with adsense but not so good with affiliate marketing. One thing you need to be careful about is choosing the niche. When I chose the forex niche I had no idea how the return rate for products were. It took a hard blow for me to realize that even after people buy, they are very quick to return it.

  17. gaban says:

    are these tips for everyone?
    i think they are valid if you have full time to be online marketer
    how if you are part time

  18. I think an important point is also that you actually have used and know the product well! If you want to build up trust amongst your readers you have to be very carefully what kind of products you promote. SY

    1. It’s pretty easy to tell when someone has used a product and believes in it. I can’t trust someone who recommends a product they don’t use or wouldn’t pay for themselves.

  19. mike says:

    I think before promoting affiliate product, it’s better to buy them for yourself..you can then go and write a real and honest review..this is what build confidence with buyers

    1. I disagree. There are enough people using and talking to get a feel, if you run tons of affiliate sites then you shouldn’t worry about trying out products, just build em and rank em.

  20. Holy cow! Mitch Harper!!! I remember reading Harpzon years ago, when I heard you were closing your site I saved every article on an external HD, I need to go back and read your stuff! It’s good to see the Interspire e commerce thing went well, it was just being launched when you were closing your site.

  21. My thinking is you need to move away from the noise and the crowd and bring something different. Be a hub of great content, free information and interesting editorial.

    Once you have captured the attention of a large enough audience, try reviewing some products and securing special discounts or coupons for the people on your list.

    Just a thought.

  22. JoshuaElliot says:

    That is an attractive payout for affiliates.

    There are so many E-commence software out there, how is yours different from them? (meaning your USP).

    I would like to know more, and so does the others (I think).

  23. Richard says:

    I would agree with most of the comments here. Although I am new to blogging, barely 2 months old. I have been toying with the idea of how do I market products through affiliate. Sure, creating a review is one step, but getting the sale is a totally different animal…

    There’s been a lot of things that have been written about affiliate marketing, and I am still finding ways to really get the gist of it. But it still going to come to, what makes the sale…

  24. hackcorp says:

    Just make sure that you know about the new FTC regulations that will charge bloggers 11,000$ for fake reviews. 🙂

  25. Viju Dallon says:

    It’s very important to soft sell! In marketing whether it’s offline or online, the basic strategies have not changed; it’s only that we have to adapt the offline techniques and couple it to the online techniques.

    The right balance hits like a dirty bomb and many affiliate marketers know that. Think, Plan and Implement!

    How?

    Use the mindset mayhem triangle (learn, apply and earn)! That’s it!

    Respect John Chow,
    Viju Dallon

  26. Hey Mitchell,

    Writing quality reviews is something that can attract a large number of people. I have used toptenreview for writing the reviews for the products that I sell on my site.

    These are some wonderful tips that you have provided, and which are of great help for the newbies.

    Thanks for this informative post.

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