Adam Enfroy started his blog as a side project in 2019—fast forward two years and he’s made over $1 million as an affiliate marketer through a combination of digital marketing savvy, a deft understanding of affiliate marketing programs and a lot of hard work. He contributed to Paperform's blog to tell his story and show how you can achieve similar success.
Making money online has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in life. I consider myself a successful affiliate marketer, and it’s not because I feel it. It’s because I can actually see the results. My bank statement has grown tremendously since I've started working online.
The money didn’t roll in overnight. It was a long and arduous journey. But I got there—all thanks to affiliate marketing. I’m not a greedy goblin who wants to hoard all his gold. Quite the contrary, I think anyone can have this success.
In this post, I’ll share the story of how I became an affiliate marketer and how you can become one too. After reading this, you’ll have all the tools you need to build a successful affiliate marketing business of your own.
Before I break down the process of how I became an affiliate marketer, let’s first look at what it means to be one for those who aren’t up to speed.
Affiliate marketing (also known as partner marketing) is a business model where an online retailer pays a commission to an affiliate every time they refer a customer to their website.
For example, let’s say you’re a book reviewer and you decide to join Amazon’s affiliate program. You might link to the Amazon listing of each book you review, and Amazon will then give you a commission on each sale that comes from your site.
Not a bad deal, right? Of course, not anyone can just link to an online retailer's website and start getting paid. Affiliate programs have strict guidelines (and you’ve got to be accepted to them first.)
Once the retailer approves you into their respective program, you’re given a unique affiliate link that you use to qualify for commissions after each successful referral. From there, you’re eligible to earn commissions from each customer you refer.
Each program has different commission rates for the products and services you can promote and sell as an affiliate. Here’s an example Amazon’s commission rates:
You can see it’s not exactly going to turn you into Elon Musk overnight. If you refer a customer to a Blu-Ray on Amazon, you’ll earn around 5 cents. That’s not a lot.
But—and this is a big but—if you can sell Blu-Rays to many people, the commissions can pile up into the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per month. When you get it right this makes some tidy passive income.
And that’s why the key to affiliate marketing is driving lots of highly-qualified traffic to your blog or website that will click on those affiliate links and make purchases.
Affiliate marketing is the business model I’ve had the greatest amount of success with. However, it can seem like an idea that's too good to be true, especially when you’re new to digital marketing and entrepreneurship.
Got doubts? Here are some reasons why you should consider affiliate marketing:
Most business ventures require you to raise capital and funds. To create products, buy stock, make investments and a range of other business processes to bring your ideas to fruition.
To succeed as an affiliate marketer you need three main things:
That’s it. Sure, you’ll need to shell out a few bucks for a domain name and hosting provider to set up your site, but other than that, costs are minimal. For an initial investment of less than $100 a year you can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For example, I wrote my very first income report for my site in May 2019. At that time I had ‘only’ earned $2,906 from affiliate sales.
Fast forward to March of 2021, within just two years of recording my first income report, I was able to raise my income to six figures—all from an investment of less than a hundred bucks.
Obviously, you don’t start out of the gate generating lots of traffic and getting visitors to click on your affiliate links. There’s a hefty dose of hard work necessary. But with such a low barrier to entry, there’s not much of a risk.
As an affiliate marketer, your goal is to get people to click affiliate links. Simple. The retailers take care of the rest. No need to worry about shipping, delivery, order management, or any of the more complex parts of running a business.
It goes without saying that retailers will get the lion’s share of the sale. Rightfully so—they look after the majority of the work. You get a fraction of the money for a fraction of the work, but that fraction can add up to a decent chuck of change.
Because you don’t have to worry about fulfilling products or service orders you can invest all your time and effort on one thing: growing your blog's traffic and boosting your conversion rates.
There are few business types that can run smoothly without at least a few employees to help make things work. Without some help operating your business things can get complicated.
Not as an affiliate marketer. You can succeed completely independently—as long as you’ve got the requisite skills needed to do three key tasks:
It’s not easy, but as long as you’ve got the right framework in place—which I’m about to outline for you— it’s difficult to fail.
Eventually you may get to such a level of success as an affiliate marketer that you bring employees onboard. This is common among the most successful people in the space, but it’s certainly not essential. It mainly helps delegate repetitive tasks so you can focus on the most important elements of your business.
It took me years to develop a foolproof affiliate marketing strategy and I want to share it with you. So here’s the step-by-step process which ultimately lead me to become a successful affiliate marketer—and can do the same for you.
While it can be tempting to try to cover every possible product category, the reality is that as an affiliate marketer you need a specific niche.
That could be anything from children’s toys to PS5 accessories. The bottom line is you need to ‘pick and stick’. Try to find something that you're passionate about, and conduct market research to make sure there's an audience for it too.
This is a crucial step. Your success largely depends on the niche you choose and how much money you’ll earn. There are a few key factors to consider here:
Allow me to let you in on a little trick to finding a high-quality niche—using Google Keyword Planner to find topics with a high quantity of searches.
This gives you an idea of how many users search for related keywords each month. Type any niche idea into this tool and you'll be treated to ideas and suggestions you can then optimise your site for.
Let’s say you were looking to write about leather boots. After searching the main term you’ll be given a list of related ideas around it like so:
💡 Tip: Another idea if you have an existing customer base or target audience in mind is to run a survey asking questions about what niche and product ideas they’re interested in. This is a great way to gain insights into potential niches—and simple to do with Paperform’s templates.
How competitive the niche is should also factor into your decision. For example, you don’t want to create a blog for a niche where competitors have years of advantage ahead of yours. Look for niches where even brand new blogs can rank for keywords with high search volumes.
Since Google Keyword Planner only shows you the search volume of each keyword, you'll need another program to help you determine the difficulty of ranking for each keyword.
Personally, I used KWFinder, but there are plenty of great tools out there for this. I recommend finding keywords with a “Keyword Difficulty” score ranging from 0-30. The lower the score, the better (like golf).
Try to optimise your website for these easy to rank keywords before moving onto more difficult terms with larger volumes. Once you start ranking, you can look for products to promote and sell within that niche.
Your ultimate goals here are to find affiliate marketing programs with:
This way, whenever somebody clicks on the links on your blog and buys the product or service, you get sizeable affiliate earnings. Affiliate networks like Commission Junction or Clickbank are great for finding relevant items.
💡 Tip: A simpler way to find products to promote and sell is to search Google for “your niche” + “affiliate program”. Any brands or companies with affiliate marketing programs in your niche will pop up in the results.
It’s time to set up your blog. First step is to sign up for a domain name and hosting server. Your domain name is what your audience will associate with your website—so it’s important to nail.
Here are a few rules of thumb to follow when choosing a domain name:
Make it brandable: Your domain name will set you apart from your competitors, so make it as unique and memorable as possible (while relating it to your niche.)
Don’t worry about the target keyword: Using your niche’s keyword in your domain name (e.g. leatherbootsguy.com) makes it easier for folks to associate your brand with your niche. But it’s not strictly necessary and can paint you into somewhat of a corner.
Sign up for .com: Rightly or wrongly the ‘.com’ extension legitimises your site. This idea has faded in the last few years, but it’s still best to choose this if it’s available.
Make sure it’s easy to spell: Avoid using hyphens and the same letters consecutively as it will be prone to being misspelled (resulting in lost traffic and customers.)
When it comes to hosting you want to choose a provider that prioritises speed, security and customer support. These three elements allow you to serve content much faster and more conveniently to your audience—and receive assistance if something happens to your site.
I use Hostgater for my own websites, but the right service provider for you will differ based on location and the platform you use to build your website. Whatever tool you choose, I'd recommend managing your domain and hosting in a single place to make life easier.
However, when it comes to affiliate marketing, WordPress is still the top dog. It’s the platform I personally use and I think it’s the best choice for a few reasons:
Customisation: with WordPress you can really make a website that looks exactly how you want it to. There are thousands of pre-built themes available—both free and premium—and it’s relatively simple to tweak your site to your taste.
WordPress Plugins: Supercharge your blog by installing the plugins to help you achieve your goals. This is one of WordPress’s biggest strengths. There are plugins for everything—from improving SEO and embedding products on your site to building online forms.
Vibrant community: As an open-source platform, there’s a huge community of dedicated WordPress developers and designers that can help with any issues with your website. With 64+ million users you won’t have a hard time finding someone to help.
If you don’t choose to go with WordPress that’s fine too. Just make sure your chosen platform is fast, looks professional and offers comprehensive customer support for any queries. Other good options include Squarespace and Wix.
There are four main things to concentrate on when customising your blog:
If you use WordPress you can find themes from the dashboard or on third-party websites. You’ll find some good free themes, however you’ll want to go for a paid option to make things as easy as possible.
If you choose another website builder like Squarespace or Wix there’s less heavy lifting to do in the theme front. If you're looking for a powerful, simple way to create a one-page site with loads of customisation and integration potential, Paperform is a great solution.
Once you’ve settled on a design, install a few relevant plugins to add functionality to your site. As a general rule it’s best to limit plugins to the essentials only—I use five on my own WordPress sites:
The next step is to publish an ‘about me’ page on your blog. This is an opportunity to make an excellent first impression—to introduce yourself, build a connection with your readers and keep them coming back for more.
Usually an ‘about me’ page is a swift recount of a person’s work and achievements. I don’t tend to like this approach. For me, the most effective strategy has been to start right at the beginning and speak about the life experiences that lead you where you are right now.
That’s precisely what I did on my ‘about me’ page. By opening up to readers and explaining why I blog—as well as mentioning the ups and downs of my journey—I’m able to better build a connection between me and my readers.
When you create an authentic ‘about me’ page suddenly it’s not just another affiliate website. It build rapports with visitors and encourages people to trust your guides and tutorials more than they would a bland, faceless person selling products.
💡 Tip: When your 'about me' page is perfect and all the rest of your site is set up, don't forget to install Google Analytics. This helps you track and measure your progress and makes sure your site effective.
Your site is all set up. Now it’s time to fill it with well-written, relevant content based around the digital or physical products you want to sell.
Folks will be finding you via search—usually on Google. And Google’s entire purpose is to ensure people get relevant content for the queries they search. As an affiliate marketer it’s your job to provide that relevant content.
Remember when we discussed keyword research? Now it’s time to write content based on the keywords you collected back in step one. But before you get started, you’ve got to figure out the user’s intent when they search those terms.
There are two search intents you need to worry about:
Make sure your content matches the intent of the keyword to maximise your search rankings (and get more eyeballs on your blog). For example, creating product reviews with affiliate links is a good way to match commercial intent and flows naturally into sales.
💡 Tip: Whether you’re writing a longform blog post or a simple landing page, you’ll need to learn a about SEO to get the best results. A step-by-step guide of SEO best practices is a bit beyond the scope of this post, but I can recommend Marketerhire’s SEO guide as a place to start.
Once you’ve got your blog stuffed with high-quality content it’s time to layer in the affiliate links. The links you’ll include on the webpage are dependent on the affiliate partner—Amazon Associates, for example, requires you to feature Amazon affiliate links only if you want to earn commissions.
These are your bread and butter. They’re the reason you’ve done all this work and built your website. So, it’s important to do everything you can to get people to click on them—namely, by creating attention grabbing call-to-action buttons.
Make your CTA button text as descriptive as possible. Instead of using ‘Buy Now’, mention the benefit visitors will get if they purchase the product. For example, if you were selling golf clubs you could make the CTA “Improve Your Golf Swing Now!”.
When you’ve written lots of quality content you should start ranking higher on search engines. Traffic numbers will climb and your brand authority will along with it. You’ll have more organic traffic—and folks will start reaching out to you for guest blogging opportunities (an important element of SEO).
I use Paperform to create dynamic forms that manage my guest bloggers for me. I can filter results and set up auto-replies based on the fields people enter, then use integrations to connect with my CRM tool. It saves me a bunch of time and helps me grow my blog with less busywork.
After publishing your first batch of content it’ll take a few months before they start ranking in search engines (I told you this doesn’t happen overnight). But don’t just sit around drinking Mai Tai’s waiting for content to rank—you’ve got to promote it.
Now, I have lots of colleagues who’ve had success sharing content on social media platforms, running Google ads campaigns, or even creating YouTube channels based around their niche.
These are all viable strategies. Social media in particular can be a gold mine. Start your own TikTok marketing plan if you want to. But for me, the best way to promote content is through guest blogging.
It's time to dust off your email skills and start approaching authoritative sites related to your niche. Here’s the barebones four step guest blogging strategy I use:
When writing guest posts, treat it as if you’re writing on your own blog. Pull out all the stops and make it as polished and high-quality as possible. Don’t just use it as a link building hack—the goal is to impress readers and make them want to visit your site.
You’re doing all this hard work to generate lots of organic traffic. But you’re missing out on a huge opportunity if folks are just visiting your site once and never coming back again.
That’s where an email list comes in—everyone’s favourite digital marketing strategy. By building an email list you turn one-off visitors into an audience. These are people who are interested in your niche and want to read more about what you have to say on the subject.
You can then leverage your list for a range of email marketing strategies. Here’s a few that I use:
Start by sending out your latest blog posts each week or month. Over time you can look for new ways to engage your growing audience (e.g. an exclusive eBook). This list is also an excellent avenue to test new business ideas and request feedback to improve your work.
Paperform makes growing my email list easy. I just built a simple, branded lead generation form that integrates with my email marketing platform of choice. All sign-ups are automatically added to the list without any hassle.
Data collection and analysis is necessary to help make sense of your progress (or lack-thereof). Without crunching the numbers, you won’t know what you’re doing right and what there’s room to improve.
I mentioned earlier that you need to set up your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts. Here you can look at how much traffic you’re receiving and other vital stats that give you an idea of how your website and content is performing.
Here’s a look at a recent look at the daily performance of my website. You can break down your traffic according to the following metrics:
All things going well, over time you should see an upward trend on the traffic graph. If not, break down where you’re going wrong and reassess your strategy. These stats give you a pretty good idea of potential fixes to make.
💡 Tip: Keep an eye on your payouts. How much cash are you making from affiliate links each month? It can be tempting to get caught up on the vanity metrics, but the critical thing to keep asking yourself is: how much of your traffic are you actually converting into sales?
This step—data monitoring and analysis—really determines whether you’ll become an affiliate marketing success story.
Alright. That’s that. I’ve laid the groundwork for how you can become an affiliate marketer. Now it’s up to you to put these steps into action and start building your own online business.
Affiliate marketing work isn’t easy. You’ll make mistakes along the way (I still do!). The key is to honestly assess your progress, learn along the way and keep one thing in mind: if it was easy, everyone would do it.
Now go out there, be your own boss, and live the life you deserve.
This post was written by a guest author named Adam Enfroy, an affiliate marketer.
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