A Profile of the Affiliate Marketer

A affiliate marketer making lots of money from his computer! Affiliate marketing has become a dirty word in most people's mind. It conjures up images of multi-level marketing, pyramid scheme type businesses. However, an affiliate marketer is essentially just a salesman. The only difference is that most salesman make a base salary and then a commission for each sale they close. In contrast, an affiliate marketer ONLY makes commission. If they don't sell, they don't earn.

There is nothing inherently shady or unethical about trying to sell a pair of shoes online in exchange for a commission. However some people will inevitably use misleading tactics to get sales. Ultimately though, the successful affiliate marketers aren't the ones who are spamming people's email inboxes or creating annoying, misleading ads. The successful affiliate marketers are the ones who choose to sell products they believe in and then make a compelling case to people as to why they should buy the product. It's no different than how a successful salesman would carry themselves offline.

Here are some definitions for affiliate marketing related terms which might be new to you:

Ad Inventory: Space on a website which can be used for advertising. For instance, the sidebar of a website could be considered ad inventory because you will often be able to put ads there.

Banner ads: These are simply the normal ads you see on websites everyday. They can appear anywhere on a website and don't need to be shaped like a banner necessarily. These ads usually operate on a cost per mille model.

Click Through Rate (CTR): The percentage of people who click on your ad after seeing it. For instance, if 100 people see your ad and 10 people click on it, you would have a click through rate of 10%.

Conversion Rate: What percentage of visitors to your site perform a desired action. Conversion rate usually refers to what percentage of visitors buy a product but it can refer to anything you consider a conversion such as filling out a form, signing up for a newsletter etc.

Cost Per Mille (CPM): Some ads cost money based on how many visitors simply see the ad. Cost Per Mille refers to the price you pay for each 1000 people that see your ad (it could happen that none of them click on it).

Earnings Per Sale (EPS): How much you make per sale (as an affiliate marketer in this context). For instance, you make $15 for every pair of shoes you sell.

Landing Page: This is a website page which is usually focused on one goal. For instance, an internet user clicks on your ad about buying shoes and they get taken to a landing page which is very specific to them buying shoes instead of a page with a lot of different clothing options.

Real Time Bidding Platforms: These are services which allow you to bid on unused ad inventory all over the internet. For instance, one website has a spot on their website which could host an ad and they essentially auction off that space to the highest bidder.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC): Usually refers to buying paid listings on search engines such as Google or Bing and then paying them for each click your ads receive.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This refers to the practice of trying to get your website to show up as high as possible in search engine listings.

Meet Lester

Lester has been an affiliate marketer for over 6 years and has been generous enough to shed some light on what being an affiliate marketer is all about.

What does an affiliate marketer do?

An affiliate marketer is basically a salesman. I find a product I think I can sell and then make commission whenever someone buys the product through one of my links. There doesn't have to be anything shady or misleading about it. It's not very different than a door to door salesman who makes a commission for every encyclopedia they sell.

How do you make sales as an affiliate marketer?

There's a lot more that goes into it obviously but in a nutshell: I buy banner ads on sites and get people to come to a landing page of mine which hopefully converts them into customers for the product. Every affiliate marketer is different though. You're just trying to get people to buy a product through you and I happen to be good at using banner ads to achieve that.

How do you know what products to sell as an affiliate marketer?

That really depends on you. What products are you passionate about? What products do you think people really should learn about? What products do you know much about? Then of course you'll have to look at the numbers such as conversion rates, earnings per sale, market size etc. You don't want to work with an advertiser that doesn't have these numbers. As a general rule, I'll avoid any product with less than $10 in earnings per sale for me because it's simply too difficult to convert enough people for cheaply enough to make the numbers work. Getting people to come to your site is usually expensive!

How much do affiliate marketers make?

A good affiliate marketer can make $2500 a week, the best make a LOT more than that but it really depends. It's definitely not easy money and any site which claims that you'll be able to make $xxx/day instantly from affiliate marketing is bullshit. You're a salesman. You make money if you can find a good way to reach a lot of people cheaply and then persuade them to buy a product through you, which is what businesses have been trying to do forever.

Do you have any tips for designing banner ads?

Yes: TEST! TEST! TEST! And then test some more. Every product is different and it's very difficult to predict how people are going to react to different ads so the only proper way to do it is to test. The internet makes it so easy to serve up one variation of an ad to 25% of site visitors, another variation to another 25% of site visitors and so on and then see which one performs best. There are however a couple points which tend to hold true across most banners:

Basically, you're trying to disrupt a visitor from their routine and summon intent in them. They don't come to a site thinking "I'm going to buy shoes today" but you need to somehow draw their attention away from what they're doing on the site and to your ad. And then you need to convince them that they do actually want to buy shoes.

How do you design banner ads?

I used to hire freelancers to create a banner and then I would use software to create variations of them but now I have a designer I trust who makes them. I can't design ANYTHING myself.

What's a good click through rate for advertising banners?

Anything lower than 0.3% is really bad.
0.7%-1% is around where most good ads fall.
Anything above 2% is incredible and probably not sustainable.

Do you think banner ads will stop being effective?

I really don't see banner advertising disappearing anytime soon but if it does, I'll have to find another way to attract customers. Affiliate marketing isn't going anywhere though that's for sure. It's been around forever under different names and will continue to live on for as long as businesses exist (although maybe under a different name). It's just such an attractive option for a business to be able to "hire" salesmen but not pay them anything unless they make a sale. You have a product with a $30 margin? Great! Offer an affiliate $20 for each sale they make and you net $10/sale without investing anything into marketing.

How do you decide what sites to run ads on?

I usually use real time bidding platforms which are basically services which allow you to buy up any unused ad space on a huge network of sites. So if one site has banner spot which isn't being used or has burned through their advertiser's budget: you can bid on it against other advertisers. You'll often get cheaper ad inventory this way but it's the leftovers so it won't be premium.

Other than that, you need to know what type of demographic buys the product you're selling and then find sites which have visitors of that demographic. Lastly and most importantly, you have to make sure you're not overpaying for the ad space.

How do you make a good landing page?

You shouldn't have links or menus on your landing page. The goal of a landing page is purely to convert the visitor. You don't want them to get distracted or click over to another page and not end up buying a product. In general, explain in concise, simple terms what the customer will gain by using your product. Use a nice font, a good color scheme, maybe a video and a BIG "call to action" button.

DO NOT ever put a credit card fields on the landing page. Maybe ask them for their e-mail and name on the first page and then ask them for their credit card information at the end of the conversion funnel. There's no quicker way to turn away visitors than to ask them for their credit card information right off the bat.

How much does an affiliate marketer work?

I've slowed down a bit lately but I would work 70 hour weeks easily when I first started out.

What should advertisers who want to use an affiliate marketer be concerned about?

If you don't have much experience with affiliate marketers, you should definitely run your program through an affiliate network. A network will allow you to set rules which affiliates must follow such as: "no advertising on adult sites" etc. However, misrepresentation of your product/company is always a concern when using affiliates.

What's the most common mistake a beginning affiliate marketer might make?

Not testing their ads enough pure and simple.

Any tips on learning more about affiliate marketing?

The best way is to jump in and use trial and error to figure out what works. There simply isn't that much good information out there and every situation is different.

The End

Thank you very much for reading and hopefully you've learned a little bit about what being an affiliate marketer entails. Please feel free to e-mail [email protected] if you have any questions or would like to get in touch with someone about affiliate marketing. Lastly, a big thank you to Lester for taking the time to answer these questions.

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