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The internet is rife with opportunities, and that includes opportunities to support yourself through passive income. One way to do it: create an affiliate website and set yourself up to make money without the need for a lot of day-to-day work. Affiliate marketing isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme, nor is it a guaranteed source of income. It is, however, a relatively easy way to start your own small business online, especially if you’re someone who’s a bit wary of the many steps (and pitfalls) involved with starting a more traditional business operation. So, where do you begin? Here’s the beginner’s guide to how to build an affiliate marketing website, with tips that anyone can use to get their affiliate site up and running. 

What is an Affiliate Marketing Website?

Before you start an affiliate website, it helps to know exactly what you’re getting into.

Affiliate marketing is a way to make money by funneling buyers to a business’ products or services. When the business gets a sale (or another type of pre-determined conversion) as a result of your efforts, you get a commission.

Conversions are tracked in links and codes so that businesses know which sales, leads, and clicks are coming from which affiliate marketer. Payments are based on the conversion that’s being measured and may be a portion of the purchasing price or a set price per lead or click. Think of it like performance-based influencer marketing, where instead of getting paid to promote a product, you’re getting paid when that promotion leads to a conversion.

Think that all sounds too good to be true? There’s actually a ton of profit potential for those who start an affiliate marketing website, largely because the demand for these types of marketers is so high. Recent statistics show that about 80% of businesses work with affiliate marketers, and that number is expected to grow by 10% in the near future.

If affiliate marketing is something you want to get in on, you’ll be glad to know that it’s easier than you might think to create an affiliate website and start making money by promoting products for brands. Follow the steps below on how to build an affiliate marketing website and get to work turning the power of your voice into money in your pocket.

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How to Build an Affiliate Website

As you set out to start an affiliate marketing website, it’s a good idea to approach it as you would starting any other type of small business. That means doing plenty of planning at the outset to ensure (or at least create the best possible circumstances for) future success. 

Here are the specific things that you’ll want to do, plus the technical steps involved in how to create an affiliate marketing website.

Step 1: Narrow in on Your Niche

Figuring out what your niche is—i.e., what it is that you want to promote—will help you make better connections with both brands and consumers.

Businesses want to work with affiliate marketers who have the authority and connections to sell their products. Meanwhile, consumers are much more likely to trust an individual who has the expertise to make a reliable recommendation. All of this requires that you establish yourself within a specific niche and build credibility in that area.

Think about what interests you, as well as what you have experience in. Keep in mind that you’ll be creating a lot of content related to your niche, so it should be something that you can write about with at least some degree of authority.

Some of the most profitable affiliate marketing niches are:

  • Software and technology
  • Personal finance
  • Health, fitness, and lifestyle
  • Pets
  • Fashion and beauty
  • Travel

Select your broader niche, then narrow it in a bit further. For example, if you choose software and technology, your focus could be on video gaming, B2B software, mobile tech, or another more fully defined area. 

In addition to helping you accomplish the goals mentioned above, narrowing in on your niche will also help you better understand and target your core audience, which will be essential to creating conversions for your brands.

Step 2: Choose Your Affiliate Structure

You have two options for how to structure your affiliate career:

  • Affiliate networks: These networks aggregate affiliate opportunities and serve as an intermediary to connect brands with marketers. The biggest one is Amazon Associates, which allows you to create affiliate links for Amazon products. Other popular affiliate networks include ClickBank, ShareASale, and FlexOffers.  
  • Affiliate programs: Some brands choose to run their own affiliate programs instead of working through networks. To find them, type in the name of a brand that you’re interested in promoting into Google and add “affiliate program.” If one exists, you’ll be able to find out whether you qualify and how you can join.

When you first start an affiliate website, it’s generally easiest to begin with affiliate networks rather than programs. Brands are more likely to work through networks than run their own internal affiliate programs, and joining a network also opens up the door to more opportunities within your niche.

Whichever way you go, this will be your method for obtaining trackable affiliate links. For that reason, it’s important that you figure out your preferred structure prior to starting your affiliate marketing site, since without the links you’ll have no way to get paid for your recommendations.

Step 3: Create Your Website

Now that you know what you’re going to be selling on your website, you can create the site itself. You will need three things in order to build an affiliate site: a domain name, a web host, and a content management system (CMS).

Your domain name is the URL for your website, and your web host is the platform that your domain exists on. Your CMS is your organizational tool for publishing and storing your content.

You’ll need to pay to buy your domain name as well as for your web hosting service. Fortunately, both tend to be pretty affordable, and most web hosts also provide you with all of the features that you’ll need to actually design your site. As for your CMS, WordPress is the most popular choice and is free to use (though certain additional features do cost money). An alternative would be to run your affiliate site through Shopify, though it’s more e-commerce-based than content-based.

Do your research here to put together the perfect package of tools to build your website on. You won’t want to make any adjustments to these once you’re up and running, so you’ll need to select the right tools within the right budget at the outset.

Step 4: Install a Link Cloaking Plugin

Link cloaking isn’t a requirement of an affiliate marketing website, but it can greatly improve your conversion rates. Cloaks make it so that your links are shorter, prettier, and not so blatantly tied to affiliate promotions, all of which can make them more attractive for consumers to click on.

There are lots of link cloaking plugins that work with WordPress, including free ones. Some of the top link cloaking choices for affiliate marketers include: 

Similar to what you did in the previous step, you’ll want to take a look through the prices and available features of various link cloaking plugins and decide from there which one you should go with.

Step 5: Start Creating Content for Your Site

Creating original content is central to how to build an affiliate website—or one that turns a profit, that is. 

In this regard, you’ll function much like a publisher; writing, sharing, and monetizing content in your niche. Your content will serve as the place where you drop affiliate links, but it will also be the way that you grow your audience and build your authority. It needs to be original and compelling, as well as backed by a targeted strategy for getting it in front of consumers—which is where search engine optimization (SEO) and social media integration will come in.

You won’t be successful as an affiliate marketer if you can’t get eyes on your content. As such, much of the initial period of building your affiliate site will be dedicated to content creation and traffic generation. A blog is probably the most basic medium to go with, but a review site or coupon site is also an option.

There are various types of content that you can create for your affiliate site, such as:

  • Blog articles
  • How-to guides
  • Product reviews
  • Product guides
  • Email newsletters

Be realistic with your content goals, since it can take quite a bit of time for your site to start showing up on search engines—and then even more time for your content to start ranking onto the first page of results. In the meantime, you can help spread your content around by promoting it on social media. You can also write guest posts for other sites to further build authority in your niche and drive more traffic to your site and your links.

Step 6: Advertise Your Affiliate Site

Advertising is key to reaching your target audience with your content. We’ve already mentioned a few ways to do it, including social media promotion and guest posting. As you begin to generate income, however, you can start to use paid advertisements to get more people to your site.

There are two types of paid advertising that you can invest in: general paid ads, which allow you to rent a spot on a search engine or website to promote your page, or pay to promote a social media post, and pay-per-click (PPC) ads, where you bid on relevant keywords to make sure your site shows up for certain search terms, then pay a set fee every time someone clicks through.

Use a keyword research tool, like SEMrush or Google Keyword Planner, to hone in on what keywords you should be targeting. This will also work to your advantage with your organic growth efforts, since you can use keyword research to plan out what topics you’re going to cover with your content. If writing isn’t in your skill set, you may want to consider hiring a freelance writer who can craft your content for you.

Setting Expectations for Your Affiliate Marketing Site

The process for how to create an affiliate marketing website isn’t necessarily quick, particularly if you don’t already have an online following. Nor is it likely to pay off right away, since your ability to create conversions is directly related to your site’s traffic. But once you get things going, starting a career as an affiliate marketer can end up being a highly profitable means of providing yourself with a steady stream of passive income.

From here, you might be wondering: Are affiliate websites profitable? The short answer is yes, but you’ll have to put in the effort to get yours to that point. Not all affiliate websites will make money because not all affiliate marketers will have the skills needed to run a productive site. If you have the talent and the drive, though, you should absolutely be able to earn money from your affiliate links.

Follow the steps above to get started, and take your time with the technical aspects of creating your affiliate site. Once the gears are in motion, it should just be a matter of promoting your content and building up traffic over time. Aim to learn as you go, and always keep a close eye on your website’s analytic data so that you can monitor how your site is performing and get a better feel for who your audience is, where they’re coming from, and what sort of content spurs them to act.

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