There are a lot of ways to advertise on the internet. After all, the World Wide Web is a place that rolls video games, movies, radio, books, newspapers, and magazines all into a single medium, and a single web page can let you access all of the above if someone decides to program them all together. And they very often do so when it comes to the ads they place around the margins and between the paragraphs of the main article.
And those obvious ads aren’t the only way companies get to you. There’s also such a thing as paid content, which is when a marketing department pays a journalist company to write a certain article in a way that favors their products or at the least raises awareness of them. This ad copy has to be labeled as such, but the label doesn’t have to be easy to spot. Other ads come in the form of paid social media plants, paid inclusions on search result pages, and even more subtle methods like astroturfing (which means artificial grassroots support).
The Affiliate Marketing Model
Affiliate marketing happens to be one more form of online advertising. A company allows individuals to sign up and create up to two websites (or more for the Premium service), and that individual can sign up to become affiliate partners with a variety of online merchants, accepting a commission on each sale rather than getting a certain amount of money per click or per view.
This gives the marketer an incentive to turn visitors into customers, but it also allows him or her to advertise on his or her own terms: since the company only pays for each sale, they lose nothing if the marketer doesn’t succeed. This is opposed to other marketing methods like paid content, where the company pays for a positive article and expects the journalists they pay to deliver. Professional journalists can also feel the squeeze when their sponsors threaten to pull advertising dollars if they get negative press.
So believe it or not, but affiliate marketers are in many ways more free to express their opinions than professional journalists. It’s true enough that an affiliate marketer may feel some internal pressure to avoid talking too harshly about a partner so you can keep the commissions coming, but the companies don’t need to lean on you. After all, if you talk badly about their products, your commissions will dry up on their own. However, this does give you the opportunity to create a unique kind of online marketing company.
The Self-Employed Approach
An affiliate marketer may not make money directly through his or her creations, but when you’re on the internet, you’re in fine company in that regard. After all, every website that supports itself through advertising dollars is ultimately making money the same way as you, as are all the YouTube stars, all the informative websites that don’t ask for a subscription, and all the artists who display their works on sites covered with ads instead of offers to write or draw on commission.
As such, while talking about your affiliate partners and their products is an obvious starting point, that’s not the sort of concept you have to stick to. You can expand outwards from there and start creating content that only vaguely relates to your affiliate partners – so long as you stick with your website’s theme, and so long as that theme matches the sort of products your partners sell, you should still generate commissions as your audience grows.
In fact, you could even consider going one step further and being direct about your affiliation. Many content creators are turning to sites like Kickstarter and Patreon, convincing people to pay them in exchange for special benefits at certain donation levels and additional creations when they meet certain funding goals. Affiliate marketing involves a third party’s products, but asking people to buy things by using your links instead of doing so independently works on the same principle: your fans get to support you, and they get to purchase the things they like at the same time.
While affiliate marketing may offer you the opportunity to write, record, and otherwise create the things you want to create, you should be aware that being a content creator does not automatically give you the ability to make a living doing it. You need a certain amount of skill for people to decide that you’re worth the time it takes to visit your site, and you need to know how to draw in an audience. Calling an affiliate marketer a one-man (or one-woman) online marketing company is actually quite accurate, since you need to market both yourself and your affiliate partners.
Building up an online reputation is also a slow burn at best. You need to be able to gather an audience that’s willing to stick around and spread the word. You need to learn how to engage with others on social media and promote yourself without coming off as a complete shill. Finally, you need to learn how to be patient, because even if you do everything right, you shouldn’t expect to make a living through affiliate marketing in fewer than 18-24 months. And it may take even longer.
Still, affiliate marketing represents not just a way to sell the goods and services offered by others, but a way for you to get a platform where you can make your voice heard and even make some money while you do it. If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to create your own website, signing up for an affiliate marketing program is a pretty good one.