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How to Create Affiliate Marketing Websites that Run on Autopilot

“Autopilot” sounds incredibly enticing, and it’s true your affiliate marketing websites can earn tremendous income without your assistance. But you must first invest the time, effort and money to successfully establish these profit-making powerhouses.

Step 1: Affiliate Marketing Basics

Affiliate marketing involves promoting a product and earning a commission for every sale made through your recommendation. This practice can be incredibly lucrative because you can create multiple websites, each recommending a different niche of products, and reap the profits after they’re established.

Startup Expenses

The only mandatory expenses are a domain name fee, which is about $10 per year, and Web hosting, which runs about $10 per month. So for just $130 a year, you can explore the exciting field of affiliate marketing.

Optional expenses include an auto-responder service for your email-marketing program, which costs about $20 per month. Second, quality content is the backbone of any affiliate marketing program, so if writing isn’t your forte, you may want to outsource your content to freelance writers. Third, search engine optimization (SEO) is a primary method for driving visitors to your website, and a key component of SEO is external links pointing back to your website. Therefore, paying for link-building services is another investment to consider.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you may want to purchase a membership to an affiliate marketing training program such as Affilorama. This article provides a general overview of how to launch your affiliate marketing career, but it doesn’t provide in-depth, step-by-step instructions like Affilorama does.

Pick a Niche

Make your first foray into affiliate marketing as easy as possible by creating your first website in an industry you’re already familiar with. What’s your passion: Travel? Relationships? Health? Pick a topic you enjoy because you will spend lots of time reading, researching and writing about it.

Find a Product

Start the selection process by going to an affiliate marketing program website, such as ClickBank,Amazon Associates, the eBay Partner Network, or Commission Junction to explore the options. Keep in mind that it’s not required to test the product before recommending it, but I highly encourage you to do so. First-hand product knowledge will make writing content for your website easier, and your readers will trust your advice more.

To strategically select products to promote, you should consider competition level, commission amount, sales potential, product quality, customer demand and marketing support. Your ultimate goal should be to select seven products within the same niche to promote on your website.

Comply with Federal Trade Commission Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines apply to anyone advertising to U.S. consumers or whose business is even partly based in the U.S. Most affiliate programs are based in the U.S., so the FTC guidelines apply to almost everyone.

Thankfully, they’re easy to follow. With every affiliate link you post, review you publish, promotional email you send, social media post you make, or content you circulate on your website, you must clearly state that you are benefiting from your recommendation. You need to disclose whether you obtained the product for free or received any other benefit, such as being entered into a giveaway to win money. If the method is clearly advertising, such as a banner ad, then stating you are an affiliate isn’t required.

You must also either base your recommendation on actual experience with the product or clearly state that you haven’t tried the product. To limit hype, all promotional content must reflect the product’s typical results rather than just the over-the-top outcomes. Lastly, if your merchant is making false claims, like bringing world peace, and you knowingly endorse the product, you can be held liable. Thoroughly research your merchants before promoting any of their products.

Step 2: Research Your Niche

Next, research content for your website. Browse forums in your niche, check Google and Yahoo for common search terms, and review sales copy for related products. Identify what problems in your niche need solving and what questions people are asking. Create a list of potential keywords for your website, and use keyword analysis resources, such as AffiloTools, to compare search volumes and competition toward identifying the most profitable keywords.

Step 3: Set Up Your Website

Developing a website can sound daunting, but thanks to the many resources available, websites can be created without any coding knowledge or experience.

Choose a Domain Name

Choose a catchy, exciting domain name for your website, but pick one that hints at the nature of your content. Be careful not to use trademarked names in your domain, such as AmazonKindleReviews.com.

Select a Web Hosting Service

A Web host is the company that provides the server that houses your website. A good Web host, such as HostGator, allows you to host more than one domain simultaneously, provides exceptional customer support, and offers reasonable disk space, database limits and traffic levels. No Web hosts stay online 100 percent of the time, but look for one that offers a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee. If your site is offline, you could miss out on sales.

Choose a Hosting Platform

You can easily manage your website without any coding experience by integrating a Web hosting platform, such as WordPress, into your HostGator or other service provider. A Web hosting platform provides a content management system (CMS) for arranging your Web pages and blog posts. Although you can code and manipulate the design if you choose, a CMS allows you to upload content easily and without and technical knowledge.

Design Your Website

Unless you’re a Web developer, browse WordPress’ different design “themes,” which cost anywhere from nothing to $125. Even after selecting a theme, you can choose plugins for additional customization. Plugins are pieces of code that add to your website’s features. Examples include adding sitemaps, contact pages and SEO optimization, which I highly recommend.

Create a Website Header

Grab visitors’ attention with a modern, bold website header. Use a simple, but attractive image for the background. If you’re not great at photography, purchase an image from a stock photography website such as iStock. Then select readable, topic-appropriate fonts and colors for the header text and subtitle.

Step 4: Write Quality Content

Without quality content, customers will have no reason to visit your website or buy the products you recommend. Through informative, interesting content, you build trust with your audience, increase conversions, establish yourself as an authority in your niche, and enhance the probability of earning back-links, which will help your SEO.

Writing your own articles may be cheapest, but it might not be the fastest or easiest, depending on your writing skills. You can always outsource your articles to freelance writers on Freelancer.comor iWriter. You can even purchase private label rights (PLR) content, which has already been written and you simply reword to make it unique. Rewriting is important to your SEO because Google penalizes duplicate content.

Add Content to Your Site

In WordPress, posts appear in reverse chronological order on your home page (unless you set another page as the home page). This arrangement is perfect for articles and blog posts because it will always show the freshest content first. Web pages, on the other hand, are static and appear in your site’s navigation menu. Examples include your contact page, about page, and your privacy policy and affiliate disclaimer page.

Aim for writing 20 700-word articles for your website. Be concise, don’t be repetitive and don’t go overboard with blatant promotion. Instead, include an exciting, informative title; write in short paragraphs; use bullet points whenever possible; and be strategic with your keyword use. Finally, check for proper spelling and grammar and pair your articles with photos and videos, which significantly increase read-rates.

As you expand your website, experiment with different media, such as slideshows, videos and podcasts.

Insert Affiliate Redirects

By using redirected links with your domain name for your affiliate URLs, your website appears more trustworthy and professional, which will improve click-rates and conversions in the long run.

Step 5: Apply SEO

SEO is all about getting people to your website by making it visible in the search engines. If people can’t find your website, you can’t make money. There are two main types of SEO.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the techniques you can apply to your own website to improve your search engine rankings. Popular tactics include selecting and optimizing for strategic keywords; including title tags, meta descriptions and header tags in your coding; improving the speed of your website; creating informative URLs; installing social share buttons on your website; and including keywords in linked text, as opposed to just linking the words “click here.”

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to ways of improving your search engine rankings outside your own domain. Generally, off-page SEO refers to link building. Search engines tend to value off-page SEO factors greater than on-page ones because the links that point to your site are the biggest determinant of your Google PageRank. Generally, the more back-links pointing to your website, the better. However, sites with spam and sites where you pay to have your website linked do not fare well with the search engines.

Step 6: Promote Your Website

In addition to SEO, you should drive traffic to your website through marketing. Some methods, such as social media, cost nothing. Content marketing, which refers to planning, researching, delivering and managing your online content, can also be done for free (unless you pay a freelancer). Email marketing, the process of collecting the names and email addresses of visitors to your website and then marketing to them with regular emails, can be accomplished with minimal funding.

With Kindle marketing, you drive readers to your website by publishing an e-book with links to your website. You can also offer the e-book on your website in exchange for signing up for your email newsletter.

Ad swaps happen when someone else sends your promotional offer to their subscribers in exchange for you sending their offer to your email list. Solo ads are a one-way version of ad swaps, but you pay for the privilege.

Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is a way of posting advertisements that you only pay for when someone clicks on the ads. Although more costly than organic traffic, PPC tends to be more successful at earning purchases. Of course, other marketing tactics exist, but the tactics explained here are especially suited to affiliate marketing.

Step 7: Track Your Efforts

Google Analytics is a free tracking and statistics tool for monitoring and analyzing your website’s performance in terms of traffic and your visitors’ activity on your website. AffiloTools is ideal for analyzing website performance and monitoring your search rankings, checking your page load speed and analyzing key SEO stats. Tracking your efforts is essential for identifying areas of improvement and evaluating what strategies are most successful.

Creating your first affiliate marketing website is the hardest, but the process becomes easier with each addition. Plus, affiliate marketing teaches you indispensable lessons about marketing, website creation, SEO and more. After mastering these skills, many affiliate marketers provide these services on a freelance basis. But before you get there, check out Affilorama’s free video lessons to make affiliate marketing your most profitable profession.

Simon Slade

About the author

Simon Slade, CEO and Co-Founder, Doubledot Media
simon-sladeSimon Slade co-founded Doubledot Media in 2005 with Mark Ling, director at Doubledot Media, in Christchurch, New Zealand. With 500,000 individual customers and businesses around the world, the company specializes in e-commerce resources and solutions.

Doubledot Media offers seven different training and software applications, most notably Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal with 250,000 members and over 100 free video lessons; SaleHoo, an online wholesale directory of over 8,000 prescreened suppliers; and Traffic Travis, a search engine optimization tool.

As CEO, Slade oversees the strategic direction of the company, manages and contributes to product design and supervises staff and daily operations. Thanks in part to his leadership, Doubledot Media was named the 23rd fastest-growing company in New Zealand on the Deloitte/Unlimited Fast 50 index and one of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the Asia Pacific. Also in 2008, Slade was named a Global Operator Finalist at the Champion Canterbury Awards and an Exporter of the Year Finalist at the AmCham Export Awards.

Slade began his technology career in 2001 as a sales representative at Sellagence Limited. Two years later, he moved to Hewlett-Packard as its South Island territory manager after graduating from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Business Management and a bachelor’s in marketing. Eventually, Slade resigned his role at Hewlett-Packard to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams full-time.

In his spare time, he serves as vice president of the Mt Pleasant Squash Club, and he also enjoys snowboarding and discussing startups.

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