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How to use affiliate marketing as a source of additional income

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 29 Oct, 2012
Essential Essential topic

Starting out as an affiliate – find your niche and reap the rewards

Have you ever thought about becoming an affiliate, either personally or as an alternative revenue source for your business? With the current global economic climate and technological advances leading to increases in entrepreneurial spirit, more and more people are looking to affiliate marketing as a source of online income. Done right, affiliate marketing can bring in some genuinely easy money, but doing it right means doing it smart.

With a lot of the competition sewn up by a minority of big players, it can be hard for the "small-time newcomer" to get started. However, the kind of growth seen in many affiliate niches in recent years will always bring with it opportunities.

Potential opportunities

Online gambling, gaming and weight-loss all lend themselves well to affiliate marketing; the high commission, CPA and the frequent lack of any physical ‘product’ combined with ever-increasing volumes of traffic mean, at its best, this type of industry can be an affiliate marketer’s dream.

Live roulette

However, as you’d expect with anything that has such a potentially high yield, competition can be fierce, particularly for the kind of high-volume terms that drive the vast majority of traffic. But, provided a quality offering and the right targeting, the audience and opportunities are there to be exploited by the budding affiliate marketer.

Identify a niche

A great way to start is to find your niche; online gambling comes ready to be split off, with each game attracting different audiences, you’ll find this is true of many affiliate marketing niches (gaming, dating, weight loss).

Finding the right niche can reduce competition and drastically improve click-through-rates and thus, commission. So start by identifying the least competitive niche with the highest value traffic.

Although targeting a smaller section of the overall audience may seem counterintuitive, the lower competition and niche-specific content means that conversion rates are far higher.

As an example, “live” online casino games have much lower search volume than their regular online counterparts but convert at a higher rate, due in part to the more specific requirements, which you will hopefully be fulfilling. The same is true of terms like “weight loss pills” as opposed to “weight loss” or “online strategy games” versus “online games”. In short, visitors are further down “the funnel”.

To continue with one of the above examples, monthly searches for “live roulette” are in the region of 2,000 whereas traffic for the term “roulette” is estimated at over 18,000. On the surface, the more valuable term to target would appear to be “roulette” but the extra competition and lower specificity of this term mean conversions will be lower (not just conversion rates but actual conversions).

Get to know your audience

As well as finding a niche that targets a specific audience, you should think about who that audience is, what motivates them and how they behave; and all of these things are affected by your choice of niche. In addition to the advantage of the extra specificity of your target audience, the value of each visitor within the different niches should also be considered.

Research needs to go beyond traffic volume and likelihood of “converting”, to include average spend per visitor as determined by the characteristics of that niche.

For instance, although live roulette has a far lower search-volume than roulette, it has over 3 times the player value due to the nature of live roulette as a game. It is considered trustworthy by more players, controlled as it is by a human dealer, unlike the computer-generated version, which leads to greater average spending. Over the course of a year, the average online roulette player is worth approximately $300 whereas the average live roulette player has a value in excess of $1,000.

As far as platforms go, audience behaviour and expectations can differ radically from one to the next. Although there is some variation across different types of niche, there is no doubt that mobile devices are increasingly playing a significant role.

Do the research, find out traffic estimates from mobile devices for multiple variants and respond accordingly. You don’t have to build a mobile version of your site to make things that little bit more amenable to the mobile user but it could improve conversions if you keep it in mind in the design of your site.

Get to know your product

Engaging with the products or service you are promoting in some way, by writing about it, for example, is a good way to stimulate interest without overtly directing your visitors to affiliate sites. In order to do this effectively, it helps if you choose a niche that you are interested in or knowledgeable about.

Take some time to consider the kinds of products and services that you know a lot about, faking an interest is not only time-consuming, it’s also fairly easy to spot and visitors to your site will be less inclined to invest if your enthusiastic endorsements ring hollow.

The overriding message here, whether you are in online gambling, gaming, weight-loss or dating, is to remain open to the opportunities. You shouldn’t be narrow-minded; remember that search volume and traffic don’t always equal cash, so choose your market carefully. Broadening your horizons will enable you to narrow your focus.

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