Affiliate marketing can be a difficult thing to learn because those who are successful are reluctant to disclose exactly how they make money online.
This is perhaps why income reports are so popular. You can learn a lot from these reports, but most bloggers and internet marketers are still a little protective about exactly how they are making money. This is understandable as there is a high risk of others using the information you share against you. This is an issue I discussed last year in an article entitled “The Affiliate Blogging Conundrum“.
I am going to be focusing a lot of my time and energy on increasing my affiliate income, however I want to ensure I continue to deliver good content, therefore I am going to do more case study style articles in which I show you the research I am doing and how I am increasing affiliate commission.
What I am going to do in this article is show you how I am selecting suitable affiliate partners from the affiliate network ShareASale. I hope you find it useful.
Many of the problems that I have raised about affiliate marketing in the past, such as non payment and affiliate programs being closed down, are predominantly associated with in-house affiliate programs.
Affiliate networks that run affiliate programs for thousands of companies are generally a safer approach because issues such as reliable stats and prompt payments are not only a concern for affiliates, they are a concern for merchants too (Merchants = The companies selling products and services). Sure, you do still hear of scare stories about networks not paying affiliates correctly, but in general there is less risk of getting screwed over.
Minimum payments are never an issue with affiliate networks either.
Say you are promoting ten products from ten different companies with in-house affiliate programs that have a $50 minimum payment threshold. You could be in a position where you collectively generate hundreds of dollars across those websites, however you will never be paid unless you generate more than $50 for each website.
This means that you are at less risk of being paid when promoting companies that use affiliate networks. As a result of this, products and services that were not suitable for promotion previously because of high payment thresholds now become a worthwhile venture.
ShareASale is a company that I have used for many used years. I hosted an affiliate program with them for Rise Forums at one point so I have a good understanding of how they handle things from the merchant side too.
My performance with ShareASale has been pretty woeful over the last two years. I only have $32 sitting in my balance and most of the traffic I have sent them has not converted well. In fact, the last time I even generated a commission was April 2016 and the one prior to that was July 2015. You need to go back to October 2014 for my last payment from ShareASale.
Despite my recent sub-par performance, I trust the company. They have a solid reputation in the affiliate world and I feel confident in focusing more of my time and energy to their programs.
Their service is far from perfect though.
Their reporting tools, for example, leave a lot to be desired. It is not possible to check traffic for more than a month; which makes checking performance much more difficult than it needs to be.
I can only check from 1st of January to 1st of February or 15th of January to 15th of February. I cannot check from 1st of January to 28th February or 1st of March to 31st July. Therefore, for me to check the performance of a particular company over a period of a year, I would need to generate twelve different reports.
You may still be wondering why I focusing time and energy on a company that does not make me money, however the sheer volume of merchants available on ShareASale and their good reputation makes them a good fix. Additionally, as an affiliate, I do need to shoulder some of the blame for my traffic not converting well.
ShareASale has over 4,500 companies listed on their books so there is a lot of different products or services to choose from.
I put all of the products and services listed on ShareASale into two categories:
- Products and services that would be relevant to my readers (i.e. KevinMuldoon.com readers)
- Unrelated products and services
There is a huge selection of webmaster tools, internet services, and WordPress products and services, that I know my readers will love.
In theory, it's win win. I will recommend good services to my readers, add more content to my blog, and generate money in the process.
I have earmarked a few suitable products to review in future blog posts already. This includes the email marketing service Ninja Emails, the WordPress plugin Tasty Recipes, and the WordPress theme company Church Themes.
There are dozens of other suitable programs in the ShareASale merchant directory that will be a good fit for this blog and my readers.
Unrelated products and services will have to be promoted on another website.
I have a couple of martial arts related websites that I still run so I may be able to find a few suitable products and services that fit in with that. However, for most products and services I will need to create a new website that is designed specifically to market that product.
I have had mixed results with mini websites in the past. Some have did really well, others never really hit the mark. That is in part to how much time I spent researching the competition beforehand and how much time I spent promoting the website afterwards (or rather, how little time).
If I can choose the right product to built a website around and then spend a lot of time promoting that website, I am sure I could start getting it ranked and generate good money from it.
It is important to remember that once a website starts making money, it also becomes valuable. Therefore, if I did not a website as a long term project, I could always sell it on a marketplace such as Flippa.
Looking Beyond My Blog
So my plan is to find some good products and services that are suitable for review on my blog.
After that, I want to explore some other products and build a website around it.
The question is: Which product?
That is the million dollar question.
There are a few ways to tackle this question.
For me, the first step is to look at products that are converting well. ShareASale helps you do this through their top 100 power list. This list shows you the products and services that are making affiliates the most money.
One way to look at this list is that the popularity of these products makes profiting from them difficult as there is more competition. However, what the power list shows is that people are buying those products and services. Knowing that a product converts well removes a lot of risk.
What I like to do is view a merchant, check what the commission rate and the average commissions it generates, and then work backwards and think about what website would need to be built for it to complete well.
The top merchant in the top 100 right now is a company that sells furniture and other products for your home through many different websites. The average sale for each customer is $280 and with a 5% commission being paid, this results in a customer generating around $11 over a week and $18 over a month.
Why does a store like this convert well? Well one reason is that most people who are looking at furniture and home products online are looking to buy. Therefore if you can send targeted visitors to the merchant, you are going to make money.
That does not mean that this is necessarily the right product for me. I am not someone that knows a lot about styling homes, so I would have to spend time looking at what websites push traffic to stores like this and how those websites are generating traffic i.e. blogs, comparison websites, showcases etc.
Bottom line, you cannot only look at which merchants are making money. You need to look at the competition, look at how you would generate traffic to those stores, and whether you have the knowledge and experience of doing something similar.
The more merchants you review on ShareASale, the more likely you will find one that is a right fit for you. Therefore do not restrict your search to the top 100 performing merchants. There are thousands of merchants on ShareASale and you might find a better match with those that are not at the top of the table.
I hope you have enjoyed this quick look at selecting suitable affiliate partners on ShareASale.
Those of you who have been involved in affiliate marketing for a long time probably did not get much from this article, however my hope is that aspiring bloggers and affiliate marketers now have a better understanding of the thought process that goes into finding affiliate partners and increasing affiliate income.
I will continue to document my progress with this on this blog to help you see where I am succeeding and where I am failing.
Thanks for reading.