Affiliate Marketing 101: Turning Visitors into Paying Customers
This is part four of my multipart Affiliate Marketing 101 series. Part one explained the different types of affiliate websites you can choose to support your online affiliate business and how to set up those websites; part two elaborated on how to set up the foundation for displaying your site on search engine result pages (SERPs); and part three discussed how to handle traffic once it arrives at your site.
Part four of the Affiliate Marketing 101 series clarifies the main goals of your affiliate site, what it means to persevere in your marketing efforts and how to make improvements.
Hitting the gym and working up a sweat might seem an unlikely metaphor for affiliate marketing, but physical exercise and business share three keys to success: setting goals, perseverance and changing it up.
1. Setting goals
Now that you have a website focused on a specific industry, your job is to funnel traffic to merchants and earn commissions on sales. You'll begin by joining affiliate programs like Commission Junction that connect your site to successful merchants, or you can approach individual merchants directly. The goals of your affiliate site at this point typically revolve around the following:
- generating content and traffic;
- trial registrations and email subscriptions; and
- conversions, sales and revenue.
Generating content and traffic
The first step in physical fitness success is the repetitive motion of different exercises like pushups, situps, squats, etc. Similarly, the first step in converting visitors through affiliate marketing is consistently producing relevant content that brings visitors to your site. If you have a blog or review site, make sure to consistently publish new blog posts on timely topics. If you run a coupon site, you always need new and up-to-date coupons. The fresh, focused content also contributes to higher positions on SERPs.
As you begin generating traffic to your site, you'll need to start facilitating and measuring the conversions occurring through your landing pages. Find out whether your visitors are new or returning and what pages they're looking at. Use these data points to funnel traffic to different landing pages. These can be either an email sign-up page, some sort of free trial of your merchant's product or even directly to the merchant's cart.
Trial registrations and email subscriptions
Free trials and email subscriptions are an important intermediary between a visitor session and a paying customer. Think of these as micro-conversions. They allow you to keep the lines of communication open with your audience, and are another step closer toward you earning your commission. To continue our exercise analogy, getting visitors to sign up for your offers is a great sub goal like losing weight or building muscles. They're important motivators that keep you focused on your ultimate goal of overall health.
Conversions, sales and revenue
Converting visitors and returning fans into paying customers of the merchants with whom you're affiliated is your ultimate goal. If you're not driving sales through your site, you've got a hobby, not a business. The relationship of an affiliate to a merchant is the same as a publisher to an advertiser: your affiliate site is the publication. Make sure you're doing everything you can to funnel visitors, one way or another, into your advertisers' shopping carts. If the merchant offers subscription products, you may want to discuss commissions for renewals as well.
Another commonality shared between exercise and affiliate marketing is that perseverance is required for success. Just as serious fitness buffs know that simply walking into a gym doesn't produce a fit body, affiliate marketers know they cannot expect instant results just by launching a site. A lot of heavy lifting lies ahead if you want to achieve your goals.
Set realistic timelines for improving how your site displays in SERPs, gaining traffic, growing your email list and converting visits into revenue. An affiliate site isn't something you set up and walk away from. It may not be your full-time job (yet), but keeping it viable demands careful and consistent attention. Among the many challenges faced by all affiliate marketers are generating new content and low conversion rates.
To combat these challenges, make sure to communicate with vendors so that you're not competing on keyword bids and are up to date with new product releases. You may also want to track your visitors and commissions by country and region. Doing so can help you discover new market opportunities and focus content on a different segment of your audience.
3. Changing it up
Finally, there's a well-established principle in fitness training that dictates changing your workout routines every three weeks to four weeks. This is necessary because your body adapts to your workouts and performance plateaus. If you don't change things up, your efforts produce less and less results.
In the same manner, your affiliate marketing strategy and tactics must be refreshed regularly to maintain your regular visitors' interest and gain new traffic. The plateaus in affiliate marketing happen with stale content, lower displays on SERPs and unengaged traffic that doesn't convert. Always be on the lookout for new content ideas, new promotions and campaigns, and general opportunities to further communication between your advertisers and your audience.
Speaking of changing it up, now is the time to approach your vendors for additional support and material. Inquire about campaigns they're running and ask if they can provide timely banner ads or high-converting text copy.
Just like your pursuit of physical health, a successful affiliate marketing website requires you to set goals, persevere and overcome plateaus.
John Hernandez is an affiliate marketing manager at cleverbridge, a global, full-service e-commerce provider for international software and cloud corporations.