Affiliate Marketing – Rules and Regulations For the Newbie
So you want to get into affiliate marketing but are worried you might not follow the rules and regulations and fail. You may even already have your own website or blog set up, but nothing is happening. You may have even purchased one or more of the popular courses or systems, still you have no traffic, and you perhaps wonder if you’ve broken some unpublished rule or regulation.
Fear not, we will provide information you need to understand the processes of affiliate marketing.
To steal a line from an old spaghetti western: “Rules? We don’t got no stinking rules!” Well, at least there aren’t any published rules that say you should do this and not that.
I know that is not the answer you wanted, but let me explain. About the only real “regulation” beyond normal, ethical business practices involved with Affiliate Marketing is the “CAN-SPAM Act”, which applies to all commercial messages. The Federal Trade Commission has a nice write up on it, which is easily found if you Google the title. I would encourage you to go and read it yourself, but summarizing, the requirements are as follows: Don’t use false of misleading header information or deceptive subject lines. Identify the message as an ad, tell your recipients where you are located, give them an opportunity to opt-out and honor the opt-out requests promptly.
Though not in the document itself, another thing you should be careful about is to use a double-opt-in mailing list. If you don’t already know what that is, when a person initially joins your list, you send a message that requires them to verify they want to opt-in before you put them in your list. This prevents someone from loading your list with all of their enemies and getting you in trouble for sending them what they consider spam email. Personally, I wouldn’t even think about using a mailing list that isn’t double-opt-in.
Though there aren’t any REAL rules to follow, some product owners will have you believe their method is the only way to make money online. They will also give you a lot of their rules to follow, sometimes presenting them as if you just cannot make money unless you follow their procedure. You will find this most often with product owners that are selling other bits along the way that you “have” to use.
Affiliate marketing isn’t all that structured, and there are TONS of ways to make money in affiliate marketing, with no real set rules, but there ARE some common threads that can help you stay out of trouble and get your existing sites producing better.
Following is what I call “The Rules”, and by no means are these the ONLY way to do things, but they have worked for me and can work for you as well.
The First Rule: There is no free lunch
There is no free lunch in the regular business world, and there is no totally free, quick and painless way to make money on the internet either. You will have to dedicate a fair bit of your time and perhaps your money (depending on your choices) to be truly successful. If you want overnight riches, buy a lottery ticket. As you proceed with affiliate marketing, you will find that everything has a price, one way or another. There are some things you will need to spend money on, and some where you can substitute your own effort instead of cash.
The Second Rule: Don’t believe everything you read
To repeat: Don’t believe everything you read (or hear, or even see for that matter, especially when it comes to ad copy.) Temper anything you read with some intelligence and common sense. If it truly were as painless and easy to do as they say, why would they sell it to you, and not just sit back and make all that money? I wouldn’t even necessarily believe everything you read here without validation, and I wrote it. The key here is to not get carried up in the hype, read carefully and digest what you have read, then determine what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t let someone else have you doing things you don’t think are right. And, always adhere to your own code of ethics. If it seems wrong, don’t do it.
The Third Rule: You need a Product to sell
If you don’t have your own product, this is easily accomplished by visiting a site like ClickBank or Commission Junction. They act as a trusted third party in the affiliate marketing world, keeping everything ticking along and all parties paid on time. Once you sign up (its free) you can choose a single product, or like most affiliate marketers, you can choose several within a given niche and market more than a single product. As you gain more experience you may even wish to sell several different, unrelated niches. You’ll find that most really successful online marketers do. Best to stick to one when you start out so you don’t get distracted.
The Fourth Rule: You need a Web Site so sell it on
I know you can drive traffic directly to the product owner’s site and get paid for any sales through your affiliate link, and while this CAN work, you really won’t make any real money this way. You lose the ability to see whats going on, and you lose the opportunity to build a decent list. Before you interrupt, yes, I do know you can build a list without your own web site, but without one, you lose a bunch of opportunities, one of which is getting organic traffic as the result of a blog or the pages on your site due to a decent ranking on the search engines. Many web site hosting companies have reasonable charges and decent features. WordPress is a good blogging engine that makes running a site easy with no programming necessary, and if your web host has Cpanel, you will be able to install it with a click of a button in a matter of a minute or two. My site cost me $100 per year, plus the domain name which was about $10. If you get a similar provider, so far it costs you under $10 per month to get into online marketing.
The Fifth Rule: You need a LIST
Ah, yes, the dreaded list… A list is a mailing list. When you drive traffic to your site, you usually direct them to a squeeze page. Its called that because you are trying to squeeze information out of them. Also called an opt-in page because thats what the goal really is, to get them to opt-in to your mailing list. You can then send them email messages at programmed intervals that offer advise, tips and tricks, and of course, an opportunity to purchase something now and then. A well targeted list is valued at about a dollar per month per subscriber, because that’s about what one produces over time.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, make sure you use a double-opt-in list. You and your subscribers will be happier in the long run, and you won’t be accused of sending out spam.
Your list will be on an AutoResponder, which likely be hosted by someone like Aweber so you don’t need to be a programmer or web guru to get one on your own site. There are also other providers, the process vary by provider, and the costs range from nearly free or $10 to start and about $20 or $30 a month once you have a large list. At this point, you’re up to about $20 per month…
The Sixth Rule: You’re going to need to drive traffic to your site
I know there are a lot of systems, plans and products out there that don’t mention this, but it is perhaps the most important of all. Just like having an automobile and no gas won’t get you anywhere, having a product and a web site to grow your list won’t make you any money. Traffic is the fuel of internet marketing, and without it you just have spent money for nothing getting the site up and running.
There are a lot of ways to drive traffic to your site. In the old days, you got your site together, put some content on it and waited for the search engines to index you. You could help your ranking (and still can) through various methods called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Now, there are tons of other ways, but the most popular all fall into two categories, Free and Paid. With Free traffic, you do actively do something like Article Marketing or Blogging to drive traffic to your site. With Paid traffic, you pay someone else for every time someone sees your ad (Pay Per Impression, View or display) or clicks on it (Pay Per Click). Also in this category are Solo Ads, which is where you pay a newsletter owner to send out your ad as a standalone mailing.
Here’s where the costs mount up. If you generate traffic through Article Marketing, blogging, SEO and similar methods, you can invest your own time and your monthly tab isn’t going to increase. On the other hand, if you invest in paid advertising, you can spend some significant money getting the traffic you need. It’s your choice, but my method is to get the free methods moving first, to get things established and working before I buy and clicks, views or solo ads. This approach takes longer to produce, but when it does, it is more consistent than the paid methods, and I can get there with less cash outlay, which is important to a lot of people entering the arena of affiliate marketing.
The Seventh Rule: It’s never as quick or easy as they say it will be
This is essentially the same as the first rule, but is worth bringing up again. If they told you it was going to take effort or might be hard, would you buy the product? Not nearly as likely as if they told you it was quick and easy. In truth, some systems are a lot easier to understand and implement than others, often because the producer isn’t writing at the level you can understand. It’s amazing how quickly one can forget what they didn’t know starting out… and get caught up in all of the abbreviations and acronyms.
You aren’t going to get overnight results when you are starting out because you don’t have the infrastructure in place yet. Even once you have a decent sized list, a given campaign may take a few days to gel and start producing effective income. Don’t despair, it isn’t a bleak situation, it just requires perseverance to succeed in online marketing.
As you can see, there’s a fair bit to learn about if you are interested in making money online with affiliate marketing. No matter which course you take, don’t expect overnight success, but be assured that if you do approach online marketing with the desire to succeed, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, and diligently work toward your goal, you can be successful!