17 Affiliate Marketing Tips that Still Work in 2016 (#5 is rarely shared openly)

After the success of our "How to make money with Clickbank" post, I've decided to unwrap more of our affiliate strategies to you guys. I hope you enjoy it :).

The idea of affiliate marketing is awesome: sign up for an affiliate program, sell someone else's product and get paid a referrer's fee for making that sale.

As a lean startup fan, I really like the idea of not having to worry about your product and focus on building the traffic and demand before you have to worry about taking care of customers while still making money. It makes affiliate marketing programs a very easy way to start an online business.

The problem is: instead of attracting people trying starting a real affiliate marketing business, affiliate marketing quickly became the target of "get rich quick doing nothing" schemes giving it a bad name because of the TERRIBLE advice circulating about it along with the scammy offers that started ​popping left and right (not to mention all the spam the search engines had to deal with).

More...

But the thing is, if you do it ethically and have you audience in mind, it's still one of the best ways to monetise a new site (in case you're starting one).

I don't believe it should be your main earner anymore and you should probably always aim at having your own products eventually.

While Mark and I are not affiliate millionaires, we can more than pay the bills just with affiliate income and that earning has come with a lot of learnings and a​ lot of mistakes.

We've tried virtually all the major affiliate networks, and we've experimented with almost every way of generating traffic: from SEO to social media to pay-per-click advertising.​

In this post I'm going to share with you 17 things we always do when we try to generate affiliate income (and case studied demonstrating them). Enjoy!​

What you will learn in this post​:

  • How to setup your business to maximize earnings
  • How to capture more emails and make the most from your subscriber list
  • How to track links and use retargeting.
  • How to craft your content and use copy that increases conversions
  • How to use bonuses and deals to get more sales

Section I: Business Setup

In this section, we'll cover how to setup your business to maximize affiliate earnings. These are the fundamentals and getting those wrong can make things incredibly difficult for you. Some of these may look quite basic for the most advanced readers but Take careful note as they can make or break your business. 

One thing to note as well is that a lot of those are clearly related to running authority sites as opposed to running PPC based affiliate campaigns.​

1. Own Your Audience

Remember those days of when every marketer was building dozens of pages on HubPages and Squidoo?

Marketers called it “bum marketing”. As Google Trends shows, it’s been a dead goose for years.

Around the same time, the internet was filled with millions of thin-content sites shilling everything from fat loss pills to Amazon products. For a while, they flourished. Then the Panda update happened and these sites dropped from the SERPs by the thousands.

It’s simple: you can’t depend on other platforms for your traffic. Google can change its algorithm at a whim, Facebook can alter its reach in a day, and hip new social networks can shut shop anytime.

This is why you have to own your audience in 2015.

Owned Audience vs. Bridge Pages

In affiliate marketing, you can either own an audience, or you can rent its attention momentarily via bridge pages.

Let’s try to understand what this means in more detail below.

​What are Bridge Pages?

According to Google: “Bridge pages are doorway pages, whose main purpose is to lead users to 3rd party sites”.

These pages are created only to capture search engine traffic and divert it to an affiliate offer.

A bridge page can be an article on HubPages, a blog post on Blogger.com, or even a standalone affiliate website with thin content and no real social media footprint or community activity.

Visitors don’t really interact with bridge pages. They drop by, browse for a few seconds, click a link and leave. Essentially, you are merely renting the audience momentarily.

As you can imagine, bridge pages don’t make for a great user experience.

There are four reasons why such pages are bad for long term affiliate marketing:

  • No value. Bridge pages offer no real value to surfers. This is bad for customers, and bad for your business – you’re just one step from a Google hammer.

  • Unstable. Bridge pages hosted on third-party platforms might suffer a ranking drop any day due to an algorithm update.
  • No customer recall (no brand). A surfer will forget about your site as soon as he leaves it. You can forget about getting type-in traffic on bridge pages.
  • Need to generate fresh traffic every day. If SEO/social media presence dies out, there is no way for them to tap into existing traffic.

For an example, take a look at this thin affiliate site for a keylogging software. Would you trust a site with content like this?

Of course not. This is why you need to own your audience to make money with affiliate marketing.

What is Owned Audience?

In marketing speak, an audience that you have direct access to and that is generated through your own properties is called an owned audience.

"An audience you have direct access to is called an 'owned audience'

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You don’t have to rely on another platform to reach out to this audience. If Google changes its policies or Facebook updates its organic reach algorithm, you can still tap into it through emails, tweets, or blog posts.

An owned audience is especially powerful because you have a relationship with it. These aren’t just surfers stopping by your site; these are people who believe you, trust you, and will support your endeavors.

Think of someone like Pat Flynn or John Lee Dumas of EntrepreneurOnFire. If you are on their email subscriber list, follow them on Twitter, or read their posts religiously, you have a direct relationship with them. If Google were to penalize SmartPassiveIncome tomorrow, Pat Flynn could still reach out to his email list without crashing his business.

This is the difference between owned audience and one generated through bridge pages.

In short, here are two characteristics that define an owned audience:

1

TRUST

Your readers have a relationship with you. They see you as an authority figure in your field. This translates into higher trust.

2

ACCESS

You have direct access to your readers. You can communicate to them through multiple channels - email, videos, tweets, etc.

As an example, consider Pat Flynn’s blog, SmartPassiveIncome.com or Steve’s fitness blog, NerdFitness.com. Both sites compete in two lucrative niches – make money online and fitness.

However, unlike the majority of bridge pages and thin affiliate sites out there, both Pat and Steve have a relationship with their readers. Readers don’t just drop by once, click a link and go away. Instead, they stay on, follow them on Facebook, recommend their posts to friends and share their content on social media.

That’s the difference between owned audience and bridge pages promos

Why You Must Own Your Audience in 2015

  • More stability. Since you don't rely on a single channel for your traffic, you can survive any sudden changes in Google, Facebook, Twitter policies..
  • Make more sales. Unlike a bridge page, you can reach out to your audience any time you have a new post, product launch or promo.
  • Good for future product owners. Instead of building your audience from scratch, an owned audience gives you a ready-made platform to transition to a product owner.

How to Own Your Audience

Any attempt to own your audience must focus on a three-pronged approach:

A. Build an email list. Email marketing delivers the highest ROI among all digital marketing channels. Read these posts on using content upgrades and opt in pop-ups to learn how.

B. Grow your social profiles. Follow the advice on this post to get practical advice on building a social platform.

C. Grow your retargeting lists. As we mentioned in our guide to making money from Clickbank, retargeting is one of the most powerful ways to maximize affiliate earnings. By growing your retargeting lists, you will get ready access to a proven, hungry audience.

2. Always Have a Backup Offer

There are many things that can kill a successful marketing campaign:

  • Your best performing affiliate offer gets pulled from the market
  • The product owner changes payment terms, making your campaign unsustainable.
  • Conversion rate drops as the market gets saturated with the offer.
  • Your ad CTR goes down as people get tired of seeing the ad

And so on.

Any of these can happen anytime and the consequences can be catastrophic for your bottomline.

What’s the best way to prevent against such disaster?

Simple: always have a backup offer.

A ‘backup offer’ is exactly what it describes: a secondary offer to your primary one.

For example, if you’re marketing WordPress themes, your primary offer might be an annual membership plan for Thrive Themes. As a backup, you might offer visitors a membership to Woo Themes or even individual themes from ThemeForest.

Of course you should always have the best interest of your reader in mind, not just the commissions but if you can offer several great options, then go for it.

Having a backup offer has three key benefits:

1

INSURANCE

In case your primary offer fails or changes its terms, you have a ready alternative as insurance.

2

MORE SALES

You can offer alternatives and reach a larger audience. If someone has already bought offer A, you can interest them in offer B.

3

BETTER CONVERSION RATES

You can test multiple offers against each other to see what converts best.

The hard part, of course, is finding backup offers.

How to Find Backup Offers

You can make your backup offer search easier by following these three steps:

1. Use Odigger or OfferVault to search for relevant offers.

Lookup your target keyword in either of these affiliate offer directories to get a list of affiliate products sorted by payout, type and network.

2. Use Google to find related offers.

Type in “related:[sitename.com]” into the search box, where [sitename.com] is your affiliate product’s website.

For example, using this query on WooThemes shows StudioPress, Themeify, Templatic, etc.

Do a search for “[product type] affiliate” where [product type] stands for your affiliate product’s category.

For example, using this query for WordPress themes shows up StudioPress, Themeforest and ElegantThemes within the first few results:

3. Ask your affiliate manager for recommendations.

If you’re using networks like MaxBounty, you would have a dedicated affiliate manager. Ask them directly about offers similar to your current one. More often than not, they’d be glad to help.


Section II: Tech Setup

In this section, we'll look at how you can setup your website's tech to maximize your affiliate earnings.

If there’s one big affiliate marketing mistake you can make in 2015, it’s not tracking your links.

Marketing coaches have been harping on this for years, but most marketers still manage to skip this crucial step.

It's simple: If you don’t track your links, you can’t know where your sale came from.

If you don't track your links, you can't know how and where your sales came from

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If you don’t know where your sale came from, you have no idea what’s working, what isn’t.

Tracking links helps you to:

  • Know what keywords convert best
  • Track what pages bring in the most revenue (so you can create more like them)
  • Analyze which marketing channels deliver the best ROI.
  • Detect whether any fraud affiliate companies are using your traffic without crediting you sales

Simply put: affiliate marketing without link tracking is like shooting darts from 200 feet while blindfolded and spinning in circles.

How to Track Your Links

Tracking links used to be a big pain in the butt. You usually had to manage spreadsheets with individual links, then track their progress manually.

Fortunately, that has changed now with some nifty automated solutions.

Follow these steps to track your affiliate links:

1. Install Thirsty Affiliates: This is a FREE plugin for tracking and cloaking affiliate links in WordPress. Install it from your WordPress dashboard, or grab a copy from here.

2. Install the Thirsty Affiliates Stats add-on: This is a paid add-on for Thirsty Affiliates. It adds crucial link tracking and click statistics to the plugin. You get real-time data, deep traffic analytics for individual links, and bot filtering. If you’re serious about tracking links, you would want to buy this add-on.

3. Add tracking IDs to your links in Thirsty Affiliates: Once you’ve installed the stats add-on, add a unique tracking ID to affiliate links. Try to keep these IDs short and easily identifiable, for example, “woot” for a WooThemes link, “spress” for a StudioPress link.

4. Create as many links as you want, then use them in your content: Once you’ve created your affiliate links with tracking IDs, you can start using them in your content right away. For stats and traffic analysis, check your Thirsty Affiliates dashboard in WordPress.

Tagging your affiliate links allow you to see which pages generate sales (or even allows you to a/b test them)

4. Use Retargeting

In sales and marketing, there is a well-known rule called the ‘Rule of 7’.

As per this rule, you need at least seven touches with a prospect before you can turn him into a customer.

You need 7 touches before you can convert a prospect into a customer

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The specifics will vary, but this general rule holds for most products and industries. This is why you see so many sales leaders hammer in the importance of following up – you need to register on your prospect’s mind several times before they’re ready to buy.

You’re probably thinking: how does this Rule of 7 relate to affiliate marketing?

Here’s how: only a tiny fraction of the readers who land on your site are actually ready to buy. The rest – up to 98% of the traffic – filters out without purchasing anything.

To sell to this traffic, you need to register on their radar several times (up to seven times, as per the Rule of 7).

This is where retargeting comes into play.

Retargeting is the process of showing your ads to people who’ve already visited your site but haven’t completed a transaction. Since this includes up to 98 out of 100 visitors, it is a massive opportunity to increase sales by targeting people you’ve already engaged with before.

We’re big fans of retargeting at Authority Hacker. We talked about how it figures into our affiliate marketing plans in our post on Clickbank marketing in 2015.

Results From Retargeting:

1
2

Hobbycraft improved conversion rate by 46%

3

Clogau Jewellery saw a 12x return on investment

Retargeting offers a number of benefits:

  • Better conversion rates. Retargeting reaches audiences who’ve already interacted with your site at least once. Because they are already slightly familiar with your brand, they are more likely to trust you, hence, buy from you.
  • Higher ROI. Usually, once a visitor has left your site, you have to go through the same acquisition process to attract him again (another guest post, podcast appearance, etc.). Retargeting cuts down the time and cost spent in this process by reaching lost visitors directly, so you get much better ROI.
  • Increased sales. Retargeting allows you to reach your target audience at scale. With better conversion rates and lower costs, this translates into increased sales and revenues for you.

Here is an example of an ad we use here at Authority Hacker to get people who did not download the content upgrade download it:

And here are the cost per lead (they did go up a bit since them but stay around $1.1)

More on that case study in a future blog post!

How to Use Retargeting

Retargeting is the most exciting thing in online marketing since the invention of SEO and if you haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, it's still time to be an early adopter.

If you have some Facebook fan data, an Adroll account and a few hundred dollars to spare, you can get started right away.

This video on setting up Facebook retargeting on page level is a great place to learn how:


Section III: Sequence

In this section, we'll take a look at how you can grow your email subscribers, segment your audience, and get more sales by offering the right product to your readers at the right time.

5. Use Lead Magnets to Segment Your Audience

Your audience is complex. Different visitors to your site are interested in different things. One might be a new blogger hoping to learn how to write his first blog post. Another might be a seasoned marketer looking for new email marketing strategies.

How do you understand this audience and give it what it wants?

Answer: By segmenting the audience with lead magnets.

Lead magnets work wonderfully well for capturing emails. But they’re also very useful for dividing your audience into different interest groups.

To understand this, let’s consider an example from Authority Hacker itself.

Take a look at these two posts:

The first post is about making money with blogs, and offers a lead magnet about monetizing blog traffic.

The second post is about growing social media following and offers a lead magnet about Twitter marketing.

Going by the topic of each lead magnet, you can categorize subscribers from each lead magnet as follows:

Blog Monetization Tools

  • Interested in blogging and affiliate marketing
  • Beginner to intermediate level
  • Want to maximize earnings from blogs.

Twitter Marketing Methods

  • Interested in social media marketing
  • Intermediate level
  • Want to automate social media marketing so they can focus on business

Suddenly, instead of going in blind, you have actual insight into what your audience wants. If you were to send targeted offers to each of the two cohorts, you will likely see a much better response rate.

Segmenting your audience has several benefits:

1. You can test new ideas on separate audience segments and get better feedback. For example, an internet marketing blogger might want to switch his blog’s focus from social media to SEO. Instead of doing a complete pivot, he can first test his audience’s response by sending out an offer to a specific segment.

2. You ensure that your offers always stay relevant to your audience. Instead of emailing everyone on your list, you can send specific offers to relevant audience cohorts.

3. You can test whether there is a paying audience for your products. If people are not willing to download free info through a content upgrade, there is little chance they will shell out cash for a similar paid product.

Don’t just take our word for it though – take a look at the results from some top experts:

We’ve been doing this at Authority Hacker and we haven’t done too shabbily either :)

The best part is that when you don’t even have to create in-depth lead magnets as long as you keep them highly relevant. A blog post about email marketing, for example, can drive a lot of sign-ups from a content upgrade comparing top 5 email marketing tools.

How to Use Lead Magnets to Segment Audience

At AH, we have a simple strategy for using lead magnets:

We’ve covered it previously in our guide to Clickbank marketing. For the sake of keeping things simple, follow these three steps:

1. Identify the best performing pages on your site. Simply enter your URL into Buzzsumo to get a list of your most shared pages:

2. Brainstorm and create content upgrade for your three best performing pages. Some ideas that work well are cheatsheets, checklists, and bonus strategies.

3. Use a plugin such as Thrive Leads to insert and deliver these content upgrades in your chosen posts.

6. Link to Relevant Offers on Thank You Pages

This one is so simple, yet so many skip it: put an affiliate offer on your ‘Thank You’ page.

Think about it the steps a prospect must take to get to the ‘Thank You’ page:

  1. Enter email into opt-in box.
  2. Click on the confirm email address link in the inbox
  3. Download the lead magnet and reach the thank you page

That’s three actions just to get to this page. Your leads are very warm at this point. Since they’ve already given you their emails, they already have a good impression of you.

This makes it the perfect time to push an offer their way.

It’s crucial that you don’t just drop a cold offer in their lap, but “bridge” it with the lead magnet they just downloaded. Make it sound like they can derive 200% more value from the lead magnet if they also buy your offer.

For an example, consider one of our ‘Thank You’ pages from HealthAmbition:

We also used this approach on AuthorityHacker.

You don’t have to limit yourself to affiliate offers alone. You can also push other content on this page. Tourism British Columbia did exactly this and saw a 22% increase in engagement.

KISSMetrics, meanwhile, shows links to its infographics to spur engagement.

SpanishPod101.com does a wonderful job with cross-sells and upsells. After you sign-up for a beginner account, it asks you to sign up for its ‘Word of the Day’ email:

Then when you actually click the activation link in your welcome email, SpanishPod upsells you the paid course (for just $1 to start):

Even Clickbank recommends that you place an exit link on Thank You pages to a closely related product.

WARNING!

Don’t be too aggressive with this strategy. Don’t push too many products and never sell a non-relevant product. Readers shouldn’t have to go through hoops just to exit your page.

7. Follow-up More than Once About Targeted Products

Did you know that only 2% of sales happen on the first try?

This means that 98% of prospects don’t buy without multiple tries.

In fact, 80% of sales require at least 5 follow-up calls after a meeting.

And this is for seasoned salespeople selling highly rated products from well-known companies!

What chance does an affiliate marketer have to sell a product on the first try?

And yet, this is exactly what so many marketers do: send out an email about a product, then fret when their account balance still reads zero.

The solution: follow-up more than once about targeted products.

We’ve already written about the importance of the Rule of 7. Following-up ensures that you stay on top of your prospect’s mind. It also ensures that your emails get read. Dave Schneider of SelfMadeBusinessman, for example, was able to increase his open rates by 50% by simply sending his emails twice.

It’s important to get both halves of this tactic right:

  1. Follow-up more than once: There is a thin line between ‘following-up’ and ‘being annoying’. If you’re not being helpful, polite and useful, you’re likely being annoying.
  2. Pitch targeted products: If you push irrelevant, untargeted products to your readers, you will land right in the ‘annoying’ pool. It doesn’t matter how many times you follow-up, make sure that your products match your audience segments.

For an example of a follow-up sequence done right, take a look at the email series for ‘Earn 1K’ from Ramit Sethi of IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com:

That’s four emails in four days.

Probably too much, but Ramit knows his audience and he knows how to sell.

A. The first email is mostly an announcement and FAQ about the course.

B. The next email is a story about a reader’s business pitch. It’s 945 words long, has an irresistible headline, and it eventually leads to the Earn 1K course sign-up page. Since it’s just the second follow-up, it teases instead of being upfront.

C. The third email is more to the point – it tells you exactly what the email contains. But Ramit doesn’t just shoot an email asking you to join his course. No, he writes a 1,944 words about how the course will enrich your life. It’s selling, but it isn’t pushy or annoying.

D. The final email before the course closes is just a reminder – it’s just a hundred words long and ends on a simple note: the course is closing, so get in right now.

This is a great example of how to follow-up: be genuine, be helpful, and if you can, add a dash of humor.


Section IV: Copy and Content

In this section, we will look at how you can modify your copy and content to land more sales in 2015. Few affiliate marketers care about this, but it undoubtedly has a massive impact on your income.

8. Show Your Face and Personality

If you read our last post on the top 23 bloggers online, you would have noticed something: nearly every one of our bloggers put their face front and center on their blog.

Whether it's Pat posing with his son in the sidebar of SmartPassiveIncome.com:

…John Lee Dumas’s face all over EntrepreneurOnFire.com

…or Lindsay Ostrom inviting readers to PinchOfYum with her husband.

It’s very clear: successful bloggers don’t hide behind anonymity. Their blogs have a face and a personality to go with it.

This is true not just for blogging, but for affiliate marketing as a whole. Where once fake identities and generic web pages were common, real faces and personalities now dominate.

There are four good reasons to do this:

  1. People remember faces more than names. Putting your face on your site will make you more memorable.
  2. Stand out from the crowd. A real face and personality helps you stand out from no-name competitors in SERPs. Plus, it might help you with Google’s human raters who are trained to look out for ‘trustworthiness, expertise and authoritativeness’. Since Google encourages websites to have real addresses and contact details, real pictures go a long way in this increasing trust.
  3. Helps readers relate to you. A real personality helps readers identify with you. As Scott Albro of TOPO says, “Marketers should use pictures of people and headshots in particular to humanize their calls to action and conversions”.

  4. Real photos increase your credibility. Readers are more likely to trust a source if they know it comes from a real person, not just an internet handle.
  5. Pictures of people increase your conversion rates

Pat Flynn didn’t become the internet’s favorite blogger by hiding his identity, nor did Seth Godin reach his status without showing his face. In fact, Seth’s face is such a big part of his site that you actually have to click on it to read his blog!

It’s clear: to be successful in 2015, you have to start using your face and your personality.

After all, our 23 most successful bloggers already do this.

Shouldn’t you too?

9. Show Real World Use of the Product

Your readers today are jaded and skeptical.

They’ve seen far too many spammy marketers recommend products without ever actually using them.

Their trust quotient in product reviews and comparison has taken a beating.

This is why when you can show real world use of a product, you will instantly stand out from the competition.

There has been a lot of research on this subject. According to CMO, real-world, user generated images of products can boost conversion rates. Data gathered by RJMetrics says the same: user-generated images increase both conversion rates and engagement.

There are three reasons why real world product use works:

  1. Increases trust: Readers are more likely to trust an author if they know that the he/she actually bought and used the product, especially in light of fake reviews choking the SERPs.
  2. Shows context: If you’re talking about physical products, real images can show the product in actual use. This provides powerful context to readers which can improve conversion rates. More importantly, it shows whether what the product owner promises holds up in real life. Your readers will be thankful for it.
  3. Helps create better content: If you don’t actually own a product, you will have to either lie or find complex workarounds to talk about the product. This affects the quality of content you can create. Screenshots, videos, walkthroughs, webinars – all high converting content types are essentially closed off to you.

We’ve been following this strategy right from the very beginning at Authority Hacker. We never review a product unless we’ve used it ourselves.

For example the Thrive Content Builder review shows real life uses of the plugin and shows you we actually use it to build things for our business. This got us a lot more engagement than if we did a bland list of the plugin features (and google rewarded us awesomely for this engagement).

This helps us in creating in-depth content that delivers tremendous value to our readers. By showing the product in actual use, we can create much more compelling content such as videos and webinars.

Read more: How to write product reviews that sell without being cheesy

10. Bridge Features and Benefits

If you’ve ever taken a copywriting course, you already know this by heart: focus on benefits, not features.

Focus on benefits, not features

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Think about the last eBook you bought. Did you buy it because it had 100+ pages, a nice cover design, and a well-made sales page, or did you buy it because it solved a real problem?

The latter, surely.

Benefits – what a product does – is the reason why people buy things. Features are nice to have but are redundant unless they solve an actual problem.

Apple is the reigning master at this. Every product it sells focuses on the benefits from owning an Apple product. Apple seldom focuses on the features (RAM, processor, etc.) and when it does, it is only to highlight how these features help solve problems.

For example, take a look at the page for Apple’s new MacBook:

At the very top, Apple highlights the MacBook’s light weight and ‘years ahead’ design. It then backs up this benefit by mentioning the features that make this possible – 13.1mm thin profile, 2lb lower weight, all with a 12-inch retina display.

In marketing, however, too many marketers focus on the features of a product. They talk about all the cool tricks their product has, the hours they spent developing it, and the 200 page long manual.

Your customers don’t care about any of those. All they want to know is how those 200+ pages will solve their problems.

FEATURES

  • Focus on technical specs
  • Appeal to logic
  • Compete on metrics - price, number of features, etc.

BENEFITS

  • Focus on solving problems
  • Appeal to emotions
  • Compete on utility and how it makes you 'feel'

Here’s what you need to do when you talk about your products:

  • On a blank sheet of paper, list out all your product's features
  • Next to each feature, list the problem(s) it solves
  • Bridge the feature-benefit gap by talking about a benefit, then focusing on how a specific feature helps realize that benefit

For example, if you are selling a split testing tool, you would do something like this:

  1. Feature: "Split test optin pop-up designs with a self-hosted WordPress A/B testing plugin"
  2. Benefit: "Increase conversion rate"
  3. Benefit + Feature: "Split test optin pop-up designs with a self-hosted WordPress A/B testing plugin"

If you are running a fitness blog and want to sell Omega 3 rich fish oil pills, you would do something like this:

  1. Feature: "Fish oil pills have a high concentration of Omega 3"
  2. Benefit: "Reduce gelatine and risk of liver problems"
  3. Benefit + Feature: "Reduce liver and kidney problems by taking just 1 pill of fish oils rich in Omega 3"

The more you can appeal to the benefits a product has, the easier it will be to sell.

11. Add some salt on the wounds

Based on the above, we can say that people buy products because of the problems they solve.

But it's not nearly enough to solve the problem. It is also crucial to sell people the solution to the problem.​

You’ve seen this tactic at play in everything from infomercials to eBook sales pages: they focus on your problems, amplify them, and then come up with a solution.

In the book, Keep It Simple Selling, master salesman Damian Boudreaux says that every sales relationship is defined by two P’s – Problems and Possibilities.

Every sales relationship is defined by two P's - Problems and Possibilities

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In order to sell, you have to emphasize the pain (the Problems), then offer a solution (the Possibilities).

You can do this with affiliate marketing as well. Follow this three step process to learn how:

1. Remind people of the problem and amplify it

Deep down, we all know that we have problems.

We know we should be working out. Eating better. Worrying less.

But focusing on problems is painful, which is why we tend to forget about them.

The first step in your sales process, therefore, should be to remind people that their problems exist. After all, if they don’t know that the problem exists, you won’t be able to sell them a solution.

For example, if you’re selling a weight loss product, you can remind people how being overweight affects them. You can say something like:

"Being overweight triples your risk of cardiovascular disease and decreases life expectancy by over 10 years"

Actually, even my current coach used this on me when trying to sell me on a new program and that little sentence he dropped on me is probably what got me to take action and start doing sports again. Here is how it went:

When you're using this tactic, don't try to be "nice" but also use arguments that are factual so if someone goes back to you saying "ouch that's mean!" you can get back at them and ask "does it make it any less true?".

2. Tell people how their life will improve if they solve the problem

The next step is to tell people the benefits of getting rid of the problem.

This is important because it nudges people from the pain of the problem towards the possibility that the problem can be solved – a necessary step for selling a solution.

For example, for a weight loss product, you can tell people something like: 

“Studies show that people who reduce weight have greater mobility, more energy, and higher satisfaction from life.”

3. Help people visualize their life after the problem is solved, then push them towards the solution

The third step is to help people visualize what their life would be like if they were able to solve the problem.

For example, you might tell people something like: 

“Imagine your life without extra weight. You have more energy to spend quality time with your family, your friends can’t stop talking about how good you look, and you are able to take part in the activities you love.”

This isn’t enough though. You need to bring your readers back to reality by reminding them that the problem still exists and unless they take concrete steps to solving it, it will come back to haunt them.

The solution, of course, is your product.

Something like “You can have all this and MORE with this proven weight loss solution.”

To recap, selling is a three step process:

  1. Focus on the pain the problem causes
  2. Emphasize improvement in quality of life after the problem is gone
  3. Help people imagine their better life, then tell them how they can achieve it - with your product.

12. Create videos

Pop quiz: what is the second largest search engine in the world?

A. Bing

B. Yahoo

C. Ask.com

If you chose any of the three above, you’re wrong.

The second largest search engine in the world is YouTube!

Every month, millions of people type billions of queries into the YouTube search box. They search for music videos, for screencasts, and for reviews of new products.

All this has helped YouTube become the 3rd most heavily trafficked website in the world, behind only Google and Facebook.

If you’re ignoring video, you are essentially ignoring one of the biggest traffic opportunities in the world.

Here’s the growth of our own YouTube channel over the last one year:

But it’s not just about traffic alone. We’ve been able to actually help people with their problems, which is why we get comments like these:

We’ve even had celebrity bloggers like Harsh Aggarwal of ShoutMeLoud (one of our top 23 bloggers) stop by:

Even SEMRush recommended our video:

Besides traffic, all this adds to your influence and authority.

The best part? You don’t even have to be good before a camera to make a killing with video.

Pat Flynn made $37,500 last month in affiliate commissions from BlueHost. A bulk of this came from a single video – “how to build a blog in less than 4 minutes”.

This video is just a simple screencast of Pat walking the viewer though the blog setup process. It required just a screen recording tool (Camtasia has a free trial), a microphone and a few minutes of effort. Pat didn’t even have to do any complicated editing before publishing it.

You can create such videos easily yourself. For inspiration, check out some of our videos on the Skyscraper technique, finding long-tail keywords.

13. Offer to Answer Questions

There has never been a better time to ask, and to answer questions.

From Quora to Reddit AMAs, there are countless platforms and opportunities for you to answer questions.

Three things happen when you do this:

  1. ​You establish authority. In most people’s minds, if you have an answer to a question, you must be an authority in your field. Ryan Hanley relied largely on Quora to establish himself as a marketing expert.
  2. You gain search engine visibility. According to Blue Nile Research, 27% all search queries are in question format (“How to…”, “Why does…”, etc.). When you answer a question, you have a higher likelihood of showing up in SERPs for these searches.
  3. You establish trust. When people see questions, then the questions being answered, they trust your expertise more. This trust translates into more sales.

There are a number of platforms where you can answer questions. Here are some ideas:

  • Offer a detailed answer on your own website or blog (“How to create free images for your blog”). You can then drop the link every time someone asks a related question online with your affiliate links in the post.
  • ​Create a video answer and share it on YouTube (ex: “How to find affiliate offers on Clickbank”). Tons of people look for how to's on youtube and will gladly buy through your link.
  • ​Answer questions in your niche on Quora. Follow this post to get started and to learn what a helpful Quora answer looks like. Be careful with affiliate links on quora but linking to a related blog post is totally fine.
  • ​Start a short daily/weekly podcast answering reader questions. For inspiration, check out Ask Pat by Pat Flynn. He drops a ton of affiliate mentions in the podcast and it's a great way to both help and earn.
  • Respond to comments on your own blog and other blogs. As Neil Patel discovered (after writing 50,696 comments), responding to questions in comments increases both traffic and sales.

These are a lot of options and it is easy to get overwhelmed. Just pick one platform such as Quora, stick with it for a couple of months and see the results.

14. Offer Alternatives

Have you ever been suspicious when a site repeatedly promotes the same product, without ever once talking about its alternatives?

You’re not alone.

A lot of your users will question your motivations for only promoting a single product on your site. They might think you have vested interests, or maybe you’ve been paid by the product creator.

There’s a simple way out of this conundrum: offer multiple alternatives to a product.

This has four distinct benefits:

  1. It shows that you are not partial to any product, and that you are only recommending one because of its superior quality.
  2. ​It shows that you have the users’ best interests in mind. You care about them getting the highest quality product, not the product that nets you the best commissions.
  3. ​It increases your sales. You can add affiliate links to the alternative products as well. People who wouldn’t have bought your initial offering might buy the alternatives.
  4. It improves your conversion rate. Offering alternatives changes the question in the buyer’s mind from “should I buy this?” to “which of these should I buy?”. This is a powerful sales psychology tactic that can dramatically improve conversion rates.

To maximize the impact from this tactic, make sure to mention free alternatives as well. This confirms to your audience that you have their best interests at heart. It also weeds out stragglers who weren’t going to buy anyway.

For a great example of this tactic, check out this post from IMImpact that compares OptimizePress against its alternatives. TopTenReviews.com does the same by recommending a single product against 9 other alternatives.

15. Offer Bonuses

As an affiliate marketer, you are competing with hundreds of others for the same traffic.

How can you convince a buyer to purchase from you over others?

Easy: by giving away bonuses.

A bonuses is essentially an incentive related to the affiliate product. It can be anything – an additional strategy guide, a checklist, a tutorial – as long as its legal (you can’t, for example, pay people for buying from your link).

It is important, however, to create the right bonuses to maximize affiliate income.

According to Derek Halpern of Social Triggers, the best approach is to:

“Sell the product, and give away the bonuses for free. You DO NOT sell the product and bonuses as a packaged price.”

Derek even brings up a landmark 1986 study by Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University called the “That’s-Not-All Technique”.

In this study, test subjects were offered two cookies and two cupcakes for $0.75. Subjects bought this offer 40% of the time.

Another group was offered two cupcakes for $0.75 and given two cookies for free. In this case, subjects bought 73% of the time.

Lesson: by including bonuses for free, you increase the perceived value of a deal.

For a wonderful example of using bonuses, check out this page on SuperfastBusiness.com:

As it turns out, creating bonuses isn't particularly complicated as well. For more details on how to create bonuses, check out this post on creating bonuses by Pat Flynn.

16. Get Special Deals & Add Scarcity (Giveaway Combo)

Your customers are lazy. Even if they are 100% sure they want to buy a product, they will put it off for tomorrow.

How can you convince them to buy from you today, instead of buying from someone else tomorrow?

By offering them a special deal that comes with a deadline.

You’ve already seen this tactic used in physical stores and e-commerce sites. Groupon, for example, sells products at a discount, then throws in a deadline to compel action:

Retailers do something similar on Black Friday. They know that every other stores will offer deep discounts, so they give away ‘Black Friday Bonuses’ to get people to buy from them. Then they limit their bonus to just one day to get people to take action.

For this tactic to work, you need to follow these two steps:

1

GET A SPECIAL DEAL

Consider negotiating with a product owner to get a special deal. If you have an existing audience, you can use it as a bargaining chip to get steeper discounts. Noah Kagan talks about how he used this tactic to start AppSumo.

2

GIVE IT A DEADLINE

A deal without a deadline is no deal at all. If the product you’re offering is evergreen (such as an eBook on eating healthy), use your deal as a deadline to drive action. Tell your customers that the deal will be available only for a limited time. This will add scarcity and increase your sales.

Warning: Always honor your deadline. Lots of marketers say they’ll close an offer after a few hours, but never actually do so. This will affect your reputation and make people distrust any future deals you might have.

17. Save Your Discounts for the Exit-Pop

The purpose of a discount is simple: to convert hesitant visitors into buyers.

If, however, you offer discounts right off the bat, you’ll lose money by giving discounts to people who would’ve bought even at the full-price.

This is why you must save your discounts for the exit-pop. This way, those who were hesitating to buy because of the price have a better chance to convert.

Neil Patel uses this tactic:

As do most e-Commerce stores:

This gives abandoning visitors a reason to stick around. In case studies by Get Rooster, up to 18% of such visitors convert into buyers thanks to a discount.

This way, you get the best of both worlds – full prices for non-abandoning users, higher conversions for abandoning users.

We use this on our affiliate reviews to great success. We offer the regular price to the readers and just as they are about to leave the page we hit them with this:

These visitors were about to leave anyway so if they did not take the full price offer it's worth trying to convert them at a lower price.

This way if they take the full price offer we get higher commissions but we save the sale in some cases when they were about to abandon the page.

It's not doing too bad for us. In the health & weight loss niche we're getting around $1.5/click as per this screenshot:​

These pop ups are easy to build with Thrive Content Builder, it works with any theme and this trick alone pays for the tool in no time (read the review).

Wrapping it up

Affiliate marketing has become a lot more complex in the last few years and I will repeat it once again, while it can certainly generate a good amount of income, I think eventually you should be selling your own products (more on what we've been doing in that area in a post soon :)).

Yet, it's great icing on the cake as well as a perfect early monetisation method (most of the money I made from this site is from affiliate marketing to this day).

But avoid the cheesy/scammy schemes as they never last and you'll find yourself having to keep working to maintain a level of income which what most of us site owners are trying to avoid.

Do you have any other tip you think I should have mentioned? Let me know in the comments!​

Gael Breton
 

Hey I'm Gael, one of the guys behind Authority Hacker. I make a living working from my laptop in various places in the world and I will use this website to teach you how you could do the same.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 37 comments
Abdul - June 29, 2015

WOW,That’s brilliant Gael.
I am beginning to start monetizing my blog through promoting affiliate offers and this post provides a bombastic value.I am going to apply these tips & tactics and hopefully make some money.You have talked about retargeting in this post and in a previous one but it would be helpful if you show step by step how to setup retargeting on a page level through facebook.

Reply
    Gael Breton - June 29, 2015

    Hey Abdul, glad you like the post. For retargeting check the video in the associated section, it shows you exactly how to do it!

    Reply
Sam - June 29, 2015

Amazing post @Gael – as always!

Thanks very much for sharing. Given me a load of interesting ideas going forward.

A few things in this post that I really hadn’t considered.

Retargeting seems to be the name of the game these days. A few of the case studies I’ve read have amazing ROI and CPA’s. The two most important metrics to a paid campaign for me.

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Josh - June 29, 2015

Another great post Gael! Are you using a retargeting software? If so which one?

Reply
    Gael Breton - June 29, 2015

    Thanks Josh! I mostly do Facebook and use the Facebook ad manager right now (along with Adespresso for ad testing)

    Reply
Aqif Azizan - June 29, 2015

This is another valuable post by you Gael Breton.

Thank you so much.

The best part is: Amplify your customers problem. Thanks for sharing your screenshot to make us understand better about this tactics.

One question,

“How do you calculate your earning per click?”

Reply
    Gael Breton - June 29, 2015

    Hey Aqif, glad you liked the post. the earning per click (epc) is usually given to you by the network you’re using.

    Reply
Mike - June 29, 2015

Wow, you’ve outdone yourself this time Gael: great and insightful post! You left no stone unturned, great resource post for affiliate marketers.

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Kuba - June 29, 2015

Hey Gael,

what a massive value, mate. Great job!

I’ve decided to give affiliate marketing a try.
I’ve been reading Authority Hacker for quite some time now (along with BHW), bought Thrive Themes through your affiliate link (because you’re doing such a terrific job, thanks again!), and have few ideas what to start with.

I was wondering though:

Could you share any resources to go deeper and learn more about sales/marketing funnel design, copywriting and more advanced tactics?
I’d love to read more about that kind of stuff.

Yet again, thanks for writing and sharing your stuff.

Cheers,
Kuba

PS. Hope to hear new podcast episode soon, too :)

Reply
    Gael Breton - June 29, 2015

    Hey Kuba,

    Glad you liked the post, it took some work to put together! I’m actually documenting a lot of that stuff in our upcoming membership (hopefully we’ll have a limited beta next month). I’ll let you guys know when it’s up!

    Reply
Johnny - June 30, 2015

Amazing post Gael! I’m going to have to read it a few more times to soak it up. Cheers!

Reply
Lee - June 30, 2015

Your guides keep getting better and better. Always love seeing your posts here, they’re very inspiring for my own site.

Cheers,
Lee

Reply
Clayton Cornell - June 30, 2015

This is a fantastic post Gael! Will be keeping this tab open for the next month.

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Siddharth Bagga - June 30, 2015

Woahhh, This is awesome, Full of information. Loved it, also this post made me bookmark your site. Good work

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Shashank Gupta - June 30, 2015

Hey Gael, Great post. Its chock-full of useful information.

I loved point 11 & 13. They are rarely discussed, but seem to be quite impactful in affiliate marketing. You have given me lots of ideas from this post.

Gonna rework my affiliate marketing strategy to incorporate these tips.

Reply
Dominic Wells - June 30, 2015

“Always have a backup offer”. Yeah, I definitely learned this one the hard way with my first niche site. The product that was making me about $500 a month suddenly got taken down (owner was moving onto something else) and I was left scrambling to replace the offer.

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Jackie Stephens - July 20, 2015

Affiliate marketing has been making me some nice income online through my blog for a while now and I recommend everyone to do so just like in the post! A lot of helpful information, I have to write some of this stuff down.

When first starting out as a blogger/entrepreneur it’s okay to promote other people’s products. As soon as you become more established and knowledgeable then you should create your own content so people will buy from you. I teach this to all of my students. You don’t want to make the next guy rich haha.

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Wizz Mate - July 28, 2015

This is just crazy and extremely amazing post Gael.

I was like woooah…fuaark, all the way to the bottom!!!

I was reading it on my iPhone this morning and for this long posts I usually ask myself does this one has an end, but not in this case, you kept my attention all the way to the end. Woohoo!

Such a great one Gael you nailed it!

Reply
Robert Nash - August 3, 2015

Great post! Lots of money making tips that everyone should try and use on their websites. I certainly will be using some of these tips on my blog. Thanks very much!

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Sean - August 7, 2015

Hi Gael,

Excellent post.

I’ve gone with you’re recommendation to use Thirsty Affiliate to cloak my links. I’ve been trying to use it on a site that uses Thrive Themes and content builder, but can’t get it to work. Have you managed to use it with Thrive Themes?

Reply
    Gael Breton - August 8, 2015

    Hey Sean,

    I usually just copy/paste the links from the WP Dashboard. Not the most convenient but it’s not that bad either.

    Reply
John Newport - August 13, 2015

Awesome blog post. Covers a lot of actionable information to boost engagement and conversion. This is definately something that people shoult take note of. Thank you for posting.

Reply
Samsul Bachkri - October 21, 2015

Thank Gael,

what you’ve described is really complete
I have started to understand and realize what I’ve been doing all this time there are some errors, sure I’ll do best to fix my errors.

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Thomas - August 8, 2016

Wow. Takes the entire afternoon to go through it, mostly because of note synthesis and actually implementing some of the tips as I went through it. While the focus is on affiliate marketing, a lot of the tips apply to actually selling your products as well. Massive value!

Tom

Reply
John Shipman - June 16, 2017

Absolutely great post I loved the last point the you have to do something different rather then promoting affiliate products in traditional matter.

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