You’ve created a website, produced and shared valuable content, built good traffic, and now it is time for your site to produce income.
To be successful, you need an effective monetization strategy that will accomplish three goals:
- Add more value for your visitors
- Produce income
- Build more traffic
As you’ve probably noticed, the second goal is to produce income. The reason that you are in a position to monetize your traffic is because you’ve created enough value for your visitors to return.
Value should always be your litmus test
One of the simplest and most controllable strategies available to you for adding value while making money is through affiliate marketing. Simply put, you act as an impromptu marketer of a merchant’s product via your site and you earn commission on sales that were initiated through your site.
Because the internet is rife with how-to guides and educational programs for purchase, let’s take a higher level view so you can increase your intuition when evaluating affiliate programs for quality and relevance.
It’s time to “niche-down”
One of the most common suggestions that you will find in 2016 is to “niche-down”, or specialize. Publishers will no longer be rewarded for creating websites with a few pages of content built around top keywords. That practice provides little value to today’s users and search engines have been developing to provide the value they are looking for in their SERPs.
Go an inch wide and a mile deep
Therefore, you have to consistently curate and create unique content. One way to ensure that you are able to accomplish this is to look at your industry, break it down into its sub-industries, and find your “niche”. As an example:
Health > fitness > weight lifting > weight lifting for muscle gain > etc.
As you can see from above, you can follow the chain down to as micro a level as you want. The key here is not to go so small that there is no market. A good rule of thumb for niche sites is to have minimum 10k unique visitors.
Payout rates are great…
…but should not be your focus when vetting affiliate programs. Instead, your focus should always be on product quality and relevance. If the products don’t meet both requirements, what value can they possibly add to your visitors? (see litmus test).
Here are some higher level questions that indicate quality and will encourage further questions:
Is membership free?
Is there a clear anti-spam guarantee?
Are affiliate links that link directly to product pages provided?
Is the website and all of its links fully functional?
Quality products are more expensive to produce, therefore, it naturally follows that a greater focus will be made on the details that render the “buy” decision easier.
Programs, where art thou?
Because there are dozens upon dozens of affiliate programs available, the most efficient way to find programs is by searching with a phrase such as “affiliate marketing programs [year].”
By using the year, you will find lists of top-rated affiliate programs within your SERPs. Also, there are ad networks, such as Adcash, that can act as a kind of one-stop-shop because they offer both ads and affiliate programs. Remember, joining should be hassle free and typically revolve around providing your personal details for reimbursement and URL/s, creating a profile, and verifying your identity.
Once you’ve joined your program or programs, it’s time to think of how to select and position your products. When deciding, remember the equation below:
context = value = conversion
What does this all mean? Context should always be at the forefront of your mind when selecting and positioning product because value does not operate within a vacuum, it operates within a context. For our purposes, context is simply relevance.
Offer a broom to a homeless person and this principle will be clear
Identifying and/or creating context does not have to be difficult; For example, if you write about a common difficulty experienced by your visitors and have a product that solves that problem, better yet, experience with using the product to solve the very problem…then you have context for introducing the product.
Regardless, the key is to not “sell” the product, this isn’t an advertisement.
Therefore, the product or products should not be featured in every piece of content. The best way to ensure that you are weaving the product/s into your content naturally is through your content calendar. For instance, you may want to create a “campaign” wherein you address an issue and possible solutions over a series of blog posts, or where you perform a product review, allowing your visitors to experience the good and bad of the product with you.
The virtuous cycle
- Your writing will be more engaging and have greater longevity
- Your content and affiliate products will be aligned
- That alignment will allow your credibility to flow to your affiliate products
- A greater number of visitors will buy the product/s
- Your credibility will further increase and with that, traffic
…rinse and repeat…
Remember, this will ultimately be one tool for monetizing your traffic. As with most publishers, you will probably use this tool in concert with others, such as advertising offered through ad networks or offering gated material, e.g. “freemium” vs. premium. Whatever tools you choose to monetize your traffic or whoever you decide to partner with, your strategy must always revolve around the creation of value for your visitors. After all, this is what got you to this point in the first place…