Starting an affiliate website is a great way to make money online.
What make it especially great is that it feels awesome to make money while creating a resource that people actually get some value from.
If you haven’t explored it yet, creating affiliate marketing websites is a legitimate business model that can make you thousands of dollars per month in affiliate commissions.
In this post, we’ll take you through the basic steps required to:
- Pick a topic to create your website around
- Start your first affiliate website
- Setup the hosting, domain, and other tools required
- And finally, come up with a content strategy that will deliver affiliate sales
Let’s dive in.
Niche Selection: What’s Your Website Going To Be About?
In this guide, you’re going to learn all about creating your very first affiliate website.
You might have created websites in the past, and they weren’t affiliate websites, or you might not have created a website at all.
We’ll cater to folks at all levels in this guide.
The first thing you need to think about has nothing to do with hosting, or domain names, or website software. All those things matter, of course, but they’re not the first things you should be thinking about.
The first thing you have to decide is what your website will be about. And because you have the goal of earning money with affiliate marketing, you have to be careful about this decision.
If you created a website about helping local homeless people, for example, it might make you feel good, but the potential for earning money with affiliate marketing would be low.
“The Riches Are In The Niches”
You might have heard this saying before. I’m not sure who said it first, but I would like to shake their hand, because it’s what has led me to create multiple five-figure websites over the years, earning money with a mixture of our own products and affiliate marketing.
“Niching-down,” as it’s called, means focusing your energy to serve a smaller group of people.
This makes it easier to:
- Find people
- Figure out what their exact pain points are
- Deliver to them in a way that makes them feel like you truly understand them
Because you aren’t trying to deliver something to a broad group with mixed interests and pain points, you can get really targeted and speak to your niche in a way that really resonates. It’s as if you’re getting right inside their heads.
This is where you’ll find massive traction quickly.
Niches Within Niches (Within Niches)
Imagine you wanted to target the fitness niche.
To me, that is too broad. Ask pretty much anyone and they’d say they have a desire to be fit.
It’s hard to make a site that targets such a broad group, because how do you get people to the site without spending bucket loads of money?
What you need to understand is there are niches within niches, and it’s cheaper and easier to target these than to target a broader niche.
The fitness niche can break down even further:
- Healthy eating
- Muscle building
- …Etc., etc., etc.
This breaks up the fitness niche into more targeted segments. Niches within niches.
Can you go even further?
Sure. Let’s look at the cardio niche.
You have lots of different kinds of cardio:
- Long distance running
- Cardio exercises you can do at home
- Circuit training
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- …Etc., etc., etc.
Don’t Go Too Deep
Focusing yourself on a particular niche can really help you target people; for example, building a site around the niche of rowing for fitness.
You can even niche that down further into rowing for weight-loss, which would give you some lateral movement to complementary topics like diet.
But a warning…
Don’t go too deep with your niche selection.
Rowing for post-menopausal women in Australia is a niche that just won’t have enough people to target.
Make Sure Your Niche Has Future Affiliate Opportunities
You also want to make sure that the niche you select has affiliate opportunities.
Think about the people in your niche, and if you can’t immediately think of at least four or five types of products they might want to purchase, it might be worth considering other niches.
If you really want to validate whether there are existing affiliate opportunities, you can sign up with some affiliate networks or look for particular products that you could review for that niche. Then verify that you can get paid for recommending them online.
It doesn’t hurt to take this extra step, and it will take you less than an hour in most cases to get confirmation about whether or not there is something to promote.
It’s pretty cheap insurance to spend an hour finding products to promote as opposed to spending hundreds of hours building a site only to have no options for promotion after all that work.
Step By Step: Building Your First Website
You didn’t skip the niche selection step, right? Good.
Now you’re ready to actually take some action and build your first website.
Let’s take note of what you need:
- A domain name
- A web host
- Website content management software (CMS)
- A content plan
Easy right? It’s only four things!
If you’re anxious about the tech stuff, don’t worry. These days a lot the moving parts are taken care of for you with one-click installs provided by hosting companies. Actually, they want to make this tech stuff LESS complicated for you.
If you think about it, they’re motivated to make the process less complicated because it means more people will start websites. So you can rest assured that you have what it takes.
What is a domain name?
Since you’ve already selected your niche, it should be a little easier to figure out what to actually call your website. As mentioned, spend some time researching and selecting your niche. Go back and do that now before moving on to buying your domain and hosting.
A domain is essentially just an easy way for someone to point their web browser to your site.
Instead of having to type an IP address – which is what identifies a computer/server on the internet and looks like a set of numbers (123.234.432.321) – your visitors type your domain name, like janesrowingsite.com.
It’s just an easy way to remember a name.
Another way to think about it is like the address of your house. The domain lets people find and identify where your website (house) is.
What is a web host?
So what’s a web host, and how is it different from a domain name?
If your domain name is like your house’s address, your web host is like the land your house sits on.
It’s space that you rent on a server – which is just a special/more powerful computer compared to the one sitting on your desk – where you can build your website.
What is Content Management Software (CMS)?
Back in the nineties and early two thousands, if you wanted to build a website, you had to learn how to program HTML.
HTML is a special language that tells your browser what a website looks like.
Thank goodness those days are past us.
That’s where content management software, or CMS, comes in.
A CMS is a bit of software that does this HTML coding stuff for you. It stores all of the articles that you write in a database.
When someone comes to a page on your website, like:
The CMS will go and fetch the page titled “Best Rowing Machines For Losing Weight” and show it to the visitor.
The best/most-popular CMS is called WordPress. Of the entire internet, 54% runs on WordPress. The rest comprises custom made sites and other smaller CMS systems.
I wholeheartedly recommend WordPress in this guide. That’s because if you ever need help with your site, it is one-thousand times easier to find someone fluent in modifying WordPress websites than it is to find someone capable of editing a site in some obscure CMS that requires specialist knowledge.
You’ll also find that it’s cheaper to find people willing to do work on your WordPress-based website because of its popularity.
Selecting Your Domain Name Provider and Web Host
I’m going to recommend a domain name provider and a web host for you in the links below (yes, they’re affiliate links, so I will get credited if you choose to start an account with them).
If you don’t like my recommendation that’s totally okay – no hurt feelings! I strongly suggest you do your own research anyway. It’s a big internet out there with literally thousands of web hosts and domain name providers.
My motivation is to make this as easy for you as possible by recommending a host I’ve personally worked with many times over the years and I know to be beginner friendly.
Do I use this hosting company myself? Yes. While I do use other more powerful servers for some of my bigger sites, I still recommend this hosting company and use them for some smaller sites that I own.
Bluehost has been around for nearly 20 years, hosts over two million websites, is priced very competitively, operates its own servers and facilities based in the state of Utah, and features a one-click install of WordPress (very important for de-complicating the whole thing).
It’s also cheap. You can pick up hosting for less than $50 a year.
Let me ask you: What was the last thing you spent $50 on? Was it on something that could grow that $50 into much more? Or was it on something you’ll use once and never use again?
I’ve had single meals that cost more than Bluehost hosting for an entire year. It’s almost ridiculous.
I’m not sure if they’ll run the special price below forever, and at the moment it also includes free registration of your domain name. That just makes it more of a bargain because you don’t have to register the domain name elsewhere and worry about configuring it.
Setting Up WordPress On Bluehost
As mentioned, Bluehost has a one-click install. So just click on this link, click on the big green Get Started Now button, and follow the registration process.
Next, choose your domain name:
Since you receive free domain registration with this deal, you’re best off using it.
However, I’ve found that Bluehost’s tool for looking at which domains are available is not that great.
I suggest you use Namecheap.com’s tool to find the available domain names, because their searching mechanism is much nicer.
Just type in your idea for a domain name and see what you can find. The more unique you make it, the more likely it will be available.
Once you’re done selecting your domain name, fill in your personal and billing details to create your account.
After you’ve paid, selected your password, and the account is all set up, you’ll be directed to the installation process.
Bluehost actually drops you inside the backend of WordPress for their wizard:
Now click Launch, and your site is almost ready to go:
Choose the name and site description (these can be changed later in Settings > General in the backend of WordPress):
And if you ever need to login to WordPress again, just go here:
Bluehost actually has a really great YouTube series of onboarding videos which take you through some basics of driving WordPress.
So rather than me going too in-depth in this guide on how to actually drive WordPress, you can watch that video series to learn how to modify the look of your site, install plugins, etc. Check it out below
Installing ThirstyAffiliates Plugin
There’s just one other plugin I want you to install. Now that you have your WordPress installation sorted out, you’ll want to install a link cloaker.
I suggest you install ThirstyAffiliates, which is a WordPress plugin we created.
“Link cloaker” is just a fancy term for a tool that takes ugly affiliate links like this one:
(my Bluehost affiliate link)
And turns them into beautiful links your visitors aren’t afraid to click on:
So where does this link really go? To my Bluehost affiliate link, which then takes you to the Bluehost homepage. This is link cloaking in action.
For more information on what link cloaking is, please read this article.
Why Use a Link Cloaker?
There’s a number of benefits to using a link cloaker like ThirstyAffiliates.
A visitor is much more likely to click a link pointing to the same website they are on than they are to click on an affiliate link directly.
This is because most affiliate links have ugly numbers and weird stuff in the link URL. This is essential for tracking but looks scary to a user.
By making a link that looks like it’s pointing to something on your website, you’re increasing the perceived trust in that link.
As I said before, the term “link cloaker” is just a fancy term. ThirstyAffiliates is actually a whole link management tool for your affiliate marketing.
You can group links for related products together in categories, set up automatic linking, geolocate certain links so that visitors are sent to links for stores that are local to them, and much more.
The main management reason to use ThirstyAffiliates is that if the affiliate program you’re working with ever closes down or changes the format of their links, you only have ONE place to change the link – in ThirstyAffiliates.
If you didn’t have ThirstyAffiliates, you’d be forced to go through your website page by page searching for all the places you used that affiliate link.
That might be fine when you only have a dozen pages, but when you get up to a few hundred pages it can create a massive headache!
Another great benefit of cloaking your links with ThirstyAffiliates is the ability to track the clicks on your affiliate links.
Knowing which affiliate links are actually getting traction with your audience is very important for improving the performance of your links.
How To Install ThirstyAffiliates
Installing the free ThirstyAffiliates plugin is very easy.
- Go to the backend of your WordPress website
- Click on Plugins > Add New
- Search for “ThirstyAffiliates”
- Click Install Now, then Activate
For more information about the difference between the free version of ThirstyAffiliates and the extra features that come with the Pro add-on, click here.
Creating a Content Plan
To create your content plan you first need to understand and utilize a few concepts that will help you set up the “bones” of your plan.
Let’s talk a little bit about visitor funnels.
A funnel, in marketing terms, is the process of taking a large number of visitors and putting them through a number of steps to reduce that list of people to only the folks who are going to take some particular action you want.
Remember, the overall goal of your affiliate website is to make money by helping people, referring them to products/services, and getting paid for it.
A visitor funnel will give you somewhere to direct your traffic, qualify those people, and sell them something.
The intention of your visitors is also another factor you should work hard to understand. It will help you identify the main content pieces you need to create.
Intent refers to what the visitor’s desires, wants, and needs are at various stages on the buying journey.
Not all visitors are created equal. People might be at different stages on their journey in your chosen niche when they come to your site.
To continue our earlier example of a rowing for weight-loss website, you might have people on the following stages of the journey:
- They’re just starting to learn about rowing as an exercise form for losing weight
- They’re shopping for their first rowing machine
- They’re looking for advice on rowing exercise routines
- They’re shopping for a better/more advanced rowing machine
- They’re looking at other aspects of weight-loss to complement their rowing workout
- They’re looking at other complementary exercises to make them better at rowing
- They’re looking to solve injuries related to rowing
The intent of each group of people at each different stage is different even though they’re all related to the rowing for weight-loss niche.
This is a core concept to understand when it comes to creating your content plan, because understanding your visitor’s intent should drive what kind of content you create.
Brainstorming Intent-Driven Content
One of the most powerful ways to generate huge amounts of content ideas is by analyzing intent.
Let’s zero in on one of the above examples to illustrate: “They’re shopping for their first rowing machine.”
There are a lot of different content pieces you could create to attract people at this specific stage of purchasing their very first rowing machine.
Here are a few ideas that come to mind right away:
- What Rowing Machine Features To Look For In Your First Rowing Machine
- 6 Mistakes People Make When Buying Their First Rowing Machine
- Which Rowing Machine Type Is Best For Beginners
- What Is The Quietest Rowing Machine Type
- What Type Of Floor Should You Put Your Rowing Machine On?
- Rowing Machine Maintenance Guide: How To Care For Your Rowing Machine
All of these articles are great entry points into your site, and you can easily see that creating a list of five to ten articles for each stage you’ve brainstormed in your niche can add up to a lot of content.
In this case, I’ve been writing this section of the guide for the past 15-20 minutes, and I can already see that I can easily generate between 50 and 80 article titles for attracting people to this website for each of the different visitor intent stages. Total time spent brainstorming article titles would be less than two hours.
So, that sounds great, right? What do you think is missing?
Have you spotted it yet?
Listen carefully, because this is where you’ll turn visitors into $$$.
There is no point in getting people to your website unless you have a funnel that leads them to a purchase.
If you just slap ads on your site or randomly place affiliate offers, you might get the odd sale, and you might get a few bucks in ad money. But you’ll never have runaway success unless you put a funnel in place.
Adding the Funnel
So now that we’ve brainstormed article ideas for one of the visitor intents we identified, it’s time to build the funnel.
As mentioned, a funnel takes motivated people and puts them on a journey to buy.
Funnels also work best when you know what the visitor’s intentions are so you can match that intent with the right offer.
It’s all about putting the right offer in front of them at the right time.
To do that you actually want to create multiple funnels. One per visitor intent that you identified.
Step one is getting the people to your site. That’s right at the very top of your funnel.
The next step is getting those people onto your mailing list by offering them something they can’t resist.
The bait you use to get people into your funnel can take the form of a PDF guide, a checklist, a spreadsheet, some free software, or any other easy-to-put-together content or resource that they will desperately want at that visitor intent stage. The better/more desirable the bait is, the more people you’ll get into your funnel.
To continue the example, someone at the stage of shopping for their first rowing machine would likely jump for joy if you offered them:
“A Complete Buyer’s Guide To Purchasing Your First Rowing Machine”
“A total A-Z guide of how to purchase your first rowing machine, including a breakdown of the different types of machines, which ones are good for what purpose, how much you should plan to spend, and a comparison of a few popular models.”
If I were in the market for a rowing machine, I’d have no worries at all handing over my email address for something so useful.
This funnel bait might even get you some affiliate sales if you sprinkle your affiliate links in at appropriate spots, especially if someone looking to buy that very day downloads your item.
Progressing People Through Your Funnel
Now that you’ve attracted people to your site by writing content that appeals to their intentions, AND you’ve qualified the visitor’s intent by getting them onto your mailing list, it’s time to push them through the funnel even further to get the sale.
But wait. You might be worried if you aren’t getting lots and lots of subscribers. More subscribers is better… right?
This is actually a myth and a product of old-style marketing thinking.
Targeting everyone is not the aim. It’s okay that there aren’t tons of people signing up for your list.
You only want and need the people who are actually ready to take action. To get the best response rate, it’s all about qualifying visitors to make sure you’re talking to the right people – this is sales 101. Don’t waste time on unqualified prospects.
To progress people through your funnel, you’ll want to set up an autoresponder.
An autoresponder, sometimes also called a “campaign,” is basically just a sequence of emails sent out automatically to your subscribers over a period of time (usually a couple of weeks).
I recommend you send people three to eight emails after they download whatever resource you provided them with. These emails should talk about everything related to that intent and eventually lead to an offer (or even multiple offers).
In our rowing example, we gave them a complete buyer’s guide for purchasing a rowing machine. So presumably, after a few days, they’re ready to take some action. Here’s an example autoresponder sequence I could send to these people to get them over the line:
- Why I chose the ABC Rowing Machine as my first rower
- Here’s a free 6-week rowing workout plan
- I’ve organised a 20% off special for these Rowing Co rowers (great deal!)
- Correct rowing techniques to ensure you don’t injure yourself
- How David lost 25 lb with rowing
- Free shipping on these rowing machines (limited time only)
- My review of the top voted rowing machine for beginners in 2020
See how mixing personal stories, other free resources, and offers can come together to form a holistic autoresponder sequence?
This is the stuff that will drive affiliate sales for you.
Rinse And Repeat To Form Your Content Plan
There you have it, a complete approach to forming your content plan.
It can be summarized into the following two points:
- Everything is driven by your visitor intent.
- Funnels are where you will make the money.
Your next steps:
- Figure out what drives your audience at different stages in your niche (visitor intent)
- Brainstorm five to ten content pieces based around each of the visitor intents you identified
- Create desirable resources that people will jump over themselves to download in exchange for their email address
- Create a sequence of emails (an autoresponder/campaign) that mixes personal stories, free resources, and, of course, affiliate offers that match their buying intentions
Where do you go after this?
If you’ve written all of the articles you brainstormed, and you’ve put funnels in place for each of the visitor intents you identified, you just have to feed the machine even more.
- Write more articles to attract more people
- Look at paid acquisition
- Look at guest posting and other marketing techniques to attract more people
Your goal now is to attract more people and pump as many people through to your site’s funnels as possible. Your funnels, assuming you’ve implemented them properly, will take care of the rest.
A Tool You Can Use To Implement Your Autoresponders
There’s a number of email marketing tools out there, and you’ve probably heard of the big ones like Mailchimp, but the tool I recommend you investigate is Aweber.
Aweber has these things called Workflows which make it easy to direct the flow of subscribers. That means after they’ve been through one of your campaigns, depending on how that went, you can put them onto another campaign and keep marketing to them over and over and over.
Building an affiliate website can be an incredibly rewarding journey – financially and otherwise.
You’ll learn a LOT about the niche you’ve selected and the people that you serve with your website.
You’ll learn a LOT about the affiliate marketing process, the industry, and the tools.
And you’ll learn a LOT about doing business on the internet in general.
I feel lucky that I’ve caught you at the beginning of your journey.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about doing affiliate marketing and building websites, and I feel humbled to have the opportunity to pass on some knowledge, help push some of that aside, and give you some actual action steps to creating your first affiliate website.
Please take the content above seriously – the biggest thanks you could give me would be to TAKE ACTION.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this guide as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together.
Over the next little while you’ll hear from me a few times, so keep an eye on your inbox (a funnel in action folks! So tune in even if it’s just to see what I do next!).
I look forward to giving you all the information and tools you need to make your affiliate website a huge success.