Becoming an affiliate marketer and starting an affiliate website is a great way to make money online. You’ll find that learning how to create an affiliate website isn’t all that hard, and the reward can be thousands of dollars a month in affiliate commissions.
In this post, we’ll take you through the basic steps on how to start your first affiliate marketing website:
- Pick a topic to build your website around
- Create your first affiliate website
- Set up the hosting, domain, and other tools required
- 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?
The first thing you need to think about has nothing to do with hosting, domain names, website software. All those things matter, of course, but the first thing you have to decide is what your website will be about.
And because your goal is to earn money with affiliate marketing, you need to be careful about this decision.
For example, if you created a website about helping local homeless people it might make you feel good. But the potential for earning money with affiliate marketing would be low.
“The Riches Are In The Niches”
The phrase “niching down” means focusing your energy to serve a smaller group of people.
Niching down 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 really target and speak to your niche in a way that truly resonates. It’s as if you’re getting right inside their heads.
This is how you’ll find massive traction quickly.
Niches Within Niches (Within Niches)
Imagine you wanted to target the fitness niche.
First off, that is too broad. You can ask pretty much anyone and they’d say they have a desire to be fit.
It’s hard to create a site that targets such a broad group. The difficulty is, 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. It’s cheaper and easier to target these smaller groups than to target a broader niche.
The fitness niche can break down even further, for example:
- 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 5. 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.
But Don’t Go Too Deep
Focusing yourself on a particular niche can really help you target people. For example, you could build a site around the niche rowing for fitness.
You could even niche that down further into rowing for weight loss, which would give you some lateral movement to complementary topics like diet.
But a fair warning… Don’t go too deep with your niche selection. For example, 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 the niche you select has affiliate opportunities.
Think about the people in your niche. 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 you could review for that niche. Then verify that you can get paid for recommending them online.
How to Create an Affiliate Website (Step-by-Step)
Now you’re ready to 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
If you’re anxious about the tech stuff, don’t worry. These days a lot of 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 buy your domain and hosting.
A domain is 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?
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 more powerful computer compared to the one sitting on your desk. You use that space to 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.
Today we have content management software, or CMS.
A CMS is a bit of software that does this HTML coding stuff for you. It stores all of the articles you write and pages you create 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.
WordPress is the best and most popular CMS there is. Of the entire internet, 59.7% runs on WordPress. The rest comprises custom-made sites and other smaller CMS systems.
We recommend WordPress in this guide. Because, if you ever need help with your site, WordPress makes it 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
Here are a couple of domain name providers and web hosts that we highly recommend. Affiliate Disclosure: yes, they’re affiliate links, so we will get credited if you choose to start an account with them.
InMotion Hosting is a secure hosting platform designed to grow along with your business. In addition to WordPress hosting, InMotion offers VPS, dedicated, and shared hosting. Their tech support team is 100% U.S.-based and they have a 90-day money-back guarantee.
The price isn’t too bad either, starting at $2.49 per month.
Bluehost has been around for nearly 20 years. It hosts over two million websites, is priced very competitively, operates its own servers and facilities based in the U.S., and features a one-click install of WordPress (very important for de-complicating the whole thing).
It’s also affordable. You can pick up hosting for less than $50 a year.
Setting Up WordPress On Bluehost
Next, choose your domain name:
Since you receive free domain registration with this deal, you’re best off using it. Although, you can also use Namecheap.com’s tool to find available domain names. Just type in your idea for a domain name, and see what you can find. The more unique you make your name, 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 and selected your password, your account is all set up. Next, 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):
If you ever need to login to WordPress again, just go here:
Bluehost actually has a really great YouTube series of onboarding videos that take you through some basics of driving WordPress. You can watch that video series and learn how to modify the look of your site, install plugins, etc. Check it out below.
Installing the ThirstyAffiliates Plugin
There’s just one other plugin we recommend you install. Now that you have your WordPress installation sorted out, you’ll want to install a link cloaker.
“Link cloaker” is just a fancy term for a tool that takes ugly affiliate links like this one:
(our 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 our 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, check out 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 to click on an affiliate link directly.
This is because most affiliate links have ugly numbers and extending information 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.
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, 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 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 of 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, for example, you may have visitors who are:
- Just starting to learn about rowing as an exercise form for losing weight
- Shopping for their first rowing machine
- Seeking advice on rowing exercise routines
- Shopping for a better/more advanced rowing machine
- Considering other aspects of weight-loss to complement their rowing workout
- Looking at other complementary exercises to make them better at rowing
- Needing 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. Understanding your visitor’s intent should drive what kind of content you create fr your affiliate website.
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: “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 affiliate website, 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.
However, there’s 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. We call that “funnel bait”.
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 people will desperately want at that visitor’s intent stage. The more desirable the bait, 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.”
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.
Moving People Through Your Funnel
So you’ve attracted people to your affiliate website by writing content that appeals to their intentions, AND you’ve qualified the visitor’s intent by getting them onto your mailing list. Now 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.
Using an Autoresponder
To progress people through your funnel, you’ll want to set up an autoresponder.
An autoresponder, also called a “campaign”, is just a sequence of emails sent out automatically to your subscribers over a period of time (usually a couple of weeks).
We recommend you send 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 you 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 one 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.
Learning how to create 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.
Do you have more questions about how to create an affiliate website? Let me know in the comments!