This is the second part in a series of blog posts containing affiliate marketing tips for beginners. It will cover the basic steps that are required to be taken when first setting up your blog and before you begin to create the content that will eventually form the main focus of your site and, hopefully, generate an income for you.
When The Money Shed first approached me about writing a series of blog posts about my recent adventures in the world of affiliate marketing, I think we both had in mind a personal story of my progress since I set up my online business in about Februrary 2014.
However, since those initial discussions, it has occurred to me that readers would get far more benefit from a short series of practical “Beginner’s Guide” blog posts about how to build their own affiliate marketing business, than reading my own personal story.
I should make it clear at the outset that I am focussing on “affiliate marketing” sites that are largely comprised of product reviews and articles, rather than the more “lifestyle” blogs that are more dependent upon advertising revenues and aim to generate a large cult following rather than getting visitors from the search engines.
I can’t possibly cover “everything to do with affiliate marketing” in one blog post and, in fact, I would ever pretend to be able to write such an authoritative post. After all, I have only been doing this for about 7/8 months and, although I have learned a lot and have seen with my own eyes what works and what doesn’t, I am certainly not an “expert” in the true sense of the word.
So, I am going to assume that you have already sorted out the following matters:
- Chosen a niche
- Chosen a platform (eg. Blogger / WordPress)
- Have a “Live” (but blank) Site
- Have lots of great ideas for posts / reviews and are raring to go!
5 Things to Do Before Writing the First Review
I have built 5 WordPress affiliate marketing websites in the past 8 months and now have a pretty good idea of the process that is required to get your site ready before writing the first reviews.
In my opinion, the 5 main things that every blogger needs to attend to before writing their first reviews are:
#1 Finding Affiliate Merchants
Before you begin to spend lots of time creating content for your site, you need to identify a few affiliate merchants that sell the sort of products that are relevant to your niche online and at competitive prices.
You need to know in advance that you will actually be able to monetise your site in due course and you can only do that if you are able to send your visitors to online stores to buy stuff.
Now, many affiliate merchants won’t let you sign up until you have some content on your site and it has started to look a bit more professional, but others (like Amazon, Ebay and many major retailers) will let you sign up straight away. Although you sign-up with the likes of Amazon directly, most other retailers work with agencies that handle the signing-up process for you. They are pretty easy to work with, and the ones that I use at the moment include:
So, even if you can’t actually sign-up with your preferred affiliate at the start, you should have at least identified a couple before you begin.
#2 Legal Pages
You needn’t have them on your main top menu, but they need to be added in a prominent position on your site. I usually put them in the footer and/or sidebar, depending upon the theme that I am using.
You can find one of my Privacy Policies here [link = http://freeswagsites.com/privacy-policy]and one of my Affiliate Disclosure Statements here [link = http://freeswagsites.com/affiliate-disclosure-statement]. Feel free to copy and paste them into your own sites, but be advised that I am not warranting that they are suitable for your purposes and you will need to make sure that the wording is suitable for your site and affiliate merchants.
Many merchants, including Amazon, have strict rules about the wording that they require, so always check and, if in doubt, ask them.
#3 About Me / Us Page
Depending upon your niche, visitors to your site may want / need to know more about you. An About Me / Us page is just your opportunity to introduce yourself, show people what you look like, and explain why you set up the site and what you are going to put on it. If you have an expertise that reinforces your authority then mention them here.
In addition to an About Me / Us page, you can also include a “Biog Widget” on your home page (or all pages) with an image of you and a very short text entry.
Not everyone needs and About Me / Us page and some people just don’t want to reveal too much about themselves in public. For most niches, it is probably optional, but if you are creating a site about your personal weight loss regime visitors are going to want to see some before and after shots and know a little more about you before taking your opinions and experiences seriously.
Conversely, if you are just writing technical comparison reviews of smart watches, this is probably less important.
There is also a middle way. You can reveal personal information (and even an image), but write under an assumed name, just in the same way as some normal authors do. This is a very personal decision and you need to feel comfortable about it. Better to make less money and feel comfortable than try to make more money by exposing too much of yourself!
Finally, if you have bought your own domain, consider adding “whoisguard” to the registration. It comes as standard with many providers, but some charge extra. Just Google the term for a full description, but it basically prevents people from finding out the personal details of a website owner. I have this on all of my sites.
#4 Choose a Theme for Your Site
The Theme is basically the template skin that you will use to build your site. It dictates how the site looks and how it can function in certain respects.
If you choose a WordPress site, there are many thousands of free themes. Some are very good, some are awful. Have a look around at the start, but DO NOT OBSESS OVER IT!
People can waste weeks trying to find the “perfect” theme at the start when they should be getting on with creating content. Just choose one that looks OK at the start and you can change it very easily at any stage (and as many times as you like) later on.
In addition to Free Themes, you can also buy themes. They tend to look more professional and come with better community and developer support, but you don’t need one at the start and may never need one. I rewarded myself with a paid theme when my commission earnings justified it.
I currently use the following Premium Theme providers:
#5 Install and Activate WordPress Plugins
One of the great things about choosing the WordPress platform for your site is the huge choice of great free (and paid) plugins that you can use to make you site look and function better.
Since there are thousands of options to choose from, I am not going to talk about them in any great detail here. However there are a few very important free ones that I install on my sites at the very beginning. They are:
- Akismet (anti-spam)
- All-in-One SEO Pack
- SI Captcha Anti-Spam
- WP Edit
- Hupso Share Buttons (Adds Social Media Sharing buttons)
There are lots of other plugins that you can add depending upon what you want to do with your site, but don’t get carried away and always check that the plugin is still supported by the latest version of WordPress. Recently, a very popular editor plugin called TinyMCE had serious conflict problems with the WordPress update and it caused lots of people a very big headache.
Finally, although technically not a “plugin” issue, ALWAYS REGULARLY BACK-UP YOUR SITE!
Your hosting company should keep a back-up, but you can also back-up your site from the wordpress dashboard. You should certainly do a back-up before updating any plugins or new version of WordPress.
Subject to The Money Shed’s editorial veto, I propose to talk a bit about Keywords and how to achieve good search engine rankings without trying to use any cheap, dangerous (and ultimately pointless) SEO tricks.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about any aspect of affiliate marketing, please send me a PM at The Money Shed (TheRewardGuy).