Since its origin in 1996, the affiliate market has grown exponentially. There are now thousands of products and services that offer affiliateships, and millions of people make a good living from affiliate marketing. You too can make money with affiliate marketing, but you have to understand a few things about what separates good affiliate marketing from bad affiliate marketing.
Good affiliate marketing from the vendor's point of view
A good way to understand most of the factors that make up good affiliate marketing, is by putting yourself in the shoes of the vendor (i.e. the company paying you for your traffic). They have developed a product that they believe can be sold. They know enough about the internet to consider affiliate marketing as a way to sell their project. Why would they pay you to deliver them customers?
The answer is that you can deliver them something that they can't do themselves (or at least not as well as you can). Maybe you run a blog and can reach a unique audience. Maybe you are really good at AdWords marketing and can obtain relevant clicks at a low cost. Maybe you're a persuasive writer and can convert your audience into customers. Or maybe you simply have a large network of Facebook friends who might be interested in buying a product. In all of these cases you add something that the affiliate provider is willing to pay for.
Good affiliate marketing from your point of view
By now you understand that you need to offer something unique (take 'unique' as a very broad term here) to be a successful affiliate marketer. But that isn't the end point of good affiliate marketing... it's only the beginning! A good affiliate marketer builds on his unique selling point by getting the maximum amount of sales out of it.
So that means: if you have many visitors to your website, find a good affiliate program to promote; if you are really good at writing sales copy, get more people to read it; if you have a great idea for an affiliate website, find the perfect keywords to rank for. Optimizing every aspect of affiliate marketing is what separates the good from the bad (and those who make tons of money with affiliate marketing from those who struggle to get by).
How to optimize your affiliate marketing effort
Basically there are a number of aspects that you can optimize to build a good affiliate website. These are the following
Find a good affiliate program
The affiliate program you choose directly affects the profitability of your effort. You want a program with good commissions, high conversion rates, excellent support and a nice fit with your website's topic. (What is the best affiliate program?) Sign up for a good affiliate program and learn about the product or service, so that you can sell it through your website or your network.
Optimize your website's conversion
Most people who make a website don't think about selling while doing so. And that's logical, because most people make a website just because they like to write about something they enjoy, not to make money. But if you want to make money with your website, you're going to have to learn how to write persuasive web content. Read the chapter about 'pre-selling' in the free SiteSell Affiliates Masters Course to get started with writing good affiliate website content.
Optimize your website's SEO
These days SEO ('Search Engine Optimization') and affiliate marketing go hand in hand. Because almost everybody uses one of the main search engines (Google, and to a lesser degree Bing or Yahoo) to find what they are looking for on the internet, it is crucial that you show up among the top results if you want people to visit your site instead of somebody elses. There is a lot that can be said about SEO and I won't discuss it all on this site. Two good websites with free SEO resources are SEO Book.com and SEO Chat.
Get more visitors with PPC advertising
Pay per click (PPC) advertising can be a great and inexpensive way to get more visitors to your site. Think about it: if you get a $200 average commission for selling anti-aging pills (for example), you have quite a bit of a budget to spend on recruiting your target audience. Even if you pay $1 per click and only one in a hundred of your visitors buys something, you still make a $100 profit on each sale. And the best thing is, where it can take a lot of time to get an effect with SEO, PPC marketing works immediately. Google's AdWords is the most important PPC platform.
Leverage your social network
If you have a lot of friends, family or co-workers, or if you have a large group of followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook, you may already know many potential customers. I would not recommend abusing your friends to sell them something they don't need, but the product you're promoting might be the perfect solution to a problem they have. If not, maybe they are willing to share or link to your website, which can attract their friends. In this time of everything 2.0, a good affiliate marketer uses his social network as leverage.