I've often been asked the question “What would you do (differently) if you were starting your affiliate marketing business over from scratch today?”
In thinking about the answer, I realize that there isn't much I'd change about my approach to doing business on the Internet, i.e. I would still seek out high-quality products to promote as an affiliate, write honest product reviews and build a subscriber list to enhance relationships with my site visitors.
Those age-old business strategies have proven over and over again to build trust and credibility with potential customers — which in turn increases conversion rates, sales and your bottom line.
As such, I would also continue to build sites around a specific topic filled with valuable content and an array of product options from which my visitors can choose, rather than a mini-site focused on a single product.
There also isn't much I'd change about my approach to picking a niche.
I'd still choose to work with topics in which I'm truly interested that have large groups of people with obvious problems (large target markets) that can be solved by products available online through affiliate programs.
However, I'd likely avoid really broad or generic topic choices.
Instead of dating, I'd opt instead for a smaller niche within that market that serves a geographic region or caters to a specific group or ethnicity such as Russian women (mail order brides), black singles or disabled singles.
Although the reason for that is in small part due to increased competition and pay per click advertising prices, the main factor is that there are now so many more forums and social media sites catering to more narrowly focused topics – from which you can get free traffic.
Using social media marketing is one way my strategy would change markedly…
For instance, if my topic was German Shepherds, I'd find out where German Shepherd lovers hang out online and start building relationships with those people by leaving helpful tips and comments on related forums, blogs, groups and social networks. Each comment would be linked back to my site. To find those people I would add terms like “forums, groups, meetup, club” to my Google search for “German Shepherd”.
Based on my avid interest, I would likely have a supply of photographs to upload to a Flickr account specifically dedicated to the topic.
Each photo would be tagged with the term “German Shepherd” and relevant descriptors such as “puppy” or “training” and photo descriptions would also be linked to specific information on my site. Both tagging and linked descriptions are good methods to generate free traffic.
The other big difference between now and back when I started affiliate marketing in 1997 is website creation technology.
Site building is now SO much easier.
All my sites are currently WordPress blogs and that's what I'd choose to start any new site — the main reason for which is again the ability to generate free search engine traffic in a way that just wasn't possible prior to blog technology.
With all the free traffic that can be generated through blogging and social media marketing, I would be much less likely to try and ‘jump-start' the traffic flow with pay per click advertising. I would still use PPC to market the site, but would wait for initial traffic to access conversions and make modifications prior to investing in paid advertising.
Too, rather than hunt and pick through free themes, I'd buy a WordPress theme to give the blog a professional look from the outset. Using a professional theme saves time. More importantly, those affiliate managers who might be reviewing your site prior to approving your affiliate application are going to have a much better first impression of your site. Of course, I'd also use stock photography outlets to improve the look of the site even more.
Lastly, I would be more amenable to buying a PLR (private label rights) article pack to build my core articles and outsourcing substantial rewrites of those articles. That way I'd have more time to concentrate on writing reviews for those products that are intended best to serve my customers' needs.
In summary therefore, the biggest changes I would make if I was starting my affiliate business today would be to outsource design and writing tasks in order to spend more time on social media marketing in the pursuit of free traffic and enhanced relationships with potential customers.
Want to learn more about how to become an affiliate marketer? Join my multi-media affiliate training program, Affiliate Blogger PRO. You'll get written and video tutorials, site reviews and connect with me (Ros) and other members on our Community Forums when you have questions.