Building a Business Around Affiliate Programs
This is an old thread starter I brewed up back in 2001, when I was mostly talking to myself and rcjordan in the affiliate forum. The original thread is here.
There have been a couple of posts lately about working affiliate programs, and if doing so is lucrative. Finding ideas and how to go about them have also been discussed. This is what I do, so I want to share some of my thoughts.
Is this lucrative?
Yes, but it is not easy. General interest type of stuff has almost hit rock bottom, but working a niche can be very rewarding. Your success depends on your willingness to work hard, learn, adapt, and refocus as necessary with this constantly evolving biz. It can take a lot of work.
Where can I find the best affiliate areas to work in?
Well, you probably won't find concrete info on a website. If someone finds a niche that few have explored, and is very lucrative, they probably will not be broadcasting this to the world. This also can require a good bit of research before getting started. More on this later.
I am new to site building and this will be a steep learning curve. Will it be worth it?
That depends. Success certainly will not happen overnight. There are many hats to wear, and you have to at least learn the basics of each. Site design, layout, navigation, graphics creation, SEO, finding workable affiliate programs, etc. etc. You have to take each step one at a time, and move on to the next. This can be a considerable undertaking, but if you enjoy this kind of work, it can be very rewarding.
I started this in late '98, beginning with learning html and graphics at night and on weekends. I went to this full time almost exactly a year ago. I started learning the basics of real SEO the last quarter of last year. (Thanks to WmW.) Mid-quarter of this year, I started to feel like I have a good foundation of all general aspects of this business. Moral - this takes time and effort. Don't plan to quit your day job anytime soon. I don't want to discourage anyone, but starting from scratch requires a lot. In the end, you can have at least a nice supplemental income, lots of new friends, and a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.
How do I figure out what to make a site about?
There are 2 routes you can take here. A)Build a site for the sole purpose of making coin. B)Build a site about something you are passionate about, you are an expert about, or you want to be an expert about, and that can make revenue.
Method A can work, but is often already competitive, and you can lose interest after a while.
Method B is a great way to go - you work on something you enjoy. Your excitement and/or expertise will shine through in your work and your visitors will see it. It will make a difference - your site will be more sticky, you will be more willing to keep it updated, and you have a good chance of building a community around your topic.
I think method B is the way to go, so I will focus on it here. First thing, make a list of things that interest you. Brainstorm it - write them down as fast as you can without discarding anything. Try to list at least 15-20 things, whatever pops into your head. Do this 3 times, at different times, so you have a nice list of ideas/topics that interest you. Then take your list, and mark off topics you know won't work, or that you wouldn't want to build a site around. Number your ideas in order of your interest.
Now you want to find out which ideas are popular online, which aren't already super-competitive, but are high on your list of interest. Using goto's search suggestion tool and wordtracker, you can find which topics are popular. Using goto's SE (bid amounts), and number of pages in other SEs, you can find which topics are most competitive.
Next you need to find affiliate programs to tie into your topic. Look at would-be competitor sites and see who they are promoting. Setup accounts with CJ, BeFree, Linkshare, etc. and see what is available. Make sure you have several options - never tie yourself down to one merchant. Try to think outside the box - say you build a site about hot-rods, you would look to on-topic affiliate programs like wrenchhead, but don't forget to look at other options like magazine subscriptions (for hot rods), ezines, car stereos, beer, and other topics your audience is likely to be interested in.
Try to pick 3 ideas, and write a plan down for each - specifically what the site would be about, and how you would make revenue. Take a few days and ponder the ins and outs of each. Email webmasters that are using the affiliate programs you would be using, and ask would they recommend them. (I have done this quite a bit, and usually get at least a 50% response rate.) Ask friends for their opinions and ideas. One idea should eventually shine through, and you have your first site topic.