Affiliate Marketing: Chicken vs. Egg
So, you have an idea for a website, and you plan to make money through said website via affiliate marketing.
That's a great idea. Affiliate marketing remains one of the only (if not the only) proven methods for turning websites into actual cash.
However, connecting your idea for a website with a profitable affiliate marketing strategy is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. In fact, it's very easy to screw things up; many webmasters end up mixing art with commerce and doing neither well.
But what exactly is the winning formula? Is there one?
Defining the Cart-Horse Relationship
Discussion of this topic is kind of like saying what came first, the chicken or the egg, but perhaps the even more pertinent cliché is the old warning against putting the cart before the horse.
Lack of cart-horse lack of coordination happens--i.e., not knowing whether art or commerce is driving your efforts--often happens in affiliate marketing. Usually the primary cause of the problem is that the webmaster doesn't know which is the cart and which is the horse.
On the one side, for instance, you have someone who starts a blog, and wants to make some money on the side.
In another case, you have someone who wants to make money on the Internet through affiliate marketing, so they start up a blog.
Those are two totally different cart-horse relationships. For the first person, the driving reason to have a blog is to, well, blog. For the other person, the driving reason to have a blog is to make money.
Before you start building your site, do yourself a favor and think about what's most important to you about your impending website; and then let that driving reason drive your efforts. If you have your priorities straight from day one, you will give yourself a better chance of creating both a good website and a long-term income stream; your cart and horse can work in harmony.
Once you decide what's most important to you about having a website, you can go about devising a proper balance between your idea and your need for cash flow.
Some issues you will face (all of us do):
-- Will you recommend affiliate products in the text of your website, in your own voice, or will your affiliate offers be more like advertisements?
-- Would you recommend a product purely because you are being paid a commission when your website visitor clicks through and buys?
-- Will you disclaim your affiliate links, tell people you're an affiliate, or operate more along the lines of your visitors being on a "need to know basis"?
-- Will you recommend mediocre products if the companies selling them pay you top notch commissions?
-- Will you spend more time creating content for your website (blogging, videos, etc.) or more time managing your pay-per-click campaigns?
-- Will you spend more money on creating content for your website or more money buying PPC ads?
-- Is this website going to be a hobby with a little bit of business thrown in, or a business with a little bit of hobby thrown in?
-- How do you feel about "blackhat" search engine optimization techniques?
-- How firmly do you believe in Capitalism's favorite saying of "caveat emptor" (buyer beware)?
As you might have guessed, we are not here to tell you what the "right" answers are to these questions and we wouldn't be able to do this if we tried. The right answers to these balance-focused questions will vary from webmaster to webmaster and--give us one more cliché please, just to round it out--there is more than one way to skin a cat (sorry).
The only wrong answer here is to not ask yourself these questions before you try to combine your idea for a website with your desire to make money through affiliate marketing.