Affiliate marketing can be an extremely lucrative business if you know how to do it right. Like in many other fields, experience will form the skill. However, learning by trial and error could cost you quite a lot, so it's better to also learn from others, in order to avoid getting broke.
The best tip I can give you is to choose your affiliate offers wisely. It's crucial for success to promote a great product that people want and appreciate. If you promote shady offers from no-name companies, you may have the surprise of failing, thus forming yourself the wrong belief that affiliate marketing is only a scam and it doesn't work. This is wrong. Done properly, affiliate marketing is absolutely honorable and profitable.
If you have a bit of a budget to start with and you need to make some money fast, you'll probably need to buy traffic for your website. When doing PPC, always estimate very well how much you can afford to bid on keywords in order to be profitable at the end of the day. If you spend 100 dollars to make 99, you lost the game. PPC is both an art and an exact science. Don't neglect either of these two sides.
The art is to find those keywords that have high volume of searches all year round and very little competition. This is how you'll be able to lower your bids and make good profits. If a keyword is highly competitive, it will be very difficult for you to master it and make money. The reason is that big sharks in the industry surely have better affiliate deals than you do, so they can afford to bid more and still make profits. This is how affiliate programs work: big money makers will be always rewarded some additional bonuses and benefits, because every merchant wishes to have motivated and clever affiliates who can make their business thrive.
If you're new to affiliate marketing, you'd better start small and focus your efforts on SEO rather than PPC. SEO takes more time, but it can be much cheaper, so you minimize the damage in case you fail at it.
Anyway, as a rule of the thumb, sidebar banners convert worse than in-article links, so if you don't have a high traffic volume, you probably won't make much from your banners. Reviews of products and services are the best converters. This is tricky, however, because consumers aren't dumb. You need to write your reviews as if you used and liked the product and now you want to share your experience with others.
If you can actually try all the products you endorse, you might find success in the early stages of your affiliate marketing endeavor. People feel when you speak from your own experience. Besides, if you own and use the products, you'll have the chance to take photos and put together original articles full of relevant images, which will attract people to buy, thus making you commissions. This is probably the best tip and I should have started my article with it.
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