When researching how to make money online, affiliate marketing is one option that will always pop up. Using affiliate marketing by itself is completely free; you don’t have to buy any stock, like with Ecommerce. However, there are some costs that involved if you want to affiliate marketing on a website on it’s own domain.
To avoid any costs at all, and start an affiliate marketing business for free, there are two options:
- Start without a website; you’ll have rely on social media
- Build a free website
When using social media, the strategy is to grow an audience, and start mixing in affiliate links in some of your content.
If you’re using a (free) website, there are two different approaches, that use a different strategy. One is to build a niche site, the other is to build an authority site. For an explanation on the difference, and the strategies involved, read: what’s the difference between a niche site and an authority site.
Affiliate marketing without a website; using social media
Affiliate marketing without a website is a bit tricky. A lot of affiliate programs or affiliate networks will not let you register without a website. Some do let you register without a website, but don’t allow you to promote their links on (some) social media. Others will ask you to specify what social media channels you’ll use to promote your affiliate links (for instance, on Daisycon you’ll have to provide this information). And then, some of the affiliate programs are 100% OK with advertising wherever you want to, granted you don’t spam (for instance, Clickbank).
Also, almost all referral programs will let you register without a website, and allow you to promote your links anywhere. If you’re confused on the difference, read my about the difference between referral marketing and affiliate marketing.
Then, once you’re signed up with an affiliate program or referral program, you’ll have to find a social media platform that allows you to use your affiliate or referral links. Not all of them do, or only allow it with certain restrictions in place. Here is a quick list with the most popular social media platforms, and whether they allow you to use affiliate links:
- Youtube: Yes, but there are few restrictions. For more info, read my full article on affiliate links on YouTube. YouTube is one of your best options, as video is a very good medium to use to convince someone to make a purchase.
- Twitter: Gray area. Twitter lists affiliate links under spam in their rules. However, I’ve seen it happen from time to time, mostly with some sort of disclaimer stating it’s an affiliate link. But then again, try convincing someone to make a purchase in 140 characters; not your best option.
- Facebook: Yes. You can even post affiliate links in posts on your page, and then use Facebook Ads to promote that post.
- Pinterest: No. Affiliate links are not allowed, and automatically blocked. But currently, there’s a way to bypass that (how to bypass), but it probably won’t keep working.
- Tumblr: Not really. Tumblr is not very affiliate-friendly. It’s allowed to a certain, small extent. In their rules, they state that you can’t use Tumblr with the main objective to make money with it using your affiliate links. I’ve read a lot of people getting banned from Tumblr by promoting affiliate links.
In short; YouTube and Facebook are your best options. Build up an audience over time, promote relevant products, and you’re in business!
Build a Free website
There are a lot of advantages of having your own website. Even with a free website, you can apply to more affiliate programs, and post your affiliate links without having to worry about breaking any rules. But the biggest advantage is that you can write long articles on your website, written to convert your readers into buyers.
On social media, almost nobody is looking to read more than a couple of words or sentences, so it’s pretty hard to convert your social media followers into buyers. But of course, you can tie in your social media accounts with your website! With your own website, you can now use your social media accounts to drive traffic to articles on your website that promote your affiliate products. These articles on your website will contain your affiliate links, and are optimized for conversion.
And no, you don’t need to be a tech-genius to build a website; nowadays it’s pretty easy. If you’re completely new to building websites, I recommend following a tutorial with step-by-step instructions, so you don’t get stuck. You’re in luck; I’ve got one for you right here:
In my tutorial, I show you how to build a free website using the WordPress CMS, which is the most popular choice, using a platform called SiteRubix. If you’re interested in other options, see my top 5.
Or, actually invest a couple of dollars
If you’re starting an actual business, you should be willing to invest some money to increase your chances of succes. Building a website isn’t even that much of an investment. All you need is to buy a domain name and web hosting. If you follow some of my tips to save money, you can get a domain name and webhosting for less than $20, and it has a lot of advantages:
- You can sign up for all affiliate programs.
- You can use your own domain name.
- You can use a firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
- Looks more professional, and builds more trust. Definitely a necessity if you’re going with the ‘authority site’ approach.
- You can use an unrestricted version of the WordPress or choose a completely different Content Management System.
To build a website on your own domain name and hosting account requires a few extra steps, but isn’t that much more difficult than building a free website. For tutorials on these extra steps; adding your domain name to your hosting account, installing WordPress, and setting up email, see my instructional videos.
Paying for your domain name and web hosting is definitely worth the small upfont investment, especially if you’re in it for the long run.
Any questions or comments?
If you have any questions on starting an affiliate marketing business for free, or about going the paid route, post a comment below!