You've probably heard before a lot of hype about how much money you can make with affiliate programs. Maybe you've even set up a site yourself, only to find that after buying the domain, a few bucks a month in hosting, software or a web designer to design your site, etc., that the piddly affiliate fees hardly even covered your cost. Well, here's the hype-free way to really make money with an Amazon.com affiliate site. And it'll only take a day to make the site. The secret? Low cost, low effort.
Time Required: One day
- If you don't already know it, learn some basic HTML. You have to do this to keep your costs down and still get what you want. Even if the site is basically laid out for you, you're going to need to know how to insert images, create hyperlinks, and do some basic text formatting. Our HTML Guide offers a free 10-week HTML class and a great collection of beginning HTML tutorials. Get over any anxiety you have about this. Just do it. You'll thank me for it later.
- Decide on your topic. You're going to be doing product reviews and recommendations, so pick a topic that you enjoy and know something about. If you can't stay passionate about the topic, that will show, and it also won't hold your interest. Choose a narrow enough niche to be distinctive, e.g., bands from your city, left-handed guitarists, music for a certain kind of dancing, authors of a certain religion, books about arts & crafts, etc.
- Choose your domain name. Make it keyword-rich, not clever. Think how people will find your site in the search engines. Here are some ideas (all available, by the way):
Music: BandsFromTexas.com, BandOutOfBoston.com, SouthpawGuitarists.com, ClassicPsychedelia.com, Non-Stop-Hip-Hop.com, Merengue-Music.com
Books: Mormon-Authors.com, Arts-and-Crafts-Books.com, Books-by-Stephen-King.com, ClassicBusinessBooks.com
Others: Best-Baby-Toys.com, MomsMags.com, FelliniMovies.com
- Register your domain name. If you're not technically inclined at all, register your domain wherever you set up your hosting in step 5. Otherwise, you can save a few bucks by choosing a lower-cost provider. Not a big deal for one or two sites, but it can be for ten or twenty. I use GoDaddy, who have great domain management tools and are less than $10 a year. The least expensive I've found from a reputable source is 1&1, whose price is under $6 a year (last I checked).
- Set up your web hosting. This is where most people get burned. For this kind of site, you do not need $10 a month web hosting! Check out Discount-Hosting.com for no-frills hosting with adequate functionality and bandwidth, for around $10 a year! If you want more features, or especially if you're planning to run multiple sites, see GeekHosting.com or Multidomain-Hosting.com.
- Install weblog software. "Weblog, you say?" Yes. It will give your site all the structure you need, plus make it easy to quickly post new content. My pick is WordPress, which is open source (i.e., free), easy to install and use, and yet very powerful. Download it and follow their installation instructions. Turn on notifications to Weblogs.com and Blo.gs. In WordPress, this is under Options | RSS/RDF Feeds, Track-Ping-backs.
- Make it pretty. Free templates for WordPress are available at Not That Ugly. Choose a style you like and then tweak it to suit your tastes and the theme of your site.
- Set up categories. Most blog software allows you to create sub-categories to help organize your entries. This will help visitors narrow in even more specifically on their interests. For example, BandsFromTexas.com might have one group of categories for genre — rock, country, blues, etc. — and another for city of origin — Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, etc.
- Sign up as an Amazon Associate. It's simple and free. Just visit Amazon and click on the Join Associates link at the bottom of the page (here's a direct link for your convenience). Your site should already have at least the basic setup done, even if you don't have any content there yet.
- Create your blog posting bookmarks/links. There are two links that are going to be essential for you to make this easy. First is the blog posting link. In your blog software, on the posting page (see their instructions), at the bottom of the page there should be a "bookmarklet". Click on the link (and hold the mouse) and drag it up to your Links toolbar in your browser (assuming Internet Explorer), or your Favorites menu. This will allow you to blog a product with one mouse click.
- Create your Amazon Build-A-Link bookmark/link. This will make it easy to build the link with your affiliate ID built in. Log in to Associates Central, look in the left navigation sidebar, go to Build-A-Link, and under Static Links, find Individual Items. Click and drag this onto your Links toolbar or Favorites menu.
- Build your first link. Go to Amazon and find the product you want to review. Scroll down to Product Details and find the ASIN or ISBN. Double-click on the number itself to select it, then right-click and choose Copy. Click on your Amazon Build-A-Link link. Right-click in the search field and choose Paste. Change the selection from Served Link to You Host. Click Go. Your selection should show up. Click Get HTML. Choose the kind of link you want, select the highlighted text and copy it.
- Blog your review. Now click on your blog posting link (Press It! by default in WordPress). If you're using WordPress, you should now see two pieces of link code in your posting form, the first one ending with "Associates Build-A-Link >< /a >". Delete through that point. The second part is a link to the product with your Amazon Associate ID built in. Now just write your product review, choose the appropriate categories for it, and hit Publish.
- Build out your site. Before you promote your site, you want to have some substantial content there. Write several product reviews. Have at least 2-3 in each category you've created. You may also want to make a categories for articles, news, and commentary about your topic. The more content your site has, the better. And the great thing is that while you're writing all this, the search engines are getting notified automatically, assuming you turned on the notifications mentioned in step 6.
- Promote your site. The best free way to do this is to communicate with other bloggers writing about similar topics, and to participate in online communities where your topic is discussed. See the Online Business Networking category for ideas, as well as the Internet Marketing category.
- You have to learn some basic HTML and basic concepts about running a web site. It's just not that hard. If you have to rely on purchased software, you won't be able to get exactly what you want, you won't know what to do when things go wrong, and you'll end up spending money you don't need to. Spend the time to learn it. It will be well worth the investment.
- I slightly recommend music over books and other products, mainly because you can listen to the clips of an entire album in about 10 minutes and get a good enough feel for it (without buying it) to do a short review. If you have another topic that you're passionate about, great, but make sure you have a unique angle on the topic. People can get reviews about a lot of those consumer products anywhere. You need to give them a reason to come to your site.
- To draw repeat visitors, create a newsletter. Frequency should depend on how often you're posting new content. Start with monthly. EZezine will let you send up to 1,000 messages a month for free, with no ads. By the time you exceed that, you should be able to justify paying for the service.
- To pick up some extra pennies, sign up for Google AdSense. It probably won't generate a lot of revenue, but it's free to sign up and completely effortless to maintain.
- Set reasonable expectations for earnings. You've only invested $20. You're going to make 5% on most products. That means that you need to sell $400 worth of stuff to make back your investment. To make $20 an hour, what you write must generate $400 worth of purchases. You get credit for other purchases made while at Amazon besides just the product you linked to, so it's not as hard as it may sound. It won't make you rich, but it's not hard to be profitable, and it builds over time.