How to Use ShareASale's Affiliate Marketing Network to Find a Profitable Niche
You’ve heard of affiliate marketing and how you can get started with minimal upfront costs and make money while you sleep.
Who wouldn’t want that?
You learn how affiliate marketing can put more money towards your retirement or even fund that dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take.
So you search online and dig deeper to learn more.
One of the first things you’ll quickly learn is the importance of choosing a niche.
But not just any niche. You could have a huge site with hundreds of pages of content and still fail to earn a single commission.
You chose a niche that barely receives any traffic.
A large part of being a successful affiliate marketer comes down to choosing a profitable niche.
So let’s make one thing clear:
Choosing a niche isn’t easy.
There are TENS of thousands to choose from.
Weight loss, self-improvement, investing, makeup, baking, electronics, watches, games, toys, home decor, etc. etc. etc.
Where do you even start?
If you're like most entrepreneurial affiliates, you start at Amazon. It's an excellent place to help you brainstorm niches. The site neatly organizes all its products into categories and subcategories to help you get ideas for the right niche for your affiliate marketing efforts.
But you shouldn’t limit yourself to Amazon. To find even more potentially-lucrative niches, expand your research to include other sites — like ShareASale.
Not sure what ShareASale is?
In this in-depth article, we’ll look at what ShareASale is, how their affiliate program works, and how you can use it to find a profitable niche and make some serious money.
What You’ll Learn in This Article:
- What is ShareASale?
- A Guide to the ShareASale Affiliate Program
- ShareASale Signup Requirements
- Getting Started With ShareASale
- How to Find a Niche Using ShareASale
- How to Determine if Your Niche is Profitable
- What Metrics to Look at When Choosing a Merchant
- How to Measure Profitability for ShareASale Merchants
- How to Make Money With ShareASale
- ShareASale FAQs
What is ShareASale?
ShareASale is an affiliate marketing network that connects affiliates and merchants.
Merchants can sign up for the network to offer their products or services. Currently, there are over 3,900 affiliate programs from popular brands like Wayfair, Reebok, FreshBooks, Segway, and Shutterfly.
Affiliates can promote products from other merchants on their websites or other marketing channels.
Can you make money as a ShareASale affiliate?
Absolutely, and you won't be the only one.
Affiliate marketing spending is expected to exceed $8 billion by 2022.
And that’s just in the US alone.
There’s a massive opportunity to make money as an affiliate marketer, even if you’re just getting started.
But it’s not as easy as simply picking a program and adding links to your site. There’s a lot more effort involved to turn affiliate marketing into a lucrative business.
We’ll take a closer look at how to make money with ShareASale later on in this post.
Before we do, let’s look at the pros and cons of the ShareASale affiliate program and how it works.
A Guide to the ShareASale Affiliate Program
Most affiliate marketers choose Amazon for many reasons:
- It’s a trusted eCommerce brand
- Becoming an affiliate is easy
- There are TONS of products to promote
But a major downside of the Amazon Associates program is the low commission rate for the majority of its product categories:
If a visitor you refer spends a thousand dollars on a gaming console and games, you would only earn $10.
$10. From $1000.
In contrast, most commissions for the ShareASale affiliate program start at 10% and go up, with some going as high as 80%.
Before you decide on ShareASale (or any affiliate program for that matter), it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages carefully. Then you can make a more informed decision.
Pros and Cons of ShareASale's Affiliate Program
How ShareASale's Affiliate Program Works
The ShareASale affiliate program is free to join as an affiliate, but you’ll need to fill out a short application.
You can apply to merchants once your application is accepted. With Amazon Associates, you can promote any product, but ShareASale works differently.
Many merchants on the ShareASale affiliate network have an approval process. This allows merchants to control where their brands appear. You’ll need to manually apply to the merchants you’re interested in promoting.
As an affiliate, you can choose to receive payment by check. You can also opt to be paid by ACH direct deposit or wire transfer. Note that there’s a $29 fee to do a wire transfer. You can go into your Payment Settings to change how you prefer to get paid.
Payments are always sent on the 20th of each month for commissions earned in the previous month. The minimum threshold is $50, but you can raise it to a higher amount if you like.
Now let’s get you started with ShareASale
ShareASale Sign Up Requirements
For this guide, we’ll assume you’re applying to ShareASale as an affiliate and not as a merchant.
This won’t take long. You’ll only need 5 to 10 minutes to fill out the application.
Head over to ShareASale’s website and click “Affiliate Sign Up” at the top right or the big yellow button that says “I want to promote this merchant on my website.”
Then you’ll see the following page:
Enter your username, password, and choose your country of residence from the drop-down list.
Click on the “Move On to Step 2” button and you’ll see the following:
Note that you’ll need a website to apply for ShareASale’s affiliate program.
Don’t have a website?
Not to worry.
We previously outlined the entire process of how to start a niche site for $23.49. It’s a low start-up cost, considering how much you can earn with affiliate marketing. Continue with the application once you have your site up and running.
Be sure to also check out our Tools and Resources page for our recommendations on taking your online business to the next level.
Enter in the URL to your primary website, select the language it’s written in, and answer simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions about it.
Then click through to the next step and you’ll see the following:
ShareASale requires that you enter a valid email address.
It’s best not to use a free host email like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail as your application may get rejected. Plus, if you enter an email address that matches your domain, you can get your application approved faster.
Let’s move onto step 4 (providing your contact information):
Enter your contact information, including your address and phone number. If you choose to receive payment by checks, they’ll send them to the address you enter on this page.
If you need to contact customer support for any reason, you’ll be asked to provide a four-digit pin to confirm your identity. Make sure to write it down somewhere and keep it safe, so you don’t forget!
Enter a short description of your website and marketing plan. You don’t need to go into detail here. But it’s a good idea to fill out this section to help get your application approved.
Further down the page, you’ll also be asked whether your website utilizes an incentive program (e.g., reward sites) and if you own the domain.
The last step asks that you select a preferred payment method. Read through the terms of agreement and click the “Complete Application” button.
That’s about it!
Be sure to check your inbox for a confirmation link.
Getting Started With ShareASale
Your application has been approved!
Log into your account and spend some time familiarizing yourself with the interface.
It’s a good idea to check through your Account Setting just to make sure that your account details and payment settings are accurate.
Take some time to look through the Reports as you’ll be spending a lot of time here as you start to earn commissions.
On the dashboard, click on “Search for Merchants.”
This section allows you to browse through merchants that have an affiliate program. Note that you can also search the database by product, keyword, or name.
As you browse through the merchants, you’ll see the following:
This can be rather overwhelming if you’re a new affiliate.
We’ll take a look at what these metrics mean and what to look for in more detail later on.
For now, let’s take a look at how you can find a profitable niche with ShareASale.
How to Find a Niche Using ShareASale
Finding a niche isn’t easy.
Thankfully, ShareASale offers several tools that can help with your research.
Here’s a guide to finding a niche using ShareASale:
Knowing which merchants are having the most success on the platform can help you uncover profitable niches.
Fortunately, ShareASale TELLS you which of its merchants are performing well.
Log into your account and click on “Search For Merchants.”
You’ll see “Featured Categories” on the top.
From there, click on “Power Rank:
“Power Rank” is simply a list of the most profitable merchants on ShareASale.
Take a quick look at this list.
Note down any names that jump out at you or even visit their sites directly to see if they have any products you would be interested in promoting.
Further down the page, we see Minted as a Power Rank merchant.
Here’s what we see when hovering over the Stationery link in the top menu:
These are even more niche ideas that you can consider pursuing.
There’s no need to pick a niche just yet, so let’s continue digging through ShareASale.
You can also find potential niches on ShareASale by category.
From the “Search For Merchant” page, ShareASale displays a list of categories on the left-hand side and the number of merchants in them:
Click on a category to view additional sub-categories:
You can use this list to come up with new niches. Note down any that you might be interested in pursuing.
Niche ideas are everywhere if you know where to look.
Amazon offers a good starting point.
Here are the most popular product categories:
From Amazon’s site, you can view their main product categories:
And drill down into the sub-categories:
These are potential keywords that you can use to start your niche research.
You can also use sites like Oberlo to discover trending products and look at Google Trends to view searches over time.
With keywords you’ve found on sites like Amazon and Oberlo, you can use them to find additional niches on ShareASale.
On the top left of the “Search For Merchants” page, you’ll see a search box:
Simply type in a keyword and click “Go.”
ShareASale will then return a list of merchants that match your search.
Here’s an example when searching for the keyword “home improvement”:
Note that each merchant also displays a list of “Program Keywords” with additional niche ideas you can consider.
If you were to start a home improvement website, you could work with merchants in that industry and earn commissions from any referrals you send. An example might be to build a site around home decor and promote furniture that you recommend.
By now, you should have a big list of ideas.
Before you decide on a niche, it’s a good idea to estimate how profitable it is.
How to Determine if Your Niche is Profitable
Alright, you’ve found a niche within ShareASale and you’re ready to dive right in.
Hold on a second...
Before we can dive in, you need to ask yourself an important question: “Will this niche make me money?”
You’ll be putting in a lot of time and effort to build an affiliate marketing site. So you want to be sure that your efforts will pay off.
Do your due diligence to help you choose a niche that you can actually make money in.
Remember those fidget spinners that were all the rage a few years ago? It seemed like everybody had one.
But then… the fad slowly died out.
Take a look at Google Trends for “fidget spinner” now:
You can probably make money with this niche, but its growth potential isn’t very promising (who knows, it could make a comeback again!).
So how can you check if your niche is profitable?
There are a few ways:
How to Identify a Profitable Niche #1: Use Google’s Keyword Planner to Get Search Volume Data
Keyword Planner is a free tool, but you’ll need a Google Ads account to use it.
Let’s say you want to promote Warby Parker — A merchant on ShareASale that sells prescription glasses and sunglasses.
Type in a related keyword into Keyword Planner like “prescription glasses” into the tool and click the “Get Started” button to get search volume and forecasts:
Be sure to select “Exact match.” This allows you to look at how many people have searched for that exact phrase.
Add the keyword to your plan and you can view its traffic forecast.
Here’s the forecast for “prescription glasses”:
I intentionally set the max CPC to $100 to see how much traffic I would get if my ad ranked in the first position.
If we run this campaign today, we can expect about 58,000 impressions a month.
That’s a promising niche!
Use Keyword Planner on some of your niche keywords to estimate its traffic potential.
How to Identify a Profitable Niche #2: Search on Google
Next, search Google for your niche keyword.
What we’re looking for are advertisements — proof that businesses are paying to show their products to people searching for your niche's subject.
Here’s the top ad that we see for “prescription glasses”:
The fact that there are advertisers for this keyword is a strong indication that this is a niche worth pursuing. Advertisers wouldn’t pay an average $17 CPC (cost per click) if it weren’t worth it for them.
If you don’t see any ads, you may want to consider another niche or focus your attention on a different keyword.
And be sure you've turned off your adblocker...
What Metrics to Look at When Choosing a Merchant
You’ve found a potential niche and estimated its profitability.
Now it’s time to find a merchant that you can promote.
Before you apply to a program, there are some data points that are worth a closer look.
Here’s a screenshot of ShareASale's merchant dashboard:
Let’s go over each one:
This is the name of the merchant. Click the link to view more details about the merchant and visit their website to see what kind of products they offer.
You may even want to look up the merchant online. What are other people saying about the company? Do they have mostly positive reviews and a good reputation?
Determining the quality and reputation of a brand you'll be promoting is incredibly important as it can determine how reliable your commission income will be.
For instance, you don't want to invest time and energy creating content for a brand that ends up going bankrupt in a month.
Auto-approval means that you can apply to a merchant and get automatically accepted. For this merchant, auto-approval is set to “No”. You’ll have to apply and wait to hear back from them, which could take a few days.
Power Rank is a good indication that a merchant is profitable. If you see a high number here, it means the merchant is successful with this network. ZenBusiness is currently ranked number one.
EPC stands for Earnings Per Click. It refers to the average amount that affiliates earn for every 100 clicks they send. The earnings potential for this particular merchant is high.
If you send 100 clicks to ZenBusiness, you could earn well over $2,000.
Commissions vary for each merchant. Some merchants offer a percentage (e.g., 30% per sale), while others offer a flat rate (e.g., $50 per sale).
With the latter, you may not be able to earn as much. If you sell a $3,000 mattress, you’ll only make $50.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever bought something on impulse.
You’re not alone.
More than half (54%) of US shoppers have indicated they have spent $100 or more on an impulse buy.
Not everyone impulse buys though.
Some people need more time.
That’s where cookies come in.
Cookies are small data files that are stored in a users’ web browser. This allows merchants to identify which affiliates are responsible for sales.
If you send traffic to a merchant and it doesn’t immediately convert, you can still earn a commission if they come back to the site later on.
Cookie duration varies for each merchant. Ideally, you should look for merchants with cookie durations of at least 30 days.
In contrast, the Amazon Associates cookies only last for 24 hours
You’ve got your first commission!
… But it got reversed.
Disappointing, but it happens.
Reversals are the percentage of customers who have refunded their purchase. A high percentage is a red flag as it indicates that customers aren’t satisfied with their purchase and request refunds in high numbers.
You want to look for merchants with a low reversal percentage, ideally less than 5%.
In summary, here’s what you should look for when choosing a merchant:
- Recognized brand with positive reviews
- Commissions of at least 10%
- Cookies higher than 30 days
- Reversals of less than 5%
How to Measure Profitability for ShareASale Merchants
After finding a merchant that meets all your criteria, the next step is to dig into their sales process.
This section will get into how you can best determine your prospective merchant's profitability.
Landing pages are designed with a specific goal in mind.
They’re typically built as standalone pages to convert a visitor, and well-designed landing pages can ultimately lead to higher conversions.
When deciding on a merchant, analyze their landing pages.
- Does it have a professional design?
- Does it communicate trustworthiness?
- Do they have a clear value proposition?
- Would YOU feel comfortable purchasing from this site?
If you said no to any of these questions, then you may want to consider another merchant.
Here’s an example of a good landing page from mattress company Nectar:
The landing page is well-designed and even includes psychological triggers like creating a sense of urgency with the timer.
This is all good news for you as an affiliate, because you know that when you send traffic to this landing page, that traffic has a high chance of converting — ultimately helping you generate more sales.
A sales funnel is the path that visitors take to becoming a customer.
Here’s an example:
A strong sales funnel is more effective at turning visitors into customers. A good indication is if the merchant has a system in place to collect emails and follow up with prospects.
You may even consider signing up yourself to see what their sales sequence is like and how they convert visitors.
Think about some of your most recent purchases. Chances are you read some reviews online to help with your decision.
If you saw mostly positive reviews, you would feel more confident about your purchase. But you may have second thoughts if the reviews were mostly negative.
Shoppers today are savvier than ever before.
95% of shoppers read reviews before making a purchase.
There’s a good chance that any visitors you send to a merchant will check reviews online.
Read reviews online to see what others have said about the merchant and the products they sell. What are some of the things they’ve said? Are they mostly positive or negative?
Be sure to check forums as well as social platforms like Facebook and Reddit. If there are overwhelmingly negative reviews, you may want to consider another vendor.
You can even purchase the product yourself to see what it’s like. This allows you to write a more detailed review as you have first-hand experience with it.
How to Make Money with ShareASale Affiliate Marketing
You’ve chosen a niche and a merchant (or several) that you can promote.
Now, how do you make money with ShareASale affiliate marketing?
Let’s start with how you can start making money.
In the early days of the Internet, you could create hundreds of low-quality pages and get them ranking with only a few backlinks.
But those days of building “thin” sites are long gone.
Google made sure of that with its Panda update, which penalized sites that were deemed as low quality.
If you try to spam your site with scrapped content, you’ll likely face a ranking penalty or even complete removal from the search index.
It’s just not worth it.
So what should you do instead?
The answer is to build an authority site.
An authority site is essentially a large site with high-quality content.
Review type keywords tend to have higher conversions. Shoppers searching for these keywords are further down the sales cycle and closer to making a purchase.
But with your own affiliate site, you should also target information type keywords (e.g., How to Choose a Camping Tent).
These types of keywords have good traffic volume and you can funnel visitors to your product review pages with links.
Informative articles also help your site build more authority and trust with search engines like Google.
Here’s an example of how authority sites are structured:
Note that this is just one cluster on a website, but it should give you a better idea of what authority sites are like.
Instead of writing ONLY product reviews, you’ll also want to include informational articles that add a ton of value.
Not sure what kind of content to create?
Implement a content marketing strategy that targets different stages of the buyer journey. You can also use sites like Facebook, Quora, and Reddit for research.
What are people talking about? What kinds of questions are they asking? Use those as starting points to create quality content for your site.
WordPress is a powerful content management platform with robust features. It currently powers 33.6% of the top 10 million sites.
Best of all, it’s free.
There are tons of plugins you can add to streamline your affiliate marketing efforts.
Here are just a handful of plugins that we recommend installing:
- Yoast SEO: Yoast SEO offers XML sitemap functionality and makes it easy to optimize your content with its built-in SEO analysis tool.
- PrettyLinks: PrettyLinks allows you to cloak your affiliate links and track click counts. You’ll be able to monetize your content better.
- MonsterInsights: MonsterInsights shows you analytics from Google Analytics and comes with link tracking features.
- OptinMonster: OptinMonster is a powerful tool that lets you grow and manage your email list. Use this tool to create multiple form types and test different headlines.
- W3 Total Cache: W3 Total Cache increases website performance and reduces loading times.
- Smush: Smush automatically compresses and reduces file sizes for any images you upload.
There are no shortages of WordPress plugins. Start with these to give your affiliate site a head start and consider adding more as your site grows.
Here are other suggestions to optimize your site:
- Use SEO friendly URLs
- Implement a mobile responsive theme
- Optimize on-page factors, including title tags, meta descriptions, and headers
- Reduce page loading times
- Submit an XML sitemap
- Link to internal pages
- Have a clear layout
Email marketing is a low-cost way to build relationships with your audience and generate affiliate commissions.
It also delivers a strong return on investment. For every $1 spent on email marketing, statistically speaking, you can expect to generate an average return of $42.
So how do you build an email list?
But don’t just expect visitors to add their email addresses.
You need a lead magnet or an incentive that you can offer to visitors in exchange for their email address. Examples can include offering downloadable content like free guides, reports, or videos.
We use the following lead magnet on our own pages:
Build an email list by adding forms to your pages. Then you can build an autoresponder series to send engaging emails to your subscribers automatically.
Reaching out to relevant sites in your industry is another effective promotional strategy. It allows you to reach a new audience and build strong backlinks to your site.
Get started with outreach marketing with the following steps:
- Search for your keywords on Google and identify potential sites
- Reach out through email or social media
- Propose content ideas that you can publish
- Write a detailed article and include a link back to your site
Here’s an outreach email template you can use to send to other webmasters:
I’m [your name] and I write at [your website].
I found your blog through [Google or social media]. I especially liked the most recent piece about [article name].
I’m reaching out today because I would like to contribute a guest post to your website. Here are some topics I could write about:
- [Article idea]
- [Article idea]
- [Article idea]
Please let me know if you’re interested in any of these topics and I can send the content over once it’s finished.
Short and sweet.
You may not receive responses from every email you send out. But keep reaching out and you’ll eventually hear back from other webmasters.
Social media is HUGE.
There are over 3.5 billion active users on social media.
That’s almost half the population!
Try to find someone with a social media account and you’d be hard-pressed to do so.
Social media users don’t just use platforms like Facebook to upload photos and share updates from their friends. 54% rely on these networks to research products.
With social media, you can reach a wide audience and build a massive following. You can also use Facebook Ads to drive targeted traffic to your site.