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PPC Affiliate Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide

Some marketers love building their audience for free. This can take months or even years of dedication and passion for marketing. However, as much as everyone loves organic traffic, that may not be the best solution for you.

PPC Affiliate Marketing: A Beginner’s Guide hero image

In this post, you will learn everything you must about Pay Per Click affiliate marketing, a type of advertising that pays a fraction of a dollar for each click. This is a great way to generate money online if you pull this off correctly.

Why Is Affiliate Marketing a Great Way To Earn Money Online?

Affiliate marketing refers to the process of advertising someone else’s products and making a cut for each sale.

The types of ads that affiliates might use differ a lot. Affiliate marketing is usually subtle and the best marketers feel like they’re selling you a story instead of the affiliate product. This way, their audience gets invested in the story and before they know it, they bought something off of you.

Affiliates around the globe earn a lot with these tactics. Their content revolves around selling people clicking on their affiliate links pointing to products and services.

Source: Thirsty Affiliates

Keep in mind that affiliates aren’t the only ones raking in big bucks. The businesses that launched their affiliate programs are getting the longer end of the stick. They have to do almost zero marketing as they reap the benefits of the hard work their affiliates put in.

This is why they are more than happy to give affiliates big payouts — even paying those affiliates a lot is far more cost-effective than advertising yourself.

Most of the affiliate marketing strategies revolve around SEO and generating more organic traffic through content and backlinks.

What Is “Pay-Per-Click” in Affiliate Marketing?

Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is a way to encourage website visitors to perform a specific action on your site to your affiliates in exchange for money.

For this to happen, site owners need to sign up for an ad network where they can feature dynamic ads or links on their site relevant to their topic. From here, affiliate marketing publishers can generate income if their visitors click on the ads.

This is a different affiliate marketing model compared to the one above. Instead of searching for affiliate programs to join and manually placing their links on your site, PPC affiliate marketing just requires you to paste a code on your site where you want the ads to appear on your site. From here, the ad networks will take care of showing the best ads to appear on your site to maximize conversions.

Ideally, the goal is to get more traffic to your site, leading to more clicks and revenue. However, and you’ll find out later, other PPC affiliate models allow you to make money without forcing people to click on your ads or links. In this case, it’s a matter of finding the best type of pay-per-click affiliate marketing for your website.

On the downside, the payout for PPC affiliate marketing isn’t very high as opposed to the traditional type of affiliate marketing. That’s why volume is important — you can still make lots of money from this approach but you must drive as many visitors as you can.

Setting Up Your PPC Affiliate Marketing Campaign

We’ve already mentioned what pay-per-click affiliate marketing is in a nutshell. However, there’s more than meets the eye with this marketing tactic. It’s a long-winded process that requires lots of research, creation, and testing to achieve your desired results.

Below, we break down the entire process of developing and launching a pay-per-click affiliate marketing campaign from start to finish. Even if you’re new to affiliate marketing, consider this as a crash course to making money online using this marketing strategy.

Choose a Vertical or Niche

If you have no idea what you want to promote or what type of site to build, you must identify what vertical or subcategory you want to be in.

For example, You want to work in the finance category, but you want to focus on refinance offers. Refinance is your vertical.

If you further specify it to refinance for people over 50 in Germany only, then that would be considered more of a niche.

The goal of “niche-ing” down is to find a small market you want to target with your campaign. Despite its size, this market is much easier to penetrate for you to carve a place for yourself.

When researching for a niche to target in your campaign, there are lots of questions you must ask yourself:

  • How many people are searching for them on Google?
  • How many and how big online communities are there about the vertical?
  • Are there PPC affiliate programs you can join and products to promote in this niche?
  • How competitive is it to rank for its keywords on organic search?
  • How much is the cost per click (CPC) for its keywords, i.e. how much do you have to spend every time someone clicks on your ad?

To help answer these questions, we can divide this section into three parts:

Keyword research

Most of the questions require keyword research to help you answer them properly before moving forward.

To be clear, by doing keyword research, you are looking for verticals that you can leverage using SEO. Since you’ll be looking at organic search data, you’re targeting keywords that people type in on search engines all the time.

This way, you want to fashion your site to rank on top of search results for the topic you’ll be choosing from here.

For starters, you must use tools to help you unearth the data pertinent to your niche.

Google Keyword Planner is arguably the best tool you can use to find the range of monthly searches for a keyword.

Plus, you get to see keyword ideas and suggestions to help narrow your niche search.

The only problem with this tool is it shows you the range of monthly searches. For instance, there’s a lot of wiggle room for a monthly search volume between 100 to 1,000. As a result, you don’t get precise data that can help you plan out your campaign much more properly.

In this case, you might want to use a premium tool like Ahrefs to not only show you more precise monthly search and bid data, but also additional ones like keyword difficulty (for SEO).

The great thing about Ahrefs is its large database of keywords and websites. So when searching for keywords using the tool, you can be sure to find the most extensive keyword data in the market. This way, you can unearth more information about each topic and how “in demand” they are among search engines.

However, there are other keyword tools out there you can use. They arguably don’t provide the same level of quality and data, but you may find some much easier to use and has more affordable pricing.

Competitive research

Aside from learning about the potential keywords, you will have to target and bid as part of your niche selection, you also want the actual competitors you’ll be bidding against.

Ahrefs provides you a list of relevant sites regarding the keyword you entered.

From here, you can delve deeper into each site using each site by finding the best-performing pages according to the number of keywords it ranks for and estimated traffic from each.

Part of your research should include analyzing the backlinks of each competitor to see what it takes to amass the same level of authority and ranking these sites have.

Ahrefs is again one of the best in this regard as it provides you with a breakdown of a site’s backlink profile according to referring domains according to different variables.

From here, you should see which domains your competitor has links to and how they were able to do. You could replicate their backlink profile later on whenever you’re ready.

Although you’re probably not going to be building links just yet, it’s good to at least export a copy of the referring domains of your competitors for future reference.

Aside from SEO, you should also research for competitors on social media. To do this, you’d need a tool like Buzzsumo that’ll allow you to search for influencers in the topics you’re interested in.

Look for influencers and authors on Twitter and YouTube that you want to track and analyze. The goal is to understand how they interact with their audience and the kind of content they share on social media.

Going back to niche selection, knowing how potential competitors leverage social media gives you an idea of how active and lucrative the topic is in this channel.

Research for online communities

Your keyword research would help unearth the interest and demand that the market has for the niche. The more monthly searches for its keywords and higher competition the niche has, the more cutthroat the demand and the competition are for it.

However, you can extend your research by looking at different online communities and the level of engagement they have about the niche.

One of the best places where you could find online groups specific to your niche is Reddit. A quick search on the platform will show you subreddits relevant to your niche and posts that trace back to them.

You can then visit the subreddit and get the feel of its engagement. A subreddit with lots of members and with tens and thousands of upvotes on its most popular posts is indicative of an active subreddit.

Their activity shows you that there’s interest in your niche outside of the data provided by SEO tools!

Another way to gauge the activity of online communities related to your niche is by doing a Google search for “keyword + forum.”

The results should show you forum boards related to your vertical. Similar to how you checked Reddit, see if the forums that appear on SERPs have thousands of members and generate lots of activity.

Find Pay-Per-Click Affiliate Programs to Join

If one thing for a niche to have a built-in community with lots of monthly searches for its keywords. It’s another to have lots of affiliate programs you can sign up and join to promote for your campaign.

Because if there are no programs to join despite being a “good” niche, then there’s no point in running a campaign for it!

When searching for affiliate programs to join and affiliate products to promote, you need to be wary of these things:

  • How much is the payout after every successful transaction? What’s the payment gateway for the payouts, i.e. PayPal, Stripe, wire transfer, etc.
  • Will the commission you'll receive from the product a one-time payment or an ongoing one, i.e. monthly, yearly, etc.?
  • How long is the cookie life, i.e. how many days does the visitor have after visiting your page until you can earn a commission from purchasing the product?
  • How often will you be paid? Do you need to reach a minimum amount before you can withdraw your earnings?

Not all products will meet these criteria, but there are a few that almost do. Of course, all these factors vary depending on your vertical — some are not high-ticket advertisers and have much lower commission rates.

For new-ish sites, you’ll find yourself joining these ad networks that allow sites to low to medium traffic hits:

  • Media.net
  • RevenueHits
  • Skimlinks
  • Mintclicks
  • Bidvertiser

Due to the low barrier of entries to their display ad networks, you won’t be able to generate as much revenue from clicks and impressions as opposed to more premium PPC affiliate programs that have stringent traffic requirements.

During your search, you might be able to find an affiliate program model where the commission is paid when users take specific actions. These actions can be quite different. From forms to quotes, sign-ups, or even purchases.

Known as the cost per action (CPA) model, some swear that it’s the best way to monetize. While this might be true for some, it for sure isn’t that way for everyone. Their love for this type of affiliate marketing is because it is higher on the value chain (they get you more money basically) and that CPA integrates incredibly well into websites.

To find offers, you will have to do a bit of research first. You can find a CPA network that will give you a lot of offers that you can pick from. Some of the bigger CPA networks are:

  • ClickDealer
  • Maxbounty
  • CPALead
  • A4D
  • FireAds
  • And many more...

Create Your Website

Once you have a topic, you want to build a site where to house the ads that you will sign up for.

Much has been said about creating a site online. You probably even already have one — you may skip this step if that’s the case.

But if not, here’s our guide to creating a WordPress site on Bluehost.

WordPress is one of the best website platforms due to its flexibility and ease of use. And among different hosting platforms, Bluehost is a great place for beginners to start with.

Define Your Goals

Ideally, the goal is to get visitors to click on your banner and text ads or perform a specific task concerning them if you’re using the CPA model.

Therefore, aligning your goal with the affiliate model you’re using is vital in curbing your expectations and scaling your campaign properly.

For example, if the goal of the PPC campaign is to attract more signups, then design your page to maximize the chances of meeting that goal.

Since you don’t have any benchmark to start with, how you position your campaign here will dictate the campaign’s progress moving forward.

Developing Your Content Strategy

Once you’ve decided on a vertical, it’s time to create content for your site!

You must go back to researching for keywords you can optimize on your website. Ideally, you want to target keywords with relatively high searches and low difficulty. This gives your content the best chances to rank on Google, drive more traffic, and generate more revenue from your display ads.

You can also leverage your content for sharing on social media for added traffic!

However, due to the complex Google algorithm, it’s never as simple as finding these keywords and creating optimized content for each.

Because even if you write the best articles for the keywords you found that meet your criteria, there’s no guarantee you’ll even rank for them on organic search.

Therefore, there needs to be a particular framework in mind to help structure the articles you’ll be producing moving forward.

A prevailing theory in the SEO space called the SEO Avalanche Technique calls for people to rank their site with limited to no resources.

That means creating content from the ground up based on the level of traffic the website is getting!

For example, if the affiliate website is generating 100 visitors a month, the owner must optimize for low-hanging fruit keywords with 100 monthly searches.

Over time of doing so, and once the site grows in traffic from 100 to 300, the owner will then need to optimize for keywords with a 300-month search volume.

Here’s a table of the levels and the monthly searches assigned to each level.

Source: Builder Society

To determine which keywords to rank for, you need to use Ahrefs to locate keywords related to your topic with a KD of not more than 10. You also must filter the keywords you found using the tool with Doug Cunnington’s Keyword Golden Ratio.

From here, you also need to consider your internal linking strategy. By structuring how you link to each of the posts on your affiliate website, you can increase the topical relevance of your website on Google, thus improving its keyword ranking across all boards.

As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats!

Here’s an example of an internal linking strategy you can implement on your site in the form of content siloing:

Source: Web Savvy Marketing

Finally, upon publishing the sites, consider sharing them on social media to help with acquiring more traffic from them. There are social media automation tools that can pull out the latest content from your RSS and automatically share them on your chosen platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the like.

Conversion Rate Optimization

After launching your campaign, you must wait over time to see how it performs.

There’s no single answer regarding how long you’ll have to wait before you conclude the campaign. It depends on the budget you’ve allotted for it, as well as your goals and benchmarks.

Once you’ve squeezed the most out of your campaign, it’s time to gather the data and analyze its overall performance.

You’ll need to use Google Analytics for this. To do this, you need to install the code from your GA account to your website.

It shows you how many visitors you have, where they came from, how long do they stay on a page, and others. This helps provide context to how your ad campaign is faring so far and what you can improve to increase its performance.

From here, what you must do is identify your top-performing pages and monitor them closely moving forward. Consider them as your money-makers — since lots of people flock to these pages, they have the best chance of getting visitors to click on your display ads.

To help you give breadth to your Google Analytics data, you can also cross-reference it to your Google Search Console to see which keywords the pages are ranking for and the impressions of each page for their respective keywords.

At the same time, you need to check the dashboard of the affiliate programs you joined.

These will show you how much you’ve earned over time from the pages you’ve published on your website.

Similar to Google Analytics, you will see how much you’ve earned over time. You can then compare it to previous weeks and months to see a pattern or trend emerging from your campaign.

Using the data you’ve unearthed from these tools, you can gain insights into the following:

  • Which keywords are you ranking on top of SERPs for and for which pages?
  • What is your CTR percentage on SERPs? Is there a way to improve its overall performance?
  • Which page is helping you earn the most revenue from your affiliate programs?

Identifying these factors will help you scale your affiliate site’s performance much better.

If there’s anything to test on your site pages, it’s how many visitors browse through the majority of your pages. Most of the time, they stop before even reaching 50% of the page.

While it’s common for this to happen, what you want is to get more people to read your content.

To do this, you may need to rewrite the post and make it easier to read or move certain elements around to get more read-throughs on your page.

To effectively measure this, you need to use the Nelio A/B Testing plugin. Aside from running A/B tests, it helps you conduct heatmapping campaigns to see which part of the page visitors stop reading.

Also, if you’re generating a lot more traffic since you started, you are now eligible to apply and get approved to higher-paying PPC affiliate programs such as:

  • Google AdSense
  • Ezoic
  • AdThrive
  • Mediavine

The great thing about these programs is that, aside from their higher payouts, they help optimize your ads to maximize conversions.

By simply putting the code on your website, the programs take care of placing the display ads at relevant positions on your site pages. They will keep testing which parts of the pages the ads will appear to so you can focus on growing your traffic and creating better content on your site.

Top PPC Affiliate Marketing Tools to Use

As you can see above, PPC affiliate marketing is not for the faint of first. Since you’ll be dealing with bidding for keywords on top of extensive research and development, there’s very little room for error.

The last thing you want your campaign to be is a failure. And if it is, there’s no way you can get the money you spent on it!

Therefore, to help ensure that you run your campaign right from the start, below are other tools you can use to help jumpstart your ad campaigns for promoting your PPC affiliate programs.

At the same time, these tools make the process more convenient — you don’t have to manually do the research yourself since the software you’ll be using will do all the heavy lifting!

Below are some of the more popular tools you can use:

  • Adplexity — This is an intelligence tool that should be in every affiliate’s arsenal. This powerful tool will allow you to track your competitors and get inspired by their best ideas. Don’t spend money on endless testing and optimizing. Find exactly what works from the start!
  • WhatRunsWhere — This tool helps affiliates spend their advertising money smart. It gives you incredible insight into your campaigns and spendings so that you can better optimize your campaigns.
  • Voluum — If you want a state-of-the-art report tool, Voluum is hard to beat! They can track most things in real-time and give you incredible data points for each visitor.
  • AffJet — Managing your affiliate marketing campaigns is made easy with AffJet. It gives great insight into the performance of your campaigns. You can also get detailed statistics about each part of your campaigns.
  • Zeropark — Managing your campaigns doesn’t have to be a complicated task. With the Zeropark platform, you can quickly launch campaigns and optimize them on the fly!
  • RedTrack — RedTrack is similar to Voluum in a lot of ways, but it’s a bit more simple to use. It’s aimed at people who prefer simplicity and a tool that just works!

Conclusion

We’ve covered the basics of PPC affiliate marketing. From here, you should be able to get your affiliate website up and running after coming up with a vertical or niche that meets the criteria of being a profitable site if you play your cards right.