Find Top Affiliate Products For Your Niche By Studying Audiences’ Needs and Competitors’ Strategies. Then Learn How To Compare Options And Cherry-Pick.
If you’re into Knowledge Commerce, and want to add affiliate products to your niche to earn big commissions, you are lucky. Some of the highest paying affiliate products are knowledge-and-info-products like ebooks, courses, membership sites and consulting services. Some of them pay even up to 75% of product prices as affiliate commissions.
The only catch is to see that you don’t promote affiliate products that are competitive to your own knowledge products. You can always find affiliate products in areas related your niche, where they can complement your product repertoire.
If you are brand-conscious (as you should be) you need to know the pros and cons of picking the exact products that your audiences need, and competitors covet. If there’s competition, you can be sure the product is lucrative.
At Solohacks Academy, we believe your blog should pad itself with some cleverly-picked, winning affiliate products that enhance your unique expertise niche. These should not only earn handsomely and reliably for you, but also burnish your brand by association.
1. How Can You Figure Out What Products Your Target Audience May Like To Buy?
Once you’ve made sure you have a great niche you want to work with, and you’re sure it is choc-a-bloc with the kind of products people like to buy a lot of, you have to take the first step to uncover the exact affiliate programs in your niche that can guarantee you good income in the short and long term. So let’s start with the three big ways to locate the best affiliate products.
a. Look For The Best Knowledge-And-Info Products In Your Niche That Solve Audience Pain-Points
Among the types of affiliate products that you must look for in your chosen niche is “information products” that people may want. For example, ebooks and online courses are information products. Depending on where your target audience members are in their purchasing journeys, they first need the information to guide their progress.
Every niche has ebooks and courses, that people would need. If your niche is “rare cupcake recipes”, you know that people would probably like to buy and hoard unique recipe books, and of course, they’d also love instructional courses where they can learn the nuances of techniques involved in various baking procedures.
Remember this one tenet: low-priced affiliate products are not necessarily less profitable to market than pricier ones. Some people like “pricey branded resources” while others like to buy “utility-resources” – so make sure your niche has a good range of info-products to buy at various price levels.
Why are knowledge-and-info products, and especially online courses, great bets for affiliate marketing? Well, they pay great commissions and are in great demand. Podia, a course-development platform, says that the average affiliate commission on courses is 30%, but I have seen courses that offer even up to 70% commissions. Added to this, the price of the course itself can vary from $10 to even $1997, as most of the topline courses cost these days.
Course-marketers also usually offer long cookie durations, sometimes even up to 2-3 months, especially if the courses are pricey ones. That means, if your potential visitor takes time to decide whether to buy the course or not, you can still earn the commission. You are not restricted by a short-duration cookie system that forces your customer to decide quickly, or else you lose your earnings.
Promoting courses is also easy because you can promote them in all three of the best online ways: on your blog, via your newsletters, and through your social media. Most of their marketing involves effort, but not much cost to you.
There’s just one point to be careful about when you select courses as the best affiliate products to promote. Some course-marketers may insist on your taking the course first before you can become an affiliate. In one way, they argue correctly that this condition will help you sell the course better – but on the other side, there’s the upfront investment you have to make in the course before you can earn enough via affiliate commissions to make a profit.
If you’re ever stuck for courses in your niche, look up Udemy. They have every conceivable course in every conceivable subject under the sun, and you’re sure to find enough courses that can match your Knowledge Commerce niche. The Udemy courses are not expensive at all, but the variety is vast, and most often there are many courses on a single topic. If you become an affiliate you can offer this array for customers to choose from. I have seen courses on Udemy on subjects like decluttering, balcony-gardening, breastfeeding, fat reduction, fat increase, tarot reading, esoteric sex, jewelry polishing, raising poultry, email productivity, hypnosis for migraine therapy …
Since knowledge products are also on your mind as products to create on your own, just be extra careful not to select affiliate products early that can block your ability to sell your own future products on that topic. Alternatively, if a good low-cost affiliate product comes your way, and you want to eventually make your own info-product in that topic, use the smaller affiliate product to gauge and build market demand … so you can upsell your own pricier, meatier knowledge products to people who have bought the smaller affiliate product.
b. Look For Tools, Software Or Apps In Your Niche That Help Ease Audience Workloads
Have you thought about becoming an affiliate for tools and other work-assistance resources associated with your niche? This may take a bit of ferreting to find good “programs” that complement your niche.
Tools, apps and software that can ease the workloads of your target audience may get ready buy-ins, if you are able to show people that the time they spend “doing-it-themselves” is a form of wasted money – or in other words, time saved with tools is money saved.
The other arguments you can use are that tools often do more than just assist people – they also enable an error-free workflow, and they teach people practically about the subjects involved in their usage task or process. For instance, using an SEO tool teaches people a lot about SEO that is very useful and actionable knowledge. The value of the purchase, therefore, has to factor in the learning curve the tool provides, in addition to saving time.
In terms of affiliate commissions, tools and apps usually pay anywhere between 15%-30% commissions on average, and the better-quality, top-of-the-pile tools or apps could have price tags of $99 or so per month on average. Unlike courses, which may be a one-time buy, tools are often paid for as monthly subscriptions for usage by buyers. In such cases, it’s important for you to see if the tool marketer allows you also to earn your percentages of the recurring monthly payments. Some allow this, some only allow commissions on the first month’s payments from customers.
To market tools well as an affiliate, you have to realize that people may not readily feel a need for such programs. The costs may look prohibitive if people don’t yet fully understand the features and functionalities of the tools. But you’ll have to ask yourself if you can make them feel they need a tool to achieve the best results.
You may, for example, come across a great self-assessment program that allows affiliate selling. It may be just what you may like to offer your readers, but remember that not everyone reading about personal branding wants to spend money doing a self-assessment test. If you are able to convince them that this is a useful first step to personal branding, that will be great. But the need may not naturally exist – and it may have to be seeded into the target audience.
Seeding an idea takes a lot of persuasion and effort before purchase results. It may also take a lot of demos, tutorials, product reviews, webinars, and testimonials to convince audiences on the value of such products and their processes. So think about your workload in advocating such products, and don’t just look at the commissions they offer.
c. Look For The Best Service Providers In Your Niche Whom The Audience May Like To Hire
One other way to see if your niche has potential for people to buy, is to look at service-providers in your space and to tie up with them as affiliates for their services. For instance, you may like to tie up as an affiliate with good consultants, personal branding design agencies, website builders, logo designers, copywriters, blog writers, and so on.
Again, you have to be sure that these services are in some way unique enough so the target audience doesn’t feel they can always find a service provider cheaper or better than your recommended one – and further, the service provider shouldn’t also be the kind that can erode your brand, or worse, supplant you in the whole deal.
There are two pitfalls to beware of when becoming an affiliate for service providers:
- The service provider may work on a custom-quote basis. Unlike products with marked prices and marked discounts, services may be quoted for, negotiated and settled at a rate mutually acceptable to the buyer ad seller. But it may all happen without your knowing how the deal is getting finalized. If you’re an affiliate for a consultant you know and trust, for instance, you may take his word on his payments received from clients you sent towards him. But if it’s not someone you know and trust, you may get shortchanged if he is only receiving part of the payments of clients on invoices you can get to see – while the rest is via bills you don’t get to see. In such cases, beware of the risks involved. Or insist on the consultant charging the client a fixed monthly retainer till costs are paid in full. Protect your commissions.
- Some service providers doing quoted-for jobs will not allow commissions on the full amounts they receive from customers you sent them. They may insist on deducting their expenses and paying affiliate commissions only on the profits from assignments or projects. Again, beware of who you work with and their paperwork. See if you can devise a commission payment system that is fixed for you, even if it’s variable for the service provider. Some affiliates will say, “To me, the job looks like it could be worth $10,000 in earnings for you, the service provider. I’ll assume that you are operating at a profit margin of about 25%. So my commission would be a fixed amount of 15% of your profits i.e. $375. I’d like to be paid this fixed amount regardless of how you negotiate with the client. If you’re game, we can work on a similar logic going forward, for all assignments I send your way.”
If you’re lucky and can strike affiliate deals with one or two of the really big consultants, service-providers, or freelancers in your niche, it could be really worthwhile – provided the relationship is based on mutual trust and a high degree of professionalism on both sides.
2. How Can You Figure Out What Products Your Competitors Are Selling Droves Of?
Looking at the competition is one of the best sources for ideas on what affiliate programs you can pick for your niche. There are three smart ways to do this spying. Read the three ways below – or find your own method. Learning from the successes and failures of competitors is the best way to shorten your own route to success. When you delve into competitor methods, you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn.
a. Check Out What Affiliate Products Competitors Are Spending For Via PPC Ads
One of the smartest ways to know what your competitors are selling a lot of is to actually see how much money they are throwing at the prospect of making sales. For instance, let’s say your particular niche idea, when Googled, shows you that a lot of advertisers are buying PPC ads for certain product keywords, at high enough bids … you can bet it’s a profitable niche. Look harder at products that those advertisers are selling via their sites.
Instead of directly choosing the same products that competitors are picking as affiliate products, how about looking for competitors of the same products for your site? If there are two or more good big brands that sell the same product, you can decide on one of them that pays better than the others in affiliate commissions.
But, remember, not all products that competitors spend bucks on may be right for your brand. So make brand-fit a priority in selection.
Also, don’t just look at direct competitors – look at competitors in shoulder-niches adjacent to your own niche. Sometimes you can pick up a gem of an affiliate product based on what indirect competitors are spending heavily on.
Once you’ve identified some potential products to become an affiliate of, do some due diligence research on the products, their buyers, and their marketers. You cannot escape this part of the analysis.
When you see how much competitors are spending on marketing these affiliate products, don’t balk at their spend levels. We are merely using spends on PPC as a yardstick to judge if certain affiliate products are profitable to pick. But once picked, you don’t have to throw as much money behind these products as competitors do. It’s usually those who have more resources and less resourcefulness that spend wildly on PPC ads.
When planning your own marketing budget for these affiliate products, look for innovative, low-cost, smart methods to beat competition spend levels. That way, you can make a bigger profit with the same products than the competition does. Do your own tests to see the profitability of your business with the commission-incomes from the product, and make the final decision.
b. Try This Reverse Lookup Idea To Spot Some Outstanding Affiliate Products For Your Site
Another way I have found useful is to visit Clickbank or Commission Junction (CJ Affiliate, as they are now called) or one of the many affiliate program aggregator sites. Look up some products they have with good, paying affiliate programs.
Then do a reverse lookup in Google of that product. You’ll probably see a number of sellers or bloggers listing that product if they are affiliates. There may be reviews of the product they have written, or inclusions of the products in any roundup posts they have written.
Most important of all is to see if products by good brand names you can recognize are being sold by affiliate marketers or bloggers whose name you can also recognize. Beware of products with too many affiliates selling the same product – especially in the high-interest categories like weight loss or fitness or medical supplements.
The reverse lookup method allows you two advantages:
- It shows you how many affiliates a product already has and what their quality mix is. It’s up to you thereafter to decide on whether to be among a motley mix of affiliates or to choose a product with fewer but elite affiliates helping sell the product.
- If you go down the list of affiliates and visit their websites, Facebook Pages, and other social media accounts, you’ll be able to see what methods they are all using to market the products innovatively. Every seller gives his own marketing spiel that affiliates can cut-and-paste to promote the product. But what you don’t want to see on affiliates’ sites is everybody using the same seller-given spiel. See if the affiliates of the product are all innovative and creative people, using a variety of strong methods to promote the product. You may also get an idea or two of your own, to be different and more compelling than them with your marketing copy. You should aim to be in a community of affiliates that inspires you to reach for more by using new ideas and improving your marketing tactics.
c. Look Hard At The Existing Affiliates Of A Product That Publish Monthly Income Reports
A lot of affiliate-bloggers in many niches, these days, publish their monthly income reports as social proof of their brand and its value. Initially, I was very skeptical of such income reports – except for a handful published by people in my niche whom I really trusted.
But later I came to see these monthly reports as great sources of ideas for affiliate products that these bloggers sell. When I looked at their monthly income reports I could see how some were selling only one or two chosen affiliate products and making tons of money – while others had a “diversified portfolio” strategy to make the same or similar amount of money. What I have learned is that both methods work.
Don’t necessarily believe the sales numbers and earnings numbers if you don’t want to, but do take note of the actual products that they claim to be financially productive for them. There’s usually some small truth in many of the inflated figures.
You will at least get ideas of what sells for these people, or what they believe sells more for them. You will also get a good idea of how they have chosen affiliate products that fit their niches, and what kind of money they were earlier earning in past months as against what they are earning currently, as shown in their more recent monthly financial statements.
Check out their methods of promotion to see how they are earning as much as they do – and see if you can replicate their success process. It’s more about learning strategy from these monthly income reports, rather than salivating over the amount of money they make.
Use them as your benchmarks but don’t sweat if you can’t get their results in double-quick time. Many of them will have months and months of financial statements published. So if it makes you feel better, go through their entire archives to see how systematically, steadily and patiently they have grown.
Should you also show income proof as they do? I am not in favor of this strategy although I like peering at their income reports. I usually make sure I am only looking at the monthly earnings reports of serious A-listers in the Internet space. These are people we can trust because they have had longevity and genuine success online before beginning to show their income statements. Some may also be funded by investors who won’t like false statements of income published in the public domain.
It’s up to you if you feel you want to be as transparent as they are. There is a lot of healthy skepticism in the market that some reports of smaller or second-grade entrepreneurs online are Photoshopped to look good with their numbers. Does your budding brand want to seem transparent, but end up creating lingering suspicion in public minds? You decide!
3. How Can You Compare Affiliate Programs When There Are Lots Of Confusing Options?
Since not all affiliate programs are created equal, you need some criteria by which you can decide if an affiliate program sounds good to go with. Most often, after you see the fit of the products with your brand, you have to do some deep study of the manufacturer – because the difference between one product and another for affiliate marketing often depends on the values, ethics and business-and-brand reliability of the person behind it all.
a. The Big Three Criteria For Evaluating Affiliate Products For Your Niche
First of all, don’t fall for the “one with the highest commission per sale”. If you’re blinded by the commission offered, you can’t go about making a sound judgment. Here are some of the less-emphasized, but quite important, other factors to compare:
1. The reputation specifics of the product and the merchant
Make sure both the product brand and its manufacturer have a decent reputation and check the online feedback. Of course, every product or merchant will have its haters. A good piece of advice would be to bypass the kind of feedback that says broadly “bad product” – and instead focus on the “why” of the complaints.
Do people mention bad service, bad quality, bad treatment of customers, bad advertising claims? The specifics tell you more about the person behind the product.
2. The earnings-per-click (EPC) rather than just the commission numbers
Make sure the merchant shows you the EPC for his product’s affiliate program. The earnings-per-click number will tell you how much the program’s affiliate earns on average per click on the traffic they send to the merchant. The formula for EPC is simple: it is commissions received, divided by the number of clicks.
Why is this EPC number important? Because, the commission percentage on offer only tells you what you COULD make per sale of the product, whereas the EPC tells you how many clicks are generally needed on average to clinch a sale for that particular product, to get yourself that commission for that product. If you’ve been an affiliate long enough, you’ll know that some products just keep getting clicks but hardly sell.
3. Deep linking possibilities to make the selling effort more productive
A lot of affiliate marketers place undue importance on the quality of creatives – ads, banners, written materials – that the manufacturer or merchant offers to affiliates. These used to be important some time ago, but these days, readers don’t want to see affiliate after affiliate beaming the same old stuff about the product at them.
Deep linking, on the other hand, is a really huge advantage. Deep linking is when the merchant says, “If you send a reader to my site, he doesn’t have to buy from just the linked page to one of my products … he can choose any page or product on my site, and the commission from sale still goes to you.”
This is especially great when a merchant frequently launches many interesting new products that you can’t keep track of. No matter how many products he has, when you can send a reader to his site via an affiliate link, he allows your readers to get exposed to all that variety, and to buy from across his site. Your affiliate link provides more bang for the buck for you.
b. A Word About The Amazon Affiliates Program – And Why It’s No Longer A Good Option
Amazon, the world’s greatest marketplace grew to its size thanks to its worldwide, prolific Amazon Associates Program that used to pay affiliates handsomely. Even newbie affiliates would get onto the program with ease and then go on to make a fortune by focusing exclusively on Amazon products. That was until recently when Amazon dealt the affiliate industry a death blow.
It seems Amazon no longer wants affiliates as much as it did before it grew its empire, and we’re all now redundant. The commission percentages have dropped steeply, the rules have become very difficult to adhere to, and many eager affiliates who don’t provide business to Amazon at high speed are being shown the pink slip.
Here are some reasons why I would ask you to look for greener pastures than Amazon now (although I used to be their staunchest advocate).
1. Amazon affiliate commissions have become measly
In days gone by, Amazon’s associates used to work on a variable fee system. This meant that affiliates were paid higher commissions when they sold more of the same product. The scale ranged from 4.5% to a healthy 8%. But now they’ve gone onto a flat-rate system based on their categories of products – and reduced the affiliate payouts to as low as zero for some product categories. If your niche is in the zero-commission category, you’ve no way to earn anything.
2. Amazon affiliates get very small cookie durations
Most affiliate programs have 30, 60, or even 365-day cookies. That’s the way the competitive world online works. But, alas, the Amazon Associates cookie is valid for just 24 hours. If someone clicks on your affiliate link and buys the product 2 days later, you won’t make ANY commissions. How far can you get with good products that cost a fair bit? Don’t people need time to decide on big-ticket purchases?
3. Amazon affiliates are constrained by hyper-strict regulations
Amazon has now published an extensive list of new terms and conditions for its affiliate program, Some of these rules are too steep for budding affiliates. For example, if you don’t make a sale inside of 90 days of opening your affiliate account, you get a “goodbye” email.
4. The other benefits Amazon affiliates never had anyway
There are some other gains that Amazon never did give affiliates – but no one complained so long as their old system paid well and was reasonable on terms. But now that they have changed, there are lots of people saying, “Here’s also what Amazon never gave us” … and this is the list they cite:
- Amazon never had too many courses or other info-products, or tools and apps, that pay the most commissions.
- Not being able to sell too many digital tools also meant no recurring income opportunities for affiliates.
- Amazon links could not be used inside PDFs easily, or via emails – they were good for blogs, but not much else.
- Amazon never supported affiliates who wanted to offer customers some exclusive deals on their own initiative.
As you can see, when a company falls into disfavor with the affiliates community, every little flaw looks like a huge disservice to affiliates (which it never did before).
c. The Process Of Applying For Affiliate Programs And Getting Yourself Approved
Now that we’ve looked at ways to find affiliate products suited to your niche, let’s wrap up with a look at how to apply to be an affiliate for great products, and get yourself approved. Product sellers may choose from many options they have to set up affiliate programs – and you may have to apply according to the rules they follow in screening and selecting affiliates. There are usually three ways to apply …
1. Some product sellers have an affiliate program hosted on their sites which they control
Marketers may choose the option of having their own affiliate programs and set their own framework for commissions and other policies. You can Google-search online in your niche and directly find products you’d like to be an affiliate for. If the seller has his own hosted affiliate program, you may usually find he has dedicated pages clearly labeled as “Affiliates” or “Join Us As An Affiliate”.
Alternatively, you can find “affiliate directories” that list a lot of sellers who have their own affiliate programs.
Once you find a program or product that interests you, browse the seller’s website thoroughly, see what he sells and how he prices products, and read the terms and conditions carefully. Get to know what the affiliate program setup is like, how the marketer promises to help the affiliate with information, creative ads or banners, and issue-based support. Most affiliate programs will involve screening for approval and will give you a time frame in which they will revert to you if you fill in their form or apply in the format they require.
Remember, there is always a bit of risk with someone who hosts his own affiliate program because you have to believe and trust his back-end systems to be robust. It has to calculate your earnings without errors, show it all on your dashboard, and alert you whenever a customer goes from you to that site and makes a purchase.
Unless you know a brand well by personal contact or market reputation, stay a bit wary of self-hosted affiliate programs.
2. Some product sellers will ask you to join their program which is on a reputed affiliate marketplace
What are affiliate marketplaces? An affiliate marketplace doesn’t directly have any product of its own to sell. Instead, it acts as a common platform for merchants offering affiliate programs to affiliates who want to join these programs.
Usually, sellers and affiliates like this option because the marketplace sets the rules to the highest online standards, and manages the approval and accounts of both merchants and affiliates. Both parties feel confident that a third party is handling the system with transparency and strong protocols.
If you want to find affiliate products that match your niche, it’s a good idea to join one or more of these marketplaces (usually it’s free to join). You can key in your niche keywords and find lots of products that can match your search. Sometimes these marketplaces also rate the sellers by various comparison criteria that you may find valuable in your search.
You can then opt to join the programs of the sellers whose products sound good – provided you meet their criteria for affiliates. Be aware that most marketplaces offer affiliate-screening-and-approval services to sellers, and they are usually very strict on both counts – whether you are qualified to apply as an affiliate, and whether you are approvable as an affiliate.
You can try to join as many affiliate programs of sellers who use the marketplace as their affiliates management site. The usual credentials sellers like to see in their affiliates are whether you have a good website with a good brand and a fair amount of targeted traffic. They also like to see if you have a healthy mailing list of subscribers, or substantial fan following on social media. They may ask if you are already an affiliate for other good brands and for your earnings or success rate with marketing. Some sellers may require you to outline the marketing tactics you will use to push their product sales. All this may need actual proof and not just your intentions to do a good job.
Newbies may find they have restricted options of programs to join, but if you get your foot in the door and do a good job on one or two products, the going will become progressively easier to get better affiliate programs to join.
Five of my favorite affiliate marketplaces (that are also best-of-breed) are these:
3. Some product sellers may not have an affiliate program but may be open to considering an arrangement with you
If you chance upon a product that sounds just right for you to promote, but there is no affiliate program with that seller, the best option would to email the seller and ask if you can be an affiliate. Wait for a positive reply before negotiating mutually acceptable terms.
Some sellers may like to work with you on a one-to-one custom arrangement, or they may be inspired by your email to start an affiliate program with one of the affiliate marketplaces. Make sure they enable the criteria by which you can get approved as their affiliate since you mooted the idea to them.
In Summary …
- If you’re into Knowledge Commerce, and want to add affiliate products to your niche to earn big commissions, you are lucky.
- Some of the highest paying affiliate products are knowledge-and-info-products like ebooks, courses, membership sites and consulting services.
- Some knowledge products, tools or service-providers pay between 15%-75% of product prices as affiliate commissions. But besides commission rates, there are other evaluations to make.
- There are lots of ways to find affiliate products in areas related your niche. See that they can complement your own product repertoire and brand.
- Find profitable affiliate products for your niche by studying audiences’ needs and competitors’ strategies. Then learn to compare options and cherry-pick.
- Amazon is no longer the No. #1 destination for affiliate product hunters (thanks to downgraded commissions and recast “impossible” rules), but there are plenty of greener pastures offering you far more than Amazon ever did.
So What Are Your Thoughts? Do Share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of Knowledge Commerce solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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