Email Marketing for Affiliate Marketers: How to Get Started
Ready to boost your earnings from your affiliate or content website? It’s time you understand the power of email marketing, and how it can benefit your business. And, why it probably makes the perfect bolt-on for your website.
I’ll cover everything from building a targeted email list and choosing the right email marketing platform to setting up your own email list and creating an engaging autoresponder sequence. Plus, I’ll share tips for optimizing your campaigns and tracking important metrics.
Building a Targeted Email List
A targeted email list is great for content and affiliate websites to focus on. While it shouldn’t be the first thing you focus on, it should definitely be a focus once you are generating consistent traffic to your website.
Start with doing great keyword research and building a consistent base of organic traffic, and then bolt on an email list once you have traffic. You don’t need much traffic, but I recommend waiting until that point.
Affiliate and content websites tend to be very transactional, meaning that visitors come once and never return again. An email list is the best way to re-engage these people to your content.
Let’s face it – if they found you via the traditional method of Organic Search, you already know they are interested in the type of content you provide. And at some point, odds are they will want to make a purchase (or several) in your niche.
An email list increases the chances you’ll be the one they buy from.
Why Bother Building an Email List?
Let’s start with the obvious reason – you can make more money in the long run by incorporating email marketing into your website’s brand.
There are a lot of ways to make money from an email list, and we’ll go through each of those here:
- Affiliate Marketing: Just like you do on your website, promote products or services from other companies and earn a commission for each sale made through your unique referral link shared in your emails. Note that Amazon Affiliates does NOT allow you to promote their affiliate links directly from email, but the vast majority of other affiliate programs do.
- Sell Your Own Products: Use your email list to promote and sell your own digital or physical products, such as eBooks, online courses, software, or merchandise. If you don’t have your own products, you should! And, having an email list to promote them to makes it a lot easier.
- Sponsored Content: Collaborate with other businesses or brands to include sponsored content or advertisements in your email campaigns for a fee.
- Lead Generation: Partner with other businesses to generate leads for their products or services. Share relevant offers with your email subscribers and get paid for each qualified lead you provide.
- Sell For a Higher Multiple: While not a guarantee, you can sell your website for a higher multiple when you have an engaged email list that has been proven to buy products you recommend. It’s another monetization channel for the new owner, which reduces the risk of the website purchase.
Down the road, you can also offer paid subscriptions, where you share certain content only with paying members.
Choosing the Right Email Marketing Platform
There are a lot of email marketing providers out there, and each caters to a slightly different market. As an affiliate marketer, it’s important you analyze the specific features you’ll need, and know what to look for to evaluate them.
Here are the 5 most important features to evaluate:
- Pricing: Consider your budget and the features you absolutely need when choosing an email marketing platform. Some services offer free plans with limited features, while others provide tiered pricing based on subscriber count and functionality. And with many, it’s free at first but can start to get expensive FAST as your list grows. Determine your needs and select a platform that offers the best value for your investment.
- Ease of use: A user-friendly interface is crucial for efficient email campaign management. Platforms that offer intuitive design, drag-and-drop email builders, and easy-to-navigate analytics make it simple to focus on crafting engaging content and analyzing results.
- Automation capabilities: Robust automation features are essential for streamlining your email marketing efforts, especially down the road. Look for platforms that offer advanced automation options, such as triggers, segmentation, and personalized content, allowing you to send highly targeted and timely messages to your subscribers. While you might not need them right when you start, you will at some point, and it can be tough to switch.
- Integrations: This isn’t quite as important, but look for a platform that integrates seamlessly with other tools you use. Integration simplifies data management and ensures a cohesive marketing strategy across multiple channels.
- Deliverability: High deliverability rates are critical for reaching your subscribers’ inboxes and achieving optimal campaign performance. Choose a platform with a strong reputation for deliverability, adherence to email best practices, and features like authentication, list hygiene, and spam testing to maximize the chances of your emails landing in the inbox rather than the spam folder.
We wrote an article comparing different email service providers for niche website owners.
How to Set Up an Email List
Here are the down-and-dirty steps to start your email list today:
- Create a lead magnet: You need a reason for people to give you their email address. Long gone are the days of putting a form field on your site saying “Sign Up for the Newsletter” and having people give you their email address. Some options include an e-book, checklist, calculator, worksheet, etc.
- Create an opt-in form: Build a form to collect email addresses with, and consider also collecting data like First Name. You can use this to personalize your emails.
- Sync the form to the deliverable: When people opt-in through your form, set it up so that they automatically receive your lead magnet to their email address.
- Add a pop-up: If you’re generating traffic already, a pop-up on your website is the quickest way to start building your email list.
- Leverage social media platforms: If you have a social media following, you can also post your lead magnet there to get more signups.
That’s it. You can honestly set it and forget it.
Now, I would NOT recommend that, but I’ve done it before and it’s still been a success.
But, don’t expect to start generating lots of money right away. Just like SEO, building an email list takes time. It’s a function of traffic and time. More traffic and more time = bigger email list.
Let’s look at the next step, now that you are generating email subscribers.
Setting Up an Email Autoresponder Sequence
Now that you’re getting new email subscribers, they will each be getting an email from you with their free lead magnet. However, at this point, that’s all they’ll get.
It’s common practice to build out an email autoresponder sequence to engage with your subscribers. This is also where you’ll be able to add links to your affiliates.
An email autoresponder sequence is a series of pre-written, automated emails sent to your subscribers at predetermined intervals.
A more advanced autoresponder sequence has emails that are triggered by specific actions, such as email opens, email clicks, sign-ups, or purchases, to nurture leads, build relationships, and drive conversions.
How to Build an Autoresponder Sequence
To build an autoresponder sequence, start with your lead magnet. This is the topic that you need to start with. The people that opt-in for your email list are interested in this specific topic.
I usually will take relevant blog posts that I’ve written on the topic, and start by sending 1-2 of these in emails.
At that point, I usually like to add an email specifically dedicated to my best-selling affiliate product inside of that topic.
If I have my own product, even better. But usually you don’t at this point, and that’s alright.
How many emails you build out for your sequence is up to you. In the beginning, I start pretty small. I’ll usually build out a 6 email sequence that looks something like this:
- Email #1: Helpful post referencing a related blog post
- Email #2: Helpful post referencing a related blog post
- Email #3: Sales focused email promoting an affiliate product
- Email #4: Helpful post referencing a related blog post
- Email #5: Helpful post referencing a related blog post
- Email #6: Sales focused email promoting an affiliate product
Make sure you’re following all the rules with your emails that promote affiliate products. You’ve got to make sure you’re observing the rules from your email service provider, the affiliate program, the company you’re affiliating for, and the FTC.
I know full and well that I’ll need to come back to this sequence and optimize it, but this is a great way to get started. Without a lot of people on your email list, you won’t have a lot of data to work with, and this is a good amount of content to engage your audience.
Measuring and Optimizing Performance
As time goes by, check your email analytics to measure your performance. These analytics will give you the clues you need for what to do next.
Key Email Marketing Metrics to Track
Here are the main components that I measure:
- Open rate: Your open rate is a direct reflection of your Email Subject Line, and a closely related reflection of your choice of topic. Open rates vary, but it’s not unusual for my accounts to see open rates that average 30-45%. If your open rate is low, test more engaging Subject Lines and different content.
- Click-through rate (CTR): Your click-through rate is the percentage of people that click on the links in your email relative to the total number of email sends. It is a direct reflection of the email’s content and how compelling it is. CTR varies wildly depending on what you’re linking out to. Purchase offers can see as low as 1-3% whereas free offers can see upwards of 60%. If your click-through rate is low, find more relevant offers and opportunities.
- Conversion rate: For emails where you’re selling something, you need to pay attention to the conversion rate, which is the number of conversions (sales) relative to the total number of email sends. You might also measure this against email opens and email clicks as well.
- Unsubscribe rate: This is a direct reflection of how people feel about the emails you’re sending them. Your unsubscribe rate should always be well under 1%. If it’s higher, you might be sending emails too frequently, sending too many promotional emails, or sending emails that are off topic. Or, they just might provide little value.
- Deliverability: This is usually tied to your email service provider, along with your domain. Cheap email providers usually have lower delivery rates, and if you get reported for spam a lot, your domain my end up with lower deliverability rates. This should always be above 99%, although there are a lot of factors to control for here.
In the beginning, I would recommend popping in every quarter (3 months) and making adjustments for these items.
Tips for Optimizing Email Marketing Campaigns
If you’re still scratching your head about how to optimize and improve your email marketing, here are my favorite tips:
Test different subject lines and content
A compelling subject line is crucial for maximizing open rates. Conduct A/B testing to determine which subject lines resonate best with your audience.
ChatGPT is great for this. Plug you initial subject line, along with some details about your website, target audience, and email funnel, and it will usually provide some great options to test.
Don’t just stop at testing subject lines – als test various content formats, styles, and CTAs to identify the most engaging elements that drive clicks and conversions.
Experiment with email send times
Optimal send times can vary depending on your audience’s location, preferences, and behavior. And, you’d be shocked by how much engagement can vary depending on these seemingly small factors.
Experiment with different days and times, and monitor open and click-through rates to determine the most effective sending schedule for your subscribers.
Segment your email list for better targeting
Divide your list into smaller groups based on factors like demographics, interests, and engagement levels to send tailored content that resonates with each segment.
Personalized emails lead to higher engagement, better conversion rates, and stronger customer relationships.
This is one of the biggest “wins” we see in our email marketing campaigns for clients at my marketing agency 201 Creative.
Implement email automation for efficiency
You’re already familiar with autoresponder sequences, but don’t stop there.
You can set up triggers based on subscriber behavior, such as clicks on specific affiliate links or engagement with specific topics. Automate follow-up emails or tailored content to capitalize on their interests, helping to increase conversions and commissions.
Continuously analyze and adjust
Regularly review key email marketing metrics, including open rates, click-through rates, and conversions, to identify areas for improvement.
Adjust your strategy accordingly and continue testing new approaches to optimize your campaigns for maximum results.
If you get this far, then you’re well on your way to adding another significant revenue-generating piece to your arsenal.
Remember you can expand your monetization with your email list. Work with other brands for sponsored content and advertisements. Create your own products to replace affiliate links with. The sky’s the limit for what you can do with your email list.
And, it’s always good to have something in your back pocket in case you get caught up in a Google Algorithm Update, or the latest social media company kills their organic algorithm.
As the old Chinese proverb goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” The same can be said about your email list. Go start.