How Much Does It Cost to Start Affiliate Marketing? – If You Actually Want to Be Successful
If you are looking to get involved in affiliate marketing one of the first things you should do is look into the costs of it all.
Are you even going to be able to afford it?
You've probably heard stories about how affordable it is, but is it really? After all, you can exactly trust everything that you read online.
So how much does it cost to start affiliate marketing? I wish I could give you a simple straightforward answer, but is a bit more complicated than that, which is why I am writing an entire article about it.
*Note: This article is about the cost of getting started as an affiliate trying to make money online, not a business looking to start an affiliate program.
I've been an affiliate marketer since 2015 and currently make a living as such. There are a bunch of different ways to go about doing it and in this article I'll be breaking down the costs needed to get involved and the most affordable way to do so.
I'm going to assume that you already have an Internet and computer. After all, you are on my website right now reading this. And when I say a computer, I'm talking about a desktop computer. Affiliate marketing with your smart phone, while I guess it could possibly be done, would be incredibly difficult and is definitely not something I would recommend.
What You Will Need to Pay For
The truth is that it would be possible to start affiliate marketing with $0.
Signing up for affiliate programs is completely free to do and you could promote affiliate links on places like forums, social media, etc. Everything associated with this would be completely free.
HOWEVER, this is something that just isn't going to work out for 99% of the people who try. Sure, you might get a sale or two, but most of us don't have massive social media followings and will not be able to realistically make much money this way.
Also, most affiliate programs out there actually require you to have a website or some other channel that you can promote offers through, such as a YouTube channel with a large subscriber base. So starting out affiliate marketing like this with $0 just isn't going to cut it for most of us.
But it's not a big deal really... Affiliate marketing still is incredibly affordable when compared to other business models.
What You Will Want to Pay For
What you will want to pay for is what is going to give you good chances of success. You want to pay for a way to make good money online but I'm also guessing that you aren't looking to spend too much money.
The cheapest, and still highly effective (full time income potential and more) route to take would be to create a website and bring in free traffic from search engines like Google.
Not only is this what I consider the best route to take as a beginner looking to make money affiliate marketing, but it is also how I got started.... So I know that it works and works well, if done right of course.
How It Works Is Like This:
The traffic you can get from this method is free and it is unlimited. This is the upside.
The downside is that this will take some time to get going. This isn't like paid advertising where you can start getting traffic right away.
There is always a payoff. You either need to spend time or money, usually a combination of both. Affiliate marketing with your own website and getting free traffic from the search engines is extremely affordable but takes more time.
But it can definitely be worth while if you do things right.
Domain & Hosting
It's pretty much a given nowadays that you need your own website. This goes for any type of online business. Websites are the core of online business and when it comes to affiliate marketing they are a must... Pretty much any affiliate marketer will tell you that.
And the good thing is that they are cheap.
You have a lot of different options when it comes to buying a domain and hosting. Some of these include...
- Domain/hosting combo
- Starts out at $1/mo
- Renews at $7.99/mo
- Get 1 free domain with your hosting
- .com domain names start around $8.50
- Hosting starts out at $2.88/mo
- Domain/hosting combo
- Just $2.95/mo
- Get free domain with hosting
A lot of the options out there start out very cheap and provide both hosting and a free domain to go with it. However, they often go up in price a bit and the free domain you get will renew in a year for around $12-$15. But that still is incredibly cheap.
Just $13 - $15 a year for your domain and several dollars month for hosting??? Yes.... That is all it takes.
You also might want to add some options into your purchase, such as privacy protection which will keep your identity hidden so that people can't look up your website and see all your details. This will cost another $12 or so a year.
Still not bad though.
Recommendation: Bluehost ($2.95/mo)
Why do I recommend Bluehost?
Why not GoDaddy, which is one of the most popular?
Well, because Bluehost has better rated hosting and is very well trusted, which is the reason they are the #1 rated hosting provider by WordPress.
GoDaddy is only the most popular because they spend half their revenue on advertising rather than improving their hosting.
If you go with Bluehost that will cost you $2.95 a month if you go with their cheapest plan, which is all you need.
After you have your domain and hosting, the idea is to create content that is going to rank high in the search engines so that people see it and click on it. This is how you bring in free traffic.
What you absolutely DO NOT want to do is just start writing a bunch of content. If you take this approach, while some level of success is possible, it isn't going to get you very far.
There is a strategy behind content creation and for what you will be doing you want to focus on what is called SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, which is just the term used to refer to efforts made to optimize your site for search engines.
One thing that everyone will need is some sort of Keyword Research Tool, which will allow you to target specific keywords that people are searching for in the search engines.
Think about it: If you write an article titled 'How to Juggle a Toad', you aren't going to get any traffic from that because no one is looking up how to juggle a toad, or at least I would hope not. If you write an article on 'How to scramble eggs' and get ranked high enough you are going to get a ton of traffic because a bunch of cooking newbs are going to be looking this up.
Option #1: The Free Method
If you want a free way to do keyword research then you can use the Google Adwords keyword tool for SEO. This is a free keyword research tool designed for use within the Google Adwords platform.
It is designed for use with paid search results (the ads showed at the top of Google) but can still be incredibly useful when it comes to the organic search results, which is what our focus is on.
The Google Adwords keyword tool (Google Keyword Planner)...
- Helps you come up with keyword ideas based on a phrase, a landing page or category
- Shows the average monthly search volume for specific keywords so that you know how much potential traffic you can get if you rank high enough
- Shows trends in the search volume of specific keywords and groups of keywords which can help you determine if a keyword is worth targeting
It's free, it helps a lot, but there is a downside. The downside is that it doesn't tell you anything about the competition from other organically ranked websites -- what I'm talking about are the other websites out there that you will be competing with to rank for a certain keyword.
This is a big problem because you can target a keyword that gets a ton of traffic on a monthly basis, but if there is too much competition from high level authority sites, you might not stand a chance.
There are other free keyword tools out there, but they all are limited. For example, Soolve can give you great suggestions and help you come up with new ideas, but it doesn't provide any stats.
Option #2: The Paid Method
Your other option is to go with paid keyword research tools, which as you can imagine are better than the free methods that are out there.
You have quite a few options:
- Long Tail Pro
- Keyword analysis, rank tracking, SERP analysis, backlink analysis
- Good for not only finding good keywords but also for taking a look at your competition
- Starts at $37/mo (as I'm writing this there is a discount at $25/mo)
- Keyword research, competitor analysis, rank tracking, etc... lots of filtering options
- Starts at $339/yr
- Clunky with steep learning curve -- more for professionals
- Keyword research, auto-suggestions, rank tracking, brainstorming feature
- Starts at $19/mo
- Easy to use and all you really need
Recommendation: Jaaxy ($19/mo)
Jaaxy is not only the cheapest, but it provides all you really need. This is the tool I've been using for years now and I really like it.
- The average search volume for keywords
- Estimated traffic if you rank on the first page of Google
- Number of competitor sites out there that are ranking for the same keyword
- The overall quality of the keyword
- And more.
It is also really great for finding better keyword suggestions.
Minimum Cost to Start Out
Now of course this isn't really the 'minimum' cost to start out because if you really wanted to, as I already went over, you could start without any money at all.
This is the minimum cost to start for those who actually want a good chance of success.
You definitely need a website, which means you need to buy a domain and hosting.
I recommend Bluehost and so does WordPress.org. This will cost you $2.95/mo.
You also need some way to do keyword research. I recommend the Jaaxy keyword tool with is $19/mo.
- Total Starting Cost: $21.95/mo
With a website and keyword research tool you are no doubt equipped to start seeing success. In fact, you could even use what you have to eventually rake in a full-time income. I'm not saying this is going to happen, but I am saying I've seen it done.
The website you need without a doubt. The paid keyword research tool can possibly be set aside for now, and you can go with the free option of Google Keyword Planner, but this isn't going to be nearly as good.
Do You Need Training?
Now you may be wondering -- well, what about training?
I went over the basics but where on earth should you start?
It is true that just about all the information you need can be found for free online. But what is also true is that you can find a lot of outdated information online and all sorts of things that aren't going to work out well.
Sifting through all the crap is what makes it so difficult. And for someone who is just starting out -- of course you might not know what is good information and what is bad.
For this reason it might be in your best interest to sign up for a reputable training course.
There are a lot of options out there so be sure to do your research before joining something. If you want my personal recommendation I would suggest Wealthy Affiliate.
Recommendation: Wealthy Affiliate
Well -- for one, I'm a member, have went through the whole training program myself and know that it works. And, because they do an excellent job at really breaking down the entire process into step-by-step pieces which is great for beginners.
Not only that, but Wealthy Affiliate has more to offer than just training. When you become a member you also get access to tools you will need. For example you get access to a keyword research tool so that you don't need to go out and get one separately. They are basically like an "all in one" package.
They have a free membership for people starting out that gives you access to the beginners training, a free website with hosting and more. Doesn't get much better than this.
The cost of their premium membership is either $49/mo or $29/mo (depending on how you pay).
- Read my review of Wealthy Affiliate before joining
You should be plenty good to go with all that I have went over above. But it is still worth mentioning some of the additional expenses that may come your way as you grow your online business.
Other More Advanced SEO Tools
Besides having a normal keyword research tool, which is a must, there are lots of other tools out there to help improve your SEO.
One popular more advanced tool is SEM Rush, whose top feature gives you the ability to spy on your competition. What it does is allows you to analyze competitors' websites in your niche and see what keywords they are ranking for.
Now I don't particularly like this "keyword stealing" game, but it can be very effective.
They do offer a free week trial but after that the lowest payment option is $99.95/mo.
An autoresponder is a software that you can use to send out mass amounts of automated emails to subscribers.
This isn't going to be something you want to get involved with right away but in the future one should be considered.
What you can do is collect people's emails by getting them to opt into an email list that you have hooked up to an autoresponder. You can say something basic like "Join Our Free Newsletter to Stay Updated" and simply send out emails to all your subscribers when you publish a new post; you could ask people to opt in by saying "Sign Up & Get My Free Ebook on 'Some Topic In Your Niche'", in which you could give away a free ebook to capture their emails; and so on.
An email list is a powerful thing. Once someone gives you their email you have the power contact them for free, anytime you want.
Have you ever heard the money is in the list..? This is why people say that.
But again, this isn't something you need to worry about right now. You can get involved in this after you start making money. It isn't needed.
Paying for PPC (Pay Per Click) Ads is another expense you might encounter down the road, but again, isn't something you need to think about when starting out.
You've probably heard of Google Adwords or Bing Ads before. And if you haven't heard of them I'm sure you have seen them -- those ads that appear at the top of the search results.
These are two examples of what I'm talking about here. With either, you are able to buy your way into the top search results, instead of ranking for keywords organically for free.
If you know what you are doing you should be able to pay for medium competition keywords for around $0.30 - $0.50 per click, which can be very lucrative if you have a good affiliate offer that converts well.
But I would definitely suggest going the free route and just using keyword research to rank organically first. You can blow through a lot of money very fast with PPC if you don't know what you are doing. And besides, getting organic rankings works plenty well. Many affiliate marketers don't even mess with PPC.
Landing Page Building Software
At some point you may want to take your landing pages (the pages that visitors land on when they come to your website) to the next level. You may want to customize and stylize them more to hopefully help increase conversions, which you can buy landing page software for.
There are so many different options out there, but what I use is a website plugin called Thrive Architect, which is a product of Thrive Themes. Basically it is just something you install on your website that allows you to construct beautiful landing pages with ease.
Once you start earning money with your website, and not just a little bit but a fair amount, you might want to look into outsourcing your content writing. Not everyone likes to do this because some people enjoy the writing and like to keep their sites personal, but it is an option on the table.
There are lots of different places you can hire freelance writers to create content for your site. Websites like Freelancer.com and Upwork are two very popular sites like this. You can find good freelance writers for as low as $25/hr on these sites, and pros that charge upwards of $100/hr.
The amount you will spend on writing services will of course vary depending on the amount of work you want done and the quality of writing you are looking for.
The idea behind it all is to free up your time for more management related tasks so that you can grow your business to new levels.
The Real Cost
By now you can see that the real cost of affiliate marketing all depends on how you decide to go about it.
It is true what you have heard -- affiliate marketing is a very affordable business model to get started with, but starting for free isn't all it's cracked up to be, and definitely is not the path I would recommend, unless you were to start out by joining the Wealthy Affiliate training program which provides a free membership including beginner training, a website & hosting, access to a keyword research tool and more, with the hope that you will like what you see and upgrade to their paid membership.
*Read my Wealthy Affiliate review here -- great for beginners looking to get started
Once you gain experience and become more advanced you can easily start paying hundreds of dollars per month to keep your affiliate marketing business up and running, but of course the idea is that at that point you will be making plenty of money to cover all those costs and they will be well worth it.
I hope I've given you a detailed look into the costs surrounding affiliate marketing. If there any questions you have, any at all, do not hesitate to leave them down below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can 🙂