After joining an affiliate program (also known as a referral program or partner program), affiliate marketers usually begin by placing an ad on their website. Visitors to the website click on the text link or display ad, which takes them to the advertiser’s site via an affiliate tracking link. If the visitor makes a purchase or otherwise fulfills the conversion requirements, the publisher earns an agreed-upon amount.
But can you make money online with affiliate marketing without a website? Or in other places in addition to your website? Absolutely!
I strongly recommend building a website, or at least having something in place for landing/lead pages. It doesn’t cost much and the ROI is unlimited. The Systeme suite of tools has a free level that includes a website builder, funnels, email list, affiliate program management, memberships & more. I’ve found it’s much easier and more lucrative to drive people to a website and promote within valuable content. You’ll also maintain critical control of a website you own.
If that’s not for you, you’ll have to be a little more creative in using other ways to reach potential buyers. It can also demand more effort and investment.
To learn more about affiliate marketing and getting started, read How to Start Affiliate Marketing in Canada.
Before You Begin
Read the rules of the platform or network before posting affiliate links there. Each will have its own terms & conditions that you must comply with. You also have to comply with Canadian law and the laws of other countries you’re advertising in.
Additionally, you have to make sure your affiliate partners permit these marketing methods before moving forward. Each one will have different rules!
- Amazon.ca prohibits the use of their affiliate links in emails.
- Many advertisers don’t allow you to bid on specific search engine keywords.
- Most require an affiliate disclosure when you share their link.
- They may require their affiliates to have an established website to be accepted into their program.
Always research the companies you are considering as affiliate partners and read their terms carefully before signing up.
5 Ways to Promote Affiliate Products Without a Website
1. Social Media
You can directly promote your affiliated merchants on some social media networks. However, make sure you’re in compliance with Canadian laws and the rules of individual networks.
For starters, full disclosure is required in each post you make that promotes your affiliate partners. Most affiliate marketers use hashtags in their post disclosure, such as #ad or #affiliate. The Competition Bureau of Canada has strict requirements for posting reviews and opinions on social media.
You’ll have to join each network and build a following. Don’t be tempted to buy followers or use other tricks. If your audience isn’t natural and engaged, you won’t generate sales. Publish engaging posts that aren’t too “salesy” for the best results, and tailor the message for each network when applicable.
Social Media Groups
Social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn offer group functionality within their platform.
Read the group rules before posting affiliate links. They’re often not allowed. You can start your own group and make your own rules, but you still have to provide value. Nobody wants to stay in a group if all they get from it is spammy posts.
Video & Live Events
Videos and live events can help you promote affiliate products with instructional content, reviews, influencer ‘unboxing’, or what have you. With the right niche and enough followers, you can generate affiliate revenue.
Tip: There are still ways you can get organic (unpaid) views on social media, but it’s tough. Put your creativity to the test and come up with ways to get the post shared. For example, one trick I see often on Facebook is sharing an odd or new product with an Amazon affiliate link. Others share it because of the novelty and your affiliate link goes with it. You can also promote especially good deals or include your link with relevant images like infographics and clever meems.
2. Email Marketing
Email marketing is the next best thing to having a website. You own it and you control it. The hardest part about email marketing is building a list. It will be more challenging if you don’t have a website, but it can be done.
You may have heard successful online marketers proclaim, “the money is in the list.” Why?
- Your email list won’t disappear like social networks can.
- You can provide value to subscribers, establish your expertise and build trust.
- You can have news and new offers in front of subscribers almost instantly.
- Use it for high-converting sales funnels.
- You can use “auto-responders” to take subscribers through any process, from a designated set of emails for new subscribers to email courses.
- Emails can be easily forwarded by subscribers to their friends, family or colleagues.
Try to find newsletter software (email platform or campaign management software) that’s especially-suited for affiliate marketing (such as Aweber). It can save you a lot of time and spare you many headaches.
Ensure you’re in compliance with Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL), along with the laws of any other countries your target audience lives in. Basically, you need to make sure your list management software can be set to “double opt-in”. That means the person signs up and then has to confirm the subscription from their email. Doing so will protect you in the event that someone accuses you of spamming them. Never add people to your list without their permission.
3. Digital Products
Use your affiliate links in an ebook, video, online course, webinar or other information product. Promote these to provide value while infusing the content with your affiliate links.
You will need a place where people can go to download products. If that isn’t your website, it could be a digital download platform or any number of marketplaces that sell ebooks. Read the Top 8 Ecommerce Platforms for Digital Product Downloads for more tips and suggestions.
The work involved with creating digital products is comparable to the work involved with building a website, so you may want to list the pros & cons of each before deciding. Learn How to Create Your Own Online Learning Products.
4. Paid Advertising
Social media, newsletters, search engines, websites… there is no shortage of places to spend your advertising dollars. Research each outlet and learn how to achieve the results you’re after. You’ll find some are better than others, depending on what you’re promoting.
You’ll have to track how much you’ve spent and compare it with the commissions you’re making. If the commission is high enough, and/or you’re able to sell a large amount of a lower-paying product, you should make a profit.
Paid advertising is an undertaking better suited for those experienced in both digital advertising and affiliate marketing. It can get very expensive, very quickly if you don’t know what you’re doing.
5. Guest Posting
Approach bloggers in a complimentary niche who will consider publishing a guest post you provide. Let the publisher know that you would like to include an affiliate link, and that it must remain in the article. You can start with our list of Popular Canadian Blogs for Blogger Outreach and Influencer Marketing. Content platforms are another option, but verify that they permit affiliate links first.
You CAN Make Money With Affiliate Marketing Without a Website
Some of these methods will require perpetual testing and some have a steeper learning curve than others, but you’ll be able to earn from affiliate marketing without a website. Seriously consider adding a website into the mix to maximize your income.
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.