11 min read
Which is better: paid traffic or free traffic?
At a first glance, it may seem like free traffic is better because, well, it’s free! Everyone likes something they don’t have to pay for, but there must be some sort of catch, right?
The issue that comes with optimizing your affiliate marketing content only for free traffic is that it takes a long time before you see real growth.
With so many other content creators publishing similar content on the same topics, it’s no wonder that a steady stream of free traffic can take time to build.
People who favor free traffic are usually investing their time into utilizing the best SEO techniques.
While we recommend optimizing your affiliate marketing content for free traffic through SEO, you could also benefit from exploring paid marketing opportunities.
After spending a lot of energy crafting great affiliate marketing content, it only makes sense to optimize it for better traffic and more sales through paid marketing channels. Then you can bring what you learn into creating other affiliate content.
Here are a few reasons why you might want to pay more attention to paid marketing.
Like we mentioned above, free traffic through SEO takes a long time to take off. Think about how much competition you have with other long-standing websites who have a stronger domain authority than you do.
With so many factors involved with getting consistent free traffic, investing in paid traffic methods can help you bypass this stage.
Instead of waiting months, or even years, to see any kind of growth, you can start optimizing your affiliate marketing content today and see growth almost instantly.
When you invest in PPC ads (or pay-per-click advertising), you’ll have the opportunity to get your affiliate marketing content in front of your target audience with the click of a few buttons.
No need to wait around for your content to rank higher in Google or get engagement on social media. You can see growth today!
When you optimize your affiliate marketing content only for SEO, you may attract visitors that aren’t in your target audience.
Let’s say you are writing an affiliate blog post for a calendar scheduling tool you absolutely love.
You publish the blog post and over time, you see more free traffic coming to your blog through automated social media posts and organic Google search. This seems great until you realize that the people who click on your blog post are only in the research phase so they don’t actually click your affiliate link to buy a tool subscription.
Maybe you notice that most of the people who are searching for the calendar scheduling tool are traditional career professionals who work in medical care, but you want to reach stay-at-home moms who need to categorize their to-do list and streamline their calendar.
It’s bringing you more traffic, but it’s not the right kind of traffic.
Instead, you want highly targeted traffic that will not only bring you a one-time affiliate sale but will also turn that visitor into a loyal reader or follower. This is something paid marketing can get you within a very short timeframe.
What goes into a great piece of affiliate marketing content?
It usually takes a few hours to write a post, one hour to edit and another to design a graphic, and don’t forget about the time you need to spend to promote the content.
Since time is your most valuable resource, you don’t want to spend it on projects that don’t bring you a return. Affiliate marketing can be extremely lucrative, but it often takes some experimentation and testing before you are able to see a sizable amount of sales trickle in.
With paid marketing, you can focus on what will best convert your target audience rather than getting caught up in the grind of trying to get eyes on your affiliate marketing content. That part is already taken care of with paid marketing!
More conversions mean more sales. This is even better for affiliate programs (like ours among many others!) that give you monthly recurring revenue for the lifetime of any account that is purchased from your affiliate link. That means you could get a check from affiliate programs every month. Talk about truly passive income!
One of the common misconceptions about paid marketing is that you need to put in a large investment of money before you see any kind of return. With many social media and search engine paid marketing channels, you can get started with paid advertising using only a few dollars.
You don’t need to dump a ton of money into paid marketing when you first start out. Instead, you can start small and test your ad targeting, messaging, and imagery to make sure it is optimized for your audience.
As you prove which advertisements are worth putting paid marketing dollars behind, you’ll have an easier time converting visitors into qualified leads.
We always recommend starting with split testing (which tests variations of an ad against each other to see which performs best) when you begin a new paid marketing campaign.
When thinking through your paid marketing strategy, you can save a small percentage of your income to experiment with. If you are a solo entrepreneur or run a small business, don’t worry about putting hundreds or thousands of dollars into paid ads. Even if you use $10 each week for a few months, you’ll learn a lot!
When we look at investing in paid traffic for marketing your affiliate content, we have to decide which platforms will give us the best return. We don’t want to invest in a platform that doesn’t fit our target audience or give us optimal results.
While testing your paid ads is a great way to see which platform is best, let’s make sure we do our due diligence by making an informed decision. Here are a few of the most common paid traffic sources for affiliate marketing and why they might be a fit for you.
What it is: Google Adwords is Google’s paid advertising platform. When you create a search query, you’ll notice that Google provides one to three ads at the top of the search results page before listing the organically ranked website pages. This allows you to optimize your paid ads for people who are already using Google to search for similar keywords.
Who it’s for: Since Google makes up 77% of online searches, it’s safe to say that Google Adwords can be a great fit for just about any entrepreneur and content creator! With so many people already using Google, you can meet them where they already are.
Why use it: When people are going to make a purchasing decision, they often go to a search engine first. This is because people trust that Google will give them the most relevant answer to their question. It’s a great place to test your ad targeting for affiliate marketing.
What it is: Since Facebook is the most popular social media platform in existence, it isn’t a surprise that they have the largest social media ads platform. It has some of the best audience targeting capabilities around with their unique, updated features.
Who it’s for: Nearly every generation has a large presence on Facebook. With 2.2 billion active Facebook users, you are bound to find people in your target market in this platform. Facebook Ads gives you advanced options so you can target your affiliate marketing content to a very specific audience.
Why use it: Facebook Ads give you the opportunity to place a hidden Facebook Pixel on your website so you can capture the attention of people who have already visited your website (which is called retargeting).
It’s easier to convert someone who has heard of you before than someone completely new. Facebook Ads also allow you to target your ads based on what Facebook pages someone likes, what groups they are in, and other Facebook-specific information.
What it is: Owned by Facebook, Instagram has also become a social media giant, especially over the last five years with the introduction of Instagram Stories and Instagram Live. With so many features, Instagram is beginning to expertly monetize its evolving platform with Instagram Ads.
Who it’s for: Since Instagram is built for visual-loving people, it has attracted over 600 million active users on its platform. With 59% of 18-29 year olds using Instagram, it has become an instant favorite among Millennials.
Why use it: If your affiliate marketing content is heavily visual and you are trying to attract a younger-leaning demographic, Instagram Ads could be a great place to start experimenting. You can create Instagram Ads that are focused on different goals, meaning you can optimize for engagement or for paid traffic.
What it is: Influencer marketing is unique in that it isn’t confined to one search engine or social media ads platform. An influencer, meaning someone who inspires a large audience to take action, can market affiliate products anywhere. If you are building a personal brand and are interested in making affiliate marketing one of your primary sources of income, influencer marketing could be a great fit for you.
Who it’s for: Influencer marketing is primarily for people who have built up a large following on specific social media platforms or through their website, but you can also create great affiliate marketing content as a micro-influencer.
Why use it: As an influencer, you can experiment with multiple types of paid marketing channels and know you already have an interested audience listening. When people already know your name and have built trust with you, they are more likely to click on your affiliate ad and buy from you. This kind of influence can be invaluable!
With a few paid traffic sources under your belt, you can start thinking about how to use each platform to optimize your affiliate marketing income. Here are some best practices we recommend keeping in mind as you start your paid advertising journey with affiliate marketing content creation.
You should spend just as much time on finding the right targeted audience for your ad as you do with writing and designing the ad itself. Too many people rush through ad targeting, but it’s the number one thing that will determine the success of your ad (along with your imagery).
If you have a great ad but it isn’t reaching the right people, you won’t find great results. We recommend spending ample time in the targeting phase. It may take some experimentation until you get it just right. Don’t be afraid to tweak a few targeting options until you find a good fit.
Are you optimizing for the right keywords? This is especially important in search engine platforms like Google AdWords.
If you choose the wrong keywords, you may end up reaching the wrong audience or not providing relevant affiliate marketing content to visitors.
When you try to find the right keywords, think about the phrases and terms that are most often used in your niche. We call these “niche keywords” because they are specific to your industry. You’ll want to make sure they match the search intent behind your affiliate marketing content themes before using them.
You can also open Google and start testing different keywords in the auto-complete search bar. It will provide you with different variations so you can see what is most commonly searched for.
Keep testing and tweaking, which brings us to our last tip…
We’ve already mentioned how important it is to test, tweak, and experiment with your paid marketing campaigns, but we couldn’t end this article without mentioning it again.
Don’t worry about trying to get your paid ad copy, design, and targeting perfect on the first try. The best ads result from constant improvement and optimization. You’ve got this!
Now that you have the low down on some of the top paid marketing channels, it’s time try them out in your affiliate marketing. Pick one today and start brainstorming a campaign you can run for your business.
Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.