You've probably heard before a lot of hype about how much money you can make with affiliate programs. Maybe you've even set up a site yourself, only to find that after buying the domain, a few bucks a month in hosting, software or a web designer to design your site, etc., that the piddly affiliate fees hardly even covered your cost. Well, here's the hype-free way to really make money with an Amazon.com affiliate site. And it'll only take a day to make the site. The secret? Low cost, low effort.
If you don't already know it, learn some basic HTML. You have to do this to keep your costs down and still get what you want. Even if the site is basically laid out for you, you're going to need to know how to insert images, create hyperlinks, and do some basic text formatting. Our HTML Guide offers a free 10-week HTML class and a great collection of beginning HTML tutorials. Get over any anxiety you have about this. Just do it. You'll thank me for it later.
Decide on your topic. You're going to be doing product reviews and recommendations, so pick a topic that you enjoy and know something about. If you can't stay passionate about the topic, that will show, and it also won't hold your interest. Choose a narrow enough niche to be distinctive, e.g., bands from your city, left-handed guitarists, music for a certain kind of dancing, authors of a certain religion, books about arts & crafts, etc.
Choose your domain name. Make it keyword-rich, not clever. Think how people will find your site in the search engines. Here are some ideas (all available when I first wrote this, though a cfew have been snatched up):
Music: BandsFromTexas.com, BandOutOfBoston.com, SouthpawGuitarists.com, ClassicPsychedelia.com, Non-Stop-Hip-Hop.com, Merengue-Music.com
Books: Mormon-Authors.com, Arts-and-Crafts-Books.com, Books-by-Stephen-King.com, ClassicBusinessBooks.com
Others: Best-Baby-Toys.com, MomsMags.com, FelliniMovies.com
Register your domain name. If you're not technically inclined at all, register your domain wherever you set up your hosting in step 5. Otherwise, you can save a few bucks by choosing a lower-cost provider. Not a big deal for one or two sites, but it can be for ten or twenty. I use GoDaddy, who have great domain management tools and are less than $10 a year. The least expensive I've found from a reputable source is 1&1, whose price is around $7 a year last I checked.
Set up your web hosting. This is where most people get burned. For this kind of site, you do not need $10 a month web hosting! Our Online Business Guide has a list of Cheap Web Hosting for Under $10. Some are as little as $4 a month, with unlimited domains, i.e., you can run several sites like this on the same hosting package.
Install blog software. "Blog, you say?" Yes. It will give your site all the structure you need, plus make it easy to quickly post new content. My pick is WordPress, which is open source (i.e., free), easy to install and use, and yet very powerful. Many hosts have a one-step installation process for it, or you can download it and follow their installation instructions.
Make it pretty. One of the great things about WordPress is the huge variety of templates available for it -- they can completely change the look-and-feel.
Set up categories. Most blog software allows you to create sub-categories to help organize your entries. This will help visitors narrow in even more specifically on their interests. For example, BandsFromTexas.com might have one group of categories for genre — rock, country, blues, etc. — and another for city of origin — Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, etc.
Sign up as an Amazon Associate. It's simple and free. Just visit Amazon and click on the Join Associates link at the bottom of the page (here's a direct link for your convenience). Your site should already have at least the basic setup done, even if you don't have any content there yet, as they'll review the site manually before approval.
Create your blog posting bookmarks/links. There are two links that are going to be essential for you to make this easy. First is the blog posting link. In your blog software, on the posting page (see their instructions), at the bottom of the page there should be a "bookmarklet". Click on the link (and hold the mouse) and drag it up to your Links toolbar in your browser (assuming Internet Explorer), or your Favorites menu. This will allow you to blog a product with one mouse click.
Create your Amazon Build-A-Link bookmark/link. This will make it easy to build the link with your affiliate ID built in. Log in to Associates Central, look in the left navigation sidebar, go to Build-A-Link, and under Static Links, find Individual Items. Click and drag this onto your Links toolbar or Favorites menu.
Build your first link. Go to Amazon and log in with your Associates account. Find the product you want to review and use the Site Stripe (gray stripe at the top of the screen that you'll see when logged in as an Associate) to get your personalized link to the item. They also offer a variety of other options for creating links and banners.
Blog your review. Now click on your blog posting link (Press It! by default in WordPress). If you're using WordPress, you should now see two pieces of link code in your posting form, the first one ending with "Associates Build-A-Link >< /a >". Delete through that point. The second part is a link to the product with your Amazon Associate ID built in. Now just write your product review, choose the appropriate categories for it, and hit Publish.
Build out your site. Before you promote your site, you want to have some substantial content there. Write several product reviews. Have at least 2-3 in each category you've created. You may also want to make a categories for articles, news, and commentary about your topic. The more content your site has, the better. And the great thing is that while you're writing all this, the search engines are getting notified automatically, assuming you turned on the notifications mentioned in step 6.
Promote your site. The best free way to do this is to communicate with other bloggers writing about similar topics, and to participate in online communities where your topic is discussed.