email list for affiliate sites

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with two friends of mine who build affiliate sites together.

They’re an impressive duo. They only started a little over two years ago, and they worked on their sites on the side while working full-time day jobs. I hadn’t talked to them in a while, but they are now on track to grow to 6-figures by the end of this year.

They’re doing everything right. They’re strong at SEO and have built up a ton of solid backlinks to their sites. They’ve hired talented writers, and have some of the highest quality content in their niche.

However, they’re struggling with growing faster. They were looking for things that could double their revenue quickly and take them to the next level.

Seeing how they weren’t building an email list, I suggested to them that they start looking into email marketing.

And surprisingly, they instantly objected. They told me how it didn’t make sense for the kind of business they’re running (which was mainly Amazon affiliate sites). They described how it didn’t fit with their business model and they were more interested in testing out new traffic sources.

They had an incorrect understanding of what an email list does and how it can work for affiliate sites. I went on to explain that more traffic is not always the best answer. Doubling your traffic is more difficult and time-consuming than doubling conversion rates or RPM. They both double revenue.

It took me a while to explain, but by the end of it, they regretted not having started sooner. If you run an affiliate site, and are looking for ways to take your site to the next level, pay close attention. I’m going to share everything I told them here with you.

Here are all the different ways an email list can increase your affiliate site’s traffic, revenue, engagement, and valuation.

Direct traffic to your most profitable pages

Let’s start off with the one that directly affects your affiliate sales.

If you’re collecting emails, you have the ability to create autoresponders. That means that whenever someone subscribes, they receive a series of pre-written emails. I do this on RankXL using ConvertKit.

Why is that good? Because within these emails, you’re able to direct more people to the pages you want them to see, maximizing traffic to your highest converting affiliate pages. You’re essentially adding on another traffic source for your more profitable pages, instead of just relying on Google.

But wait. Wouldn’t trying to collect email addresses distract users from clicking on affiliate links?

No. You can optimize your opt-in forms according to your site’s primary objectives. So if your goal is to get the maximum amount of people to click on your affiliate links, simply don’t show any forms during this stage.

You can use Sumo to build exit intent popups to only show an opt-in form when the reader is about to hit the back button. Exit intent popups convert extremely well.

Here’s an example scenario of how to use an autoresponder to increase affiliate sales

Reader lands on your site. They’re reading, reading, reading, and then decides to hit the back button. Popup form shows, and they subscribe.

For the next few 10 weeks (or however long you’ve created your autoresponder) they receive 10 emails from you (once per week) that send them to your top 10 most profitable, highest converting affiliate content.

You don’t even have to make any kind of aggressive sales pitch in your emails.

An example would be if you ran an affiliate site about running shoes. In your autoresponder, one of your emails might look like this:

Subject line: 50 slickest running shoes that sell out the fastest

Body:

Don’t you hate it when the newest shoe you’ve been waiting months to get sell out before you can order them?

It sucks, but it’s part of the reason we love these shoes in the first place.

Well, I’ve compiled a list of the 50 hottest, slickest shoes that are usually sold out.

Click here to check it out and see if the one you want is available.

Cheers,
Chris

And that’s it!

That’s not a sales pitch at all, but the traffic you send to your page will convert like hotcakes. You’re sending extremely targeted traffic to it – only the shoe fanatics who signed up to your shoes blog in the first place.

Now imagine every subscriber gets sent a series of 50 emails like this after they subscribe. What would that do for your affiliate sales?

Promote new or newly updated content

With an email list, you’re able to drive a flood of traffic to new (or freshly updated) pieces of affiliate content.

Let’s continue with our previous example and pretend that you have an affiliate site about the best running shoes.

You just published a shiny new guide reviewing a brand new item from Nike.

Without an email list, that page just sits there until you start ranking for your targeted keywords on Google. You might get some traffic to the page from visitors who click links from your other pages, but it’ll take a while before you start driving enough traffic to make any real revenue from it.

With an email list, every new article you write, you can drive hundreds to thousands of visitors to the page as soon as you publish it. That makes producing new affiliate content massively more profitable since you’re able to see immediate profits from the product you’re promoting.

Not only that, but it’s like having your dedicated outreach database. Instead of cold emailing a bunch of people to check it out and hope they share it, you can send it to thousands of people who already asked to receive it with a single broadcast email. That results in an immediate boost of traffic to the page, feedback, social shares, and possibly links and mentions.

The same goes for your old pieces of content. For example, let’s say you wrote an article last year about the 50 best running shoes of 2017.

In 2018, you can re-update that article, add a bunch of new shoes to it (with brand new affiliate links), and blast it out to your email list. Again, immediate profits that you can realize much faster than if you were to just publish and wait for it to rank.

Point is, you have the control to send a lot of traffic to the pages you want. And that’s a very powerful thing to have for an online business.

Run special affiliate product launches

If a company you’re promoting runs any kind of special promotion, an email list gives you the opportunity to take advantage of that and use it for a launch.

For example, if Nike decides to runs a huge sale one week for their Fall collection, you can treat that as a chance to do a big launch to your email list.

You can use their sales deadline as your scarcity factor, and run a full-blown launch campaign.

Partner with companies to run exclusive promotions

If your email list becomes large enough, you can even get companies to partner with you and run launches for their new products or any deals that they’re offering. This is a little more work, and a lot of affiliate sites never get large enough to make this work, but it can be done if you build up a sizeable audience.

You can run your own product launches

Want to add another income stream to your affiliate site? Creating your own product can be a very profitable option. I’ve seen this first hand for my own content sites.

Revenue earned per product sale is usually going to be multiple times higher than something like a 5% affiliate commission, so it can quickly outgrow your affiliate revenue, especially if you’re using evergreen sales funnels.

And lastly, an email list increases your site’s valuation

Apart from the fact that it gets valued higher due to higher monthly revenue, an email list is an added bonus when it comes to selling your site.

An email list is an asset on its own, and as you learned, there are a lot of options that become available to you when you have grown a large subscriber base.

Including an email list of thousands of people can make it more attractive to buyers, as well as increase your site’s valuation since you’re adding on another asset to it.

One of my recent sites was listed with a list of nearly 10,000 people, and it received a valuation of over 30x monthly revenue.

So now does building an email list make more sense for your affiliate site?

Have I convinced you that it might be worth getting into?

Let’s break it down…

The typical affiliate site runs on this kind of model:

Readers land on your site.

Readers who do convert… click the affiliate link, make a purchase, and you make a commission. However, unless they see you in Google again, they’ll never return to your site again. They’re lost forever.

Readers who don’t convert… don’t click on any affiliate links, hit the back button, and never return again. They’re also lost forever.

With an email list, that model turns into this:

Readers land on your site.

Readers who do convert… click the affiliate link, make a purchase, and you make a commission. Unless they see you in Google, they’ll never return to your site again. They’re lost forever.

Readers who don’t convert… don’t click on any affiliate links. However, you’re able to capture a percentage of them into your email list. They’re taken through your autoresponder, which takes them through your highest converting affiliate content. Your monthly conversions go up.

Over time, you build up a list of thousands people.

When you create new content, update old content, or have a product you want to promote, then all you need to do is send out a blast to everyone on your list. Immediately, you get a flood of traffic to whatever page you’re promoting.

Your commission sales increase drastically, and when it comes time to selling your site, the higher revenue numbers, and the included asset of an email list of thousands of targeted people, greatly increase the valuation of your site.

I don’t know about you, but option #2 is much more attractive to me.

Do you run an affiliate site?

Are you building an email list?

What are you using it for?

How has it worked out for you?

Share your experiences in the comments.

28 Comments

  • Reply
    Nikola
    February 9, 2018 at 6:40 am

    Hey Chris, if this is the quality of articles you mentioned while thinking of writing more, you are on a good path. Excellent.

    I recently bought a small scale affiliate website with sole purpose of adding email marketing and digital product (an ebook) to it in a somewhat beauty niche.

    Alot of affiliates overlook this.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 9, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks Nikola.

      Yeah, there is a definitely lot of opportunity out there to buy existing websites and bump up the revenue/value with email – especially ones that you approach for a private deal 😉

  • Reply
    Himanshu Gupta
    February 9, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Great Post Chris!

    I really think that e-mail capture is essential for any business.

    Thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    MIDHUN V M
    February 9, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Thank you, Chris, very valuable post.

    My question is this:

    Isn’t it better to build a list only
    when the site is producing enough
    income to cover autoresponder price?

    Yes, autoresponder is cheap, aweber
    starts at $19/month for 500 subscribers.

    But it does adds up when the number
    of subscribers increase.

    So is it better to invest money up front
    in an autoresponder or wait till the site
    is producing enough income so that
    autoresponder cost is covered by it?

    Thank You, Chris

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 9, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      Not really, because you’re missing out on all the subscribers you could have been getting if you built your list earlier. The cost is minimal for the results it can produce.

      You can always go with MailChimp, free for 2000 subscribers to start. You won’t be able to send any emails containing affiliate links, though. But you can switch email service providers once you feel you’re ready to monetize the list.

  • Reply
    Sushil Simon
    February 9, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I was so hell bent and skeptical about the fact that capturing email leads on your affiliate sites don’t make sense, that i never thought about working this way.This post really punched me in the face.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 9, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      Haha, happy to hear that 🙂

  • Reply
    Ed
    February 9, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    You nailed it.

    Man, you convinced me!

    I also run an affiliate site and thought that an email list didn’t make much sense until I read your post, so good job 🙂

    There are still a few issues that I think make it much harder for Amazon affiliate sites to get email subscribers than it is for info related/content/ads/internet marketing kind of websites.

    1) It’s much tougher to convince a user to subscribe to an email list for a user that came to a very specific page for a very specific product.

    Let me explain, you are running an SEO/Link building website for you or for an internet marketing website, you don’t have to struggle much thinking of a way to lure a user to subscribe. You can have just one or very few content upgrades to offer, and the user is likely to subscribe (who wouldn’t want 10 SEO tips etc..).

    BUT for Amazon affiliate websites, depending on the niche, in many cases the user comes through google for a very specific thing. Example: user searches for “best yoga mat”

    If you have a fitness website, in order to convince the user to subscribe, if you offer him “10 Tips to Increase your Deadlift” clearly that’s going to be pretty bad…

    Chances are you are better offering a customized content upgrade to every specific page and that can be extremely time-consuming. If not to every page than still to build like 10 content upgrades is a lot of time ESPECIALLY for a website that doesn’t have a lot of traffic. I have 20k pageviews a month and I think writing 10 of so different content upgrades just for the sake of obtaining emails can be spending the time in a wrong way.

    What’re your thoughts?

    2) My struggle is also how to keep the fire burning. Would it be good to have a user subscribed only not to get an email with fresh content for weeks?

    3) Do you start immediately to send an email like “50 slickest running shoes that sell out the fastest”? Or do you first start with other kinds of emails. Even though “50 best running shoes..” can be beneficial for the user, I still think it has a somewhat “salesy” tone to it.

    Appreciate your content.
    Ed

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 10, 2018 at 12:28 am

      Glad to hear that!

      1.

      In the case of yoga mats, anything related to yoga tips would be relevant.

      If your site is broader (such as all things fitness) then you’re going to need to create specific opt-in incentives for each category. That would be the big picture goal. At first, you can start with just your most profitable category.

      And if you’re creating profitable sequences for each one, and it’s boosting your affiliate sales, then I would say it’s worth the time to create them.

      2.

      It’s okay if you’re not emailing on a weekly basis.

      3.

      Yes, definitely mix it up with pure educational content. Use your analytics to see which ones were most popular and add those into the sequence. Not every email needs to result in $$$.

  • Reply
    Gary Wicks
    February 9, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Which email marketer is best for allowing the sending of affiliate links without banning you for spamming like Mail Chimp? Which one do you have connected in Sumo?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 10, 2018 at 12:29 am

      ConvertKit

    • Reply
      Anand
      February 10, 2018 at 8:18 am

      I think rather than putting the aff links in the email content it is always better to drive the person to your website which is where you list all the snazzy images, product descriptions and affiliate links.

      • Reply
        Chris Lee
        February 10, 2018 at 11:59 am

        That’s a good work around, but not always the best option.

        Sometimes, a direct link inserted into mentions works really well, especially to add in affiliate links to educational emails that aren’t pitches.

        • Reply
          Ed
          February 10, 2018 at 3:52 pm

          Just remember that Amazon forbids from sending affiliate links in emails. So Anand suggestion is the only way around I think ?

          • Chris Lee
            February 10, 2018 at 4:49 pm

            Good point.

            If Amazon, yup. Most other affiliate programs do allow it.

  • Reply
    Joachim
    February 16, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Hey Chris,

    Thanks for the awesome post! Based on your experience, how high is the conversion rate of email subscribers for this strategy?

    Thanks!

    Joachim

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 17, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      Usually around 3 to 5% is normal.

  • Reply
    Mrs G
    February 20, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    great great great post!!

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      February 20, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks!

  • Reply
    Matt Hagens
    April 17, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    Curious to know what kind of lead magnet you use on a site that reviews Yoga mats.

    Subscribe to get our top 5 yoga exercises?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 18, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      If they’re looking for yoga mats, they’re likely interested in yoga so that, or anything related to doing better yoga would work.

  • Reply
    Andie
    December 4, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    Hey Chris,

    Great article! It triggered a massive a-ha moment for me 🙂

    How do you manage exit intent popups for mobile? (do you set a time based popup? and @ how many seconds).

    Cheers,
    Andie

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      December 14, 2018 at 2:20 pm

      Hey Andie – great to hear that!

      Popups should be disabled for mobile devices.

  • Reply
    G
    December 9, 2018 at 6:27 am

    Interested to know how many pre-written auto responders you write or do you just when you have something to promote? Seen some people have email funnels that send every day for months!

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      December 14, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      My typical autoresponders are about 10-15 emails. But the more content you publish overtime, the more emails you can add to your sequence.

  • Reply
    Adam C
    December 11, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    I thought it’s against Amazon’s policy to direct your email list to blog posts containing Amazon affiliate links. Or am I mistaken? There seems to be mixed opinions about this out there. I don’t want to risk my Amazon Associate’s account

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      December 14, 2018 at 2:14 pm

      Hey Adam – Unless there were policy changes I’m not aware of, I believe it’s only not allowed to put affiliate links directly in your email.

      Sending people to blog posts that contain links is fine.

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