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So, what with my new found interest in helping others; along with the fact that I want to turn this blog into a monster, I’m going to teach you how I built a basic but effective affiliate based website in just two days. If you already follow my blog you’ll know that I recently purchased great domain called LiverpoolAirportParking.co.uk; I’ve now turned this into a working affiliate website. This is how I did it…

Just to clarify, this post does not include choosing the domain name, niche, or setting up the domain with a web host. If it turns out you need help with that too, let me know in the comments and I’ll be more than happy to help. So, here goes…

Step 1 – Affiliates

I’d expect this part to be carried out before spending any money on a domain name anyway, but for the sake of this blog post I’ve added it to help you guys. The first step is to find out exactly who to promote. For instance, if you’re looking to sell car insurance you may want to use a comparison website script, or alternatively you could exclusively advertise one companys’ products. There are two leading ways of doing this which includes using an affiliate network (a middle man to make life easier) or directly through the company. However to really explain this section properly I need to break it down somewhat…

What is an affiliate network?

An affiliate network put simply is a website set up to facilitate the communication between affiliate webmasters and brands. Signing up to an affiliate network is easy, you can sign up and advertise or sell multiple brands products. Affiliate networks will often offer product feeds, banners, forms, text links and more along with a large amount of other marketing material to which you can use to sell a particular brands products. When you sign up to sell a product, you’re assigned a unique tracking code which is attached to everything you do on that site – this way when a sale is made from your website, it is easily tracked to your username and affiliate credentials.

Why might I need to find one?

In many niches affiliate networks are the only way you can sell a brands products. Without these, you won’t be making an affiliate site. To make your lives easier, I’ve listed out a few of the top affiliate networks below:

Affiliate Window shot

Affiliate Window

Personally, Affiliate Window was the easiest to understand and use for a first time user. And I hear Google Affiliate Network is great too; though I haven’t used them all each will have something unique to offer.

What are the alternatives?

Sometimes affiliate networks just don’t provide the service you need – for me in certain cases this had been because the tracking system was not up to par performance wise or because the affiliate network offered quite a low percentage of earnings. In either case, sometimes it might not be the best option.

When this is the case you may want to try and sell products, promote or advertise companies directly – depending on what niche you’re in. In my case I am selling car parking spaces at Gatwick, so I’ll need to find myself one or more parking operators which I can affiliate with. It’s usually quite easy to find out if a company offers affiliation straight through their own website by looking at the bottom of the website, or in their about us section – there will often be an “affiliates” link which will allow you to sign up or read more.

Half a Day’s Research

Here’s what I did:

    1. I spent some time signing up the affiliate networks I wasn’t already a part of.
    2. I searched through each network trying to find airport parking operators.
    3. I created a list of all the operators I could find and what percentage each offers per sale. Using this I could decide exactly which operators I’d make the most money from.
    4. I then approached each operator website directly to find out if they offered their own system, and if so, whether I could earn more directly.
    5. In the end the easiest, quickest, most efficient, and financially profitable move for me to get this website live was to sign up to one operator directly and use their booking form.

Total Time: 4x Hours

Step 2 – Design

This was definitely one of the more fun parts for me. Though I’m not quite much of a designer, I used to enjoy this aspect of college years back more than anything else – aside coding the site at a later date of course, love to geek out. Design can’t and never will be a formalised process, if anyone tells you it can be – they are not creative. However, there are some steps I always take to try and make the design process as fluid as possible…

Scan Your Brain: The first thing I also do is scan my brain and try to think about any excellent websites which I’ve seen recently, or have admired in the past for excellent design. This is often the only process I need as I use the web so much I’m constantly impressed (as well as disappointed) with the usability and designs I find.

I did this for LiverpoolAirportParking.co.uk and immediately knew what I wanted to do. I thought back…I’d recently been looking to find myself some new car insurance, as my current provider was trying to charge far too much. So I went to one of the best known car insurance providers, comparethemarket.com and was surprised by the extraordinary quality of service I received; from smooth and clean CSS and coding to an incredible interface and usability. I based my design around their website’s look and feel and knew it could work.

I feel I must stress to you, this is not stealing a design. Being inspired by a design is totally different and more than reasonable if you’re not quite literally stealing their imagery and coding. You can look at both to see where I have clearly been inspired by certain elements, but have not copied the site.

Scan the Web: Should the above method not apply to you and you have not seen anything too great recently. It’s always a good idea to have a nosey about and get to grips with what’s about.

First of all, check out the competition and ask yourself a series of questions…

    1. What parts of their websites are great?
    2. What parts of their websites are poor?
    3. How could you improve their service?

With these answers you can define what parts of a website you may wish to replicate, and which parts you wish to improve or avoid altogether making your website a cut above the rest.
Secondly, checking out a bunch of CSS website galleries always gives me a tonne of inspiration. There are countless websites available which host only the cleanest quality CSS designs for you to browse. To name a few…

CSS Elite Gallery

CSS Elite Gallery

Think Colour Scheme: This may not necessarily apply to every website design. But for me, I was able to choose my colours based on the niche and type of website I have. My website targets people from Liverpool – known for the colour red for multiple reasons including; their worldwide known football club Liverpool FC.

Another example might be that if you’re making a website related to the Earth, the colours’ green and brown would be an obvious choice.

Half a Day’s Research & Design

Here’s what I did:

    1. I spent no time at all scanning my brain for a design as I had an idea already from the car insurance website. However decided to spent an hour or so looking through CSS websites anyway to ensure I had a great idea.
    2. I created a list of all my direct competitors and spent some time analysing their websites to ensure my design would be cleaner and easier to use.
    3. Next phase was Adobe Photoshop, most people’s favourite design weapon of choice – though it is expensive. The next best free option is GIMP (whoever named it should be castrated haha).
    4. Eventually I had a final design ready to be hard coded.

Total Time: 5-6x Hours

Step 3 – Content

As you’ll read on countless SEO and marketing blogs, content is key. So I won’t bother going into how important it is; I’ll just say… it’s important your content is of a high standard, more than ever now that Google has stepped up its game.

There are several ways you can quickly and easily work out exactly what you need to write about…

Use the Keywords Tool: Use this to do a keyword analysis of your target terms and the search terms that surround them. This will give you great insight into what people are looking for when they are searching the web.

Competitor Research: Much like we did for design, have a good look through your competitors websites. This was especially helpful for me as there really isn’t too much you can write to excite users about airport parking – I mean, your just looking for a parking space while on holiday? What can you really say to entice people?

I found that reading my soon to be competitors websites gave me insight into the extra information I needed to write about. I also found reading the official Liverpool airport website to be extremely helpful as they had information on; each car park, different service types and prices, maps, directions and more.

Hire a Writer: Hiring a writer or writing company is great when you have a lot of time and money to invest. They’ll often write higher quality content and do their research – saving you time in multiple ways. However, this is a quick project and should be saved for another day!

Half a Day’s Research & Writing

Here’s what I did:

    1. I already knew my core target terms, so I used the keyword tool to see what additional searches people were making.
    2. I used the official Liverpool airport parking website to find out exactly what I needed, then used the competitions websites to see get additional information and see how I could present it.
    3. Lastly, I wrote all the information out myself and had a writer (friend of mine) quickly go over it to ensure it was the best it could be.

Total Time: 2-3x Hours

Step 4 – Build

This part is difficult to write as I can’t really offer much insight as to how to code HTML – after all this isn’t a HTML lesson :P. I have built up HTML, CSS and basic PHP skills over the course of the last six years; I’m still crap. I am however good enough to construct a clean coded functional website with ease, something underestimated by many. On with the tips…

Liverpool Airport Parking Coding

Liverpool Airport Parking Coding

Learn The Basics: There are a tonne of online tutorial websites to learn HTML, quite literally from the absolute basics to advanced programming to which still baffles me! Here are a few websites you can use to get to grips with coding a basic website…

    1. W3Schools – loved by many, hated by many. I’d say this is a great resource for learning basics; but is to be used more like a resource book than guide. Unfortunately its layout and way of teaching means you won’t be able to follow a guide of any sort.
    2. HTML.net – really one of the better websites to use. Not only does it cover the basics but helps you build your first website and more.

Use Forums: I think potentially the better of options. Forums allow you to ask people with great knowledge specific questions and will guide you through something far better than any ready built guide. Here’s a few of the best ones…

Use Google: Google is in many respects one of my closest friends and worst enemies. There for me making me money when my websites rank highly, there for me when I need to find out how to code a particular element. Yet ready to penalise my website or backstab me at any time – damn you Google.

Anyway, during the design phase of this project I’d decided that I want to have several ‘tabbed’ sections to my website at the bottom of the website. These would act as a neat way to add additional content, without having to scroll miles down the page. This however takes some relatively clever CSS, just a bit beyond the scope of my knowledge anyway. After much failure trying to pull it off, reading on CSS websites and forums – I decided to just Google “CSS tabs content” or something like that. I scanned through about 5 different websites which all gave workable solutions with HTML and CSS code there ready and waiting for the taking. Few tweaks to make sure it fit in with my website. Problem solved.

There isn’t too much more to say on the matter, as if your passed this level already – you don’t really need to be reading this section. So onwards we go.

Half a Day’s Coding & Frustration

Here’s what I did:

    1. Began dissecting my design (in my head) and began to code each element, from the top downwards. First the background, then the main ‘div’ which would constrain the content to the middle of the page, then the logo…etc…
    2. Gradually filled in the content as and when each section was built.
    3. Logged into my approved affiliate tracking system, grabbed myself the parking form necessary for users to make searches and plugged it into the site.
    4. Spent a very long time messing around with CSS making sure everything was aligned, coloured and positioned properly – this was very very time consuming.
    5. Uploaded the site.

Total Time: 6-7x Hours

It’s been just over a week since I bought the domain, built the website, and It’s now ranking #15 in Google. Let’s see where I can take it…

Well, this post has taken nearly as long to write (ha), though it’ll all be worth it if I help just one person on their road to making their first, or second, or hundredth website. Use the comments box below to let me know if you need any more help.

Total Time: 20x Hours

P.S I could’ve probably done it all in a day with enough food and energy drinks, hehe!

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