In the days when everyone else is talking about making money online via e-courses, I am here to talk to you about affiliate marketing.
Why? I just took over an eight month maternity leave and still made a decent income the entire time (I was only working 10-15 hour weeks before maternity leave). It’s not the crazy 6 digit income figures you see in some reports. It’s not even in the 5 digits. However, the money I made through affiliate marketing during my maternity leave was able to pay the rent and cover groceries. Let me tell you, it’s pretty sweet to be able to pay for those things and not have to work. The money’s starting to slow down now so here I am, back to writing.
(Just kidding… sort of)
There are affiliate links inside this post.
They’re right, you know: creating, editing, marketing, supporting, and up keeping your own course (or ebook) can be very lucrative. It’s a solid foundation for creating an income stream.
However, maybe you’re like me and only have an hour or two a day to work on your blog, but you still want to make a buck. I do that through affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing gives you the opportunity to sell products you love without having to create them yourself.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a partnership. A company or product connects with you, the blogger, to sell their product, course, service, or program. Once you establish a relationship with that company, they will give you a special URL that becomes your affiliate link. When someone makes a purchase through your special URL, the company pays you a commission. There are a few ways the company could pay you for being an affiliate for them:
- A percentage of the sale – every time your affiliate link generates a sale you get a set percentage. Percentages are usually higher for digital products than they are physical products.
- Per lead – you get paid a fixed amount, usually low (think one cent to a few dollars) when someone uses your affiliate link to sign up for an account, but didn’t necessarily purchase.
- Fixed amount – instead of a percentage of the sale, you’ll get paid a set amount for each sale.
Your affiliate link will have a set life time that differs for every affiliate program you belong to. Some programs will keep track of your affiliate link for 30 days, while others might only be 7 days. This means that if your reader clicks your link today but doesn’t purchase for another week, you will still get credit for the sale. If they purchase outside of the set time period, you will not get credit for the sale. Refer to your affiliate terms to see how long your links are good for.
4 reasons affiliate marketing is the bomb dot com
- Affiliate marketing is a relatively inexpensive way to start a business. Purchase hosting, set up WordPress, and pick out a stylish theme and your main expenses are set.
- Affiliate marketing can be an excellent source of passive income. Of course, you’ll need a solid foundation and epic content, but after you get that post done, it’s done.
- Affiliate marketing is good marketing practice. Before you create your own product, practice selling someone’s product.
- Which brings up another point, usually you’ll be marketing a product that already has value. When you create something on your own, you’ll always wonder “will it sell?” With affiliate marketing you can sell something that is already hot on the market.
Don’t have a blog yet? Here’s my guide on how to get started!
Just to be clear, I don’t think affiliate marketing is easy money. You will need to focus on building a community on your blog. You will need to publish quality content (both with and without affiliate links). It could take months before you start seeing money come in. Once you get things going though, affiliate marketing can be a great source of passive income.
How to find affiliate marketing programs
Head on over to a company you know and love already. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page and see if they have anything in their footer about an affiliate program. Look these type of wordings: Affiliates | Affiliate Program | Referral Program | Partners.
Sometimes, affiliate programs aren’t easy to find. If the company doesn’t have an affiliate link listed in their footer, use your best friend Google to do a little digging. Perform a search with the company name and then try each of these wordings until you find something: Affiliates | Affiliate Program | Referral Program | Partners.
Still haven’t found anything? Maybe they don’t have one. Maybe they do. Send the company an email. I joined Tailwind’s affiliate program before they started advertising it. I emailed and asked and sure enough they sent me information on how to sign up.
I also reached out to FlyWheel about an affiliate program. They didn’t have one when I originally asked, but they added me to an email list for when they did get one.
Another great place to find affiliate programs to join is through an affiliate network. Affiliate networks help connect you to the seller. Here are three of the top affiliate networks.
Most of the affiliate programs I belong to operate under Share-a-sale. I am a member of all three, which makes it really easy to sign up for a new program when I find one that fits me. Frequently, you’ll find an affiliate program directly through the company website and they will direct you to sign up through one of these affiliate networks.
Other Bloggers + Biz buds
Did your blogging pal just launch an ebook? Help her out, buy it. Read it. Become an affiliate. Best part: she did all the work and you make part of the commission, you just help her make a few more sells and introduce her product to a few more people.
Not only is this a great way to make some money from your blog, but it also justifies purchasing that course you’ve always wanted to take.
Sugar and Cloth lays it out clearly when marketing their Cool Photo School affiliate program, “Worried about the monetary investment? With our exclusive affiliate program offer, when you purchase the class you can then qualify to be a part of our #coolphotoschool affiliate team to earn 40% commission on every new sale you drive to Cool Photo School with your custom link.”
Next time you take a course or a blog friend is launching a new product or course, see if they have an affiliate program to go with it.
Again, they might not advertise their affiliate program for their product or course, so ask.
Or, you can check out sites like these to find courses related to your niche.
Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom has a course called “Make Over Your Mornings”. She has created an affiliate program for the course. It’s 50% of the $17 sale. Bloggers everywhere are taking the course and signing up for the affiliate program.
Allyson from All Our Days took the course and did a beautiful job writing a post about her experience with make over your mornings. The thing I like about this post: she added her own value, the post is focused on 3 things that wreck her morning and how she’s fixing them. IF she had wrote the post as, “3 things I learned from the Make Over Your Mornings course” it would not have been as shareable or as easy for her readers to relate to.
My friend Marianne just helped Abby and Don launch their new ebook course. Marianne blogged about it, shared it on social media, and even sent out an email to her list.
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Tips for successful affiliate marketing + real examples
I know what you’re thinking right now, “Yeah, yeah, all of that sounds great. But show me how to make money!” Grab your popcorn, get comfy, and ready to open all the tabs. I love learning through examples so I searched the internet high and low for you to see how other bloggers are using affiliate marketing on their blogs.
Don’t just link drop
Let’s start with this one. When I talk to bloggers about affiliate marketing, I frequently hear: “I tried affiliate marketing but it doesn’t work.” Me: “Well, what did you do?” Blogger: “I placed links to products in my posts.”
Link dropping or throwing an affiliate banner in your sidebar might make you pennies, but there are more strategic ways to go about using affiliate marketing.
If you want casually place a link in an article, make sure to add context around the link. Why should someone click on that random link inside your context?
This Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Oreo Pie showed up in my Pinterest feed around Thanksgiving time and I knew it was the pie I needed take for Thanksgiving Dinner.
Amanda does a great job with her pictures and descriptions. She could have casually link dropped the pie pan she used, but she explained why she used it: to show off the pretty crust and to make it easier to cut the first piece. She included several pictures of the finished product and using the pan. She even told me I didn’t need the pan because any old pie pan could work. I bought it, my pie HAD to be as pretty as the picture.
Use your own pictures
In some instances, it is okay to use the pictures provided by the merchant. However, pictures showing how you use the product will be far more convincing than any listing image provided by the company. As a blogger, you are an influencer. If your readers can visibly see you using the product they will be more likely to purchase it themselves.
The pie example mentioned above is a good example for pictures. Amanda took pictures of how pretty the pie looked with the fluted crust and she also included pictures of the pie being made in the pan. I bought the pan.
Michelle of Nom Nom Paleo loves her pressure cooker and frequently links to her instant pot in her recipes. You’ll see pictures of it throughout her post and even some with her in them. In this example post, every tool linked in her equipment section was picture inside the post. I love the authenticity and trust this creates. She’s not just affiliate link dropping to make a buck, Michelle actually uses each of these products when creating that recipe.
Share what you love + Promote products you’ve used
If you wouldn’t buy it, why would your audience? The more you love it, the more intrigued your audience will be. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was new at affiliate marketing was signing up for all sorts of affiliate programs.
What do you already love and use on a regular basis? Does that product fit your blog brand? Maybe you are a Mommy blogger who loves to rent movies through Vidangel, sign up for their affiliate program. Maybe you’re a fitness blogger who loves getting healthy meals delivered, sign up for Hello Fresh’s affiliate program. The bottom line with this tip: share things that you already love. A lot of people go out of their way to find affiliate programs, but you might have the most success starting with things you are already familiar with.
My readers know that I am a big fan of the Genesis themes. I talk about them regularly. I have several posts dedicated to Genesis and I talk about the perks of using Genesis themes in random posts, social media outlets, and emails. Why? Because I really do think they’re top notch. Not only am I impressed with the themes, but I adore the StudioPress team behind them.
My readers recognize my passion for the themes and now “themes” is one of the most searched for subjects in my search bar.
Create a guide or roundup post
Guides and round up style posts are a very common way bloggers share affiliate links. Basically, you look for a collection of related items and assemble them in one post. These can be overdone, so try to find a unique angle for your round up or guide.
Ashley from Sugar and Cloth (yes, I might have a slight obsession with her) did a roundup of the Best Pool Floats. It might just be because I’m from rainy Seattle, but I thought this was a very unique round up. It was so “wildly successful” last year that she created another guide this year. For each round up she created a picture collage and then listed the items below the picture. You can also frequently see pictures of her with the inflatables on her blog and Instagram – naturally people are dying to know where she got the inflatables and she can refer them to these roundups. Cha-ching.
Amy has a whole series (and free ebook) on grilled cheese sandwiches, so naturally she has a grilled cheese shopping guide. Amy’s post is a perfect example of finding a specific topic to create a shopping guide for. (Being honest for a minute, I’m just happy when I don’t burn our grilled cheese sandwiches. Maybe with the help of Amy’s ebook = I’ll get brave enough to go gourmet.)
I love how Beth from the First Year Blog included a popsicle mold round up inside her rainbow popsicle post. She showed her readers why they needed a popsicle mold: to make these gorgeously delicious rainbow popsicles.
She also made sure to include the mold that she used in the mix. Bonus: scroll down to the bottom of her post and underneath her recipe card she has a products used in this recipe section. Genius.
Create a tools/resources post or page
Just like Beth did, including the tools you use in a post can help generate affiliate income. Depending on your niche, it is smart idea to create an entire page with the tools and resources you use to complete projects related to your blog on a regular basis.
If you’re a craft blogger create a post or even a page with the tools that you use on a regular basis to create your crafts would be very helpful. If you’re a food blogger create a page with your favorite kitchen tools. If you’re a fashion blogger, create a page listing your favorite places to shop. You get the picture. Create a page dedicated to the tools or resources that make your life easier.
Sally did a wonderful job showcasing 14 different kitchen tools every baker needs.
Jenna from Rain on a Tin Roof did a roundup of the 12 Must Have Tools and Supplies for Painting Furniture. This post was actually at the request of a reader (see, people do want to know how you complete your projects). Now that she has this post, every time Jenna write an article related to painting furniture, she can direct her readers to the tools page where they can learn in detail how she uses the tool/supply.
I really like this Ten Must-Have Craft Adhesives post by Holly at Ribbons and Glue. First, it’s not just another general craft tools/supplies post, she went a little bit deeper and is specifically talking about adhesives. Second, with each adhesive she links to a tutorial on her blog that uses that adhesive (good for her bounce rate and helpful for her readers). Third, in many of the items she includes her own pictures. Some of the pictures are of the finished product, while other pictures displayed the actual product.
Do a review post
A review post is simply that. You test out the product or service and then you write up the review on how you liked it. There are several formats you could write it. I recommend you do a little keyword research before you write the review to see if anyone is searching for information on the product or head to the Amazon listing for the product and see what type of questions people are asking about it – that will give you a good idea on how you should position your article. Sometimes it will be a good idea to title the article “MamaRoo Swing Review” and other times it might be more beneficial to focus it around “The one baby item that saved me from going insane.”
Make a video
People love videos. Videos help convey your story in a very real way. Try making a YouTube video, or do a live blab, periscope, or Facebook video about one of your affiliate products. You can record and embed that video in blog posts or just to share again on social media. Shooot, you could even do a webinar about an affiliate product you’re loving. In the video notes, make sure to include your affiliate link.
Kara created this video to go along with her tools post: My Favorite Bullet Journal Supplies. She detailed her favorite supplies, how she uses them, and what she loves about them. She includes her affiliate links in the video description. You’ll also notice that she mentioned that people were asking her to do a run through of her supplies. More on this post and video later.
Create a tutorial post
Showing someone how to use something is a great way to market an affiliate product. It can also be very beneficial for SEO because people are frequently searching how to use or do something. Again, do a little keyword research or read reviews on the product to see what people’s questions are about it. Create a helpful tutorial based on your research.
Kimber of the Pinning Mama created a tutorial on how to use transfer paper with vinyl. Inside the post she uses her affiliate links for the Silhouette store and to Amazon. I also like that Kimber created two graphics to use on Pinterest for this post. One markets the post as a tutorial on how to use the transfer paper, and the other is a pin for the final project, personalized water bottles.
Be an amazon affiliate
Out of convenience, every blogger that is able should be an affiliate for Amazon (because Amazon carries ALL THE THINGS). Head over to Amazon and sign up for their Amazon Associates Program. Start sharing your favorite amazon products on your blog, in a non-tacky way of course.
If you can be an affiliate directly for the company use that affiliate link before an Amazon link. Usually, you’ll get a higher commission going directly through the company.
Jane of Mom with a Prep frequently includes an amazon widget in her posts with related products, see her post on how to survive extreme weather as an example.
In one of her recent blog posts, Kara from Boho Berry reported making $2,627.73 from the Amazon Associates program. Here’s the icing on the cake: she’s only been blogging a year. At the time of writing this, her top preforming post with amazon links is the tools post mentioned earlier: Bullet Journal Supplies. Notice things that makes this post so successful:
- The post is on brand with her site, she writes about bullet journals all the time.
- Kara uses her own pictures
- She does a great job detailing why and how she uses each item.
Most of the affiliate companies you sign up for will notify you when they are having a sale, make sure to use that to your advantage. Everyone loves a good deal. Social media or your newsletter are the easiest way to announce sales, but you can also announce it on key posts for the product. Just make sure to go back into the post after the sale is over and remove the sale information. Having sale information up when the sale is over will deter people from purchasing.
Tell your story
Yes, you are marketing the product, but if they wanted a sales pitch they’d have the marketing team do it. The company decided to work with bloggers and other influencers to advertise their product because they want you to tell your story with their product. Including a bunch of stats and descriptions with the product is helpful, but your story is what will sell. Share your experience with the product.
It’s okay to not love every single aspect of the product. People will appreciate your honesty. This isn’t a sponsored post so you have some leeway to discuss the things you wish the product has.
Abby of Just a Girl and Her Blog recently did an update post on what their house looks like a year after implementing the KonMari method. She was very honest about what worked for them and what didn’t. It’s okay to write about a product even if it isn’t peachy perfect in your eyes. Remember, your goal in telling your readers about a product is to be super helpful to them.
Update old posts with affiliate links
From time to time, you might have an old post that starts getting good traffic. Go back in and see how you can re-work it to include a helpful product for your reader.
Make your pictures links
This one is easy peasy. People frequently click on the pictures on websites. Change the URL of images related to the product into an affiliate link.
Here’s how to do it using WordPress: Click on the image you want to change to an affiliate link > click the edit button (the pencil) > change Link To to Custom URL > paste your affiliate link there.
Don’t forget to disclose
Legally, you have to disclose when you post affiliate links within your post. Amy Lynn Andrews has a great post on disclosure policies. It’s definitely a must read, so pin it for later if that is easier for you.
Just a Girl and Her Blog’s affiliate marketing disclosure is one of my favorite. Abby keeps her disclaimers simple and concise, but also very clear. In her posts with affiliate links Abby gives an introduction to the post followed by the cover image and then she usually includes the affiliate disclaimer right below that image. She also includes the disclaimer at the end of the post.
Num Num Paleo uses an image as her affiliate disclosure. This is a fun way and makes it so that search engines aren’t picking up the text affiliate. Win Win.
Blogelina includes a brief statement, “We use affiliate links” in her entry meta (the information above the content). By including it here she doesn’t have to worry about adding it into every post – it’s already there.
Use Nofollow links
Many bloggers I talk to are a little confused about no-follow links and mistake them for a legal thing. Nofollow links have nothing to do with legalities. Nofollow is a term associated with SEO and the big G (Google).
My friend Fran did a marvelous job at explaining nofollow links:
“By default all links are “do follow” links. This means that when a crawler / spider / bot lands on a website and finds a link, the little guy goes through that link to crawl that other website – they follow the link.
So, as the name suggests, nofollow links are links that have a tag that tells crawlers ‘Hey! Don’t follow this link. Stop right there, do not crawl this other website’.”
Basically, if you’re going to use an affiliate link make sure to no-follow it.
Simply switch over to text editor and add rel=“nofollow” into the link HTML.
Share on social media
You aren’t limited to your blog posts with affiliate marketing, go ahead and share those links on your social media pages. I’m sure you’ve heard the big news: you can now include your affiliate links on Pinterest! My good friend Kate has an excellent post detailing how to use your affiliate links on Pinterest.
Are you a fitness blogger who absolutely loves their FitBit? Share your aff link (yes, there’s a nickname for affiliate links) with your pals on Twitter after you’ve hit a new record. Did you just use your favorite craft tool? Post a picture of it on Instagram and switch your profile link over to an affiliate link.
Erika shares great tips on how to use affiliate links on social media without being icky – you don’t want to be icky, just super-duper helpful.
Use a fancy link on social media or when speaking
As mentioned, when you become an affiliate you’ll be given a special affiliate link – this is what associates you with the sale. Usually they look something like this:
- http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?B=551332&U=884673&M=50947&urllink= (that’s my Tailwind affiliate link – great for scheduling pins)
- https://www.siteground.com/index.htm?afcode=1aeb51de337270703aaf54641eeda640 (That’s my SiteGround affiliate link, if you want great hosting – click it.)
Those links aren’t very pretty on social media nor are they easy to spell out if you’re sharing the link on a webinar or live video. That’s where a redirected link comes in. Once I’ve set up a redirect, they’ll look pretty and be easy to say. Like this:
These shorten links are also referred to as masking, redirect links, easy to remember links, or pretty links. You can create redirect links directly through your host or you can use one of these WordPress plugins: Redirection (Allyssa has a tutorial on how to set up affiliate links using redirection plugin) or Pretty Link Lite (Blog Clarity has a tutorial on how to set up Pretty Link)
Include affiliate links off site
Your blog doesn’t have to be the only place you share your affiliate links, on no. It’s totally okay to include them in your newsletters, ebooks/workbooks – as long as they are relevant.
How do you use affiliate marketing?
Leave us a link in the comments below to a post that you’ve included affiliate marketing. What worked? What hasn’t? What are you going to try out next?
Start your own blog
Would you like to earn an income through affiliate marketing? Check out my How to Start a Blog series for step-by-step instructions on getting started.