You have a blog and are thinking about how to monetize it. It’s possible that your only goal is to make some extra money. Perhaps you want to take things a step further and turn your blog into a money-making machine. In any case, you’ll want to consider your options. Perhaps you’ve heard of affiliate marketing but aren’t sure if it’s the right fit for you. Let’s dive right in and learn how to get started with affiliate marketing.
What is affiliate marketing?
To begin with, you may be one of those people who gets a little queasy when they hear the term “affiliate marketing.” However, if done correctly, with your customers’ needs always in mind, it can be a lucrative new revenue stream. It’s a straightforward concept. You work as a resale agent. You share or write about someone else’s product or service, and you get a cut of the sale if a reader clicks on the link and buys it.
In some ways, you’re like a commission salesperson but with a lot more autonomy.
There are affiliate marketers who run dozens, if not hundreds, of websites, but today, let’s focus on your current blog and how you can use affiliate marketing to grow it.
How to start affiliate marketing
Fans, community, and traffic are all important factors. These three are critical to the success of your affiliate marketing startup. It’s best if you concentrate on all three, but they can also stand alone.
You’ve developed a sense of community as your blog has grown. It’s possible that this is a regular readership. Blog comments have the potential to generate a lot of discussions. It could even have an external community, such as a Facebook group, where members are funneled to your website.
In any case, your community is invested in your content and can be a great way to get started with affiliate marketing.
Fans will most likely grow as a result of this community or the services you provide on the business side. These are the people who are familiar with you and have your trust. They rely on you for accurate and useful information. They may have grown to be such devoted fans that when they want to buy a specific product or service, they’ll look to see if you have an affiliate link first. This has happened to us, and it is the mark of a true fan.
As your community and readership grow, so does your traffic. The more traffic you have, the more money you will make if your target market is solid.
A smaller number of extremely loyal readers can also boost sales. Typically, I advise people to aim for reasonable traffic numbers. That way, you’ll have a better chance of winning.
Who are your readers, and what is your niche?
Obviously, these two are mutually beneficial because your readership will grow as a result of your niche.
You want to promote products and services that are related to the topic of your blog.
This may seem self-evident, but I still see a lot of sites that use affiliate marketing outside of their content boundaries.
Here, too, target marketing applies — to both your niche and your readership. As tempting as it may be, don’t include links to things that make people wonder if you’re looking for a quick buck.
This is a situation where your reputation is on the line.
Selectively. Let’s say your blog is about working from home. You talk about how you have your home office set up to work for you. Make sure not to make every link an Amazon affiliate link: your desk, chair, bookcase, movie posters on the wall, and the sofa where you take your afternoon naps. Don’t start writing posts so that you can stuff them with a bunch of affiliate links.
Choosing your affiliates
You might be surprised to learn how many products and services, ranging from razors to credit cards, have affiliate programs. It’s truly incredible. On large sites, you can find a variety of affiliate opportunities. ShareASale and CJ Affiliate, for example, have hundreds, if not thousands, of options for businesses with affiliate programs. The other option is to search by site and vendor: many smaller businesses have their own affiliate programs.
Should I only be an affiliate of products I use and trust?
There is a fine line to be drawn here. First and foremost, let’s be realistic. Can you expect to have used every product or service if you want to help your readers and give them enough options? No, it’s not true. However, you must have faith in the product to which you are tying your brand and reputation.
Of course, there is no way to prevent a negative experience with a vendor.
But, once again, the key is not to become an affiliate solely for the purpose of making money.
What affiliates offer
If you decide to proceed, you’ll want to be aware of your affiliate partner’s policies on:
Some programs will require you to obtain approval, depending on the program. If an application is required, the questions that are asked will be determined by the affiliate. If you’re rejected, don’t get discouraged. Remember that they want it to be a good fit for both them and you.
The majority of them are based on a percentage of the sale, which can vary. Once you’ve had some success with a program, contact the company to discuss a higher percentage. Keep in mind that you are assisting them. You have an advantage here because they only pay you when you make a sale unless you are gaming the system and doing things that will get you kicked out of their program.
Some companies charge a flat, one-time fee. Others use a scale: the more you sell in a given time period, the higher your percentage will typically be. Others, on the other hand, pay smaller commissions but on a regular basis. If you choose a monthly fee, for example, the commissions will be smaller, but they will be repeated each time the subscriber renews the product or service.
Tracking with cookies
You may receive affiliate payments via PayPal, direct deposit, or another method. Also, don’t expect payment right away. Most websites have a two- to three-month waiting period to ensure that the customer does not request a refund.
How and where to use affiliate links
Affiliate links are typically used in one of two ways:
- By placing banners in your sidebar, footers, or somewhere within the posts.
- Through text links within your post.
You might discover that one or both of these options are appropriate for your blog. Testing will assist you in making that decision, as I will explain later in this post.
Keep in mind that most successful blogs are all about assisting their readers when using affiliate links. Showing your readers how an affiliate product or service can help them solve a problem is probably one of the most effective ways to persuade them to click on the link, assuming, of course, that you have earned their trust first.
While it may appear that writing a comparison post will benefit your readers, not only will they be confused (think of a review of ten hosting solutions), but if each hosting provider has an affiliate link, people will be skeptical. Which company do you think is the best?
Many sites have discovered that banners in sidebars and at the end of posts are effective, as mentioned above, but you will need to test this. We discovered that sidebars are more of a distraction than anything else after months of testing on our site.
If you’re serious about creating an income stream, you’ll need to test it out and keep an eye on your numbers. The following three resources will assist you in getting started:
This is a great way to test your banners, especially if you use them in posts or sidebars. Heatmaps, which show where people are clicking on your site, are available in a variety of formats. One option is Crazy Egg.
Crazy Egg, like some of the others, provides screencast shots, which allow you to see what users are doing while moving their cursor around your site. Using these tools to track the placement of affiliate links can be very enlightening.
There are services and plugins that track clicks on your links and graphics if you’re using WordPress. If you set these up correctly, you’ll be able to see not only what’s working and where it’s working but also which links are getting the most traffic.
You can see what your traffic is doing on your site if you use Google Analytics or something similar, which will help your affiliate marketing success. If you don’t already have one, your most popular posts are prime candidates for an affiliate link.
The key is to find a natural way to transition into the link rather than forcing it.
If you discover that a post is assisting your readers in solving a problem, but it is more of a generic solution, it may be time to add a specific product or service that will solve the problem. However, it must add value to the post and not just be an advertisement.
How to start affiliate marketing with WordPress
If you use WordPress for your blog, affiliate marketing is a natural fit.
Here are a few plugins that can assist you:
Thirsty Affiliates Link Manager
The Thirsty Affiliates Link Manager plugin allows you to keep track of all of your affiliate links in one place. Let’s say an affiliate changes their URL or links — this happens all the time. Or maybe you just want to change a link. However, if that link appears in dozens of posts, it can be time-consuming, and it’s nearly impossible unless you’ve kept track of them all. This plugin allows you to edit the URL from a single location and also displays all posts that contain a specific affiliate link.
The Advanced Ads plugin aids in the management and control of banner advertisements. It allows you to display affiliate banners at specific times or in specific locations.
There are numerous other plugins available to assist you in managing your affiliates. I would recommend using one regardless of what you choose. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.
Read: Facebook Email Marketing
Don’t forget the disclaimer.
If you use affiliate links, you must disclose this to your readers. This doesn’t mean you have to say “affiliate link” after every link, but you should let your readers know. This can be done on your privacy/disclaimer page, in your footer, or elsewhere on your site. Every post includes a disclaimer, which you can see and learn more about in our post, “Why You Need to Include Affiliate Disclosures and Where to Place Them on Your Blog.”
Finally, with the introduction of ad blockers, AMP, and responsive themes, banner affiliate ads may not appear in some users’ browsers and will not be visible if you use AMP. On mobile, responsive themes frequently push sidebars to the bottom, and users rarely scroll down. As you plan your affiliate marketing strategy and conduct your testing, keep this in mind.
Affiliate marketing is not a scam.
When done correctly, it’s just another legal way to generate income. You’ll be well on your way to monetizing your blog once you figure out what works for you and your readers.