Affiliate marketing is the dream. Pretty passive, easy to start with and implement. But if you are a beginner or you’re tired of making only a couple of dollars per month, you have A LOT of questions probably.
I get weekly emails related to affiliate marketing and because you are loved by me guys SO much, I’ve decided to put this pretty comprehensive together, no-BS guide to affiliate marketing for beginners.
As some of you know, I’ve been making a living online for years. A big chunk of my income comes from affiliate marketing. Actually, in the first month of this blog’s existence, I made $246. Most of it was affiliate income.
I LOVE affiliate marketing for SO many reasons. It’s risk-free. It doesn’t involve any startup costs (except for the costs of setting up a blog). And you can start right away.
I wholeheartedly believe affiliate marketing is the best way to start monetizing your blog. But a right way and a spammy way to do it there’s.
While making money with affiliate marketing is quite simple, it’s not easy.
And this is mainly because you have to use the RIGHT strategies to make it work for you.
So let’s systematically take this. Before you can make money blogging with affiliate marketing, you need to have a blog in place. If you don’t have a blog yet, A step-by-step was written by me guide on how to start a self-hosted WordPress blog to help you out.
Once you have your hosting and domain, you should work on writing great content and creating an awesome personal brand both you and your readers LOVE. Branding is as much about you as it is about them. And having a cohesive brand will help you build trust, which is essential for generating affiliate sales.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a real way of monetizing your blog, newsletter or social media channels by referring a reader to somebody else’s services or products. Whenever the reader ends up making a purchase, a commission is received by you.
So affiliate marketing is a relationship between 3 parties: the affiliate (that’s you!), the customer and the brand.
How can you become an affiliate?
The real way it works, you have to apply to become an affiliate. Once you’ve been accepted into a program, you are provided with a unique affiliate tracking link that you can use in your blog posts.
The affiliate link includes a unique tracking ID. This is how companies are able to track your earnings and pay you.
To do that, they use a cookie (not the edible kind!) to keep an optical eye on clicks from your blog to their website. If the reader makes a purchase within the right time the cookie is active, you receive a commission.
The Amazon affiliate program is notorious for its 24-hour cookie. This means that if the reader makes a purchase within the first 24 hours after clicking on your affiliate link, a commission is got by you. But if they decide to buy after the 24-hours have passed, you won’t get a commission, in spite of them making a purchase due to your awesome product review.
Because people don’t buy right away alway, joining affiliate programs that have longer cookie lifetime (some advertisers even set this to 365 days!) can work to your advantage.
Affiliate programs vs Affiliate networks
Many brands offer an affiliate program you can apply to on their website directly. You are then given your unique affiliate link and sometimes get access to nice graphics and banners you can use in your content.
Another option is to join one or multiple affiliate networks. Affiliate networks are like bridges between affiliates and hundreds or thousands of individual brands even.
The advantages of joining an affiliate network:
- It’s easier to find and apply to several affiliate merchants from the same account
- Advanced tracking tools and reports so you can always know what works and what doesn’t
- Faster payments since commissions add up from various advertisers and you can meet the minimum payment threshold amount sooner
- Most affiliate networks vet the brands they work with so you can rest assured you are not promoting shady products (you should only recommend products and services you’ve personally used and love anyways)
How should you start promoting affiliate products soon?
Affiliate marketing success comes down to offering the right product to the right audience at the right moment in their purchase journey.
Hence affiliate marketing success isn’t necessarily related to the number of monthly pageviews you get or the number of affiliate programs you are a part of, but to how well you market them rather.
In the first month of its existence, this blog received 2k pageviews, yet I made $226 in affiliate commission.
So I can’t stress enough on the importance of starting early.
I know many people are confronted with moral issues. They don’t want to alienate their readers by appearing salesy and having ulterior motives. But affiliate marketing isn’t about shoveling expensive products down your readers’ throat for the sole purpose of making a commission.
If done right, affiliate marketing is a great way to HELP others discover products and tools that can make a positive difference in their lives.
So affiliate marketing should never feel like you are selling your soul. If it does, tweak your strategies until you feel comfortable with what you are doing. Because the brief moment you start promoting with confidence, you’ll see results in your bank account. Trust me on this one!
How To Find The Right Affiliate Products To Promote
If you are starting with affiliate marketing just, I recommend a list is made by you of 5-10 products relevant to your niche. These can be tools, physical products, courses you’ve taken, books you’ve read or anything else you can think of. What’s absolutely ESSENTIAL is that you love and use these products (or the knowledge gained from them) on a daily basis.
If you’ve been blogging for a while and have been promoting affiliate products and services in a hectic way and without much success, I want you to create a list of relevant products still. Keep this list under 25 items. You don’t want to get lose and overwhelmed track of what you are doing.
If you haven’t already, look for and apply to the respective affiliate programs. Some brands offer both an affiliate program on their own website and are part of a network. If the commission is the same, opt for the affiliate network always. Chances are you shall find more advertisers you’ll want to promote once you sign up.
In time, you shall find EXACTLY which affiliate products work best for you. But if you are beginning just, I highly recommend you join some or all of the following affiliate networks.
ShareASale is my absolute favorite affiliate network and one of my top earners (I get almost monthly checks from them). They are a huge hub for affiliate programs (over 4,000 merchants to choose from and promote!) like Viator, StudioPress, Tailwind, Zazzle, PicMonkey, Wayfare, SheIn, and Creative Live.
Once you become part of the network, you have to join each brand’s program in particular. This means each merchant has a different commission structure, cookie duration, and conditions and terms you need to agree to.
What’s really cool about ShareASale though is that their advertiser database covers all niches. So no matter what you blog about, you are guaranteed to find brands to work with.
I love Skimlinks for their simplicity. Once your blog is approved into their network, you get instant access to thousands of e-commerce merchants. Hundreds of them are preferred partners. This means the Skimlinks team negotiated higher commission rates with them on your behalf already.
Starting is super easy. All you have to do is copy+paste a short line of code into the footer of your blog and keep on including normal product links into your content. If the merchant you link to is right part of the Skimlinks network, the link becomes an affiliate link. And if the reader ends up buying, you earn a commission. Easy as pie!
Awin is another huge network with over 6,000 brands across all niches, including Etsy, Expedia, Fiverr, John Lewis, Booking.com, American Express, and Vodafone.
You have to join each individual program manually and they require a $5 admission fee (that you get back with your first payout).
However, I recommend you join them totally. Even more so if your audience is mostly UK-based as they have an impressive database of British advertisers to choose from.
MaxBounty is awesome if you blog about personal finances, relations, and weight loss. They have over 1,500 campaigns from AirBnB, SurveyJunkie, Ebates, Scentbird, BarkBox, InboxDollars, Mayo Clinic, South Beach Diet, etc.
To join, you’ll most likely have to pass a short phone/Skype interview. They will want to know stuff like your past experience with affiliate marketing and which brands you are more inclined to promote. It’s nothing to though be scared about.
Once you are accepted, you’ll be assigned an affiliate manager who will help you make the most of your affiliate marketing efforts. Plus they send our weekly payments.
Amazon is one of the most trusted brands out there, selling almost 400 million products and accounting for 43% of all US online retail sales. There’s huge earning potential here.
Amazon introduced the OneLink feature recently, which means that you can start monetizing you traffic coming from the US now, the UK, and Canada. All you have to do is add an extra line of code to your blog and your readers will be redirected to their local Amazon website.
However, if you receive a decent amount of traffic from other parts of the global world as well, you’ll want to sign up for a Geniuslink account to avoid any commission loss.
With Geniulink you can link and keep track of ALL your Amazon Associates programs, including Germany, Japan, Spain, Brazil, China, etc. They also make suggestions about which other Amazon Associates programs you should join based on where your clicks are coming from. You can sign up for a free 14-day trial to see if they are a good fit for you.
I really can’t stress enough on the importance of staying organized when it comes to affiliate marketing. Without a way to keep track of all your affiliate programs and links it can get pretty crazy pretty soon.
Use a planner
To start with, You are encouraged by me to use a planner to keep track of all your login info, brands, links, and placements. It’s vital you know what you promote where and keep track of your progress.
You can get your copy of my affiliate link planner and keep all your affiliate information neatly organized in one place. This is a cute printable I designed using pink plumeria flowers and bluebells for a little bit of extra inspiration.
The 5-page planner includes:
- affiliate program login info sheet, including commission payment and percentage method
- affiliate network login info, because you really need to know which individual brands you’ve already joined and the network they are a part of
list of posts with affiliate links so you know exactly which products you recommend in each article
- advertisers promoted sheet to keep track of you are linked by the affiliate inserted for each advertiser
- monthly affiliate income tracker
The Pretty Link plugin
Another tool I can’t live without is the Pretty Link plugin.
Affiliate programs give you long usually, ugly links that look like this: http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=992347&u=1253894&m=50947&urllink=&afftrack=. They include your tracking ID and other parameters.
The Pretty Link plugin takes these ugly affiliate links and transforms them into neat and clean links using your own shortened URL. When a reader hovers over them, they see something like this http://www.bylauraiancu.com/Tailwind.
In addition, managing and keeping track of affiliate link performance becomes super easy also.
You create one short basically, custom link for each product and use it over and over again throughout your content then.
The Pretty Link plugin keeps track of the number of times a link was clicked and tells you exactly where the clicks are coming from.
There is no point in recommending products nobody clicks on really. With this plugin, you can keep a close eye on your affiliate links. And it will become clear to you which products your readers prefer soon.
At the final end of the day, I just don’t want you to be one of those bloggers who plasters affiliate links all over their blog without a plan. Affiliate marketing success has A LOT to do with paying attention to your readers’ needs and tracking click-through and conversion rates.
Affiliate marketing may seem as easy as tossing a link here and there, but if you want it to add to your bottom line substantially, I strongly encourage you to learn all that you can about it possibly.
Two of the most awesome resources out there are Elise McDowell’s ebook How To Make Your First Affiliate Sale In 24 Hours Using Pinterest and Carolina King’s How To Make Money With Amazon Affiliates. Both are packed with hands on strategies THAT WORK and both are extremely affordable.
If video is more down your alley, Affilorama is a membership based website featuring tools and tons of tutorials (in both written and video format). You can start by setting up a free account (still lots of benefits) but I highly recommend you upgrade. Upgrading is only $1 (I didn’t misspell this) for the first month and I wouldn’t suggest this if I wasn’t absolutely sure you’ll get your money’s worth many times over.