Blogging is pretty darn great.
Blogging while being able to make money? Priceless.
A cool way to keep your blogging groove sustainable is through affiliate marketing.
And it doesn’t even matter what niche you’re in.
Whether you’re in the food, puppies, crackers, parakeets, soccer gear, or any other niche imaginable, it’s never too late or too ‘niche’ to get into affiliate marketing.
You can be a total newbie affiliate marketer or a veteran blogger and have it work for you!
But, before we get into how exactly affiliate marketing programs can work for your blog, you need to make sure you have a blog up and running first (duh, right?).
After all that is set up then we can get right to it.
I tried to make this an easy step-by-step affiliate marketing guide for newbies and beginners and broke it into key sections:
- What it really is if you haven’t already done some research
- Basic affiliate vocab to be familiar with
- Where to find affiliate companies to work with + how to apply (even as a newbie!)
- How affiliate programs measure pay
- Ideas to promote your links
- Disclosing links properly
- SEO and other things no one tells you about
Let’s dive in!
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is simply promoting and shedding positive light on a product that you love because of how helpful it’s been to you.
That promotion can come in the form of blog posts, emails, social media posts, or downloadable guides.
For now, we’ll stick with blog posts. It’s a great (and the easiest) place to start!
The way it works is, once you’ve applied to become an affiliate of a product and have been accepted (more on that later), you’ll get a link unique to you that you can use in your blog posts.
That unique link is how companies are able to track your earnings and pay you.
Basically, the process is:
Make post about product + add unique affiliate tracking link throughout post + have people click on the link and make a purchase= You make a small commission because of that purchase!
So now imagine, if you take that process and add a bunch of people reading and clicking, before you know it you’ll be well on your way to growing an income through affiliate sales.
Now, it’s easier said than done. Why?
Because a lot of what decides your affiliate success isn’t necessarily how many affiliate programs you are a part of but how well you market them.
It’s achievable nonetheless.
There are a few factors that go into making the affiliate sale like:
The amount of traffic to your site
Some of your affiliate success will depend on how much traffic gets to your site and clicks your link (more on that later).
Sharing your blog content strategically
Constantly putting your posts in front of an audience that wants to read it is important to making affiliate sales work.
Including the links in your post the best way possible
You don’t want to be spammy with the way you include your links in your posts and have it be a turn off for anyone reading them.
The great thing about affiliate marketing is that, if you were to do nothing else for your readers but give value and add the links, that’s really all the ‘salesmanship’ you need to do.
That’s because if the product is good, and you share it with your audience in a trustworthy and helpful way, the product can just ‘sell itself.’
For example, I wrote a guide on how to use ConvertKit to style your opt-ins and in the end talked about how great of an email marketer it was because of how easy and organized it made everything. This post:
1. Provided value to my audience by giving them ideas along with directions
2. Promoted a product I’ve come to know, use, and love and think my readership will find helpful for their own blog journey
Easy affiliates to start with
There are so many products you can promote as an affiliate depending on your niche.
Listing all of them would take years. Still, here are some easy affiliate programs you can use to get started right now:
Is an affiliate network where you can sign up for free to find products to promote.
I love it as an easy way to keep your affiliates all in one place and has over 2,500 merchant programs you can apply to.
It’s one of the biggest affiliate networks, reliable, and easy to manage.
I love that it’s great for keeping things organized and tracking payouts and clicks in real time.
Is a global affiliate network also with a variety of affiliates to choose from.
Applying is easy and they’ll get back to you right away letting you know if you’ve been accepted.
To get started with Awin you can click on the link and fill in a couple of questions about your site.
They currently represent more than 6,000 brands worldwide including a bunch of hotel chains, Fiverr, Pet Supplies, DressLily. The list is huge!
You can get cash back with Ebates every time you shop through their site, or by downloading their extension and getting Ebates alerts as you shop online, or by downloading their app to get in store coupons and offer alerts.
They are synced with over 2,000 retailers and can be a great affiliate for lifestyle and finance blogs.
This one is by far the easiest to get into and promote.
After you’ve signed up and been accepted you can virtually promote any product of theirs (which are like a bajillion) you think your audience will find useful.
The cool thing about it is that if someone happens to click on your link and not buy what you promoted, but they navigate over to other products and buy a random piggy bank or a chew toy, you’ll still get a commission.
With the uprise of Pinterest and the benefits that come from marketing your blog that way, there’s been an uprise in the software to help you manage all the pinning.
For example, I use Tailwind and promote it anytime I can.
It saves me massive amounts of time when it comes to driving traffic to my blog and pins everything for me.
There are also other options like Boardbooster, which a lot of people also like.
Affiliate vocabulary: What does it all mean??
Sometimes diving into making your first affiliate sale can be intimidating because of all the jargon you come across. Here are the basics:
The affiliate code
This is the code your affiliate will provide you with to put in your site and keep track of all your sales.
It can look a little something like this: https://myuniqueaffiliatelink.com/&%$+=1763896469 and it’s what you would copy and paste into your site.
This refers to the unique ID that is included in the link you use on your site to send traffic to the merchant.
The ID helps keep track of your earnings and referrals.
For example, your tracking code would be the ref: ID17653-2 part of your link >> https://myuniqueaffiliatelink.com/&%ref: ID17653-2.
The merchant is the maker or the original seller of the product.
They are the ones either directly providing you the option of applying to get your affiliate link or can go through affiliate networks, which is the next definition.
Picture an affiliate network as a huge umbrella where individual merchants can come hang out in.
When you apply to become part of an affiliate network, it becomes easier to find, organize, and apply to many affiliate merchants.
The amount you’ve agreed to get paid for making a sale, a conversion, or a click (which is predetermined by the merchant before getting assigned your link).
A conversion is the fulfillment of the desired action through that link.
It might be a click, a sign-up, or a purchase. It can differ from merchant to merchant.
How can you find affiliates?
Many are right in front of you!
The process can seriously be as easy as making a simple Google search for a product you’re using that you would have no problem promoting. Here’s an example:
Let’s say I’m Vivian and I’m a total foodie.
I blog about food, dream about food, and think about food all day.
What’s a food product I constantly use and love?
Maybe I love organic coconut oil.
I’ve used Thrive Market to buy several organic products and I absolutely love them, their discounts, and their customer service.
Let’s check if they have an affiliate program I could join.
A quick google search for “Thrive Market affiliate program” and we come up with this:
It’s the very first thing that comes up in the search.
After you click you can see right away they give you info on how their program works. you can then click on ‘Sign Up Today’…
Fill in your information….
and usually they’ll let you know by email in a short period of time (sometimes that same day) if you’re eligible or not.
Every affiliate program is different.
Not all of them will ask the same questions (for example some may or may not ask “ number of unique page visitors a month”) and some will have specific criteria before assigning you an affiliate link.
That’s why it’s important to make a list of all the products you use to do a quick Google search for their affiliate programs.
Some will have them, some will not.
The three ways affiliate programs measure pay
Pay-per-sale: This payment model is the most basic and easy to understand.
You simply get paid according to the amount of direct sales you generate through your unique referral link (they have a way of storing cookies and tracking it so it stays accurate to your own account).
Pay-per-lead: The pay-per-lead method isn’t necessarily tied to the amount of direct sales you make.
Instead it decides payment based on if a certain action was accomplished through your unique link.
That action can be anything from signing up for a newsletter or making a download.
You’ll be informed of what method of payment is used when you sign up to your affiliate so you aren’t left in the dark as to how you’re getting paid.
Pay-per-click: And finally, there’s payment per the amount of clicks on your link—which is pretty straight forward.
What are the best ways to promote your links?
It’s a good marketing strategy to come up with creative ideas to promote an affiliate link (instead of just randomly plopping it in your post).
Here are some ideas to get your affiliate brainstorm going:
Review a product
After you’ve researched, applied to, and have been accepted to affiliate programs for products within your niche you can write a review on that product.
Reviews are great because no one wants to buy a product blind sighted.
We love seeing other people use it and look at their experience before feeling like we’ve made an informed decision when we decide to make a purchase.
When writing your review, think about:
What drew your attention to it at first?
What could the product have done better?
How do you use the product in your own life?
Would you recommend it?
Is the customer support great?
If you switched from a different product, what made you do it?
Add some bright and clear pictures to the post, along with some honest insight, and you’ve got yourself your first affiliate post!
Did you ever buy the bags of mixed candy that brought all kinds of treats in one big bag?
That’s kind of how list posts work.
It’s an awesome resource with a bunch of bits of information all in one place.
It’s such a time saver, and it adds so much value!
When you write your list posts with your affiliate links in mind, here are some ideas to use:
Is a holiday coming up? Put together the perfect gift guide!
Make a complete list of the blogging tools you use to stay organized
Are you an avid course buyer? You can make a list of all of them with mini reviews included
How to posts are superb because they are two things:
1. HUGE problem solvers that offer solutions
2. Come from a relatable perspective (from blogger to blogger, hello!)
Is there an online program you use that people could benefit from a how to tutorial?
How about a recipe how to?
Or savings plan how to?
Or how to groom your pet seamlessly while using X product?
The possibilities are truly endless with a little (or a lot of) brainstorming and planning.
Case studies are so valuable because they provide results driven data from personal experience.
The fact that it comes from fellow blogger makes it that much more down-to-earth.
For example, a case study can be written on how upgrading your site lengthened your visitor time with a before and after comparison.
You can talk about the programs you used and how helpful they were (while appropriately including their affiliate links) in the process.
Round up posts
Round up posts are different than a list post because they are usually made around the idea of “the best of something” that goes further than simply compiling a helpful list.
Used an online product and know the blogger/creator? Reach out to them for an interview!
People love to get a look ‘behind the scenes’ on what it tool to create, market and maintain an online product.
An interview is a great way to bring awareness to a product you love in a value filled way while endorsing your affiliate link to that product.
Make a guide to trump all guides. And add the affiliate links that are relevant to it.
As an easy example, you’ll see many bloggers have a ‘How To Start A Blog’ guide.
This is because the moment a blogger is trying to start their first blog is the moment they most need guidance, and that’s where guides are super helpful.
Applying it to old posts
If you’ve applied and gotten accepted to affiliate programs and have a backlog of old posts that could benefit from these links, it’s a good idea to add them.
You’ll have to go back and read through to see where exactly you can insert a post without having it seem like you randomly stuck it there ( and who knows, make some grammar corrections while you’re at it).
There are always creative ways to include and relate a link whether you’re updating a story to how you did something, made a list of the best tools to use, or happened to mention how you got started using a certain product.
Don’t forget your disclosure
When you publish anything with an affiliate link, it’s important to include a disclosure denoting your content contains affiliate links.
It’s not the best practice to exclude them. One of the key concerns is making it visible in your content.
Amy Lynn Andrews has a useful post about the legalities that go into affiliate disclosures.
What they don’t tell you about SEO
SEO (search engine optimization) is when you format your blog posts to rank for (key) words that people search for on Google to give your post a better chance of appearing on the first page of a given search result.
Why is this an important part of making an income with affiliate marketing?
To be able to make a formidable income through affiliates in your blog posts the amount of traffic you get is very important.
And to increase that traffic significantly while thinking long term, your best bet is to set your posts up to rank better with SEO.
According to Moz, the first 5 results on a Google search get 68% of the clicks!
That’s a big chunk of traffic. You want to make sure you rank as best as you can to get a part of it.
It’s key to note that the more reliable source of constant traffic is using SEO (as well as building your own email list) to rank in search engines.
While yes, you might be doing well with Pinterest traffic, or social media engagement, those traffic sources are prone to algorithm changes out of your control which can make your traffic fluctuate.
Only relying on social media channels to increase income through affiliates is a roller coaster game to play.
It makes your traffic less reliable and by default your affiliate income as well. Though I’m not saying you can’t make a killing with affiliate income solely through Pinterest traffic (many bloggers do!)
Usually traffic and affiliate income are positively correlated.
This means the higher the traffic the higher the chance of people clicking on your links and increasing your overall affiliate income.
Being able to do SEO well is a whole ‘nother post within itself. Neil Patel has an awesome guide for SEO beginners you can check out to make sure you are formatting your posts as best as you can!
You don’t want to randomly post links to a product for no good reason.
You know the sites with ugly boatloads of links everywhere that were clearly put together for sole profit without giving any sort of value?
You don’t want that to be you.
It’s not good for you cred, your biz lifespan, and your brand.
Weaving in affiliate links throughout your posts seamlessly is the key to making your links more enticing and clickable.
This is hard to do for products you don’t actually use yourself without seeming inauthentic or salesy.
That’s why, when working with affiliate links, it’s better to only endorse products you use and would have no trouble recommending naturally, whether you made a profit off it or not.
Now, let’s compare two ways you could include your affiliate links in your post:
Say I happen to be talking about Tailwind and tell you how awesome it is. Then I encourage you to check it out here:
That’s a pretty unattractive way to include your links. Would you want to click on it if you came across it?
If instead I happen to be talking about Tailwind in my post, and tell you how helpful it’s been in bringing me traffic, and how much you should definitely check it out!..then there’s a much better chance of someone clicking on that link. 🙂
To clean up your links and make them look pretty (while also keeping them organized) you can use Pretty Link Lite to help you out.
The magic of pretty link is that with a few clicks you can:
- Cloak your links
- Add the no follow tag
- keep them all organized on your WP dashboard
Cloaking your links
Sometimes, when you click on an affiliate link, you’ll get an ugly link that might look something like this:
But with pretty link, you can make your links look cleaner and more trustworthy, so when your audience clicks on it it doesn’t look fishy, like this:
no follow tags look like this “rel=nofollow” and can be manually added to each of your affiliate links, or automatically through the pretty link plugin. ☺
A couple of other things to keep in mind:
- Though Amazon Associates is relatively easy to join as an affiliate, you have to make a sale within 180 days of getting accepted, otherwise they’ll shut down your account and you’ll have to wait a while before you can reactivate it.
- Depending on the affiliate, you can expect a delay in getting affiliate payouts, especially when you’re first starting out (sometimes for about a month or longer)
This is just the beginning
While in theory affiliate marketing is quite easy, it can take some creativity in setting up so you can market it successfully.
It’s one of the easiest ways to start making money with your blog and can serve as a gateway for future income streams to ultimately grow your blog income.
When you’ve gone past the basics, there are also strategies for sending email with affiliate links incorporated, creating sales funnels for your links, and using them on social media.
Some bloggers go on to establish closer relationships with their affiliates and even go on to negotiate discount rates for their audience.
For now, get your affiliate link game on and start applying to get your unique referral link today! You’ll be glad you didn’t leave it for later.
Are there any affiliate programs you’ve been with that have worked great for you and your niche? Tell me about it in the comments.
If this post helped clarify + give you some additional ideas on the affiliate puzzle, do your friends a favor and share it with them too 🙂