Affiliate marketing presents another great opportunity to make money with your blog. As an affiliate marketer you promote someone else’s product and you earn a commission every time one of your referrals leads to a sale. For example, you could sign up for Amazon’s affiliate program and you could promote any product that they sell. Whenever a visitor clicks the link on your blog that leads to Amazon, if they make a purchase you will earn a commission.
There are other types of affiliate programs that don’t require a sale, such as a pay-per-lead program. In this case you could earn money by making referrals who fill out a form or sign up for a free trial.
With affiliate programs you can use text links within your page/post content, you can use banner ads, you can use links in email newsletters, and you can even use links on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook (be sure to check the terms of any affiliate program that you join).
Pros of Affiliate Marketing:
Huge Income Potential
Some of the highest earning bloggers and internet marketers make the majority of their income from affiliate marketing. The potential is truly unlimited. It could be money made from promoting one product that sells extremely well, or in most cases it is made from promoting a combination of different products.
The amount of money that you earn will obviously vary from one product to the next. In general, digital products like e-books, online courses, and membership website access tend to offer a high percentage of the sale to affiliates. Physical products, like most of the products sold at a site like Amazon, will typically pay affiliates somewhere between 5% – 15%. Digital products will usually pay affiliates anywhere from 25% – 75%.
Digital products like online courses also can sell for high dollar amounts, so it’s possible to make a nice chunk of money from each sale.
Easy to Setup
When it comes to selling products, affiliate marketing is a much easier way to get started than creating your own products. As an affiliate all you will need to do to get started is sign up for the program and add links or banners to your site. At that point you might be able to start making some sales and earning commission. Of course, there are other things you will want to do to maximize your results, but it is possible to get started in a matter of just a few minutes.
Affiliate Programs Exist in Just About Any Niche
As long as there are products being sold in your niche, you should be able to find affiliate programs to join. In most cases you’ll have plenty of options and you can choose the products that you want to promote. If you’re not familiar with affiliate programs in your industry you can check with some of the leading affiliate networks, they typically include a wide variety of products to promote. Check with Commission Junction, LinkShare, ShareASale, and ClickBank. Other ways to find affiliate programs are to check other blogs in your niche to see what they are promoting, do a Google search, or check the websites of companies or products in your niche to see if they offer an affiliate program. Most websites that offer an affiliate program will include an “affiliates” link in the footer.
Make Money without Creating the Product Yourself
Probably the biggest benefit of affiliate marketing is that you can make money by promoting products without the need to create the product yourself. For example, say you run a photography blog that publishes articles with tips and tutorials for photographers. One way to monetize the blog would be to create e-books on different topics that you could sell on the blog. The e-books would provide more in-depth information, so it would be a natural way to build on the content that already exists at your blog. But creating the e-book (or e-books) would take a lot of time. An alternative would be to promote e-books that are already available from other sources. You would only make a percentage of the sale as an affiliate, but you wouldn’t have to dedicate the time to creating the product yourself.
Can be Helpful for Testing Demand
Going along with the previous point, affiliate programs can be helpful for gauging interest or demand for a product. Let’s take the same example of a photography blog and e-books. Maybe you are trying to decide if you should dedicate the time to creating your own e-book. You’re interested in doing it, but you’re not sure if you’ll be able to make enough sales to justify the time that it would take to create the product. One way to test the demand is by promoting a similar affiliate product. Add some affiliate links and banners to your blog for a quality e-book that would be somewhat similar to your own and see how many sales it makes in a month or two. If you make a decent number of affiliate sales without too much effort, that’s a great sign that there is enough demand to make it worth your time to produce your own e-book. On the other hand, if you’re not able to make any sales, or very few, it could indicate that the demand from your audience isn’t strong enough to justify the time that it would take to create your own e-book. This is just one example of how you can use affiliate programs/products to gauge demand. You can easily apply the same concept to affiliate products in your own niche.
No Need to Handle Customer Service or Other Hassles
One of the benefits of affiliate marketing is that you get the good stuff (income potential) without the bad stuff (time needed to create the product and to provide customer service). Some products won’t require a lot of customer service, but if you’re selling a product on your own there will always be some need for answering questions or helping customers to resolve any issues they have with getting your product or being able to use it. As an affiliate, your job is done once the sale is made. You’ll be paid for the sale but you won’t have the responsibility to do anything beyond that point.
There are Countless Ways to Promote Affiliate Products
The possibilities for making money as an affiliate really are endless. You could simply add some affiliate banners to your blog’s sidebar. You could add affiliates links to posts from your archives. You could write a detailed product review. You could offer a free bonus to customers who buy through your affiliate link. You could interview the person who created the product and publish it on your blog. You could create a video to show your readers how to use the product that you are recommending. You could write a tutorial or a guide that shows readers how to do something specific, and recommend the affiliate product as a great way to do it. You could send an email to your mailing list with a coupon code or special offer for the product. And there are so many more possibilities.
Unlike some other monetization methods, such as ad sales or AdSense, there are plenty of ways to use your creativity to make money with affiliate marketing.
No Investment Needed
Sometimes in order to create your own product you would need to invest a considerable amount of money. Even if you don’t need to invest money, you will certainly have to invest a lot of time into creating your own product. With affiliate marketing there is no need to invest anything into creating a product. Instead, you can promote a product that may have cost another company thousands or even millions of dollars to create. This means that you can be profitable as an affiliate from your first sale. With creating your own product you may have to make a lot of sales just to recover your initial investment of time and money.
Doesn’t Require a Huge Audience
For blogs that don’t have huge traffic numbers, affiliate marketing could allow you to still make a decent amount of money. The amount of money that you can make from promoting affiliate products is related more to the trust that you have developed from your readers, and the quality of the products that you are promoting, and is less dependent on the number of visitors that arrive at your blog.
Of course, you’ll still want to work on increasing traffic even if you are successful with affiliate marketing because a larger audience could mean even more income. But unlike ad sales and AdSense, making some money with a smaller audience is possible with affiliate marketing.
Opportunities for Joint Ventures
The last pro that I will mention for affiliate marketing is that it opens up a lot of possibilities for joint ventures. Affiliate marketing naturally involves collaboration between the seller of the product and the affiliate. This can be taken further for even better results for both parties.
For example, top affiliates often get access to new products before they are released to the public so they can set up a campaign to promote the product as soon as it launches. The campaign may include a blog post, an email to a mailing list, or a special offer that includes a bonus for anyone who purchases through the affiliate link. These types of collaborations can create a lot of money at product launch time for both the seller an the affiliate.
That is one example, but there are plenty of other opportunities that could exist for joint ventures or collaborations. In order to get the best opportunities you’ll need to be able to generate a lot of sales as an affiliate. This goes back to the first point of affiliate marketing having huge potential. If you are successful, plenty of amazing opportunities will open up for you to make even more money.
Cons of Affiliate Marketing
You’re Dependent on Others to Close the Sale
When you are promoting products as an affiliate your success depends not only on your own ability to get targeted prospects to look at the product, but also on the ability of the company or individual selling the product to convert the sale. The quality of the landing page or sales letter of the product will be very influential in your ability to make money with the affiliate program. You can send all the visitors you want through your affiliate link, but if the landing page is terrible at converting visitors into buyers, you won’t make very much money.
While this lack of control is one of the down sides to affiliate marketing, it can actually work out in your favor at times. Some products have outstanding landing pages or sales letters that convert at higher rates than something that you may be able to produce on your own, so it can go both ways.
Can Sometimes be Difficult to Know Which Products to Promote
If you are in a niche or an industry where there are a lot of different affiliate programs to choose from, it can often be a challenge to know which ones are the best fit for you. It’s important that you carefully select the products that you promote, and I recommend only promoting products that you have personally used, but it can be difficult to find the time to try a lot of different products.
One way that you can go about determining which products to promote, or even which products to try out on your own time, is to stick to trusted brands and companies. It could be a well-known and respected brand, or it could be someone relatively unknown that you know personally and trust.
You’re Building a Customer List for Someone Else
If you sell your own products, one of the best ways to increase your income is to sell multiple products to the same customers. If you have only one product, every sale will have to be to a new customer. But if you have several different products, or if you release new products, you can sell multiple times to the same customers. The first sale is the most difficult. If you have a quality product and the customer is happy with his or her first purchase, selling other products or even add-on products can be much easier.
As an affiliate marketer you are actually building a customer list for someone else. When you refer a customer who buys the affiliate product, that person is added to the customer list of the other company. That company can now continue to market to that customer in the future, and with most affiliate programs you won’t get any commission on future purchases.
There is nothing wrong with helping someone else to build their customer list, and you’ll get a commission from the sale. However, if you were selling your own product you would be building your own customer list that you could continue to sell to in the future. And if you offer an affiliate program for people who would like to promote your product, they would be helping you to build your customer list.
Lack of Control
As an affiliate, there are a lot of details that are out of your control. We already looked at the fact that the quality of the landing page or sales page is out of your control. Additionally, you have no control over the pricing, details of what is included in the product, features of the product, the look of the product, and more. You also don’t have the ability to run promotions or sales by discounting the product. These are all things that would be within your control if you were selling your own product.
Competing with Other Affiliates
If you are promoting a product that is extremely popular in your niche you will essentially be competing with a lot of other affiliates who are promoting the same product. Every sale made by another affiliate is one less potential sale for you.
You still may be able to make good money promoting popular products, but the person who created that product is making money regardless of which affiliate makes the referral. This is, of course, fair, but it helps to show one of the differences between creating your own product or promoting affiliate products.
You’re Only Paid on Sales
With most affiliate programs you will only earn a commission when a sale is made. You could send a few hundred visitors to an affiliate link, and if none of them convert into a sale you will have nothing to show for it.
There are some exceptions where you may be paid for referring a visitor who takes some other specified action, but the majority of affiliate programs do not work this way. This is the reason why affiliate programs are so beneficial for the people and companies who are selling the product. They can’t lose since they are only paying affiliates if a sales is made.
That’s not to say that affiliate programs are unfair or that you should stay away from them, it’s just something that you need to understand as an affiliate. The up side to this is that since you are only being paid when a sale is made, the commissions can be pretty high. And if you’re good at sending referrals that lead to sales, a lot of money can be made.
Tips for Making Money with Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is something that almost every blogger can implement. It could be on a small scale, such as an affiliate link to the web hosting company that you use, or it could be a major part or your monetization strategy. If you are looking to maximize your income from affiliate marketing, here are some tips.
Build an Email List
If you’re able to build a responsive mailing list with at least a few thousand subscribers, you can make money consistently by promoting quality products as an affiliate. You’ll need to have a mailing list with a healthy number of subscribers, and you’ll also need to have subscribers that are responsive. The average promotion to an email list will convert at about 1-3%, so at that rate you could make 10 – 30 sales to an affiliate product with a mailing list of 1,000 subscribers. If your list is more responsive that number of sales could increase significantly. We’ll go into much greater detail on the topic of mailing lists and newsletters in chapter 15, so I won’t cover too much here.
Almost all of the biggest and best affiliates use an email list as one of their primary methods for making sales. One of the great things about having a list is that you can promote different products to the same people over and over again. Of course, you will want to give them some reason to stay subscribed to your list so it doesn’t feel like they’re only receiving advertisements or commercials, but the list is a huge asset to any marketer.
Only Promote Products that You Use or Trust
I touched on this earlier in this chapter, but it is important that you only promote good quality products that you trust, and preferably that you have used yourself. If you are a satisfied user of the product it is easy to share your personal story and tell others why you like the product and why you can recommend it. You’ll find that people respond much better and that your recommendations convert to more sales when it’s clear that you have used the product and when you give details about why you like it.
By only promoting quality products you can develop trust from your readers and visitors. If they know that you will not steer them towards an inferior product just because you can make a commission from the sale, they will be much more likely to trust your recommendations.
On the other hand, promoting low quality products is a great way to turn off your readers and the result will be difficulty in making money with your future affiliate promotions.
Negotiate Higher Payouts, if Possible
Almost every affiliate program will publish the percentage or flat fee that they will pay out. For example, a company selling digital products may list on their website that they pay 40% of the revenue to affiliates. Or a web hosting company may list that they will pay $75 to an affiliate for every new customer that they refer. In some cases the percentages or rates may also be tiered. For example, hosting companies often pay higher rates to affiliates who hit certain milestones. As an affiliate you may earn $50 per referral for less than 10 referrals per month, but if you exceed 10 referrals in a given month you may get paid $75 per referral.
While every company that has an affiliate program will have its own policies and payout rates, just because something is listed publicly doesn’t mean that they won’t make better offers to their top affiliates. It’s common practice for companies to pay their top affiliates percentages or rates that arent’t listed anywhere publicly. So that company that lists their payout to affiliates at 40% may be willing to pay 50% or 60% to someone who has proven that they can send a large number of customers.
If you have a blog with an established audience that could be a great fit for an affiliate program you may be approached by affiliate managers who are willing to offer you better rates to join their program. You can also be proactive and ask affiliate managers for a higher commission if you think it can be justified. In most cases, when you are the one pursuing the higher commission you will probably need to have a track record of sending customers to that company. If you have never promoted a company’s product as an affiliate they will probably not be willing to pay you a higher commission until you have shown an ability to refer customers to them for a few months. However, if you have been promoting an affiliate product and you are doing well and making a good number of sales, you may have some leverage if you would like to ask for a higher commission. This is not something you will likely be able to do as a new blogger, but it is something to keep in mind as your affiliate income grows. Even a small increase in the amount that you make from affiliate sales can really add up when you are making a number of sales each month.
I mentioned that one of the great things about affiliate marketing is that you can easily and quickly implement affiliate links on your website or blog. While that is true, if you want to take your affiliate earnings to the next level you will need to do more than simply add an affiliate link or banner and wait for people to click and buy.
The most successful affiliates pre-sell their visitors and readers on affiliate products before sending them to the landing page or sales page of the affiliate product. Your job as an affiliate is to send the visitor to the landing page, but you can increase the conversion rate by helping out with the sales process.
There are a few different ways that you can help to pre-sell affiliate products. One common approach for bloggers is the review. If you have used a product yourself you can write a review of that product and include affiliate links so you can make a commission whenever one of your readers clicks through and buys the product. Of course, the review should be honest and fair, not just an attempt to get readers to buy the product. This is one reason why it is so much easier to promote high-quality products as an affiliate. You can simply present your own personal experience with the product and it will almost always convert better than a simple affiliate link with no recommendation.
One of the great things about these types of reviews is that they can continue to earn money for the foreseeable future. Not only will your blog subscribers see it when the post is first published, but it may attract search engine traffic when potential customers are trying to decide if they should buy the product. A review that took you an hour to write could wind up generating sales for the next few years.
Another way that bloggers can pre-sell is by publishing a tutorial on your blog. This approach is similar to publishing a review, but instead of covering all of the details about the product you are actually showing readers how to use it. This won’t be a good fit for every product, but it does work well in many situations. For example, at ProfitBlitz I have a page that shows how to install WordPress with SiteGround’s web hosting services. That page includes my affiliate links to SiteGround and it shows readers exactly what they need to do to set up WordPress for their own website. These kinds of tutorials also work well in combination with reviews. If you’re publishing affiliate reviews on your blog, take a look at the product and think about things that you could teach through a tutorial. In your review you can link to the tutorial that corresponds with the same affiliate product and it should help to make some extra sales.
The last pre-selling method that I will mention here is the approach of pre-selling through email newsletters. A review published on your blog may go into more detail, whereas a promotion in an email will probably be more of a summary of the benefits and features of the product. Email lists tend to produce good conversion rates when the product is a good fit for the audience.
Develop the Trust of Your Readers
This has been mentioned a few times already, but it’s importance cannot be overstated. If you want to make significant money with affiliate marketing you must establish your reputation and develop the trust of your readers.
This involves only promoting quality products and services, not promoting affiliate products too often, making honest reviews about the strengths and weaknesses of any product, and always keeping your readers’ best interests in mind.
Get Feedback from Affiliate Program Managers
The last tip that I’ll give for affiliate marketing is to take advantage of the opportunity to get assistance from affiliate program managers. Most companies that have an affiliate program will have someone who is the dedicated manager of their affiliate program. In many cases this person’s full-time job will be to find affiliates and to help them make more sales.
Affiliate managers want the affiliates to make as many sales as possible, because this is what ultimately determines the success of the program that they are managing. Most affiliates never make the effort to get in contact with affiliate program managers, but they can provide a lot of valuable insight. Affiliate program managers know what works well for their affiliates. They know what the top affiliates are doing to generate sales, and they know what methods typically don’t work very well.
Because of the insight that affiliate managers have into the top affiliates, they can be a great resource for any blogger who is looking to make more money from affiliate marketing. And most affiliate managers are very receptive to being contacted by their affiliates because they have a vested interest in the success of those affiliates. I would encourage you to reach out to the managers of the affiliate programs that you promote. Show them how you are promoting their product on your blog and ask for their feedback and recommendations for ways to improve the number of sales that you are referring. You may be able to get some great free advice that will lead to more income.
Conclusion on Affiliate Marketing
Regardless of where you are at in your blog’s lifecycle (new blog or established) affiliate marketing presents plenty of opportunities. I’ve covered the basics here, but this is a really huge topic that can be studied in great depth if you want to learn more. Here are a few blogs that I recommend following for affiliate marketing information and advice:
Marc is the founder of ProfitBlitz. He has been working online for more than a decade and loves to write about topics like internet marketing and SEO. When he’s not working he enjoys travel and photography.