Affiliate marketing is a great way for bloggers to earn money. But what exactly is affiliate marketing? And how do you actually DO it? Find out in this beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing for bloggers.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to earn money as a blogger: it’s easy, flexible, passive… and you can make good money with affiliate marketing even with a small blog – making it a great option for new bloggers.
But perhaps you are a little confused about what affiliate marketing actually is or how it works. Or perhaps you have tried affiliate marketing, but you’ve not made much money from it and are wondering where you went wrong…
In this beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing for bloggers I start right at the beginning, explaining exactly what affiliate marketing is, how it works, how much you can earn and why it’s such a good choice for bloggers at all levels and stages.
Then I’ll take you step by step through exactly what you need to do in order to make good money from affiliate marketing.
Finally, I’ll cover the legal aspects you need to consider when doing affiliate marketing, as well as a few tips on how to keep track of all your affiliate links!
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a way of making money by recommending a product and receiving a commission every time someone buys that product as a result of your recommendation.
How does affiliate marketing work?
Affiliate marketing works like this:
- You apply to an affiliate scheme
- Once approved, you are given a special affiliate link
- You use that affiliate link every time you mention the product
- Whenever someone clicks on that link and goes on to buy the product, you are paid a commission – either a flat fee or a percentage of the sale price.
So, for example, let’s suppose I am a gardening blogger and I love a certain brand of gardening gloves and want to earn money from recommending them to my audience. First, I would find out if the company which makes those gardening gloves has an affiliate scheme. Assuming they do, I would then apply to that scheme.
When I am approved, the gardening gloves company would then give me a special affiliate link, which I would insert into every blog post where I mention those gardening gloves. Now, any time a reader clicks on that link, they would be taken to the sales page on the gardening gloves company’s website. And any time a reader purchases the gardening gloves through my link, I will receive a commission from the gardening gloves company. (The special affiliate link helps the company track the sale, so they know which of their affiliates recommended it, so they can give the right affiliates the right commission.)
The benefits of affiliate marketing
The biggest benefit of affiliate marketing is that you get to earn money without having to create a product. Instead of spending weeks or even months creating your own product, someone else has done the hard work for you! All you have to do is recommend that product and every time someone buys it (through your link) you will earn.
Affiliate marketing is also great because anyone can do it. Many other ways of monetizing a blog require you to have a large audience, a big social media following and/or a sizable email list… or at the very least they require you to be an established blogger. The great thing about affiliate marketing is that you can make money from it right from the start, and even if you have a small blog. Better still, as your traffic and audience size increases, your income will grow without you having to do anything else!
And finally, affiliate marketing is mostly passive and therefore very scalable. Admittedly, there is a small amount of work you need to do initially: applying to affiliate schemes, creating blog posts which will attract the right kind of visitors to your website (people who would be interested in buying the affiliate product) and inserting your special affiliate link into those blog posts. But once you have done this initial work, the income is almost 100% passive… meaning it is incredibly scalable.
How much can you earn doing affiliate marketing
Ha – the million dollar question (quite literally!) The truth is that you can make A LOT of money from affiliate marketing, but how much you will make will depend on a number of factors. In particular:
- How much traffic you get
- How ‘engaged’ your audience is
- The value of the affiliate product
- The % commission
- Whether that commission is ‘one off’ or ‘recurring’
- The number of affiliate products you recommend on your website
- How well you ‘sell’ those affiliate products
As a general rule, you will make more money by focusing on ‘high ticket’ items and affiliate schemes with a high % (ideally recurring!) commission, than you will if you recommend a cheaper product with a low % commission.
So, for example, if you are an affiliate for a pen that costs $1 and has a commission of 1% you are probably going to make a lot less money than if you are an affiliate for a camera that costs $1000 and pays a commission of 10%. (Though obviously if A LOT more people bought pens than cameras, you might find the pen more lucrative… but you would have to sell 10,000 pens to get the same commission as selling just 1 camera!)
You are also likely to sell more affiliate products if you get a lot of traffic to your blog, compared to if you only have modest levels, but not necessarily… What matters more is how engaged your readers are and how likely they are to act on your recommendations. If you have a loyal following who hang on your every word, you may actually earn more from affiliate marketing than a much bigger blogger who has a less loyal audience.
It also matters how hard you work on ‘selling’ your affiliate products. If you just drop affiliate links into your blog posts in a scattergun fashion, you are likely to make much less money than if you write specific, targeted, well keyword-researched blog posts which are designed to lead your reader on a path towards purchase. (More on how to do this below!)
And, of course, the more affiliate products you promote on your blog, the more commission you are likely to make.
How to actually DO affiliate marketing – step-by-step
Enough of the theory! How do you actually DO affiliate marketing? Here’s my step-by-step process for beginners to affiliate marketing.
Step 1: Identify a product
The first step is to identify a product in your niche that you love and think your readers would love too.
**It’s really important that you only promote products that you genuinely love, and think would benefit your readers… and preferably products you use yourself. If you start promoting products just because the commission is good, you will lose credibility with your audience, and they won’t trust your recommendations in future**
Step 2: Find the affiliate scheme
Next you need to find out who sells that product and whether they have an affiliate scheme. Depending on the product, you may want to look at the manufacturer of the product and/or the retailer.
To take up my gardening gloves example, if I wanted to be an affiliate for a certain brand of gardening gloves, I could first check to see if the manufacturer had an affiliate scheme or, if not, I could see if any of the big gardening retailers (where those gloves are sold) have an affiliate scheme.
One great place to look is Amazon. There are many, many products that you can buy through Amazon and Amazon has its own affiliate scheme. You can find more details of Amazon’s affiliate scheme here.
Step 3: Apply to the affiliate scheme
Once you have found the relevant affiliate scheme, you need to apply. Sometimes you will automatically be approved, other times you will need to wait for approval. Sometimes there are very strict criteria, other times there is no criteria at all!
Once approved you will be given your special affiliate link. You will only make money if someone clicks on that special link and then goes on to buy the product.
Step 4: Insert your affiliate link into existing blog posts
While I don’t recommend this as THE BEST way to make money from affiliate links, it’s worth taking care of the low hanging fruit first! You have, most likely, already written blog posts which mention the product you are now an affiliate for. Go back into those posts and turn every mention of the product into a link – taking care to use your special affiliate link.
It’s also worth taking a look at your top 20 blog posts and seeing if a mention of the affiliate product can be added. If so, mention the product and link to it, using your affiliate link. (Only do this if it makes sense!)
Step 5: Do keyword research to find keywords BUYERS are searching for
A much better way of making money from affiliate links is to write blog post which target keywords the ideal buyer for your affiliate product is typing into Google.
Imagine someone who is the perfect customer for your affiliate product… what words might they be typing into Google?
To take up my gardening example, the perfect customer might be searching for things like:
- ‘Best gardening gloves under $20’
- ‘Best gardening gloves for small hands’
- ‘Best gardening gloves for new gardener’
- ‘Essential kit for a newbie gardener’
- ‘What equipment do I need for a small garden’
- ‘Are gardening gloves really necessary?’
- ‘Why do gardener’s wear gloves?’
- ‘Good birthday presents for gardeners’
If you are a bit stuck, use Google to help you. Start typing in the queries that you can think of first and Google will show other related questions in the ‘People also ask’ section.
Now use my keyword calculator spreadsheet to help you determine which of these keywords have high search volumes / low competition (In other words, the search terms you are most likely to rank for / will send the most traffic to your website.)
Step 6: Write blog posts which ‘sell’ your affiliate link
The next step is to write those blog posts… and write them in such a way as they ‘sell’ your affiliate product. Now, I don’t mean a ‘hard sell’… that rarely works. Instead, what I mean is a ‘subtle sell’. Write a genuinely helpful post which solves the reader’s problem… and which leads naturally to a place where the logical next step is to buy the product.
For example, say I wrote that blog post about ‘Are gardening gloves really necessary?’… I would write a genuinely helpful post explaining exactly why gardening gloves ARE, in fact, necessary (giving lots of compelling reasons)… But I would also explain what to look for in gardening gloves… And finally, I’d make my recommendation – the affiliate product!
In doing this, the prospective purchaser is taken on a journey from being unsure about gardening gloves… to being convinced… and then understanding what to look for in gardening gloves… and then you solve their next problem (which gardening gloves should I get?) with a neat solution: the affiliate product.
Typically, a ‘soft sell’ like this is much more effective than a ‘hard sell’, which tends to be off-putting.
‘Affiliate’ posts come in many forms, but the most common are ‘review posts’, where you review one affiliate product, ‘roundup posts’ where you highlight several affiliate products (for example, ’Essential kit for new gardeners’) and ‘problem’ posts, where you start with a problem and show how the affiliate product will help solve it.
Step 7: Promote your affiliate posts
The final step is to promote your affiliate post everywhere: on social media, on Pinterest, to your email subscribers… and anywhere else you can think of!
Step 8: Rinse and repeat!
Don’t just stop at one affiliate product and one blog post! To maximise your affiliate commission, you need to sign up for several affiliate schemes and write several blog posts for each affiliate product. The more affiliate products you recommend, and the more affiliate blog posts you write, the more commission you will earn!
Keeping it legal
Before you get started, there’s one more thing you need to take care of and that’s making sure you are following the various regulations around affiliate links.
Most countries require you to properly disclose your affiliate links (so your readers know you are getting commission for recommending a certain product). Typically, this needs to be above or alongside your first affiliate link. You need to make it clear that your blog post contains affiliate links and that you may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
You should also include a disclosure page on your website which explains in more detail about how your blog earns money from affiliate links. You can take a look at my disclosure page if you need some inspiration. You can then link from the brief affiliate disclosure in your blog post to your disclosure page, for people who want more information.
Although not a legal requirement, you should also make sure you set your affiliate links to ‘nofollow’ – this tells Google, and other search engines, to disregard your link for ranking purposes. This is because Google does not want people to buy or sell links. If your link is an affiliate link, there is the possibility that you will get paid a commission as a result of linking to that product, and therefore your link must be ‘nofollow’
And finally, always take the time to read the terms and conditions of any new affiliate scheme you join. You may find that they have extra rules which you need to comply with.
How to keep track of your affiliate links
If you take affiliate marketing seriously, you will most likely end up an affiliate for many different products through many different affiliate schemes. If you are not organized, this can quickly get messy! I highly recommend you create a simple spreadsheet to keep track… or better still add an ‘affiliate schemes’ tab to your content calendar.
When you join a new affiliate scheme, make a note of the name of the scheme, the link to the main affiliate portal (where you can see your stats / generate new links etc.) and your main affiliate link.
By being organized and keeping track like this you will save yourself a lot of time and make more money! (So many times bloggers miss out on revenue because they plan to put the affiliate link in later when they’ve found the relevant link… and later never happens!)
How to grow your affiliate income
Hooray! You now have a bullet proof plan to get started with affiliate marketing! Want to take your affiliate marketing to the next level? Head here >>> 19 easy ways to increase your affiliate income from your blog
Over to you…
I’d love to hear from you if this post has helped you! Or perhaps you have a question… or an affiliate marketing tip of your own to share? Let me know in the comments below!
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