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Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways for bloggers to start making money.
If done right, it can be a really great source of passive income that pays off for months or years to come if you set it up correctly!
It’s how Alex and I earned our very first bit of income on our first blog, and we now earn over $25,000/month in affiliate marketing revenues alone!
We’re going to cover EVERYTHING related to affiliate marketing in this article.
You can also check out our podcast episode on how to make money through affiliate marketing here:
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is when you earn a commission for selling other people’s products.
This commission can be a set amount or a percentage of the sale or a set dollar amount and is determined by the company/owner of the affiliate product.
These commissions often range anywhere from 15-70% of the product sales price.
Why would anyone give away 70% of their sales!?
Because YOU are doing most of the work for them by telling people about their products and getting more visitors to their sales page, and they reward you for that.
Once you create a product that people want and a sales page that effectively sells your product — most of the work is done.
All that is left is to get more visitors to the page. That is often one of the hardest parts.
Affiliates are responsible for not only getting additional visitors to the page but also for convincing their readers WHY they believe the product is worth buying.
This is generally referred to as “pre-selling” the product.
The more you can convince your reader why they need the product before they click the affiliate link and see the sales page, the more likely they are to purchase the product.
Here is an example…
First, we tell our readers a little about the course before we introduce it and then we go on to discuss more details about the product and why it’s relevant to our audience.
This is your chance to tell your audience why YOU love it and why you think it’s worth buying.
Affiliate companies reward their affiliates for this because the affiliates are doing most of the work.
Many affiliate companies also have pretty high commissions to remain competitive. They want you to promote THEIR product or service rather than their competition’s, so they keep their commissions competitively priced.
- Affiliate Company A pays you $40 for every Product A that you sell.
- Affiliate Company B pays you $60 for every Product B that you sell.
Assuming that you believe both products are comparable and a great fit for your audience, you’re naturally going to choose to promote Product B because you get a higher payout.
Affiliate companies know this, so they try to keep their commissions priced advantageously for their affiliates.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Before you are eligible for affiliate revenues, you must sign up and get approved by the affiliate company. We’ll talk more about how to find and join affiliate companies and programs later on in this article.
After getting approved for an affiliate program, you will receive an affiliate link to the product’s sales page. This special affiliate link is how your affiliate sales are tracked.
You can add these links in articles, emails, social media posts, in Facebook groups, etc.
Here is an example from a post that was on our health and wellness blog on Himalayan salt lamps:
When someone clicks your affiliate link, a cookie is attached to their browser that tracks whether or not that person purchases the product from your link.
These cookies generally last anywhere from 30-365 days, which means that if someone clicks your link and purchases anytime within that cookie’s period, you will receive a commission from that sale.
Important Note: In order for this cookie to work, the person has to purchase from the same device and the same browser.
- So, if they click your affiliate link on their computer and then go back to the site on their phone and make a purchase, you will not get credit for the sale.
- But if they return to the same site a month later on their computer and using the same browser, you will get credit for the sale.
Another caveat is that if someone clicks on another affiliate link that isn’t yours and then purchases the product, the affiliate whose link was last clicked will get the credit for the sale – not you.
The affiliate company decides how long this cookie length is, and you can find out how long it is by reading over their affiliate terms and conditions.
More on that in a minute.
The sales that you make from your affiliate link are tracked, and most companies will pay you for the sales between 30 and 90 days after the sale is made (to make sure that no returns or refunds are requested).
Here is an example…
We are an affiliate for ConvertKit, an email marketing software that we use and recommend to our bloggers.
[The link above is an affiliate link. If you click that link and decide to sign up for ConvertKit, we may receive a commission for it (after you complete your free trial and pay for your first month).]
The above statement is called a disclosure.
Affiliate Rules and Disclosures
In addition to cookie lengths and commission amounts, affiliate companies also have specific rules for promoting products.
You can generally find these rules at the bottom of the company’s website. The links are often named the following:
- Affiliate Program
- Affiliate Terms and Conditions
For example, on ConvertKit’s Affiliate Program page, they specify the following:
There are often other rules in how you can promote the products, including whether or not you can offer bonuses and incentives to your readers for signing up.
These rules will vary between affiliate companies, so it’s always important to read over ALL rules before applying to their program.
The Amazon Associates program is much stricter with their policy and does not all you to include affiliate links in emails — something you would only know if you read through their entire program policy and conditions.
On top of that…
You also have to follow government rules and regulations relating to affiliate marketing and disclosures.
In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission is the governing body over consumer purchase behavior online, and you must also follow their rules regarding online marketing and advertising:
In short, you must disclose affiliate relationships to your readers, and there are certain rules on how this information must be disclosed.
The biggest takeaway:
It’s not enough to ONLY disclose an affiliate relationship somewhere in a Disclaimer or Disclosure page linked at the bottom of your website.
The affiliate relationship must be disclosed before or close to the affiliate link.
If you’re including affiliate links in an article, it’s a good idea to include a disclosure BEFORE your content.
If you include affiliate links in a social media post, you must disclose that it is an affiliate link within the post itself:
If you include affiliate links in emails, you must disclose that it is an affiliate link within the email itself:
And so on…
The main point is that your affiliate disclosures must be clear and visible — meaning that the reader should never have to hunt them down.
You can read the FTC’s Endorsement Guides for more information on what is required.
Why Affiliate Marketing is the Best Way to Start Monetizing
The #1 reason to start out with affiliate marketing is that it provides the best balance of risk and reward.
Perhaps the easiest way to make money is through putting ads on your blog.
It’s fairly easy to set up and 100% passive.
The lowest risk also comes with the lowest reward, and you’re going to make pennies rather than dollars.
On the other end of the spectrum, creating and selling your own products is probably the best way to make money with your website.
But it also comes with the highest risk.
It takes time and money to create your own products and if you end up creating a product that your audience doesn’t like or that you don’t know how to sell properly, you’ve wasted even more time and money.
We would know because this happened to us.
When we first began blogging, we created a diet and fitness plan that we thought was just AWESOME:
But guess what… Our audience didn’t agree.
We didn’t know our target customer was, what they wanted, or how to sell anything to them.
With affiliate marketing, you can promote different products and services to your audience with generally no investment of money and far less investment of time.
If you have trouble selling one product or your audience doesn’t like it, you can try another one.
And the best part is… When it gets going… It can even be mostly passive income!
This trial and error process is how you will learn more about who your target customer is, what they want and need, and how you can sell it to them.
How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
As a blogger, the best way to get started with affiliate marketing is to begin adding affiliate links to the articles on your blog.
And perhaps the best affiliate program to start out with is the Amazon affiliate program.
The Amazon Associates program allows you to link Amazon products and earn a commission from those products and others purchased on Amazon.
The cookie length is only 24 hours and the commissions are quite low, but it can be a good, passive way to earn a couple of hundred dollars/month.
This is how Alex and I earned our first $85.62 of blogging income.
It may not seem like much, but it was the first bit of income we had earned from our blog and it meant the world to us.
It helped us cover some of our blogging costs and it’s grocery money, people!
We make an average of $500-$1,000/month with the Amazon Associates program!
In addition to linking Amazon products, you can also do a simple Google search for affiliate programs in your niche.
You’ll come across various affiliate programs and networks through this method.
For example, if you were in the pet niche and ran a Google search for “pet products affiliate programs,” you’d find a link on the first page for Petco’s Affiliate Program.
You could then check out their program and see how affiliate referrals work, how much they pay, when they pay, what rules they have for promoting, etc.
There are also a whole host of other articles that will come up that compare other affiliate programs for pet supplies that you can check out for ideas.
You can join as many different affiliate programs as you want through this method. Just make sure that the company and the products are a good fit for you and your audience.
Best Affiliate Marketing Programs and Networks for Bloggers
In addition to signing up for Amazon Associates and looking at individual affiliate programs, Alex and I also incorporated affiliate networks into our affiliate marketing strategy.
These large networks exist to connect you with affiliate companies and products. You can use their platform to search for popular products in your blog niche.
Here is an example of some search results in the fitness niche on Shareasale:
As you can see above, different programs offer different commission percentages on sales. Some of them also offer straight dollar amounts — not percentages.
But you can’t compare commission percentages alone because the sales price matters.
This is why they also advertise the average EPC, or earnings per click, so you can better compare average earnings between companies.
The company above with the highest commission percentage (75%) also has the lowest earnings per click, which means that the sales price for that product(s) must be much lower than the other programs.
Some popular affiliate networks include:
These products can also be promoted in your articles, videos, emails, social media, etc.
Just make sure to read over the affiliate company’s terms and conditions before promoting the product as rules will vary between companies.
How to Make Your First $200/Month with Affiliate Marketing
As we stated earlier, these are the strategies that we used to earn our first bit of income blogging.
- In the first month of using affiliate marketing, we made $173.
- The next month, we made $924.
- The following month, we made $2,353.
It was with a combination of the strategies below that we were able to more than double our affiliate marketing revenues within the first few months of earning anything with our blog.
These are the best places to start adding your affiliate links to your blog…
The first place that you should start adding affiliate links to is your posts.
You can add affiliate links wherever you discuss relevant products or services, but perhaps the best way to get clicks and generate affiliate sales is through review articles.
Our two favorite types of review pages are:
- Product comparisons
- Reviews of a specific product or service
We personally use these types of review articles mainly with Amazon products, because they are less expensive and usually an easier sell.
Even if someone doesn’t decide to purchase a product from your article, the articles are still very good at getting clicks to Amazon, which can result in future sales.
Here is an example of a review article on plant-based protein powders from our health and wellness blog:
We compare and contrast 5 popular plant-based protein powders that are linked from Amazon.
Note: You must be a member of the Amazon Associates program in order to get Amazon affiliate links and receive credit for sales.
Another example of a different kind of product comparison review article is our review of MailChimp and ConvertKit for email marketing.
Review of a Specific Product or Service
When you are reviewing a specific product or service, you generally want to include the following:
- What the product or service is
- Why it’s useful
- Advantages and disadvantages
- Possible comparisons to other products
- How to get started using the product (with affiliate links)
A good example of this type of review article is our review of ConvertKit for email marketing.
In this article, we discuss why we love ConvertKit so much and why it’s different from other email marketing services that we have used in the past.
You can also create a different type of post that educates the reader on a specific topic and offers a solution (in the form of an affiliate link) at the end.
An example of this is our article on how to build an email list.
In Social Media Posts
You can generally include affiliate links in Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Instagram posts, and Pinterest pins.
You can link affiliate links within YouTube video descriptions when you refer to various products or services:
Just make sure to include an affiliate disclosure in the video description as well.
You can also create entire videos around an affiliate product or service, like our video on blog themes:
When you refer specifically to affiliate links within YouTube videos, you generally have to disclose the affiliate relationship within the video itself.
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest
Affiliate links on other platforms work very similarly in that you must disclose the affiliate relationship either in the video or in the description depending on how you introduce your affiliate links.
We don’t personally use them for Instagram or Pinterest, but we have for Facebook.
On Facebook, we sometimes include affiliate links on our page when we link posts or videos:
Or we refer students to our affiliate links when they ask about certain software in our private support groups for our courses:
Just remember to always specify that you are using an affiliate link!
And remember to refer back to the FTC guidelines regarding this because rules are subject to change and they have become more strict and regulated over the last few years.
You can link affiliate products in your articles all day long, but you won’t convert as many people that way.
The more trust you build with your audience before you ask for a sale, the more likely you are to make that sale.
The best way you can build trust with your audience is through an email list.
Sending emails to your audience allows you a chance to build a better connection with your reader by…
- telling them more about yourself,
- explaining why you do what you do,
- and providing them with valuable and useful content.
This connection builds trust and trust makes them more likely to purchase a product from you.
You can use affiliate links in your emails in two different ways:
- One-Time Broadcasts
- Email Sequences (Sales Funnels)
You can link affiliate links within one-time emails that discuss affiliate products or services.
These broadcasts can be about…
- Flash sales on products or services for holidays
- A new product or service that you tried and think your audience will love
- Other topics with affiliate links linked more inconspicuously (not the whole subject of the email)
We personally write broadcasts when affiliate companies are having flash sales throughout the year:
The above screenshot is some copy from one of our emails during Black Friday.
Limited-time sales are very effective because they give the reader a reason to BUY NOW.
Email Sequences (Sales Funnels)
You can also create entire email sequences designed to sell one affiliate product or service.
This generally works better with more expensive affiliate products because you generally need to pre-sell the reader before you ask them to make a purchase.
You do this through first sending a series of emails that both:
- Provide value for the reader and
- Educate them on why they need the product in their life.
After you have provided some free value up front, you can introduce the affiliate product:
The trust built up during the first few days of free content makes the reader more likely to make a purchase from you.
This is called a sales funnel, and it’s how we earned our first $1,000+/month with our first blog!
Advanced Affiliate Marketing: 6 Tips for Making 6 Figures
For all of you preferred video learners out there, here is a video on Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers from our YouTube Channel below.
Affiliate marketing was one of the big turning points behind turning first our health and wellness blog into a six-figure blog.
Now, between both of our blogs, we earn six figures from affiliate marketing alone.
Taking two separate blogs both to six figures has taught us a LOT about affiliate marketing.
Even the things that most people seem to skip over or miss for whatever reason.
These are our top tips below for earning six figures through affiliate marketing on your blog.
1. Pay Attention to Your Competitors
There are quite a few successful blogs out there making six figures solely from affiliate marketing, but here is the interesting thing about it:
You also won’t be able to find many that report income on affiliate earnings.
Because affiliate marketing is highly competitive.
Sharing your affiliate earnings information and secrets will drive UP the competition and drive DOWN your profits.
This is why 99% of six-figure affiliate marketers keep the details on their affiliate earnings pretty tight-lipped.
But even if you don’t know how much they are making, you can still pay close enough attention to see what they are promoting and how they are promoting it.
Here is a screenshot from one of our health and wellness articles that was written to promote a few different meal delivery services that we are an affiliate for:
The above article contains links as well as banners for the affiliate products.
Take a look at some of the top blogs in your niche and look for:
- What products and services they are recommending to their audience
- Where they are promoting these products and services (articles, emails, etc.)
- How they are promoting them (what they are saying, how the content is structured, etc.)
This can give you ideas of what might work for your audience — IF you blog on similar topics or have a similar audience.
2. Disguise Your Affiliate Links
Most of your affiliate links will look something like this:
Believe it or not, that’s actually our affiliate link for a Pinterest scheduling software called Tailwind.
When someone clicks on your link and is directed to a page with an ‘ugly’ URL like that, they may be a little turned off.
OR when you post a visible link like that on social media (like FB), it just doesn’t look as professional.
PrettyLinks is a free plugin that allows you to disguise your links and literally make them look ‘prettier.’
It can turn the link above into a link like this: https://createandgo.com/tailwind
Not only do your affiliate links look a lot better and more professional, but they are also a lot easier to remember.
You can easily include your links on your site or on social media without having to go look them up.
Before we started using this plugin, I used to store all of my affiliate links in a spreadsheet. I would have to look them up every time I mentioned one in an article or in my Facebook groups.
This was a major time sink.
Download PrettyLinks and create simple and professional links for your affiliate links.
3. Your Niche Matters
Plain and simple: There is an average market price for products in various niches.
Weight loss products, on average, tend to be priced FAR lower than products in the money and finance niche.
We have learned from experience that sales in the health and wellness industry are pretty volume-focused.
Weight loss is one of the most-searched topics in the world, so there is a ton of traffic to be had. But the average product price is pretty low.
People are used to paying low prices, so trying to get them to pay for $500 for a weight loss course would be VERY difficult.
This is why we priced our popular weight loss program at $47.
So, in this case, a better strategy is to focus on increasing the volume of sales (traffic) rather than selling higher-priced courses (far more difficult).
This means that affiliate marketing is not the right path to take a health and wellness blog to six figures.
A lesson that we learned pretty early on…
That’s why, in our niche, affiliate marketing was a small, supplemental part of our total income (about an extra $500 – $1,000 per month), but the real money was in creating our own products.
But for comparison purposes:
- On our health and wellness blog, the average product price was $37.
- On Create and Go, the average course price is $197.
With Create and Go, we focus more on sales and conversions than traffic because far less traffic is needed when your sales price is higher.
BUT… on that note…
The higher the price of the product, the harder it is to sell to your audience, especially when that product is not your own.
We still started with affiliate marketing, even on our health and wellness blog, because…
4. Affiliate Marketing Will Teach You How to Sell
We made our first real bit of money with our health and wellness blog selling a yoga product via affiliate marketing.
Selling those first few products marked the first time we started making actual income online (the $300/month from Amazon Associates was barely covering blogging expenses).
In fact, our first $20 day, $50 day, and $100 day were all a result of promoting that first product.
But more importantly than the initial bit of income, it taught us HOW to sell digital products.
So much so that when we decided to create our own product, we made sales right from the get-go.
This is because we already had a sales funnel in place designed to sell a yoga product for weight loss [successfully].
We already had…
- New visitors signing up for our email list every day
- A sequence of emails designed to educate readers on the topic (yoga for weight loss)
- A sales pitch at the end that converted those readers into buyers
But there are downsides…
5. Remember That You Don’t Own The Affiliate Product
As we stated above, less risk means less reward.
Because you don’t own the product, you can’t control the price of the product or your margins.
If the sales page kind of sucks, you can’t do anything to improve it.
You are also generally limited in how you can promote the product.
We discussed this above relating to company affiliate rules as well as government rules and disclosures.
But perhaps where the BIGGEST risk lies is that you don’t actually own the product or control your stream of income.
For instance, let’s say you make 85% of your income from the sales of ONE affiliate product.
If a company decides to lower their affiliate commissions or make changes to their affiliate program that are NOT in your favor, your income stream can be immediately cut off.
Your money tree has been struck by lightning in the night.
It’s just how it goes. You’re always taking that risk when you don’t own the product.
Now, it is incredibly rare for an affiliate program to do this. If you’re both making money and the customers are happy, why stop?
It’s just something that you must be aware of if you are putting all your eggs in that basket.
And finally, one of the best parts of affiliate marketing is…
6. The Process is Very Similar to Selling Other Digital Products
If you can sell an affiliate product, you can sell your own product(s).
That’s because the sales process is always, always, always about the relationship you build with others.
A proper relationship looks something like:
- Establish initial curiosity and intrigue.
- Allow for a follow-up.
- Increase the strength of the relationship.
This is the same no matter what you are selling. But, I will say that 95% of six-figure bloggers make their money selling digital products and services.
Even affiliate marketers end up learning that it works better to own the product than to just promote it.
But here is the most important lesson of all…
You should start out with affiliate marketing to teach you HOW to sell before investing the time and money creating our own product(s).
This is the mistake that we made when our first blog failed and why we structured our blogging courses the way that we did.
How to REALLY Scale Affiliate Marketing Income
Are you ready for the cold, hard truth?
You’ll never make six-figures from the only using Amazon links on your blog. Trust me.
After two years, we’re still only up to an average of $600 – $1,000/month with Amazon.
This past month was on the higher side for us, but you can still see how little we made for the number of products we sold:
Of the 14,867 clicks we had on our links, we only sold 1,075 products and made $1,090.66.
That means that we only made an average of $1.01 per product sold.
The bloggers making six figures using affiliate marketing are all selling higher-priced affiliate products.
- Promoting expensive courses (think $200+ range)
- Marketing expensive equipment (drones, cameras, etc.)
- Reviewing expensive services (hosting, CPM software, etc.)
There is no exception here.
The volume of sales you would have to make at $5 – $20 per sale from a low-priced product to make it to six figures is crazy. You’d need something in the ballpark of 10 million readers per month to make that work.
Or a massive email list of millions of subscribers.
That’s not to say that $5-$20 sales aren’t worth your time.
You just need to have the right expectations in place when you start with lower-priced products.
It’s a great place to start while you’re learning what products work and how to sell to your audience, but higher-priced products are the only real way to reach six figures with affiliate marketing.
Higher-priced affiliate products = Higher commissions.
This principle is plain and simple:
- 50% of Product A that costs $100 will net you a $50 commission.
- 50% of Product B that costs $10 will net you a $10 commission.
Let’s say you make 10 sales per month.
You will earn $500 with Product A and $50 with Product B.
It seems simple enough, but you need to know that it’s also much harder to sell higher-priced products and services.
It’s generally a good idea to start out with lower-priced products as you are getting to know your audience, what they want, and how to best sell to them.
When you have a good handle on that, you can move on to the tougher sales.
Additional Resources for Affiliate Marketing
A LOT more goes into successful affiliate marketing campaigns, including:
- Learning who your target customer is and what they want
- Choosing the right product to offer to your audience
- Promoting those products in your articles
- Incorporating email marketing to scale your affiliate marketing income
- Getting good enough at the sales process to promote higher-priced products or services
What was your biggest takeaway? What are you going to implement TODAY after reading this article?
We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!