I just looked at my bank account and there was an unexpected payment of €60.
And that is why I love affiliate marketing. It’s a nice bit of extra income that I get from doing very little.
When you start a business blog, you do it with your business goals in mind. You want to build awareness, build an enthusiastic audience, sell your stuff.
This may be all you ever do with your blog and that’s great, that is why you are blogging.
But as your blog traffic grows, you can do a little more to monetise your blog content beyond just growing your business.
This is part 1 in a series on monetising your blog:
Part 1: Cha-ching! How To Monetise Your Blog With Affiliate Marketing
How to monetise your blog with affiliate marketing
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliates, also known as partner or associate programmes are the quickest and easiest to earn a passive income from your blog. You add links in to blog posts (and elsewhere) that point to a product or service. If someone buys from clicking your link, you get a cut of the sale.
Some affiliates are generous, you could get 30, 40 even 50% of the sale. Others, like Amazon’s associate programme, give you a tiny cut.
It’s advertising but rather than putting an ugly ad in your sidebar you can blog about the products you love and earn a commission.
Digital products are a great way to get income from your blog (we’ll talk about this in a future episode). Trying to sell someone else’s digital product gives you a chance to test the market. If people aren’t buying your affiliate, it could mean that your own product won’t sell either. If it sells like hotcakes, you’ve tested the market and know there is an interest.
I dabbled with my first affiliate many years ago and it still gives me the most passive income. I think that’s because it was a hugely useful tool that solved a big problem for a lot of my readers.
So that’s my first rule when selecting affiliates, am I happy to endorse it? Will solve a problem for my readers?
How to find affiliates
When I find a new tool that I love I’ll look to see if they have a partner scheme. You can do the same. Look on the site, the link is often hidden in the footer. If you don’t find ‘affiliate’ ‘associate’ or ‘partner’ turn to the search engines.
Search for the name of the product and the word ‘affiliate’.
If you still find nothing it’s worth dropping the vendor an email to make sure you haven’t missed it. Maybe ask them if they intend to add one.
When you find a programme sign up and wait to be approved. This can happen instantly, more often it takes hours or sometimes a day. When that approval comes you’ll get your unique link. This is the link you need to use when mentioning the product. It connects you to the sale.
How to sell your affiliate
It’s easy to sign up and skip the small print but it’s important that you do read the full affiliate agreement. For example, the Amazon associate program agreement is full of conditions. If you don’t meet them, you may not earn money from the traffic you send to their site.
You’ve spent months, even years building trust with your readers. You don’t want to lose the trust. For this reason (and for legal compliance) it’s important to disclose that you are using an affiliate link. I do this by adding a sentence or two at the top of my blog post and I identify the link within the text
Search engines rely on inbound links to tell them how useful a webpage is. If a site gets a lot of inbound links, it is more likely to rank highly in results.
This is a problem if a company pays lots of sites to link back to them. Search engines don’t want you to pay to get on page one, they want the best results to appear there.
Affiliate links count as paid links. By giving them the no-follow attribution we are telling the search engines to ignore them for ranking purposes.
If you don’t include no-follow and search engines identify your affiliate link, you may get a penalty that will affect your search engine rankings.
Here’s how to add a no-follow link to blog posts
When I started with my first affiliate I tried two things.
- I wrote a blog post recommending the tool
- I put a sidebar ad on my site
It was clear almost immediately that my blog post was converting to sales, not the sidebar ad. Not only was the ad not delivering sales it was making my site look like a billboard.
As a business blogger, the primary directive for my blog is to sell my stuff, not other people’s stuff. I felt that advertising other products on the sidebar or in the post footers was counter to that.
If we’re not going to use standard ads on our blog (and you may want to) how should we promote our affiliates?
Make a list of the blog posts you can write relating to the product or service you are promoting.
You can review the product or service, include it as a resource in a blog post. Create a tutorial that shows you how to use it.
Look at old blog posts too. Are there anywhere a link to the affiliate product would work? If so it’s time for a re-write.
Email marketing has always been the best sales tool for my business. This means that email marketing could sell affiliates too.
If you haven’t built an email list yet start now. You can use it for your business and for monetising your blog.
You could send your list a short endorsement of a product by email, incorporate links into your newsletter, I have a tool of the week where I often include affiliates. Or you could grow your readership by sharing your affiliate blog posts with your subscribers.
A fresh email about the product is likely to generate the most sales, but it’s worth experimenting with the format. Even though this is not on your website you will still need to disclose your affiliate link.
When I was in the US earlier this year, I kept seeing an infomercial for a knife. One shot showed the knife cutting straight through a pair of shoes, sole and all. I swear, if I lived in the states I’d have been picking up the phone to order.
I don’t need a knife, but that ad was helping me visualise how quickly I could prepare food. If it could cut through a shoe, it could cut through my carrots pretty fast too.
When selling any product it’s always better to show rather than tell, just like the knife ad did. That’s where video comes in. You might not have something as exciting as a shoe cutting knife to show off but you can still capture your audiences attention.
Make a list of videos you can create to promote your affiliate. It could be a tutorial, an unboxing or a review. Be sure to show off the product when you create these videos, talking heads are great but seeing the product or service in action will always work better.
Again, you must disclose both in the video itself and in the description section of your video.
There’s also a box to check under ‘Advanced settings’ to disclose that the video is part of a paid promotion.
Create a resources page on your site
A resource page on the site can show off all your favourite products and services in one place.
Choose resources that will interest your readers, categorise them and where there is an affiliate available and include it. You need to disclose (I’m sure you know that by now).
When you create a resource page you have to be able to stand by every product on it. If one doesn’t work well you are eroding the trust of your reader and they’re unlikely to trust your other recommendations or buy from you.
Ideally a reader would buy one thing, love it and come back for more.
Your resource page doesn’t have to be just for affiliates, you can include other products you recommend and your own products too. We’ll come back to the resource section in future blog posts.
If you have a large and engaged social media following try sharing your affiliate links there too. At the least you need to tag these posts with #affiliate but I’d also add #ad as not every user will understand what an affiliate is.
Ramp it up
You’ll find that some affiliates will work better than others. Keep an eye on your top performing ones and get in touch with the vendor and ask if they’d be willing to do a collaboration with you.
Perhaps they can offer a competition prize or a special deal for your readers. A one-off promotion like this could deliver a lot of sales and commissions in one big chunk.
Getting started with affiliates
If you don’t have any products you want to promote at the moment, a good starting point is the Amazon associates programme. The commissions are tiny but if you can generate sales for high-ticket items, you could make a few quid.
Affiliates are a nice way to supplement your income and monetise the traffic you get from your site. Don’t let them get in the way of the prime directive of your site (selling your stuff). Choose ones that will solve your customer’s problem and you could see a surprise payment pop up in your bank account just like I did.