When I first heard about affiliate marketing, I couldn't believe it.
Get paid for selling someone else's stuff on your site?
Affiliate marketing has become one of our top income streams. And it is definitely my favorite way to monetize our blogs.
In this post, I'll give you an introduction to affiliate marketing. You'll learn the basics of affiliate marketing so you can begin monetizing your site.
In this post you'll learn:
- What affiliate marketing is and how it works
- How to make money with affiliates
- Where to sign-up: Top 7 Affiliate Networks
- 6 Affiliate marketing tips
But first: What is our experience with affiliate marketing?
We make daily income from affiliate links on our sites. We've built such a level of trust that we've had 5-digit product launches (of someone else's product) from which we received a commission. When we write about a new product, we know our readers will buy it. Reviews with affiliate links published years ago are still generating monthly revenue on our blogs.
So are you ready to get started? Here goes!
1. What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing: getting paid for a recommendation.
Here's how it works:
- Do you love your camera? Write about it and include an affiliate link. When your readers buy the camera you'll get paid a small fee. For example, I love my GoPro camera. By including the link, I give readers the ability to visit the manufacturers site and make the purchase. Which is what they'll want in most cases.
- Did you just finish a book that you want to share with your readers? You could just put a direct link to Amazon.com sending your readers to a place where they can make a purchase. With affiliate marketing the same thing happens but by using a coded link (one with your affiliate account number) you will then be credited for the sales that your review generates. Your readers will pay the exact same price.
There are three primary roles in an affiliate transaction.
- Publisher: If you run a blog, you are the publisher. Just like book or magazine creators, blog writers are also publishers (content creators). Blogs have become one of the most powerful mediums because of their reach, their level of trust and their instant nature.
- Advertiser: The advertiser can be any company that sells anything. They make an agreement to pay you a fixed fee (either flat fee or percentage of sales) when a specific action occurs, most often when a sale is made. Products can include anything from airline tickets and clothing to online services and seminars.
- Consumer: This is the final piece of the puzzle – and where the revenue actually comes from. It is the consumer who sees the ad and clicks on it. Once they perform the specific action, your account gets credited with the commission/fee.
Types of Commission-able Actions: Commissions can be earned from a number of actions. An “action” can refer to a sale, a click or submission of information. When signing up for an affiliate program be sure to check which actions are payable. Most often, the advertiser wants to see a generated transaction. Although there are many commissionable actions, for the purpose of this post, we'll refer to them as a purchase/sale.
Note: It's important to be transparent with the use of your affiliate links. Even though it's possible to cloak or hide affiliate links, it is always best practice to be open and tell your readers when you're sharing and affiliate link. Here is our affiliate disclaimer page.
2. How Do I Make Money with Affiliates?
As an affiliate marketer, you'll make money each time someone clicks on your coded link and makes a purchase. These completed purchases are what generate commissions.
Coded links: Affiliate marketers must use coded links for sales to be tracked. Coded links automatically track specific analytics, the most important of which are sales or leads – whichever the program allows for. Coded links look like: http://nanacast.com/vp/100004/382460/ (Easy Redirect Script) or http://www.jdoqocy.com/click-3442862-11007441 (Free Audible E-book). While they are long and funny looking, no one really cares. They don't need to be remembered, just clicked on. The coding is important because this is how clicks/sales are tracked and credited to your account. Something to remember: by creating a link on the anchor text EasyRedirectScript you can make your copy look much cleaner and still have the affiliate link embedded.
The best way to make money with an affiliate program: Product Reviews
3 Tips for Writing Product Reviews
Reviewing products on your blog can be very profitable. If you are going to recommend a product, make sure that:
- The product applies to your readers: Recommend products and services that your audience is looking for. Not only will you generate more sale, but your readers will actually be thankful to you for helping them find what they are looking for.
- The product is of exceptional quality: Product recommendations only work if you are truthful. If the product is awful, say so. Don't gloss over fundamental flaws just to make more sales. If you are honest in your reviews, your readers will trust your reviews when you recommend something – and you'll make more money in the long run.
- You have actually used the product / service: This really has to do with integrity. A truthful review cannot be written if you don't know the product. And the quality of your review will reflect that. If the product actually isn't any good, your readers will resent you for recommending it.
Examples of Review Posts (With Affiliate Links)
- Review: Speak from Day 1 (Video)
- 8 Best Travel Photography Books
- 6 Rules: How to Choose a Great Domain Name
As you can see from these examples, the post doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) a blatant sales letter. It should include opinion and personal experience. And it should include your affiliate link in a few locations.
Payments: We receive payments a number of ways: direct deposit, PayPal and mailed check. Try to setup your payments via direct bank deposit if available. Not only does it save the time to deposit your check, it also means your money will be in your account faster. We've switched all of our advertisers to automatic deposit or Paypal, except for two – who still insist on mailing checks. This can be inconvenient, especially if you live out of the country. Payments are usually made on/by the 20th of the following month.
3. Where Do I Sign-up? Top 7 Affiliate Networks
What is an Affiliate Network? While some advertisers run their own affiliate program (there are stand-alone software solutions available) the majority of quality advertisers are part of an affiliate network. An affiliate network is a group of advertisers. The network manages the link tracking and marketing.
Using an affiliate network is the best solution for getting started in affiliate marketing. Large networks, like Commission Junction and ShareaSale, have thousands of vendors to choose from. Within one dashboard you can check earnings and click-through-rates. Once your site is approved within one network, it is easier to get approved with specific advertisers inside of the network. Another benefit is that you'll receive one monthly payment, regardless of how many vendors you represent. This makes paperwork and accounting much easier.
Here are some affiliate networks you should check out:
Top 7 Affiliate Networks
- Clickbank: This is the easiest network to join. Clickbank primarily sells digital products (videos, e-books and other electronically delivered training products). Commission rates are high and it is simple to get links. Tracking / analytics are solid and deep so you can see which product links are performing best. Payment is sent either by check or direct deposit.
- ShareaSale: This is a smooth working and easy to manage affiliate network. They have a huge set of advertisers (including travel, clothing, personal development and web services) and I like their tracking analytics. Getting approved for this network can be a little more challenging. We've had great success with Shareasale – this is our highest producing network. Payment is sent either by check or direct deposit.
- LinkShare: This is a fairly easy one to join and they carry many of the big companies. There is duplication between networks – so if you can't get approved with the others you should still be able to find and promote specific advertisers with this affiliate network.
- Commission Junction: This is one of the oldest networks and they are good. It was a little hard getting approved at first, but now I can use the links across all of our properties. Payment is sent either by check or direct deposit.
- Amazon Affiliates: This is probably the simplest and fastest way to begin making money online, although the returns are not very big at first. Simply visit Amazon.com, sign up for their affiliate program and begin placing the coded affiliate links on your site.
- E-junkie: Similar to Clickbank (see above) E-junkie primarily sells information products. Their site is confusing and hard to navigate. Despite this, thousands of advertisers use this platform. It is easy to get approved. In general, you'll need to know the product you are looking for because it is hard to find products to promote. Most often other bloggers will list their product on this platform. You'll see lots of e-books. When I first got started, I promoted this network a lot.
- Impact Radius: This looks like a powerful platform, although I have only used one advertiser in their network.
In addition to my favorite seven networks, here are some other affiliate networks you might want to check out. Some of them are new for me (I've just started with Neverblue and ClixGalore) and others I've never used, but come highly rated.
- NeverBlue: the largest pay per action (PPA) network pays for actions like subscriptions or inquiries.
- Apple Affiliates (iTunes)
- PepperJam Publishers
Is there a great network that I'm missing? Please include it in the comments below.
4. 6 Affiliate Marketing Tips
Making money with affiliate marketing isn't hard. It does require some planning and good content creation. Here are six tips to get you started:
- Don't post links everywhere: While some make-money-online enthusiasts recommend posting your affiliate links everywhere (from social media to email signatures) this is a bad idea. Successful affiliate marketing is built on trust – not spam.
- Be transparent: Don't hide the fact that you're using affiliate links. There is nothing wrong with receiving a commission for making a useful recommendations to your readers. In most cases your whole blog is free – affiliate marketing is a way to cover the expenses of (and hopefully make a profit on) your blog.
- Use a link cloaking/redirect tool: Initially you will probably have just a couple of affiliate links which would be easy to manage. As your site grows, so will the number of affiliate links and the number of affiliate networks. Using a link redirects tool makes affiliate link management very easy. I recommend EasyRedirectScript and use it on all my sites.
- Consider Your Readers: Choose products and services that actually apply to your readers. If you recommend a product that doesn't apply, your readers will tell you – either through comments or by simply not buying it. If you have the policy to only recommend good and applicable products you will build a high level of trust.
- Choose Reputable Affiliate Networks: To get started, I recommend that you apply at ShareaSale, Amazon Affiliates and Commission Junction. If you want to market information products, you should also apply at Clickbank. Don't get distracted with all the other options. These networks have more than enough advertisers to get you started.
- Write Regular Product Reviews: Make product reviews part of your blogging schedule. If your readers are used to seeing reviews, they will come to expect it. There are search engine benefits to writing reviews and you'll build a base of posts that will generate solid monthly income.
What tips and suggestions would you add? What questions do you have about affiliate marketing?