Oh, those poor affiliate links.
They're like the money-making misfit in the blogging world. Bloggers know about them but don't quite understand them. Want to use them but fear them. But fear not!
While I can't claim to make loads of money in affiliate marketing, I do make some money every month. AND I run my own affiliate marketing program for things offered at Blog Clarity, like my Content Brew course (almost $10 a sale- woowoo). I believe that people can and should make money through affiliate links if they do it genuinely.
But there's some lingering hesitation, sometimes even fear, that affiliate links are gonna make your fans run for the digital hills, never to click onto your blog again. (If you don't know what affiliate marketing is, you can go to my post You Can Earn WHAT With Affiliate Marketing and get the scoop.)
So I wanted to find out what made Blog Clarity readers hesitate with using affiliate links. These questions were adapted from comments I received on my Facebook page when I asked people to tell me what their hesistation with using affiliate links.
“I fear that my readers will stop trusting me thinking I'm just trying to make a buck.”
How to Get Past It: Don't ever let making money off affiliate links be your only intent when writing a post.
For the most part, I think the days of people getting mad about you making money off the Internet are long over. But I think part of the fear comes from the thought that affiliate links can seem sneakier (see next section for that) than those others. Now if you're not a review blogger but 90% of what you do is sponsored posts, reviews and posts with affiliate links, then yeah, people will start to question your true intent with blogging. But if you're recommending products that you love, want or use, then why not earn some income?
Use storytelling to bring out the genuineness in a post. A list of products with copy and pasted descriptions from their websites won't cut it. But sharing a story or an experience? Now, that's more like it.
Think of it this way. If I'm scouring the Internet for recommendations of things to pack on a family camping trip and I come across your post about the camping supplies you can't live out, you've just helped me! It doesn't cost me any extra if you earn a little something so consider it my way of paying you a little for saving me lots of research.
Or you can look at it this way. Have you ever bought a product through a friend for a place like Arbonne, Thirty-One, Scentsy or Avon?
Well, your friend gets a cut of what you paid for it. If your friend spends time telling you which products would work best for you and their experiences with those products, does that bother you if they earn a little bit from your purchase? It's different if they're shoving it down your throat all the time. But if you love the product and you trust that person's recommendations, then I'm guessing you don't mind.
“I don't want people to think I'm trying to sneak them in.”
How to Get Past It: Don't sneak them in! Affiliate links don't necessarily have to be hidden. If you feel more comfortable writing “affiliate link” after each link, then go for it! (But it's not required.)
“I worry about my readers' privacy.”
How to Get Past It: Well, it's definitely something to wonder about, but luckily affiliates only track cookies, which is no different than most every site out there. However, if someone has their browser set to not accept cookies then the link would still work but you wouldn't get any credit.
Yes. Cookies are small files that a site or its service provider transfers to your computers hard drive through your Web browser (if you allow) that enables the sites or service providers systems to recognize your browser and capture and remember certain information. The cookies are only used for the affiliate links. I don't see them OR eat them.
“I don't know if it's worth it since my state doesn't let me use Amazon.”
How to Get Past It: If you're in a state like Illinois, Connecticut and some others, Amazon doesn't allow you to use their affiliate program. (I'm in NC and they allow them now. Yay!)
While I'm sure there are some ways around it, there are a gazillion other affiliates who haven't banned these states. In fact, I think I've only been denied one affiliate program because of this issue. And I'm signed up with dozens. So while Amazon may not be an option, try another company who sells the products you want to talk about.
I typically go to their webpage first and search for an Affiliate program (there's often a link in the footer). If I don't find it there then I google “company name affiliate program” and if they have one, it'll usually come up. That's easier than sifting through all the networks and looking for the company.
“I don't think I have enough subscribers.”
How to Get Past It: Regarding affiliates approving you without a lot of subscribers, give it a shot! Many, MANY affiliates will approve you as long as you look legitimate. If they give you space on the form, tell them in a sentence or two why you're a good fit and maybe even a way you're planning to use their links. Just don't say “I want to make money for my family.” Instead make it about how they'd benefit, not you. If they deny you anyway, you can always apply again when your numbers grow a bit.
Regarding your readers, add them in now so people are used to seeing them. There doesn't need to be a light switch that comes on, where all of a sudden you go from no monetization to full-fledged posts filled to the brim with links! In fact, weave them in gradually (and remember not to make affiliate links your only goal in writing a post).
For example, you could write some kind of tutorial post and make the supplies needed be affiliate links. Or even just start with a few affiliate buttons on your sidebar so people get used to seeing ads (though text links are typically more effective, buttons are fine too).
Plus (and this is important), I'd say most of my affiliate sales come from people finding my blog via a search engine. If you have a post that's doing well from search engines, you could have people who never even subscribe use a link of yours. They were probably just looking for a very specific answer and you supplied it so go you!
Affiliate Links Really Are Okay, When Done Right
To wrap up, I really love how Laura from Hollywood Housewife described getting over that mental wall regarding affiliate posts. She posted this on the affiliate conversation on my Facebook page:
“I started to realize that affiliate links have a different connotation than straight product (where you received something for free for example). No sponsor or company is watching what I write or don't write, affiliate links are completely controlled by me and fit my regular content. It seems silly NOT to use them. But it took me awhile (mentally) to get there.”
While I can't guarantee that you'll be rolling in the benjamins (baby), affiliate links can be an additional – and guilt-free – revenue stream. So, did that make you feel better about affiliate links?
If you want more tips about which affiliate networks to sign up with, how to integrate links into your posts and more, check out my post on what you can earn using affiliate links.
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Hey- I'm Melissa! I'm a mom, side hustler, online course instructor, and brand marketer. I run a 6-figure blog helping online biz owners find their a-ha moments with can-do tips, tutorials, and online courses. I also work at Burt's Bees as the Social Media Strategist (yep, it's as cool as it sounds). Jump start your biz productivity with my free worksheet!