Out of all the sessions I've been to at blog conferences, one of most enlightening ones was at the Type A Parent Conference. Sure, many bloggers might not bother to read session re-caps in general. But when I tell you that two of the panelists for the affiliate marketing session make over $20,000 a year without giant traffic numbers, you'll want to keep reading.
Seriously, this number flabbergasted most of us in the room. And the buzz continued as friends on Twitter found out I was in that session and offered to pay me in diamonds to tell them what I learned (okay, I lied about the diamonds part).
Here's an overview of what I learned from the session with a dash of my own personal notes.
The big lesson of the session was this: if you're not making money from affiliate marketing, you're doing it wrong.
How's that to wake ya up? While I hadn't dabbled in too much affiliate marketing at the time, I've heard so many people dismiss it as wasted time. After listening to this session, I can assure you that it's not.
So what's affiliate marketing?
Wikipedia describes it like this:
Affiliate marketing is a marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate's own marketing efforts.
For example, if you were an Amazon affiliate and linked to some of your favorite books with affiliate links, if someone clicked on a link and purchased that book, you'd get a small commission. Even cooler is that some affiliates have 30-day cookies, meaning that if someone didn't buy right then but bought 20 days later (and bought other stuff too), you get a commission for all of that. While most affiliates pay per sale, some pay per lead as well.
Forrester estimates the affiliate industry will grow to $6.8 billion by 2020. Wowza.
If you worry that your readers won't like the fact that you're making money, I encourage you to shift your paradigm on this a bit. If someone provided valuable information to you, wouldn't it be nice to reward them a bit? Maybe they taught you something. Maybe they saved you time for not having to search for the information themselves. Maybe they showed you some great uses for a product you were considering buying anyway. Whatever the case, if you're providing affiliate links in an ethical way, no one should fault you for it.
Plus, if you search engine optimize the posts that contain affiliate links, you'll bring in first-time readers to your blog or people who may purchase something through a link of yours but never visit your site again.
Where do you sign up to be an affiliate?
The panelists suggested signing up for these:
ShareaSale.com (I've had the best luck with this one thus far. And yep, that's an affiliate link. BOOM.)
Linkshare (affiliate link here too)
And I'm adding these:
You can also sign up directly at the merchant site (look for “affiliates” which I usually find at the bottom of their web page). Most merchant links will redirect you to whichever affiliate company they use anyway.
When you're signing up for these, have this info on hand:
- Your social security number (some won't ask this right away but you'll eventually have to submit a W-9 to get paid)
- Name of your blog/URL
- Description of your blog, how many unique visits you have, customer demographics (again, depth of what they ask will vary)
How do you choose affiliate links and add them to your site?
Choosing the right links and adding them strategically within your site is critical to earning money from affiliates.
The short-and-basic explanation: once you're signed into these affiliate sites, search for advertisers of products that would be relevant to sell then get the code to add either a button/banner or link to your site.
The longer-but-better explanation is the one that's gonna get you earning money. Here are some factors the panelists said to consider when determining affiliates:
Determine your interests. Do you blog about green products, baby stuff, travel? But don't just think about your blog's overall theme. For example, if you wrote a post about green living but don't typically do so, sign up for affiliates related to that subject and add them to that post. I asked the panelists how many affiliates they were a part of and the answer was HUNDREDS. Yes, hundreds. While that sounds daunting, you aren't going to do all of these at once. You'll build this up over time.
Ensure availability of affiliate programs. If you're choosing a niche (or even just a niche for a particular post), make sure there are affiliate programs out there. Something too specific may not have any affiliates you can sign up for.
Adding affiliate links:
As far as adding affiliate links to your site, here are a few things to consider:
Integrate links into as many posts as possible. For example, if I write a post about hiking on Adventuroo and mention that Little Roo was in his backpack carrier, I should link the words “backpack carrier” to the one I use. It's subtle yet provides value if someone is in the market for one.
Go back to old posts and add links. What are your most popular posts? Are they appropriate for affiliate links? I can give you two examples of this. A fellow blogger who sat next to me ranks number 2 on Google for a well-known baby product. The post is old but she STILL gets comments on it, even from doctors! She's going to add an affiliate link to that product on this post now. Smart, right?
As for me, I ran a bloggy b-card series where I tackled everything from what to put on a business card to a giant showcase of awesome cards I received at Type A. On that showcase, I listed a few places you can buy cards and a few of those links were affiliates. Based on what I learned from this session, I went back to the other four posts and added those links there too. Since then, I've also created a hub page with all the posts and places to buy cards in one place.
Earn affiliate income on product reviews and product gift guides. Did you write a post about a product just because you loved it? Did you create a gift guide for the holidays? Earn some money from them! (If you were given that product to review, you may want to ask that company if you can use an affiliate link.)
Cool Mom Picks uses this tactic in some of their posts with language at the bottom of their post that says “Grab a [product] from our affiliate…”
Use social media to promote your links. Provide value to your followers by sharing why a product or service is useful, then share your link. Just remember to use #affiliate or say it's an affiliate link. Just #aff doesn't cut it per the FTC.
In tutorials and DIYs, add the products you used as affiliate links. For example, on Adventuroo, I rank #1 for “how to make a paper bunting.” In that post, I link to the products I used.
Ask an affiliate for an exclusive offer. Do this only after you're bringing that company in some decent sales. If you are, see if they'll offer a special discount to your readers. You may even see if they'd work with you on a paid campaign.
The panelists also said that links typically work much better than graphic ads.
As you determine how to use affiliate links, remember this:
“People hate to be sold, but they love to buy.” – Jeffrey Gitomer
Be genuine. Be honest. Be ethical. Mmmmkay?
Do you have to disclose?
Yes, you do need to disclose. According to Missy Ward, founder of Affiliate Summit, disclosures need to be at the top of each post. I am slowly going back to older posts and doing this as I've typically only done the bottom of a post.
How much money will you make?
Ah, the golden question, right? Well, two of the panelists shared how much they make.
Debbie from Mamanista said that her blog gets around 2,500 unique views per month, which isn't all that big. BUT she earns around $20,000 a year in affiliate income! Some of her posts from a few years ago still bring in money because they come up in searches and lead people to her site. For example, she gets paid from Sittercity because she ranks in search engines for terms regarding finding a babysitter.
Aprile runs a blog on decorative concrete and earned $32,000 in her first year! She found a niche and made a name for herself as being an expert in everything you want to know about concrete (by the way, did you know how pretty concrete floors can be?).
I can't promise that you'll get anywhere near that. But if there's one thing I learned from this session, it's that YES it can be done.
And I plan to take a big, fat stab at it.
So, what do you think? Does this give you the incentive to get started? I've already started putting into play some of the advice and plan to keep at it and see what becomes of it.
Pssst… if you think affiliate marketing will make you feel like a sleazy car salesman, then read this post about why you shouldn't fear 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 assistant manager of Brand Engagement (yep, it's as cool as it sounds). Jump start your biz productivity with my free worksheet!