It’s Saturday night and you’re out having drinks with some friends at a local pub. “Ding!” Your phone goes off. It’s Gmail, letting you know that you just earned $60 from an affiliate link on your website. Sweet.
Bartender, another round please!
This is the beauty of affiliate marketing, and the reason I love it so much. If done correctly, you could be receiving emails like that every single day. $60 here, $25 there, another $10 – day in and day out. With affiliate marketing, you can make money on autopilot while you’re out living your life.
Sound good? I thought it might! If you’re like, “Yes please, teach me the ways!” you’ll definitely want to stick around. In today’s post, I’m breaking down everything you need to know about affiliate marketing, including:
+ What affiliate marketing is
+ The different types of products you can become an affiliate for
+ The legalities you need to know about affiliate marketing
+ A step-by-step guide for finding and joining affiliate programs
+ 8 promo strategies you can use to make affiliate sales
+ The top 3 strategies that continuously generate affiliate income for me and my blog
By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll have a detailed, actionable strategy for joining affiliate programs and making consistent sales. Excited? Let’s jump in.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
As an affiliate, you promote another company’s products or services to your own audience. When a purchase is made through your special affiliate link, you earn a commission from that sale. Commissions vary from company to company, but will be either a set dollar amount (e..g, $25/sale) or a percentage of the purchase price (e.g., 25%).
The beauty of affiliate marketing is that YOU don’t need to create your own product to sell! You can promote other people’s stuff, and skip past the long, tedious phase of developing a product or course to sell.
For this reason, affiliate marketing is a strategy that all bloggers can implement – regardless of whether you just started your very first blog or you’ve been at it for years.
What can I become an affiliate for?
You can become an affiliate for pretty much EVERYTHING that’s sold online, whether it’s sold exclusively online or also in brick-and-mortar stores. This includes:
+ Physical products
+ Digital products like online courses and ebooks
+ Services and packages
The type of items you decide to promote as an affiliate will vary depending on your niche and audience. I encourage you to get creative with it, and try promoting items in all three of the categories above to see which works best for you.
Affiliate Marketing Legalities
To protect consumers online, in 2009 an organization called the FTC (US-based) created laws and guidelines surrounding affiliate marketing. You can read the full document here, but if you’re not fluent in “legalese”, here are the major takeaways:
1. Affiliate links must be clearly disclosed.
If you use an affiliate link to promote a product, you must always let people know that the link is an affiliate link. One way to do this is to write “(Affiliate Link)” just before or right after the link.
2. You must also explain what an affiliate link is and how it works.
Because lots of people online are NOT familiar with the term “affiliate link”, you should also provide an explanation. Most bloggers (myself included) put an explanatory statement in the top 1/4 of every blog post that contains affiliate links. This statement must always come BEFORE any affiliate links.
If you scroll up a bit, you’ll see my affiliate disclaimer and statement underneath the first image in this post. To make life easier and avoid disrupting the flow of my content, I combine my disclosure and explanation. Here’s my statement (feel free to mirror it):
“This post may contain affiliate links for products I love. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. For my full disclaimer, please click here.”
3. You should have a Disclaimer section or page on your website.
On this page, you can include a rendition of the explanatory statement from your blog posts. This is also a great place to explain what kind of data you collect from visitors of your website, and how the data is stored and used.
Although I’ve been talking mostly about sharing affiliate links in your blog posts thus far, please note that the FTC guidelines apply to ALL platforms where you share might affiliate links (blog posts, social media, to your email list, etc.) Later in this post we’ll go over 8 different strategies you can use to promote products as an affiliate.
Start Strong By Joining the Perfect Affiliate Programs
Now that we’ve covered the legalities, it’s time to move onto the fun stuff: Joining affiliate programs and making sales!
This is the stage where a lot of new bloggers get hung up, so my goal is to give you a simple but effective process you can use time and time again to find and join new affiliate programs. Before we get into that, here’s a general overview of how the affiliate marketing process looks:
+ Step 1. You apply to join a specific affiliate program.
+ Step 2. You’re accepted and given a unique affiliate link. Any clicks on this link are “cookied” and tracked for a certain time period to see if a purchase is made.
+ Step 3. You promote a product or service from that company and share your affiliate link with your followers, readers, and subscribers.
+ Step 4. You’re notified when a sale is made through your link (in most cases).
+ Step 5. You receive a commission from the sale, generally with a 30-60 day payout delay.
Tiered Affiliate Programs
Some affiliate programs work on a tiered basis. This means that the more referral sales you make within a given time period (usually 1 month), the more you earn per sale. For example, the tiers might look like this:
For under 5 sales in a month: $20/sale
For 5-10 sales in a month: $30/sale
For over 10 sales in a month: $40/sale
Most programs aren’t tiered, but it’s great when they are as it really motivates you to sell more to earn more. Ever heard of bloggers making thousands of dollars every month by promoting Bluehost? Part of that is because Bluehost’s affiliate program is tiered.
Next, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. How do you find and join affiliate programs in the first place?
A 3-Step Process to Find & Join the Right Affiliate Programs For Your Blog
Step 1. Make a list
Sit down with a pen and paper and your thinking cap on. It’s time for a brain dump! Think back on the past few years: What products, tools, programs, services, courses, and books have you purchased that you would feel comfortable recommending to your audience? These items need to be:
+ Related to your niche (for example, no cookbooks if your niche is budget travel)
+ Useful, interesting, or inspiring to your ideal reader
+ Things you yourself used – or continue to use – and enjoy
Spend AT LEAST 10 minutes creating this list. Really test the limits of your brain and memory here, and write down everything you can think of (even if you don’t think the items have an affiliate program).
Step 2. Find the affiliate programs for each of these items.
Note: If you have dozens of things on your brain dump list, you might want to start off by joining 10 affiliate programs, and then tackle more at a later date.
Finding and joining affiliate programs isn’t as hard as a lot of people make it out to be in their heads. Here’s what to do:
+ Go to the website where the item is sold (hint: for physical products, check Amazon).
+ Browse the website and look for words like “Affiliates” or “Partners” in the top menu, sidebar, or footer.
+ If you can’t find the affiliate application page, use the website’s search bar to dig deeper.
+ Still no luck? Find the company’s contact info (most will have a contact form or email address listed somewhere on their site) and reach out to see if they have an affiliate program and ask how you can join it.
Step 3. Apply for each affiliate program.
Most programs will have some sort of application form for you to fill out, varying from quick-and-easy to long-and-complex. You’ll often be asked for:
+ Your domain name
+ Social media links
+ Monthly traffic stats
+ Your Personal Identification Number (SSN or SIN) or Business Identification Number
+ The plans you have for promoting the company’s products
Once you’ve submitted your application, sit back and wait to hear from the company. It shouldn’t take long for you to be approved!
The more affiliate programs you join, the harder it becomes to keep track of all your different affiliate links. That’s where today’s freebie comes in super handy!
This spreadsheet will not only keep you incredibly organized when it comes to your affiliate links, it also helps you record pertinent information for each program you belong to (things like log-in info, commission structures, cookie length, and more).
Enter your name and email address into the form above to download the spreadsheet!
How to Consistently Make Affiliate Sales
Joining affiliate programs is the (semi) easy part. Now comes the tough bit: How do you actually get people to click on your affiliate links and buy something!?
No worries, doll. You can TOTALLY do this! To get the wheels turning, here are 8 different strategies you can use to share your affiliate links with your audience:
1. Include affiliate links in your blog posts (see this post as an example)
2. Add affiliate-linked images in your blog’s sidebar or footer
3. Share your links on social media
4. Include affiliate links in emails to your list (don’t have a list? You need one!)
5. Put together a sales funnel that ends with an affiliate promotion
6. Create a dedicated page on your website to feature your favorite products
7. Include affiliate links in your opt-in freebies (workbooks, guides, etc.)
8. Include affiliate links in your paid offerings like courses and ebooks
My 3 Highest-Converting Affiliate Marketing Strategies
I’ve tested all of the strategies above, and some have performed better for me than others. And because I love you OH so much, I’m going to share with you the top 3 strategies that generate consistent affiliate revenue for me and my business.
Note: Just because these strategies work well for ME and MY audience, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be the best fit for YOU and YOUR audience. Take this with a grain of salt, and be sure to test and analyze different methods to see what works best for you.
1. Including affiliate links in my free email courses.
I have a free course called Beginner Blogger Bootcamp that gets a dozen or so new signups every day. In this course, I include links to my favorite blogging tools, like ConvertKit, Siteground, and Haute Chocolate’s Styled Stock Library.
This strategy is amazing because it generates passive income AND grows my email list at the same time. Double win!
2. Including affiliate links in my paid offerings.
In my ebooks and courses, I include affiliate links for any tools or products I recommend. This works especially well because the people who purchase my books and courses already have a level of trust with me, meaning they’re more likely to purchase something I recommend. It’s a great strategy to make 2x the income with the same amount of work.
3. The Fave Tools page on my website.
If you check out the top menu on my website, you’ll see a link to my Fave Tools page. This page is where I share dozens of my favorite blogging tools, courses, books, and services. I love having all of my top recommendations in one place, and this page continuously generates affiliate sales each and every month.
Final Tips for Successful Affiliate Marketing
If you find yourself struggling to make affiliate sales, here are a few final pointers:
+ Always focus on how the item you’re promoting will benefit your READERS. How will it improve their lives? Paint that picture for them.
+ Consider offering your own “bonus” incentive for people who purchase something through your affiliate link. For example, a mini course, workbook, video tutorial, or coaching call. Do this for a 24- or 48-hour period, and only every few months so you don’t overwhelm people with sales pitches.
Ummm… Can you say MASSIVE POST much!? What can I say, I just love sharing this kind of stuff with you guys!
Before I head off, here are your 2 action items for today:
1. Use the steps in this post to join at least 10 affiliate programs in your niche, and start promoting!
2. Download your Ultimate Affiliate Marketing Spreadsheet: