This is the first post in our comprehensive series on affiliate marketing. If you’re new to the concept, this is a great place to start. Find the other posts in the series here:
There’s close to 10,000 words of content within this series, so feel free to bookmark or Pin it to study at your leisure.
As a writer, I (rightly) thought that running my own blog was a great way to build a portfolio, get feedback on my writing, and build authority in my specialty. I had no idea I could actually make money from the blog itself, and it was only when I got tired of the monthly hosting fees that I decided to see if the blog could pay for itself through things like ads and affiliate sales (as it turns out, it could, and then some).
I’ve been affiliate marketing on and off for years, but recently my affiliate sales have increased significantly and suddenly. This isn’t a coincidence. I’ve decided to try and increase my passive income and scale back my freelancing, so I took the excellent Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course and implemented everything I learned on it.
I wish I’d done this sooner, as I’ve gone from making a few affiliate sales a month (most months) to a few a day (most days). There’s a lot of information in the course and I highly recommend you consider investing in it if you want to make decent money from your affiliate sales. If you just want to know a bit more about the ins and outs of affiliate marketing first, read on. I’ll cover the basics for you so you can decide where to go from here.
This is a long post, with a LOT of information. If you’re short on time, you can Pin it for later.
What is affiliate marketing?
It’s a simple process. Sellers who have products and services for sale pay a commission to affiliates who send buyers their way. The technical side of it is rather more complicated. Each affiliate has a unique link for each seller or product, and when someone clicks through that link they are ‘tracked’ and any purchases they make are credited to the seller.
Luckily you don’t have to know too much about the technical side of things. That’s run through the affiliate network you sign up to. You just have to place your affiliate links in various locations, and drive some traffic to those locations. When someone clicks through your link and buys, you earn a commission.
Affiliate commissions vary from very low (Amazon is one of the lowest, with commissions starting at around 4%) to very high (50% and even 75% are not unusual). Some companies even pay for ‘leads’ (people who sign up for a free gift or free trial) as they know that some of those leads will convert later on.A well crafted affiliate marketing strategy can turn your blog into a cash generating machine. Click To Tweet
There are a few things to be aware of. Each company has different rules. Amazon, for example, has a fairly short ‘tracking window’. You’ll only earn on sales made within 24 hours of someone clicking through your link.
Other companies might track customers for life. So when someone makes a purchase through your link, that (and every other purchase they make from that company in the future) earns you a commission.
Life time commissions sound like a great deal (and they are when you introduce a new customer to a company) but keep in mind that if someone clicks through your link, but it’s not their first purchase from that company, they may already be assigned to another affiliate and you won’t get a commission because you didn’t introduce them to the company. (See what I mean? Things can get complicated.)
There are a lot of things to consider when looking at which products to promote (and we’ll be looking into those in detail in the next post in this series). But be aware that there are pros and cons to most networks.
Amazon pay low commissions and have short tracking windows, but Amazon links convert like crazy. That’s probably because so many people already use Amazon. Once someone clicks through to Amazon they’re in a familiar place. They may well already have an account there. If so, Amazon already has their details stored (including their address and credit card number). It’s the most natural thing in the world to start shopping. It’s very common to get Amazon commissions on things that are totally unrelated to anything you’ve promoted on your site. That often indicates that someone clicked your link, ended up on Amazon, and just started browsing around and shopping as normal. You still get a commission though.
The Amazon affiliate program also isn’t available in every country, or even every state within the US, so check if you can use it before you start to plan it into your strategy. If you’re in a state or country where you can’t use Amazon, don’t worry. Michelle of Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing has made over a million dollars from affiliate marketing, and she lives in a state where she can’t use the Amazon program, so don’t let it hold you back.
Getting set up to make money affiliate marketing
You only really need three things to get started with affiliate marketing:
- A blog
- A following of some kind
- Quality products to promote
Let’s look briefly at those one at a time.
You’ve probably seen people promoting affiliate products on Facebook and other social media platforms, and that can certainly be part of your strategy, but to do this affiliate marketing thing properly, you need a blog. I go over some of the reasons in this post, but basically you need to be able to promote a lot of different products without looking like you’re just pushing anything that will make you money. It’s easy to get affiliate marketing wrong on social media.
Ideally you need a self-hosted WordPress blog. This will cost you a few dollars a month, and will take you about ten minutes to set up (seriously, I walk you through exactly how to set up a blog on WordPress in ten minutes or less in this post). For a new blog, you can use a basic hosting package and mostly free tools that allow you to get started with minimal investment (I wrote a whole book about free tools for bloggers, and regularly share free blogging tools here at The Savvy Solopreneur).
You don’t need a huge amount of blog subscribers or social media followers to make money affiliate marketing, but you do need an audience of some sort, who are interested in what you have to say. That’s why you need a blog. With a blog you can start an email list, build a following on Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites, create a Facebook fan page (here’s mine) and grow a community of readers who care about what you have to say.
We’ll talk more later in the series about growing a following, but if you have your blog set up, that’s the first building block, and probably the only one you need to spend money on initially. You can grow your social media following using free accounts on all the main platforms and even set up your email list for free using a platform like Mailchimp.
Quality products to promote
The best products to promote are ones you use and love. Many new bloggers start out reviewing or mentioning useful products in their niche. So someone who blogs about natural parenting might review cloth diapers or environmentally friendly toys. And a beauty blogger might recommend the beauty products and makeup that she personally uses, or post tutorials about how to achieve a certain look, using products that she then links to via affiliate links.
Next week’s post will go into how to find those quality products, what to look for in an affiliate program, and how to sign up for programs and organize your affiliate business.
I’ll give you a hint, though. If there is any product you use and love, that’s relevant to your niche, find out if it (or the company that sells it) has an affiliate program. Start by Googling, but don’t be afraid to contact the creator or seller of the product direct and just ask. If there is an affiliate program, it’s definitely worth signing up for it.
In the meantime, you may want to get prepped up. Get your blog set up if you haven’t already (or start a new blog if you’re planning on focusing on a specific niche to build your affiliate income). Start creating great content that will attract your target market (people who might buy the products you recommend in the future). And start brainstorming products you could be an affiliate for.
If you feel ready to invest in this affiliate marketing gig, consider signing up for the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing online course. Everybody who signs up through my affiliate link (that’s any link in this blog post, including this one) will get a FREE copy of my Busy Blogger’s Success Kit (it usually sells for $29). Simply sign up through my link, and then forward me the email you receive confirming you’re signed up for the course (don’t worry – there won’t be any personal information like payment details in your confirmation email). Simply send your confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll get your Busy Blogger’s Success Kit straight to your inbox.
See you next week to talk about how to find high quality, high converting, high commission affiliate opportunities.