This is the third in our series all about affiliate marketing, and we’ll be focusing on five simple steps you can take to increase affiliate sales. Find the other posts in the series here:
Read on to find out more about how to actually make affiliate sales, including the single best (high-converting) place you should put the vast majority of your links (and a ton of other places you can put them, too).
There’s a fairly simple five-step process that I’ve found has helped me increase affiliate sales. I suspect it will work for most people in most niches.
- Choose relevant, high quality, high-converting products and programs
- Solve your readers’ problems – then offer them a way to make the solutions even better/easier/quicker
- Pre-sell your products
- Scatter your links far and wide
- Follow best practices
Let’s look at these one by one.
(This is a long post, with a LOT of information. If you’re short on time, you can Pin it for later.)
Increase affiliate sales by choosing the right programs
The first (and most important) step to making money with affiliate marketing is to choose relevant, high quality, high-converting products and programs to promote.
This issue was covered in detail in last week’s post when we went over all the things you need to consider when picking affiliate partners. As an affiliate marketer, you’re not actually selling. You’re pre-selling (more on that in a minute) and then you’re sending traffic to a sales page, so a quality product and a great sales page is essential to ensure regular sales and a good conversion rate.
We didn’t touch on relevance much though, and relevance is vital. You need to pick products and services to promote that are highly relevant and useful to your target audience. Look carefully at their problems, issues and pain points, and promote products that make life easier for them. Whether that’s a tool that makes things quicker, a way to outsource something your target audience find hard, or a product that will teach them to do something properly so they never have to worry about it again.
You can find what your reader’s pain point are in a few ways:
- Survey them. Use a tool like Survey Monkey and ask your readers to answer a few questions, or use a short poll on Facebook or Twitter. You can also ask for advice in Facebook groups, as long as you’re following all the rules.
- Listen (or watch). What’s going on in those Facebook groups and on other online forums where your target audience hang out? What are people complaining about? What do they struggle with? What are they asking for advice about?
- Use a keyword planning tool (such as Google Keyword Planner or UberSuggest). Look at what people are searching for. What questions are they asking about your topic? You can also look at what people are asking on platforms like Quora and Reddit.
- Use what you have. What are the most popular posts so far on your blog? What are your most repinned pins and most shared Facebook posts? Study your analytics on each platform to find out. These are the topics your followers are interested in and want to know more about.
Solve your readers’ problems
Your posts should address your readers’ problems and offer them a solution. Your affiliate offerings should make that solution better, quicker, easier to implement, less complicated, more effective or more efficient.
An affiliate offering could also help someone take a step forward from what you’ve just taught them. For example, in this post about Pinterest marketing, I include an affiliate offering that will help my readers get their first sale on Pinterest. In my post about using Facebook groups strategically I offer an affiliate product that helps you with all your Facebook marketing strategies.
Your content should stand alone, but if the reader really wants to use this information, and is willing to invest in this process, your affiliate offering should offer the logical next step.
Pre-sell your products
The single best place to put links is in an informative blog post that pre-sells the product. This is important. It’s worth repeating.The single best place to put links is in an informative blog post that pre-sells the product. Click To Tweet
You’re pre-selling your product, not selling it. You don’t want an informative blog post to be ruined by sounding too salesy. And you know what? It’s not your job to close the sale. Your affiliate link invariably leads to a sales page. The sales page should close the sale (that’s why we talked last week about finding products with high-converting sales pages).
When you’re pre-selling, you’re warming someone up so they’re open to the idea of making a purchase, but you’re not actually persuading them. It’s fine to spell out that something is for sale and they can check it out by clicking your link, but your blog post should never sound like a sales pitch. It should sound like valuable information.
The best types of posts to sell affiliate products are probably these:
You can tell your readers about a product, what it does and why you like it. If it’s a book or course you can share a few snippets you learned, just to let people know how useful the information is (don’t give away too much – that would be disrespectful to the author or course creator, aka your affiliate partner).
I like to do reviews that include ‘ten things I learned’ or ‘ten things I love about this book’ (here’s an example). My reviews tend to convert quite well, so several snippets that really whet the readers’ appetites can be very compelling. Tell readers who would benefit from this product and who wouldn’t, so only the right people click through to the sales page.
These are similar to reviews but you’ll compare several different products you’ve used. This works well for beauty bloggers, for example, who will often do a post on something like ‘ten long lasting lipsticks under ten dollars’ and rate each on quality, color, price etc. You can also do a multi-product review that’s not a direct comparison, such as my post Five Books That Will Fuel Your Online Business Success.
Tutorials and how-to posts
Any process you can teach, step-by-step, that also involves some investment (necessary or optional) in something you’re an affiliate for, is a potentially profitable post. I use this process with this post on how to set up a blog. It’s a step-by-step tutorial on setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog, using a hosting company that I’m an affiliate for.
Many bloggers have a resource or recommendations page on their blog. Here’s mine. My recommendations page, however, started life as a blog post called The Super Useful Online Business Tools I Use Every Day. You can also do a resource post that focuses on a specific type of product such as my posts Five WordPress Plugins For Your New Blog, Five Free Tools I’ve Used To Improve My Blog, and Best Books For Entrepreneurs. (Hint: if you don’t put a number in the title you can keep updating the post with more products).
Narrow focus posts that solve a specific problem
A couple of my more successful affiliate posts look at a very specific short-cut or time-saver. My post about Offering Your Own Coaching, Training or Mentoring Program shares a little-known but super-useful shortcut many coaches use to develop their programs. It’s a paid solution, and (of course) I’m an affiliate for it.
Another post that converts well is about How To Create The Perfect Opt-In Gift, With Minimal Effort. Again, this shows bloggers and online business owners how to take a (paid) shortcut with something many people find quite time-consuming and frustrating. And again, I’m an affiliate for the companies that offer that solution.
Scatter your links far and wide
There are lots of other places to put your affiliate links. Some convert better than others, but all are worth considering.
The money really is in your list. People on your email list already know and trust you (they gave you their email address, after all) so don’t be afraid to promote your affiliate partners to them. You can create a piece of content to send to your list that promotes a product. Or just tell them about a product directly (if it’s relevant, and especially if there is a sale or a discount voucher they can use). Or just add a PS to your emails that lets your readers know that you’ve found a great product they may want to check out.
In a free report or ebook you give away
You can include affiliate links in your free opt-in gift or in all the resources you give away in your resource library. Or you can create a free report, mini-ebook or PDF to give away free on your blog or on document sharing sites (yep, you don’t even have to exchange it for an email address). This is a way of simply getting your links out there in circulation.
In an ecourse you run
If you develop an ecourse, either paid or as a free opt-in incentive, you can include relevant affiliate links in the emails, PDFs or other documents that are part of the course.
In your ebooks
If you write ebooks you can put affiliate links in there. I have affiliate links in most of the ebooks I sell on Amazon.
You can include direct affiliate links on social media, as long as you do it in a classy, non-spammy way. Here are examples of a Pin, a Tweet and a Facebook post, that all contain affiliate links. Social media affiliate links may not convert that well, because people don’t necessarily want to be ‘sold to’ on social, but you do make occasional sales from there. Pinterest converts better than other sites, in my experience.
Elsewhere on your blog
As already mentioned, the best way to make affiliate sales from your blog is to pre-sell in a highly relevant blog post, but many affiliate companies will provide banners and widgets you can put in your sidebar, at the top or bottom of your posts or even within your posts. They tend to look a bit like ads, and rarely convert well, but it’s certainly possible to make some sales in this way.
Follow Best Practices
There are a few things to remember when affiliate marketing. Here are a few of the most important.
Disclose, disclose, disclose
Never hide the fact that you are an affiliate for a product you’re promoting. Put a disclosure page on your site (here’s mine). Disclose in each and every post or page where you include affiliate links, even if you also have a disclosure page (you can keep your disclosure short and link to your disclosure page if you want). Put your disclosure where it can be seen (near the top of your post and/or right by the affiliate link itself) NOT at the bottom of your post, where nobody ever scrolls to.
Use no-follow links for your affiliate links
Google prefers it this way, apparently. There are a few different ways to do this, but I just use the PrettyLink plugin, that gives you the opportunity to make each link a no-follow link, as you create it.
Read everything you write about your affiliate partners over to check you’re not sounding spammy or pushy.
It’s fine to suggest to your readers that they might like a product, it’s not OK to tell them they’re total losers if they don’t buy this RIGHT NOW (yes, sadly I’ve seen this type of tactic, more than once). And please don’t follow up your emails that promote your products with emails saying ‘Why didn’t you buy X? Don’t you trust my recommendations? Do you hate me?’ or similar. It feels quite intrusive, somewhat desperate and a little aggressive. I tend to unsubscribe when I get those emails. It’s clear that person is just going to keep selling, rather than sending me stuff of value and trusting that I know what I need and what I don’t.
Speaking of which, IF you want to learn a lot more about this affiliate marketing gig, consider signing up for the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing online course. Click that link to take a look at the course. Maybe it meets your needs right now. Maybe it doesn’t. That’s entirely up to you to decide.
My previous offer still stands. Everybody who signs up through my affiliate link (that’s 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). Send your confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll get your Busy Blogger’s Success Kit straight to your inbox.
Next week we’ll look at ten specific things you can do to increase your affiliate conversions, so if you’re serious about this affiliate marketing thing, see that you get everything you’ve learned so far in place. It’s time to start scaling it up.
Want to join the FREE resource library? It’s packed full of goodies for solopreneurs. You can get access here.