One of the easiest and most common ways to make money blogging is through affiliate marketing. What is affiliate marketing? Let me explain…
First, there are essentially two ways to make money online:
- Sell your own stuff.
- Sell or promote someone else's stuff (and get paid for doing it), like I pay a lot of you for promoting Tell Your Time!
In this post, we'll tackle #2. (If you want to sell your own stuff, I recommend starting with an ebook. Here's how.) But let's talk about affiliate marketing…
What is affiliate marketing? What is an affiliate?
This is how affiliate marketing works:
- You have a blog or website (here are my steps to get yours up and running in 15 minutes or less).
- You know of a product or service you can confidently recommend to your readers. You will first partner with the company that sells this product or service.
- You will market (i.e. tell others about) this product or service for the company that offers it. In this way, you are an affiliate (sometimes referred to as an internet or affiliate marketer).
- For example, let's say on your blog or website, you alert your readers to the great product Company Z offers, either by writing a post about it or placing a button or banner ad somewhere on your site. You link to the product's website in your post and/or button/banner ad. However, you don't just use any link, you use your affiliate link which contains your special and unique ID. (We talk about how you get this link in a minute.)
- A reader clicks on the text link (in your post) or the button/banner ad in your sidebar. They are taken to Company Z's website and they decide to purchase that product or service.
- Company Z can see that their new customer (i.e. your reader) was referred by YOU because that uniquely-coded link that tells them so.
- Because Company Z is grateful to you for the referral, they reward you with a commission.
4 ways to find affiliate products or services to promote
When you're looking for things to promote, be creative. Every product or service you use and love might very well be affiliate-worthy. Check it out. Here are some ways to find out whether or not there's an affiliate program attached to the good stuff you talk about and use:
- Think of a product or service you already like and go to the website of said product. See if you can find a link (often in the footer) that says something like "Affiliates," "Affiliate Program," "Referral Program" or something similar. Follow the links to sign up. For example, when I decided to write my post How to Start a Blog or Website (in 15 Minutes or Less), I simply searched for the info about Bluehost's affiliate program on their site.
- Think of a product or service you already like and google it. For example, I'm a fan of Tiny Prints because I think their greeting cards, birth announcements, wedding invitations & holiday greeting cards are to die for (I really do actually). So I googled "Tiny Prints affiliate program" or "Tiny Prints affiliates" or "Tiny Prints referrals" etc. If your first search doesn't turn up anything, try again. Don't give up too easily. Sometimes there are slight variances in word usage or terms. Follow the links to sign up.
- Take note of the affiliate products other bloggers in your niche are using. Look at their sites. Read their posts. What's in their sidebar? What are they linking to? If you see a product or service they talk about that jogs your memory and you can ethically promote it too, find affiliate information by the methods described above.
- One of the best and most efficient ways to find things to promote is to join an affiliate network and browse through their available campaigns. In fact, many companies offer their affiliate program via an affiliate network, so oftentimes as you are searching for possible products to promote, you will have to join an affiliate network anyway. This will often work to your advantage since you'll have access to a lot more products all in one fell swoop. Like this…
What is an affiliate network?
An affiliate network works like this:
- Website Q (the affiliate network) is like a middleman. They provide a place where advertisers (i.e. companies that have products or services to sell, sometimes called "vendors") are matched up with publishers (i.e. you, the blogger or website owner; also referred to as "affiliates"). Imagine Website Q sitting in the middle of you (the publisher/affiliate) and the company (the advertiser).
- Advertisers strike a deal with Website Q and say "Hey, we want to sell more of Product X. We will reward any of your publishers $XX who promote Product X and it results in a sale."
- Website Q agrees and lists that campaign (or offer) on their website.
- You, the publisher, join the affiliate network (Website Q) and see Product X listed among the available "Campaigns," "Offers," or "Marketplace" (usually you'll find this tab at the top of the screen in the navbar). You decide Product X is a good product for you to promote and write about, so you opt to take part in that campaign. Sometimes you have to apply to be part of the specific campaign for that product, sometimes you don't; it depends on the affiliate network and advertiser.
- Once you are cleared to promote Product X and you understand the terms for that campaign, you look through the list of available buttons, banners, text links, etc. for that product. You choose the one that you like most and copy the code they provide for you. This code has your unique ID in it. Then you paste this code on your site wherever you'd like it to show up on your site.
- Your readers see the banner, button or link, click on it, are taken to the Product X website, they buy it and you get paid by Website Q (who was previously paid by the advertiser of Product X).
Affiliate networks are nice for advertisers because then the advertisers don't have to run the affiliate program themselves. Affiliate networks are nice for publishers because it's sort of like one-stop shopping and they don't have to hunt for individual programs. Of course, affiliate networks are nice for the affiliate networks because they are acting as middlemen and getting a piece of the profit pie.
6 important things to remember before you become an affiliate
- Choose only products or services you can recommend without reservation. Seek out the best. Products/services you've used yourself are a great bet as you can speak about them with confidence and from experience.
- Choose products or services that are relevant to your niche. If your site is about children's books and you promote car insurance, at best you'll look like you don't know what you're doing and at worst, you'll be branded a "spammer."
- Once you have gotten a bad reputation as a spammer or an "out-to-make-a-quick-buck" type of blogger, it's incredibly difficult to regain your reputation. Start out with high standards and you'll be fine. Simply put, promoting bad stuff makes you look bad and will hurt you in the long run.
- Look around for the best affiliate deal. My friend Carrie tipped me off to this and after searching around, I realized one of my affiliates paid almost 30% more if I went through a different network. Let me tell you, I changed out those links real fast!
- Experiment, experiment, experiment! Experiment with different networks, ad sizes, text links vs. images, placement on your page, etc. Sometimes there are vast differences in revenue when small changes are made!
- Always know the Terms of Service for the programs in which you are participating. It's no fun to be kicked out of a program!
What are some affiliate networks you can join?
There are lots of affiliate networks available and most are easy peasy to join (just follow the prompts). Different affiliate networks provide different products so you'll want to hunt around to find the one(s) that are the best fit for you.
Here are some affiliate networks I am a part of, along with a sampling of the types of products, services or campaigns they offer:
A large network offering such things like Genesis Theme for WordPress (my favorite!! and if you use Genesis, you might as well make that link in your footer an affiliate link, right?) and Tiny Prints (as mentioned above.)
Sign up for ShareASale here.
Sign up with Logical Media here.
Another network similar to Logical Media (good for families) offering many of the same things like Vista Print (free business card, address labels, etc.).
Sign up with Escalate Network here.
Advertisers here include things like Entertainment Books.
Sign up with Panthera Network here.
Sign up as an affiliate with Commission Junction here.
Who doesn't love Amazon and the fact that you can get almost anything there? (Plus, it's a handy place to spend all those Swagbucks gift cards!) Of course, they have much more than books like a Kindle –
gonna save for this(got it and LOVE it!), Macs (be still my heart), Pirate's Booty (we've been known to buy these by the case) and textbooks (stop here before the college bookstore!).
Sign up with Amazon Associates here.
7. Even more affiliate networks:
Disclosure: There are a lot of affiliate links in this post. Here's my disclosure policy.
Other posts in this series
- How to Make Money Blogging: Affiliate Marketing Explained
- How to Make Money Blogging: Affiliate Marketing Explained, Part 2