If you asked me before I started my blog in late 2015 what “affiliate marketing” was, I’d probably tell you it was something I never planned to pursue. The idea of “selling” things to my readers just wasn’t top priority.
This post contains affiliate links
Now that I truly believe I provide a ton of great blogging advice on my site, I changed my thinking. I no longer look at affiliate marketing as “selling” to people or “selling out just to make a few bucks.” If done right, affiliate marketing should feel like you are recommending valuable products and services you actually use and believe in to your subscribers.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
I answer this question in my earlier post, “20 Secrets to Affiliate Marketing Success,” but in case you haven’t read it yet, it’s really a simple concept. Affiliate marketing is the promotion of products and services for a merchant in exchange for a commission.
The first step in getting involved with affiliate marketing is to join affiliate networks that offer programs related to your niche. There are thousands of companies that offer their own affiliate programs. You simply go to their website and look for a link (usually at the bottom) for their affiliate program.
Another way to find affiliate programs is to search for actual “affiliate networks” that offer thousands of different programs you can apply for and join. I am a member of ShareASale, Rakuten, Commission Junction, and AvantLink. These networks work with so many merchants, that there is a very good chance you’ll find something worth promoting on your blog.
I wrote a review on ShareASale a few months back. If you are serious about working with them, I highly recommend reading it to get a little more detail about what they are all about. It’s very easy to join programs and get creative materials for your site. I also wrote a post about some of the AMAZING merchant programs at ShareASale you should consider joining!
Adding affiliate links to your site
After you’ve been accepted into affiliate programs, you can’t start earning any money until you actually place their creative materials (links, banners, coupons, etc.) on your site (affiliate links). Adding the affiliate links correctly is critical as the links are the only way the merchants can track the purchases made through the links on your site. Don’t worry, though, all affiliate programs give you your own customized affiliate links that you can simply copy and paste into your html editor or WordPress site.
Affiliate links are behind-the-scenes to your readers. There is no additional action they have to take for you to get paid, other than click on the affiliate link and purchasing something from that merchant. It does not cost them anything extra because it’s an affiliate link. While you are required to state at the top of your post that it contains affiliate links, readers who click on your links are driven directly to the merchant’s product page.
So you may be wondering if the reader has to purchase the specific product you are advertising. The answer is no. If your link is for a computer, but they end up purchasing a fax machine, you’ll still get a commission. What’s even better is most affiliate program has tracking cookies. No, not the yummy kind (now I want cookies!), but the kind that is placed in the reader’s computer that tracks whether or not they come back down the road and make a purchase. This means that if you clicked on my affiliate link today, but didn’t purchase anything, I could still make a commission if you returned to the site at a later date and then purchased something. Each affiliate has specific time periods (usually 30, 60, or 90 days from the initial visit).
You have to be very methodical about how you implement affiliate links on your site. Dropping affiliate links everywhere on the page and hoping someone will click on something is definitely NOT the right approach. Nor is throwing your links in social media. I rarely get clicks on any affiliate links I put on social media so I focus more on my blog content to drive in the sales.
No one is obligated or motivated to purchase anything from you just because you pop a link or banner on your site. They could go to another site or brick-and-mortar location to accomplish the same task. I wouldn’t buy a car from a car salesman just because he says I should.
My banner ads do get clicks, and I’ve earned sales from them, but my primary source of income from affiliate links has been through my product reviews. I have made several big sales for Candy Club simply from posting my Candy Club Subscription Box Review post on my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Product reviews do very well in search engines because they give details about a product.
When I wrote my big Candy Club blog post, I didn’t immediately see any sales. I got a little frustrated, but I continued to promote the blog post every where that I could. I soon noticed I started seeing sales come in from banners clicked within the post. Proper link and banner placement is critical!
You saw me mention Pinterest as a source of promotion a few paragraphs above this one. Yes, you can promote affiliate links on Pinterest. There are so many ways to be creative with promoting through Pinterest. I created my own affiliate products board and anytime I see a good deal I share it. It’s as simple as uploading an image, linking with the affiliate link and writing a great description full of rich keywords. You also have to disclose you are using affiliate links in the description. Don’t forget this!
Not only has Pinterest been a good source of traffic for me, but it’s also a great source to read about how other bloggers are succeeding with affiliate links. I use Tailwind to automatically promote my pins and Tailwind Tribes to share my pins even further (Tribes are free even if you aren’t using Tailwind!).
Making the first sale
The first sale is always so exciting. Whenever you log in to your affiliate network’s platform and see the balance has changed, you get motivated to do even more on your blog to keep the sales coming in. When I sold my first few Candy Club subscriptions, I knew that whatever I was doing was starting to work. Regardless of how many sales you make, always look for ways to make your process smoother.
Are you new to affiliate marketing? Or, are you making a full-time income? Share in the comments how you have succeeded (or are working towards succeeding) with affiliate marketing. How did you make your first sale??