Most of us don’t start blogging with the goal of making money. It’s a chance to share your expertise, sharpen your skills, or build authority within your niche. But the hours of writing, editing, promotion, and website maintenance add up quickly. It’s normal to start wondering if it’s possible to cover your costs or even earn some extra money.
There are a lot of ways bloggers generate streams of revenue, and affiliate marketing is among the most popular. There’s a relatively low barrier to entry, so it’s easy for beginners to get started. Before you start sprinkling affiliate links all over your website, there are some important things to think about.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate Marketing is a way to earn a commission by promoting someone else’s products.
Affiliates find customers for others either by word-of-mouth or by creating content that mentions products. Affiliates use unique “affiliate links” that include an ID associated with them. In this way, businesses know which sales can be attributed to different affiliates.
Typical cost structures include getting one-time payments for a sale and/or getting a percentage of recurring revenue for the lifetime of paying customers attributed to you.
How Do Bloggers Find Affiliates?
Once you have gained some traction with your blog, you may start receiving offers to partner with various companies on your own. Just because this hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean the doors for affiliate opportunities are closed.
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Start by researching which brands competing bloggers in your niche are working with. Many bloggers are transparent about how they are earning online income through monthly income reports. Take a look at what is working for them. Then, you can assess whether or not their affiliates’ products may be helpful to your audience.
After you have determined which companies are aligned with your brand, you can apply to be an affiliate through their representing network. Every year, mThink conducts the biggest research study on the leading Cost-Per-Sale (CPS) networks. It’s a great place to start when you are researching potential affiliates and which networks you may want to apply to.
It’s good to know not all companies are represented by a network, and many affiliate partnerships are relationship-driven. Meeting companies face-to-face at a conference or networking through social media can be powerful tactics for building profitable relationships.
Do You Actually Recommend the Product?
One of the reasons affiliate marketing is so popular is because it sounds like an easy way to earn income. But the truth is, most successful affiliate marketers have spent years building their communities. They strategically chose the products they partner with.
It may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by the amount of people who haven’t actually used the products they are endorsing. This has the potential to get you in trouble once readers begin asking specific questions.
If you’re pushing a product, you need to have basic knowledge about how it works and specifically how it can make your readers’ lives better. Plus, educating your audience with a deep dive on all the product’s features can make you a more successful affiliate marketer.
As a blogger and brand, one of your most valuable assets is the trust you have built over weeks, months, or even years with your readers. Is it worth throwing away that trust for affiliate revenue from a product you can’t actually stand behind?
Familiarize Yourself with FTC‘s Endorsement Guide
Have you read through the Federal Trade Commission’s Endorsement Guidelines? The guidelines are meant to reflect the truth-in-advertising principle that endorsements aren’t misleading. Fortunately, the Endorsement Guide has a section dedicated to affiliate or network marketing. Rae Hoffman has also written a comprehensive exploration into what affiliate marketers need to know in regards to disclosure.
It’s important to know the FTC requires you to disclose your affiliate relationship “clearly and conspicuously” on your website, so readers can take that information into consideration while reading your endorsement.
The FTC emphasizes the importance of placing your disclosure as close to your recommendation as possible. Avoid placing it below your review or buried on a separate page. Most importantly, your readers must notice it easily, and they definitely shouldn’t have to hunt for it.
Note: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States that protects American consumers. If your business isn’t based in the United States, you’ll want to make sure your disclosures are compliant with local laws.
Are You Planning to Cloak Your Links?
Link cloaking simply means you are creating URLs that redirect to your affiliate link.
Rae Hoffman recently wrote an excellent post that covers everything you need to know about cloaking affiliate links. Here are some of the reasons it’s worth doing:
- Track clicks for easy comparisons to your affiliate’s reports.
- Create a short, memorable URL for your links.
- Prevent other affiliate marketers from switching out your affiliate ID with theirs.
- Edit a single redirect if you change networks.
- Cloak all product links to easily add an affiliate in the future.
- Make your site more technically unique than the 4,000 affiliates using the same datafeed, if you’re managing an affiliate datafeed website.
It’s also worth mentioning that Google recommends bloggers use the rel=”nofollow” attribute for both paid affiliate links and free product review links.
Where Will You Put Your Affiliate Links?
There’s a lot more to affiliate marketing than haphazardly dropping links throughout your content and hoping that’s enough to generate a sale.
Pat Flynn recommends a variety of spots where affiliate links may be appropriate:
- A Resource or Extension page
- Sidebar banner ads
- Within blog posts
- Within digital products
- Within physical products or while talking live
It’s worth experimenting to see what resonates with your readers and works best for your blog. Then adjust your strategy accordingly.
Prioritize Your Website’s On-Page SEO
Is your website as search engine and user-friendly as possible?
Continuing to attract new visitors is key if you want to be a successful affiliate marketer, and better on-page SEO is essential to your website’s visibility in search. Don’t let technical SEO problems stifle your organic traffic growth.
Our brand new Site Auditor can quickly help you identify which issues are most pressing, and regular crawls prevent unpleasant surprises by alerting you to critical issues early and often.
Learn from Top Affiliate Marketers
Before diving in, it doesn’t hurt to conduct some research on how top affiliate marketers have been successful. Affiliate marketing experts like Rae Hoffman, Ian Cleary, Zac Johnson, and Pat Flynn offer a wealth of resources based on their years of experience. Learning from marketers like them may help you avoid costly mistakes.
It’s critical to think about the big picture when it comes to affiliate marketing. Sometimes that means turning down money-making opportunities that aren’t a good fit for your audience. However, if you’re endorsing a product that solves a problem, that you’ve actually used and can recommend, it can be a win-win for both you and your readers. Continuing to recommend quality products to your readers can lead to a more sustainable and profitable business long-term.
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