Bloggers always go on about how much they love affiliate marketing but if you’re reading this guide, you’re probably not making much from it just yet. If you’re new to affiliate marketing and passive income this introduction guide is the article for you.
We will go over exactly what is affiliate marketing, how it works, how you join affiliate programs, how much you can earn from affiliate marketing and some key tips to help you maximise your affiliate earnings right from the beginning.
What exactly is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is when you recommend a product, service, tour or company and when one of your readers clicks on the links and makes a purchase or booking through your website you get recognised a commission.
The exact structure of the referral system varies depending on the affiliate program. Generally companies will either provide you with a unique link that tracks all clicks coming from your site or with a discount code for your readers unique to you so they know they have come from your blog.
The amount you get recognised in commission also varies massively depending on the company and products sold. Some will recognise you a percentage of the sale and others a fixed commission per sale.
How much can you earn with affiliate marketing?
On to the question that everybody wants to know; how much can you really earn in affiliate marketing? As Jason Derulo would say, the sky is the limit!
The beauty of affiliate marketing and reason so many bloggers love it is that there is no limit on the earning potential you can make from affiliates. Once an affiliate link is up on your site it’s there forever and as your blog grows, so does your earning potential. I know bloggers that make more than 100,000$ every month from affiliates.
Wondering how to know when you should start monetising? Read this guide on blog monetisation first.
Best affiliate programs to join
What affiliate programs you choose to join obviously varies depending on your niche. If you’re a fashion blogger it makes no sense for you to join GetYourGuide and link to tours and excursions. The strength of affiliate marketing lies in recommending products and companies that are relevant to your content, that you truly believe in, and that your audience can trust you with. The moment you start recommending random crap just because they offer a high commission, is the moment you lose the trust of your readers.
That said, most niches are fairly flexible and will allow you to join more than one relevant affiliate program. Some of the best affiliate programs that most niches can join include:
- Amazon –Amazon is considered one of the best affiliate programs for any blog niche since it sells pretty much everything. Amazon is also designed to drive sales (think of related products, customers who bought this also bought… etc) so you just need to get people on Amazon, you will be recognised a commission even if they purchase something you didn’t directly link to.
- Booking.com –For obvious reasons this one is pretty popular amongst travel bloggers, but it can be relevant also for other niches. Any article that mentions a specific city or location can easily add a “where to stay” section with booking.com affiliate links.
- eBay –Similarly to Amazon eBay sells pretty much everything so it’s an easy one for any niche bloggers to link to.
If you want a more detailed guide to the best affiliate marketing programs, including pros and cons, check out this guide.
How do I join affiliate programs?
Every company is different. If there is a product or brand you really love and would love to get paid to recommend, check out their website and scroll down to the footer area (see screenshot below). Here it will usually have an “Affiliate” link where you can find out more about their affiliate program. Some companies host it themselves but a lot of them have it through platforms like CJ or Awin.
These are platforms where you create your own profile and then there are loads of different companies and affiliate programs you can apply for. They’re quite convenient since you can manage everything centrally from one dashboard, instead of having to check each program individually.
5 tips to maximise your affiliate income straight from the beginning
So now that you understand what affiliate marketing is, what affiliate programs to join and how, you’re probably feeling ready to fill your blog with affiliate links and just wait for the money to start rolling in. Let me tell you now that that is the wrong approach and you won’t have much luck with it. You need to be strategic about how and when you place affiliate links if you want to actually make an income from them. I’ve listed below some top tips of things you need to consider to maximise your affiliate revenue.
Think of what type of post you are writing
When it comes to affiliate marketing there are two main types of articles; the trickle down effect posts and the dedicated blog posts.
An example of a trickle down link would be; in a “Rome 1-day itinerary” post you add a “where to stay” section recommending a specific hotel with an affiliate link to booking.com. A dedicated blog post would be a whole guide on “where to stay in Rome” which lists multiple properties, all linked to booking.com through affiliate links.
Dedicated blog posts can be anything from product reviews, tour reviews, packing lists, guides on where to stay, tutorials, gift ideas and more.
The second type of post is obviously more effective and generally converts better than the first one in terms of affiliate sales. It’s all about the INTENTION that people have when they land on your page. Someone looking at a “Rome 1-day itinerary” might only be looking for suggestions for things to do, with no intention of booking a hotel or tour just yet. Instead someone searching for “where to stay in Rome” probably has their flight booked already and is actively looking for suggestions on what hotel to book. If they like what they see on your blog, there’s a good chance they will book and earn you that affiliate commission.
But then why aren’t all bloggers writing where to stay guides / product reviews / packing lists etc? For two main reasons 1) because it’s usually very hard to rank for these type of posts and 2) the time you invest in writing the article isn’t always worth how much you will earn from the post. And they’re also not very fun posts to write if we really want to go there.
Let me go into that a bit more.
- Unless your website is fairly established in your niche, it can be quite hard to rank on Google for specific searches for product reviews or where to stay guides (the website of the brand itself or booking.com / tripadvisor forums will often outrank you)! It’s not impossible, and there are ways to get views to your affiliate posts that don’t involve ranking on the first page of Google (like Pinterest or your mailing list), it’s just harder and you won’t see as many conversions as you could.
- Even if your article is getting tons of views, think of the value of the products you’re reviewing. It generally takes me a full day of work to write a post, edit the photos for it, create pins, upload it all on WordPress, go back and add links to it from old posts, and post about it on social media. If it’s for a cheap product that will earn me 5p per sale I would have to sell loads for that post to make it worth the time I invested creating it.
Which leads me back to trickle-down affiliate marketing. It’s not as effective and the conversion rates aren’t as high, but the effort invested in it is minimal. If you already have a decent number of articles on your blog and are seeing a fair bit of traffic, chances are that some of it could earn you passive income from affiliates.
I didn’t really start including affiliate links in my articles until I hit 70,000 monthly page views. I left it pretty late and I would definitely recommend starting earlier than I did, you never know how much income you could really be missing out on! I dedicated a whole day to going through my top highest traffic posts and adding links to relevant affiliate programs (for a travel blog this usually includes a where to stay section, links to tours or excursions, suggestions for what to pack, car rentals or other types of transfers etc).
A good approach in my opinion would be to do a mixture of these two types of posts. Start by going back and making sure all your old posts have links to relevant affiliate products (where it makes sense for there to be one, don’t just spam your own content with affiliate links) and then plan a content calendar that involves dedicated affiliate posts.
Think of what type of links you are using
There are different types of affiliate links that you can include in your articles. There isn’t a better or worst type of link that you can use, everyone responds to them differently and it varies massively from blog to blog which one is most effective.
- Deep linking: These are the most natural types of links. It’s when you add a link over the product / tour / hotel / service you are recommending. For example if the sentence is; “We had a great time during our Rome walking tour”, Rome walking tour would be an affiliate link that when people click on it, it takes them to a website where they can book the same tour.
PRO: Natural mention
CON: Easy to overlook
- Call-to-action text links: These are text-based links that you would normally add after a paragraph with a clear call to action. For example after a paragraph where you describe your Rome walking tour, I would add a sentence (preferably in bold, italics, in a coloured box etc whatever you need to make it stand out from the normal text) saying something along the lines of “Click here to book your own Rome walking tour!”
PRO: Very clear for people looking to purchase
CON: Can be a bit spammy
- Widgets & photos:Most affiliate programs will come with the option of creating advertising widgets or banners. Think of booking.com search boxes or Amazon product photos.
PRO:Eye-catching for visual people and usually include more info
CON:Can be slow to load and can get confused with native ads on websites that run them
Each type of link has its strengths and weaknesses, and works differently for different blogs and audiences. What might work well for Greta’s Travels might not work for you. Unfortunately I can’t help you figure out what is best for your blog, you need to try them out on a selected number of posts and track your results to determine what is working and what isn’t, before you decide to implement it everywhere on your site. When in doubt, I usually start off by including a mixture of all types of links in all posts, so as to appeal to every read type.
Think about where to place the affiliate links
Generally speaking most bloggers tend to recommend adding affiliate links (or any links you really want people to click on) at the start of a blog post, as readers are more “click-happy” and likely to click on them. However I personally find that if I’m reading a product review or city guide I’m not ready to click on anything right at the start. I want to read more first, and then once I’m convinced by the product, tour, hotel etc I’ll click and purchase.
Similarly to the different types of links there isn’t one right or wrong answer. You need to experiment on your site and see what works best for you. It might be that for some articles you get better results with links at the start and for others at the end. I usually tend to include affiliate links sprinkled throughout the article (where it makes sense, you don’t want to overdo it and spam your own articles).
I hope you found this introduction to affiliate marketing for bloggers useful. If you have any questions please let me know, I’ll do my best to answer them! If you have already experimented with affiliate marketing and have any comments let me know that too, I’m always open to suggestions and tips (basically just get in touch for whatever it is you want to say, we’re always keen to hear from you haha).