Affiliate marketing is the dream. Pretty passive, easy to start with and implement. But if you are a beginner or you’re tired of making only a couple of dollars per month, you probably have A LOT of questions.
I get weekly emails related to affiliate marketing. And because I love you guys SO much, I’ve decided to put together this pretty comprehensive, no-BS guide to affiliate marketing for beginners.
A big chunk of my monthly income comes from affiliate marketing. Actually, when I started this blog, I made $246 in the first month. Most of it was affiliate income. The first $1k I made with this blog came from affiliate marketing too. This only cemented the idea that you don’t need a huge and well-established blog to start making money with affiliate marketing.
I LOVE affiliate marketing for many reasons. It’s risk-free. It doesn’t involve any startup costs (except for the costs of setting up a blog). And you can start right away.
I wholeheartedly believe affiliate marketing is the best way to start monetizing your blog. But there’s a right way and a spammy way to do it.
While making money with affiliate marketing is quite simple, it’s not easy.
And this is mainly because you have to use the RIGHT strategies to make it work for you.
So let’s take this systematically. Before you can make money blogging with affiliate marketing, you need to have a blog in place. If you don’t have a blog yet, check out my step-by-step guide on how to start a self-hosted WordPress blog for only $2.95/month.
Defining your niche and building a cohesive brand will help you build trust. And trust is essential for generating affiliate sales.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a way of monetizing your blog, newsletter or social media channels by referring a reader to somebody else’s products or services. Whenever the reader ends up making a purchase, you receive a commission.
So affiliate marketing is a relationship between 3 parties: the affiliate (that’s you!), the customer and the brand.
How can you become an affiliate?
The way it works, you have to apply to become an affiliate. Once you’ve been accepted into a program, you are provided with a unique affiliate tracking link that you can use in your blog posts.
The affiliate link includes a unique tracking ID. This is how companies are able to track your earnings and pay you.
To do that, they use a cookie (not the edible kind!) to keep an eye on clicks from your blog to their website. If the reader makes a purchase within the timeframe the cookie is active, you receive a commission.
Amazon, for example, has a 24-hour cookie. This means that if the reader makes a purchase within the first 24 hours after clicking on your affiliate link, you get a commission.
Some advertisers (albeit not many) set the cookie to expire only after 365 days!
Affiliate programs vs Affiliate networks
Many brands offer an affiliate program you can apply to directly on their website. You are then given your unique affiliate link and sometimes get access to nice graphics and banners you can use in your content.
Another option is to join affiliate networks. Affiliate networks are like bridges between affiliates and hundreds or even thousands of individual brands.
The advantages of joining an affiliate network:
- You can manage several brands from the same account
- Advanced tracking tools and reports so you can always know what works and what doesn’t
- Faster payments since commissions add up from various advertisers and you can meet the minimum payment threshold amount sooner
- Most affiliate networks vet the brands they work with. So you can rest assured you are not promoting shady products
How soon should you start promoting affiliate products?
Affiliate marketing success comes down to offering the right product to the right audience at the right moment in their purchase journey.
Hence affiliate marketing success isn’t necessarily related to the number of monthly pageviews you get or the number of affiliate programs you are a part of, but rather to how well you market them.
In the first month of its existence, this blog barely received 2k pageviews, yet I made $226 in affiliate commissions.
So I can’t stress enough the importance of starting early.
I know many people are confronted with moral issues. They don’t want to alienate their readers by appearing salesy and having ulterior motives. But affiliate marketing isn’t about shoveling expensive products down your readers’ throat for the sole purpose of making a commission.
If done right, affiliate marketing is a great way to HELP others discover products and tools that can make a positive difference in their lives.
So affiliate marketing should never feel like you are selling your soul. If it does, tweak your strategies until you feel comfortable with what you are doing. Because the moment you start promoting with confidence, you’ll see results in your bank account. Trust me on this one![clickToTweet tweet=”Affiliate marketing success is more related to the WAY you promote a product than the number of page views you get.” quote=”Affiliate marketing success is more related to the WAY you promote a product than the number of page views you get.” theme=”style3″]
How to find the right affiliate products to promote
If you are just starting with affiliate marketing, I recommend you make a list of 5-10 products relevant to your niche. These can be tools, physical products, courses you’ve taken, books you’ve read or anything else you can think of. What’s absolutely ESSENTIAL is that you love and use these products (or the knowledge gained from them).
If you’ve been blogging for a while and have been promoting affiliate products and services in a hectic way and without much success, I still want you to create a list of relevant products. Keep this list under 25 items. You don’t want to get overwhelmed and lose track of what you are doing.
Now apply to become an affiliate for each of these products, if you haven’t already. Some brands offer both an affiliate program on their own website and are part of a network. If the commission percentage is the same, always opt for the affiliate network. Chances are you will find more advertisers you’ll want to promote once you sign up.
In time, you will find EXACTLY which affiliate products work best for you. But if you are just starting out, I highly recommend you join some or all of the following affiliate networks.
Best affiliate programs & networks to join
There’s really no reason for you to wait for your blog to become popular before you start making money with affiliate marketing. Here are several programs that are fairly easy to apply and get accepted into even if your blog is new.
Ultimate Bundles is one of the best affiliate programs to join for both new and seasoned bloggers. They put together exclusive bundles at a steeply discounted price (usually over 90% off). Topics range from blogging, productivity, photography, meal planning, homemaking, finances, essential oils and more.
Each bundle includes a wealth of eBooks, eCourses, worksheets, and printables. and is available for a limited time (a few days only). This boosts sales through the roof!
Since the bundles are an easy sell and they offer a generous 40% commission on each bundle you sell (70% if you are a contributor!), many bloggers make a big chunk of their annual income by promoting these bundles.
Best of all, they provide in-depth affiliate training and tons of marketing resources – think promo graphics, social media scripts and swipe files for you to use. Plus, as an affiliate, once you’ve sold 5 copies of a bundle, you get the bundle totally free.
Amazon is one of the most trusted brands out there, selling almost 400 million products and accounting for 43% of all US online retail sales. Needless to say, Amazon offers huge earnings potential.
One of the biggest incentives is that commissions are paid on the whole shopping cart. This means that if somebody clicks on one of your special links and makes a purchase within the next 24 hours, you’ll earn a commission on the whole order (even the items you haven’t linked to).
ShareASale is my absolute favorite affiliate network and one of my top earners.
They work with a huge variety of partners in all industries – like Viator, StudioPress, Tailwind, Zazzle, Etsy, Wayfair, Minted, Cricut, Grammarly, CreativeLive, SheIn, Blurb, and 4,000+ others. So no matter what you blog about, you are guaranteed to find brands to work with.
ShareASale is great because it’s super easy to use and most brands provide you with banners and ready-made links so you can start promoting them right away.
Once you become part of their network, you get access to all the merchants. Each merchant has a different commission structure, cookie duration, and set of terms you need to agree to but everything is streamlined, which is one of the many reasons almost all major bloggers work with them.
Awin is another huge network with over 6,000 brands across all niches, including Etsy, Expedia, Fiverr, John Lewis, Booking.com, American Express, and Vodafone.
You have to join each individual program manually and they require a $5 admission fee. No worries, you get the $5 back when you receive your first payout.
I totally recommend you join them. Even more so if your audience is mostly UK-based. They have an impressive database of British advertisers to choose from.
Skimlinks and Sovrn
Skimlinks and Sovrn are pretty similar and I love them for their simplicity. Once your blog is approved into their network, you get instant access to thousands of e-commerce merchants. Hundreds of them are ‘preferred partners’. This means their respective teams already negotiated higher commission rates with them on your behalf.
Starting is super easy. All you have to do is copy+paste a short line of code into the footer of your blog and keep on including normal product links into your content. If the merchant you link to is part of the network, the link automatically becomes an affiliate link. And if the reader ends up buying, you earn a commission. Easy as pie!
MaxBounty is awesome if you blog about personal finances, relations, and weight loss. They have over 1,500 campaigns from AirBnB, SurveyJunkie, Ebates, Scentbird, BarkBox, InboxDollars, Mayo Clinic, South Beach Diet, etc.
To join, you’ll most likely have to pass a short phone/Skype interview. They will want to know stuff like your past experience with affiliate marketing and which brands you are more inclined to promote. It’s nothing to be scared about though.
Once you are accepted, you’ll be assigned an affiliate manager who will help you make the most of your affiliate marketing efforts. Plus they send out weekly payments.
Find affiliate programs relevant to your niche
Navigating an affiliate network and finding the right program for you among thousands of programs can be a bit intimidating at first. But there’s an easy solution to it.
My friend Ana did all the legwork for you and she compiled a list of 500 affiliate programs in 17 different niches (including fashion, travel, parenting, finance, health, food, and personal development). She included sign-up links, commision rates, minimum payment threshold and other relevant info you need to get started in no time.
Promoting the right products and brands can make or break your affiliate marketing efforts. So it’s vital that you don’t just go with the first affiliate program that comes to mind. Do a bit of research and make sure your affiliate links serve your audience.
I really can’t stress enough the importance of staying organized when it comes to affiliate marketing. Without a way to keep track of all your affiliate programs and links, it can get pretty crazy pretty fast.
Use a planner
I encourage you to use a planner to keep track of all your login info, brands, links, and placements. It’s vital you know what you promote where and keep track of your progress.
You can get your copy of my affiliate tracker and keep all your affiliate information neatly organized in one place. This is a cute printable I designed using pink plumeria flowers and bluebells for a little bit of extra inspiration.
The 5-page planner includes:
- affiliate program login info sheet, including commission percentage and payment method
- affiliate network login info, because you really need to know which individual brands you’ve already joined and the network they are a part of
- list of posts with affiliate links so you know exactly which products you recommend in each article
- advertisers promoted sheet to keep track of the affiliate links you inserted for each advertiser
- monthly affiliate income tracker
The Pretty Links plugin
Another tool I can’t live without is the Pretty Links plugin.
Affiliate programs usually give you long, ugly links that look like this: https://shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=242694&u=1253894&m=28169&urllink=&afftrack=
These links include your tracking ID and other parameters.
The Pretty Links plugin takes these ugly affiliate links and transforms them into neat and clean links using your own shortened URL. When a reader hovers over them, they see something like this https://www.bylauraiancu.com/GenesisFramework.
In addition, managing and keeping track of affiliate link performance also becomes super easy.
You basically create one short, custom link for each product. Then you use it over and over again throughout your content.
The Pretty Links plugin keeps track of the number of times a link was clicked and tells you exactly where the clicks are coming from.
There really is no point in recommending products nobody clicks on. With this plugin, you can keep a close eye on your affiliate links. And it will soon become clear to you which products your readers prefer.
At the end of the day, I just don’t want you to be one of those bloggers who plasters affiliate links all over their blog without a plan. Affiliate marketing success has A LOT to do with paying attention to your readers’ needs and tracking click-through and conversion rates.
Affiliate marketing might seem as easy as tossing a link here and there. But if you want it to substantially add to your bottom line, I strongly encourage you to learn all that you possibly can about it.
- Ana Savuica’s From Zero to Superhero affiliate marketing bundle is a great place to start unraveling all the mysteries of this awesome income source. It includes an eBook, video tutorials, case studies, a Facebook group and more.
- If you don’t have a blog or simply want to tap into the incredible power of Pinterest, Elise McDowell’s ebook How to Make Your First Affiliate Sale in 24 Hours Using Pinterest is packed with hands-on strategies THAT WORK, plus it’s extremely affordable.
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About the author:
Hey there, dream chaser! I’m a writer and designer on a mission to inspire and empower you to create a highly profitable minimalist online business and show up for your dreams in a sustainable way.