How Bloggers Make Money: Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
Post Synopsis: Do you want to make money online by joining affiliate marketing programs? Do you want to know which are the top paying affiliate programs? Do you wish you were also earning a full-time income just like that famous blogger you admire? This post explores how you can start making money from top affiliate marketing programs.
Have you ever come across bloggers or YouTubers talking about an awesome product they have tried and want you to purchase it too using their link? It could be a book, a course, a camera–anything really. Sometimes, the creator will even throw in a discount code for you to at the time of checkout. That’s affiliate marketing.
A majority of people (not brands) start blogs because it’s one of the cheapest businesses to start and run. A successful blog, in return, has the potential to earn you a great living. Among others, becoming an affiliate marketer is one of the cheapest ways of making money from your blog.
How Bloggers Make Money: Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
As someone who is considering becoming an affiliate marketer, you must be having a lot of questions in your head. How does an online affiliate program work? How do affiliate marketers make money? Can I make a full-time income with affiliate marketing?
Let’s begin by understanding what is affiliate marketing and how does it work.
Disclaimer: All links prefixed with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. Any purchase you make by clicking these links will earn me a small commission but will not cost you anything extra. For more details, please read my Disclosure Policy.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a very popular method of making money online.
Bloggers (or any website owner, for that matter) can earn through affiliate marketing by promoting third-party products and/or services to their followers. For every sale, the bloggers then earn a fixed percentage as commission.
So in essence, you–the blogger–are a marketing and sales channel for the owners of the products and/or services you endorse.
Why should I become an affiliate marketer?
As you continue reading the post, you will understand why becoming an online affiliate marketer is a great way to earn moolah. But, if you don’t have the patience to read the entire post, here are some reasons you should:
You don’t need to spend anything: Affiliate marketing requires zero to minimal investment from you (and some of your time) but has the potential to earn you several hundred dollars every month.
You don’t need to spend on manufacturing, storing, shipping, hiring a team–nothing. All you need to do is find a great product or service you believe in and talk about it positively to your followers.
You don’t need to worry about product/service delivery: As an affiliate marketer, your job ends once you have promoted a product or service. Appropriate delivery and post-sale customer service is the creator/owner’s responsibility. That said, it is important to only market products and services that you know are valuable to your followers, has a strong foundation and a responsible owner/creator.
You don’t have to provide customer support: Similar to product delivery, providing customer support is the responsibility of the product owner. You are simply a sales outlet who is bridging the gap between the owner and potential customers.
You may earn passive income from it: Over a period of time, if you are promoting the right product or service AND optimizing the promotion page properly, you may continue to make sales and earn a passive income without spending any additional time or effort.
How do I become an affiliate marketer?
Becoming an affiliate marketer is actually quite simple. What is difficult is knowing which programs will work for you.
Identify one or more product or service that you’d like to get behind and promote. Find out if there is an affiliate marketing program associated with the product or service.
And sign up. That’s it.
Typically you would find the sign-up information on the brand’s website.
If it’s a course, then look for an appendix at the end of the course that mentions whether the course is open to affiliate marketing.
If you don’t know or can’t find the information, email the brand PR or the product creator (such as a blogger selling a course) to find out.
Direct affiliate program vs. affiliate network
Most often, especially as far as blogging courses and software go, brands have their individual affiliate marketing programs. However, there are some–especially software–that tie up with affiliate marketing networks and offer their programs via those networks.
For example: *my preferred hosting partner–SiteGround–has their own affiliate program. They offer very reasonable hosting packages and gold-class customer service.
To sign up, you need to be their existing customer and apply for the program through their website. Once approved, you will promote their services on your blog and every sale you make earns you a certain commission.
If you are looking to switch your current host, consider signing up for *SiteGround’s amazing hosting plans. As their affiliate, here’s what you stand to earn:
*Another affiliate program I have signed up for is Suzi Whitford’s series of courses. Her courses are fantastic learning material for bloggers who are just starting out or are ready to step up their beginners’ game.
To sign up for Suzi’s affiliate program, you have to be an existing student (i.e. purchase one of her courses). In the course material, you will find the instructions to join her affiliate program that will earn you a 40% commission per sale.
Most brands offering direct affiliate marketing programs will also provide you with marketing material to make your job even easier.
On the other hand, some brands choose to offer their affiliate programs via a network. *For example, Pinterest and Instagram scheduler–Tailwind–hosts their affiliate marketing program via ShareASale.
To sign up for *Tailwind’s affiliate marketing program, you need to first sign up on the ShareASale website.
At the time of signing up, ShareASale requires you to submit your website details. They will then review your application and you can expect to receive a response in 2-4 days. Once approved, you can browse their merchant listing and apply for each individual brand’s affiliate program.
Sometimes, brands listed on ShareASale may contact you to become their affiliate on the ShareASale website.
How does affiliate marketing pay?
As mentioned earlier, affiliate marketing programs pay you a fixed percentage per sale as commission. That’s the most typical payment model brands follow.
However, there are also other models in the market.
For example, some brands–though in minority–also allow you to become an affiliate without first purchasing the product or service in question.
You heard it! Some brands will pay you commission without you spending a penny.
For example, Amazon.
Amazon is a marketplace. They will pay you for helping them sell products that are listed on their website. All you need is an existing account and an active website.
With Amazon though, there are a lot of terms and conditions you need to follow–I will get to those in a couple of minutes.
As with display advertisements, affiliate marketing is also based on various payment models:
Pay per sale: In this payment model, you promote an affiliate product or service. Once a visitor clicks on the affiliate link and completes a purchase, you earn your commission.
Pay per click: In this payment model, your lead simply has to click on an affiliate link and get redirected to the affiliate brand’s website. That’s it! You’ve earned your commission.
Pay per lead/action: In this payment model, your website visitor has to click on an affiliate link, get redirected to the affiliate brand’s website, and complete an action.
These actions are varied and could range from entering their Name and Email ID to more details such as phone numbers and zip codes.
Or, perhaps they would need to complete a survey, watch a video, or download a software. Once the visitors complete the required action, you earn your commission.
There might also be other models out there that I am unaware of.
I have personally only come across and signed up for the pay per sale model.
Which affiliate marketing program is the best for me?
If you are convinced that affiliate marketing could work for you, the next string of questions in your mind will most likely be: “Which is the best affiliate program to make money?”
Well, the real answer is: there is no sure-shot way to know which programs will work for you and which won’t.
It depends on trial and error.
As long as you are mindful of the products and services you are choosing to market, you will start noticing which products or services are selling more than the others. Start focusing on those.
Most eCourses or eBooks you have purchased from bloggers have an affiliate program attached to them. Find out about these programs and apply to become an affiliate marketer for them. Again, choose only the ones you believe in.
With that out of the way, here’s a list of most popular affiliate marketing programs and networks you can sign up for:
- MoreNiche Affiliate Network: This one is specifically for those in health, beauty, and fitness niches.
- Your email service provider–*MailerLite, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, etc.
- Your hosting partner–*SiteGround, BlueHost, HostGator, etc.
- Your domain partner–GoDaddy, *SiteGround, NameCheap, etc.
The options are aplenty. Just Google.
At the cost of sounding repetitive, choose only those programs that you truly believe in and/or have used successfully.
You owe this to your readers and yourself.
Enough yapping, just tell me about Amazon affiliate marketing already!
Amazon affiliate is popular because it’s the largest online marketplace you know of. Anyone can sign up to be their affiliate.
But their affiliate marketing program is shit!
There, I said it. And that’s all there is to say.
Don’t waste your time on Amazon!
For one, their cookie length is 24 hours! This means unless your reader is an impulse buyer, you are unlikely to earn anything out of it.
Two, even though Amazon lists high-ticket items too, people usually are wary of buying expensive physical products online. So, there goes your chance of earning a decent commission.
Three, Amazon’s commission rate ranges from 1-10%. So, even if someone purchases a $700 phone from your affiliate link, you will earn a 4% commission, i.e., $28.
Four, they don’t pay commissions for purchases made by your friends and family. I don’t know how they track it but they do.
Five, if you don’t make at least three sales in your first six months as an affiliate marketer, Amazon will terminate your affiliate account.
Six, you cannot cloak your links or send affiliate links on emails, Pinterest, etc.
There are many more convoluted terms and conditions for Amazon affiliates. If you have time to kill or want a way to fall asleep quickly, read them here.
Told you, Amazon’s affiliate program is shit!
How many affiliate programs should I sign up for?
There is no limit to how many affiliate programs you can sign up for. But that doesn’t mean you should sign up for every program you come across.
Choose quality over quantity.
Select products and services that belong to your chosen niche and deliver to your audience’s interest.
Though not mandatory, it’s also wise to market only those products or services that you have personally used AND benefited from. In fact, *Suzi Whitford from Start a Mom Blog suggests that you post pictures of you using an affiliate product or service as it builds trust.
My personal recommendation would be to limit the number of affiliate programs to 10 or less.
Remember you need to justify the products you market. This means you need to write a good copy for the promotion. In my opinion, 10 is a good number to work with. Any more and you may be scrambling for time and ignoring your own products/services.
Best practices to earn from online affiliate marketing programs
Affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick-scheme. It may not make you thousands of dollars every month in your first year. However, following some best practices can help you ensure consistent income:
Invest in quality products: Blogging as a business needs investment, whether it’s to buy technology or knowledge. When it’s time to invest, purchase the best you can afford.
Most good quality products and services, especially blogging courses and software services offer a high percentage of commission.
Consequently, you can earn back your investment in a short amount of time.
In addition, because of the high value of the product, you are likely to squeeze the last drop of use of out of it.
Choose affiliate programs that pay at least 30% commission: When you are just starting out, it’s easy to sign up for several affiliate marketing programs without much consideration for the commission percentage.
However, it’s in your interest to scout for products or services that pay a minimum percentage of 30%.
Typically, high-ticket items do offer high commissions.
Another reason you should consider the previous point I made about purchasing the best you can afford.
Sign up for recurring payment vs. one-time payout model: It’s a 50-50 split when it comes to payout models. Some programs continue to pay you every month that your referred customer stays with the brand.
ConvertKit is a prime example of such a payment model. For every person who signs up for their services via your affiliate link, you earn a sweet 30% commission for every completed month your lead stays with ConvertKit.
On the other hand, most other programs use a one-time payout model in which you earn a fixed one-time commission when your lead signs up for a service.
Check the program’s link cloaking terms: Typical affiliate links contain a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. They don’t make for the prettiest of links. So, bloggers often use cloak plugins that enable them to customize the affiliate links as per their own liking.
For example, an original link https://www.xyz.com/affcowqjkh283y@#jkhIheoo can be customized to https://www.xyz.com/yourname using a link cloak.
However, some programs, such as the Amazon affiliate program, do not allow any type of cloaking. You have to use the original link generated by the Amazon affiliate software.
Similarly, if you want to use affiliate links on Pinterest, you may need to fulfill certain conditions. So, all this is to say read the terms and conditions of each program carefully.
Select programs that offer cookie length of 30 days or more: Cookie length refers to the amount of time you are entitled to earn a commission from a purchase.
Each online affiliate marketing program offers different cookie lengths ranging from 24 hours to 365 days.
Suppose one of your readers clicks your affiliate link, she has between 24 hours and a year (depending on the program) to make her purchase. Any purchase made outside this window will not earn you anything.
But human minds are fickle. They take long to deliberate and decide, especially when it comes to certain purchases. It is, therefore, in your favor to promote programs that come with at least 30 days…but the longer the window, the better.
Disclose all affiliate links: As with sponsored posts, you need to disclose that fact that you stand to earn from your affiliate links.
Whenever you are including an affiliate link–even one–include a blanket statement that the post contains affiliate links. Same is true for including affiliate links in emails and social networking platforms.
Mark all affiliate links as Nofollow: Any link or content that may result in generating an income for you should be marked as a nofollow link. This applies to affiliate links too.
Follow the rules: Read the terms and conditions of each program carefully. While some programs do not put any restrictions on you, others may have certain terms that you need to abide by.
For example, you cannot include Amazon affiliate links in your emails or any social media platform.Don’t know if becoming an affiliate marketer is the best choice for you? Take this quiz.
Okay, I signed up for my favorite affiliate program. What next?
It’s time to promote.
Traditionally, writing a product or service review blog post is the most common way of promoting your favorite products.
But there’s only so much you can write about the features of a product or service. Plus, there are 100 other bloggers who are also writing a review post listing the same features.
What can you do differently?
Let me tell you the secret of copywriting–weave your story around the benefits of a product.
Too often, bloggers list the features of a product or service in their blog post, sprinkle the affiliate link in the post, and think their job is done.
Features don’t tell potential customers what they stand to gain from purchasing the said product or service. What pain point is the product or service resolving?
Focus on the benefits of a product or service. Illustrate how using the product or service of your choice has changed your life? Tell your personal story and show why the potential customer should invest their money in your favorite product?
You may choose to talk about all the benefits of a product or service in one epic post or create a series out of it.
If you are feeling super creative, you may even think of a more innovative way to promote the product or service on your blog.
Other common ways of including affiliate marketing links on a blog are:
Write an in-depth tutorial. Illustrate how to use a product.
List your favorite products and services: Create a Resources page on your website and list all of your favorite tools and products. Here’s an example from ProBlogger.
Create a roundup of products and services your peers use but include your own affiliate links. For example, write a post “10 Successful Bloggers Share Their Favorite Productivity Tool” and include links to 10 different productivity tools.
Create a day-in-the-life YouTube video or blog post and show yourself using a product or service.
Embrace the “in your face” technique. Instead of displaying third-party advertisement, use the space to display affiliate banners. Very often, the brand will provide you premade banners for this purpose.
There are bloggers who are earning a full-time income just from affiliate marketing. The most popular name that comes to mind is Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. Her personal finance + travel blog, Making Sense of Cents, earns her a handsome $100K+ per month. Most of that income is a result of affiliate marketing. If you are looking to take up affiliate marketing as your #1 method of blog income, check out her course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
As for me, I started including affiliate links in my posts a couple of months ago but it’s sporadic. It is not my aim to earn a full-time income from affiliate marketing. I am working on it to generate a “passive” revenue stream while I focus on my main income–offering my own product and service.
That’s right! I am working on creating an epic course on creating effective courses. That, after all, is my expertise and my bread-and-butter. If you don’t know, I am an Instructional Designer with over 15 years of experience. I create web copies and online + offline course material for Fortune 500 companies.
And that is exactly what I will talk about in my next and final post in this “How Bloggers Make Money” series–creating and selling your own products and services.
Do you have any experience with affiliate marketing? How was your experience? What advice would you share with new bloggers? Share with me in the comments below.
Postscript & a confession
Of late, I have been feeling disconnected writing about blog-related stuff and ignoring the “content creation” category.
But then again, I get so many comments and emails from new bloggers telling me how they are benefiting from these “blogging” posts.
So I am really torn. I love sharing lessons from my own blogging journey but it’s not the niche I am passionate about.
After next week’s post, I am going to switch back to content writing. Posts on blogging may take a backseat for some time or maybe I will split it 50-50. I am yet to work out the distribution of posts, but I will keep you updated.
Thank you for your support.