This post contains affiliate links that generate a commission for the author, at no cost to you. Read my disclosure for more info.
14 Ways To Actually Make Money Through Affiliate Marketing
Inspired by my behemoth of a blog post, 13 Easy Ways To Make Money Online, today I want to dive into one of the ways that I highlighted (and also mentioned in the March 2019 Income Report), affiliate marketing.
How do you make money with affiliate marketing?
That’s the question right?
When it comes to making money online, there’s so much of the, “You can make money by doing X, Y, and Z.” Everywhere you look, there are posts that talk about the ways in which you can make money. If you do a quick Google or Pinterest search, it takes just seconds to get pages upon pages of answers.
Even what I posted is a post all about, “These are ways in which you CAN make money online.”
But when it comes down to it, the real question is, “How do you ACTUALLY make money doing X, Y, and Z?”
And for affiliate marketing, it can be easy to make a good income, if you do things the right way.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: What Is Affiliate Marketing?
At its core, affiliate marketing is when an online retailer (or any kind), pays a commission for sales (and sometimes even just traffic) generated from referrals (that’s you, the merchant). The concept is based on revenue sharing, where basically the retailer gives you some of the money earned from a sale.
When you participate in affiliate marketing, you are helping a platform to grow by partaking in the promotion of a product or suite of products.
For affiliate marketing the commission can range, but is usually somewhere between 1 and 50 percent. Some platforms will offer more than that, but they’re very rare and not always easy to sell.
Other commissions can be flat fees, meaning you earn X amount of dollars per sale, and you make more the more sales you have in a period of time, usually a month.
You can even be an affiliate for free programs, though their commission structure tends to be very low, like a dollar per referral. If you have a lot of traffic though, and it’s a product or program that your audience finds valuable, you may be able to bring in a significant amount.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Why Affiliate Marketing?
One of the biggest draws to affiliate marketing is that you don’t have to have your own product in order to make money online.
And that’s a good thing, because when you’re just starting out, you don’t necessarily want to have a massive product suite.
Why don’t you want that?
Well, unless you’ve done months and months of market research, you don’t actually know what your clients are truly after, so spending months and months working on a suite of ebooks and products and signature online courses will mean nothing if it’s not what your audience wants.
So until you’ve built up your following and built up your email list (more on why you need an email list, yes, even in 2019, can be found in this post), you’ll want to bring in income through your side hustle in other ways.
Affiliate marketing can be extremely powerful, when it comes to positioning yourself as that expert in your field, and will help you grow both your traffic and your community, especially right off the bat.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Know Your Cookies
What’s a cookie?
Well, yes, a cookie is something delicious and usually has chocolate chips in it, but that’s not what I mean.
A cookie, in Internet terms, is a little piece of code that allows a website to track your actions on it. Sounds a little sketchy, but in terms of affiliate marketing, it’s how a website knows that someone is on there and buying a product through YOUR link.
And don’t worry, those cookies do expire.
But when it comes to affiliate marketing, you want to make sure that you are joining programs that have longer-termed cookies. It’s not a dealbreaker, you can have a lot of success with a product that has a 24-hour cookie, but there are some great programs that offer 30-day or even 90-day cookies, which are extremely generous.
Some programs also have longer cookies if the person using your link puts the item you’re promoting in their cart, rather than just viewing the product page. For example, a program may have a 24-hour cookie, but it’ll extend to 7 or even 30 days if it’s in someone’s shopping cart.
All information about cookie duration for each product or program that you promote is easily found. It’s not something you have to promote when you’re promoting the product, but is something to look out for when considering what you will feature.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Do Your Research & Make A Plan
As with everything side hustle related, effective affiliate marketing takes research.
You don’t want to just promote anything and everything. You can do that, but you won’t get a lot of traction out of it. You can’t position yourself as an expert in your niche if you’re trying to be all things to all people.
If you’re just starting out, think about the products you use every single day that relate to your niche. And it’s so important to find products and services that you have already used and promote those things.
Maybe you’re a food blogger, so think about your favorite kitchenware that you want to promote. If you’re a mom blogger, what are the things that keep you and your family organized? And if your focus is ethically-sourced chocolate (aka my favorite niche example), then think about your favorite chocolate brands.
Once you have your products that you want to feature, then you can go ahead and think about how to showcase them. In the fitness niche? How about a roundup of your favorite exercise equipment? Or if you’re in travel, then you can review your favorite brand of carry-on suitcase. A wellness blogger? Then interview the creator of one of your favorite natural products.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Scroll To The Bottom
The first way to find out if a product or service that you use has an affiliate program is simply to go to that product’s website, scroll to the bottom, and see if there is a link titled “Affiliates” in the bottom menu bar.
It’s really that easy.
For example, when I was looking for a premium theme to design my website, I joined Elegant Themes, which are the creators of the ultra-customizable Divi theme.
And I LOVE it.
So when I decided to become an affiliate for it, all I did was go to the Elegant Themes home page, scroll down to the bottom, where there is a link to the Elegant Themes affiliate program.
I signed up and it’s as easy as that.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Search “Term + Affiliate”
Another easy way to see if there is an affiliate program for the product you’re researching is to Google “Term + Affiliate”.
When I decided to move email service providers from Mailchimp to ConvertKit (which you can read about here), I knew that I wanted to also become an affiliate for ConvertKit because I believe in the service and think it’s an incredibly worthwhile investment.
I used my first tactic, checking the bottom menu on their website, but they didn’t have any information on their affiliate program (which I knew existed, because there are a lot of other bloggers and side hustlers who promote ConvertKit).
So then I used my second trick, searching “ConvertKit affiliate” in Google, and the link to the program information page was the first result.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: What Are Affiliate Networks?
Sometimes, product or service creators want to have affiliates, but don’t want to do the legwork.
That’s where affiliate networks come in. They handle everything from providing you with assets to the custom links for you to use in your blog posts to processing your commissions.
There are a TON of affiliate networks out there, including AWIN, ShareASale, ClickBank, CJ Affiliate, the Rakuten Affiliate Network, the eBay Partner Network, and more. There are many out there that are niche specific as well.
Your first instinct may be to sign up for all of them, which is a valid option, but can be overwhelming. The easiest way is to do that research that I talked about above and figure out which products or programs you want to become an affiliate for.
Once you have that list, you can determine which affiliate networks offer those programs and sign up for them. Once you’re in those networks, you’ll be able to find even more products that you can also be an affiliate for, as well.
Don’t know where to start? Ask around. There are a ton of affiliate marketing or even just regular blogging groups on Facebook where you can ask for help and find out which networks host which products.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Let’s Talk About Amazon
Okay, let’s talk about Amazon’s affiliate program, Amazon Associates.
Through Amazon Associates, you can promote ANY product on Amazon’s platform.
Sounds awesome, right?
And don’t get me wrong, it is.
But unlike many affiliate programs, Amazon’s commission structure is very low. Extremely low. 1-5% of a sale low.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a big impact through Amazon Associates. If someone clicks a link to one of the products you’re promoting, and buys that product, and a TON of other products with 24 hours, you get commissions of ALL the items in their cart.
So, that’s a big perk, especially if you’re promoting something in one of the lower commission categories, and they end up also purchasing something in one of the higher commission categories.
Another thing to know about Amazon is that because they are so popular and do offer so many products, you do have to make a certain amount of sales within a window of time, or they will deactivate your account. Technically, your account is still pending until you meet that conversion threshold.
That’s not the end of the world, you can always reapply, but that’s why it’s very important to know that you will have people interested in the products you promote before diving into a program like Amazon’s.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Don’t Pay To Play
Especially if you’re just starting out, you don’t have to pay to play in affiliate marketing.
While there ARE some affiliate programs that do have some sort of cost involved, I don’t recommend them. There are very few niches where you need to spend money in order to promote products.
If you come across an affiliate network that have a cost associated with you joining them, I would seriously consider the benefits. If you have your dream product that is only available through that network, then maybe it would be worth it, but nine times out of 10, the product you are looking to promote can be found through a network that is free to join. And if not, then there’s probably a similar product out there that you can promote instead.
The only exception to this rule is if you’ve purchased something like an online course that allows you to become an affiliate for it upon completion. Obviously that is pay for play, because you have paid for the course and completed it. Online courses tend to have very generous commission rates. If your course creator doesn’t talk about the process of becoming an affiliate for the program, reach out to them and see if they have affiliate options.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Believe In Your Products
It can be SO tempting to just find a bunch of high-commission programs, sign up for them, and start selling, but please do NOT do that.
Because your audience knows when you’re just talking the about a product just because you want the commission. Honestly, it’s not worth it.
I subscribe to the believe that you should only promote products that you believe in. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place in the world for round-up posts (I’ve done a couple, like 8 Top Products for Better Posture and 15 Great Gifts Every Side Hustler Needs), but especially when it comes to bigger products, it’s best to have used them before.
So you can leave your expert review. People also know when you’re talking about a product you’ve never used, because all you’re doing is mimicking the sales language provided by the creator of the product. When you’ve actually used a product, you talk about it in depth, and go much further than just the sales language. That’s what people are looking for.
Instead of being sold to, people want to be convinced that the product they’re thinking about purchasing is the right one. And it’s your job to convince them.
So believe in your products. It’ll lead to you have a higher quality audience who believes in the things you recommend, which will keep them coming back to you.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Stay Legal
Don’t forget to stay legal when you’re promoting products. Due to laws passed by the Federal Trade Commission (the FTC), you MUST disclose when you are an affiliate for a product.
That’s why every single one of my blog posts starts with this disclaimer at the top:
This post contains affiliate links that generate a commission for the author, at no cost to you. Read my disclosure for more info.
And like I say in the disclaimer, the commission comes at no cost to you. I promote the products I promote on my website because I believe in them, and want to share them so that they can help you too.
You will also see that anyone who is a part of Amazon’s affiliate program has additional language disclosing so too. If you don’t follow the rules of the networks and programs you are a part of, then you risk being booted from said programs and losing out on any pending commissions.
There are a ton of websites out there that can help you with staying legal, and many networks will have that language ready for you once you join them.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: No Follow Links
Another critical aspect of staying legal when promoting a product as an affiliate is to ensure that any link on your website that goes to a product or service that has your referral link is a “no follow” link.
To put it simply, a “no follow” link is a tiny bit of HTML language that you insert into your referral link that tells search engines like Google or Yahoo or Bing that you are promoting something for payment.
When you put a link on your website, you’re giving that link authority, or street cred, which allows that website to move up in search engine rankings, because you’re telling those search engines, “Hey, this is a website people should go to.”
But in affiliate marketing, you are receiving payment for putting those links on your blog or website, and it is out of the bounds of search engines’ terms of service to promote websites for payment.
Pro tip: if anyone reaches out to you saying that they will pay for you to put their link in your website, say NO. They are looking for “do follow” links to promote their website, and as I said above, that is out of the bounds of the terms of service for search engines to receive money in exchange for “do follow “ links, and will lead to both your website, and theirs being penalized.
There are plugins that you can download that automatically generate “no follow” tags on the links to products you promote, but you can also do it manually with this:
<a href=”http://somelink.com” rel=”nofollow”>Some Link</a>
The easiest way to insert the code is to hyperlink to the product that you are promoting, and then move over to the HTML editor for your blog post and insert rel=”nofollow” at the end of the link, as shown above.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Know Your Payout Terms
One of the drawbacks to affiliate marketing is that you don’t get immediate payouts like you would if you were promoting your own product.
The reason why is that the companies you are promoting products from have refund windows, and you have to wait out those windows before you are eligible to receive your payments. So if you convert a sale during the first week of say, August, and it has a 30-day refund window, you probably won’t see that payout until October.
Not only that, but some programs have payout minimums. For example, there are programs where you have to accumulate $100 (after the refund window closes) before you receive that payout. So it can be a few months before you receive any affiliate commissions that you earn.
Of course, once you get in the swing of having regular commissions convert to you, you will actually see affiliate-generated income come in every month, but it’s very often not going to be from the month you’re tracking.
Affiliate Marketing Tips: Get Traffic To Your Posts With Pinterest
Another way to leverage the power of affiliate marketing is through Pinterest.
With Pinterest, you don’t even have to have a blog post in order to promote your favorite products that you are an affiliate for. All you have to do is create an awesome pin (or use the assets already provided for you), and write a quality, keyword rich description, and direct it toward your referral link.
Now, remember when you do this that you MUST specify that it is an affiliate product in your description, and also know that there are some programs that will NOT allow you to use your affiliate link on Pinterest.
But for the programs that do, this means you can promote products without having the blog posts attached. And then you can eventually also feature it on your website. A great way to take the pressure off you is to create quality pins and schedule them in Tailwind, which does the work in posting your scheduled pins to your Pinterest boards.
Ready To Start Your Own Side Hustle?
Have a lot to talk about, but don’t have the website to guide your readers to? Now is the perfect time to get started.
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