Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers 101

What is Affiliate Marketing, Anyway?

Have you ever read a blog and noticed what appears to be an ad for an online company such as Amazon?

It's not really an ad, in many cases. It's an affiliate link.

Affiliate marketing is a way for bloggers to make money by offering products and services that provide value to their audience. Many online companies like to work with bloggers because they've already built up an audience that sees the bloggers as influencers. Companies know that audience will listen to the bloggers' opinions.

Here's how it works:

You become affiliated with a company or platform that you trust. You recommend their products and services to your followers, either by promoting them on your blog or through your email list or social media platforms.

When one of your followers clicks through a link from your blog and actually makes a purchase, you get a commission, just the way an old-school salesperson would get a commission on a sale. The commission is larger than you'd get for just placing an ad on your site, because, by providing your influence and opinion, you are providing a greater service to the affiliated company.

Why Is Affiliate Marketing a Good Idea for Bloggers?

Many bloggers want to monetise their blogs, but creating your own product — an ebook, a video series — takes a long time to build up.

By tapping into affiliate marketing, you not only get to start monetise right away, but you also learn what kinds of products your target audience wants. When you're ready to launch your own products, not only do you know what they should be, you have a built-in audience ready to buy from you.

Affiliate marketing also sends more traffic your way as you connect with visitors interested in the products you're now promoting. In addition, it's easy to use affiliate marketing as a basis for social media shares and ties to other bloggers in your field.

Affiliate marketing is incredibly easy to set up and it's low maintenance once you have it up and running. You don't need high-end IT skills to keep it going, and you don't need to be an expert in your field to make it work. It's low-risk and low-effort, but with the possibility of significant payouts, monetary and otherwise.

Which Bloggers are Most Likely to Succeed With Affiliate Marketing?

If you're just getting started as a blogger, you may want to build up some influence, an audience, and a bit of a reputation before you dive into affiliate marketing. Remember, once you start affiliate marketing, you're essentially asking your readers to buy products you support. If your audience hasn't yet developed a relationship of trust with you, your affiliate marketing efforts may fall flat.

How do you build that relationship of trust? You build it by providing your readers and subscribers with valuable content on a reliable and consistent basis. Develop your subscriber base with your own content first, and establish a list of about 500 subscribers before dipping a toe in the affiliate marketing pool.

If you're using your blog to sell your own services — whether they're writing, design, coaching or legal services — affiliate marketing may not be a natural mesh. You could dilute your message by adding affiliate marketing, and you're likely to make more money if you just focus on marketing your own services. As you continue to expand your reach, however, adding affiliate marketing may become appropriate.

How Can You Earn With Affiliate Marketing?

The strongest and most reliable way to earn money via affiliate marketing is to promote and affiliate only with sites and products that you use yourself and can heartily recommend to others.

Think about moving to a new neighbourhood and asking friends for recommendations for your new dry cleaner, dentist or mechanic. Affiliate marketing is the same relationship, only on a larger scale.

When you use and love products, your recommendation of them through affiliate marketing is genuine and powerful. If you are recommending products that fall into your blog's niche — for instance, if you write a cooking blog and recommend cookware — your readers are likely to trust you.

As soon as you start promoting products only to make money — and especially if you promote products you don't really believe in — you break that bond of trust you've developed with your readers. They may stop reading your blog, and may view your affiliate ads as annoying spam.

Promotional Tips for Affiliate Marketing

So you've decided you want to add affiliate marketing to monetise your blog. Take a look at these tips that can help you find success as you expand your audience and reap the financial benefits:

  • Partner with a top affiliate network. Teaming up with an affiliate network like Commission Factory can be the perfect way to move into the world of performance marketing. Make it easy to track your growth and change your targets with the data and ease-of-use that this kind of help provides.
  • Test different products and approaches. Pay attention to the products that generate interest from your readership. Run tests to see what kind of writing your readers respond to.
  • Narrow (or widen) your niche. It's easier to succeed with affiliate marketing if your readers know exactly why they're coming to your blog. If they want your opinion on the latest shoes, they're unlikely to respond to an affiliate ad for spices and marinades.
  • Be patient. Some people will try to make you believe you can earn $100,000 a month from affiliate marketing on your blog with no effort on your part. But you're smarter than that. Expect to grow your affiliate business slowly and steadily.
  • Network with others. Link to other blogs that are in your niche, and make sure your blog is available via social media. As you share the content of other bloggers, they'll share yours, growing your email list.
  • Focus on products with a purpose. A product that's clever or attractive may seem like a good choice to promote, but you need to make a true emotional connection with your readers for affiliate marketing to be successful. Look for products that solve a real problem and that will make your readers feel successful themselves.

As you grow your readership, with smart affiliate marketing, you can grow your income as well.

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