Note: Affiliate links may be used in this post. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use my affiliate link. Full disclosure policy here.
How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing
Want to start making money with affiliate marketing? You’re in the right place!
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways for bloggers to earn money. Maybe you’ve heard of it before, but just aren’t sure how to get started. Maybe you’ve heard of bloggers like Michelle from Making Sense of Cents who earns $50,000 per month from affiliate marketing while working 10 hours a week and traveling the world, and you want to experience the same success. Or maybe you have no idea what affiliate marketing is, but want to learn.
If any of those sounds like you, then read on! I wrote this guide to help you understand affiliate marketing if you’re a total beginner. I will explain everything you need to know, and give you actionable steps you can take to start earning money from affiliate marketing yourself.
Do I need a blog for affiliate marketing?
While you don’t absolutely need a blog for affiliate marketing, having a blog is by far one of the easiest and most profitable ways to make money from affiliate marketing. Without a blog, you might have trouble getting approved for some affiliate programs as well.
If you don’t already have your own blog, make sure check out my step-by-step guide to starting one in less than an hour. (You can also get hosting for your blog for just $3.95 a month from Bluehost AND get your domain name for free when you sign up through Blogging Her Way!)
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is promoting products and earning a commission when someone makes a purchase through your unique affiliate link.
By promoting products you already use and love on your blog or social media, you can earn money through affiliate commissions.
There are affiliate programs for almost any type of product you can think of. Clothing, makeup, home goods, holiday gifts, travel booking websites, craft items, ebooks, online courses, etc. No matter what your blog is about, there is an affiliate program for you to join.
With most affiliate programs, you will earn a commission every time you make a sale through your affiliate link (pay per sale.) However, there are two other types of affiliate programs that you might encounter: pay per lead and pay per click.
- Pay per lead means that you will earn a commission if someone simply signs up for a free trial, creates a free account, gives the company their email address, etc. For example, Tailwind is an affiliate program that pays per lead: You earn $0.50 for every person who signs up for a free trial of the service through your link. Here are some other pay per lead programs.
- Pay per click means that you earn money every time someone clicks your link. An example of a pay per click program is the affiliate network ShopStyle.
When someone makes a qualifying action after clicking on your link (either by making a purchase, signing up with their email address, or just clicking) this is known as a conversion.
For the purpose of this guide, I will mainly be talking about pay per sale affiliate programs because they are the most common and the most profitable way you can earn money from affiliate marketing.
What are the benefits of affiliate marketing?
There are many benefits to affiliate marketing that make it a great source of income for bloggers. Some of the benefits of affiliate marketing:
- Passive income. Once you have created content containing affiliate links, you don’t have to do anything else. I have one blog post that consistently earns me a couple hundred dollars a month, just because it gets a good amount of traffic and contains affiliate links.
- Easier than products or services. While many bloggers create their own products or offer services on their blog, both of those things are time and skill intensive. Affiliate marketing is super easy to set up and start earning.
- Good for new bloggers. Unlike other forms of passive monetization (such as placing ads on your blog) you don’t need hundreds of thousands of page views in order to start earning a decent amount of money with affiliate marketing. This makes it a great option for new bloggers looking to monetize.
These benefits and more make affiliate marketing one of my favorite ways to earn money as a blogger. In fact, I earn over $1,000 a month on my blog from affiliate marketing! Read on for my best affiliate marketing tips.
Affiliate programs vs. affiliate networks
Some brands, especially smaller ones, may have their own independent affiliate program that you can join.
However, there are also affiliate networks that give you access to many different affiliate programs. One of the most popular affiliate networks is ShareaSale. It’s totally free to join, and you will have access to thousands of affiliate programs all in one place.
Affiliate networks often give you access to the affiliate programs of thousands of brands, which makes them easier to use and keep track of.
How much do you get paid?
There are two different options when it comes to how much you can get paid per conversion.
- Flat rate. You get paid the same amount per conversion. For example, my hosting company Bluehost pays a flat rate when someone signs up for hosting through my link. The flat rate starts at $65 per sale, but goes up once you start making more referrals.
- Percentage. You get paid a percentage of each conversion. For example, let’s say you’re an affiliate for a product that costs $100, and the commission rate is 20%. You would earn $20 per sale you refer.
Who pays you and how often do you get paid?
You will get paid by the affiliate program or network, most often via Paypal or direct deposit to your bank.
How often you get paid depends on the affiliate program. Keep in mind that some affiliate programs may have a 30 to 90 day delay on payments, while others require you to reach a minimum sales threshold before you can cash out.
How are affiliate links tracked?
Once you sign up for an affiliate program, you will be assigned a unique affiliate link. You must use this link in your blog posts, social media, emails, etc. if you want to be credited for the sales you generate.
Any time someone clicks on your affiliate link, the action is stored by a “cookie” in that user’s browser. Different affiliate programs assign different time frames to cookies which will determine whether or not you are credited for a sale.
For example, let’s say Product A has lifetime cookies. This means that if someone clicks your affiliate link, but they don’t decide to buy Product A until a year later, you will still get credited for the sale.
Let’s say that Product B has a 3-month cookie. This means that if someone clicks your affiliate link, but don’t come back and purchase Product B until 4 months later, you would not receive a commission.
Longer cookie windows are obviously better, because it maximizes your chances of making a sale. You can usually find this information in the terms and conditions of an affiliate program when you join.
What products and services can you become an affiliate for?
There are so many affiliate programs out there! Fashion, beauty, travel, home goods, crafts, business, blogging, and personal finance are just some of the niches you can find affiliate programs for.
One way to find out if a company has an affiliate program or not is simply by Googling “(Company) Affiliate Program” and seeing what comes up.
Some companies have affiliate programs that are part of affiliate networks, which I talked about a little earlier. My favorite affiliate network that I have used personally is ShareaSale but there are others out there.
If you need help finding good affiliate programs to join, I put together a list of 40 profitable affiliate programs for bloggers, broken down by blogging niche.
Want to grab the list? Just enter your details here and I’ll send it your way!
How can bloggers make money from affiliate marketing?
Once you have joined a few affiliate programs, it’s time to start promoting your affiliate links! There are a ton of ways you can promote your affiliate links:
- In blog posts (see tips below!)
- On social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
- On Pinterest (find my exact strategy in Get Paid to Pin)
- To your email list (start and grow your email list)
Here’s a breakdown of my best tips for using affiliate links in blog posts, since it’s the easiest way to start out!
Note: When sharing affiliate links on your blog, social media, etc. it’s important that you always disclose that you are using an affiliate link. You can read more about the FTC’s rules for disclosure here.
How to use affiliate links in blog posts
Using affiliate links in your blog posts is one of the easiest and best ways to get started with affiliate marketing. These are my top tips for writing blog posts that make conversions:
Install the Pretty Links Plug-in
The first thing you need to do before you start writing blog posts that contain affiliate links is install the free Pretty Links plug-in if you have a WordPress blog.
Pretty Links creates a shorter, custom link for all of your affiliate links and allows you to easily insert them into your blog posts. It also tracks how many clicks you get to each link.
This will save you a ton of time and hassle when inserting affiliate links into your posts. Also, if any of your affiliate links ever change, you will only have to update the link in Pretty Links once and it will update all of the links on your blog.
Use a Grabby Headline
I hate to use the term “clickbait” but that’s what you should be going for with the title of your affiliate blog posts. You want to use an attention-grabbing headline that makes your reader think, oh, I’ve got to click that post!
Of course, when they actually do click on your post, you need to make sure you are delivering the promised value of your attention-grabbing title.
Write a “How-to” or Tutorial Post
Some of my highest-converting affiliate posts are in the style of a how-to guide.
Example: In my post How to Start a Profitable Blog, I include an affiliate link for BlueHost, my web hosting provider. When someone starts a blog after clicking my link, I earn a commission from BlueHost (at no extra cost to them.)
People searching for how-to guides and tutorials want to learn how to do something, and they are usually ready to take action. My post helps people learn how to do something (start a blog) and gives them actionable steps to achieve it.
Write a Review Post
Review posts also do very well because people searching for them are typically already interested in buying a product or service and are just one step away from actually making the purchase.
You can write a review post about almost anything: books, beauty products, hotels, online courses, subscription boxes, etc.
If you write a review post for a product, give an honest review. Don’t just go on and on about how wonderful the product is, but explain why you liked it, how it helped you, who it’s good for, and if there’s anything you disliked.
People are more likely to trust you if you’re honest and real instead of sounding like a walking advertisement for the product!
Write a Round-Up Post
Round-up posts of affiliate products are a great way to provide value to your readers while promoting your affiliate links.
For example, if you are a beauty blogger, you could do a round-up of the best skincare products of the year. Or if you are a travel blogger, you could write a holiday gift guide for travelers. In both scenarios, you can include your affiliate links for all the products on your list.
Explain the Benefits
When writing any type of blog post, it’s important that you explain exactly HOW the affiliate product you’re promoting will help your reader.
For example, if you are writing about an amazing shampoo that you use, don’t just say “I love this shampoo!”
You would want to say something like “I love this shampoo because within a week of using it, I noticed that my dry, damaged hair became healthier and shinier.”
This clearly shows the benefit of the product and is more convincing as to why the reader might want to purchase this product too.
Share Your Personal Experience
Hopefully as an affiliate, you are promoting a product or service that you have actually used. (I highly recommend that you do!)
Make sure to share your personal experience with the product! Your initial expectations, how they were met, your results with the product, etc.
Do you usually read a few reviews before you buy a product online? Most people do, because they want to assure themselves that other people have had a good experience with the product.
Sharing your own experience with the product you’re promoting is a good way to build trust and increase conversions.
Some people are a really hard sell. Just explaining the benefits of a product or sharing your experience with it is not going to be enough to convince them to click on your affiliate link.
It never hurts to include proof of your results in your blog post. Doing this can help convince a reader who is on the fence to make a purchase!
For example, going with my shampoo example from above, maybe you could include a before and after shot of your hair when using the shampoo.
Don’t Be Too Salesy
When writing posts with affiliate links, make sure you don’t come off as too pushy. Pushy statements “BUY NOW!!!!” and “You NEED this product!!!” aren’t going to come off too well with your readers.
Instead, focus on writing as if you are speaking to a friend. It builds trust with your readers and helps you establish a connection. It’s much better to build a community with your readers rather than constantly just pushing products.
Include a Call-to-Action
This is a key element that many people forget in their affiliate blog posts.
A call-to-action is exactly what it sounds like. You are inviting your reader to take the next step – purchasing the product. The best place to include it is at the end of the blog post.
Let’s say you are promoting a book about organization and decluttering in a blog post. A good call-to-action would be: “If you’re ready to take control of your home and declutter your life now, grab your copy of this book today!”
Offer an Incentive
A great way to increase conversions is by offering a freebie to anyone who purchases through your affiliate link. (Check the terms and conditions of your affiliate program first, because some programs may not allow this.)
The freebie should be small and relevant to the product you’re promoting. You can include your incentive at the end of the post with your call-to-action.
Don’t Go Overboard on the Links
Try not to put too many affiliate links in your post or it can get crowded and distracting. It’s best to include no more than one per paragraph.
Make sure that you DO include your link when you are describing the benefits of the product/sharing proof and again with your call-to-action.
Other ways to make money with affiliate marketing
You can make money in other ways than just using them in blog posts, as I touched on earlier.
Some of the most profitable ways I earn money from affiliate links are by promoting them on Pinterest and sharing relevant offers with my email list.
You can get creative and test out different methods of promoting affiliate links! For example, if you have a strong following on a particular social media platform, you can share affiliate links with your audience there.
Do I need a lot of traffic or followers?
Personally, I have found that you do not need a ton of traffic or followers in order to start making money with affiliate marketing. I made my first affiliate sale on my blog with less than 1,000 page views. I made my first affiliate sale on Pinterest with around 300 followers. And I made my first affiliate sale to my email list with less than 200 subscribers.
While you do not need to be getting 100k monthly page views on your blog, or have 10,000 social media followers, there are a few things you do need to do to start making affiliate sales:
- Only promote products you truly use and love and are proud to stand behind. People can tell if you are being fake.
- When writing blog posts that contain affiliate links, you should always be providing value to your reader. Explain how and why the product is helpful, and show examples from how you have personally used the product.
- Follow the 80/20 rule: Spend 20% of your time creating content, and 80% of your time promoting it. No one will click your affiliate links if you aren’t getting your blog posts out there!
By following these tips you will make your first affiliate sale in no time.
How to be successful with affiliate marketing
I highly recommend that all bloggers who want to earn an income from affiliate marketing invest in the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course.
Michelle, the creator of the course, is a blogger who earns $50,000 a month from affiliate marketing. Investing in this course really helped me grow my income from affiliate marketing, because I have been able to apply Michelle’s tips and strategies that she uses on her blog.
I actually more than doubled my affiliate sales in one month after implementing everything I learned from the course on my blog. You can read more about my results in my review of the course. Or you can check out my interview with Michelle to learn more about the course first.
(P.S. If you decide to purchase Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing through my link, email a copy of your receipt to me at [email protected] and I will send you a free copy of my ebook Amazon Affiliate Affluence, which is all about how to make money with the Amazon affiliate program.)
Good luck and happy earning!
40+ Affiliate Programs for Bloggers
Don’t forget to sign up for my free list of 40+ profitable affiliate programs for bloggers broken down by blogging niche!