Updated January 20, 2016
Affiliate marketing is a way to make money online. For me, it’s my main income stream. Below are some of my affiliate marketing tips.
There are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you). Rest assured, I am very particular about what I recommend.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing involves promoting products or services, and earning a commission when a purchase (or desired action) is made via your referral link. For a more in-depth explanation, check out my post, What is Affiliate Marketing?
Always disclose your affiliate relationship(s)
Make sure you let your readers know when you are using affiliate links. Read my post, Are You Disclosing Properly? for more.
Focus on relationships first
Affiliate marketing is all about trust. When a friend recommends a product to you, you listen. Not so much when a stranger does. (In fact, if you’re like me, it often makes you skeptical.) Be trustworthy and sincere in all you do online. This will lay the foundation for effective affiliate marketing.
Focus on building traffic
More traffic means more eyeballs and therefore more people who will potentially buy the product(s) you promote. Build your traffic, but make your traffic count by building trust first.
Promote products you are already using
When I began teaching others how to start their own blogs, it was a no-brainer to sign up as an affiliate with Bluehost since that’s the hosting company I was already using myself. Food blogger? What’s your favorite cookware? Write a post about it. Craft blogger? What’s your favorite crafting tool? Write a post about it.
Promote products you can genuinely recommend, preferably because you’ve used them yourself, or because you can confidently promote them based on solid evidence.
Talk about what you like and don’t like. Be fair and build trust. It will serve you well later.
Think before posting a mostly negative review
There have been many discussions among bloggers about whether you should post a negative review or not. I’m all for honesty, but I would first contact the company and let them know your post won’t be totally favorable. Maybe they can fix it or maybe you can just skip the review altogether. No use burning bridges.
Choose products that help your reader solve a problem or address a fear
These are excellent products to promote as readers are often open to spending money on them.
Think of what your readers will realistically buy
Know your audience. If your blog is mainly about frugal living, your readers probably aren’t going to buy luxury products so promoting high-end clothing might not work so well.
Think of how much your readers will realistically spend
When I was writing my ebook, I was stuck on pricing. I asked around for opinions. A number of people suggested I price my ebook at $47! Their idea was to price according to value, not size. In my mind that was crazy. My network was composed of a lot of stay-at-home bloggers, and my collective audience was comprised mostly of people without a whole lot of disposable income. There was no way anyone was going to pay $47 for my 30-page ebook.
Think of when your readers will realistically buy
Maybe you should avoid holidays (when people are away from their computers, like July 4) or maybe you should target holidays (like the day after Thanksgiving), but know the difference. Again, know your audience.
Promote products at various price points
If there is a truly useful product on the pricier side, it can still be worth the promotion even if only a few people buy it. If you’ve used a product of exceptional quality and it’s a good investment (like my Vitamix), or if it’s a product that’s unique, specialized or one-of-a-kind, go for it.
Review your old posts and look for affiliate opportunities
Have you ever mentioned a product, perhaps in passing, that you use? Maybe you didn’t even think about it at the time, but is there an affiliate program for it? Find out (just google “affiliate program [product/company]”) and update those posts with your affiliate links. Start by going through your analytics and finding your most popular posts. In Google Analytics (GA) you can find these pages by going to your GA Dashboard –> Behavior –> Site Content –> All Pages.
Promote products within a post, not just in your sidebar
Include your personal experience with the product. Your own photos or videos of yourself using the product are always helpful.
Use effective calls to action in your posts
Do you know how to write effective calls to action? Here are some tips.
Hone your sales or copywriting skills
Promote products elsewhere
Promote products in your email newsletter or in your feed. Promote products or affiliate posts on Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook.
Add a bonus of your own to the products you promote
When promoting a particular affiliate product, sweeten the deal by offering something of your own as a bonus. For example, if you are promoting an online training as an affiliate, as a bonus, offer your own ebook. The key here is to make sure the bonus you offer is complementary to the product you’re promoting. Also make sure your affiliate program’s terms of service allows you to offer a bonus.
Don’t put all your eggs in one affiliate product basket. Promote multiple affiliate products. Better yet, diversify across all income streams. In other words, utilize affiliate marketing, but also utilize other forms of income generating potential like selling your own product, offering a service, or selling ad space on your blog.
Don’t cause readers to lose interest
I asked my Facebook page followers what makes them lose interest in a blog. One of the most common complaints was “When a blog has more sponsored or affiliate posts and less meaty content posts.” Sprinkle your affiliate marketing posts among your pillar content, not the other way around.
Make sure you attach your affiliate link to images
I see this all the time. An affiliate marketer promotes a product in a post, but when I click on the images in that post, I’m taken to the upload pages of those images (read: a dead end). In the age of sites like Pinterest, users are accustomed to clicking images so make sure your images send them to the sales page and not a dead end! Here’s how to make an image clickable.
Always make affiliate links nofollow
Google doesn’t want paid-for and similar webpages to influence search results. That’s why they ask that those pages are tagged nofollow. So, make sure you make all your affiliate links (text or images) nofollow. Here’s how to add the nofollow tag to your links. (P.S. There are plugins that do this, but given my general aversion to plugins, I prefer to add the tag manually.)
Don’t forget affiliate programs for services
While products are typically what affiliate marketers promote, there are many services with affiliate programs as well. There are many freelancers who offer some sort of commission (future discounts or even cash). If you’re not sure, ask. Or encourage a service provider to start an affiliate program!
Be an affiliate marketer for offline merchants as well
We’ve all seen brick & mortar businesses offer a discount to those who provide a referral. If you have a local blog and promote the products or services of a local business, ask them how you can be included in their referral program.
Create a “Tools I Use” or “Things I Love” page
Many readers enjoy seeing a handy list of your favorites, plus it’s an easy and excellent way to highlight some affiliate links. Here’s mine.
Want to see affiliate marketing in action?
I recently went through Kayla Aimee’s course called Affiliate Acceleration: Impactful Strategies to Increase Your Income. It is excellent. I don’t make recommendations lightly, but I can recommend this one without reservation. Not only is it full of great ideas and visual examples, it also costs significantly less than a lot of courses on the same topic. (It’s also much more thorough and well done than many of them.) Check it out here.