Everything that you need to know about how to start using affiliate marketing for bloggers… even if you stink at sales, how to make it work for you!
Let’s talk about one of the biggest ways to earn money from blogging: affiliate marketing.
Before you run away because “sales just isn’t for you,” it isn’t really for me either. Famously (or infamously) I couldn’t even sell Girl Scout Cookies when I was growing up! Sales has NEVER been my thing.
Tell me if this sounds a lot like you:
- Don’t want to be pushy.
- Hate trying to sell to people.
- Don’t want to sound like you’re always trying to leverage a sales pitch.
- Hate when you see people trying to “get people to join their teams” on social media.
- Feel like you just don’t even want to get into blogging if you need to sell things.
Sound familiar? Yeah, I know what you mean.
Affiliate marketing doesn’t have to be scary. It also doesn’t have to be sleazy, overwhemling, and painfully desperate.
There are many ways for bloggers to make money…
The beauty of having a blog is that you can control how you choose to make income. You can make a great deal of income in other ways from your blog. And each blogger makes money in different ways. But there are a few main ways that bloggers make money:
- Ad placement – These payout with a per thousand pageviews with different ad networks. This can range from $2 from Google Adsense to $20+ with Adthrive. I make $1,200-$2,500/month with Adthrive, but there are others with Adthrive who earn $10,000+ from how much traffic they get!
- Selling your own products – Self-explanatory; you make a product and sell it. This also takes the most time and the most risk (what if no one likes it and you’ve spent all of this money on it?). Your earning potential is limited only by you. You could earn $100k/month+ on your own product, but you could also earn $.99. It all depends. Here’s the ebook that I use to make more than $800/month.
- Sponsored posts – A company will pay you to write about their product or their service. You have control over the content, but you still need to include their desires links, phrases, messages, etc. These can make you $50 (brand new blogger) – $300 (intermediate blogger) or even $1,000 + (advanced blogger). These are all estimates and can vary from place to place and blog to blog. I make more than $1,000/month on sponsored posts at this point. You can get the exact email templates that I use to work with brands that I want.
- Selling ad space privately – If you’d like to place ads on your site without needing to go through an ad network, you can always sell the space privately to other companies. I’ve seen people who sell space in their sidebar for advertising for $500/month for just one square ad. You have complete control over this kind of ad as well. No need to worry about questionable ads that show up when you don’t want them to.
- Affiliate marketing – This is what we’re talking about here: this is earning an affiliate commission (whether it’s 1%, 50%, or a flat fee) from when someone buys a product from a link that you publish. There are bloggers who earn $1/month and then there are some who earn $75k/month (or more!) from affiliate income alone (yeah, I know right?!).
The ratios of how much of a blogger’s income comes from each type of income “stream” from their blog, but these are the most popular 5 ways. Some make all of their income from ads, others don’t use ads at all and just sell their own products. It all depends. And you have the control over it all! (Isn’t that nice?!)
Do bloggers really make money from affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a HUGE part of earning money as a blogger or as an online entrepreneur. It’s one of the easiest places to start making serious money, too! It doesn’t require a lot of hard for from you (like making a product) and you can join as many programs as you’d like to!
Personally, I make about 50% of my income from affiliate marketing (this number shifts month-to-month, but on average, it stays at about 50%). But my friend Michelle from Making Sense of Cents makes more than $50,000/month from affiliate income! In fact, my affiliate sales have skyrocketed since I learned all of Michelle’s tips and tricks for affiliate marketing in her course.
My other friend, Carly, is a WIZARD at affiliate marketing. She runs a very successful blog and most of her income comes form affiliate sales. Her style of selling is very different from Michelle’s.
Carly takes the “best friend” approach to affiliate sales – the approach where you feel like you are talking to your best friend about something real and not like they’re trying to sell you something. If you want to learn more about how Carly uses affiliate marketing and how you can use her sales style, you can grab her affiliate marketing course HERE for a super low price!
And it’s not just Carly and Michelle that make money with affiliate marketing. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a blogger who is successful who doesn’t use affiliate marketing as a key part of their whole income strategy for their blog.
So, yes, bloggers really do make money from affiliate marketing. Even if you feel like you suck at sales or if you just don’t feel like there are any products that you could sell in your niche, I promise you that you can. AND, even more than that, that you can actually make money from it!
So what is affiliate marketing?
“Affiliate marketing” is another way of saying “sales.” If you’re thinking “I can’t sell anything,” I hear you! I’m not a natural seller. Actually, I epically failed at sales and just tried to take it out of my business model altogether.
But it didn’t work. It’s really tough to make a substantial income without affiliate income. You could make a substantial income from selling your own product, but now you need to actually make a product that people want and you still need to sell it to people!
So when people ask what the quickest way to make money from blogging is, I always tell them that it’s affiliate income. You can start right away with many large affiliate programs before you even have a substantial following.
Where can you find great affiliate programs to join?
I made a full list of affiliate programs that you can join depending on the niche that you are in.
First, the general ones to join for almost every niche:
- Amazon Associates – This is always the first affiliate program that I recommend a new blogger sign up for. This is because Amazon sells almost everything, so there is probably something that you’d be able to promote on your blog from this affiliate program. Amazon works for nearly every single niche, so you should sign up for it if you are able to.
- Ultimate Bundles – You’re going to want to sign up for the Ultimate Bundles affiliate program ASAP to get in on their huge sale next week! This is one of my favorites because they have something for everyone. Whether you’re niche is healthy living, essential oils, finance, blogging, business, and almost everything in between, there is an Ultimate Bundle for your to sell. It’s a great and really easy way to start working to sell to an email list or mess around with Facebook ads. You get 40% commission for each sale and they have a great affiliate portal that has pre-made sales info for you to use. They have one almost every month to sell, so it’s a great and easy way to make a nice chunk of change each month.
- Ebates – Anyone with an Ebates account can promote this service, so you don’t even need a blog. Ebates can be great for many niches and many different types of purchases, such as finance, parenting, lifestyle, travel, and more.
- Digit – Anyone with a Digit account can promote this service, so you also don’t need a blog. Digit is a savings app and is better suited for finance and parenting niches. You could use it for a travel blog as well and promote it to your readers as a way to save for a vacation.
- Ibotta – Ibotta is a grocery shopping cell phone app that gives $5 to $10 per valid sign-up.
- MaxBounty – Maxbounty is an affiliate network, but you are paired with an affiliate manager who may be able to find some affiliate programs for you, even as a new blogger. Remember, if you succeed, then they do as well, so they want to help!
- Shareasale – Shareasale is another affiliate network, and it’s one of my favorites. There are many, many companies that are listed within Shareasale, and you can probably find at least a few companies within your niche that will allow you to promote their product, even as a brand new blogger.
- Courses and ebooks – If there are any courses or ebooks that you took, then you may be able to sign up and start promoting them. After all, someone like you is exactly who potential buyers want to hear from about these specific products!
There are many options for even brand new bloggers when it comes to affiliate marketing. Plus, by starting with these easy options, you can test your affiliate marketing skills and get the hang of affiliate marketing from the very beginning!
Can anyone in any niche use affiliate marketing?
YES! Anyone regardless of their niche can make money from affiliate marketing.
I won’t lie to you – some niches are just easier to add affiliate links and get sales than others. For example DIY, decor, crafts, fashion, health, recipe/food bloggers, home renovation, etc. are all niches that are very easy to add tons of affiliate links into posts that people are really excited to use and to then go and buy.
But that’s not to say that you can’t make money if you are a personal finance blogger, too! I use Amazon to make a lot of money from posts talking about products that can help people save money. I have friends who are mom bloggers who have tons of posts about the best car seats that make them lots of money. There are homeschool blogger friends that I have who make tons of money recommending curriculum to use for specific aged children.
When I tell you that the possibilities for earning with affiliates are almost endless, I mean it!
The BEST reasons to use affiliate marketing for your blog
There are many reasons to use affiliate marketing but I think I can boil it down to these top reasons you need to use affiliate marketing in your blog.
1) It’s no cost to you.
It doesn’t cost you anything to be an affiliate. Sure, some products require that you have bought the product before you can be an affiliate for them. But that’s not the case for the majority of them.
Amazon, for example, wants you to be a member of Amazon, but you don’t need to buy from them regularly or anything. Affiliate networks like Share A Sale and CJ don’t really care if you’ve ever bought a product from who you’re an affiliate for. They just want you to sell! 🙂
All you have to do is grab the affiliate link and add it to your email or blog post and you have a chance to make money.
2) You don’t have to do a whole lot of work and effort.
Again, all you have to do is grab the link and plug it in. Boom, chance to make money.
Yes, of course, you can’t JUST post an affiliate link with no framing (or context/ reason for someone to click the link) and make money. But as far as creating a product, making a sales page, hosting the product, marketing it… none of that is really on you.
3) You can use as many affiliates as you want.
There’s no limit to the number of different affiliates you can join! If you are part of 10 or 1,000 different affiliate programs, that’s totally fine.
The more programs you join, the more opportunities you have to make money from them.
4) You can be genuine about things you love.
If you LOVE shopping at Target, you can share the links to your favorite store and make money at the same time. It’s a win-win!
If you bought a coat that is exceptionally perfect and you love it, you can share it with people on your blog… and make money!
Seriously, it’s a great way to be genuine with your readers.
(The flip side to this is that you need to make sure that you aren’t promoting crap just to get a commission. That’s all too common in the blogging and affiliate marketing world and it will catch up to you.)
5) People are always looking for recommendations from people they trust!
This is a big one: people buy from people that they know, like and trust. If you have spent the time to build the connection with people so that they know, like and trust you, it makes total sense that if you recommend a product, that they will buy it.
Remember though: with great power comes great responsibility! You need to take care of your readers and act like a fire wall to shield them from crappy stuff out there. ONLY recommend the best stuff – no matter how high the commission is for the crappy stuff!
The DOWNSIDE to affiliate marketing
I have to be totally transparent with you – there is absolutely a downside to affiliate marketing that you need to know about.
You don’t have control over affiliates.
In 2016, Amazon changed their affiliate structure. In the good ol’ days, it was the more you sold, the more you made. And their commissions used to go up to 12% (!!!) if you sold enough to make it into the top tier!
The Amazon of right now is totally different. They made the change to where they are with their 0-3% current commission overnight. No warning. No asking affiliates how they’d feel about it. No options. Nothing.
Big bloggers who were making their money from Amazon saw their profits slashed by 75% overnight. Some blogs closed down. It was a mess.
But it served as a reminder that no blogger has control over what another affiliate company chooses to do. We bloggers just have to roll with the punches.
You need to diversify your affiliates.
The trouble with Amazon highlighted to a lot of bloggers that they needed to make sure that they had more affiliates that were making them money than just putting all of their eggs into one basket. Unfortunately, so many bloggers had relied solely on one source for the majority of their affiliate income – Amazon.
Affiliates reserve the right to change their terms and conditions overnight. Meaning if you made, say, $50 per lead one day, they could change it to $5 the next day… and you’d have to just be cool with it.
Is it a bummer? Oh yes! Is it shisty and really crappy? OH YEAH! But can you actually do anything about it? No. Not really.
That’s why making sure that you have more than one money-making affiliate program is so important!
An affiliate can change their terms or worse – shut down – leaving you high and dry.
Earlier in 2018, a company that a lot of bloggers in the saving money and food blogging circles, Zaycon Fresh, shut down. They shut down their affiliate program, didn’t pay people for ANY outstanding affiliate balances, and screwed a LOT of bloggers out of a lot of money that they were owed. (They did the same to customers with outstanding orders – no one has since received their money back.)
But there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do. There was nothing that bloggers could do. Even if you were owed thousands of dollars from them, you really couldn’t do anything at all.
This is the dark side of affiliate marketing. Bloggers are at the mercy of the affiliate companies that they represent.
If a blogger promotes a product that they think will be great and fit the need of their readers, and the product turns out to be a dud or the affiliate company doesn’t deliver on their claims, it all comes back on the blogger.
That’s why you need to make sure that if you are promoting an affiliate product, that it is something that you actually know will help your readers. It needs to be something that will be a great service to them. Something that you can stand by and behind.
A lot of bloggers were swept up with Zaycon Fresh and were blamed along with them for customers losing money. Thankfully, it was easy enough to get around and to work through since most of the affiliate marketer bloggers were also customers who lost out big time, too.
But you need to make sure that all of the products that you promote are up to your standards. That every product that you tell someone to buy is also something that you’d tell your mom, sister, or best friend to buy.
If you can honestly do that, then you will have success with affiliate marketing.
Best tips for affiliate marketing for new bloggers
I have a lot of thoughts on what can be some of the best practices for making the most you can from affiliate marketing, but most of them have been learned from my friend Carly (again, you can get her affiliate marketing course right here). But here are some of the top things a new blogger can do (even if you suck at selling).
1. Just START. Even if you’re scared, just go for it!
2. Make sure to READ THE TOS! Amazon is notorious for their super strict TOS (terms of service). Like you can’t have their links in emails or in ebooks. Read them to make sure you stay in good favor with your affiliates!
3. Make review posts! People LOVE review posts and are always looking for them.
4. Roundup posts are amazing, too! Love more than one cookbook? Love a specific color? Have ideas for awesome gifts for your readers in your niche? Make a roundup post with a bunch of these ideas and share them!
5. Find your personal selling style. Are you a “teaching” seller (someone who likes to explain in a professorial way why someone should buy a product – maybe using stats to illustrate)? Are you a “best friend” seller (someone who sells like they’re talking to their bestie in a super laid back non-salsey way)? Find what it is that feel right for you AND that resonates with your readers. This takes some practice, but it’s worth it to master!
6. Use email, social media AND posts to sell. Don’t just feel like you can only limit yourself to making money in posts. Use email to sell. Try posting a relevant link to your Facebook page about a product! Make a video! But don’t feel like affiliate marketing is only limited to one type of promotion.
7. DISCLOSE! EVERY TIME. If you have any affiliate links, you need to disclose them! You need to tell your readers that they are affiliate links. Chances are good that the average person has no idea that the disclosure is there or what it even means, but you NEED to have it disclosed that you’re making money from it.
Don’t be afraid of using affiliate marketing for your blog!
Affiliate marketing really doesn’t have to be scary. Remember: you have complete control over what you promote and talk about!
If you’re still feeling like you can make money from your blog without affiliate marketing, I really encourage you to give it a try. I started my blog with the idea that I’d NEVER sell to anyone because I thought it was “icky” and that I’d just make my money from ads. Boy, was I wrong!
It took forever to make $0.17 from Adsense. And it took one person buying one thing from Amazon to make the same amount of money. The choice is really yours. But seriously… give affiliate marketing a try and see how much it can do for you!
- How to Start a Profitable Blog the Right Way
- How I Made a Full-Time Income From My Blog
- The Blogging Class that Made Me a Full Time Blogger
- Everything I Learned in My First Year Blogging
- How to Rock Affiliate Marketing When You Stink at Sales
- The First Pay Day I Got From Blogging
- Best Tips for a New Blogger From a Blogging Pro
- 5 Signs Blogging Isn’t for You (& 1 Sign You Should Start Today!)
- What The Heck Am I Doing?! First Month Blogging Lessons
- Don’t Let Fear Stop You From Starting Your Blog!
- Best Blogging Podcasts to Follow
- My latest blogging income report
What’s your favorite affiliate program to join?