Affiliate marketing – the practice of using your platform to ferry traffic to another business, which then pays you – can be extremely lucrative, particularly for small business sites and personal bloggers.
Affiliate marketing can earn thousands of dollars per month with even the most basic effort.
In fact, the affiliate marketing industry is estimated to grow to as much as a 4.5 billion dollar industry within the next two years. Clearly, it’s something worth investigating.
How do you properly use an affiliate program?
Step 1: Identify Yourself
Knowing what sort of links to use is an important part of successful affiliate marketing. What you never want to do is shoehorn affiliate links into unrelated blog posts. If your blog follows a theme, begin by searching up affiliates in that theme.
Another basic mistake to avoid is keeping your focus too narrow. A blog focused on the subject of home crafts should obviously sign up for as many affiliates in the DIY crafting network as possible.
However, if you write a post about green energy or another subject outside the coverage of your main group of affiliates, don’t be afraid to sign up with another affiliate to cover that post.
Otherwise, you’re missing out on potential revenue.
Step 2: Build up Affiliates
To begin, you want to gather a number of affiliates in fields related to what you typically blog. This is, of course, if you’re trying to set up an affiliate program on an existing blog.
If you’re starting a blog for the sole purpose of earning through affiliate marketing, you have the luxury of taking the time to research niches with low competition and high volume.
The best niches have long since been absorbed, but there are still many possible openings if you spend some time searching.
Your goal at this stage is to build a base of affiliates that cover most potential products and services you may mention. This allows you to have a ready link available when you want to add one to a new post.
Any time you write a post and find none of your affiliates cover it, you have two options. The first is to find a new affiliate to cover that post and similar posts in the future. The second is to edit the post to include mention of something covered by one of your existing affiliates.
Which path you choose depends on how easy one or the other is. In some cases, you will find particularly niche topics that are of interest to your readers but have no affiliate to be seen. In these cases, editing is likely the best choice.
Step 3: Consider Guidelines
Adding links is the most difficult but most important part of monetizing your blog through affiliates. There are a few important guidelines you need to know before you place a single link.
- Do not cloak your affiliate links with redirects or URL shorteners. With URL shorteners, most times the affiliate association will be stripped from the URL, if it even works. Obviously, this means link clicks do nothing for you. More importantly, with cloaked redirected links, Google is likely to penalize your site.
Cloaked advertising is against their quality guidelines and is generally considered a black hat technique. Your affiliate links need to be visible and recognizable as an affiliate link. Anchor text is fine, redirects are not.
- Make sure you follow the terms of service for your affiliate programs. Some affiliate programs require certain linking procedures or have location-based restrictions.
- Make sure you disclose that your blog uses affiliate links! This is incredibly important. In the United States, the FTC has ruled that disclosure is mandatory for the word of mouth advertising through web posting, which is a legalese description of affiliate links. You can potentially get in legal trouble for not disclosing your affiliate links.
- Beware of guidelines limiting affiliate links through certain blogging platforms WordPress, for example, allows text-based affiliate links but considers image links – including Amazon’s widget – to be advertising banners and disallows them.
Now that you know the basics, you can determine how to link to an affiliate in a post.
Step 4: Add Links
Here are a few post ideas that you can add links to for added benefit.
- Product listings. Make a top ten list of products with your own opinion and reviews. Include affiliate links to each product. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s effective.
- Product reviews. A detailed review of an individual product is a great opportunity to convince users they want that product and is another great chance to add an affiliate link. Make sure your review is not biased; if a product has some drawbacks, don’t ignore them. It hurts your credibility. As an added benefit, you can write a review for each product on your top ten list from above.
- A personal endorsement of a product. This is like a product review but from a more personal point of view. You can safely gush about a product you use, and you can safely include some bias. Chances are you’ll be praising the product you had a good experience using.
- A rant. A rant about a problem you have doesn’t need to include an affiliate link on its own, though it can. The goal is to put the problem in mind for a future post, wherein you link to the product that solves those issues. This is a great way to convince users of the value of the product.
- An interview. If you have the atmosphere on your blog, you can snag an interview with the creator of the product you’re promoting. This gets some insight other sites don’t have, and it is a natural way to advertise the product.
These are all guidelines for new posts. When you’re first starting out, what you should do is go back through your previous posts, particularly the most popular posts, and find places to include an affiliate link.
These articles already have traffic, they’re already indexed on Google and they already have incoming links. A quick edit to add a way to make money is natural.
Step 5: Alleviate Fears
Many bloggers new to affiliate marketing are hesitant to dive in out of the worry that their readers will accuse them of trying to make a quick buck. The key to avoiding this issue is simple, and it’s something you should be doing already; provide value to your audience.
It’s part of powerful SEO, it’s part of Google’s webmaster guidelines and it’s a way to avoid such accusations. If your articles are valuable and interesting on their own, including an affiliate link can’t be judged poorly.
Honesty and value are the best policies when it comes to affiliate links. Affiliate marketing gained a reputation over the years due to shady marketers, cloaked links, and blog networks populated with robotic content and moneymaking links.
All of these tactics are best avoided in modern affiliate marketing. For you and your blog, a full disclosure, an honest presentation of your affiliate links, and a valuable stream of content to monetize is the foundation of ongoing value.