Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting products or services. These programs can take many forms but in most cases a content publisher (blogger, vlogger, instagrammer) earns a commission when someone follows a link on their blog, website or social media platform to another site where they then buy something.
You can choose to sell anything from clothes and shoes to software to WordPress themes. For every kind of content publisher, there are many opportunities to promote different items and earn a commission of those sales.
When you join an affiliate program and choose the products that you want to sell, sellers provide you with a unique affiliate code that you can use to refer traffic back to that sellers site. They will also offer ready-made text links, display banners, logo or widgets for you to place on your site in order to promote the products. If you’re a vlogger on Youtube, you might include affiliate text links in the info box that appears underneath the video. If you’re an instagrammer, you might include links in the bio section. If you’re a blogger with a dedicated blog site, you might include display banners in the side bar and/or text links in your posts.
Depending on the affiliate program you join, a visitor to your content site has to either click on the link ─ whereby they get redirected to the product site ─ or they have to click on the link and purchase the item in order for you to receive a commission. Commissions are often a percentage of a sale but can also be a fixed amount per click or per conversion.
Affiliate marketing is probably one of the quickest and cheapest (but not necessarily the easiest) ways to start making money online. You simply link up a buyer and a seller, and you take a commission on the sale that has been referred by you. It’s important to note that affiliate marketing works best if your content platform receives a high volume of traffic. The more traffic you attract, the more likely you are to earn a commission from your affiliate marketing efforts. Therefore, it’s essential that you’re producing high value content on a regular basis.
Affiliate marketing works well for both the content publisher and the seller; the content publisher is able to earn money from their content which they typically invest back into making their platform better. With the commission they receive, a publisher might be able to invest in new software to create e-books and better graphics, a new camera to take better photos and videos, or a new mic to record better sounding podcasts. All these investments are made with their audience in mind. Affiliate marketing programs help publishers create better content for their audience. They can create more exciting experiences (giveaways, contests, etc.) and produce better, high production value content ─ whether it be useful articles, step-by-step photos, how-to tutorials, tips or recommendations and resources. Camera equipment, lighting equipment, software and editing tools are expensive, you guys! Affiliate marketing is also good for the sellers because their products can be presented in context and placed in front of an audience they might not otherwise have access to.
There’s nothing wrong with affiliate marketing or supporting the content publishers who you enjoy and get value from. However, if you are a budding content creator or are interested in just now incorporating affiliate marketing in your content publishing, please keep in mind there is a wrong way and a right way to do affiliate marketing.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Affiliate Marketing
- Only recommend products as an affiliate that you’re familiar with ─ products or services that you’ve used before and that have helped you achieve something. If you’re not confident in the product and don’t feel it will positively help people, do not promote it. For example, I use FreshBooks Cloud Accounting for my business. I signed up for their affiliate program because I think it’s a great service and I wanted to share it with my readers. If you click on my FreshBooks affiliate link and purchase a plan, I will receive $100 as a commission for referring you to their website. People want to hear from other people when making a decision to buy a product or not — that’s why the reviews on Amazon and TripAdvisor are so powerful. But don’t make false claims.
- Only join affiliate programs with products or services that align with your content and your audience. Affiliate links should fit organically into your content. On my beauty & lifestyle blog, I use the affiliate program ShopStyle Collective because it makes sense to include fashion, beauty and lifestyle related affiliate links as that’s what the content revolves around. On See Girl Work, I’ve joined Freshbooks, Bluehost and BlueChic since these services are geared toward content publishers, bloggers, freelancers and creative entrepreneurs. These services align with my content and with my audience as well.
- Never directly tell anyone to buy a product or service. Recommend them based on your own experience and in the context of what you’ve done. This blog is hosted by Bluehost, I use Freshbooks for my business and I’ve used BlueChic themes for my clients. Since I enjoy these services, I feel confident in recommending them to my readers.
- Do not fill your posts or feeds with words and links that scream “BUY THIS!” If you’re only concerned with the sale, then the post becomes more of a sponsored post – which is a whole other thing.
- Do not join any and every affiliate program that you come across. While you should try to develop multiple streams of income, there is a point where you have too much to deal with and it becomes unmanageable. Between my two blogs – I’ve joined the four above mentioned affiliate programs.
If you want to know more about affiliate marketing and see if your content is a right fit, check out this great article. It’s in the context of fashion blogging, but even if you blog or produce content on other topics, it will still be useful.