Affiliate marketing is one of the most effective ways to make money from a blog or authority site, and stories abound of affiliates successfully replacing their day jobs thanks to affiliate marketing.
In contrast to many other monetization strategies, therefore, affiliate marketing does have the potential to generate significant, life-changing sums of money each month.
In this lesson, we’re going to dive deep into the exciting world of affiliate marketing.
Just a few of the things we’re going to discuss include:
- 7 ways to find the best affiliate programs for your website or blog
- The three affiliate marketing tools that every blogger should have in their arsenal
- The most effective types of content for boosting your affiliate commissions
- 6 advanced strategies to take your affiliate revenue to the next level
By the end of this section, you should fully understand what affiliate marketing is and how it works.
More importantly, you’ll know the most effective strategies for making money with affiliate marketing, and will be in the perfect position to increase your income as a result.
Let’s get started…
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process of promoting another company or product, in exchange for a commission when the people you send buy anything.
In such a relationship you are known as the affiliate, while the website you’re promoting is known as the merchant.
When a company has an affiliate program, you can sign up as an affiliate, whereby you will get a custom link to their website.
Whenever anyone clicks that link and purchases a product, you’ll earn a commission.
Note that this is risk-free for the merchant, as if you don’t generate sales, you don’t earn any commission.
Important Note: It seems that a lot of mommy bloggers have recently started to use different languages when it comes to affiliate marketing.
A large number of articles now talk about “affiliates” when they mean “affiliate programs” rather than the actual person promoting an affiliate scheme.
Just be aware, as this odd use of terminology has the potential to become very muddling.
What are the Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing takes considerable time and effort – especially in the early days. There’s plenty that you’ll need to learn, and likely quite a few changes you’ll make to your authority site.
The obvious question, therefore, is whether all this effort is worth it?
What are the pros and cons of affiliate marketing, and should you consider it for your site?
The Pros of Affiliate Marketing
Large Income Potential
Take a look at the many different income reports that bloggers publish each month and one thing becomes quite clear; affiliate marketing has the potential to earn you a considerable sum of money when it’s done right.
What’s more, in comparison to a range of other monetization strategies affiliate marketing has the potential to earn far more revenue on a per-visitor basis.
While ad networks might be a quick and easy way to turn visitors into revenue, you’ll need an awful lot of visitors before you see any significant revenue.
In contrast, affiliate marketing can net you far more money, meaning fewer visitors are needed to create a full-time income.
Imagine how much effort it would take to set up your eCommerce store. You’d need to source products, pay for them, figure out your prices, and be regularly sending out orders and accepting returns.
In other words, it’s a relatively time-intensive process.
Affiliate marketing, however, can be far more passive.
Once you’re all set up, and your links are in place, you need to do very little to keep that revenue flowing.
Every day new visitors arrive at your website, and some of them end up buying a product or service through your affiliate links. You need have nothing to do with the customer at any point, and their order is fulfilled by your merchant partner.
For those people who have minimal time available to run their website, such a monetization strategy can be very appealing indeed.
Furthermore, it also means that you can continue to “bolt-on” more and more articles monetized with affiliate links, allowing you to grow your revenue much faster than if you needed to manually fulfill every order you generate.
Lastly, when it comes to passive income, if you have dreams of living the “laptop lifestyle” then affiliate marketing is arguably the ultimate solution.
So long as your website stays up, those affiliate clicks just keep on coming in. If you dream of traveling the world as a digital nomad then earning passive income whether you’re working or not makes the whole experience a lot easier.
I know some authority site owners and bloggers who hate placing adverts on their sites.
They feel that ad networks cheapen their site and make it less visitor-friendly. Each to their own. While I agree that there has been a movement in recent years to overdo advertising, my own opinion is that the odd advert here and there does no real harm.
The thing about affiliate marketing, however, is that it allows you to make money without traditional adverts.
There’s no need to add flashy, gaudy graphics to your website in the hope of encouraging a click. Instead, you can produce content that genuinely helps your readers, while including the odd affiliate link now and again as appropriate.
You might, for example, be blogging about digital photography. You’re in love with Photoshop for editing your pictures, and you’ve planned out a whole series of articles helping beginners get started with the tool. What could be more natural than to join their affiliate program and gently include these links in your content?
Your readers get a high-quality experience, and benefit from your extensive tutorials, while you earn a small commission on every person who clicks through and buys a Photoshop subscription.
Assuming you’re marketing ethically, and are only promoting products that you genuinely believe in, then affiliate marketing can be a great way to earn revenue from your site while being helpful to your visitors.
Huge Range of Opportunities
Amazon may have launched the first affiliate program over a decade ago, but these days there are more affiliate programs around than ever before. Many of the companies you buy from each day proudly offer their program, and many of the products and services you use daily have the potential to earn you a commission.
While it may not be so in some niches, in most cases there are dozens – even hundreds – of affiliate programs you can promote.
This gives you a huge range of possible ways to monetize your website, allowing you to write about the topics that matter to you and your visitors while still generating revenue.
There are several ways to fit affiliate links into your content, as we’ll discuss later on. The important point, however, is that every new article you produce has the potential to earn you extra revenue.
When you first start an authority site or blog you need to stay focused, and you need to keep on producing content week after week, month after month until finally, you start to generate visitors and revenue.
However, once you reach this point you’ll find that staying motivated tends to become quite a bit easier.
The reason is simple; when your website already has some backlinks established, and residual traffic flowing in every day, each new article that you produce has the potential to grow your revenue.
Cons of Affiliate Marketing
By now you’re probably thinking that affiliate marketing is the easiest and best way to make money from your website.
For many people, that’s right.
However as with all things that are downsides as well as upsides. So let’s be realistic here and take a look at the downsides of monetizing your website with affiliate marketing…
Steep Learning Curve
Let’s start with arguably the biggest drawback of affiliate marketing; it ain’t easy.
While slapping some adverts on your site is a very simple way to generate some income, affiliate marketing is a rather more complex and nuanced process.
It takes time and effort; it requires you to learn some new skills and apply yourself. In time, the residual income should start to grow. For now, however, you’re going to have to work harder than ever before.
This steep learning curve can be a bitter pill to swallow.
Almost every day I see bloggers and authority site owners complaining on forums and Facebook groups that they’re earning mere peanuts for their efforts. This is the norm.
It can take months – or even years – to build up your affiliate income to a reasonable level.
If you opt to monetize your site with affiliate links you need to be realistic, and understand that your first few sales are likely to take time.
This is why I recommend combining affiliate marketing with display advertising; one takes time to generate results while the other can start to produce revenue almost instantly.
Limited Opportunities in Some Niches
Just because there are tens of thousands of affiliate programs online don’t go assuming that there are necessarily suitable affiliate programs in every niche.
Sometimes you’ll find few or even none, while in others the affiliate programs on offer may be seriously underperforming due to a lack of commercial intent.
This is one reason why some bloggers and authority site owners start in one niche, and then gently migrate their site across to another over time, as they discover better monetization options elsewhere.
The expat living blog can quickly become a more general travel blog, while the site about arts and crafts may slowly morph into a blog about making money from your craft hobby.
This is the reason for investigating such options early on in the site-building process.
You may remember that we discussed this in the section about choosing your niche; well now you know why. The sooner you have identified the most hopeful-looking affiliate programs the more easily you will be able to incorporate them into your site plan and create content that addresses this audience.
Content Creation May Not Be as Enjoyable
One of the true joys of blogging is the freedom that it gives you; the freedom to write about a wide range of topics depending on your feelings that day.
It’s the polar opposite to freelance writing, where you’re expected to produce content on a specific subject requested by your “employer”.
This is the main reason why I stopped doing freelance writing so quickly; I want to write about my passions, not be forced into writing anything that someone asks of me – interesting or not.
Well-written affiliate content can fall partway between these two extremes.
On the one hand, you’re writing broadly about a subject that you’re passionate about – and this is a good thing. However on the other hand the type of content that performs best – product reviews, buyers guides, and the likes – may not be the most exciting to write.
While I recommend a fair spread of content on your site – some affiliate focused, others more informational – you may find that producing the more profitable affiliate style of content is rather less appealing than just writing whatever you feel like.
Affiliate Program Changes
Affiliate programs have an irritating habit of changing regularly. Commissions change. Policies are modified. A surprising number are even shut down over time.
While affiliate marketing is still a reasonably “passive” source of income, it’s important to appreciate that some ongoing maintenance will be required to keep your income growing.
You’ll have to keep an eye on the affiliate programs that you’re promoting and make changes to your content from time to time in order to get the best results possible.
If an affiliate program that you’ve been promoting heavily suddenly closes down, for example, you’ll need to decide whether to keep promoting the company in exchange for zero commissions, or you’ll have to find a suitable alternative and rewrite your content to address this.
Lastly, be aware that it is necessary to warn readers that your website contains affiliate links. I am no lawyer here, so will offer no legal advice, but the bare minimum you’ll likely want on your site is a disclaimer on each article.