I'll never forget the time I received my first affiliate payment. It wasn’t my quit job money, but it opened my eyes to a viable income strategy many new content creators overlook.
"Bryan, your review is number one in Google," said Robbie.
"My what?" I walked over to his computer.
"I was Googling Lynda.com, and your review came up."
"That's news to me."
At the time, I ran an old website about productivity and technology advice. I was struggling to learn how to use WordPress and also how to create images from my website.
So I took a series of online courses on an online learning platform Lynda.com, now known as LinkedIn Learning.
One week I needed something to publish, so I wrote a detailed review about my experiences on Lynda.com and what I learnt, liked and disliked.
I forgot all my review until Robbie, a work friend, decided to sign up for a course on Lynda.com and stumbled across my review. A few weeks later, a rep from Lynda.com emailed me. She invited me into their affiliate program.
So I signed up for their program, and I added affiliate links to my content with an FTC-compliant disclaimer.
Sixty days later, I received a PayPal transfer for several hundred dollars. Although not quit my job money, but it was enough to replace my bald car tyres. Better still, I was on track to earn similar payouts for the following months too. I’d discovered that blogging can pay the bills after all.
Affiliate Marketing 101
Figuring out what digital product to create involves lots of hard work, trial and error. You can spend months figuring out an offer readers, fans or followers will buy.
If you have an audience and no product, affiliate marketing is a quick way of generating a monthly income. By becoming an affiliate marketer, you can recommend products, services and courses that your customers will find useful. Ideally, you help your audience solve a problem and get paid for doing it.
The other big advantage of affiliate marketing is you don't need to worry too much about customer support after making a recommendation.
If you want to build an ethical affiliate marketing business, follow these two rules:
One: Only promote products or services that you use and trust.
Two: Only promote products and services that are relevant to your audience and which will help them achieve their goals.
Step 1: Pick a Product or Service You USe
Start by asking yourself:
- What services do you have a subscription for?
- What software or Wordpress plugins do you use to run your business?
- What physical products do you buy each month on Amazon.com?
- What e-commerce stores do you buy from regularly?
Chances are, you can monetize and promote by joining the Amazon Associates program or via an affiliate network.
Step 2: Become an Affiliate
The Amazon Associates Program is the most popular option with new affiliates. Anyone can apply. However, it regularly cuts commissions, so don’t rely on it exclusively.
Join affiliate marketplaces like:
Browse the rankings to see what affiliate products people are interested in buying.
Explore their top 50 affiliate programs and look for products or services with a high earnings-per-click (EPC) and good commission structure. This will give you insight into what products or services have high commission structures.
Step 3: Build Your Affiliate Site
Successful affiliate businesses usually have a dot com domain name. When picking one, you can either go narrow, for example, bestchairs.com or wide, for example, homeimprovementsforbeginners.com.
Or you can start writing and publishing affiliate content on your existing site, assuming it’s relevant.
Next, spend time on keyword research for terms related to this product or service. Affiliate content articles focus on topics like:
- The best X for Y
- Is (product name) worth it? A review
- X vs Y. What’s the Right Choice for You?
It’s generally a bad idea to create a content website or YouTube channel solely focused on affiliate marketing content.
Although this can prove profitable in the short term, the value of your site or channel could plummet if a competitor outranks you or if the affiliate program changes its terms. Sites and channels with dozens of “best of” product posts and videos look spammy too.
Instead, strike a balance between creating traditional affiliate content like product reviews with high-quality informational content. The latter involves tutorials, step-by-step guides, and know-how articles that answer people’s questions.
Step 4: Publish Content Regularly About The Product or Service
Affiliate content marketing doesn’t stop with a product review. Create a follow-up email marketing campaign. Record a video series of you using the products and post it on social media or in additional content. Explain how it helped you solve a particular problem or achieve a desired outcome.
For example, much of my audience is new writers, and they often worry about grammar errors and other issues in their work. Years ago, I started using the popular grammar checker Grammarly to find and fix errors in my work.
I wrote a review of Grammarly explaining how it helps me find more errors than the inbuilt grammar checker in Word. I provided examples in the review.
After a few months, the article ranked highly in search, and I started earning a regular affiliate commission. I built on this recommendation by asking the Grammarly team for a discount for readers.
I also set up an email opt-in on my website for readers to claim the bonus. Of course, I use Grammarly regularly and consider it a vital tool in my writing workflow. I also disclose I’m an affiliate and that writers should still employ the help of a professional proofreader for longer pieces.
Affiliates and influencers sometimes offer bonuses for affiliate products and services. They may record a video series of them using the product or provide insider content about getting more from it.
Step 5: Promote More Than One Affiliate Offer
Some affiliate marketing businesses become overly dependent on a single affiliate partner. If that partner changes the terms of their program, that can drastically impact your monthly income.
Over the years, I’ve recommended many relevant affiliate products and courses that I’ve taken and enjoyed such as writing classes on Masterclass.
I take these courses first to establish the pros and cons before making a recommendation. Over the years, as my email list of my traffic has increased more product owners have contacted me about their product or services. I declined on most of them as many aren't relevant to readers.
Step 6: Disclose You’re an Affiliate
Depending on where you live, you also need to follow specific guidelines about declaring that you're an affiliate at the top of your article, in emails, or elsewhere on your website or social media posts. For example, affiliate marketers in the US must comply with FTC affiliate marketing guidelines.
If you’re an Amazon affiliate, avoid copying information about pricing, images from Amazon into your affiliate content or webpages. That’s not compliant with its affiliate program, and they will kick you out without warning. Instead, you can use dedicated WordPress plugins that will pull through Amazon product boxes that are compliant.
A new affiliate marketer with a small email list, social media following or a modest amount of web traffic can easily earn several hundred dollars a month with the right affiliate offer. A more advanced affiliate marketer can earn high-five figures a month, each month from a successful affiliate website
For example, Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income earned this much for years by promoting the web hosting company Bluehost on Smart Passive Income.
You can also fix and even six-figures as well as bonus prizes by becoming an affiliate for big ticket course launches. However, you’ll need an email list to succeed with this approach.
Is Affiliate Marketing Passive Income?
This monetization method is appealing for many bloggers and new content creators as it can provide a regular monthly income for an online business.
However, affiliate marketing isn’t truly passive. You need to create quality content through blogging, podcasting and email campaigns. That means demonstrating you used the product via videos, photos, case studies and more.
Good affiliate marketers regularly update affiliate reviews and content to reflect a new offer or when a product changes. They also factor in the latest SEO algorithm updates and how their articles rank in Google search engine results. Affiliates also ensure all their content is compliant with FTC and other affiliate marketing guidelines and disclosures.
Successful affiliate marketers factor in the conversion rates of their most important pieces of content so they can figure out what their audience wants to buy. They use this information to plan out a digital marketing strategy.
Advanced affiliate marketers also use Facebook and Google Ads to increase conversions on a dedicated landing page. That’s hard work as you can easily run out of budget or promote the wrong offer to your audience. They also earn a commission for each referral, whereby they sign new affiliates up to a program.
If a company’s product or service is well known and has good earning potential for affiliate marketers, you’ll also face significant competition from other content creators, bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers. The web hosting niche and start a blog niche, for example, are both highly lucrative and highly competitive.
If you use a product or service frequently, consider creating content about it and become an affiliate.
Affiliate marketing is a profitable strategy for content creators with an email list or an existing audience. Through this content marketing strategy, you can increase monthly income without spending hours creating a digital product or service.
If you’re comfortable writing about or reviewing products and services, you can easily earn four or five figures a month from affiliate sales.
However, it's best not to become overly dependent on one affiliate as they may change the terms of its affiliate program, or competition can outrank you with competing content in Google search results. Essentially, avoid swapping an employer for a single affiliate program.
Affiliate Marketer Tips
- When you start generating regular sales for an affiliate, contact your affiliate manager and renegotiate the terms of your commission structure. Explain you intend to use the increased payout to invest in creating more affiliate content.
- Ask your affiliate manager and ask them for a discount that you can give to your readers or followers. This method is a great way of increasing conversions over email.
Email template for negotiating commissions
Hope you're good.
I was reviewing conversions for our program and saw we generated over XX conversions vs YY for the same period in ZZ (include pics if possible). I’d like to publish more informational content about (affiliate product/service) and how I use it.
As an example, I could publish a set number of articles like this: (include an example)
I usually hire freelance writers to write and publish these articles. These articles cost (provide figures or info on time spent).
The one issue for scaling up is the commission rate. Can we review it so I can publish more affiliate and informational content?
Let me know what you think ;)