Affiliate marketing is much more popular than most people think. It’s everywhere. Some of the biggest companies in the world use affiliate sales as part of their sales strategies. The reason they do is because it works. Plain and simple.
What is affiliate marketing?
The easiest way to explain affiliate marketing is using an example. I love examples because I can make them as ridiculous as I want and still get my point across. Here we go.
So Company X makes and sells purple cheese. You’ve applied and been accepted for their affiliate program. You put an article up on your site talking about how amazing this new purple cheese is and how white it makes your teeth when you eat it. In your article, you have a link to a page on Company X’s site where someone can purchase the cheese. A visitor comes to your site and loves what you’ve said about this amazing cheese and it’s teeth whitening capabilities. They click on the link, go to Company X’s website and buy 100lbs of the stuff. Company X sees that the sale came from your affiliate ID and pays you 10% of the total sale. Sweet deal!
From that over-the-top example, you can see that affiliate marketing is basically referring people to someone else’s product in exchange for a commission.
Commission rates have a huge range depending on the product and industry. Amazon, for example, pays fairly low commission rates ranging from about 4% to 7% depending on volume. There are companies that sell software that number can climb all the way up to 100%. Crazy right? Some even pay you a monthly commission. This would be for things like memberships or software that a customer would pay a recurring fee.
In general, you’re going to see higher commissions on digital products because there’s a larger margin. Physical goods are lower because of the margin, shipping etc. Don’t just focus on commission percentage.Plenty of people make a killing from the Amazon affiliate program.
Is affiliate marketing legit/legal?
Absolutely! Like I said before, some of the world’s largest companies use affiliates. We’ve talked a little about Amazon. They’re massive and they have a great affiliate program. I don’t have figures on what percentage of sales come from affiliates, but I’m betting it would be A LOT!
Here’s a few more brands/companies that have affiliate programs (I literally just Googled these as I wrote this):
- Under Armour
- JC Penny
Ok, there’s so many. You can google for yourself and have a look if you don’t believe me.
On top of those big brands, there’s also affiliate networks where you can promote a whole range of different products from a multitude of brands and companies.
Here are few of the more popular networks:
- Commission Junction
There is so many of these. Do some digging, you’ll see.
BECOMING AN AFFILIATE
First, you’re going to need to find a few affiliate programs to try and join. I’ve given you a few of the more popular ones. Feel free to hop on Google and search for whatever your niche is + “affiliate program” and see what you can find. I suggest you find a list of a few of them as you won’t necessarily be accepted to all of them.
Most affiliate programs don’t just let you automatically join them. There’s often an application process. Don’t let this frighten you, though. The purpose of the application protection for the company/network. They don’t want thousands of people spamming affiliate links all over the place. They’re simply protecting their reputations.
The application process for each company or network is going to differ so I can’t give you a step-by-step guide on how to apply. All you have to do is find a link on their website that allows you to apply and then follow the steps they set forth. It’s pretty straightforward in most cases.
TIPS FOR THE APPLICATION PROCESS
The one thing you need to do when applying is to be completely honest. Don’t make stuff up on your application. There are going to be questions about how you plan on promoting the product or service. They’re most likely going to ask you for your website or blog. How much traffic you currently have? Things like that.
Remember, they’re just trying to protect their reputations and also confirm that you’re legit. If you have a low volume of traffic, tell them. Let them know how you plan to grow. Each application is reviewed by somebody and they’re just trying to put your story together. They’re not afraid to take on smaller affiliates so be upfront with them. Making things up will catch up with you at some point. Just don’t do it!
The second tip is to have your website or blog in place before you apply. The company or network is going to want to have a peek at what you’ve got going on. If they have nothing to look at, it’s tough for them to approve you. I’ve tried applying to a few before by just explaining to them what my vision was, but it didn’t work out so well. Hehe! Fail!
The last tip I have for you, in terms of the application process, is to not stress over any rejections. These companies and networks get all kinds of applications daily so some can be quite selective. It’s nothing personal if they decide to decline your application. Don’t be afraid to apply again down the road as you start to gain more traction.
UNDERSTAND THE AFFILIATE TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Before you dive too far into a particular affiliate deal, you’re going to want to take a read through their affiliate terms and conditions.
Here are the things I pay the most attention to.
“Cookie Duration”, you don’t say? I assure you that this isn’t the time it takes for a chocolate chip cookie to go stale. It’s something totally different. A “cookie”, in this sense, is a small piece of information left on your computer by a website. It’s used to let them know when you’ve come back to their site.
Affiliate cookies are similar. If someone follows one of your affiliate links it tells the network that they’ve done so. If they come back and buy at a later date (before the cookie expires) you’ll still receive the commission. Cha-ching!
Cookie duration ranges depending on the product/service and company that is selling it. Some may last a few months and others, like Amazon, last 24 hours. Just be aware of this. Longer cookie durations can help you gain a sale you might not have had otherwise.
Affiliate commissions can be structured in many different ways. Some programs have a tiered structure whereas you receive commissions bumps if you sell more product. Others offer a certain percentage on the initial sale and then a different percentage on any upsells or add-ons.
Make sure you understand the commission structure so that you know if a program is going to be a good fit for your particular situation.
This is basically describing how and when you’d get paid as an affiliate. For example, you might receive your payment via PayPal once per month for sales made during the previous month. You want to ensure that you’re actually able to receive the payment (98% of the time you’ll be fine) and know when you’ll be paid.
If you’re spending money on advertising you’re probably going to want to be paid in shorter periods so have you cashflow to put back into ads. If you’re not spending money that way, maybe the payment frequency doesn’t matter to you that much. Either way, you’ll want to know this stuff so you know when it’s expected.
This next point it extremely important. You have to disclose to your readers that you’re using affiliate links. As per the FTC, someone who clicks a link on your site is required to know that you make a commission if they purchase. That’s the simplest way of explaining it.
I’m not going to go into a ton of detail here as I’m not a lawyer. I just want you to understand that this is required of you. You can find more information on the FTC’s Website.
If you want to see a few good examples of affiliate disclosures head over here. You should be able to find something you can borrow and tweak to fit your situation.
HOW TO PROPERLY USE AFFILIATE LINKS
Don’t be an asshole! You can’t just go around the internet plastering your links all over every cat meme and blog post. You need to chill!
Let me explain a few ways you can use links without being a turd.
Tutorial Posts – You’ve probably seen these bad boys before. This method has you showing somebody how to do something and link them to a tool or resource that helps them achieve it. Let me give you an example. Say you have a blog post about your 4 best tips for becoming more productive. One of the tips might be to “Use Software” and you could link them to something like Asana (a popular productivity/organization software that I actually use in my business). This way you’re giving them true value and offering them an option to buy something that would help them even further. I hope that makes sense.
Comparison Posts – This method is very popular. What you do here is compare products, sort of like a review. You may compare a sample of products where one is a clear winner and you have an affiliate link for the reader to buy. You can also recommend and have affiliate links to multiple products in a comparison. Think about it. Not all products are going to be a perfect fit for everyone, so you can discuss pros and cons of each and let the reader decide what’s best based on your comparison. You’d, of course, have affiliate links to all the recommended products so you’d make a commission regardless of which they choose.
Product Reviews – This one is pretty self-explanatory. You review a product and have an affiliate link where the reader can buy. When you’re doing these reviews you want to make sure it’s for a product or service you truly believe in. Don’t peddle junk! Anything that I recommend on my blog is something that I personally use or would use. If you recommend shitty products, you might make a quick buck, but you’ll lose credibility with whoever purchases. A long-term customer is a million times more valuable to you than a one-off. Plus, think about karma! It’s a bitch!
Recommended Resources Page – I really like this method. It’s a page on your website or blog that has affiliate links to products you recommend. Usually, you would list the products or services you currently use. This is the easiest way to sell it to your reader. Plus, you know it’s high quality so your reputation isn’t at stake. What I would do is use this page as a mini reviews page. Don’t just list the affiliate links. Talk about how you use it (or how you would use it). Your readers need to see it’s value.
DISPLAYING YOUR LINKS
Once you’ve chosen an offer to promote and have been approved, it’s time to actually get those links out into the world. To get your actual affiliate link you’ll most likely have to log in to an affiliate dashboard of some sort. You should have easy access to your link on that dashboard. Because every affiliate dashboard will be displayed differently I can’t give you a screenshot of exactly where the links would be. You’re a smart cookie though, you’ll figure it out!
Your link is going to look a bit strange and that’s ok. Here’s an example of what one of mine looks like. Remember, the link is unique to you. (I hid the URL as I’m not sure if I’m allowed to share..?)
All you have to do is copy that full link and paste it into your blog. Here’s the deal, though. You don’t want to paste the link as is. Make sure you have some kind of hyperlinked text that the reader can click on. For example, you could have a link that says Click Here (as opposed to blahblah.com/track/scottwilliam) and that will lead them to your unique affiliate URL. Make sense? Easy peasy!
A few cautionary words before you step out into the affiliate world.
Don’t stuff a shitload of affiliate links into a post. That’s just spammy and annoying! I recommend using no more than 2 in a single post. Depending on the flow of the post you might stick one near the top and one at the end.
Also, do not share an affiliate link directly on social media. That’s not cool, dude. Nothing yells “Spam!” more than an affiliate link blast on Facebook or Twitter. If you use social media in your business, you should be linking them from your profile to your blog post. It’s at that point that you can present them with your affiliate link. Posting straight to social media removes all of the value of the blog post and doesn’t allow for trust to be built with the reader.
Lastly, don’t start your post off with an affiliate link. The point of the post is to build trust with the reader. They’re most likely not going to click a link before they read what you have to say. After all, the post is there to help them decide whether or not they should be buying. Also, it looks desperate. Posting a link before anything else makes it seem like you’re just on a quest for commissions rather than adding value.
Welp, that about does it. You should have a half-decent understanding of how to promote affiliate products via your blog. If you have any questions or comments feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment below. Best of luck in the world of affiliate marketing my friend!