Even if you have a small blog, you can make money with affiliate marketing. This is where you promote a product or service that someone else sells, and earn a commission for sales you refer. When you join a company’s affiliate team, you receive a unique link you can embed in your blog posts, on your website, or share socially. When potential buyers click on your link and make a purchase, you are credited for the sale and earn your commission.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to make passive income as a blogger. But, it’s not just as simple as throwing affiliate links into each post and hoping someone clicks. If done incorrectly, you won’t make a dime. You also risk scaring away your audience, getting banned as an affiliate, or ruining your online reputation.
To make sure those consequences don’t happen, here’s a step-by-step guide to making money with affiliate marketing. The first three steps help you create a solid foundation for a successful blog. If you don’t have this in place yet, take time to explore the provided resources and get your blog ready for monetization. Then come back here and read the remaining tips to help you monetize with affiliate marketing.
Ready to earn? Let’s get started!
1. Know Your Target Audience
The only way you will ever make money from your blog is if you provide content your target audience seeks. This means you must know your target audience. You must know who you’re writing for.
Take time and work through the exercises Sally provides in the above post. It’s key!
2. Brainstorm Content Your Audience Wants
Now that you know who you’re writing for, brainstorm several posts you can write. You want to answer questions your audience has, create posts they can relate to, or make their life easier in some way.
If you have no idea what to write about, this post shares how to find inspiration. Try to come up with a month’s worth of ideas.
Don’t worry right now about how you can monetize these posts. Just think of the type of content your reader needs and get prepared to provide it.
3. Create Great Content
Your content is what keeps your readers coming back for more. Without readers, you can’t monetize, so get several posts live on your site before adding affiliate links. (But don’t worry, you will be going back to these posts later.)
Always create content worth reading and sharing!
Ensure your content is formatted properly for web reading. You want to include:
- An enticing headline
- Lots of white space
- Short sentences and paragraphs
- Bullet points or numbered lists where it makes sense
- Subheadings to break up the text
- Shareable images
Your post also needs to deliver what it promises. Don’t be a click-bait writer who creates eye-catching headlines with posts that fall flat.
This post includes helpful tips for creating a great blog post.
4. Begin Thinking About Affiliate Opportunities
Now that you have some great content on your site, it’s time to add a few affiliate links. Read through each of your posts carefully, with a pen and paper handy.
Each time you mention a tool, product, or service in your post, write it down. These are all potential items for affiliate marketing.
Once you’re done with this step, look for patterns in your list. Do you frequently reference a great course you took, or an amazing tool that saves you a ton of time?
To make money from affiliate marketing, you must believe in the products you are promoting. If you’ve never used them before, your audience will be able to tell. For example, Sally is an affiliate for FastComet and ConvertKit, the two tools she uses to run this blog. Sally knows both companies well and is excited to share their products with her readers.
Action Step: Brainstorm up to five affiliate opportunities within your niche. Try to think of items that you can weave into your current posts, or that naturally fit within upcoming posts.
5. Apply to Affiliate Programs
Now that you have a list, begin applying to those affiliate programs. I recommend starting with no more than five companies. You can always add more later, but you don’t want to overwhelm yourself at first.
To find affiliate programs, you can use Google. Search for “Name of Product/Company + Affiliate Program.” If one is available, this search should bring it up.
Be sure to read all the details in the terms and conditions carefully. Here are some items to pay close attention to:
- Location restrictions (some places have limits or extra rules on affiliate marketing)
- The commission rate you will receive
- The wait time between the sale and your payment
- How long cookies are good for (once someone clicks through your link, how long do they have to purchase before you no longer get credit for the referral?)
- How you can use your links (are you limited to your website, or can you share on social media?)
- Any traffic requirements
- If you can use link shorteners such as Bitly on your links
Before applying, make sure you qualify, and that you can agree to the terms and conditions.
Action Step: Apply to up to five affiliate programs. Remember to make a file for storing your log-in information in. I set up a folder in my email, and on my desktop for this information. That way I don’t have to scour my computer when I’m looking for a specific company to include in a post.
6. Add Your Disclosure
Anytime you receive payment (in forms of product, services, or money) you need to disclose this information to your audience. That way everyone knows the relationship between you and the vendor. This also keeps you compliant with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can read the official policy here.
It’s important to have a disclosure page where you have all the details about your relationships with various vendors. This is where you can include the wording Amazon requires your website to have if you’re an affiliate.
But, having a separate disclosure page is not enough. You must also include notification of affiliate links in each post or page that has them. The notification must be before the links, so you can’t just throw a statement at the bottom and call it good.
Many bloggers (including myself) utilize a plug-in to automatically insert the notification at the beginning of each blog post. I use the FMTC Affiliate Disclosure plugin, and have the following wording set up in the settings:
“This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can find my full disclosure page here.”
By having this standard disclosure, I don’t have to try to remember to include notification when I want to add an affiliate link. I know it’s already taken care of.
Do take time to go back to your full disclosure page periodically to review it and update if necessary.
Action Step: Create a disclosure page for your blog. Install a plugin and set up a standard disclosure at the beginning of each post.
7. Add Your Links
Once you have your affiliate links, and have created your disclosure page, it’s time to start monetizing. Go back through your existing posts and add the links where it makes sense.
You don’t want to overload your posts with links, but you do want a couple throughout the post. Depending on the post, you may have a couple of different products linked, or multiple links to the same thing.
Action Step: Add affiliate links to your website where appropriate.
8. Create New Content Around Your Affiliate Products
It’s time to brainstorm some more. What content can you create that fits the needs of your audience and allows you to naturally integrate affiliate links?
Here are some suggestions:
- How to posts with links to the products you use and recommend
- An in-depth review post with multiple links to that product
- A comparison post with links to both products if you recommend them both, or just the one you prefer
- A tutorial for something, with screenshots or videos, plus a couple of links to what you’re teaching how to use
- An eBook on a topic that interests your audience and includes affiliate links
- A list style post like 10 Things I Always Have in the Car or 7 Must Use Tools for Bloggers
When you’re creating content, always provide value for your audience. Ask yourself why your readers would want to read this, and what they are going to learn from it.
Action Step: Brainstorm and create valuable content that fits your readers’ needs and includes affiliate marketing opportunities. Now create that content!
9. Check Your Links
Sometimes your affiliate links change. I’ve noticed this is especially true when people change the company managing their affiliate program.
Without the correct link, you won’t get credit for the sale. Your audience can also get confused by clicking on a broken link.
Action Step: Set a reminder on your calendar to check your links at least quarterly. You want everything working properly.
10. Continue Learning About How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing
Your audience is different than mine. What works for me may not work for you. Keep experimenting to find the best fit for your readers. And always keep learning.
If you want to dive deep into this topic, Sally and I both highly recommend Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. She is an expert on this topic, and has made a ton of money through affiliate marketing.
Michelle’s course is no-frills. It is text based, which I actually prefer as a busy mom with metered internet, and includes some PDF printables. You also get to join a vibrant and supportive group of affiliate marketers who will answer your questions and encourage you on your journey.
Despite its lack of flair, this course is hands-down the BEST resource for learning about affiliate marketing. Michelle knows what she is talking about.
You can learn more about Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing here. (And yes, that is Sally’s affiliate link!)
If you’d like to learn more about other strategies for monetizing your blog, check out the book Sally and I wrote, Make Money From Blogging. It shows you how to set up, grow, and monetize your blog.