I’ve been earning a living with affiliate marketing for over 10 years. I own three websites in different industries. Combined, they earn me over $250,000 a year. And that’s all from affiliate commissions, baby!
In 2004, just a city boy born and raised in South New Jersey, I was working at a local pool supply store. That’s when I came across the concept of affiliate marketing. I don’t remember how, but it gave me an idea.
“What if I took my pool knowledge and put it on a website? Then, I’d be rich!”
And believe it or not, two years later…I still didn’t have a website. Procrastination is a bitch.
When I finally got a kick in the pants from my friend, I started my sloppy-ass pool education website. My long-term goal was to make money with affiliate marketing and banner ad sales. This was 2006, give me a break.
From there, it took me about six years of on-and-off work to build up my site to finally start earning a living.
When I finally figured it out, it took off like a rocket ship. I had a formula for success. And I tested that formula on two more websites and was able to earn money faster.
This is what I want to dive deep on: The shortcut to making money with affiliate marketing. But first…
What’s Affiliate Marketing and How Does It Work?
Look, I get it, you’re smart. You already know what affiliate marketing is and you just want the deets on how to get started. In that case, click here to skip to the next section. Otherwise, please continue.
Affiliate marketing is a way to make money with a website without creating your own products to sell. It’s great for noobs or people who don’t want to deal with customer service requests. Webster’s dictionary defines “affiliate marketing” as…
A way for you (the affiliate) to earn a commission for recommending products or services [from another merchant] to your friends or readers [on your website, social media accounts, or email].
Actually, most of that is from my buddy Sean Ogle. I stole it from his website. 😉
Meet The Affiliate Marketing Players
There are 3 (sometimes 4) players in the game. We’ll start with you.
- The Publisher (that’s you). Your job is to tell your friends or readers about the product or service via a special link provided to you by the Seller or Affiliate Network.
- The Seller is the company or person selling the product or service you want to promote to your friends or readers.
- The Affiliate Network/Program (optional) is the technical service that connects you to the Seller or multiple Sellers. But sometimes, the Seller(s) runs their own Affiliate Program.
- The Customer is the friend you told to click a special link to buy that product or service from the Seller. When click and buy, you earn a commission.
In short, you recommend products from the seller to the customer through a special link provided by the middle player: the affiliate network/program.
When a customer buys a product through your link, you earn a commission. So basically, all you have to do is recommend kick-ass products and you earn money if they buy.
How Do Affiliate Links Work?
When you join an affiliate program or network, every product or affiliate website will issue you are special URL with a unique ID tag of some sort. If you don’t use this URL exactly as its written, you won’t be credited for the recommendation and you won’t make money.
Case in point, two years ago I updated all the Amazon affiliate links on my pool site. But I was missing ONE LETTER from my unique ID tag and I lost about $10,000 in a high-traffic month. It took me 30 days to figure it out and it wasn’t obvious.
Just saying, check your URLs and unique ID tags and make sure you’re using the right ones.
The seller will know your link was used to sell a product because your unique ID tag in the URL will be stored in the customer’s browser when they buy the product. Then, it’s up to the seller to keep track of this and pay you out for your credited affiliate sales.
The Affiliate Marketing Commissions: How Money Is Earned
Different sellers with different products run different affiliate programs. All of that is to say, it depends on what you recommend to your readers.
For example, you can recommend Amazon products. And if one of your readers buys through your link, you earn a percentage of that sale. So if a reader buys a book you recommend from Amazon that costs $20, and the commission rate is 5%, you would make $1.
Granted, that’s the low end of the possible commission rates. But some of the best affiliate programs can pay up to 50%. They’ll more likely be digital products since the margins are much higher than physical products.
Here are some ways you can make money with affiliate marketing:
- Pay per sale: You are paid a flat rate when a customer buys a product or service. For example, I recommend you use WPEngine to host your
WordPresssite. If you click that link (which is an actual affiliate link) and buy their $35/month service, I earn a flat $200. Even if you only use it for one month.
- Credit: Instead of money, you could get free access to a digital product or store credit. For example, I recommend that you sign up for Fizzle if you want to build an online business for yourself. Instead of cash, the more people subscribe to their service, the longer I get to use the service for free.
- 2nd tier: Recommending other affiliate programs. For example, if I recommend you sign up for the Ultimate Bundles affiliate program, I would get a percentage of the sales YOU make.
- Prizes: Sometimes affiliate programs offer prizes (often cash or products) to the people who perform the best. My opinion: if it ain’t cash, I don’t want it. Find another program.
How The Money Enters Your Bank Account
Again, every seller and affiliate program is different. But basically you have 3 options to get your money:
- Direct Deposit: easily the best and fastest way to get paid. If a program offers this to you, jump on it faster than The Sugarhill Gang.
- PayPal: A close second to direct, the money enters your PayPal account. Which you can use to spend directly or have sent to your real-world bank account.
- A Paper Check: While it’s always nice to get a check in the mail, then you have to go to the bank or use a banking app to deposit it. This takes forever, and frankly, who actually likes going to the bank?
How Often You’re Paid and When
You’ll find that most programs payout monthly. But you may see your money for a few months.
For example, I made $48,502.24 in May through the Amazon Associates program. That money won’t enter my account until the end of June. It takes about two months.
NOTE: That may seem like a lot of money in a single month, and it is. But I run a pool website that sees way more traffic in the summer than other months. In fact, May is the peak month for this website. On average my site earns $13,291.36 a month according to the 2017 data from Amazon.
Also, some programs have a threshold or a payment trigger. Meaning, they won’t pay out until your commissions reach a certain amount. Sometimes this is mandatory and sometimes you have the option to choose your own.
For example, a direct deposit won’t be issued on my Amazon Associate account unless I hit $100 in commissions. Obviously, that’s not a problem for me now, but it was in the beginning. It just means you may have to wait a bit longer to get paid.
How Much Can You Realistically Earn With Affiliate Marketing? [A CASE STUDY]
If you wanna make money with affiliate marketing, you need a healthy combo of a few ingredients. The goal of which is building a large, consistent audience of readers who trust what you say.
And that all starts with high-quality, kick-ass content. Seriously, that’s really the only ingredient.
For instance, I have a website about taking care of a swimming pool. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that already.
I wrote an article about getting rid of pool algae which turns your pool green. This is a common problem for pool owners, especially in the spring. This article now ranks in Google for 854 keywords according to Ahrefs.com. This brings in a lot of traffic.
One of the strategies I write about in this article is using pool shock: a chlorine-based chemical that kills algae. So naturally, I recommend a brand of shock that I really like to my readers via an affiliate link in my post.
When a reader clicks that link and buys the shock I recommended from Amazon, I make money (two months later).
But let’s look at a very real example of this exact situation for the month of May 2018 on my pool site. Then, we’ll compare it to the other ways I make real money with affiliate marketing products.
Making Money From Physical Products
In May 2018, my pool algae article received 17,086 unique visitors via Google search. I know from some fancy Google Analytics goal reporting I’ve set up, that the page made roughly $840.17 in affiliate commissions.
Now, let’s look at the earnings report for that exact pool shock product from this article for the month of May.
The product (at the time) cost $39.99. According to Amazon Associates, I sold 71 items with a total revenue of $2,839.29. I received a commission of $227.20. That means, my commission rate on that particular product in Amazon was 8%.
Now, that’s high for Amazon. Their commission rates are different depending on the type of product it is. So just be aware of that.
While that’s a pretty good chunk of change, it’s not earning me a living. But that’s just one single product on a large website with many affiliate links.
It’s good to have a mix and low and high-priced products across your site to diversify your earnings.
NOTE: High-priced physical products will earn you more money, but you may see fewer sales. Not everyone buys expensive-ass products impulsively. So when you add products like that, it’s in your best interest to add more details to your article to support the recommendation.
Making Money From Digital Products
The best part about recommending digital products is the high commission rates. Because there’s very low overhead in selling an ebook, course, or software product, the rates tend to be higher.
Also, some subscription services offer high one-time payouts per customer. That’s fucking awesome and here’s a real-life example.
This site is built on
- They have live customer support chat with people who actually know how to fix issues on
- They offer a free CDN and aggressive caching for increased page speed.
- They have a staging platform so you can test tweaks to your site before going live.
Now, at this point, I’ve laid out my reasons for using their service. Maybe you’re thinking about switching your website over (which they’ll do for you) or starting a new one there. I’ve already used an affiliate link in this recommendation, but now I’ll use my handy plugin to display a cool-looking product box with pricing and everything…
You’ll notice that to get started with WPEngine, it’ll only cost you (the customer) $35. But as the affiliate, I’ll get $200!
Now granted, if you stick with them, they’ll make more than $35. But I just promoted a lost-cost product and got a hefty affiliate fee.
That’s the beauty of selling digital products like this. And it’s the reason a lot of my make-money-online blogging friends make affiliate marketing work and are killing it.
The Harsh Truth About the Affiliate Marketing Business and How To Avoid Being a Douche Nugget
In order to earn a living with affiliate marketing, you need lots of website traffic. That’s the harsh truth. It’s not a get-rich-quick thing. It’s a get-good-money-slowly thing.
The people who tell you it is a quick way to passive affiliate income so you can plop your rich-ass on a beach, are douche nuggets. They’re lying to sell you their products, so they can plop their rich-asses on a beach.
Of course, like anything, there are pros and cons. And I want to talk about all the of things I’ve learned from practicing affiliate marketing versus other ways I’ve tried to make money online.
The Pros of Affiliate Marketing
- Passive Selling: I’m not a high-pressure salesperson. And it makes me feel slimy. But with affiliate marketing, all I have to do is recommend great products in a free and helpful article to make money. I let the sellers do the dirty work.
- No Bullshit: I don’t have to build a product and a sales page and a funnel and an e-commerce platform and deliver it and answer customer service questions.
- Quadruple Win: First of all, I win because I make money with little effort. The seller wins because they don’t spend money to gain a new customer. The customer wins because they get a great product. And the affiliate network makes money off the whole thing!
- Fast and Low-Risk: Joining an affiliate program takes but just a few clicks of a mouse. And if it doesn’t work, you lose nothing.
The Cons of Affiliate Marketing
- Requires Patience: Before you can start making a living off your affiliate marketing site, you need to build an audience. This takes time. You need to consistently create great content and promote it. After a year or two, you should have enough traffic to really start making money. When I started my second niche website, it took 2 years of creating new articles every Monday before the site was making between $1,500 and $3,000 a month through Amazon Associates.
- It’s Not Your Product: This means if you recommend a shitty product or service, it can make you look bad. Also, you don’t get buyer’s information for future use in selling them more stuff.
- Everybody’s Doing It: If everyone in your industry is promoting the same product at the same time, this can piss off your readers without you even knowing. This happens a lot with annual product launches and bundle sales.
- Restrictions and Penalties: If you don’t follow the rules of a given affiliate program, you could get kicked off. This would suck real bad if you were making good money. So when you join an affiliate program, as painful as it might be, read and follow the rules.
8 Steps to Becoming a Profitable Affiliate Marketer (Building an Asset)
Already have a website and just wanna make more money with the damn thing? Fair enough. Click here to skip to the next section. Otherwise, please continue.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes building my affiliate marketing empire over the last 10 years. But I learned a fuckload. So this is my exact blueprint for building a website asset that’ll make you money for as long as you keep it going.
1. Come Up With a Topic
I started four sites in the last few years around topics I knew really well. As they say, write what you know. They also say that about investing.
- My first website was about swimming pool maintenance because that’s what I knew.
- Then, making coffee at home because I drank it every day and was pretty into it.
- Then, online business, which is what I’ve been studying and practicing for the last 10 years.
- And finally, homebrewing beer because I’ve been a homebrewer and all-around beer geek since I was 17 years old. Don’t tell my parents.
In 2004, I got some pretty shitty advice. I was told to write down a list of things around my house and research to find which niches had “low-hanging fruit” keywords. Then, write a bunch of 350-word articles to rank and just watch the affiliate marketing commissions roll into my account.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t work!
At the risk of being made fun of for the rest of my life, one of those things around my house were Crocs. Not the kick-ass killer reptile. The holy, ugly, rubber shoes. I started AllAboutCrocs.com and it made $0. I hated myself soon after.
Point is, pick a topic you know and are willing to write about. You only have to think of a few ideas and then figure out which has the best chance of earning good money.
2. Which Topic Will Work Best For Affiliate Marketing?
I have a formula for helping pick the right website to start based on the topic. Go through each topic and ask yourself these questions:
- Can I write over 50 long, in-depth articles on this topic?
- Are their products I could recommend (that have an affiliate program) that are over $100?
- Are people even searching for my topic?
For example, I could not write 50 long articles about crocs. Maybe one, at best. And Crocs are like $30 and there’s really no accessories. It was a bad choice.
I recommend using software like Ahrefs.com to see how many people are searching for your main topic. You just need a simple yes or no answer.
3. Find a Domain Name
The advice from back in the day was the come up with a domain name that had your target keyword in it.
But that doesn’t matter anymore. Google is smart. Plus, you pigeon-hold yourself to only writing about one thing. Like, Crocs.
The smarter move to think ahead. Think about how you could possibly expand. I could have chosen AllAboutFootwear.com and started off writing only about Crocs. But at least I could expand to different areas of footwear in the future.
Also, go all-in on the domain name. You don’t need to buy all the variations. Google is smart. All you need is a .com or a .co and buy it for as many years as possible. Own the hell out of it.
Owning the domain name for several years in the future lets Google know you’re serious. I use GoDaddy for all my domain name purchases.
4. Setup a
WordPress Hosting Account and Install a Simple-Ass Theme
I recommend using WPEngine. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this already. They make it super easy to set up an account. Plus, it’ll be fast right out of the gate. And live customer support is crucial. I’m a
Make sure you have these things set up:
- Activate the CDN: This delivers images on a separate server making your site faster.
- Setup the SSL: That way, you have an HTTPS from the start.
When it comes to installing your theme. KEEP IT SIMPLE! A bloated theme will slow down your website. Plus, you don’t need to win any design awards at the beginning. What matters more is the content you add to the site.
If you add an over-design
5. Install These Plugins
Just like a bloated theme, too many stupid plugins can slow down your site and kill the user experience. Only add what you absolutely need, and here’s what they are:
- Yoast SEO (FREE): This will help you create well-formatted articles with the proper and latest on-page SEO techniques. If you want to rank in Google, you need this.
- Smush (FREE): When you add images to your posts and pages, this plugin will automatically compress it, saving you space and speeding up your site.
- Lasso ($19/mo): Allows you to quickly add affiliate links to your posts. And it helps you to keep an organized inventory. Plus, it automatically adds all the proper disclaimers so you don’t get in trouble with the FTC and your readers will trust you. I made this plugin. Shameless plug-in? Nailed it.
- MonsterInsights (Free): Allows you to install Google Analytics to measure traffic.
BONUS: I recommend you start collecting email addresses on your website from day one. I use MailChimp. You can use the plugin MailChimp For WordPress.
6. Create an Editorial Calendar
To be successful and gain traffic, you need to run your website like a magazine. You need to publish something at least once a week.
But first, you need to come up with a list of article topics to plan your editorial calendar. The following is a quick outline of what you need to do. If you want a more in-depth strategy for researching article topics that will rank, you should invest in my massive SEO course.
- Since you know your topic well, write down every question you know someone will ask.
- Write down questions you have about your own topic.
- Use Ahrefs.com to see what your competitors are ranking for already and outrank them by creating better content.
- Search popular forums like Reddit and Quora, and niche forums around your topic to find what people are asking about.
- Bottom of Google’s Searches Related To
Once you have a list of about 50 article topics, you can use a tool like Headline Analyzer to craft awesome headlines for each one.
Now order them by priority. Sort them by low keyword difficulty and high potential traffic.
If you need help organizing and setting up an editorial calendar, I created a course on how to do that using the free version of Asana.
7. Start Publishing and Promoting
Start writing your articles in the order you set them in and publishing on the day or days you set out to publish. Once they’re live on your website, you need to promote them.
The common advice out there is to set up a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, and Google+ account and post your content everywhere.
That’s a nightmare and rarely works.
Pick ONE external area to promote as part of your content marketing strategy. And choose wisely. For example, my audience on my pool site is mainly older people. Where do older people hang out? Facebook. Duh. Ask your parents.
Every time to publish, promote it on your one external marketing channel. And nurture it so it continues to pay off.
I scoured the web looking for the best resources on promoting your content. I’m very picky when it comes to recommending good stuff. And there’s a lot of pieces that are lengthy, but their substance was weak. However, Here the best two articles I found on content promotion:
- Content Promotion: How We Grew from 0 to 32,977 Users in 5 Months With Zero Paid Traffic by Benji Hyam
- Chapter 7: Content Promotion by Moz
8. Your Buddha on Quaaludes
Slow and steady wins the race. That’s what my turtle friend told me. Don’t ask.
You’re going to be publishing and promoting forever. And in the beginning, you’ll hear crickets. That’s normal.
Keep at it. It’s an investment.
Imagine if you bought one share of Apple every month when it started. You’d be a bajillionaire. This is the same thing.
Every article you publish is a stock in your own company. It compounds. And writing really awesome shit every time is like buying 10 stocks a month.
How To Pick Affiliate Products to Recommend
Now that you have a website and you’re ready to start publishing, you need to pick products to recommend so you can make money. But which products are gonna work? Which products will make you money and get lots of clicks?
The name of the game is helping people out – a.k.a your readers. And since you know your topic well, only pick products you used or would use yourself. Or products you would tell your best friend to use.
Don’t just pick products that’ll make you more money. Have some dignity. Earn your reader’s trust and you’ll get more clicks and money.
Some other things to think about when picking an affiliate link to add to your articles:
- Can my readers afford this product? This is important when promoting high-priced products.
A lot of the products you recommend will come natrually as you’re writing the article. Hell, even I’ve included affiliate links in this article because I was mentioning products that I’ve used. Might as well be affiliate links, right?
But sometimes it’s not so obvious.
More Ideas For Affiliate Products and Services To Recommend
- If you practice what you preach, then you should have some affiliate products in your own home or on your computer. Walk around your house and write down every product that would be fit for your website.
- If you’re like me and buy a bunch of stuff on Amazon, look back through your order history.
- Speaking of Amazon, you can just search through Amazon by typing in a product you’re already recommending and looking at what other people bought and related products.
- If you already have a website with content, go through your more popular posts and see if you’ve recommended a product but didn’t include an affiliate link.
- Create a subscriber survey at the end of your new subscriber email automation sequence and ask people what products or services they use. Use TypeForm to create the free survey. It’s beautiful and easy.
How to Pick The Perfect Affiliate Program or Network to Join
There is a shitload of affiliate offers out there. But instead of joining them all and driving yourself (and your readers) crazy, here are some questions to ponder before hitting a billion “Join Now” buttons.
- How much money can I make? Look for programs with high commission rates and that is easy for the customers to buy. And find out if it’s one-time commissions or recurring commissions. Recurring commissions are dope if you can find them.
- How long does the cookie last? When a reader clicks your affiliate link, a cookie is placed on their browser with a time limit. If they don’t buy within the timeframe, you’ll lose credit for the sale. So it’s best to choose programs with long-ass cookies.
- What are the rules? Some programs have very little rules and restrictions, so the sky’s the limit on how you can promote. But I use Amazon Associates and they gots rules. Lots of rules. Like, you can’t put affiliate links in emails and PDFs. So just make sure you know the rules and follow them or you could be kicked off the program and lose a bunch of money.
- Is the affiliate program easy to use? If you find an easy one, hold on and don’t let go. Because to be honest, a lot of them are not very user-friendly. There’s a learning curve.
- Are they trustworthy? Would you buy from them? This is why even though Amazon Associates doesn’t over the highest commissions with the longest cookie length, a lot of people trust them. So customers are more likely to buy.
Ok, you’re looking for an affiliate program with a good commission rate, long cookie durations and are a trustworthy company. Now let’s find some!
Every Affiliate Program and Network On The Freaking Planet!
There are thousands of affiliate programs and networks you can join to recommend products. But you either join a bunch of small affiliate programs or one large network. There’s no limit. However, the more you join, the more you need to manage.
That’s one of the benefits of joining a network over a bunch of different programs. But it’ll depend on what type of products you want to recommend.
You can find them on your own, but I’ve put together a massive spreadsheet of every affiliate program on the planet so you don’t have to scour the net.
NOTE: If you know of an affiliate partner or network we don’t have on this list, please email me: [email protected]
How to Join an Affiliate PROGRAM
An affiliate program is usually run by a single company. The most common programs are run by software/tech companies and bloggers. However, you might find an e-commerce store that runs their own too.
For all of my sites, I’m only a part of two affiliate programs: Amazon Associates and MoreBeer.com (for my homebrewing site).
To join, you need to apply, get approved, and keep track of all your login information. I recommend using LastPass.
Otherwise, here’s a way for you to find a kick-ass affiliate program on your own.
- The Company’s Site: You’ll usually find the affiliate program link at the bottom of the site labeled “Affiliates” or something. From there they should provide you with all the info you need.
- Google: Enter this query into Google – “[company name] affiliate program.” That’ll usually work.
- Ask Your Online Friends: Email a friend who’s in the same space as you and ask if they’re a part of any affiliate programs. And if they’re close to them, ask if they’ll intro you.
- Ask The Company: For instance, I have an affiliate program for Money Lab, but I don’t advertise it. I get emailed all the time asking if I have one. And I usually invite them to join via email.
Another easy way to find affiliate programs is to look at what you’ve already bought or currently using. For instance, if you recently bought an online course that was awesome, ask the creators if they have an affiliate program.
What hosting company or email service provider do you use? Chances are they have an affiliate program and you may already be signed up automatically.
How Long Does It Take To Join an Affiliate Program/Network?
Depending on the size of the company, it might take a while to be approved for the affiliate program after you signup or ask. Since I personally run my own affiliate program, I know I might take a while to approve an application or respond to an email.
So here’s another area you should be Buddha on Quaaludes. Relax. Take a beat.
But ok, if shit’s taking too long, here are some ways to speed it up.
- Email The Affiliate Manager: For my company, that’s me. I might not respond right away. After you’ve given me enough time, just send me a nice follow-up.
- Sell Yourself: I’m more likely to jump on approving you if I see that you’re gonna really try to recommend my stuff to a lot of people. That’s an income opportunity for me and I’d be an idiot for procrastinating.
- Apply Again: If you’re not accepted into the program, no worries. Maybe you’re just starting out or didn’t really sell yourself. Wait a few months and build up your brand. Then reach back out again and really sell it. Just don’t do this over and over again and be annoying.
How to Join An Affiliate NETWORK
An affiliate network is a collection of affiliate programs all in one place. From there you can browse their massive list of sellers and find one that fits your topic.
Joining can be a more involved process than just a simple affiliate program. However, since this is what they do, it should be easy.
Just make sure you have some additional information ready including your platform/blog and tax info.
The Top 13 Affiliate Networks (Ranked In Order According to Survey Data)
- CJ Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction).
- Rakuten Marketing (formerly LinkShare).
- Affiliate Workflow
- eBay Enterprise Affiliate Network
- Performance Horizon Group
- Impact Radius
Data Source: AffStat 2016 Affiliate Marketing Benchmark Report.
Best Practices for Sharing Affiliate Links All Over The Place
I’ve mostly talked about adding affiliate links to articles. In fact, I created a
However, there are other places you can add your affiliate links and make money and they don’t have to be on your website. But be careful because this can go against the rules of certain affiliate programs.
For instance, you cannot add Amazon Associate links to emails and PDFs. Just make sure you read the rules before you just go adding affiliate links willy-nilly.
Other Places You Can Share Affiliate LInks Besides Your Website
- Email: If you use email marketing through a service provider like MailChimp or Convert kit, you can add affiliate links in your campaigns. Or use banner ads provided by the affiliate program as a “sponsor” for your newsletter.
- Social Media: You can add your affiliate links to Facebook, Twitter, and best of all Pinterest. Pinterest is built for adding affiliate links. I use Buffer to manage my publishing schedule.
- Say It Out Loud In a Video or Podcast: You can say your affiliate link on videos and podcasts, but you’ll probably need to shorten it so people can remember. My plugin does this if you’re interested 😉
- Video and Podcast Descriptions: If you’re recommending a bunch of products in a video or podcast episode, add those affiliate links to the description so you can get paid.
- Courses and eBooks: I recommend only doing this if you’re distributing these things on your own platform. For instance, you can’t add affiliate links in Kindle ebooks.
Some Additional Things to Think About When Sharing Affiliate Links
Again, you shouldn’t just post as many affiliate links as possible all willy-nilly. You need to be smarter. The smarter and more transparent you are about recommending products, the more sales you make.
Also again, the name of the game is building trust. So here’s a short list of things you should think about whenever you publish an affiliate link:
Add a Disclaimer
Let your readers know that if they click and buy a product using your link, you earn a commission. You can say something like this at the beginning of your articles or on every affiliate link you share: If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
If you use Amazon Associates use these:
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
All Affiliate Links Should Be Tagged With rel=”nofollow”
When you add this tag to your affiliate links, it tells Google’s crawl bots not to follow where the link goes. You don’t wanna pass your sweet, sweet SEO juice on to someone else. Plus, nofollow tags should go on any link that’s paid for. This includes banner ads on your site and affiliate links.
Not to get over-salesy here, but we built Lasso with these two things in mind. When you add a link to your website, every one of them should have a disclaimer and marked as nofollow. Lasso does this for you automatically. Otherwise, doing it manually would be time-consuming and technically challenging.
10 Common Affiliate Marketing Mistakes To Avoid
It doesn’t matter what stage of the game you’re in, you could be making these marketing mistakes. I’ve made all of them and have since learned how to avoid them.
If you want to make money with affiliate marketing for the long-term, avoid making these mistakes.
1. Not Getting Serious About Affiliate Marketing Sooner
It took me about seven years to get serious about making money with affiliate marketing. Had I started day one, I would be lightyears ahead of where I am now.
If I could go back in time, I would make sure all of my posts had at least five relevant affiliate links on them. I would have developed my plugin earlier and displayed my links loud and proud for better conversion rates. And I would have written huge articles that really helped people instead of the search engines.
Also, I would have set up tracking codes on all my links so I knew what pages and products were working. Knowing this now allowed me to be more precise about which products and pages I monetized.
2. Not Knowing The Rules
Every affiliate marketing program comes with terms. These include rules to follow and certain restrictions. In my experience, Amazon has the most rules. And if you don’t obey, you get kicked off the program. This is my greatest fear since 95% of my affiliate links are wrapped up in the Amazon Associates program.
That’s why I’ve personally read the entire terms and conditions page. It was boring, but I’m glad I did it. My affiliate links are properly disclosed and updated.
3. Promoting All The Affiliate Products
It’s very easy to want to sign up for all the affiliate programs so you have a big inventory to promote. But that’s getting ahead of yourself.
There are two benefits to this:
- Fewer affiliate programs to log in to and keep track of.
- More focused efforts on creating quality content for products you know will convert and make you money.
4. Selling Instead Of Helping
I’ve fallen into the trap of writing short product reviews just to rank and sell products. But that’s dumb.
Instead, write lengthy honest reviews that will actually help people make a decision to buy or not. Chances are they will buy from your affiliate links more often this way because you built trust first.
5. Not Tracking Affiliate Link Clicks
What’s measured is managed. One of my favorite phrases that I often forget from time to time.
Only two months before I wrote this post did I start tracking my affiliate link clicks. Mainly because didn’t learn how to use Google Analytics properly. But when I finally invested a few hours into learning, I increase my earnings by about 25%.
It showed me which pages didn’t have affiliate links and which affiliate links weren’t getting action.
6. Focusing On Quantity Over Quality
Only a handful of the pages on my website bring me in the big bucks. So in reality, you don’t need to write a billion articles to grain traffic and make money. You only need a handful of high-quality posts aimed to promote great affiliate products.
I would have been smarter about doing some keyword research and only write big-ass articles that I knew fit my brand and could promote products to rank in Google.
7. Relying on SEO Traffic Only
I mentioned before that building an asset like this is just like investing. Therefore, you must follow one of the biggest rules of thumb: Diversify.
If you’re only getting SEO traffic, what happens if that all goes away? You need to start investing in another traffic source. And you can do it one at a time.
For my pool website, I chose to get additional traffic from Pinterest. I tried other sources too like Facebook, Twitter, and StumbleUpon (remember?). But none of those worked as well as Pinterest.
I also use my email list to get consistent traffic by sending out a weekly newsletter with our articles.
8. Striving For Short-Term Gains
Affiliate marketing is great and can make you a lot of money. But if you wanna invest in long-term growth, you need to develop and sell your own products and services too.
This will keep you in business longer and won’t have to rely on the mercy of affiliate programs. In Fact, you can create an affiliate program for your own stuff and reap the same benefits others are getting from you.
9. Paying For Traffic Early And Not Measuring
It’s tempting to pay for traffic to get people to click affiliate links. The thought of printing money is so awesome. But often times, you end up spending a boatload of cash and seeing nothing in return.
This happened to me recently when I started spending money on Facebook and Pinterest ads.
The main reason this didn’t work for me is because I had no idea how and where I was making money. So I was running ads blind and that’s just stupid.
So start collecting data now and use that to help you pay for traffic LATER. If you cr website can’t pay for it AND pay you enough to earn a living, don’t do it.
10. Falling Prey To The “Shiny Object Syndrome”
If you keep getting distracted by other projects and ways to make money, this affiliate marketing thing will never work for you.
I’m so fucking guilty of this it’s crazy. While I was building my pool site, I was building a hundred other different things too. I was so scattered and unfocused.
It wasn’t until I finally slapped myself in the face and said, “focus on what you know is working and has the potential to grow.”
Easier said than done, but needed to be said.
How to Grow and Scale Your Affiliate Marketing Efforts
At this stage, I’m going to assume you’ve got a great website and you’re already making decent money with affiliate marketing. But now you wanna get more serious about it and treat it like a real business instead of just a side project.
The following sections can get pretty advanced, but you wanna get serious, you need to level up.
How to Make More Money With Your Affiliate Links Using Google Analytics and Tag Manager
WARNING: Before you watch this video, be aware this is some advanced shit. It’ll require some technical know-how and/or tolerance. But if you do this, you’ll know which pages are underperforming and need improvement. This tactic helped me increase my affiliate revenue by 25% in less than a month. Seriously.
Product-Focused Content Types
How-to articles and essays will work fine for promoting affiliate products. But if you really wanna crush your conversion rates, there are two types of posts you should dominate:
- Best List Posts
- Honest Review Posts
Both of these styles of post focus on promoting products. And when people search and click on them in Google or social media, they’re usually ready to buy. That’s why they’re out researching for things like “best affiliate marketing product for bloggers” and “MailChimp reviews.”
Best List Posts include a list of the best-recommended products in a single category. I have a post like this that makes me the most money on my pool site is one of these – it’s how I know it works! Check out this screenshot of my affiliate link click conversion rate on this post. It’s 10% higher than my other content.
Honest Reviews focus on a single product and are recommended through personal experience (by either getting the product for free or buying it yourself).
When you create a great review with full detail, you’re helping people make a decision about whether they should buy that product or not. And chances are they’ll buy via your affiliate link for being so helpful.
But the most important reason these Content Types are worth creating is that they help attract qualified readers ready to click your affiliate links and buy. These are the most lucrative types of content for affiliate marketing and should be just as helpful as any how-to guide or research you publish.
This is a skill you’ll need to really create a huge spike in your earnings. I had a hard time believing this myself until I started testing headlines on my sales page for ebooks I sell.
I use Google’s free A/B Testing tool called Google Optimize. You need to have Google Analytics hooked up the way I lay out in the video above to use this tool effectively.
To get started with this, take your best performing post and start testing these things:
- Affiliate link anchor text
- call to action text leading up to affiliate links
- Title of affiliate links
- affiliate link descriptions
- call to action buttons
You might see your affiliate link clicks increase on certain tests. Just make sure you give it enough time to come back significant and not be a fluke.
Not just that, but effective copywriting can help improve your overall writing style making things more enjoyable for people to read. And as a kick-ass side effect: buy what your pitching.
Here are the two best copying writing books I’ve ever read:
- The Copywriter’s Handbook
- Olgivy on Advertising
Befriend Your Affiliate Managers
You can and should reach out and build a relationship with an affiliate manager with a company you like and support. They can be a very helpful ally in your effort to make money online. Because if you win, they win.
I’ve asked affiliate managers to increase my commissions, which worked. And even offered marketing advice on ways to improve their sales pages which they actually took action on.
I’ve also asked for discounts and promo codes specifically for my readers, which adds more credibility and a sense of urgency for people to buy right away.
NOTE: It’s much easier to make friends with these people if you actually dig the product(s) they sell. Feel me?
Who You Should Trust 100% (Additional Affiliate Marketing Resources)
My site only started in October so I’m soaking up everything I can and there’s a lot of conflicting advice from the gurus. How do we know what to listen to and what to ignore?
Awesome Posts That Helped Me Write This Beast
- How to Start Affiliate Marketing on Your Blog (The Ultimate Guide) by Sean Ogle
- Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate (Free) Guide by Amy Lynn Andrews
- Affiliate Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide by Neil Patel
Resources and Online Courses From Real Experts Who Know Their Shit
- Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing School
- Pat Flynn’s How to Make Passive Income with Affiliate Marketing
Your Challenge (If You Choose to Accept It)
I’ve spent 152 hours (roughly) researching, writing, and editing the hell out of this truly EPIC guide. And it was all to make a point.
When you produce really awesome shit on the Internet, you’ll be rewarded. Not just by the gods at Google, but by actual people who will read, share, and find value in what you produce.
This article was crafted in an effort to promote two of my own products and some of my favorite affiliate products, which I’m sure you figured out by now. And also to create consistent traffic to Money Lab.
Hopefully, you enjoyed this article enough to share it with your real and social media friends. And even more hopefully, you actually bookmarked it. Because to me, that’s the ultimate validation point that I done good. It was valuable enough for you to save it in your browser.
So now it’s your turn to do the same thing. Create something useful and awesome. A place real people will want to live and learn. An asset that’ll earn you a living for the rest of your life.
That way, you can retire knowing you won’t need social security But you’ll take the damn checks anyway!