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Is Affiliate Marketing Worth it?
The short answer to the question “Is affiliate marketing worth it?” is yes! Of course, this post is designed to answer that question on a much deeper level so you can understand if it’s something you want to invest your time and energy into right now.
Doing business online is more important than ever which is why we have so many small business owners contacting us to help them with digital marketing and establishing an online presence.
One of the biggest benefits of blogging is that you can make money online without creating your own products. (Though you can certainly do affiliate marketing in addition to selling your own products, courses, etc.)
That also means that when someone has a product question, they’ll be going to the company to ask, so the more helpful information you can provide or the more trust you can garner, the better. If you promote a product, it’s best practice to be familiar enough with it that you can answer readers’ questions. Doing so will show your audience that you provide value and stand behind the products you promote.
In this post, we’ll define what affiliate marketing is, how it works, tips for making affiliate marketing worth your time, popular affiliate programs, and steps to get started.
What is Affiliate Marketing & How It Works
When someone clicks an affiliate link on your site and then makes a purchase, you earn a set amount or percentage from that referral (i.e. a commission). Long-term, this revenue can really add up and be a solid component to a passive income strategy.
Affiliate marketing benefits the:
- company selling products
- affiliate making commissions from promoting the products
- consumer who makes an informed decision about buying the product
Affiliate marketing works best when you have a sizable group of followers. Most importantly, they need to be loyal followers/repeat buyers who visit your site regularly and trust you. These people will be more likely to buy the products or services that you recommend via affiliate links.
Who Are Affiliate Marketers?
Anyone can be an affiliate marketer (promoting other people’s products) or create an affiliate marketing program for their own business (others promote your products).
Whether it’s an ecommerce business that sells physical or digital products, it’s not uncommon for business owners to have an affiliate marketing program. Online businesses, even bloggers, may want to set up affiliate offers on courses, eBooks, digital downloads, or whatever products they have to offer.
Our team helps bloggers get started by giving them a fast, performant website and by teaching them best practices. They learn how to be successful affiliates by promoting their favorite affiliate products.
In this way, newbies and seasoned bloggers can make affiliate commissions from online marketing. Many bloggers are able to make a full-time income with a lot of hard work and a bit of know-how. Bloggers can earn a passive income by promoting their favorite products.
We’re happy when our clients choose to become affiliates because they love our products.
Our Experience with Affiliate Marketing
We help our clients set up their affiliate program so they can extend their reach in sales. Here’s a little bit more about our expertise and how we do that.
Components for Creating Your Own Affiliate Marketing Program
How do you start your own affiliate marketing program? Here is what we teach people:
- how to use the technology behind the affiliate program (this can vary depending on your software and setup)
- how to create assets to share with their own affiliates
- how to come up with marketing language that fits their brand
- how to get assets into the hands of affiliates
- how to keep their affiliates motivated
If you are interested in setting up your own affiliate program, you’ll want to make sure you have considered all of these components to make it easier for affiliates to promote your products, helping them (and you) make more money.
How Our Affiliate Program Works
In addition to the above, we also help hundreds of bloggers get their start online with stunning WordPress websites built on our suite of Mai products. That means we are in a unique position to see both sides of the fence when it comes to affiliate programs.
We are an affiliate for our favorite products including plugins, programs, software, and other tools.
We also have an affiliate program for our own products.
This makes it possible for our clients to make a commission when they recommend our services and products to someone else. When we build a website, it is not uncommon for visitors to that website to contact us saying “I want a site that looks like that one!” Our business model is set up to make it easy for affiliates to earn commissions.
Tracking & Cookies
To have an effective affiliate program, you need a way to track affiliate sales. We do this via cookies. Our cookies last for 6 months, which means that if someone clicks on one of our affiliate’s referral links and then makes a purchase 5 months and 29 days later, they’ll get credit and a payout for that sale.
This strategy is more in tune with people’s actual buying habits. The buyer journey can sometimes be a long road—especially with larger ticket items—so the 6 month cookie gives our affiliates a great chance to earn more if they are consistently keeping up their affiliate marketing efforts.
This is just how we do things and meant to illustrate what’s possible. How you handle your affiliate marketing program may look different, but the general concept is always the same: create your affiliate program with the components above, track sales, and reward and incentivize your affiliates to actively promote your products and services to keep earning.
6 Steps to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
+ Popular Affiliate Programs
The next six steps outline how to begin earning commissions by promoting products you love.
Once you find an affiliate program that fits your needs, you can add your affiliate links to supporting, high-quality content.
When/if you have a strong brand following, you can create a Favorites area for your audience to find your go-to products.
Lastly, we’ll talk about promoting through email and social and your opportunity for growth with affiliate marketing.
1. Find an Affiliate Program
First things first, you need to find an affiliate marketing program that works for you. Let’s highlight a few noteworthy options.
Probably the most obvious choice is Amazon Associates, especially for beginners. Amazon basically rules the world of ecommerce, and their reach continues to expand. That means that becoming an Amazon affiliate gives you access to a ridiculous variety of products you can recommend. So highly specialized niches, fear not! Anything from cosplay outfits, to chicken themed t-shirts, to the latest and greatest in coffee brewing gadgets is all at your fingertips. Plus, Amazon has that trust factor working for it. We’ve all bought something on there at one time or another. For some folks, it is their go to source for pretty much everything.
Amazon’s affiliate program is free to sign up for, easy, and flexible. You can link to any product and earn up to 10% (but usually more like 4-6%) off whatever you sell.
Rakuten has been around a while, and while their network of partners is considerably smaller than Amazon and other contenders, they tout some nifty features including ad rotation and deep linking options. In addition, many people enjoy working with Rakuten because of their user-friendly interface, which makes it easier for beginners to learn the ropes. Publisher registration is simple, and you’ll earn 3.5% on average (on non-tech items).
CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) is the biggest and one of the oldest affiliate websites out there, working with some of the largest online retailers. With powerful reporting options, reliable payments, and a large partner network, CJ Affiliate is a solid option, though their UI and reporting tools take some time for beginners to get the hang of.
ShareASale’s merchant search is designed to help people easily find and join relevant programs through intuitive filtering (over 39 consumer categories), popular search options, and access to a marketing calendar (for holiday & seasonal opportunities). ShareASale is free to join and also offers robust reporting into any information you’d like to track including top-performing merchants, a broken link find/replace feature, and real-time tracking for additional insight and transparency.
ClickBank has been in business of affiliate marketing for over 20 years, with their global marketplace selling to over 200 million consumers. This makes a strong case for their reliability. According to their website…
We’ve never missed a payment in 20 years. We’ve paid our commissions on time, every time, throughout the company’s history.
Some other unique benefits of their affiliate marketing program include: commissions as high as 90%, the ability to promote automatic upsell offers, and recurring commissions (on products with subscription options).
Affiliate Partnerships with Influencers
Another option is to create an affiliate network of influencers in the same sphere as you. Is there anyone who’s products or services you love and would wholeheartedly recommend to your followers? Check their website for an existing affiliate or referral program and apply, or, reach out to them to see if they’d be open to discussing an affiliate relationship.
Need More Ideas?
These are only a handful of the options out there. The point here is not to review every affiliate marketing platform, but rather give an overview of some of the avenues you may want to explore and how to actually get started with affiliate marketing. If you are looking for a more comprehensive list, along with the pros and cons of each affiliate network, give this post on the Top 10 Affiliate Programs a read.
2. Set Up the Affiliate Links
To get started, you’ll need to place the links to your affiliate products on your blog or website. However, don’t just haphazardly add links wherever you feel like. Remember, your ability to be a successful affiliate marketer is dependent on the number of clicks you can generate and the purchases from those clicks. The products or services you’re recommending need to make sense within the context of the content. If it feels random or forced, people are not going to feel inclined to click, and you’ll miss out on your opportunity to convert them to a buyer.
To make the products more enticing, simply note why you love the product and/or how it makes your life easier. You can even write entire product reviews, and if you do enough of them, you can create a blog category or section on your site to aggregate that content so it’s easier for users to find.
What Should the Affiliate Links Look Like?
Lastly, make sure your text links actually include the name of the product you are promoting. This is called the anchor text, and in general, it’s best practice to use specific language over phrases like “click here” or “buy now.”
In the past, nofollow has mainly been applied to paid links (e.g. affiliate links, sponsored products, etc.), but Google has added additional, more specific relationship attributes to apply to such links, including the rel=sponsored attribute.
To add the rel=”sponsored” attribute to your affiliate links, insert your link like this:
To add both attributes (nofollow & sponsored), it would look like this:
Oftentimes you may also have an affiliate ID or referral ID, provided to you by the affiliate. This is important for tracking your affiliate sales, so if you have one, you’ll want to add this to the end of the URL as well. (This is how you get paid after all.) Most affiliates will give you the exact format or link that you should be using to make things as simple as possible for you. If you are unsure, reach out to them for more info.
3. Always Provide Valuable Content
As previously mentioned, affiliate marketing is far more effective if your website receives high traffic, but also if those users are engaged and loyal. In order to grow trust and loyalty, you’ll need to write content that you know your users want.
Maybe your website is all about caring for backyard chickens. You know people want to know more about how to choose the best heated waterers for winter. To include your affiliate links in an organic way, you could write about the best heated chicken waterers on the market (or even ways to build your own & what supplies you’d need). When you reference those products or supplies, this is where you would include your affiliate links. This way you are giving your audience great content that they’ll truly find useful in solving a problem that they have and not just throwing products links at them. Not only that, but providing valuable content first and foremost ensures that you’ll make Google and other search engines happy when it comes to ranking and sending traffic to your website.
4. Create a Favorites Area on Your Site
You can also create a dedicated area on your site for your favorite/recommended products. This makes it easy for people to find what they want if they came to your site with that specific intent.
We have seen this work especially well on lifestyle blogs and websites using our Mai Theme compatible add-on, Mai Favorites. Mai Favorites allows you to manage and display affiliate links on your Mai Theme powered website. It also creates a post type called ‘Favorites’ where you can easily add and manage each link and additional information you’d like to include with it in your Favorites area, including a featured image, description, the button text, and category.
Want to see an example of Mai Favorites in action? Check out The Paleo Mom’s Recommended webpage.
Get Mai Favorites as part of the Mai Theme Pro Bundle, which includes 12+ premium plugins, access to the Mai Pattern Library, and everything from Mai Theme Essentials.
5. Promote with Email and Social Media
Email marketing is another way you can increase your affiliate sales, especially if you have a large email list. By the same token, endorsing affiliates on social if you have a large following is also a good idea. Using these online marketing strategies really makes sense if you want to promote a sale, a timely event (such as the release of a new book), or some other campaign an affiliate partner is running.
Additionally, tuning your followers into what your partner is doing could also help them increase their own list and traffic. This helps to create a reciprocal relationship where they’ll also be more likely to promote your products and services to their own followers.
6. Continue to Grow
Once you have a system in place and have it down, affiliate marketing can really help you make money to supplement your already existing revenue streams. If you decide to treat your website like an affiliate marketing business and you’re not monetizing in other ways, you may want to seriously consider some strategic partnerships with your peers where you can earn much higher commissions.
Understand that just like any other type of internet marketing, whether it’s advertising with Google Adsense, social media marketing, SEO, or SEM (search engine marketing) and PPC (pay per click), it takes time and effort to see results. Whatever you decide, there really is no limit to what you can make with affiliate marketing, it just depends on how much time you want to dedicate to it.
Tips for Making Affiliate Marketing Worth Your Time (and not wasting time!)
What ELSE is there to know about affiliate marketing? Lots! Not all affiliate programs have the same rules, so the most important thing to note for a startup blogger is to read through the program policies. What the rules are for including affiliate links in emails, on social media, in PDF’s? Is it allowed? Always read the terms of agreement so you are informed.
Making Affiliate Marketing Work for You
Before you get started, or even if you’re already in the affiliate marketing business, we’ve put together some tips to help you work smarter, not harder! Implement these strategies to make it easy on yourself and make sure that affiliate marketing is more than worth it for you!
- Only promote products you use and love. Influencers need to earn the trust of their target audience, and promoting anything and everything is a quick way to lose that trust you’ve built with your brand. Promote products in a way that feels and looks authentic and genuine. Avoid anything that looks like a scam.
- Join an affiliate networks and search for products you already use to start making your first affiliate sales. When you are using a product and begin thinking about just how amazing it is, you can search their website to see if they have an affiliate program.
- Read affiliate playbooks or other guidelines provided to you. When you sign up to be a new affiliate for your favorite product, the company may send you a playbook. Read this from cover to cover and follow the guidelines outlined for you. Use the handbook as a reference as you craft your affiliate posts and emails. Typically, you’ll find examples of how to maximize your affiliate earning potential inside the handbook along with creatives, links, and other tools. Taking the time to read through this handbook will help to ensure success.
- Use Pretty Links or Simple URLs to create ONE branded vanity URL for your referral links so that if the affiliate platform changes or a company switches platforms, you only have to change it in ONE place as opposed to many if you use a direct link in your emails, posts and pages. For instance, with the recent StudioPress changes, we know there are many people who no longer know what to do about their SP affiliate links because they have discontinued theme sales. An option in this scenario would be to contact the third-party theme providers—like ourselves—directly and see if they have an affiliate program you can utilize so you don’t lose income. If you are interested in promoting Mai Theme, contact us.
- Know best practices for email marketing, don’t blast your subscribers with affiliate links every week! Make sure you are delivering education and value.
- Consider a program for distributing your links automatically. Tasty Links can be a great option, and we know bloggers that love it. Tasty Links will remember to link to affiliate products and popular posts before you do. This frees up time so you can spend more time on content creation and promotion. Add your Amazon Affiliate links and others one time and then let the plugin do the work.
- Pay attention to SEO (search engine optimization). The more traffic your site gets, the more earning potential you’ll have. That’s because higher conversion rates mean more commissions. Some companies offer commission rates on tiers, so the more you sell the more you earn.
- To increase revenue, repurpose content on different mediums. For example, a podcast can also be published on your youtube channel to increase its reach. You can link directly to an affiliate product on Youtube or you can drive traffic back to your site where you have a written review of the product with affiliate links.
- Use social media, but know the rules! For example, Amazon Associates should stay up-to-date on rules for sharing affiliate links on social media by referring to program policies.