Have you ever heard other bloggers talk about the revenue they brought in through various affiliate programs and wondered how you could do the same? If so, you are in luck! In this post, we're going to break the down what is affiliate marketing, so you can walk away feeling ready to take it on in all of its glory! ?
Affiliate marketing is a really great way to monetize your blog–essentially, you are promoting the products you love and you get paid to do it. Say I'm writing a blog post about a new kitchen scale that I've really been enjoying (because hello, kitchen scales are the best) and I want to promote it to my readers. I could write a regular ol' blog post about it, share a regular ol' link to the scale on Amazon, and leave it at that.
With affiliate marketing, however, I could include a special link ✨ to the scale and make a commission every time someone clicks through to the link and purchases it. How great is that?
In this post, we'll be taking a look at:
- What affiliate marketing is
- How to disclose affiliate links in your post
- How affiliate programs work
- Common affiliate programs you can join
- 5 ways to earn affiliate income with your blog
Let's jump in!
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing can have a couple of different definitions based on the lens you are looking through. If I had to squeeze it into one sentence, I'd say:
Affiliate marketing is a way for product sellers to sell more product by leveraging influencers (large and small) by providing commissions to those influencers when their recommendations lead to sales.
It may be easier understood, however, by looking at definitions through a couple different lenses. Let's look at how affiliate marketing might be defined from the product seller, the influencer, and the customer.
? To the product seller, affiliate marketing can be understood as a way to reach more customers by incentivizing influencers to recommend their products in exchange for a commission on the sale.
? To the influencer (bloggers, social sharers, people who recommend products to friends), affiliate marketing can be understood as a way to earn money by recommending products to my audience, which results in commissions paid out to me when the people I refer make a purchase.
? To the customer (the end-buyer of the product), affiliate marketing can be understood as a way to hear about new products from people whose recommendations I (may or may not) trust.
Because there are three very different parties involved, the definition of affiliate marketing can be a bit cumbersome. However, breaking it down by the parties involved helps clear it up a little bit.
Now that we understand what affiliate marketing is, there are a couple of other things to get familiar with: affiliate programs and affiliate links.
What is an affiliate program? ??
Let's start from the beginning. An affiliate program describes a relationship in which a merchant pays you a commission to promote their products on your site.
Typically, you'll only make money when a sale is made, so everyone wins!
Just as with the definition of affiliate marketing, there are three parties in an affiliate program: the merchant, the affiliate (that's you!), and the consumer (aka your readers). The merchant is the one paying their affiliate to promote their products to the consumer.
What is an affiliate link? ?
This is how the magic happens. When you sign up for an affiliate program, you'll be assigned a specific ID or username. You'll use the affiliate program software to generate links to the products you are recommending. Any affiliate links that are generated will contain this ID or username. That way, the merchant knows who's promoting their product and who to pay!
As an example, ShareASale includes the affiliate ID directly in the link itself:
Amazon, on the other hand, usually presents you with a short link. This link doesn't contain your user ID, but when the link is routed through their system the correct affiliate is accounted for.
Affiliate links also come with affiliate link cookies! When you visit a website, cookies are stored in your browser to track various pieces of information. When someone clicks on an affiliate link, a cookie is similarly stored in that person's browser to keep track of whether or not a purchase was made through that link.
Note: Like regular browser cookies, affiliate link cookies also have an “expiration date.” So for example, if the affiliate program has it set up so that their cookies expire within 12 hours, the consumer has 12 hours to make the purchase and have the sale connected to your affiliate ID. The consumer can bookmark the link and come back to the product page later on, but as long as they make the purchase within that time, you're golden!
P.S. Tasty Links makes it super easy to have your keywords automatically linked to your affiliate links. That way, you can just set it and forget it, and watch the money roll in!
Do I need to disclose affiliate links? ?
If you're including affiliate links in your post, you'll also want to include a disclosure so your readers know that you'll earn a commission off of their purchase. If you'd like, you can set this up with Tasty Links so that a disclosure either follows each link or is inserted above your post content! Here's an example of a blanket disclosure on Pinch of Yum:
The FTC has some guidelines that you can follow:
If you disclose your relationship to the retailer clearly and conspicuously on your site, readers can decide how much weight to give your endorsement.
In some instances – like when the affiliate link is embedded in your product review – a single disclosure may be adequate. When the review has a clear and conspicuous disclosure of your relationship and the reader can see both the review containing that disclosure and the link at the same time, readers have the information they need. You could say something like, “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.” But if the product review containing the disclosure and the link are separated, readers may not make the connection.
As for where to place a disclosure, the guiding principle is that it has to be clear and conspicuous. The closer it is to your recommendation, the better. Putting disclosures in obscure places – for example, buried on an ABOUT US or GENERAL INFO page, behind a poorly labeled hyperlink or in a “terms of service” agreement – isn’t good enough. Neither is placing it below your review or below the link to the online retailer so readers would have to keep scrolling after they finish reading. Consumers should be able to notice the disclosure easily. They shouldn’t have to hunt for it.
Also, when adding an affiliate link, make sure to include the rel=”sponsored” attribute (though it's fine if your existing links have rel=”nofollow” added); this lets search engines know that you're going to be getting paid for this link. Tasty Links lets you add this attribute with just one click!
How do affiliate programs work? ?
So now that we know what an affiliate program is and what affiliate links are, let's break the whole thing down.
First, you need to actually sign up for the affiliate program! Affiliate programs are typically free to join, so it's a pretty seamless process.
From there, you'll be able to generate links and/or banners to promote the product on your site or to your email list. Once someone clicks on your link, that affiliate link cookie will be stored in your browser and they'll have a certain amount of time to make a purchase and have it be associated with your link.
If they do make a purchase, the commission will be paid out on a set schedule and/or when you reach a minimum (the minimum depends on the program!). For example, ShareASale, the third-party affiliate network we use, issues payments on the twentieth (20th) day of each month when your account balance reaches over $50 or more for the previous months' transactions.
Common affiliate programs ?
There are tons of affiliate programs out there, so we'd recommend looking to see if one is available before you promote a product on your site. Here are some popular ones:
This is a really great program for recommending just about anything that's available on Amazon! It's also super flexible in that the commission applies to anything that anyone buys after clicking your link, so it doesn't necessarily have to be the product that you recommend.
You may be interested in Target's affiliate program if know your target (hey0) audience are Target consumers—think: millennials, savvy shoppers, etc.
Similar to Target, Walmart's affiliate program is great if you know your audience shops at Walmart (families, bargain hunters, etc.)!
There are tons of premium plugins out there (eg. Easy Digital Downloads, WP Engine, WP Rocket, etc.) that offer affiliate programs, typically through an affiliate network such as ShareASale. If you're not sure if this is an option for a plugin you're using, contact the plugin author for more information! Which leads us to our next point…
WP Tasty's affiliate program
We use ShareASale to issue payments and bloggers of all levels are welcome! You can learn more about our affiliate program here. ?
Best ways to earn affiliate income ?
Now that we've talked about what affiliate marketing is and listed out some of the most common affiliate programs, let's get into some of the best ways to make some actual $$$ from this!
Send out emails about affiliate products
If you've found a product that you're over the moon about, feel free to share that information with your email subscribers. Note: per their Participation Requirements, Amazon affiliate links are not allowed in emails.
Below is an example from Kate Ahl from Simple Pin Media. Here, she's recommending a course that's very relevant to her audience – Pinterest marketers. Kate can make money through recommending this course without having to actually create the course herself – a great example of how affiliate marketing can be such a good revenue stream.
Create a resource page for your readers
Bloggers are often looked to for inspiration and in-depth knowledge about their topic of choice. That's a great reason to put together a resources page!
If the resources page recommends products for purchase, affiliate links are right at home there. Your readers trust your recommendation and can learn what you use in your daily life.
For example, Pinch of Yum has a page that lists some of Lindsay's favorite food photography tools:
Not a food blogger? Just the Woods has a page that lists her favorite DIY tools:
It also helps to think outside the box. Pinch of Yum long ago set up a blogging resources page, which talks about which host to go with, what sort of plugins you need to use, which theme to use, etc. Because some of these products are recurring (eg. hosting affiliate programs), this page continues to bring in money over time, long after someone makes the original purchase.
Think about what your readers would find useful and put together a resource page (or two!) to start growing your affiliate income. You can also pair this with the first tip (emailing about affiliate products) to help your readers find the page.
Promote the products on social media
If you run a social media page or channel like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, you've got an excellent opportunity to make affiliate revenue there. Some examples of this include writing or recording product review posts/videos and linking to the product!
Curate dedicated blog posts about certain popular products
Going back to the kitchen scale example, if you want to go into all of the different ways your readers can use one, go ahead and write a blog post focusing on that and include affiliate links to the scale. A great example of this is Pinch of Yum's post “10 Simply Genius Ways to Use a Blender.”
If these blog posts can start to rank in search results, this presents a great opportunity to earn some affiliate income.
Use Tasty Links to populate affiliate links across your blog
Tasty Links is our latest plugin and it allows bloggers to automagically ✨ create links for certain keywords. That way, you won't have to keep manually adding in a link for “all-purpose flour” every time you mention it in your post. It's a set-it-and-forget-it type of deal, and it makes earning affiliate income that much easier! We talked about how to maximize your affiliate revenue with the plugin here.
Aside from giving you the opportunity to create different content, affiliate marketing is easy to set up, the programs are free to join, and you only stand to make more money the bigger your blog gets. It's something we'd recommend all bloggers do, whether you're just starting out or you're a veteran!