Monetizing an online business with affiliate marketing? In this guide to affiliate marketing for beginners, you’ll learn step-by-step how I increased my affiliate marketing revenue by 380% in just 5 months (averaging $8,600/month in 2019), and how you, too, can make money and increase your income TODAY with these 10 strategies and tips that work!
UPDATE: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated with timely information and tactics for 2020.
Hello, blogger friends!
Improving my affiliate marketing strategy was a HUGE focus of mine in 2018. In fact, in 2017, I was earning an average of just $1,005 per month from affiliate marketing.
Fast forward to 2018: my affiliate marketing revenue jumped to an average of nearly $4,820 per month (a 380% increase, wowza!) and growing (in fact, I made $86,285.10 from affiliate marketing in 2019, an average of $7,190.41 per month!). And, it continues to grow–in March of 2020, I made $17,174.76 from affiliates in that month ALONE!
This is not an accident. My goal was to replace a lot of my sponsored content income with affiliate income, which is much more passive and automated, and provides me with much more content control.
Don’t get me wrong… sponsored content is great (check out this post on how to work with brands), but I love having total freedom in what I write and–especially now that I’ve had two children in the past two years–I really wanted to ensure I could start to rely more heavily on automated and more effortless income.
So how have I done this? With affiliate marketing, of course!
Here is a summary of this post with my top 10 tips–click any of the hyperlinks to go straight to that section! (But if you’re new, I highly recommend you read the entire post!)
Also, be sure to check out this list of over 100 affiliate programs for bloggers you can join today!
Table of Contents: Affiliate Marketing Tips
- What is affiliate marketing?
- Tip #1: Join relevant affiliate marketing programs.
- Tip #2: Add affiliate links to all blog posts.
- Tip #3: Add top affiliates to automated email sequences.
- Tip #4: Send a weekly email highlighting ONE affiliate partner.
- Tip #5: Send regular emails with affiliate links.
- Tip #6: Add affiliate links to social media.
- Tip #7: Add affiliate links to top performing posts.
- Tip #8: Create a resources page.
- Tip #9: Create dedicated blog posts for top affiliates.
- Tip #10: Create unboxing/demo videos for top affiliates.
As usual, I want to start at the beginning in case we have any newbies.
So, what is affiliate marketing for bloggers?
In a nutshell: affiliate marketing is when you receive a commission for promoting someone else’s product, service or program. You promote that thing to your audience with a special link. When anyone who has clicked your link proceeds to buy, you get paid either a percentage or a flat rate for the sale.
It’s really a win-win-win for all involved:
- The person in your audience who buys the product/service/program is exposed to something helpful or beneficial that they likely would not have known about otherwise;
- The brand or person who has the product/service/program is getting extra sales that they probably wouldn’t have reached on their own, so is still ultimately making more money and more impact–and thus is happy to give away a cut of their profits; and
- You (the affiliate) get to share helpful information and resources with your audience that will hopefully improve their lives, all while earning more income. Yay!
To be crystal clear: I ONLY promote brands and services that I truly love, trust, have personally tried. The affiliate MUST be in alignment with Root +Revel’s philosophy and mission to live a healthier, non-toxic life (Root + Revel is my wellness blog that I will reference throughout this post!).
I’ve had to turn down plenty of brands–both affiliates and sponsors–because their ingredients were questionable, the business practices unsustainable, or I simply didn’t like the product after trying it.
While I hope this could go without saying, the takeaway here is that it’s of utmost importance to run your business with integrity and not do anything solely ‘for the money’.
Also, it’s my top priority to ensure I’m delivering valuable and interesting content on my site, regardless of if the reader is going to buy from my affiliates. Of course I want to make an income from my site as it’s my full time job, but nothing trumps my readers’ and subscribers’ experience.
So my #1 priority is to naturally weave affiliates into my content and be super authentic and transparent on everything I promote.
If you’re new here, I recommend you check out my monthly and annual income reports where I break down in detail my income, expenses, profit, traffic, tactics and more.
***IMPORTANT: When you link to an affiliate on your blog, you MUST disclose your relationship AND use a ‘nofollow’ link. I can’t iterate enough just how important this is for SEO!
According to Google, if you create sponsored content for companies, use affiliate links and review free products, you need to apply a nofollow attribute to external links (like a sponsor company’s website or affiliate links, for example). If you don’t, you can get penalized from Google and it’s insanely hard to recover.
Adding nofollow to specific links in WordPress is very straightforward. Simply add rel=”nofollow” into your hyperlink in the html, or check ‘add rel= “nofollow”‘ in the settings when you edit a link, or use Prettylinks or Easy Affiliate Links where you can select nofollow when you create the links.
Alright, who’s ready to increase their affiliate marketing revenue?!
Here are my top 10 affiliate marketing tips for bloggers that actually work!
By now you may be thinking, “Okay this is great, but how do I go about finding potential affiliates?”
I approach this the same way I find sponsors. Here’s how:
- I look at what brands I’m already using and love and fit with R+R’s natural, non-toxic mission.
- Then, I contact them to see if they have affiliate programs. Sometimes you don’t have to email somebody directly, rather they’ll have a link to join their program right on their website, which makes it super easy.
- Sometimes brands or products I’m not familiar with will email me a pitch, and if they’re a fit then we’ll request samples. If I truly enjoy the products/service, then we’ll join the affiliate program and start promoting.
When you’re getting started, the easiest place to start for almost all bloggers is with Amazon (scroll to the bottom of the page and click ‘Become an Affiliate’). You’ll make a cut of all purchases that someone buys within 24 hours of clicking your Amazon links. This is an easy place to start as everyone knows Amazon and you can literally make links today once you’re enrolled (though note that over the years Amazon has decreased their commissions and they are pretty small payouts these days).
Another good platform to start with is Reward Style. Once you’re enrolled, you can get links for seriously hundreds of different sites–everything from Bed, Bath & Beyond to Anthropologie to PETCO to Pottery Barn Kids to Zulily. While it’s a pretty small commission (usually 5-15%), it all adds up and all you’re doing is helping to facilitate a sale for something you’re already talking about anyway!
Expand Your Reach with Joint Ventures
Another way to grow your affiliate revenue is to be on the lookout for other types of partners, often called Joint Ventures or JVs.
These affiliates usually have a program they’re promoting during a specific window–like for a course, program or virtual summit–that only happens once or maybe twice per year, max (versus an ‘evergreen’ program, where your links are static and available all year around).
JVs have free content where you send your audience to opt-in, provide awesome value (most typically a video series or webinar), and then have a live launch where the cart is open for a specific window of time.
The benefit of these partners is that it’s something new and exciting for your audience, and because the product is only available for a limited time, it creates ‘scarcity’–meaning people are more likely to buy, because they know that if they wait, they won’t be able to get it until next year.
They also often have great commissions compared to a food product, for example, earning anywhere from $30 to $300+ per referral (and the real big players like Marie Forleo’s B-School give $999.50 per sale!), so it’s a great way to boost your income in addition to all of your static blog posts and typical affiliates!
How do you find JV partners? In my experience, these are typically found through networking and word of mouth. However, an easy way to start researching this could be to look for virtual summits that you can promote and get a commission on if someone opts to buy all the recordings.
For example, I promoted The Food Revolution Summit since it’s all about healthy eating, GMOs and preventative wellness. Try googling summits in your niche, like Paleo, or Virtual Business for Women, or Essential Oils, etc.–you’ll be surprised how many of these types of events are out there!
Screenshot example above taken from this post: 25 Ways to Save Time + Be Healthy
You want to keep finding ways you can naturally link to your affiliates in ALL your blog posts to keep optimizing exposure and opportunities for your audience to get familiar with your affiliates. The more links you have, the more likely someone is to eventually buy.
- your audience is coming to you because they a) like you and/or b) find your content helpful/consider you an expert, or someone with more knowledge than them in a particular area that they’re interested in.
- They WANT to know what food, supplements, cleaning products, makeup, tech tools, knitting yarn, [enter your niche items here] you use… so don’t be afraid to share it with them!
- People need multiple exposures (I’ve heard different stats on this, sometimes it’s 7, sometimes it’s 9, sometimes it’s 13) before they buy something, so the more you can sprinkle it into your content–naturally and helpfully–the better for your commissions.
Screenshot example above taken from an email in my welcome series where I promote Thrive Market
When someone first joins your email list, you have their attention. They joined your list for a reason and you’re fresh in their mind, so you can maximize this position by adding some affiliate links to your welcome series.
Don’t have a welcome series? Well, what are you waiting for? This is one of the best ways to introduce yourself to your audience and start building trust. You can start small–even just 3 emails over the course of 3-5 days is perfect.
The best strategy here is to highlight your top few affiliates who bring in the most income, as a) it’s clear that these particular affiliates resonate best with your audience, and b) you’ll earn more money. A win-win!
Sign up here to see examples of how we do it here at Kate Kordsmeier.
Screenshot example above taken from a recent Favorite Finds email where I promoted True Botanicals
After my subscribers have completed the Welcome Series, they’re moved into a new segment where they’ll receive 2-3 emails per week.
Most weeks, we send out an email called Favorite Finds where we recommend ONE, SINGLE affiliate product or service that we’re currently loving. It could be a new offer that one of our affiliates is promoting, or a tried and tested affiliate that we love and recommend on a regular basis, or a new affiliate so we can gauge our audience’s interest.
It’s important that in these emails we are only promoting one thing at a time, so as not to distract readers or provide too many calls to action. When you give readers too many choices, they often end up making none.
Also key: we give our readers a way to opt-out of these emails, but still stay on the list and receive all of our other content. Let’s face it–some people get annoyed and just don’t want to receive these types of emails, so we make it easy for them to opt-out of these specific emails. We want to keep them happy!
While some email management systems don’t have this functionality, Active Campaign makes this SUPER easy and is one of the top reasons why I choose Active Campaign for my email provider.
Screenshot example above taken from a recent Whole Soul List email where I promoted a new recipe post from R+R plus some of our affiliates
We follow up on our Favorite Finds email with a Weekly Wellness Wrap-Up email on Fridays, where we remind people again about what we are loving that week, along with new blog post updates.
And then on Sundays, I send out my Whole Soul List emails, where I always include a handful of affiliate links for products and services I’m currently using and loving. These emails are more personal, where I talk more about me, my life and what I’m currently doing/eating/reading/feeling/loving etc.
The WSL is also meant to deliver value, continue building my relationship and trust with my audience, and generally, inspiring people to live a healthier and more balanced life (the entire purpose and mission behind R+R). Sign up here to see an example of my WSL.
This means that three times a week, I have an opportunity to earn money from affiliate marketing, while providing my subscribers with value, product recommendations that will solve a problem in their life, and fun tips and tricks!
Screenshot example above taken from this Pinterest board
You can create pins that link to either a) a blog post or review you’ve written about that affiliate, or b) a direct link to that product and where someone can buy it.
Ideally, you’ll have original photography so you can stand out from the crowd, and perhaps be able to offer a special deal or discount to your audience by using your particular link (for example, they may get 10% off their order by using your link or discount code).
Check out this Pinterest board called My Favorite Healthy Products to see how we’ve done it.
Then, be sure to get on an automated schedule of posting these pins with tools like Tailwind.
Add affiliate links to your static posts, stories (especially if you have the Swipe Up feature) and your highlight reel of your favorite things. You don’t want to overdo it as you, of course, want to stay as authentic as possible and not have your IG feed turn into a bunch of billboards.
But adding links occasionally is a great way to reach a wider audience while sharing genuinely helpful recommendations.
Just like with Instagram, you can post photos and videos of your affiliates to your page, along with announcements of special sales or time-sensitive enrollments for your affiliates.
Videos are great: you can do an unboxing video (see #10) and post it on multiple channels; you can create a recipe video or tutorial on a specific topic and link to those products both in the caption and in your Facebook shop (which you should create and direct people to); you can even do Facebook Live and mention certain affiliates where appropriate.
I haven’t personally done Facebook Lives but have seen it done well by others where the affiliate shoutout is natural and relevant.
Tweet about why you love your affiliate, tag them and use your affiliate link. Simple as that.
Remember: for all social platforms, be sure to use #affiliate for transparency, and/or indicate the affiliate relationship with saying something like (affiliate link, thank you!) next to the link itself.
Tip for all platforms: use share threads (typically done in blogging Facebook groups) to get engagement with your posts and videos. This helps show the algorithm that people like your content and will hopefully expand your reach.
Screenshot example above taken from the most popular post on R+R
One task we worked on when we wanted to increase our affiliate marketing income was to go back to our top 25 blog posts and see where we could authentically weave affiliate links into the content. If you’re already getting traffic to these posts, then wouldn’t it be great if you could find a way to optimize and monetize that engagement?
Again, you want it to feel natural and not like you’re just slathering promo links everywhere. Here are a few of our top traffic posts on R+R you can check out to see how we’ve done it:
- How I Reversed my PCOS, Leaky Gut + Insulin Resistance Naturally!
- A Butter Coffee Recipe to Balance Hormones + Improve Digestion
- DIY Charcoal + Clay Face Mask for Acne and Blackheads
Screenshot example above taken from: My Current Green Beauty Routine resource page
You’re likely familiar with a resource page, as most blogs tend to have them these days. Essentially, it’s a roundup of your favorite resources (products, services, apps, subscriptions, courses, etc.) that you think your audience will love and receive value from; most often, these are affiliate links, especially for your best performing affiliates. See R+R’s resource page here as an example.
But it doesn’t stop there. While most people tend to have just one resource page, we actually have three! There’s the general one linked above that focuses on natural living in general, and then another page for My Current Green Beauty Routine. Here are Kate Kordsmeier we have one for online business resources.
If you have multiple niches, like me, consider breaking up your content to have multiple pages that are really targeted, versus just one page that is more general.
Screenshot example above taken from this post: Thrive Market Review + Shopping List
Your audience is more likely to buy a product, service or course when they can see the value it will bring into their life. The best way to convey this is through a dedicated, detailed blog post where you prominently feature ONE of your affiliates, all the reasons you authentically love them and how that thing is going to make someone’s life better.
The more a person reads about something, the more they have the opportunity to think, “Hey, this sounds really helpful and now I have to have it.”
Again, you want to do this for your top performing affiliates (are you sensing a theme here?), as it won’t be worth your time to create a dedicated blog post for an affiliate that only brings in $10/month (unless it has a HUGE earning potential or commission and is a super great fit for your site’s content).
Typically, this is done through review style posts. For some of our examples, check out:
- Butcher Box Review: Is It Really Worth It?
- Thrive Market Review + Shopping List
- The Best Healthy Meal Kit Delivery Service
Screenshot above taken from our Butcher Box unboxing video
Similarly, it’s a great idea to add a helpful video or ‘unboxing’ video to your affiliate-focused posts mentioned above. As bloggers, we all know that video is king right now.
Videos help reveal more of what the buyer can expect if they decide to buy whatever it is you’re promoting, and–assuming it’s a great product/service/program/etc.–is going to really make them want to buy it!
It’s just like the popular Tasty recipe videos showing hands making the recipe; people think, “OMG that looks delicious!” or, “Wow, that looks easier than I thought.. I can do that!” and thus they’re more likely to make that particular recipe.
Also–assuming YOU are in the video–it continues to get your audience familiar and exposed to you. You want your audience to feel comfortable with you, trust you and feel like they know you, and sometimes there’s just no better way than video.
Here’s a link to our YouTube channel, where you can check out some of our videos featuring yours truly. 😉
That’s a wrap, and now it’s time for YOU to take an action step.
What’s one thing you are going to do TODAY to start increasing your income based on these affiliate marketing tips? Let us know in the comments below!