Affiliate marketing is one of the most effective ways to make money from a blog or authority site, and stories abound of affiliates successfully replacing their day job thanks to affiliate marketing.
In contrast to many other monetization strategies, therefore, affiliate marketing really does have the potential to generate significant, life-changing sums of money each month.
In this lesson we’re going to dive deep into the exciting world of affiliate marketing.
Just a few of the things we’re going to discuss include:
- 7 ways to find the best affiliate programs for your website or blog
- The three affiliate marketing tools that every blogger should have in their arsenal
- The most effective types of content for boosting your affiliate commissions
- 6 advanced strategies to take your affiliate revenue to the next level
By the end of this section you should fully understand what affiliate marketing is and how it works.
More importantly, you’ll know the most effective strategies for making money with affiliate marketing, and will be in the perfect position to increase your income as a result.
Lets get started…
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process of promoting another company or product, in exchange for a commission when the people you send buy anything.
In such a relationship you are known as the affiliate, while the website you’re promoting is known as the merchant.
When a company has an affiliate program, you can sign up as an affiliate, whereby you will get a custom link to their website.
Whenever anyone clicks that link and purchases a product, you’ll earn a commission.
Note that this is risk-free for the merchant, as if you don’t generate sales, you don’t earn any commission.
What are the Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing takes considerable time and effort – especially in the early days. There’s plenty that you’ll need to learn, and likely quite a few changes you’ll make to your authority site.
The obvious question, therefore, is whether all this effort is worth it?
What really are the pros and cons of affiliate marketing, and should you consider it for your own site?
The Pros of Affiliate Marketing
Large Income Potential
Take a look at the many different income reports that bloggers publish each month and one thing becomes quite clear; affiliate marketing has the potential to earn you a considerable sum of money when it’s done right.
What’s more, in comparison to a range of other monetization strategies affiliate marketing has the potential to earn far more revenue on a per-visitor basis.
While ad networks might be a quick and easy way to turn visitors into revenue, you’ll need an awful lot of visitors before you see any significant revenue.
In contrast, affiliate marketing can net you far more money, meaning fewer visitors are needed to create a full-time income.
Imagine how much effort it would take to set up your own ecommerce store. You’d need to source products, pay for them, figure out your prices, and be regularly sending out orders and accepting returns.
In other words, it’s a relatively time-intensive process.
Affiliate marketing, however, can be far more passive.
Once you’re all set up, and your links are in place, you need to do very little to keep that revenue flowing.
Every day new visitors arrive at your website, and some of them end up buying a product or service through your affiliate links. You need have nothing to do with the customer at any point, and their order is fulfilled by your merchant partner.
For those people who have minimal time available to run their website, such a monetization strategy can be very appealing indeed.
Furthermore, it also means that you can continue to “bolt on” more and more articles monetized with affiliate links, allowing you to grow your revenue much faster than if you needed to manually fulfill every order you generate.
Lastly, when it comes to passive income, if you have dreams of living the “laptop lifestyle” then affiliate marketing is arguably the ultimate solution.
So long as your website stays up, those affiliate clicks just keep on coming in. If you dream of travelling the world as a digital nomad then earning passive income whether you’re working or not makes the whole experience a lot easier.
I know some authority site owners and bloggers who hate placing adverts on their site.
They feel that ad networks cheapen their site and make it less visitor-friendly. Each to their own. While I personally agree that there has been a movement in recent years to overdo advertising, my own opinion is that the odd advert here and there does no real harm.
The thing about affiliate marketing, however, is that it allows you to make money without traditional adverts.
There’s no need to add flashy, gaudy graphics to your website in the hope of encouraging a click. Instead, you can produce content that genuinely helps your readers, while including the odd affiliate link now and again as appropriate.
You might, for example, be blogging about digital photography. You’re in love with Photoshop for editing your pictures, and you’ve planned out a whole series of articles helping beginners get started with the tool. What could be more natural than to join their affiliate program and gently include these links in your content?
Your readers get a high quality experience, and benefit from your extensive tutorials, while you earn a small commission on every person who clicks through and buys a Photoshop subscription.
Assuming you’re marketing ethically, and are only promoting products that you genuinely believe in, then affiliate marketing can be a great way to earn revenue from your site while being helpful to your visitors.
Huge Range of Opportunities
Amazon may have launched the first affiliate program over a decade ago, but these days there are more affiliate programs around than ever before. Many of the companies you buy from each day proudly offer their own program, and many of the products and services you use daily have the potential to earn you a commission.
While it may not be so in some niches, in most cases there are dozens – even hundreds – of affiliate programs you can promote.
This gives you a huge range of possible ways to monetize your website, allowing you to write about the topics that matter to you and your visitors while still generating revenue.
There are a number of ways to fit affiliate links into your content, as we’ll discuss later on. The important point, however, is that every new article you produce has the potential to earn you extra revenue.
When you first start an authority site or blog you need to stay focused, and you need to keep on producing content week after week, month after month, until finally you start to generate visitors and revenue.
However, once you reach this point you’ll find that staying motivated tends to become quite a bit easier.
The reason is simple; when your website already has some backlinks established, and residual traffic flowing in every day, each new article that you produce has the potential to grow your revenue.
Cons of Affiliate Marketing
By now you’re probably thinking that affiliate marketing is the easiest and best way to make money from your website.
For many people, that’s right.
However as with all things that are downsides as well as upsides. So let’s be realistic here and take a look at the downsides of monetizing your website with affiliate marketing…
Steep Learning Curve
Let’s start with arguably the biggest drawback of affiliate marketing; it ain’t easy.
While slapping some adverts on your site is a very simple way to generate some income, affiliate marketing is a rather more complex and nuanced process.
It takes time and effort; it requires you to learn some new skills and apply yourself. In time, the residual income should start to grow. For now, however, you’re going to have to work harder than ever before.
This steep learning curve can be a bitter pill to swallow.
Almost every day I see bloggers and authority site owners complaining on forums and Facebook groups that they’re earning mere peanuts for their efforts. This is the norm.
It can take months – or even years – to build up your affiliate income to a reasonable level.
If you opt to monetize your site with affiliate links you need to be realistic, and understand that your first few sales are likely to take time.
This is why I recommend combining affiliate marketing with display advertising; one takes time to generate results while the other can start to produce revenue almost instantly.
Limited Opportunities in Some Niches
Just because there are tens of thousands of affiliate programs online don’t go assuming that there are necessarily suitable affiliate programs in every niche.
Sometimes you’ll find few or even none, while in others the affiliate programs on offer may be seriously under-performing due to a lack of commercial intent.
This is one reason why some bloggers and authority site owners start off in one niche, and then gently migrate their site across to another over time, as they discover better monetization options elsewhere.
The expat living blog can quickly become a more general travel blog, while the site about arts and crafts may slowly morph into a blog about making money from your craft hobby.
This is the reason for investigating such options early on in the site building process.
You may remember that we discussed this in the section about choosing your niche; well now you know why. The sooner you have identified the most hopeful-looking affiliate programs the more easily you will be able to incorporate them into your site plan, and create content that addresses this audience.
Content Creation May Not Be as Enjoyable
One of the true joys of blogging is the freedom that it gives you; the freedom to write about a wide range of topics depending on your feelings that day.
It’s the polar opposite to freelance writing, where you’re expected to produce content on a specific subject requested by your “employer”.
This is the main reason why I stopped doing freelance writing so quickly; I want to write about my own passions, not be forced into writing anything that someone asks of me – interesting or not.
Well-written affiliate content can fall part way between these two extremes.
On the one hand you’re writing broadly about a subject that you’re passionate about – and this is a good thing. However on the other hand the type of content that performs best – product reviews, buyers guides and the likes – may not be the most exciting to write.
While I recommend a fair spread of content on your site – some affiliate focused, other more informational – you may find that producing the more profitable affiliate-style of content is rather less appealing than just writing whatever you feel like.
Affiliate Program Changes
Affiliate programs have an irritating habit of changing regularly. Commissions change. Policies are modified. A surprising number are even shut down over time.
While affiliate marketing is still a reasonably “passive” source of income, it’s important to appreciate that some ongoing maintenance will be required to keep your income growing.
You’ll have to keep an eye on the affiliate programs that you’re promoting, and make changes to your content from time-to-time in order to get the best results possible.
If an affiliate program that you’ve been promoting heavily suddenly closes down, for example, you’ll need to decide whether to keep promoting the company in exchange for zero commissions, or you’ll have to find a suitable alternative and rewrite your content to address this.
Lastly, be aware that it is necessary to warn readers that your website contains affiliate links. I am no lawyer here, so will offer no legal advice, but the bare minimum you’ll likely want on your site is a disclaimer on each article.
Where To Find Affiliate Programs for Your Blog
Now we know what affiliate marketing is, the obvious next question is where you can find affiliate programs to join.
Fortunately, there are a quite a few ways to do just this:
Before we go looking for niche-specific affiliate programs it’s first worth mentioning the Amazon affiliate program simply because it’s so HUGE. There are bloggers and authority site owners making a healthy full-time income from promoting the Amazon affiliate program alone.
The Amazon affiliate program is so powerful because it allows you to promote almost any of their hundreds of thousands of products to your website visitors.
It almost doesn’t matter what niche you’re in: there’ll be at least a few products on Amazon that you can promote.
Just think. You can recommend chopping boards and food processors on your cookery blog. Or horse tack on your riding site. Or bottle sterilizers and cribs on your mommy blog.
You get the idea.
Worst case scenario there are bound to be books related to your niche that you can promote.
There’s more. Amazon are the experts when it comes to conversion rates. It’s a brand that people trust. All too often you send a visitor over to Amazon to look at a certain product and they also end up buying three other things. This greatly increases your commissions of course.
Don’t think. Just sign up as soon as your new site starts to become established, then have fun browsing through all the possible products you can be promoting on your website.
Join Affiliate Networks
Signing up for dozens of stand-alone programs, and entering the same old information each time, quickly gets boring.
When you join an affiliate network, however, you only need to enter your details once.
You can then apply for dozens of different affiliate programs from their extensive list of partners.
Just as good, the network bundles together all your commissions and pays them out in one big check (or bank transfer). For those of (like me) who are outside the USA this greatly cuts down on the costs of receiving overseas payments, and helps to shore up your profits.
There are lots of different networks out there, but if you’re just starting out I would recommend the following options. I have been using each of these for years, and have found they not only pay commissions like clockwork but they also each offer a huge range of affiliate programs that you can join…
Once you’re signed up (for free) with these networks it is simplicity itself to carry out a search in your members area, and quickly surface all manner of affiliate programs. Applying to each one is normally no more complicated than clicking a couple of buttons.
Spy on Competitors
Throughout this course we’ve talked about the benefits of spying on other, established blogs in your niche.
Let’s be honest here; while many of us love to work on our blogs, we also expect to earn an income from all our hard work.
You can therefore be pretty sure that the bigger blogs in your chosen niche are bringing in a decent amount of revenue each month. And spying on them can help you to figure out how.
Do you remember that long list of blogs you gathered way back in the section on choosing your niche? Now its time to pull out that list again, and start doing some detective work.
Spend some time clicking around these blogs, looking at the products, services and companies that they mention regularly. Do they have a “recommended resources” page? If so, you may well find quite a few affiliate links here.
Generally speaking identifying affiliate links is pretty easy; they’ll often have a strong of random characters at the end. A normal link might be:
…while an affiliate link might look more like…
Pay attention to any products or services pushed heavily by other bloggers, and note whether these are probably affiliate links. If so, click on over and have a look around at their merchant partner’s website. You’ll probably manage to find an affiliate program page without too much difficulty.
Read Income Reports
We mentioned income reports when researching a niche for your blog. Here these same reports can come in handy in helping you figure out exactly which programs are making competitors the most money.
Follow the tips here to find blogger income reports in your niche, then make a note of any affiliate programs they seem to be doing particularly well with.
Use the Search Engines
One of the easiest ways to quickly gather a long list of potential affiliate programs is simply to use Google.
Try searching for some broad terms related to your niche, together with various synonyms of the word “affiliate program”. Here are some examples to get you started:
Affiliate Program Directories
These sites are essentially giant directories listing thousands of different affiliate programs.
A few quick searches here can reveal all sorts of affiliate programs that you might otherwise not have known about.
Bonus Tip: Make It Easy to Contact You
While building your website from scratch takes time and patience, over time you’ll find that your site starts to attract businesses keen to be featured.
Among all these emails you may well find affiliate managers contacting you out of the blue, inviting you to join their referral program.
As your site develops, therefore, make sure you display a contact form prominently, as you might be surprised at the offers that you receive.
To give you one example from my own experience, I was contacted once upon a time by an affiliate manager working for a competitor of a company I was promoting.
He guaranteed me a minimum of $1,000 a month in commissions irrespective of how many sales I really sent.
Whilst you might think this was a scam, the company in question were true to their word and I never received less than $1,000 a month (often considerably more) every month after that.
Three Affiliate Marketing Tools That Will Make Your Life So Much Easier
One of the things that I really like about affiliate marketing is it costs virtually nothing to implement.
Unlike all the various traffic generation techniques we discussed elsewhere in this course, you can start adding affiliate links to your website without any special tools whatsoever.
There are, however, three tools that can make your life so much easier you’ll wonder why you ever tried to do without them.
What’s more, all of them have the potential to significantly increase your income. As a result I use them on pretty much all my blogs and authority sites, and I’ve seen first hand just how beneficial they can be.
Before we move onto the next section of this course, therefore, I think it’s only fair that I spill the beans on these three amazing tools…
It’s no secret that affiliate links tend to be darned ugly. They’re long and unwieldy and – frankly – look a little bit suspicious. Who would willingly click on the following link?
Looks a bit odd, doesn’t it?
Ask yourself right now how you’re going to remember all those affiliate links when you’re actually creating content for your website.
You’ll have to keep a long, inconvenient list somewhere. A list that you’re constantly referring back to and scrolling through, trying to look for that one link that – would you believe it? – you seem to have forgotten to add.
Let me introduce you to the solution to both these problems: Pretty Link.
In essence Pretty Link manages all your affiliate links for you.
You paste in an ugly affiliate link and instead is spits out a beautiful, short URL instead. Just like this:
Isn’t that better?
What’s more, when you’re creating content for your blog adding these links is also taken care of.
You can just click the little Pretty Link icon in your content window, and then select the link you need from the options. It’ll even paste it into the window for you.
Talk about speeding up the blogging process!
There’s one more benefit here that I also want to tell you about – and it’s the reason I recommend you opt for the “Pro” version of the plugin rather than the free option: split testing.
We’ll talk a little more about split testing a little later on in this guide, but for now we just need to know that split testing means the ability to send different visitors to different places.
Why would we do that? Simple: we can see which product or affiliate program actually converts best for us.
Trying to decide between promoting product A or product B on your blog?
Don’t! Use Pretty Link to send some of your visitors to both options. Then just track the results, canning the under-performing program and ramping up your mentions of the other.
In this way you can scientifically improve your affiliate income over time – by investing your time and energy into those programs that are proven winners.
Skimlinks is your secret weapon.
Their software automatically turns the products and company names mentioned in your blog posts into live affiliate links.
What’s more, Skimlinks is designed to always get you the highest commission possible by ensuring that only the highest-paid affiliate links are added to your blog.
Suddenly you can ramp up your affiliate income in a very shrot space of time – simply by signing up for a free Skimlinks account and setting their software running on your site.
If you’re anything like me then most of your blog traffic comes from the USA.
Most, but not all.
If you’re promoting the Amazon affiliate program – like I recommended earlier – what happens to all those non-US visitors who click through your affiliate link?
Answer: nothing. You just lost a sale.
EasyAzon is what is known as a “link localizer”. When someone clicks your Amazon affiliate link, it works out what country they’re in, then redirects them to their own local Amazon site. But not just to the Amazon homepage – no they’re taken straight to the product listing page.
All those people from Australia, Canada, the UK and more? Suddenly you can start earning affiliate commissions from these guys too.
I’m sure you can imagine just how easy it is to boost your affiliate revenue with this plugin.
Best of all – you don’t need to create loads of new content or build more links – all you do is manage to earn more money from the traffic you already have. Great, right?
7 Most Effective Forms of Content for Affiliate Marketing
By now you know what affiliate marketing is and how to find programs that you can promote on your blog.
However, till now there has been a missing part of the puzzle.
I would argue, in fact, that the missing piece is the most important of all; how to actually promote these affiliate links on your blog.
In this section, therefore, you’re going to learn the most effective ways of all to not only attract qualified “ready-to-buy” visitors to your website, but then how to quickly send them off to your merchant partners.
Understanding the “Buying Funnel”
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re considering replacing your dusty old laptop with a shiny new model.
How likely is it that content discussing the best new laptops, or how to save money on our next laptop will be of interest to you?
Put another way, would this laptop content be of more or less interest than content about knitting patterns?
I think you’d agree that the laptop content is likely to perform better for most people (unless of course you’re also a passionate knitter).
Now consider the journey we might take leading up to buying a new laptop.
Perhaps we start off getting frustrated at how slow our laptop is working. Maybe we look for content around speeding up your laptop. From here perhaps you decide that despite these tips, your computer has still seen better days. This is especially so if a friend of yours has just bought a beautiful new computer.
Unless you’re a computer whizz-kid you might start looking for content about the best new laptops. Maybe you add modifiers – like the “best laptops under $1000” or suchlike.
These articles identify a few good options for you. Maybe you go ahead and buy one. Maybe you go further with your research, looking for reviews of them, or trying to compare two different models that look suitable. You refine and dig until sooner or later you make a purchase.
Here’s the thing: all that computer content would likely be of no interest to our friendly knitting fanatic.
What’s more, people looking to research and buy a product may carry out all sorts of searches and analyses before finally making a purchase.
All the time, however, they’re sat there with money to burn – literally looking for advice on how to spend it.
Write the type of content that attracts these “buyers” and you’ll greatly increase your chances of landing a sale.
In this simple example, we’ve effectively explained the two core problems that many bloggers experience when it comes to growing their affiliate income…
Firstly, they don’t target the right leads. Instead of focusing their attention on people who are already looking to spend money, they instead spend all their time trying to convince people who don’t want to spend money that they should. And that’s a whole lot more difficult (and less effective).
The second mistake is failing to give those “ready to buy” visitors all the information that they need. Simply throwing an affiliate banner up in your sidebar probably isn’t going to provide your readers with all the information they need before making a purchasing decision.
Oh sure, if the product is very low cost and you get enough traffic then you might make the odd sale.
The secret to higher affiliate earnings, however, is the “pre-sell”.
It’s adding value by helping your visitors understand the benefits (and even sometimes the drawbacks) of a product or service before buying.
So give up those banner adverts. Ignore what the affiliate program managers tell you. Focus instead on producing the right kinds of content, and on offering significant value to your visitors.
Help, don’t sell.
But what types of content actually work best?
The classic technique for growing your affiliate sales is to write reviews of products and services that you know well.
As an example, consider the SEO blog that talks about a new link building tool they’ve tried out. The Android blog reviewing a new phone. The design blog reviewing a new Photoshop course.
As you’re something of an authority in your niche, and you know your visitors well, you can produce genuinely beneficial, good quality reviews that help your visitors to understand both the good and the bad of a product.
Going back to our buying funnel from earlier, I’m sure you can imagine that someone who types in “self driving car reviews” or similar is almost certainly in a buying frame of mind.
They’re already considering purchasing the product – they just need a gentle “shove” in the right direction.
A buyer’s guide can be thought of a more extensive article, including multiple short reviews together.
Rather than reviewing one single hotel in Cancun, for example, we might review ten different hotels together in an article entitled “The Best Cancun Hotels for Spring Break” or suchlike.
While a single review might stretch to 1,000 words or so, these buyers guides can stretch to 3,000 words or more without trouble, simply because you’re factoring so many different products or services into one article.
These buyers guides can also, of course, link out to your individual reviews if you have them, allowing your readers to gain even more information on a solution.
Again, going back to our earlier example of buying a laptop, an article entitled “Best Windows Laptops for Graphic Designers” might be an example of a “buyer’s guide” style of article.
In some cases a product comparison article may overlap with a more general buyers guide. After all, both feature two or more products with the aim of helping the reader to decide on one solution.
A key difference here, however, is that while the buyers guide may include 5, 10 or even more products or services in one long article, a product comparison may simply compare and contrast two different alternatives.
This often happens when there are a handful of dominant players in the marketplace, and consumers are having a hard time figuring out the differences between them, and therefore which is best for their needs.
To give an example, last year I bought myself a new tablet.
I’m an Android fan through-and-through (sorry Apple Fans!) and had decided on a Lenovo. The problem was that having spent some weeks deciding on which model I wanted, the company suddenly decided to release a new version of it.
The model I had been considering therefore dropped significantly in price, while the new one cost a little more than my original budget.
What to do?
- Should I spend a little more and get the newest model?
- Should I relish the saving, and buy the one I was originally considering?
- What were the differences?
- Was the extra money worth it for the new model, or were the specifications almost identical?
Unsurprisingly I ended up Googling phrases like “Lenovo Tab vs Tab 2” and suchlike to try and make my decision. This is a perfect example of a product comparison article, targeting people like me who have almost made up our minds, but just need help separating two similar options.
(Disclaimer: I bought the newest model in case you were wondering – and it’s a great tablet if you’re considering one!)
The first time someone lands on your blog you’re an unknown entity.
Who is the person behind this yoga website?
Why should I listen to them?
What results have they gotten?
Many bloggers and authority site owners find that their “About Me” page rapidly becomes one of their most visited pages, especially if the link to this page is displayed prominently at the very top of their site. We’re curious; we want to know you.
Such a high traffic page can therefore be a perfect place to add in some affiliate links.
In recent years, however, some site owners have started to migrate their “about” page to a full-on “start” page. As the name would suggest, this one page aims to provide a suitable “jumping off point” for first time visitors.
Start pages introduce the blog owner. They discuss the purpose of the site – and what makes it special. They point out pieces of content that have done particularly well with their readers. They also – and here’s the magic – often include links to recommended resources.
These affiliate links to products or services (or reviews of them) can perform very well indeed.
So consider how you can boil down the message of your site into a “Start Here” page. And while you’re there, include links to the products and services that you personally use and recommend.
R-M-T is an acronym that stands for “Results-Method-Tool”. It’s a phrase that I’ve coined over the years, for a very successful type of article that converts visitors very well indeed.
Here’s how it works…
We start with the result – ideally something that our blog readers would want to accomplish. Some examples might be:
- How I Increased by Adsense Income by 57% in 30 Days
- The Surprising Secret That Helped Me Lose 9lbs Last Month
- The SEO Technique That Doubled My Traffic (in Just 2 Days)
You get the idea. Big promise – ideally including specific numbers. It gets people clicking and wanting to know how you achieved that goal, in the hope that they themselves can achieve the same.
The first part of the article is therefore a personal case study – it answers the promise you made in the title and shows the specific results you got.
Show screen captures. Take photographs. Whatever it needed to grab the attention of your readers and make them desperately want to know how you did it. That’s part one.
Part two of the article discusses a manual (free) way to achieve this goal.
Break down the process. Tell them how you carefully calculated your macros to hit specific targets. Tell them the range of exercises you did. Describe how to split test your advertising for improved results. Give it all away – in a step-by-step fashion.
After reading this section, you should have kept your promise to the reader; you’ve grabbed their attention by telling them what you achieved, then you’ve helped them by explaining the process you followed to achieve this.
Then we go in for the kill.
After all that text describing the many complicated steps you took we then introduce one or more tools that can help us to achieve those steps quicker, cheaper or more effectively.
You’ll be surprised by how many people end up clicking your affiliate link and buying the product you’re promoting.
Here’s a simple example:
Get the idea?
Affiliate links can be inserted naturally into the actual body of any article.
Consider, for example, an article about how to keep goldfish.
While talking about the different types of filters it would be entirely reasonable for you to link out to Amazon as you mention specific brands, or to include links to your reviews of these products.
In this way almost any article can be monetized, even if it perhaps requires a modest amount of rewriting to fit in mentions of products and services you are an affiliate for.
That tapas recipe can be swifty updated to mention the cast iron cookware you favour, and the specific herbs that you use.
While such contextual affiliate links may not generate as much revenue as other types of articles, they’re still better than nothing.
If you have an existing blog with hundreds of existing posts, this can be one of the quickest methods possible for ramping up revenue (especially if you make use of Skimlinks).
Those articles are, after all, already indexed in Google and are receiving traffic.
So make more of them by updating them with a liberal sprinkling of affiliate links to make the most of your work.
Native Shopping Ads
Native shopping ads are rather like those provided by ad networks, except that instead of advertising companies, and paying you for every person who clicks on them, they instead advertise products.
When someone clicks on a product in one of these native adverts they are tagged with your affiliate link and – you guessed it – if they purchase anything you earn a commission.
Amazon is possibly the best-known example but there are many others out there.
While I have found that most affiliate “banners” as provided by affiliate programs tend to be far less effective than text-based affiliate links included within the body of an article, native shopping ads are the one exception here.
If you haven’t got the time (or the patience) to go back through all your published articles, manually adding affiliate links as you go, a faster option is simply to insert native shopping ads throughout your content using an an insertion plugin.
Advanced Affiliate Marketing Techniques
Now you understand the types of content that are likely to grow your affiliate income quickest, it makes sense to look at rather more advanced strategies for taking your affiliate marketing to the next level.
We have discussed the concept of “content stacking” before, but incase you’ve just arrived at this section of the course let me quickly outline the meaning of this phrase.
“Content stacking” is the term I use to refer to the creation of different “levels” of content which naturally sit (or “stack”) on top of one another in your website hierarchy.
Let’s illustrate this with an example.
Image we’re running a blog for fish keepers (something I’m passionate about myself).
It’s quite likely that targeting certain species of aquarium fish with our articles would work well.
These “species profiles” would likely have only modest competition, yet adding all the potential profiles up we might see a healthy number of daily visitors.
Where content stacking comes in is in situations where we think of the next level of content up – in this example broader articles about different types of fish.
Perhaps we find when doing our keyword research that there are good opportunities with article topics like “best fish for small aquariums” or “bottom feeding fish”.
Not only will producing such articles be quite easy, thanks to all the species profiles we have created, but we can then link through to the individual profiles from each of these articles.
This leads to a higher degree of authority for these smaller pages, which increases their ranking, and it gives our visitors far more content to read.
More page views, overall, is likely to mean more income.
With me so far?
So how does this all relate to affiliate marketing?
Well, let’s imagine that we write an article on the best undergravel aquarium filters – a standard buyers guide.
From then on, any time we mention filtration in any other article on our site (and there are likely to be lots) we can then link through to our filter buyers guide.
This then results in a higher authority for our buyers guide, and plenty of additional visitors clicking through to this affiliate page.
Hopefully you’re starting to see the benefits of content stacking.
But there’s one more thing worth mentioning here, and that’s when it comes to planning your content calendar. Whilst buyers guides and product reviews might be some of the most profitable affiliate articles to write, they’re generally not very link-worthy or share-worthy.
A site purely filled with product reviews is unlikely to make it as an authority site.
The concept of content stacking eliminates this issue.
We start off by considering what products and services would both be of use to our readers, and have affiliate programs. We can then write one article for each of the topics brainstormed – the best budget calculators, the best investment services, the best chicken heaters, the best car stereos etc.
Then, rather than relying just on the search engine traffic that these articles attract, we can also grow our affiliate revenue by referring back to them time and again in other content.
In this way we are able to produce a far broader range of content – which is more interesting for us to write and for our visitors to read – while still sending as many visitors as possible to our buyers guides and product reviews.
Here’s one blogger who does this very well indeed is Michelle from Making Sense of Cents. Notice how she includes nested affiliate content within her posts:
Some years ago I was running an authority website which made 90% of its income from one single article.
This article featured a very specific affiliate program, and gave away a free service, for which I earned upwards of $100 on every sign-up. I’m sure you can see why this was such a winning deal for everyone involved.
The thing was: this page didn’t actually get too many visitors to it. It was only one of hundreds of posts, and despite ranking well the traffic was far from impressive.
This got me wondering – what if I could get more people to this page? Would I increase my income comparatively?
To test this out I did one simple thing: I created more links to the page from other articles on the site.
I inserted contextual links into other articles, I added it prominently to the top of my sidebar and I also used an ad insertion plugin to feature it at the end of every article on the site in a brightly-colored box marked with “Recommended Reading”.
As it turned out, the experiment worked better than I could ever have hoped.
Traffic exploded to this page, and my sales increased many, many times over. Indeed, this one single tip was responsible for taking this particular site from hobby level to full-time income. Even better, the whole process took a matter of hours to implement.
The important thing to realize here is that I don’t force anyone into that page – nor do I trick them to get them there – I simply make sure that this particular article is as visible as possible, so that no matter what article you land on when you arrive, you’ll have multiple ways you can click over to my “money article”.
Once you’ve started to produce affiliate content, and you’ve found out which articles seem to be bringing you the most revenue, don’t just let these sit there, unloved.
Instead, actively rework your site in such a way as to refer as much traffic from other pages to your real earner.
Here are some effective ways to do just that:
Most blogs and authority sites follow broadly the same pattern, with a logo and a header menu pointing to your most important pages.
Typically these header links will point to your main blog categories, your “About Me” page and contact page.
But this is prime real estate, present at the top of every page on your site – so make it work for you.
Consider including a link here to your most profitable article, so that every visitor will see it.
For even more emphasis, you can make the text link to this article a slightly different color from the other links, or – depending on the theme you have opted for – you can make the header “sticky” so that it follows readers down the page as they read.
In this way you can feel confident that every reader will at least see the link to your top article.
As we move ever more towards a “mobile-first” internet, with more and more people accessing the web from their phones, sidebars get less attention than in years gone by.
All the same, for desktop visitors they can be an easy way to highlight your top posts.
Some bloggers opt to create a section in their sidebar saying “top posts” or suchlike, and then inserting their most profitable articles here.
Others create “banners” – essentially image-based links that are designed to draw the eye – encouraging visitors to click over to these particularly profitable posts.
If you can naturally squeeze in a mention of your “money article” in other posts then feel free to go ahead and add it.
If you’re discussing lightweight camping gear and happen to mention stoves, it’s entirely natural that you might mention your “Top 10 Gas Stoves” article here, filled as it is with affiliate links.
These links can either be worked into your sentences and paragraphs, or can be added as supplementary resources.
Many bloggers will insert “Recommended Reading” or “Also See” sections into their posts – in essence a bullet-pointed list of related articles they hope you’ll click.
If you’d rather not go through hundreds of articles on your site manually inserting links to your “money posts” then another option is to essentially “advertise” them.
Rather than naturally weaving mentions and links into the actual body of your articles, you can instead use a plugin to insert a small advert for your article part-way through other posts.
This is much quicker than manually inserting them, and also has the benefit that you can “split test” your adverts, looking for that particular design which drives the most people possible to your money posts.
Lastly don’t forget that traffic doesn’t just have to be internal: it can also come from external sources.
You can drive extra visitors to your most profitable posts by, for example, linking to them when you do a guest post, including them in the bio link of your social profiles, or setting up a looping tool to regularly share your article on social media.
Target High Traffic Pages
If you’re like most bloggers then you’ll find that some of your articles receive considerably more traffic than others.
Whether this is thanks to a stellar Pinterest image going viral, or your article suddenly ranking in Google for all manner of phrases, many sites have a handful of “home run” articles.
Seeing as these articles are receiving the most traffic, it therefore makes sense to focus our attention on trying to monetize these posts effectively.
Oh sure, eventually you’ll want to spend time making sure that all your content is well-monetized, but if you’re just starting out then the best place to begin is with your most visited content.
Luckily it’s easy to figure out which pages these are in Google Analytics. Simply navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
Once you’ve reach this screen you’ll know exactly where to focus your attention.
I would suggest noting down the top ten pages from a traffic perspective, and then work hard on these to make them as good (and as profitable) as possible.
You may want to use the list of relevant affiliate programs that you gathered earlier, to see what products or services might be of interest to visitors arriving on these specific articles.
Then, gently add in these affiliate links, rewriting small portions if necessary, to give your affiliate links the attention they deserve.
This technique alone can take an established blog from nowhere to profitability in a very short space of time.
Once you’ve completed this task, move on to the next ten and so on.
Want to know how I managed to increase the revenue from one of my articles by ten times in a single month? The answer is “split testing”.
The concept is split testing is quite simple: you test sending traffic to two or more different locations to see which produces the most revenue for you.
You keep the more effective option, and then experiment with another part of your website.
For example, here are just a few of the things that you could test on your website:
- Different banner adverts
- Different text links
- Banners vs text links
- Putting extra affiliate links into your content
- Moving affiliate links up towards the top of your content
- Sending visitors to your product review, or straight to your merchant partner
- Sending visitors to different pages on the merchant site
- Sending traffic to two different products or companies to see who performs best
As you can see, there are a whole host of things that can be split tested. Each of these experiments has the potential to increase your revenue, without the need to create any more content for your site.
Historically, split testing your affiliate link wasn’t easy – so most people didn’t do it.
Instead they just “assumed” which would be best and ran with it.
Sadly, if this is how you monetize your site right now, you’re probably leaving a lot of money on the table.
Split testing your affiliate links is easy with Pretty Link however.
Affiliate Tracking IDs
Some affiliate programs (but not all) will let you create a tracking ID that bolts onto the end of your affiliate link.
As an example, imagine your main affiliate link is:
You decide that it would be useful to see whether the banner in your sidebar or the text links in your product review content are sending more traffic. Here you might set up two different tracking codes, producing two different affiliate links. For example we might have:
Note that these affiliate links with tracking codes will all go to the same destination; our visitors will be none the wiser about our tests, but we’ll be able to get a better idea of what’s working with our website.
We could then use the above affiliate link for our banner, and in our affiliate statistics we could see quite easily which visitors we have sent to the merchant actually clicked our banner.
Over time, we can test whether our banner is having any impact, or whether we’re better to focus our efforts elsewhere.
We could even use this strategy to test different banners, in order to see which ones perform best.
The Core Affiliate Strategy
An increasingly popular concept in affiliate marketing have become known as the “core affiliate strategy”.
Historically, affiliate marketers and bloggers would just add whatever relevant affiliate links they could find to their posts and then move on.
There was very little science to affiliate marketing, which is one reason why so many bloggers struggle with affiliate marketing.
As we have seen, however, there are ways to take control of your revenue. We can split test our affiliate links and we can drive additional traffic to our most valuable pages.
The core affiliate strategy takes things a step further, and suggests that rather than promoting pretty much every relevant affiliate program in your niche, instead you focus on just a tiny handful – and wring the most profitable possible out of them.
Why does this make sense?
The first reason to consider the core affiliate strategy is simply that it makes your life as a blogger or affiliate marketer a whole lot easier. Rather than signing up for dozens of different programs, and trying to manage all those relationships, you instead focus on just 4-6 top programs.
The fact that you’re promoting so few companies also means it’s easier to remember who you’re working with, and how you’ll fit them into your future blog posts.
A second point worth mentioning is that many affiliate programs give higher commissions to better-performing affiliates.
This is known as a “tiered” program, where the more sales you make each month, the more commission you earn on each sale.
By focusing on pushing as many sales as possible to a small handful of affiliate programs you maximize your conversions, thus giving you a good chance to “tier up” and earn even bigger commissions.
Using Your Email List
The final “advanced” affiliate marketing technique I want to discuss here is arguably the most important of all: start an email list and use it to promote your affiliate offers.
Once you establish yourself with an email list of 10,000+ people, you’ll find that your income from email marketing can completely eclipse that of your website.
Whilst your site will still earn some regular revenue, at this point in the process your site’s main function is simply to funnel ever more subscribers onto your list.
Once they’re there – the real magic starts to happen.
Remember that it costs nothing to send an email; you’ll just pay a monthly subscription to keep your account live. So whether you send one email or thirty, you’ll pay the same each month.
And when you can reach out to tens of thousands of optin email subscribers with a single email, you don’t need to be too successful to bring in a healthy passive income.
Don’t believe me?
Consider this simple equation…
Assume you have an email list of 10,000 people. Of these people, just 2000 open each email you send, and 500 click through to the product that you’re promoting as an affiliate.
If the site you sent your visitors to had a signup rate of 2% and a commission of $100 a sale you’d make $1000 from that single email.
Of course, these are modest conversion rates, and with a good list you might get considerably more.
Just ask yourself, however, how many emails you’d send if you made $1,000 every time you clicked the button.
And that, my friends, is where we will leave this section. If you only take one piece of advice from this entire affiliate marketing lesson it is this: start an email list sooner rather than later, and use it to promote affiliate programs you believe in. You can go back and revise list building strategies here.