This post contains affiliate links because it’s a post teaching you how to use affiliate programs. Naturally, should you use these links and make purchases, I will earn a dime or two. I use this money to buy cat food.* Seriously.
After blogging for many years and not having any real success with turning my blog into a money-making website, I’ve felt really discouraged and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I’m signed up for plenty of affiliate sites and I’ve posted links and banners in different ways all over my blog. Those links and banners have had a few clicks here and there and even some sales that earned me a whopping 15 cents. I’m sure you’ve been in the same boat if you’re reading this.
This isn’t one of those posts where I tell you that you’re going to make thousands of dollars every month from your blog. I’m not going to try to bait you in with some pretty words and then tell you all about my super expensive webinar you should sign up for if you want to learn more. I am legit going to tell you the secret to making money from your blog using affiliate programs – even if it’s just enough to cover the costs of your domain and hosting space. Could you make thousands? Maybe? It depends on your blog, your traffic, and your commitment to it I guess. Regardless, there’s a right way to do it and a sure-fire way to make income happen.
Choosing a Program
There are plenty of affiliate programs out there and lots of different companies to work with and I in fact belong to quite a few of them. My best advice is to choose 2-3 programs to focus on that fit within your target audience. You wouldn’t necessarily want a bunch of ads all over your blog for companies that sell home decor if you are targeting readers interested in makeup.
Here are some Affiliate Management Companies that you can sign up for and a few of their more prestigious brands that use their system:
Are you interested in working with a specific brand or company but don’t know how to get started? Most companies have an Affiliates link somewhere on their website – usually hidden in the footer. Below is an example. Generally the Affiliate page will include instructions for joining and offer you all of the information you need.
I want to note that you should always read the terms of service. I know we all too often skim over that huge wall of text, but it’s actually important. You want to get paid for your hard work, right? As an example, Etsy does not allow Etsy sellers to be affiliates. So unfortunately, you can’t sell your own products on Etsy, and be an affiliate.
For the purpose of this post, I am going to focus on Affiliate Window, the program I have personally had the most success with. While Affiliate Window is the affiliate program for many brands such as Loot Crate, Casetify, and Pop In a Box the company I work with the most and have had the most profitable success with has been Etsy.
Why Etsy is Working for Me
It’s very simple, actually. Etsy is a website that focuses on hand-made goods. It just so happens that the types of hand-made items I would love to own and am passionate about, exist on their website. Talking about the products and showing them off is quite easy and fun. That makes the posts easy for viewers to enjoy and to read. The more enjoyable the post is for the reader, the more likely they are to click on items in your post.
But it’s more than that. I typically hand-select an item every week to showcase both on my blog and across my social networks. I call it my Favorite Handmade Item of the week. I do my best to find something that translates well for my demographic and will make them feel compelled to own the item. For example, during the first couple of weeks of the Pokémon Go craze, I only showcased hand-made goods inspired by Pokémon and it was a huge payoff!
What kind of products would both you and your audience be passionate about? The more you enjoy talking about them, the easier it is to sell them to others… without actually trying to sell them. See, that’s kind of the key to all of this. Readers aren’t stupid. They know you’re trying to sell them products, but they also kind of want it to feel like it was their idea to purchase something.
[Tweet “Readers know you’re trying to sell them products, but they want it to feel like it was their idea to purchase something.”]
The BIG Secret
Are you ready to find out the secret to making money from affiliate programs? Sign up for my webinar now! Haha Just kidding.
You have to be proactive. You can’t just slap some banners up in your sidebar. Yeah sure, that occasionally works, but it’s rare by comparison. The BEST way to make affiliate programs work for you is to write content rich posts. Talk about products. Show your readers pictures of items. Get creative and write entire posts dedicated to a product or group of products. Why do you like the products? How would you use them in your life? Paint the picture and make the reader feel like they need this cool thing you’ve found.
And guess what? It works on EVERY affiliate program platform! Some of my best examples (and biggest money makers on this blog):
Do you see what all of those posts have in common? They aren’t just simple links to Etsy with a few words about how cool hand-made items are. I get detailed – I show pictures of the products and talk about them while even sometimes quoting the creator directly. I only talk about products I really liked and thought were cool. All of the posts have deep links and it works!
What is Deep Linking?
There’s a lot of information to be found about the subject, but I’ll keep it simple. Deep linking is when you link directly to a product or a search queary on a website, rather than the website itself. See the difference in these links? Each is more specific than the last.
General Link: http://www.etsy.com
Broad Search: https://www.etsy.com/featured/holiday-and-christmas-decorations
Specific Search: http://www.etsy.com/search?q=christmas+tree+ornaments
Specific Item: http://www.etsy.com/listing/249241066/doctor-who-silence-christmas-ornament
Sure, readers pick up a cookie (the way by which these programs track clicks and then reward you for sales) either way. But by deep linking, we promote a specific selection of items or a product and it makes the viewer much more likely to purchase something. It’s scientifically proven that readers hate clicking more then 3-4 times to get to anything!
With Etsy, I have found that the best way is to go as far as to link to specific items. There are so many items available that less specific linking tends to overwhelm customers. The theory is: If someone is interested in spending money at all and you show them an actual item, they are more likely to spend the money. If you overwhelm them with choices, they will click away. This is true of pretty much every business model. Tell the customer what they want… what they need to buy.
Promote, Promote, Promote.
I can’t believe how many bloggers forget to promote their posts. I could seriously go on for days about all of the ways you can (and should) promote your content. People for whatever reason seem to think they can just hit ‘publish’ and watch the money roll in. Nope… it doesn’t work like that!
You absolutely must be willing to promote your content utilizing social media. You should do research to determine the right social media sites for you, the best times for posting, and the correct hashtags to use. It’s different for everyone and I can only tell you what’s working for me with the understanding that it may not work for you.
Wednesdays and Thursdays seem to be my big blogging days. For whatever reason, those are the days my audience is active on social media. Because of this, I schedule my blog posts and my social media accordingly. Notice this content was posted on a Wednesday? That’s because it’s one I really wanted readers to pay attention to. I will heavily schedule social media posts for this blog and other content I want seen. As a general rule, I schedule my fluff pieces (content that I care less about) on other days of week.
Yup. That’s the big secret. It’s surprisingly easy and I can promise that while you may not earn income this week, you will see results. That doesn’t mean you should write up a ton of posts full of affiliate links. That is totally not what I am suggesting. But once every couple of months or so (especially around any holiday), you should be able to write affiliate posts without overwhelming your readers or making them feel spammed.
In Case You Were Wondering…
If you’re interested in trying out Etsy’s affiliate program, you will need to sign up for Affiliate Window. I actually really like their system. I’ve tried the others out that I listed above and some are kind of complicated – especially as far as checking your reports are concerned. And I love that Affiliate Window’s payout threshold is pretty low at just $25. I’ve been able to cash out several times already directly to my bank account for that reason. Super handy.
*No cats were harmed in the making of this post. Cats will not starve if you don’t make a purchase.