You Can Earn WHAT with Affiliate Links?

Out of all the sessions I’ve been to at blog conferences, one of most enlightening ones was at the Type A Parent Conference. Sure, many bloggers might not bother to read session re-caps in general. But when I tell you that two of the panelists for the affiliate marketing session make over $20,000 a year without giant traffic numbers, you’ll want to keep reading.

Earning Money with Affiliate Links (even with a small audience)

Seriously, this number flabbergasted most of us in the room. And the buzz continued as friends on Twitter found out I was in that session and offered to pay me in diamonds to tell them what I learned (okay, I lied about the diamonds part).

Here’s an overview of what I learned from the session with a dash of my own personal notes.

Speakers: Debbie Booksaber (Mamanista), Allison Fox (Pepperjam- now eBay Enterprise) and Aprile Parelle (Roxy Communications).

The big lesson of the session was this: if you’re not making money from affiliate marketing, you’re doing it wrong.

How’s that to wake ya up? While I hadn’t dabbled in too much affiliate marketing at the time, I’ve heard so many people dismiss it as wasted time. After listening to this session, I can assure you that it’s not.

So what’s affiliate marketing?

Wikipedia describes it like this:

Affiliate marketing is a marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.

For example, if you were an Amazon affiliate and linked to some of your favorite books with affiliate links, if someone clicked on a link and purchased that book, you’d get a small commission. Even cooler is that some affiliates have 30-day cookies, meaning that if someone didn’t buy right then but bought 20 days later (and bought other stuff too), you get a commission for all of that. While most affiliates pay per sale, some pay per lead as well.

Forrester estimates the affiliate industry will grow to $4.5 billion by 2016. Wowza.

If you worry that your readers won’t like the fact that you’re making money, I encourage you to shift your paradigm on this a bit. If someone provided valuable information to you, wouldn’t it be nice to reward them a bit? Maybe they taught you something. Maybe they saved you time for not having to search for the information themselves. Maybe they showed you some great uses for a product you were considering buying anyway. Whatever the case, if you’re providing affiliate links in an ethical way, no one should fault you for it.

Plus, if you search engine optimize the posts that contain affiliate links, you’ll bring in first-time readers to your blog or people who may purchase something through a link of yours but never visit your site again.

Where do you sign up to be an affiliate?

The panelists suggested signing up for these:

ShareaSale.com (I’ve had the best luck with this one thus far. And yep, that’s an affiliate link. BOOM.)

CJ Affiliate

Linkshare (affiliate link here too)

eBay Enterprise

And I’m adding these:

Amazon Affiliates

Reward Style

You can also sign up directly at the merchant site (look for “affiliates” which I usually find at the bottom of their web page). Most merchant links will redirect you to whichever affiliate company they use anyway.

When you’re signing up for these, have this info on hand:

  • Your social security number (some won’t ask this right away but you’ll eventually have to submit a W-9 to get paid)
  • Name of your blog/URL
  • Description of your blog, how many unique visits you have, customer demographics (again, depth of what they ask will vary)

How do you choose affiliate links and add them to your site?

Choosing the right links and adding them strategically within your site is critical to earning money from affiliates.

Choosing links:

The short-and-basic explanation: once you’re signed into these affiliate sites, search for advertisers of products that would be relevant to sell then get the code to add either a button/banner or link to your site.

The longer-but-better explanation is the one that’s gonna get you earning money. Here are some factors the panelists said to consider when determining affiliates:

Determine your interests. Do you blog about green products, baby stuff, travel? But don’t just think about your blog’s overall theme. For example, if you wrote a post about green living but don’t typically do so, sign up for affiliates related to that subject and add them to that post. I asked the panelists how many affiliates they were a part of and the answer was HUNDREDS. Yes, hundreds. While that sounds daunting, you aren’t going to do all of these at once. You’ll build this up over time.

Ensure availability of affiliate programs. If you’re choosing a niche (or even just a niche for a particular post), make sure there are affiliate programs out there. Something too specific may not have any affiliates you can sign up for.

Adding affiliate links:

As far as adding affiliate links to your site, here are a few things to consider:

Integrate links into as many posts as possible. For example, if I write a post about hiking on Adventuroo and mention that Little Roo was in his backpack carrier, I should link the words “backpack carrier” to the one I use. It’s subtle yet provides value if someone is in the market for one.

Go back to old posts and add links. What are your most popular posts? Are they appropriate for affiliate links? I can give you two examples of this. A fellow blogger who sat next to me ranks number 2 on Google for a well-known baby product. The post is old but she STILL gets comments on it, even from doctors! She’s going to add an affiliate link to that product on this post now. Smart, right?

As for me, I ran a bloggy b-card series where I tackled everything from what to put on a business card to a giant showcase of awesome cards I received at Type A. On that showcase, I listed a few places you can buy cards and a few of those links were affiliates. Based on what I learned from this session, I went back to the other four posts and added those links there too. Since then, I’ve also created a hub page with all the posts and places to buy cards in one place.

Earn affiliate income on product reviews and product gift guides. Did you write a post about a product just because you loved it? Did you create a gift guide for the holidays? Earn some money from them! (If you were given that product to review, you may want to ask that company if you can use an affiliate link.)

Cool Mom Picks uses this tactic in some of their posts with language at the bottom of their post that says “Grab a from our affiliate…”

Use Twitter to promote your affiliate links. My notes on this part were sketchy but Christina from The Cutest Kid Ever liveblogged the session and has some good notes.

In tutorials and DIYs, add the products you used as affiliate links. For example, on Adventuroo, I rank #1 for “how to make a paper bunting.” In that post, I link to the products I used.

Ask an affiliate for an exclusive offer. Do this only after you’re bringing that company in some decent sales. If you are, see if they’ll offer a special discount to your readers. You may even see if they’d work with you on a paid campaign.

The panelists also said that links typically work much better than graphic ads.

As you determine how to use affiliate links, remember this:

“People hate to be sold, but they love to buy.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Be genuine. Be honest. Be ethical. Mmmmkay?

Do you have to disclose?

Yes, you do need to disclose. According to Missy Ward, founder of Affiliate Summit, disclosures need to be at the top of each post. I am slowly going back to older posts and doing this as I’ve typically only done the bottom of a post.

How much money will you make?

Ah, the golden question, right? Well, two of the panelists shared how much they make.

Debbie from Mamanista said that her blog gets around 2,500 unique views per month, which isn’t all that big. BUT she earns around $20,000 a year in affiliate income! Some of her posts from a few years ago still bring in money because they come up in searches and lead people to her site. For example, she gets paid from Sittercity because she ranks in search engines for terms regarding finding a babysitter.

Aprile runs a blog on decorative concrete and earned $32,000 in her first year! She found a niche and made a name for herself as being an expert in everything you want to know about concrete (by the way, did you know how pretty concrete floors can be?).

I can’t promise that you’ll get anywhere near that. In fact, I’m still learning all this myself. But if there’s one thing I learned from this session, it’s that YES it can be done.

And I plan to take a big, fat stab at it.

So, what do you think? Does this give you the incentive to get started? I’ve already started putting into play some of the advice and plan to keep at it and see what becomes of it. 

Pssst… if you think affiliate marketing will make you feel like a sleazy car salesman, then read this post about why you shouldn’t fear affiliate links.

Comments

    • melissa says

      I’ve done graphic ads too (and still do) but yes, the panelists said links are way more effective! They didn’t say not to use banners/buttons but just to be aware that text links have a higher click-thru!

  1. says

    This is EXACTLY why I love you so! {dramatic, but sorta true} I’ve learned so much from you, Mel. I can’t even tell you how much you’ve taught me in the past year {tomorrow is my one year blogiversary!} and I’m so thankful. I’ve been in online marketing for about 6 years now, but it feels like the bloggy marketing world is slightly different, which is why I love your blogs so much. You break things down so that marketers, like myself, can learn more than what they think they know.

    Just as you mentioned above, I used YOUR affiliate links to buy both the Thesis Theme and Mom Blog SEO e-book. Why? Because I value your knowledge and I think you deserve a reward for your hard work! Thanks so much, I’m off to join sharasale….

      • says

        Hi I am a newbie at this, although I have made a lot of money becoming a reseller of various software products directly through the site but I wanted to work on affiliate promotions.

        Here is what I learnt, which I wanted to share,
        Media buys, from different sources, PPV, CPV, PPC a lot cheaper than Google. The key here is to use these through scraping url’s and getting laser targeted url’s for marketing your product. What you need is a very attractive landing page that people can sign on to.

        What I wanted to know from expert marketers is how long does it take to start getting revenue through media buys, the reason why I do not believe in creating and maintaining blogs is it takes a lot of time (although it is stable revenue eventually)

        I’d really appreciate expert help and I am willing to share part of my affiliate revenues if someone is interested in working. I reside in the UK.

  2. says

    I know what affy marketing and all is, but I have just the WORST luck in it all. Not even my B&N affy links have been paying out for me, and I KNOW they’re being clicked (cause I have a thinger that shows they have). Iuno.. maybe I just suck LOL

    • melissa says

      Hard to say why that’s happening but keep trying! Maybe you’ll have better luck with some other affiliates.

  3. says

    this is a great post. I am an amazon affiliate and have made a little bit (like $50?) worth of amazon gift cards. Nothing too big, I’d love to turn it into something more regular. but I also don’t want my blog to seem like one big advertisement, kwim?

    • melissa says

      I don’t want to be a big ad either, which is why I like some of the subtlety in affiliate links (not as in hiding them as such but rather they aren’t big, flashy things that scream marketing). I’ll only do them when I think they’ll benefit my readers and, like sponsored posts or giveaways, I won’t do them all the time.

  4. says

    I’m going back to my old posts RIGHT NOW and adding in some affiliate links. The problem with me is that I always forget to toss affiliate links in. I don’t know why. Thanks…again!

    • melissa says

      I didn’t even think about this either until I went to this Type A session! I love the idea though!

  5. says

    This is great. Thanks! I signed up to be an affiliate but haven’t done much, it seemed like a waste of time. Time to re-think my strategy, take it seriously and maybe add a few more affiliates. Hummm…

    • melissa says

      Good luck with it! I’m slowly tweaking my sites as well. I don’t wanna be an affiliate marketing machine but I’d love to have links that are relevant and helpful to readers. That’s what it’s all about!

    • says

      I am in CA and was making about $40 a month from Amazon, so I was so sad. Then I found out about Skimlinks, it will still let me earn from Amazon and other affiliates too!

    • melissa says

      BOO is right. NC is like that too if it makes you feel any better. Amazon is a great one but luckily there are other affiliates that will work with our states!

  6. says

    Thanks for this post. I do fairly well with my affiliate marketing, but I’d never thought to search out how I’m being found and putting links in old posts. Thanks for some great ideas.

  7. says

    I love this info, thank you so much for sharing! I’ve signed up for AdSense and Amazon Affiliates, but so far only have the graphic links. I definitely need to figure out what more I can do!

    • melissa says

      You’re welcome. Good luck with it– I’m finding it a fun challenge to see how I can do this in a way that’s helpful to readers yet still worth it to me. From what I learned, it can definitely be done!

    • melissa says

      Slap my forehead then too! I didn’t think about this either. I learned so much in this session– it was just awesome.

  8. says

    This is a fantastic blog. I’ve been in affiliate marketing for 7 years and I’m now an Affiliate Manager, and the amount of money that can be made is unreal. We’ve seen some bloggers make 500.00 in a day. Thank you for educating your readers about this. We all know that ecommerce is only going to get stronger and stronger.

    • melissa says

      I think you can still do it with blogspot addresses but companies may be more likely to decline someone without their own domain name. That’s just speculation though.

  9. says

    So glad you wrote this up. After going to Type A i decided to have some paid advertising in some form on my blog after always having zero, and decided affiliate links were the way to go but i had no idea what to do with them. Thanks for summing up the session. I already starting signing up for some by looking at the places i purchase most of my stuff from and many use a affiliate provider that covers many. I never even though about banners and graphics. I read almost every blog in a reader so links seems like the only way to go.

    Love this will keep it in my reader to refer back to often.

    • melissa says

      Awesome! I’m glad it helped. The session was really one of my surprise favorites!

  10. says

    Thank you for posting this. In the last 2 weeks, I have started signing up for affiliate programs, however find it overwheleming. I did a few links in a post, however wasn’t sure how to do about it. I also didn’t think about linking in old posts (Really?! This is awesome!) I have a couple posts that get daily hits! My mouth hit the floor when I read people sign up for hundreds. Yeah, not all at once, however I would feel so unorganized. Is it that they just use particular ones possibly once or twice and never again?
    Thank you for writing this! Very helpful!

    • melissa says

      Glad it was helpful, Kimberly! Yes, from what I understand they use an affiliate program for 1-2 links in some cases. For example, I use scrapbook.com’s affiliate program for that one bunting how-to but I don’t really blog about my scrapbooking so that’ll probably be all I used it for. I was also concerned about having so many, but for old posts that still get a lot of traffic, it’s a good idea!

  11. says

    I just attended an excellent affiliate marketing class & it opened my eyes to the money that can be made. The class really demystified the whole concept. I’m starting slow as well. Thanks for sharing more info on the topic!

  12. says

    Interesting! I never looked into this because a) I have a small, small following so I didn’t think I’d qualify, and b) I didn’t want to clutter up my site with ads. But mostly links and just a few ads would be fabulous! I will have to investigate more. Thanks for the info!

    • melissa says

      No problem! Like anything, affiliate marketing can be overdone. BUT I think the panelists’ suggestions are effective without being overly salesy!

  13. says

    Melissa, I was wondering about Skimlinks as well.

    This is from their FAQ:

    Skimlinks lets the normal link appear, and turns it into an affiliate link only when the user clicks through, so there is no visible difference to the user. This gives users more trust in your site, and increases the likelihood they will click on the link.

    Do you feel this is something that should be avoided?

    Thank you.

    • melissa says

      Hey Robert!
      In reading that FAQ, it sounds sketchy to me. I’m not in it to trick anyone into clicking and I think that sounds like a trick. I honestly don’t know anyone who purposefully AVOIDS a link because it’s an affiliate. I’d avoid Skimlinks for that reason but that’s just me!

  14. says

    Thanks for this post. I had been approached to do some affiliate marketing a while back, but I was kind of iffy on it. I wasn’t sure how my readers would approach it and how legitimate it was. Now I’m going to have to reconsider signing up.

  15. says

    So glad that someone I know shared this on Facebook. I have been an affiliate with some great companies for years, but have rarely made anything from it. I’ll be considering many of the tips here and hope to turn things around soon.

  16. says

    Great post! There’s so much info to absorb… but I can’t wait to dig in and check it out. As my husband has frequently stated: if I got paid for the amount of time I spend writing, we’d be rich by now… why not?!? lol

  17. says

    I’m curious about Skimlinks. I live in IL where the nexus tax law was passed in April so I was dropped from Amazon, Pepperjam and some other affiliate programs. I don’t see how Skimlinks can help me do business with Amazon again. Does anybody know?

    • melissa says

      I’m not sure either. There doesn’t appear to be a way to do this; plus I don’t even get how it could work!

      Did Pepperjam drop you? I’m in NC which has had the Nexus law for ages and they let me join Pepperjam just recently.

  18. says

    Hi Melissa,

    I’m doing some research right now for a presentation that I am putting together for Blog Indiana next month and came across this post. Great explanation of why bloggers really need to consider affiliate marketing! It’s my mission to convince the Indy bloggers that they need to take a chance, even if it is just signing up with a couple of programs.

    Thanks for helping educate about this!

    Tricia

  19. says

    So I was doing it wrong! What happened is that I just put the banner up but never use any links in my post…this makes more sense now…thank you and I owe you big time for doing this post!

    Total sidenote: my sister has concrete floors in her house…they are beautiful!

  20. says

    Melissa,

    You have rejuvenated my interest in affiliate work. I am hovering around 2000 visits a month and growing. I am only an affiliate for a few great products and wondered why I haven’t been earning. DUH! I need to get them out there more AND get more affiliates.

    I will be using your links for reference.

    Thank you again!

    ~Allie

    • melissa says

      Yay! I think my problem was that I was afraid to have too many as well. Glad to know that it’s GOOD to have lots of affiliates!

  21. says

    Melissa!! Reaching through the computer to hug you right now. I used to use affiliate links a lot, but had gotten away from it because they weren’t worth all the extra effort. I logged in to my Google Affiliate account after reading this post and found $138!!!! waiting for me. Thank you so much! Maybe I should update a few of my links and old posts!

  22. says

    @ Melissa. Regarding being dropped by Pepperjam in the state of IL…yes I was dropped by all of the merchants that I was using. I still have a Pepperjam account but took down all my links because I received notification from each merchant saying I was dropped. Maybe there are some merchants within the network that allow it??? I don’t have time to figure out which ones out of thousands will accept my link.

    Last week, I found out that all of my BuyCostumes.com links were dead (they are through CJ). When I contacted the affiliate mgr to ask why, her first response was this, “Hi Sandee, are you aware of tax nexus laws that have been passed in IL, CT, RI, NC and AR? Do you reside in any of these states?” I replied back that I live in IL and her second response was this, ” I’m so sorry. I had to terminate partnerships with IL affiliates as of June, 2011.” Then I emailed CJ to find out how I can tell which merchants within the network are still doing business in IL. Here’s the response I got, “If the advertiser accepted you, then that would generally mean that the advertiser has no problems with your state. You may always follow up with the advertisers directly, but them accepting you should generally be a good sign.”

    The problem with that answer is that it only addresses merchants that I sign up with now, after the law passed. For the merchants that I’ve had relationships with for years, it’s not as easy to figure out. All I can say with BuyCostumes.com is that I must’ve missed the cancellation email. The following states are currently affected:
    California
    Colorado
    Illinois
    North Carolina
    Rhode Island
    Connecticut
    As I understand it, there are 6 more states currently considering enacting this law so thousands of other affiliates will be dropped. It’s only a matter of time.

    I would say to affiliate marketers like those who have posted here, just make sure merchants who you are already signed up with will actually pay you if you promote their products. And for those of you not in the states listed above, pay attention to what’s going on in your state with regard to this law so you are prepared with a backup plan. It’s a ton of work to take down affiliate links when the law passes.

    One tip can help: On every page where you post a link mention the name of the merchant somewhere on the page. It can be as part of the referral comment, like “You can find one of these XXXX products at my partner, Amazon.com.” This allows you to search your site for the product name + the merchant’s name and find all the links in the site that need to be removed or changed. When you get to where you have hundreds of pages with affiliate links on them, you need such a system to manage your links.

  23. says

    I just realized that the list of states that BuyCostumes.com gave me is different than the list I found on NetProfitsToday.com. I would rely on NPT as opposed to the BuyCostumes.com comment so they are CA, CO, IL, NC, RI and CT.

  24. says

    Great article! I just signed up with two affiliates this week as I am trying to look into earning money with my blog without being review heavy. I like your explanations, as they give me a clear idea of how to incorporate links without overwhelming my readers.

  25. says

    Hi Melissa,

    Thanks for sharing the information, as a newbie to blogging I find articles like this a constant source of inspiration, always great to see and hear that there are people out there making a decent living from blogging.

    Thanks again,
    Glenn
    Glenn recently posted..Guest posting

  26. Judy Wall says

    Very interesting! Thanks so much, I’m off to join sharasale…. They didn’t say not to use banners/buttons but just to be aware that text links have a higher click-thru! I have banners in my blog, but I’ll try with the affiliate links now!!
    Judy Wall recently posted..Gout Tips

  27. says

    Great tips! I’ve been using Amazon Affiliates on my main blog for over a month with zero earnings. And I’ve used Google Adsense on my personal blog and professional blog for over a year with about $2.00 in earnings. I definately need to get to work in this area.

  28. says

    Hello
    if you visit my affiliate site you’ll notice that each click on a product will transfer you to the original site with the same products.
    My question is: what link I have to use which effects the traffic between my site and the other site ?
    The general link transfers just to the homepage and this effects the traffic.
    Thank you for your attention.
    With best regards.
    Y. Carmeli

  29. says

    very well detailed explanation just wanted to know why i cant use adsense and affiliate links on my blog together – will they create problem – my blog showcase – trending topics on social media

    can you help me out onto the same

    thanks
    Kadri

  30. Concepcion Gibson says

    How awesome is that?! I can’t even tell you how much you’ve taught me in the past year {tomorrow is my one year blogiversary!} and I’m so thankful. Thank you for writing this!
    Concepcion Gibson recently posted..Heather Penko

  31. says

    Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m undoubtedly
    enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.
    Tilly recently posted..Tilly

  32. says

    This is the kind of information I have been searching for, for over a year now. You have taken and explained affiliate marketing to a level where we all can understand how to do it. Thank you so much, today I am going to try this way of earning money, along with other streams of income. Thank you for the inspiration!

  33. says

    It’s amazingly difficult to get people to click affiliate links. I’ve only met two people in real life outside of the internet who knew what ClickBank is, so while internet marketers oftentimes worry about disguising their affiliate links thinking that people “know” they are affiliate links… most people who aren’t internet marketers don’t even have a clue about it – YET it still seems like it takes an enormous amount of people to a website (even if they are “targeted”) before you get clicks. And hundreds of clicks before sales.

    So ultimately making money online is about actually getting people to your website, however you have to do that! And it’s not like people who own gas stations or restaurants or grocery stores. Instead of 90 percent of people who “enter the building” of one of those brick and mortar businesses BUYING SOMETHING, with websites probably only about 90 percent (or less) of ONE PERCENT of the people who visit your website (from my experience) buy anything. You need 100 times the amount of people to get the same amount of sales but your expenses can be a lot lower than a brick and mortar business.
    Matt recently posted..Make it better!

  34. says

    Excellent advice! I’m so glad you shared this, because I’m still getting the hang of the whole affiliate thing. I’m signed up with a few affiliate companies, and haven’t made much, but some. I’m always looking for better ways to maximize my affiliate posts and links.
    Tenns @ New Mama Diaries recently posted..zulily Weekly Preview

  35. says

    I have received letters from some affiliates I was starting with who are closing their affiliates due to the new tax laws. One company mentioned that bloggers would be hit hardest by it. Do you have info over them? Because my understanding only gave a severe headache and my tax gal said I should stop using them too. Would love your thoughts though.

    Honey
    Honey Rowland recently posted..Mamavation Bootcamp Vlog

    • Melissa Culbertson says

      Do you have any online articles you can share about new tax laws? I’ve seen buzz about online sales tax potentially coming to fruition but nothing specific to affiliate sales. I think NY had some changes recently and since I live in NC, I’m not allowed to participate in some affiliate programs (Amazon being the biggest).

      My accountant knows I do affiliates and I pay taxes on them on my end. I declare it all as income, even if a particular affiliate only pays out a small sum. So I don’t know what to tell you other than my experience thus far! Hope that helps somewhat at least!

  36. says

    I am a Network Marketing Professional and accredit my early activities in Affiliate Marketing to my current success. While my Affiliate Marketing has taken a back seat to my current Network Marketing career, I still earn checks from old posts and links. The great thing is with just a little reincarnation of some post this holiday season, we had our best commissions ever.

    Thanks for sharing this.
    Paul Truman recently posted..Direct Sales = Network Marketing. Here are some hard truths.

  37. says

    Thanks, Melissa, for the great post! We just deleted several affiliates from our sidebar last week because we haven’t earned a penny! Ever. Not.one.dime! But, after reading your post, I’m going to reconsider this decision, go back through our blog and add links in our posts!
    Carole recently posted..Ice Cream Sundae Dessert Buffet

  38. says

    Thank you so much for this article. It was very helpful and informative and I appreciate you taking the time to put this information out there for the rest of us. You ROCK! :-)

  39. says

    I am looking for a place that can teach me step by step and I probably need pictures too. I am trying to get into affiliate marketing but have very little knowledge of posting affiliate links on my site. I just dont know how. Is there a step by step learning process I can find to teach me to do this and use WordPress and wigets use and how to use them. I want to do this but I keep getting stopped by inability to apply things. I managed a couple links from my amazon affiliate link but now I need to link that on my fb twitter and other social media to advertise and get people to my site. I need to learn about how to add words to get traffic. I need help.

  40. says

    I am a newbie to affiliate marketing but have in the past made a lot of revenue in online sales. I will be sharing my experiences on my new blog and I would appreciate any help through my affiliate journey.

    Thanks!

    Melissa your blog is wonderful! I don’t know if I am doing this right but I am a guy who’d like to start making the dollars pretty quick through media buys. I have tried several methods which I would appreciate your feedback on as well!

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