Affiliate Marketing Basics Every Blogger Should Know

Affiliate Marketing Basics Every Blogger Should Know

By JoAnne D. | Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing Basics

Affiliate marketing is an exceptional method of monetizing your blog. In today’s article, learn affiliate marketing basics: what affiliate marketing is, how it works, and the fundamentals you need to get started.

Affiliate marketing is a great way to monetize your blog. However, it’s too easy to buy into so-called “get-rich-quick” schemes aimed at both bloggers and business owners who don’t know much about affiliate marketing.

Today’s article goes into affiliate marketing basics—what it is, how it works, and how to go about finding an affiliate program so you can monetize your blog scam-free.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Quite simply, affiliate marketing involves promoting a product or service from a merchant and earning a commission for it. You can earn a commission by getting a percentage of the resulting sale, commission per lead (no purchase necessary, just a sign-up with an email address), or a fixed amount for every free trial sign-up.

Pros And Cons of Affiliate Marketing

There are plenty of benefits of affiliate marketing, but there are also a number of drawbacks. Read these carefully so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to pursue affiliate marketing as a monetization tool.

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Benefits of Affiliate Marketing

  • Low startup costs. The costs involved are the costs of putting up a website.
  • No need to create own products or learn how to dropship. Because you’re not the one making the products or providing the service, you can start selling as soon as you create your website.
  • Learn skills you can use if you do want to sell products in the future. If you do want to venture into selling your own products one day, affiliate marketing is an awesome launchpad for that.
  • Potential for passive income. Set up an affiliate program once and continue making commissions as long as you’re an affiliate.
  • Control over which products you want to promote. Unlike selling advertising spaces on your blog, affiliate marketing allows you to pick and choose which products you want to promote on your blog.

 

Drawbacks of Affiliate Marketing

  • No control over the affiliate program. The merchant may decide to drop commission rates suddenly. Worse, the merchant may decide to just close their affiliate program and not pay you your commissions. Either way, you’re at the mercy of their rules.
  • Potential for competitors cutting into your commissions. The degree of competition depends on the niche you’re in, but when you have a highly coveted product, you risk being chased out of the game by more skilled and talented affiliate marketers.
  • Bad products or services can ruin your reputation. If you end up promoting a product or service that turns out to be a dud, it tarnishes not only the merchant’s reputation but your own. You might not recover from that right away.

 

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

There are three basic players in affiliate marketing: the merchant, the publisher (that’s you!), and the customer.

The merchant or advertiser sells the products or services. Their objective is to maximize leads and/or sales.
The publisher or affiliate promotes the merchants’ products or services to monetize their website traffic.

The customer browses the publisher’s website, sees the merchants’ products or services, and potentially buys them.

Here’s the typical affiliate marketing process if you directly enroll in a merchant’s affiliate program:

affiliate marketing basics 1

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  1. Publisher joins Merchant’s affiliate program.
  2. Publisher advertises Merchant’s products/services.
  3. Customer browses the internet looking for products/services that Merchant offers.
  4. Customer finds Publisher’s website and clicks affiliate link for Merchant.
  5. The affiliate link drops a cookie on Customer’s browser.
  6. Customer does specific action from Merchant’s website (e.g., fills out lead capture form, signs up for free trial, or buys products/services).
  7. When Customer’s action is completed, a tracking pixel on Merchant’s site matches up with the cookie on Customer’s browser.
  8. At the end of each payment period, Merchant pays commissions to Publisher.

 

Sometimes, another player is involved, namely, the affiliate network.

The affiliate network provides a platform for merchants and publishers to connect.

Here’s the typical affiliate marketing process if an affiliate network is involved:

affiliate marketing basics 2

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  1. Merchant joins Affiliate Network.
  2. Publisher joins Affiliate Network.
  3. Publisher joins Merchant’s affiliate program.
  4. Publisher advertises Merchant’s products/services.
  5. Customer browses the internet looking for products/services that Merchant offers.
  6. Customer finds Publisher’s website and clicks affiliate link for Merchant.
  7. The affiliate link drops a cookie on Customer’s browser.
  8. Customer does specific action from Merchant’s website (e.g., fills out lead capture form, signs up for free trial, or buys products/services).
  9. When Customer’s action is completed, a tracking pixel on Merchant’s site matches up with the cookie on Customer’s browser.
  10. Affiliate Network logs tracking pixel and cookie match implying that Publisher sent Customer to Merchant’s website.
  11. Affiliate Network provides reports to both Publisher and Merchant.
  12. At the end of each payment period, Affiliate Network collects commissions from Merchant and gives it to Publisher.

 

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Affiliate Marketing Basics

Now that you know what affiliate marketing is and how it works, we can now go deeper into the process and know how you can start affiliate marketing on your blog.

Where To Find Products To Promote

If you want to be an ethical affiliate marketer (i.e., you want to provide value to your readers and not just sell them anything that pays you a commission), there are lots of ways to go about it.

Whichever approach you take, be aware that it takes time and money to research the best products to promote to your readers. You don’t want to promote products that you know nothing about or haven’t used once.

Here are 3 ways to find products to promote.

Make a list of products and services that you like and are already using and check if they have affiliate programs.

Products and services that you already know about and like using are the best ones to promote on your blog. You’ll feel better recommending products that you’ve thoroughly tested and had a good experience with.

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Go to their website or blog and find out if they have affiliate programs. Most of the time, their footer would have a link that says “Affiliates,” “Affiliate Program,” or “Become an Affiliate.”

Alternatively, you can do a Google search for “affiliate program” + [product/service name]. If you still can’t pull up anything, email or contact the merchant and ask.

Research products and services that are promoted by or even offered by the influencers in your niche.

Find out which products and services seem to be promoted frequently on prominent blogs in your niche and check if you like these as well. This will involve time and probably some money investment so you can do your research properly.

Once you’ve thoroughly tested the product or service and decide that it’s indeed valuable to your readers, that’s the time you apply to their affiliate program.

If the product or service is being offered by influencers themselves, email the influencer directly. It helps if you’ve already established a prior relationship with them.

Use affiliate networks to find products.

If you don’t have any direct experience with products or services in your niche that could help your readers, you can often find good products on affiliate networks. This would involve a greater investment in time and money as you find a really good product to promote.

You may not have a relationship with the merchant prior to this, so you don’t really have an idea of the quality of their products or services. Plus you want to protect your reputation and credibility. Thus, you do need to invest some time and money when going this route.

Some of the best affiliate networks to find products are:

 

Our very own Danyon has previously written about how to find affiliate programs in ClickBank specifically, so you might want to check that out for step-by-step instructions.

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How To Decide Which Affiliate Products To Promote

There are plenty of merchants who offer affiliate programs for their products and services. Similarly, there are plenty of affiliate networks working with numerous merchants offering affiliate programs.

But just because there are plenty to choose from doesn’t mean you should promote just any product with an affiliate program.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when choosing a product to promote:

Am I already using this product? If not, is this product something that I’m willing to use? Products and services related to your niche that have solved your problems are more likely to entice your readers to become customers.

Will my readers benefit from using this product? If your readers don’t find the product valuable or at least helpful to them in some way, they won’t buy it. That’s all there is to it.

Is the buying process simple? Choose products that don’t have a lengthy or intricate checkout process. The point is to make your readers’ lives easier, not more difficult.

Does the merchant have good customer support? You want to be able to assure your readers that if they have any issues or complaints about the product or service, the merchant would be able to assist them and provide refunds if needed.

Is the commission worth the effort? The first thing one normally thinks about when you think of commissions is how much you’ll get per conversion; the percentage per sale or the fixed amount per lead, for example. But you also need to consider the conversion rate; that is, how often customers who click on your affiliate link actually buy the product.

For example, given a product that gives you $100 commission per sale, if only a single customer buys the product for every 100 customers who click on the affiliate link, then you only get $100 commission.

By contrast, if you have a product that only gives you $10 commission per sale, but 15 customers buy the product for every 100 customers who click on the affiliate link, then you get $150 commission.

The difference might not seem to be very large, but think of the conversion rate as how “sellable” the product is. You’ll have much better chances at success if you select products that customers that actually want to buy.

happy woman with shopping bags

You can summarize these questions into a single one:

Will this product/service help build a lasting relationship with my audience while providing me decent revenue?

If the answer is YES, go for it.

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How To Set Yourself Up As An Affiliate

Whether you plan to sign up as an affiliate directly with a merchant or through an affiliate network, you’ll have to apply and provide information before you’re approved to be a publisher.

checklist

Here are the things that merchants or affiliate networks will be looking for:

  • Regular high-quality content posted on your blog. Merchants want to be assured that you’re keeping your site updated and that you’re determined enough to write regular content to promote their product/service.
  • Email list with at least 500 subscribers. You have to have enough regular and engaged followers to pitch products to.
  • Business contact information. This is normally required for tax and reporting purposes. If you don’t want to give out your home address and personal contact information (which is wise), you can get a virtual business address. Here’s a useful article with details.
  • A bank account where commissions will be sent. Again, it might be wise to open a separate bank account where your affiliate commissions should be paid.

 

In turn, you can expect to receive some things from the merchant, the most important of which is the affiliate link.

Affiliate links look something like this:

https://www.affiliatenetworkormerchanturl.com/r.cfm?B=392087&M=94883939394

As you can see, it’s filled with gibberish and can be confusing to your reader. There are now many WordPress plugins that can disguise these links and allow you to display something like this instead:

https://stoppingscams.com/go/affiliate

Take note that you need to add a nofollow attribute to the URL (previously discussed here) so you won’t be penalized by Google.

Some WordPress plugins you can use to make your affiliate link look better are the following:

Final Thoughts

Here’s a recap of the affiliate marketing basics discussed in this article:

What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing involves promoting a product or service from a merchant and earning a commission for it.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Affiliate marketing works one of two ways:

affiliate marketing basics 1

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affiliate marketing basics 2

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Pros of affiliate marketing

  • Low startup costs.
  • No need to create own products or learn how to dropship.
  • Learn skills you can use if you do want to sell products in the future.
  • Potential for passive income.
  • Control over which products you want to promote.

 

Cons of affiliate marketing

  • No control over the affiliate program.
  • Potential for competitors cutting into your commissions.
  • Bad products or services can ruin your reputation.

 

Where To Find Products To Promote

  • Make a list of products and services that you like and are already using and check if they have affiliate programs.
  • Research products and services that are promoted by or even offered by the influencers in your niche.
  • Use affiliate networks to find products.

 

How To Decide Which Affiliate Products To Promote
The affiliate product/service that you promote should help build a lasting relationship with your audience while providing decent revenue.

How To Set Yourself Up As An Affiliate

  • Regular high-quality content posted on your blog.
  • Email list with at least 500 subscribers.
  • Business contact information.
  • A bank account where commissions will be sent.

 

Hopefully, you’ve learned enough about the basics to start pursuing affiliate marketing. But before you set off on your way to monetize your blog, here are some more reminders.

Remember the top 3 affiliate marketing values: Honesty, Usefulness, Relevance

These 3 values are key to your success as an affiliate marketer.

Honesty. First of all, let people know that you stand to earn a commission when they complete an action or purchase on the merchant’s website. Aside from abiding by the law, you’re also stressing that you’re a transparent person, worthy of trust.

Plus, it implies that you’re willing to stake your reputation for the product, so it must be worth looking into. This may backfire if in case the product your promoting turns out to be a dud or if the merchant lowers the quality, but in case that happens, be ready and willing to withdraw your support.

Usefulness. The product you promote must be something that is useful for your readers, otherwise, this is a pointless endeavor. If your readers don’t find your affiliate product useful, they won’t buy it.

They might not even click your affiliate link. If none of your readers are buying or even interested, you might lose your publisher status and the merchant might not work with you again.

Relevance. You might be transparent about your affiliate offers, and the product you’re promoting may be valuable. But if the product isn’t relevant to your blog topic, it isn’t relevant to your audience and you’ll have trouble getting your audience to click on your affiliate link.

Have you already started affiliate marketing on your blog, or are you still studying? Did this article help you? Do you have any questions? Talk to me in the comments!

About the Author

JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.

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(1) comment

Emmanuel Toklo September 28, 2018

I find your explanation very helpful. I am a beginning blogger and want to start monetizing my site through affiliate marketing. I am yet to change my site from premium to business blog on word press server so that I can use the blog to starting promoting products that I like and can trust.
I have three eBooks I would be selling on my site and would be happy to learn from you as well.
Thanks

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