Affiliate income is a confusing area for even the savviest new bloggers.
I know when I started out, the prospect of become an affiliate was intimidating. I didn’t want my blog to become “salesy” or lose my integrity. I didn’t want to promote products I wasn’t interested in and I wasn’t even sure where to start.
So, I put it off…I wish I hadn’t!
What I know now is that it's 100% possible to become an affiliate without selling out. You can blog to promote products YOU choose and items your readers are interested in.
In fact, your readers actually WANT to know the secrets to your success. If you blog about photography, your bloggers want to know the camera you use to take great pictures. If you blog about sewing, your bloggers will want to know where you find great patterns and fabric.
Affiliate marketing is a way to help your readers. You’re offering them the tools they need to follow your great advice and insight – sometimes even saving them some money in the process. You’re simply linking them to the reputable product. It’s like advising a friend.
When I implemented my Core Affiliate Strategy my affiliate income almost instantly doubled! I was already earning a monthly income on my blog, but once I implemented my strategy, I was making $9,000 a month! And it’s only grown from there.
Seriously, you guys – if you’re wondering how to earn money on your blog, promoting affiliate products will generate as much income as (if not more than) advertising on your site. Advertising is much harder to target. Affiliate products are items your readers already want. You’re simply linking them to your recommendations. Don't stress about “selling out” or appearing fake to your readers. If you follow these general tips and stay true to YOU, your can easily grow your affiliate income over time.
It’s simple! Let me break it down for you. This is how I grew my affiliate income to $52,000 in less than two years.
1. Build Your List
The number one way to increase readers on your blog, grow your income, grow your business and basically rock at blogging is to focus on your list. The people on your email list are YOUR people. They’re subscribers who want your message.
We often focus on other metrics (aka “vanity metrics”) like page views, ad clicks, social media shares, likes and follows. This information is helpful for strategy and as a guideline, but really, it’s not nearly as important as your email list.
Many bloggers earn money from Pinterest traffic. Some bloggers earn money on Twitter, through linking parties and other methods. These are good ways to gain traffic and earn money. But in the end, if Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook or even Google change their algorithms tomorrow (it happens ALL the time) those followers, likers and sharers could disappear. Your traffic could tank.
Focusing on your list protects you from all the stress and worry of relying on social media and outside sources to drive your traffic. Your list is your base. Even if it’s small, those are the people who want your message. They’re the people who will buy items you recommend. They know you.
This is also why you should get to know them. One of the best ways is to do what I call “dating your list.” Get to know your subscribers. Find out what they like. Give them freebies and good information they crave.
For most affiliate income programs, the goal is at least 1,000 subscribers on your list, but don’t stress about it. You can find affiliate opportunities much sooner if you feel your readers are ready. 500 loyal readers who love your message and trust you are as effective as 5,000 who only feel “meh” about you. So, build your connections!
2. Check your ROI
Want to know if your list is big enough to support affiliate marketing? Sign up for one or two opportunities and test it for a month. If the amount you earn doesn’t hit your hourly rate, then adjust your strategy and go back to building your list.
Calculate your hourly rate by dividing your income by the number of hours you worked last month. This hourly rate is your marker for everything you do. True confession time: my first few months of blogging I made next-to-nothing. I believe my first month I earned about 45 cents an hour.
That said, I use ROI to guide me in almost every blogging task. In those first few months, it was hard to determine but by calculating my hourly rate each month, I could quickly identify what tasks were paying off and what was a big old time-suck.
Take social media, for example. I don’t focus too much on social media because when I calculate my ROI, I find it takes more time to maintain, update and market my blog through social media than it does to focus on my list—my people.
When it comes to affiliate opportunities, do the same. Calculate your ROI. We all have limited time (at least I know I do). We need to work smarter, not harder. If working on affiliate opportunities is taking time away from focusing on building your list, hold off. Go back to step one.
3. Start Small
I tend to go all gangbusters on a new project sometimes. Like, if I see I’m getting a good return on affiliate marketing I might think, “I should go out and sign up for 50 affiliate opportunities.” If this sounds like you: slow your roll.
When you see results you might (and should) get excited. You want MORE! But pace yourself. Signing up for hundreds of affiliate opportunities not only requires a HUGE amount of legwork, but there’s no way to blog about a hundred different products and opportunities and still maintain your integrity.
Instead, pick only one or two opportunities you’re super passionate about. Look into them. Weigh the opportunities against others. Sign up and test them out for a few months to see how your audience responds and if it’s something they want.
If you don’t see the results or the ROI is just not there on your time (or you don’t feel great about the opportunity) try a different one. You’re not beholden or locked into an opportunity—even if it pays great. If it doesn’t speak to your audience, it’s not worth your time.
4. Follow the Golden Rule
The NUMERO UNO, most important rule of blogging is to only blog about products you use and would promote to a friend.
This simple rule may seem like a no brainer at first, but honesty is absolutely vital if you want to build trust with your audience. So many bloggers promote the heck out of every product that comes their way. When this happens, they’ve crossed the line from blogger to spammer. Don’t let it happen to you.
If you’re chatting with your best bud and she shares a problem with you, you might mention a solution you’ve found. You might be so excited about finding the perfect jeans, an awesome app, or another cool item, you share the info with her, right? But you don’t tell your pals about purchase opportunities in every conversation—that would just be, well, weird.
Treat your audience the same way. You need to share valuable information with them right off the bat. They’ve come to you to learn how to budget, blog, cook, workout or whatever else you blog about. If you know a product to help them, by all means share. But only if it will HELP them, you’ve used it and feel great about it.
5. Know Your Audience
You might focus your message on one target audience or several. Most bloggers choose one or two avatars to focus their message. Your avatar is your “ideal reader.” Assign her a face, a name and a story. What are her problems? What stresses her out? On a deep level what are the issues she’s facing and how can you help her?
When you know your audience, it’s like a guiding light. It helps you craft your posts. Knowing your audience will help you choose relevant affiliate connections and blog with integrity. It will also help you find success in blogging.
Sometimes I’ll find a great product, but I know it’s too expensive or too time-consuming for my audience. I know, spending time “convincing” them of to spend money or time they don’t have won’t help them, and will erode their trust in me. Even if the product offers a great return, there’s no reason to promote it.
Know your audience and let them guide you to their interests.
6. Use Helpful Tools to Learn More
To help you learn the step-by-step process for finding and growing your income with affiliate opportunities I’ve developed a Core Affiliate Strategy Guide. This is an easy-to-follow, fast, step-by-step breakdown of the process to get you up and running with affiliate opportunities.
In this guide, I’ll lay out for you how I’ve been able to earn thousands per month from becoming an affiliate and how it’s become a cornerstone of my blogging business. This isn’t an overwhelming in-depth course taking hours to walk you through every single detail of affiliate marketing, but more of a quick and easy strategy guide to get you started.
If you’re looking for a deeper dive into affiliate marketing, check out Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. This is a great comprehensive course to get you from $0 to success with affiliate opportunities.
When you have a few core affiliate connections, products and services literally sell themselves. Your audience wants them and you’re simply delivering the goods they’re asking for. This is why knowing your audience, building your list and creating trust are so important. If you’ve completed those steps, you’ll experience success with affiliate opportunities right out of the gate.
Affiliate opportunities are hands down, one of the best ways to earn money blogging. You simply need a smart strategy to ensure you’re pouring your time and effort in the right place.