Affiliate Marketing: The Most Complete Guide Ever

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Affiliate Marketing: The Most Complete Guide Ever

Let’s talk about that holy grail of bloggers everywhere —

Making money while you sleep.

This is how you imagine it’ll work…

You’ll launch a blog, get some readers, and sell them stuff.

People will snatch up your cool offers, and before you know it you’ll be retiring to an island retreat somewhere.

Because that’s how blogging works, right? Well, maybe.

But if you’ve ever tried to monetize your blog, you’ll know it can be more difficult than you expected.

It takes time to build an audience, discover what they want and then create products they’ll crave.

Even then, you can invest time and money to create something amazing, and launch what you think is a sure thing — only to have it flop. Not pretty.

But the thing is, once you have the beginnings of an audience, every day that goes by that you’re not offering something for sale that will make their lives better is a missed opportunity.

It’s not benefiting them, and it’s not putting money in your pocket, either.

Fortunately there’s a solution:

Affiliate marketing.

It’s one of the most effective ways to help your readers and start monetizing your blog at the same time.

And it’s an engine that can power your blog’s earnings for years to come.

Ready to find out more?

So What Is “Affiliate Marketing,” Anyway?

As you’ll know by now, bloggers make money by building an audience that trusts them, and then offering products or services that will genuinely help that audience.

Affiliate marketing is really just a quicker way to offer products and services without creating them yourself.

In practice, it’s a modern interpretation of a very old idea — getting a commission on a sale. You introduce your readers to products or services from trusted companies or individuals and get a commission on any sales to customers you send their way.

For bloggers, that means you find a product or service that you like, promote it to your readers, and earn part of the profit on each sale that you make.

Simple idea, right?

Let’s see an example.

Blogger Gardening Jones is upfront about how she has partnered with several companies as an affiliate. She lets her readers know that if they purchase any of the products she recommends using her links, she’ll make a little money from the sale.

Then, throughout her site, you see links like this:

affiliate links

These particular graphics look like ads, but they aren’t.

They’re affiliate links.

Average readers might not be aware of the difference, but as a savvy blogger, you should be.

You see, when you put ads on your site, you get paid when someone clicks on them, whether your visitors end up buying or not. The advertiser is essentially renting space on your blog, like they’d rent a billboard along a highway.

But the problem is that you usually earn only fractions of pennies for clicks. You have to have an incredibly high-traffic site to see any real income at all from advertising.

On the other hand, when you’re an affiliate, you only get paid when someone clicks the link and actually purchases.

However, commissions on the sales that you refer are usually much higher.

It’s a slight difference, but one that can make a big impact on your income.

In addition to graphical links and banners, text links can also be slipped into blog posts, often followed by an indicator that it is an affiliate sale — like this:

Join the Seeds of the Month Club here (affiliate link)

You’ve probably seen both types of affiliate links. Bloggers can include links in emails, sales pages, and much more as well. We’ll get into all the possibilities in this post.

For now, though, it’s important that you know exactly what affiliate marketing means — as well as its potential for you as a blogger.


Why Affiliate Marketing Rocks for Bloggers

At Smart Blogger, we’re big fans of selling affiliate products and services.

Here are three compelling reasons why we think you should look into it, too:

  1. You can monetize your blog sooner than you would if you created your own products from scratch.
  2. You can learn what types of products your audience is clamoring for, reducing the risk of any future product launch of your own.
  3. You can get your readers used to the idea of buying from you — and increase their level of trust (as long as you pick the right products and services to sell).

All pretty significant advantages to you as a growing blogger.

But that’s not all. There are additional benefits to affiliate marketing as well.

  • It’s easy to implement. You share a link with your readers and that’s it. You don’t have to worry about tracking sales, providing customer service, setting up payments, or anything else. All that support is handled by the merchant.
  • It doesn’t require you to have a support team in place. Affiliate marketing is completely doable even if you’re a one-person show.
  • It doesn’t require specialized expertise. You don’t have to be a world-renowned expert in your niche. You only need to be familiar enough with your topic area to know what products are good and worth recommending to your audience.
  • It’s low-effort and low-risk. While affiliate marketing isn’t exactly passive income, it doesn’t require a significant time or money investment on your part.

Sounds pretty good in theory, right? Let’s see if affiliate marketing is right for you.


The Types of Bloggers Most Likely to Succeed with Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate income can look pretty attractive, but you need to have a few things in place first if you want to succeed.

For instance, don’t jump into the deep end if you’re just starting out and have not launched your blog or started growing your email list yet.

Instead, make sure that:

  • You’re producing regular content on your blog. You have to give a lot of free value to your readers to build your credibility before you start asking for sales.
  • You have an email list with at least 500 subscribers. If you can attract and keep 500+ subscribers engaged around your topic, you have a foundation with earning potential.

Hold Off on Affiliate Marketing if…

If you already have a list of at least a few hundred people and are planning to sell services like coaching, consulting, design, writing or other professional services (as in legal advice, finance, or real estate) in the short term, it’s probably best to hold off on affiliate marketing.

That’s because for service providers, your best bet is selling services first. It’s simply yourmost profitable way to start monetizing.

You can consider adding affiliate offers into the mix once your money-making machine from services is running smoothly.

Still with me? Great!


How to Sell Affiliate Products (Without Selling Your Soul)

Affiliate marketing has gotten a bad rap in some circles because of unethical marketers who annoy their readers with junk ads, offers that don’t apply to them, or general spam.

These bloggers have given affiliate marketers an unsavory reputation.

But when affiliate marketing is done right, it’s a positive, powerful “engine” for generating value for you and your readers.

The bloggers who succeed understand this simple truth:

Your relationship with your audience, and the trust that you build with them, is your single most important asset.

The importance of trust can’t be stressed enough. You have to invest the time and effort to constantly nurture trust with your audience — and take care never do anything to betray that confidence.

So whenever you’re tempted to cut corners or venture into the murkier regions of affiliate marketing, just remember you’re risking the relationship with your readers. In other words — don’t do it!

The Simple Golden Rule for Success

Here’s our foolproof rule for success as an ethical affiliate marketer:

You should only become an affiliate for products that you have personally usedeven if that means purchasing a product so you can kick the tires and decide if it’s something you can recommend.

Why? Because your reputation’s on the line.

Think about it: what’s the first thing you do when you need a new doctor, mechanic or building contractor?

You ask for recommendations from people you trust. Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools.

But when you get advice from friends that turns out to be bad, you can’t help but wonder, “What on earth were they thinking?”

You probably won’t value their opinion as highly the next time around — if you even ask them at all.

As a blogger, you can’t afford to have your good name damaged because you didn’t do your due diligence and check a product out thoroughly.

And doing it right makes everything so much easier.

When you can honestly and wholeheartedly recommend a product or service that you’ve tried and liked, your marketing will simply work.

You won’t feel sleazy or unethical. You’ll be legitimately excited about the product — and your audience will appreciate your authenticity and feel confident buying from you.

That’s a good place to be — for both you and your readers.

But in case this is all sounding a little too to good to be true, a few cautions are in order.

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