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How to make a blog for affiliate marketing [and success tips]

Affiliate programs help bloggers earn money, that's common knowledge. There are some big companies that aggregate advertisements from a large number of paying brands and serve them on affiliate websites and blogs, that too is well known. 

Yet, most bloggers do not earn enough from affiliate ads. That is a matter of serious concern. Let's tackle the issue in two parts:

  1. How to get the best out of affiliation.
  2. Looking at the best-reported affiliate companies for bloggers.

The present post deals with the tips and tricks on how to start affiliation and how to get the best out of affiliate marketing. Before we get into the best practices for success in affiliate marketing, let us start with the basics, for the beginners.

In this post, the word blogger has been used for all types of content creators. Similarly, the expression website would also mean blog

What is affiliate marketing?

 Companies want their products to be advertised on the web. As a blogger or a website owner, you have your own space which you can offer to such companies. One way is to take advertisements directly (=direct ads), another popular way is to use an aggregator (e.g. AdSense) who will put ads on your blog and pay you when people click on them. Yet another way to make money from blogging is to make an arrangement with sellers in which you place their ads and when someone buys the product through your ad, you get a commission.

This is in short what we call affiliate marketing. If you want to make it even shorter, affiliate marketing is nothing but 'selling others' products for a commission'. Haha!

How does affiliate marketing work?

 All companies do not offer affiliation. Some big e-commerce companies do so, e.g. Amazon. There are some other companies that aggregate ads from other companies and sell them to website owners. There are some very big affilitate marketing platforms/ networks that operate globally (e.g. CJ, ClickBank) while some operate at regional or local levels.

You have to apply to the companies/ platforms offering affiliate marketing. Once your account is approved, they send you one or more types of ads that you can place on your website. These ads have a tracking code behind them, which informs the company when someone clicks on the ad and then makes a purchase.

You, the blogger or website owner, are called affiliate, and the product as an affiliate product.

Unlike the other popular type of ads in which you are paid by the number of impressions or clicks (e.g. AdSense), you are paid per buy when you are in affiliation. It has the potential to earn a high income but it also is a big challenge to make people buy.

How to start affiliate marketing on blog/ website

The foremost requirement for participating in any form of advertisement-based marketing is that you should have the right to put affiliation code on your website. If your website or blog is on a free platform that does not allow you to put code into it, you cannot participate in advertisement-based affiliation. For example, the free Wordpress.com, LiveJournal and Medium blogging platforms do not allow this. Blogger, however, allows you to put affiliate code on the blog though it is also a free blogging platform.

If you are into professional blogging and want to make money out of it, I strongly recommend that you open a self-hosted blog or website - for which you will have to pay for web hosting and domain name registration. If you are new to blogging, please visit this article: Starting a blog and earn money

The second thing to consider is whether your blog/ website is suitable for affiliate marketing. For making a decent amount of money from affiliate marketing, the minimum requirements are:

  • The blog's subject should be such that it can relate with some products or services that are usually available for affiliation. If your blog deals with Afghan poetry or local politics, affiliate advertisements on web hosting, snow scooters or English books will not get any sales. On the other hand, if the website deals with health matters, companies dealing with weight loss training, medicines, exercise equipment, health gadgets etc will be ready to put their ads on it.
  • The website must be getting a decent amount of traffic and the traffic should be related to the subject. People who actually click and then make a purchase are a very small number, sometimes one in a few hundred. If the visitors are not those who have an interest in the product, the incidence of purchase goes down further. So, if a blog or website does not get at 15 thousand visitors in a month, its chances of earning good sums from affiliate marketing are not good.
  • You must be prepared to take that bother to maintain the affiliate advertisements, so as to earn well from affiliate marketing. Ensure that the latest ads are there on the blog. There are other actions such as proper placement of affiliate ads, having them in proper size, creating links, bringing visitors' attention to them, their promotion...

One basic requirement for success in selling affiliate products is to have an account with an affiliate marketing company or platform/ network. All companies and networks do not pay well, and all are not suitable for all types of blogs and all locations. The best platforms - and the best companies that operate in these platforms - usually do not accept affiliation requests if they find the blog/ website not relevant or with a low amount of traffic. 

So, choosing the right affiliate marketer that will suit one's blog/ website needs attention and research. Since the present post is going to become lengthy in discussing concepts and best practices for bloggers, this aspect is being dealt with in a subsequent post. Still, let me help you start the process of applying for affiliate marketing:

  • On Google, type the name of the product or service of public use that your blog/ website closely relate to. Add to this, this: "affiliate programs". Now search for this search term (e.g. weight loss affiliate programs).
  • Click on the search term on the Google search box. Look at the suggestions thrown by Google; these may include your country or city, related keywords, company names etc (See the picture below). If there is something that relates better with your blog, go for that search term also. If your blog relates to more than one product, make similar searches for all products.
  • You will get a number of affiliate marketers. Choose a few of them and then select the one best suited to your website.

How Much Money Can You Make With Affiliate Marketing?

 Affiliate marketing works well for blogs and websites if the combination of the three essentials named above is suitable: the right subject of blog/ website, relevant traffic and blogger's effort towards promotion. Add this: when you get a high commission for each sale.

A few established bloggers in high-paying niches have reported earning 1000 - 5000 dollars a month (quotes seen before COVID-19 epidemic) but some figures could be inflated. In addition, it is very rare that all things (relevant traffic, high commission, etc) will click. I reckon, if your blog has about a thousand visitors daily and the niche matches with the product, and the ad payment rates are high, you can expect to earn in the vicinity of $200 a month.

Generally speaking, affiliate marketing pays much better than cost per click (CPC) advertisements because the commission is much higher here. In some cases, the commission can be as high as 30% of the price!

But the other side of the reality is that new bloggers are not accepted by many companies. Even if they are accepted, they do not earn enough commission because of small traffic. They also cannot benefit from schemes in which more sales lead to a better rate of commission. In some products, the commission is too low to make a worthwhile earning. I have seen many bloggers leaving their affiliation effort after years of a frustrating experience. These were from India where the commissions are very low, but that might be the case in most other countries (except highly developed economies).

All things considered, affiliate marketing is a monetization stream that you should try on your blog and website very seriously. The odds are that if you are focused, you will be able to earn handsomely, perhaps after some wait.

In the lower sections, I am giving below top tips and tricks, taken from industry reports and experiences shared by successful affiliates, for improving earnings from affiliate marketing.

Make a blog for affiliate marketing and earn money

How to make a blog for affiliate marketing juice?

There are two opposite ways to approach affiliate marketing as a blogger:

1. Affiliation first, blog later: There are a number of bloggers who open a blog with a focus on affiliate marketing only. Such blogs start not with blogging but research on top paying affiliate programs and products. Once they find these, they create a blog on topics highly related to them. Then they put all relevant stuff on the blog: information, tips, tutorials, reviews, interviews and background material. They also put images and videos related to the products and optimize them for affiliate marketing. 

In this method, making money is the goal and blogging is just a tool for achieving that. Some bloggers are so obsessed with earning money from affiliate commission that their blog is less a place for information and thoughts and more like a shop that is on sale mode all the time.

2. Affiliation is secondary to blogging: In this scheme, one already has a blog or website on a topic that one is passionate about. Then he monetizes it with affiliate ads. 

You will appreciate that this method may or may not earn big money because the blog's subject may not relate to high paying affiliate programs.

Even if you have chosen the second method, don't worry. There are some proven tips and tricks that can improve the chances of earning from affiliate marketing in a big way. Forgive me for some repetition, because I wanted to make the list all-inclusive.

  • Keep taking steps to boost relevant traffic to the blog. It is obvious that the more number of people visit you, the more are the chances that someone buys something through the blog. When people come to your blog looking for something and they find it here, the chances become much higher of their making a purchase.
  • Analyze the likely buying preferences of your audience. This advice may look mundane but it holds key to whether people will buy the affiliate product or not. For example, you have a website on web security. Now, your articles might focus on helping the laymen on how to keep their online entities and gadgets secure from hacking and malicious attack. On the other hand, your articles could be of highly technical articles on web security. If your affiliate product is anti-virus software, it will suit the first type of content, but not if your content is of the second type.
  • Choose the product carefully. In addition to the product being related to the subject of your blog and suiting the buying preferences of your audience, it should give value to your visitors. So, go only for actually useful products (not the ones that do not perform as claimed) and, if possible, you should be using the product in your personal or professional life. If possible, the product should be of mass appeal rather than being useful or attractive to very few people. Think of more than one product, but related in some way.
  • Check the rate of commission that the affiliate marketer offers for that product. Usually, more commission is given for products or services that do not require recurring production expenditure. For example, toothpaste manufacturers are reported to spends around $4.5 for a tube of $5. On the other hand, a piece of software selling for $100 will not have a recurring cost of more than a dollar. So, the seller of that software will be willing to pay a bigger commission than a toothpaste maker. Thus, software, information products and services usually get high affiliate commission. Fancy products (e.g. branded garments, fashion accessories) also tend to get good commission because their consumer prices are jacked up much beyond the production cost. The commission also depends on the marketing strategy of the company, the overall commission structure, etc. Initially, you could go for a small commission but do not remain stuck there.
  • Proper display of the affiliate product on the website is very important. As shown in the picture above, you should place the ad prominently in the top part of the website, either in the top band or in the side bar. In addition, you can make a stand-alone page (call-to-action page) on the product and link it on the menu bar and give text links to it. You can also think of a resource page on products that you recommend, and make the affiliate product a part of that page. 
  • Needless to say, the affiliate product ad should be appealing, and not irritating or offensive.  Check whether its colors go well with the surroundings. The ad should not add clutter to the website.
  • Check the size of the product ad (so that the ad is not lost among widgets). Check the width also to see that it does not bleed out of the column in which it is placed. Check font size too, so that it is eye-catching, not just plain.
  • Choose the right company. Search for user comments so that you know whether it does not indulge in malpractices such as under-reporting sales, not paying, masking ads, etc.
  • Promote well the product that you have selected. (Since this demands special treatment, I have an exclusive section on promotion, right after this section.) Right promotion increases the chances of clicks and purchases by a big margin.
  • Keep updated. Affiliate companies and networks keep replacing old products and sometimes even issuing new ads for the same product. Usually the affiliate product sellers send emails about their updates but many bloggers ignore them. Lethargy on this account may result in ads not being trackable and you losing commission.
  • Keep learning new tricks of the trade. Affiliate companies and platforms sometimes change their technology. Sometimes, the old ways of promotion become ineffective. Your competitors might have become smarter in attracting traffic at the cost of others. So, it always helps to continue to learn and not think of affiliate marketing as a passive earning stream. 

How to promote affiliate products?

 As said above, promotion is the most important set of actions once you have put the affiliate product ad on your website. I list here the best practices for promoting the affiliate product, but please note that all actions may not be suitable for all types of websites and all types of products.

Take the following actions on the website itself to promote the affiliate product:

  • Write related articles, but mostly not specifically on the product.
  • Once in a while, write a review specifically of the product or some of its great features.
  • Make a tutorial on the product. Tell how to use the product; if required, give step-by-step guidance.
  • Video is a great way to showcase the best features of a product as well as to tell how to use it. You can place a video on YouTube and link/ embed it on the websites/ blog.
  • You can think of a stand-alone page on that product and link that on home page and posts.
  • Compare the product with competing products from other sellers. Be genuine.
  • Do product reviews in the category to which the product belongs.
  • If you have experience of using the product, share that. If you have made something out of that (e.g. a painting out of an art software or a dining table using a DIY kit or a website on a web hosting platform), share their photos. Tell why you are satisfied with the product.
  • Mention the product in articles (but give disclosure). Also tell, if buyers will get a special discount when they buy through you.

Beyond the website, promote the affiliate product in other ways:

  • Give a link, at the bottom of emails and newsletters, to the product ad or the standalone page on the product
  • Publish posts relating to the product and its category on social media. Give a link here to the special page if you have created that on the product or any article on the product on the website/ blog.

It is usually easy to promote physical products if you review related products (e.g. fashion and beauty products). If your blog is on online services, there can be companies willing to promote related products/ services and pay good commission, also because such things are most likely bought online only (e.g. affiliate products relating to web hosting and domain name registration for a website on blogging or web designing or web hosting).

One thing you must keep at the back of your mind while promoting an affiliate product is that visitors should not feel, you are forcing them to buy a product but you are helping them in buying a good product. People are more convinced when the salesman wins the trust of potential buyers through words and deeds.

How to start affiliate marketing from scratch

Affiliate marketing mistakes you must avoid

Most bloggers who go for affiliate marketing do not take the required steps. They get tired when despite their efforts they do not get results. But not getting the expected results is more because they have been doing the things the wrong way or not doing things in the required amount. 

I am listing here some common mistakes bloggers make in affiliate marketing:

  • In trying to optimize the website for affiliation and to promote the affiliate product, many bloggers tend to overdo things. As said earlier, you do not sell if you lose trust and look like a loud-mouthed salesman.
  • Do not stuff the website with all types of ads or too big ads. The content should dominate the website. Google itself has said that it likes to rank web pages better when they have high-quality main content.
  • Think of ads as design elements. Do not place ugly looking ads on the website - these can spoil the appeal of the blog.
  • Do not talk too much about the affiliate product. Do not be brazen.
  • Win trust by being genuine. Be fair when you talk about competitors. Do not exaggerate features. Do not bluff.
  • Don't shy away from putting a disclosure on the post/ blog stating that you will get a commission on sale of that product. Honesty pays in many ways.
  • Do not go for affiliation with products/ companies/ affiliate networks with bad reputation. They may offer big commission but in the long run, you might lose goodwill from your visitors.

Follow up

I will soon publish a post on the best affiliate programs available for new bloggers and beginners.