Affiliate marketing for bloggers: A beginner’s guide to success

Maintaining a self-hosted blog (like this one) is a costly affair. Recurring charges like domain renewal, web hosting, site design, and security make up a majority of expenses for bloggers. But if you could simultaneously make some real money from your blog, you can not only cover these expenses but can also make huge profits. Affiliate marketing is one of the most lucrative business models where serious bloggers can build a passive stream of income online. In this post today, I will show the tips, tools, and strategies to help new bloggers get started with affiliate marketing!

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Simply put, affiliate marketing involves promotion of different products or services on your blog/website in exchange for a fixed percentage of commission for each successful sale that happened through your referral link.

For example: You tie up with a company, let’s say Nikon. They propose that for each successful sale through your unique referral link, they will pay you 25% of the sales value as a commission. Now suppose you are promoting a new Nikon camera model and you end up generating a sale of $1000 in the first month. So in terms of your affiliate agreement, Nikon will pay you $250 as commission. These affiliate marketing commissions are usually paid out on a monthly basis to bloggers.

More often it’s seen that the higher the sales volume, the higher is the percentage commission. It’s a win-win situation. You help a company generate sales and in return they share the profits with you in form of commissions. That’s lucrative. Isn’t it?

How bloggers make money with affiliate marketing?

The following step-by-step procedure shows how bloggers can make money with affiliate marketing:

Step 1: Sign up for an affiliate marketing program

Once a website has decent amount of traffic, the first step for bloggers is to sign-up for a reputed affiliate marketing program. There can be two types of affiliate marketing programs:

  • Direct affiliate programs – Where you directly signup with a company.
  • Affiliate marketplace – Where you signup with a reputed affiliate network (like Share-a-Sale or Commission Junction) that acts as an intermediary between you (blogger) & the company.

Once your application is approved, the affiliate program provides you a unique referral ID (for ex: https://nikon.com/camera/aff_id=1234) that must be used for promoting the products or services.

Step 2: Choose the right products to promote

The next step is to choose the products that resonate well with your blog or website. For best results, stay within your niche. For example, if you have a photography blog, it’s better to choose photo albums rather than water purifiers.

Step 3: Share the products/services on your blog

Now this part is tricky and requires a lot of efforts to yield positive results. It’s easy to write a blog post and include a link to your affiliate product. It’s even easier to display affiliate banners on your blog footer/sidebar. Then what’s difficult? To get your blog visitors to click that banner/link and actually buy those products. Affiliate sales depend upon a lot of factors:

  • Type of traffic to your blog post. Generally, organic is the best traffic
  • Mood of your visitors, i.e., buying or non-buying
  • How convincing you are in your blog post?
  • Your trust & authority level – People generally like to buy recommendations from trusted sources

That’s said, all these factors take time to grow with your blog. With your consistent hard work, it’s not difficult to generate millions of page views and develop that required trust or authority level. It takes a lot of time and patience.

Step 4: Generating sales

In the next step, you begin turning your recommendations into sales! People visit your blog, you offer them a solution to their problem, and they end up buying your recommended products or services.

This is how it happens: When a visitor lands on the product page of the company through your affiliate link, the affiliate network/company puts a unique cookie file on their computer. This helps them track the sales to your affiliate ID and also ensures that you get paid when a purchase happens days or even weeks later.

Step 5: Payment of commissions

Finally, the affiliate network/company pays out all the commission generated at the end of each payment cycle.

How to get started with affiliate marketing? The right approach for new bloggers

Now that we know the fundamentals of affiliate marketing model for bloggers, let’s now learn how new bloggers can get started with this business model:

1. Research and choose a niche to focus on

Although promoting more categories, industries, or niches sounds appealing, understand that you will have more competition if you do affiliate marketing this way. Choose one topic and focus on that category. You have to choose a topic which you are passionate about. Being consistent will help you build a more focused and loyal audience which will eventually help you achieve your affiliate marketing goals.

Want to learn more about how to pick a profitable niche? Read: How to find a niche for blog? Simplest step-by-step guide

2. Choose the right blogging platform

Once you have figured out what niche you will focus on, the next step is to choose the right blogging platform. While it’s tempting to start with a free blog, but I will not recommend building your affiliate business around a free blog for the following reasons:

  • Building a blog on free blogging platforms doesn’t sound professional. (You will get a blog URL like yourwebsite.blogspot.com / yourwebsite.wordpress.com). This doesn’t look professional.
  • Free blogs have their own limitations. For example: restricted options with website design, plugins, SEO, and site monetization.
  • You don’t really own your content. Although you are the copyright owner of the content you write, but your free blog company ultimately holds the ownership and even rights related to deletion of your blog in case of their policy violations.
  • With a free blog, your application for joining any reputed affiliate network will not be entertained.

I therefore recommend that you choose a professional blogging platform like WordPress.org to build an amazing blog for your affiliate marketing business.

3. Choose the right affiliate marketing programs and products to promote

The next step is to choose the right affiliate programs. And thereafter choose the right products. As I’ve already discussed in the post above, there are two ways to join an affiliate program: 1) Directly signing up as an affiliate with a company (that runs an affiliate marketing program) & 2) Signup with a reputed affiliate marketplace like Share-a-Sale, CJ, and ClickBank. The following things must be considered while joining an affiliate program:

  • Rule No. #1: Choose affiliate products within your niche.
  • Rule No. #2: Prefer companies that pay a higher commission rate. It makes sense to promote a company which pays 30% per sale rather than one which pays just 5% per sale.
  • Rule No. #3: Prefer programs with longer cookie duration. Higher the cookie duration, better are your chances of converting sales even if they occur days or weeks later.
  • Rule No. #4: Choose companies/programs that offer to pay recurring commissions. A recurring commission is the one you keep on earning on a monthly basis as long as your lead keeps his/her monthly subscription active. Unlike a flat one-time commission, a recurring commission is perpetual in nature. This is the real taste of what a passive income feels like!

4. Create awesome content

Once you’ve decided which are the right products to promote, the next approach is to create an awesome content. Here are some great content ideas that work:

  • Write a review post.
  • Write a product comparison guide. For ex: Nikon (camera model) Vs. Canon (camera model): 5 key differences.
  • Create a blog post which solves a problem. For ex: If you are promoting a data recovery app for iPhone, create a blog post like: 10 ways to recover lost data on your iPhone.

5. Promote your blog post

Finally, you need people to visit your blog and read your blog posts. No traffic = No money. For successful affiliate marketing, bloggers must focus on growing their organic traffic. People visiting your blog through a search engine are usually looking for a solution to a problem. And if you offer them just the right solution, you win the game! That’s why you see many people promoting their affiliate posts even through Google AdWords (Paid search traffic). Other popular ways to promote your blog posts include:

  • YouTube videos
  • Driving traffic from Pinterest
  • Paid campaigns on social media (especially, Twitter & Facebook)
  • Offering promos / coupons / incentives on affiliate products. For ex: You can partner with an affiliate company exclusively to offer a 30% flat discount on purchase of its products or services through your referral code.

6. Invest in affiliate training & education

Finally, new bloggers should keep themselves educated with all the latest and greatest affiliate marketing tips, tools, and resources. Investing your time in good educational and training courses is the best way to guarantee sustainable growth. There are a lot of free affiliate marketing courses for beginners on various e-learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera. You may also want to check out the review of best affiliate training courses on the Hustle Life blog.

Recommended: Learn why most affiliate marketers fail? What mistakes should you avoid to improve your chances of success?

When you do things yourself and experiment with what works and what doesn’t, it’s the best way you learn and succeed. However, right education and training empowers you with all the knowledge and intelligence to help you achieve the success you deserve, even faster!

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Abhishek Raj

Abhishek Raj is the Founder of Budding Geek. He is an inveterate blogger with a decade of experience in the internet technology & online marketing industry. Abhishek takes pride in being featured in some of the top industry websites like Marketing Land, Social Media Today, LifeHacker & ProBlogger. Learn more about Abhishek

10 thoughts on “Affiliate marketing for bloggers: A beginner’s guide to success”

  1. I’ve been into affiliate marketing since the last 5 years and have made thousands of dollars as yearly commission promoting Software-as-a-service (Saas) products.

    In my experience, two things determine your success as an affiliate (in any niche):

    1) What products you choose to promote
    2) The number or people you are able to reach organically

    Goes without saying, researching good affiliate products is the cornerstone for succeeding at affiliate marketing.

    Reply
  2. Can’t wait to get started with Affiliate Marketing. I do not have a website yet. Can I still promote affiliate products? What are the best products for someone without a website?

    Reply
  3. Hi Abhishek. Brilliant post. I’m still a beginner with blogging and have recently applied for a new Google Adsense account. But I was also thinking to start affiliate marketing as it looks much better and profitable than running advertisements on a blog. This is a really helpful post. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. Great article Abhishek.
    You have covered everything that is more than sufficient to start it.

    However, there is a new trend that I have observed in Affiliate marketing, that is Geo Targetting. Bloggers are creating affiliate programs from across the world and Targetting as per their audience.

    Although it might not be important for beginners.

    Reply
    • Hi Alok, thanks for your comment and sharing this interesting new trend. It definitely makes more sense to promote affiliate products based on what region they perform the best. I am sure this boosts conversion rate!

      Reply

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