The text below is an excerpt from The Blog Book, my popular e-book with advice on branding, building, connecting and monetizing your blog.
The Blog Book is the must have accessory for every budget at just $5! But because I always like to try before I buy, I’m offering this excerpt on how to effectively use affiliate links on your blog as a free preview of the e-book.
Blogging has been a blessing in my life both emotionally, socially and financially and I hope that you’re able to use the tips and tricks in this e-book to make all your blogging dreams come true
The Blog Book : How To Effectively Use Affiliate Links
Affiliate links are an excellent way to add an additional income stream to your blogging. In this section you’ll learn where to find them and how to incorporate them into your blog as a form of monetization.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN AFFILIATE?
Most company websites offer an affiliate option. If you sign up to be a company’s affiliate and they approve you, it means that they will give you a special affiliate link to use on your blog. The affiliate link will contain a user ID that will track every time someone clicks through your blog to get to the company’s website. Each time someone makes a purchase through clicking on your affiliate link, the company pays you a percentage of the sale.
Here is an example: I have this e-book (the one you’re reading right now) called The Blog Book. I offer an affiliate link for it. That means if you really like this e-book and want to share it with others, you can use my affiliate link to do that. Every time someone purchases my e-book using your affiliate link, the affiliate company lets me know and pays you a percentage of the sale. Why? Because referring my e-book is the highest compliment you can give me and I’m really grateful for it. I want to tell you thank you but writing all those thank you notes makes my hand cramp up. Plus, I figure that everyone could use a little extra cash.
The companies that you are an affiliate for make their money from your referrals so they are giving you a little incentive to spread the word about them and bring in more customers.
The affiliate will often give you a graphic banner ad to use on your site that contains your specific affiliate link, as well as a text link. You can place that on the sidebar of your blog so that you permanently have your affiliate link prominently displayed somewhere. Here is an example of an affiliate banner ad (you can typically choose from a variety of sizes):
HOW CAN I MANAGE ALL OF THOSE AFFILIATES?
Good question. It can seem overwhelming to track your earnings with several different sites. I recommend joining an affiliate network. This is one website that manages the affiliates for a lot of other websites. For example, I am a part of the Share A Sale affiliate network. Share A Sale manages the affiliates for two websites that I like and shop at: Tiny Prints and Scrapbook.com
I can apply to both of their affiliate programs through Share A Sale and get my affiliate links, coupon codes (bonus: affiliates are often given exclusive coupon codes to use and share with their readers!) and banner ads all from one screen. Affiliate networks also manage the payouts, so it makes it easier to keep everything together.
HOW MUCH MONEY CAN I EARN USING AFFILIATE LINKS?
This amount varies wildly. Different companies set different payout rates. One company might pay out 8 cents for every click. Another company might pay out 8 dollars for every click. How much you make depends on what your affiliate companies payout and how many clicks you get. (Want an example? I pay my e-book affiliates 50% of every sale, which means that for every e-book sold you would make $2.49) Later on in the e-ebook I’ll reveal my affiliate earnings for a couple of different months so that you can see what some actual numbers look like but it really is different for everyone.
Affiliates typically earn more money on niche blogs than general ones. If you are a deals blogger you can make a good chunk of change using your affiliate links, but if you blog about that time you accidentally set your hair on fire, then not so much
I wish I could give you a solid amount but I know some bloggers who make enough to go out to eat once a month and some that are making a solid income. In addition, how much you make will depend on how often you post and promote your affiliate links. Some bloggers utilize affiliate links on every post which creates a good bit of income. Other bloggers, like yours truly, only posts affiliate links occasionally to share a great deal.
A LITTLE ADVICE FROM ME ON USING AFFILIATE LINKS
Only use affiliate links for companies/brands that you can genuinely recommend. If your friend was buying a house and asked you to recommend a real estate agent, you wouldn’t just look up some random agents online to refer her to would you? I mean, maybe you would but then you’d be a terrible friend. No, you’d recommend someone that you know and trust.
It’s the same with affiliate programs. Your word is important. I know it’s tempting to just join every affiliate program there is to try and make some money. But you won’t make money unless you can back up your referral. I feel confident each time I use an affiliate link because I know I am recommending a product or service that I have tried and genuinely like.
Occasionally I’ll share a deal from a brand that I might not personally purchase but think would benefit others. For example, I’ve used VistaPrint for years. I used them to print our save the date magnets, birthday invitations, etc. I’ve always been happy with their print quality and customer service. My affiliate network sent me an email letting me know that VistaPrint was offering free business cards. I didn’t need any business cards that day but a blogging group I participate in had just been discussing getting business cards printed for a blogging conference. It made sense for me to pass on that promotion to them and the bonus was that I had an affiliate link to do it with.
Here is a good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t naturally share it with others, think hard before sharing your affiliate link.
HOW DO I FIND AN AFFILIATE PROGRAM TO JOIN?
There are a few different ways you can find affiliate programs. Scroll down to the bottom of your favorite websites, like http://www.scrapbook.com. See where it says AFFILIATES? Click there to apply!
You can also apply to join an affiliate network like I mentioned above. I am a member of each of the networks below, so I feel confident using my referral link to share them with you. (There are other affiliate networks besides these but I prefer to endorse the ones I have experience with.)
Share A Sale – You can pick and choose from a lot of different companies spanning several categories with this affiliate network. I like to use Tiny Prints because they always have inexpensive photo cards around the holidays and they send out lots of coupon codes for my readers. Share A Sale is also home to Scrapbook.com’s affiliate program and that is an excellent resource for my paper crafting friends out there!
Google Affiliate Network – There are oodles of companies to choose from on Google’s affiliate network. I am pretty selective about which affiliates I choose because I like to know the brand I am representing well. I use affiliate links for Target because I shop there often and recommend several baby items from their store. Google also offers affiliate programs for Diapers.com which is another online baby supply store I like that offers affiliates a code to share for $10 off new orders (which is FIVEAFF if you want it!) If you’re a baby or parenting blogger, those are some that would work will for you.
Amazon – you can sign up here to be an associate (which is their fancy term for affiliate). Since Amazon sells pretty much everything you can think of, you can almost always find something that fits within your blog’s scope. For me, I love to read and since I frequently share reviews of books that I’ve read this is a good fit since I would be linking to the book I was recommending anyhow.
Escalate Media Network – Escalate wins my affiliate network blogger support award hands down. They are great to work with. They offer brands such as VistaPrint and Coupons.com (great if you’re posting about grocery deals!) and they send you an email every day with your affiliate links for new deals + coupon codes.
My Savings Media – Similar to Escalate, this affiliate network offers a lot of coupon based affiliate offers. They also have affiliate offers for some great brands such as Pampers and Home Depot. I like that they email you current deals and promotions to pass on to your readers.
Shop At Home Affiliate Network - (http://www.shopathome.com) I love this affiliate network. I use Shop At Home for all of my personal online purchases because they offer excellent store coupons and give me cash back on all of my purchases. So I signed up to be an affiliate with them. This way I can share exclusive coupon codes and great cash back savings with my readers and in turn make a portion of each sale. Plus, I still get cash back on all of my personal online purchases.
Logical Media – Another affiliate program with offers similar to Escalate and My Savings Media. In my opinion, Logical Media tends to offer more text links and has some nice features that allow you to auto-rotate offers of your choice in a dedicated space on your blog.
Linkshare - There are several companies that offer affiliate programs through LinkShare. Die Cuts With A View Digital is a good one for blogs that features scrapbooking and craft projects. They are at the bottom of my list, I feel as though I can recommend them because they work well but I use them least because the other networks have better features in my opinion.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU KNOW?
Be sure to check the terms of each affiliate offer. Some allow you to post your links on facebook and twitter (those are my favorite!) and others require you to post their banner image.
Disclosure is important! According to the new FTC rules, if you use affiliate links in your blog, you must have a disclosure somewhere that lets people know as much. For example, I have affiliate accounts with all of the sites listed above. There are other affiliate programs that you can find but these are the ones I feel comfortable recommending based on my own experience with them.
Here is an example of my disclosure page:
And here is an example of using a disclosure on a post with an affiliate link:
I include a little disclosure link on the bottom of every post that links to my disclosure page. See that little “A” down there? That’s it. But according to FTC guidelines, that isn’t enough! So I either mention that I am using an affiliate link in my post or I use a little pop-up box to let people know.
WANT TO SEE SOME EXAMPLES OF AFFILIATE LINKS IN USE?
Example One: Click here to see an example of an affiliate link in a blog post – I post my scrapbook pages online and as is customary among us scrapbookers, I include a supply list with the products I used to make my layouts. The links in my supply list are my scrapbook.com affiliate links. This is how I fund my paper crafting habit
Example Two: Click here to see how to use an affiliate link to highlight a great deal on Twitter – I mentioned before that I love Tiny Prints. For Father’s Day they sent out a coupon code for a free photo card, so I tweeted about that deal here using my affiliate link. I got a a free photo card for my dad and it was a great deal to share with friends. Since it was a freebie I didn’t actually make any money off sharing that particular offer but I was happy to pass along the chance for a free photo card!
Example Three: Look over there —> See that sidebar on my blog? See the ad for Minted? Their contact cards are one of the best things I’ve bought to date so I signed up to be an affiliate. It’s that easy to put up a banner ad! You can put them directly in blog posts but I’m not a huge fan of lots of clutter and think they look nicer on the sidebar. And since I’m an affiliate, they sent over a special 15% off code for my readers that isn’t available on their website. Sweet, huh?
I hope you enjoyed this free preview of my e-book! This is just a small portion taken from the chapter on how to monetize your blog.