What is affiliate marketing and how to use it to make money with your blog

How to make money on your blog with affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to create one or more income streams with your blog.

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How to monetize your blog with affiliate marketingHow to monetize your blog with affiliate marketing

Some people create a blog or a website because they have a point of view they want to share. Others simply want to make money – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But for many of us, the motivation sits right in the middle. We’re passionate about our niche topic. But we also love the idea of it generating income. Particularly as running a blog isn’t free, so at a minimum you want to be recouping your costs.

You’ve probably heard at least one story of an internet entrepreneur making six-figure returns on their blog each month. And those stories are not urban legends. It does happen. Just not for everyone. A few people make a lot of money, more people make a moderate amount. And some people, despite their best efforts, make nothing at all.

So how do you make money blogging?

To monetize a blog, you can put up ads, consult and hold events, sell physical and digital products – the list goes on.

Of the many choices available, affiliate marketing is one of the most popular.

Unlike ad networks, you are in control of the products and services you promote on your blog. You also can create a natural fit between what you are promoting and your content. And you are not creating products, so the actual outlay is kept to a minimum.

If you’re going to take anyone’s advice on getting into affiliate marketing it has to be Michelle Shroeder-Gardner. She is easily one of the most successful and knowledgeable people on the subject. According to her blog income reports, she made $1,536,732 in 2017. She’s so good at it that she created a course to teach others called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

But what exactly is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission when you promote someone else’s products or services: 

  1. You sign up as an affiliate.
  2. You add a link to their product on your website or blog.
  3. If your readers clicks on that link and buy, you get paid a commission.

One of the best know affiliate programs is run by Amazon. Bloggers all over the world are refer people to Amazon to buy products and receive a commission. But the opportunities are far greater than just Amazon.

How to find products and services that have an affiliate program

Most affiliate agreements are via a network that acts as an intermediary between affiliates and businesses, or direct with a company, like Amazon.

My favorite affiliate program, and the one that I have had the most success with, is Ultimate Bundles. They curate the biggest, best collections of digital products (eBooks, eCourses, etc.) on topics like healthy living, meal planning, blogging, homemaking and handmade then the bundles are available for you to promote to your audience for a few days every year. And they sell like crazy, because the value is, well, crazy. I honestly find the bundles practically sell themselves and they support their affiliates with lots of promotional material and freebies like eBooks and webinars to help you build a plan that converts to great commissions. You can sign up to become an Ultimate Bundles affiliate here.

Affiliate networks are big directories of products that you can sign up to promote. The top affiliate networks are:

  1. ShareASale
  2. CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction)
  3. Rakuten (formerly Linkshare)
  4. Clickbank

If you are interested in promoting a specific product or service check to see if they are with a network or have their own affiliate program. A good method is to google the name of the business and the word affiliate. You will often get a direct link to their affiliate page in the results. 

Some people think it’s best to sign up for as many programs as possible to get results. But not if you want to create a natural fit between your brand and an affiliate program. According to AffStat, 42.17% of affiliate marketers promote between one and 10 programs.


How much money will I make?

Commission levels vary. Amazon Associates currently earn 10% on qualified purchases, but some affiliate programs offer up 30-50%.

Affiliate programs also vary widely when it comes to accepting and keeping affiliates. Some will simply let you sign up. Others will ask you to apply with blog traffic data and your promotional plan for their products. And some require a minimum level of referrals to stay in the program.

What are the best niches for affiliate marketing?

According to AffStat, the top ten niches for affiliate marketing are:

  1. Fashion
  2. Sports & Outdoors
  3. Health & Beauty
  4. Travel
  5. Home & Garden
  6. Computers & Electronics
  7. Education & Training
  8. Business
  9. Finance & Insurance
  10. High-End Luxury

Source: AffStat

Creating content that drives affiliate sales

First you need an audience who are interested in the affiliate products your offer. Then you can add a link or banner to your blog or website, social media or email promotions.

Some people are successful with affiliate marketing when they don’t have a blog. But if you haven’t already built your website, you will generally need to do this as some programs will see this as a minimum requirement. 

By all means create a resource page that includes all the things you recommend, whether they have affiliate links or not. But to increases your chances of success, broaden your approach by creating content like:

  • Genuine product reviews
  • Blog posts that solve problems, answer questions or tackle important issues for your target audience
  • In text content links
  • Email promotions
  • Social media promotions
  • Create added value for people using your affiliate links. Examples might be a free eBook, an exclusive Facebook Group, and supplementary resources to support the product they have purchased.

Is it really possible to compete with established affiliate marketers?

According to AffStat, 3.16% of affiliate marketers earn $150,000 or more each year. And 48.36% earn under $20,000 each year. That means there are a lot of people in the middle earning very good money.

And affiliate marketing is growing. Estimates suggest it will be worth well over $6 billion in US revenue in 2018, up from just over $3 billion in 2016.

Keeping everything above board

If you decide to incorporate affiliate marketing into your blog, you need to be completely transparent about it.

There’s nothing wrong with making money from your blog. It costs you money and time to create the valuable content that you are giving to your readers for free.

But always explain to your readers that you are including affiliate links in your content. It’s understandable that even if your intentions are good, they might feel misled if you don’t.

There are also quite stringent laws in place now in many countries that enforce this transparency, so always include an affiliate disclosure on every page containing an affiliate link.

The disclosure should make it clear that you will receive compensation if they click on the link and make a purchase. Place the disclosure in an obvious place and don’t hide it behind a link.

In addition, most affiliate programs have strict restrictions on how you can promote their products. Most will not allow you to:

  • Use unsolicited methods to contact people, such as spam
  • Use pay per click on their brand keywords
  • Claim ownership or authorship of their products
  • Buy through your own affiliate link
  • Offer cashbacks or discounts
  • Create content that violates any laws, such as defamation, copyright

Is it worth taking a course on affiliate marketing?

You can certainly give it a go without doing a course. But if you’re hoping to earn a good income, training is the most important thing established affiliate marketers recommend. (Source: AffStat)

Look for a course from a blogger with the income to back up their strategies. That’s why I’m a big fan of Michelle Schroeder-Gardner.

In 2017, Michelle earned $1,536,732 from her blog and she shares all of her best tips on affiliate marketing in her course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.There are six modules, more than 30 lessons, over 20 worksheets, bonuses, an extremely helpful exclusive Facebook group, and more. The course is incredibly detailed and covers everything you need to know to get started and get successful, including:

  • What affiliate marketing is, how it works and why it’s a great way to make income
  • The exact steps she took to earn over $300,000 from a single blog post
  • How to pick the right affiliate products to promote and increase conversions
  • How to build trust and not lose followers
  • The required disclosures
  • The one major tool you need for affiliate marketing
  • Different strategies to use to promote your affiliate products
  • How to use Pinterest to succeed at affiliate marketing (including the latest Pinterest affiliate rules!)

If you’re interested, make sure you check out Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

Frequently asked questions about affiliate marketing

How does affiliate attribution work?

When a reader clicks on your affiliate link, a cookie is created in their browser, Whenever they land on that website, your affiliate code remains attached to the URL.

How long does my affiliate attribution last?

It varies so check with the affiliate program, but 12 months is not unusual.

What if my reader previously clicked on someone else’s affiliate link?

Again this varies from program to program.

Sometimes it is first touch, so the commission goes to the first affiliate that referred them, for the duration of their cookie period.

In other cases it is last touch, so the most recent affiliate link used gets the commission. Either way, it tends to work out in the long term. You might lose a few commissions in the early days. But in the future, you will benefit from other affiliate referrals where you had an existing cookie.

When will I be paid?

Check with each program but it’s unlikely to be anything less than 30 days after a sale.

In many cases there will be a delay, particular if they have a money back guarantee period. When someone signs up for a recurring plan, you may also get ongoing commission payments.

Payment method varies as well, with most programs and networks using Direct Deposit or Paypal.

Got questions?

My free Facebook Group has a dedicated discussion thread for affiliate marketing, so jump on in and join the conversation if you have any questions, suggestions or other thoughts about affiliate marketing.

If you’re not already a member of the group, you will need to join first to access this affiliate marketing discussion.


One of the ways I try to cover the costs of maintaining  Digital Decluttered and offer free courses to my audience is via a small number of affiliate partnerships (with tools I genuinely use and love) where I get a small percentage commission on sales made via referral. You don’t pay any more for purchasing via my affiliate links – in fact in some cases you even receive a discount. If you click one of my affiliate links, your support is greatly appreciated.

How to use affiliate marketing to make money with your blog

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