If you’re new to affiliate marketing then this post is for you. We’re going to start at the basics of affiliate marketing and go through each and every little detail in this post of affiliate marketing for beginners.
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What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is simply where you promote products to your readers/audience for a merchant. Then that merchant gives you a portion of the sales that your promotion brought in. Or in some cases it’s just getting that company a lead on a potential customer and they give you a flat amount in compensation.
Basically affiliate marketing is just the old fashion deal of getting commission for bringing in a customer to a merchant.
Many products have affiliate programs attached to them in some way. They could be something as simple as a membership to a service you use all the way to your favorite laundry detergent ordered through Amazon.
Affiliate programs exist for just about any niche in blogging. Makeup, clothing, software, travel, crafts and DIY, online courses, eBooks, and the list goes on and on.
No matter what you are blogging about you will probably be able to find an affiliate program to monetize your blog with.
Affiliate Programs vs. Affiliate Networks
Affiliate programs are individual programs offered by merchants. Many companies offer what is referred to as an in-house affiliate program. With this set up you usually go to that company’s website and log in to get your links and check your stats. Your payment will come directly from the company themselves.
Affiliate networks are where you log into one site and have access to many different affiliate programs, sometimes numbering into the 10s of thousands. Merchants sign up with with the network and the network handles payments and tracking of sales. You will receive your payment from the network in this set up.
Common Terms Used With Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate – this would be you, if you choose to use affiliate marketing to make money blogging. You are a partner that promotes products or a business for a business in return for a set commission.
Affiliate Agreement – each company you sign up with will have it’s own agreement, even in affiliate networks. This agreement specifies the rules that both you and the company you are partnering will will follow. This will tell you what is allowed and not allowed when promoting their products. And they have a bunch of legal jargon so everyone is protected from all the legal stuff.
Affiliate Disclosure/Disclaimer – a statement that is put on your website to inform potential customers that you receive compensation/commission from merchants in exchange for referring them customers. These are required by the FTC.
Affiliate Link – this is a URL that you will use (you get this from the affiliate program or affiliate network) on your site. You send your referrals through this link to the company’s website whose product or service you are promoting. This link is how the sale/referral is able to be tracked so you can get your commissions.
Affiliate Network – a network of affiliate programs.
Affiliate Program – a program by a merchant to pay commissions for sales or leads referred by an affiliate.
Commission – a percentage or a flat rate for a sale that is paid to the affiliate who referred the sale to the affiliate program.
Cookie – these are used to keep track of sales by affiliates. When a user clicks on your individual affiliate link they are given a cookie on their computer that allows the merchant to know that the referral of that customer is from the individual affiliate and not someone else. These are just like the cookies you delete from your browser, same thing, and they go in the same place on a computer.
CPA – aka Cost Per Action – this is another form of reward from merchants to affiliates. Instead of a commission percentage you get a flat rate in return for an action the referred customer makes. This action could be anything from a sale, an email newsletter sign up, a download, a phone call, some are even just a zip code entry. There are entire affiliate networks that are set up for just CPA offers.
CPC – aka Cost Per Click – this is referring to the amount of money paid to generate a click through on a link. So if you spent $50 to bring people to your site and see the link and there were 100 clicks on the link, that would be 50 cents per click or $0.50 CPC.
CPM – aka Cost Per Thousand – this is referring to the amount of money it costs to pay for 1000 impressions. So if you spent $50 for 500,000 impressions that would be $0.10 CPM. Or if you wanted to buy some advertising that was $1 CPM and you wanted to display your ad 30,000 times then that would cost you $30.
CTR – aka Click Through Rate – this is a percentage rate of the amount of click throughs you get to the number of impressions. So lets say you have 100 impressions of your affiliate link, and 3 click throughs, that would be a 3% CTR.
Datafeed – This is a file that contains products a merchant sells. Sometimes the merchant will have all or their products in this file, and sometimes they won’t. These are updated regularly by the merchant. Typically datafeeds will include images, descriptions, and price of the product, along with your affiliate link.
Direct Linking – this is when an affiliate links directly to the advertising from ads or social media posts instead of creating a website, blog, or landing page and directing the affiliate link to that.
EPC – aka Earnings Per Click – this is the average amount of what you earn every time someone clicks on your affiliate link. So if you earned on average $100 for ever 10 clicks on your affiliate link, then your EPC would be $10.
Impression – a measure of how many times an ad is shown. If an ad is shown 1000 times then that’s 1000 impressions.
Landing Page – a standalone web page that is created for marketing or adverting. Visitors “land” on this page when they click on a link for a product or service an affiliate is promoting.
Payment Threshold – in many affiliate programs there is a certain amount you must earn before a payout is done. So if the payment threshold is $50 then you will not get a payment until your earnings are over $50. This resets each time you are paid, so after a payment you must earn $50 again before you receive your next payment.
Publisher – you the affiliate. Affiliates are sometimes referred to as publishers, especially if you are signing up for an affiliate network. Many times on the affiliate networks you will see a section named Publishers, this is where you would go to sign up as an affiliate.
Squeeze Page – a type of landing page that is designed to capture opt-in email addresses. These are often used by affiliate marketers to grow email lists. Once they get an email they send the referral on to the affiliate offer that was advertised.
Two-Tier (2 Tier) – some programs are two-tier affiliate programs, this means you can refer affiliates and earn a small percentage of their earnings or sometimes a set flat amount once they reach a predetermined amount in earnings. ShareASale, VigLink, and Awin have this feature.
Unique Clicks – this is how many unique people have clicked your affiliate link vs all of the clicks on your affiliate link.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
When you find a product or service that you like and use you might find that the company that makes or sells the product has an affiliate program.
Now there are some affiliates who don’t use the products. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if you are going to do something like that you need to be really good at sales, and already be an experience affiliate marketer.
When you find these programs you sign up with that affiliate program, or with the affiliate network that the program is in. Then you receive links to promote the product or service with.
Essentially, you become a sort of advertiser for this merchant and the service or product.
You promote affiliate links through your website, blog, social media accounts, or email. (Make sure to read your affiliate agreement, some merchants will say you can’t use email or social media etc). And as you promote you refer people through your affiliate links.
You receive a commission, or flat rate, as people who go through your affiliate links make a purchase or do whatever it is needed to be done for you to receive your payment.
Depending on the program or network, you might have a payment threshold. This means you might have to receive a certain amount of sales to have an account balance go past a payment threshold until you receive your payment. Payments can be made in a number of ways, this all depends on the program. Some will send you a check, or deposit into your checking account, others might pay you through Pay Pal.
How Are Affiliate Links Tracked?
With affiliate marketing, cookies are the magic thing that get you paid (computer cookies, not the kind you eat, even though those are magical themselves 🙂 ). These cookies are what make sure you get credit for referring someone.
Your affiliate links identify you as the referrer of the person who clicks that link. Then a cookie is used after the customer gets to the merchants site to make sure you get credit for what they buy or do.
Cookies can last anywhere from just the time the customer is on the merchant’s site to over a year. The amount of time that the cookie lasts is usually defined in your affiliate agreement.
The great part about long lasting cookies is that if you referred someone but they didn’t buy the product right then and there, but end up going back to the site a few weeks later, you still get credit for that sale! So the longer the cookie the better. But the downside to this is, if that referral ended up clicking another affiliate’s link between when you sent them to the merchant’s site and when they make a purchase, the the last affiliate who’s link they clicked will get the credit.
Is a Blog or Website Needed for Affiliate Marketing?
While you don’t have to have a blog or website for affiliate marketing, you’re going to find you are limited many times on which programs or networks will work with you without one.
So yes, it is best to have a blog or website if you plan on using affiliate marketing. Or really for any monetization of your site for that matter. And you are going to find it much easier to promote your affiliate links if you have a blog.
There are some affiliate programs and networks that require you to have a website in order to just be approved to join. Other instances you may find that for that particular program you are not allowed to direct link. In this case you can’t promote anything until you set up at least a landing page of some sort.
Also one of the biggest pieces of making money online period is having your own email list. You need a website and email service to build your list.
I always find it most profitable to have a blog. Having a blog helps bring in free traffic from SEO with evergreen content you create. It also helps gain an email list, which again is your #1 tool. I can create landing pages, evergreen content, build my email list and much much more.
If you still need to set up a blog check out the Step By Step Guide to Get Your WordPress Blog Started on SiteGround and it will walk you through (with pictures) on how to get everything going for your blog.
Why You Need an Affiliate Disclaimer
You are legally required to disclose to your audience that you receive compensation for in exchange for referring them to a merchant.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is who enforces this law. You can read their info on disclosures for affiliate marketing here: The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking.
According to the FTC your affiliate disclosure needs to be “clear and conspicuous”, meaning you have to use clear language when stating that you are earning commissions for sales through your affiliate links. You can’t confuse your readers with fancy words or anything when saying you are getting compensation.
You don’t need fancy legal terms or anything like that. With the FTC rules you are able to make your disclaimer using your own word, just make sure it follows the FTC’s rules.
Placement of your affiliate disclosure is another thing the FTC has guidelines on too. They state that the disclaimer must be before any affiliate links are added, on the same page as your affiliate links, and in plain sight.
Also along with an affiliate disclaimer on your blog, if you do use direct linking from social media, you also have to disclose there that it is an affiliate link. There are several ways to do this. One is by just starting off saying it is sponsored or an ad. Another is to put by the link that it’s an affiliate link.
How Do You Use Affiliate Programs With a Blog?
One of the best ways to use affiliate programs is for products or services you already use and love. This is one of the easiest ways, especially for beginners in affiliate marketing. When you already use and love a product it’s much easier to recommend it to your readers and not come off as pushy.
If you are already using the product then you know all about the pros and cons, can make detailed guides, and you are able to whole heatedly recommend your readers try it out.
Affiliate Links in Your Blog Posts
Like I said before having a blog is one of the easiest ways to use affiliate links.
When you have a blog, it is easy to integrate affiliate links into your blog posts. Or on a resources page on your blog.
Writing reviews, how to’s, and round up posts are some of the easiest blog posts to use your affiliate links in. This could be something as simple as your favorite blog tools, or favorite outfits, and on and on. Any niche there is, there is an affiliate program out there that will fit it.
Use Your Email List
Email lists are your best friend when it comes to affiliate marketing.
Sure having a blog makes using the affiliate links easy. But email lists can be super easy too.
When you send an email, you don’t have to worry about SEO, word count, and all the other many things that you have to check off before publishing your blog post.
You just write however much you want press send and you are done. No keyword research to be done. It’s a much easier form of communication with your readers. You can think of them as mini easy blog posts.
To do this however you are going to need an email service. I recommend MailerLite. MailerLite is free to use up to 1,000 subscribers and you can send up to 12,000 emails per month on their free plan. On top of that, the user interface is the easiest email service interface I have used. Some services can get down right confusing with their interfaces, and I’m a techy person! You can sign up for your free account by clicking here.
Cloaking Affiliate Links
So affiliate links are ugly. They look weird to your users.
What to do?
Use a link cloaker. Now this doesn’t mean go use bit.ly, that’s not making an ugly link any prettier.
When you have a blog (see this is another benefit) you can use plugins to cloak your affiliate links.
There are many to choose from. You can start out using a free one but they are limited when it comes to statistics. And when it comes to affiliate marketing being able to look at stats is important. You need to know what’s working and what isn’t.
I recommend Thirsty Affiliate Link Manager. But any link cloaker of your choice will do the job.
Not only will a cloaker make an ugly affiliate link look better, it also makes managing your links easier. You won’t have to log into the affiliate program each time you need the link. Your link cloaker can store it and make it easy for you insert your affiliate link into your post.
Do I Need A Lot of Traffic or Followers to be Successful in Affiliate Marketing?
No you don’t need a lot of traffic to be successful at affiliate marketing. I know many beginners in affiliate marketing think the more traffic the better, but that’s not the case.
Traffic Isn’t Everything
The main keys to success in affiliate marketing as a blogger is to be genuine and don’t be too salesy.
People do not like to be sold things.
I know that sounds weird, because people like to buy things. But they want to buy because they want the product or service. Not because it was shoved in their face and had a pushy sales person.
You want to build trust with your readers and establish a connection. Not just push products all the time. This is why it’s important to use and like what affiliate products you are recommending. It’s much easier not to be a pushy sales person when you really believe in what you are recommending to your readers.
Make sure you are giving to your readers, not just trying to get them to open their wallets.