The ultimate guide to affiliate marketing for bloggers
Blogs are a useful stepping stone into affiliate marketing with potential for strong organic rankings in search engines. The blogger has a ready-made audience that trusts their opinion if they recommend a product or service.
That audience will be more likely to click through to a seller’s page. It’s an easy, effective way for bloggers to profit directly from their content. By simply spreading the word about a sponsored product or item, bloggers are rewarded through sale conversions and more site traffic.
Let’s take a closer look to see why affiliate marketing may be right for you and your blogging and/or social media business.
First things first: What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is recommending particular products or services to an audience, all with the goal of creating sales and earning a commission from the transaction. The four participants in this process are:
- the affiliate website
- the affiliate network
- the advertiser
- the consumer
How does it work?
Affiliate marketing works by sharing the workload of product marketing between a few different parties. 81% of brands and 84% of publishers work with affiliate marketing, including through blogs. By taking advantage of a blogger’s existing audience and using the know-how of brand owners, creating commercial content around a product or service is easy.
Additionally, because the workload is spread out, each participant is entitled to a share of profits (or commission). The three key parties involved are the seller/product creators, the blogger/affiliate and, of course, the consumers.
1. Seller and product creators
The seller can take a few different forms, but is essentially the party that needs a product marketed. The role is fundamentally the same, whether a creator, merchant, solo entrepreneur or even a large enterprise. By pushing a product or service to market, the seller or product creators contribute to the range of products that affiliates can choose to represent.
2. The affiliate
This is either an individual person, or sometimes a company that creates commercial content around a product or service. The affiliate will work to convince consumers of its value and benefits by highlighting the product in an appealing way. If successful, the consumer will click through and buy the product, which in turn sends a portion of the profits back to the affiliate.
A huge advantage of marketing through an affiliate is that they usually have niche audiences, so they usually choose products that align with their interests. Parallels between the content and the items being recommended not only enhance their personal brand, but ensures that the audience is already predispositioned to click through on promotions or products.
3. The consumer
Consumers are becoming more aware of the power of their purchases much thanks to affiliate marketing being more commonplace. For influencers or bloggers with loyal followings, Loyal followers of influencers and bloggers often actively shop through affiliate links to show support or brand loyalty.
When a consumer buys a recommended product, the profits are split between the seller and the affiliate. Some affiliates are upfront with their audience and state clearly that they are receiving a commission from any sales made. It is also often possible that the consumer is unaware that they are participating in affiliate marketing.
There is usually no extra cost whether the consumer is aware they are shopping within affiliate framework or not. Instead the affiliate’s commission is included in the retail price. The consumer will receive the product as they would without the affiliate set up.
How can you profit from it?
Affiliate marketing has become known as an inexpensive way of making money and creating content without having to jump through the hoops of developing a product yourself. However, while affiliate marketing can be a quick source of profits, it’s important to first understand how you can actually make money from becoming an affiliate.
How does clicking a link on a page and buying something earn money for a blogger? Firstly, it is not necessary for consumers to actually purchase anything for the affiliate to make a commission. There are a few different ways in which an affiliate’s results are evaluated and paid.
Pay per sale.
This is the most typical affiliate marketing framework. In this arrangement, the seller/creator pays the affiliate a percentage of the profits after the consumer has followed the advertiser’s links and purchases the product. To sum it up, a sale needs to be made before the affiliate receives any income.
Pay per lead.
This system is a little less common, perhaps due to its less straightforward structure. Paying per lead means the affiliate receives a payment based on how leads from their site convert. In this situation, consumers are required to complete a specific action at the merchant’s site, rather than just clicking through and buying a product. In this situation, guests may be required to sign up for a newsletter or download a particular program or file.
Pay per click.
Rather than direct a consumer to buying a specific product on a shopping platform like Amazon, paying per click instead rewards affiliates for directing consumers to their own branded site. The affiliate must produce content that is engaging enough that the consumer will click away to the seller’s site – thereby increasing web traffic.
Market potential: Affiliate marketing in the UK and Europe
As Europe is a heavily segmented market with a wide variety of languages and currencies, it is important to remember that the affiliate network you choose has a solid base in the regional markets you want to target. If you’re in doubt or looking at multiple markets, choose an affiliate program that is well-established and multinational.
The consumer products that bloggers are targeting are usually in the field of tools, books, toys and household items like makeup. Amazon has the biggest affiliate network in this market. Its popularity in Europe and the UK can largely be attributed to the sheer scale of the products available. Affiliates are able to promote any item that is sold on their platform.
Breakdown of affiliate commission rates
Commission Fee Schedule
A lot of affiliate marketing programs work with a commission fee schedule. A strong example of this is Amazon’s current model. It uses flat commission rates for specific product categories. This program is still evolving, but here are a few examples of how it currently works:
- 3.0% for children’s toys
- 4.0% for Amazon’s own tablets and Kindles
- 4.5% for personal care and baby products
- 6.0% for beauty products and musical instruments
- 7.0% for clothes and accessories or Amazon-branded devices like TVs or the Echo
Unless specifically outlined, most Amazon categories are based around a 4.0% commission rate, with exceptions like gift cards or some alcohol brands.
Commission Fee Structure
A common framework for commission rates is a volume based fee structure. The higher the number of products that are sold via your affiliate links, the higher the amount you’ll take home per sale. After you’ve sold enough products to move to another advertising rate, the next round of sales you make will give you a commission of the new rate. This goes on over a series of commission tiers. It is important to remember, however, that some products are exempt from this program.
How to start affiliate marketing for your blog?
Getting started and finding partners you would like to work with really isn’t too difficult. Think of a few products or brands you love. Logically, if you are a big fan of them, it’s likely your audience you will be interested, too.
Follow these easy 4 steps:
- Find some products related to your blog or field of interest. You probably already have a few items or services that you use regularly, why not write a review or discuss them on a public platform?
- Start registering your visitors in the form of subscribers. You’ll connect with your audience when you have a new post or content. Without an alert, they may miss your posts and your reviews will miss their targeted audience.
- Consider using joint ventures like webinars to create new sales and expand your consumer base. Paid collaborations are a great way of creating recognition among new audiences.
- Now that your affiliate marketing has started to make money, it is a good idea to scale your growth by integrating pay-per-click advertising.
Another way you can integrate affiliate marketing into your online presence is through social media. Rather than rely on search results to direct visitors to your content and, consequently, your affiliate links, share links directly via platforms like Facebook and YouTube. It is though still important to stay up to date with the guidelines for social sharing, as up until recently, networks like Pinterest didn’t allow affiliate links.
Find affiliate partners
The most simple way of connecting with products or merchants you would like to work with is to head straight to the Amazon Page to register yourself as an Amazon Associate. Additionally, you can do a quick search online for “(brand) affiliate program” to find more options for merchant collaborations.
After registering with their affiliate program, you just need to:
- Find the products on Amazon you like, and copy their links from the toolbar into a spreadsheet
- Review your existing content. Identify where it would make sense to insert a product and then simply add in the link
- Once your sales reach $10, you can choose to be paid by bank deposit or even by an Amazon gift card.
Need inspiration? Check out a few blogs in your field, and investigate how they are working with affiliates. If they are using paid links to other products, you can identify them by the long “/ref…” tail, which is found at the end of the normal link.
How do affiliate links work?
Affiliate links will take you to the advertised product, however, it occurs at the same time information is saved to the browser and the device you’re currently using. This shows the path you took to the item page, and lets the merchant know that you followed the advice of a blogger. Depending on the payment structure, your activity on the merchant site can now technically generate money for the blogger.
Most concisely, affiliate links are used to assess the source of sales and help the merchant identify which of their consumers have found their product via bloggers.
Types of affiliate links – Which is the best choice?
When choosing to include links in your blog, there are a number of ways to go about it. The most common is simply including text links in standard blog posts. If you’re writing a post about a product or service you want to promote, include links in every mention of the product. It’s important to note too that merchant sites can have varying cookie periods. With some sellers, you can be credited with a sale from 30 to 90 days after a click.
Other ways of including text links include newsletters. Once you have an established list of subscribers for your email updates, you can include affiliate links within your newsletters. It’s important to keep to a regular schedule and not go too overboard with these emails. It’s quite easy for subscribers to mark emails as spam once they feel they are receiving unnecessary information from you.
For video content, adding links is done quite simply by including links in your video descriptions, adding pop-ups or even text overlays over your videos. Video content is quite an effective way of discussing a product as viewers will get a better sense of how you interact with the item and can see it in action.
Another common link type is a banner advertisement. Some affiliates like Amazon Associates provide a code to include when you code your page. Rather than click through from your blog post, this link sits as the header or footer of your page. This format is best for special one-off occasions like public holiday sales. Once your viewers click on this banner, they’ll end up on Amazon’s page for that item and, if they buy the item, you receive a commission.
If you’re discussing a range of products rather than a specific single item, it might make more sense to include a more general link. For example, if you are linking to an Amazon page where this range is listed, you would include the “Associates Site Stripe” in your text. This is a unique page that lists all of your own personalised recommendations.
How to create affiliate links?
The most straightforward way of creating a link is to go to your product page, click on the URL, and copy the link to the end of the product code. Add your affiliate ID to the URL.
In practise this would look like: www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1234567/your-affiliate-ID.
Now you just need to copy this link, and insert it as a text link in your content. Always double check that the link does work once you’ve published the post.
If you’re working with a banner link, The HTML code provided by the affiliate is easily inserted using the HTML editor of your blogging platform.
For affiliates working with Amazon, there are 3 specific ways you can integrate affiliate links into your content:
- SiteStripe: This toolbar is displayed to all Amazon Associates as part of the Amazon shop page. Create and select HTML for text links, product images or the direct Amazon product page. Now you can share your links directly without having to visit Associate Central.
- Widgets: Display sections like “My Favourites” or even a search bar that allows visitors to browse Amazon directly. Additionally, you’ll earn a commission from all qualifying orders, so just find the widget that suits your page best and paste it into your layout.
- It’s important to note that Google and other search engines prefer that you include a “no follow” tag in affiliate links. Failure to do so may result in misleading search rankings as paid relationships may begin to affect organic results.
What is affiliate tracking?
As a performance based framework, affiliate marketing relies on how effectively sales and web traffic can be attributed to each party. All site activities like sales, click throughs and other conversions are tracked with the aid of specialised software. This allows the merchant to assess which affiliates are driving sales and which might need some fine-tuning.
There’s a wide range of tracking software on the market, but some affiliate networks use their own in-house programs. Amazon is a notable example of this. Just as with software types, the styles of tracking methods also often vary.
- Cookies are probably the most widespread and commonly understood tracking method for affiliate networks. By saving a cookie to your browser and computer, merchant sites can identify consumer origins and whether they have visited the page before. As long as the cookie stays active, the affiliate will be credited with any purchases made by the consumer during this period.
- Fingerprint tracking is less commonly used. By creating a digital signature from the end device, information on the operating system, language and other details can be used to identify visitors to a page. This saved signature also allows the users to be identified when they revisit the page with the same browser and device.
If you have a blog and an audience, you have a ready-made consumer base. Integrating affiliate marketing into your work is a budget-friendly way of getting into e-commerce. With our ultimate guide to affiliate marketing, you now have all the tools you need to start this transition.
For those feeling ready to start but unsure as to what platform is right for them, Amazon Associates is user-friendly and effective at converting your audience into consumers. If you keep working within your niche, and align your affiliate marketing strategy, you can turn your audience into buyers.
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