What is Affiliate Marketing?

So, what is affiliate marketing, anyway? In this post I’m not only going to explain what it is, but also ways you can use it in your own business to make more money.

What is affiliate marketing, anyway? And how can bloggers make money with it? #thrivingaffiliates #affiliatemarketing

Affiliate marketing is an agreement between two parties (businesses) where one business (the merchant) pays the other (the affiliate/blogger) a commission (or other type of payment – see below) when that affiliate recommends the merchant’s products or services and that recommendation results in a sale (or lead.)

Simply put, affiliate marketing is like online word of mouth referrals with commissions involved.

I’m sure you’ve watched a great movie or visited a cool new restaurant and then told your friends about it, right? This is word of mouth marketing and it’s something we do all the time!

Well you can do something similar to that online, and actually get paid for it. It’s called (you guessed it!) affiliate marketing. 

One thing to know before you start putting affiliate links on your blog and/or website:

You Must Disclose Your Affiliate Links

One thing to note is that when you do affiliate marketing online, the FTC wants you to disclose the fact that your links may result in commissions for you. They don’t tell you exactly how to say it, but I typically use this type of disclosure in my blog posts:

“This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and that results in a sale, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Want more info? Click here.” (And I link to my more in-depth affiliate disclosure.)

You probably noticed that at the beginning of this post, right?

What About Disclosing Other Places You Post Affiliate Links?

On social media you can use a shorter version. For instance, on Twitter you could just include “#ad”, on Instagram you could use #affiliatelink, etc. Pins with affiliate links on Pinterest must also be disclosed, but in that case you don’t need to add the hashtag. 

Check the FTC’s website to learn more and for the most updated information on how or where to disclose. 

Types of Commissions You Can Earn

Typically an affiliate will get paid a percentage of the sale. This can be as little as 3% for some items on Amazon, to 70% or more (usually in the case of software or digital products.)

But you can also get paid a certain amount for and “clicks” (like each time someone click a link you could earn a flat amount like .10 cents). Leads generated can also count as affiliate marketing, where you could make $2.00 (or more… or less) whenever someone signs up to be on a list or watch a video, etc.

Recurring Affiliate Commissions

Some companies will pay you month after month, as long as the person you referred remains a paying customer. Some examples of this are: ClickFunnels, ConvertKit, Tailwind, etc.

Some recurring commissions stop after a certain amount of time (like a year or two.) For example, when you refer someone to Printful through your affiliate link and they sign up to sell through Printful (on Etsy or Amazon, etc.) they pay you a 10% commission on all of that person’s sales for the first 9 months.

Two-Tier Affiliate Commissions

Printful is also an example of a “two-tier affiliate program” where you get paid on sales of the person you referred.

Some affiliate networks will do the same. Like MaxBounty who will pay you 5% of revenue generated but anyone you refer (for the first 12 months.)

What Affiliate Programs Should You Join?

Obviously, that is going to depend on your niche and/or who your customers are. In most cases I would always recommend being an affiliate for products and/or services you use and love. I basically only talk about affiliate marketing, so I am an affiliate for many of the tools that I use in my own business that I can confidently say will help other affiliate marketers.

If you’re a beauty blogger, obviously you’d become an affiliate for the brands you use and recommend. If you’re a mommy blogger, of course you’d stay away from recommending products that might be harmful to families, even if the commission was super high, right? You’d choose to recommend the things you use in your home and life that you love.

But there are some cases where you don’t necessarily need to use or own the products you’re recommending. If you had a bridal gown website, you wouldn’t own every dress you recommended. Or if you had a niche site comparing vacuums, you wouldn’t have 200 vacuums in your hall closet.

But overall, I think it’s important to be honest when you’re an affiliate. You don’t need to give 100% glowing reviews of everything you promote! If your reviews and recommendations are all rainbows and perfection, it can come off as that slimy salesperson I know you don’t want to be – just in it for the commissions.

In reality, people will appreciate the fact that you share some of the “cons” and will trust your opinion even more.

How to Find Affiliate Programs to Join

This is easy: Google it! Say you want to be an affiliate for Etsy, you can simple Google, Etsy Affiliate Program and if they have one (and they do!) you’ll typically see it at the top of the search page.

But if that didn’t end up with any results, you can also try Googling “Etsy Referral Program” as affiliate program and referral program are sometimes interchanged, but has the same basic meaning.

 Alternatively, if you’re on a website for a company you love, scroll to the bottom of the page and you just might see a link that says something like “affiliates”, “affiliate program”, “referral program”, etc.

If you still can’t find any information about whether or not a company has an affiliate program or not, you can always try emailing them directly and asking! Even if they don’t (at the time) they may be able to set up a special relationship with you.

With some affiliate programs you’ll sign up directly with the company, like in the case of Amazon. But with others (like in the case of Etsy above) you’ll sign up through an affiliate network, that handles the affiliate programs for multiple (sometimes hundreds!) of companies.

Once you’re accepted into a network, you can easily apply to be an affiliate for multiple companies.

Some examples of affiliate networks are:

How do you actually make money as an affiliate marketer?

Most commonly, you’ll need a blog. Typically you’ll choose a niche to blog about, and sprinkle affiliate links throughout your content (blog posts, resources pages, to your email list – though not your Amazon links! It’s against their rules– etc.) You could write reviews, how to’s, or simply recommend products and/or services.

You could also do the same type of thing on a YouTube channel where you review or make how to videos about certain things, and leave the affiliate links in the video description.

But even with a YouTube channel, you’ll also want a way to collect email addresses so you can re-target the people who watch your videos. You could do that with a website or blog, or you could simply use an email service provider like ConvertKit who will host an email opt-in landing page for you.

There is an amazing course called Pin Practical Influence  where she teaches you to make money with affiliate marketing by pinning on Pinterest.

You can take that a step further and use ClickFunnels to create affiliate offers (instead of a blog/long blog posts) and pin those! (You could also advertise those same pages on Facebook, etc.) 

The Merchant Side of Affiliate Marketing

So far in this post I’ve only really talked about being the affiliate marketer, but there’s also the flip-side: you could become the merchant!

If you have a product (either digital – like online courses, a membership site, ebooks, etc. – or physical – like clothes, art, home décor, etc.) you can set up your own affiliate program.

For digital product sellers, SendOwl  makes it super easy. And if you set up a Shopify shop, you can use an add on to create an affiliate program for either physical or digital products. Clickbank is another popular option.

If you’re already using ClickFunnels, their “BackPack” upgrade allows you to seamlessly add an affiliate program for whatever you’re selling. 

I’ve haven’t (yet!) created my own affiliate program, but I have heard it’s kind of like having another business. There can be a lot of “customer” service (in this case, affiliates) asking questions, missing login info, etc. So you’ll have to decide if the extra sales are worth the extra work, and/or if you’ll hire a VA or affiliate manager to handle those things for you.

Of course, there’s always the option of using an affiliate network like AWINShareASale, MaxBounty, ClickBank, etc. to handle that side of things for you, too.  

So there you have it! The answer to “What IS Affiliate Marketing?” (Plus some of the many ways you can make money with it!) If you have any questions or feedback, please leave them in the comments below. 

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