If you want to generate passive income with affiliate marketing, this article will become your go-to guide. We’re going to show you the basics to become an affiliate marketer without spending money on paid advertising (PPC). We’ll also provide a step-by-step guide to the entire process, so you’ll be earning affiliate commissions with your blog in no time.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing involves promoting the products or services of another person or business in exchange for a commission on the resulting sale.
Affiliate marketers join affiliate programs, find reputable affiliate products to promote, and then share those products with their audience.
Basically, it’s a modern interpretation of a very old idea: getting a commission on a sale.
You probably already know that bloggers make money by building an audience that trusts them, and then offering products or services that will actually help that audience.
Affiliate marketing is really just a quick way to offer products and services without having to create your own products and services.
For bloggers, that means you find a product or service you like, promote it to your readers, and earn a portion of the profits on every sale you make.
How does affiliate marketing work?
Affiliate marketing can get quite technical, even for those familiar with digital marketing. Luckily, you don’t need to know all the details to get started.
Here’s a quick behind-the-scenes look:
- When an affiliate joins the merchant’s program, they receive a unique ID and a specific URL to use when promoting the company’s product.
- Affiliate includes the link in their blog post and/or through their email marketing efforts and invites readers to click on it to learn more.
- When a potential buyer clicks on the link to visit the affiliate partner’s site, a cookie identifying the affiliate is placed on the site visitor’s computer. The cookie ensures that the publisher is credited for the referral sale even if it occurs days or even weeks later.
- Each time a shopper completes the sales process, the merchant checks the sales record for a cookie identifying the source of the referral.
- If the merchant finds a cookie with an affiliate ID, the affiliate is credited with the sale.
- The merchant makes reports available so that the affiliate can see their referrals (clicks) and sales.
- The merchant pays the affiliate commission at the end of each payment period (ie revenue sharing).
Here is a graphical overview to help you visualize the process:
The flow is pretty straightforward once you understand it, and it works the same no matter what type of product you’re promoting or how established you are as an affiliate.
So let’s look at the typical progression of a blogger who is serious about making affiliate marketing a major source of income.
How to Start Affiliate Marketing in 4 Steps
Here is the key point you need to understand if you want to become an affiliate:
You earn a commission in exchange for giving readers valuable information about products or services they were already thinking about buying.
In other words, your readers are already buying things. They are already going to make a purchase whether you give them advice or not.
The question is, could you help them make a smarter decision than just them?
Because that’s where you add value. You earn a commission for being an influencer and helping people make smarter decisions, and you use your blog and the internet to systematize this process, providing valuable advice to thousands of people.
Here’s a step-by-step process for doing just that:
Step 1: Choose a product to promote as an affiliate
As content creators, we are limited in the products we choose to represent in one of two ways:
- Either we’re limited by our experience to products we’ve used and liked, have affiliate programs, and are a good fit for our audience, or
- We are limited by the products we can access in order to evaluate them, either by purchasing them directly or by obtaining a free sample or trial.
Whichever approach you take, expect to have to invest time and money into finding the best products for your audience.
Here are your two main options (with the best option listed first).
Option #1: Promote products you already know and love
This is the most common way to get started with affiliate offers.
You become an affiliate for something that you have used yourself, had a good experience with, tested extensively, and feel good about recommending.
You need to be pretty confident that others will get the same results as you (or better), as long as they do the work.
If you’ve found great success in a course, brainstorm, or ebook that your readers could also benefit from, it only makes sense for you to spread the word and share your results.
Take an inventory of the products, services, and courses with which you already have experience. You might have a list of a dozen or more.
Now just check to see if the merchant has an affiliate program (some won’t, but you’ll probably be surprised how many do).
Using a search engine like Google, search for “affiliate program” + [product name], or just email the merchant and ask.
Then run your remaining options through this good affiliate product checklist:
- You have previewed the product in order to know its quality.
- The merchant has a solid refund policy that you trust them to honor.
- The merchant provides good customer support (and you’ve tested it).
- You have a great story to share about your experience with the product.
- The offer matches the needs of your audience and will not abuse the trust you have established with them.
Products/merchants that meet all the boxes are your best affiliate earning opportunities.
Over time, add as many of these products to your mix as you want.
You have found your first product! Apply using the merchant process and start promoting.
If you’re new to the affiliate marketing industry, this first option may be enough to get you started.
However, most bloggers will also want to try the next one.
You’ll need to explore the second option if you don’t have an existing product that you like that also matches your audience and offers an affiliate program.
Option #2: Find Products Through an Affiliate Network
If you have no direct experience or knowledge of products in your niche that would help your readers, you can often find great affiliate products on affiliate networks. But beware, this approach requires you to invest time in research and money in buying products to try, more than the first option.
This is because there is less trust and prior knowledge involved from the start. You need to do your due diligence to protect your reputation and the credibility you have built with your readers.
When you work through a network, you usually don’t know the merchant in advance and usually don’t build a relationship with them (your business relationship is with the network).
The list of popular and trusted affiliate networks includes System.io, ClickBank, CJ Affiliate, eBay Partner Network, ShareASale, Impact.com, and Amazon Associates Program. Some networks will even assign you an affiliate manager to lend a hand and show you the ropes.
Amazon products, in particular, are an easy way to get started. Many beginners start out by becoming affiliates with Amazon and then move on to other types of more profitable affiliate offers.
Step 2: Set up as an affiliate
Whether you work directly with affiliate merchants or through a network, you will need to apply, be approved, and provide certain information in order to be paid.
At a minimum, you will need to provide:
- Your personal/business contact details for tax and reporting purposes.
- Your bank account to which commissions will be sent.
In turn, the merchant must provide you with:
- An affiliate link. Every time you post about the product, you will use this trackable link. It will have a long tag at the end of each link that includes your affiliate ID.
You’ll also usually get some helpful tips and resources for marketing the product (often found in a welcome guide or on the affiliate’s website).
These could include:
- An affiliate guide as well as instructions on using the platform and a summary of policies such as payments.
- Online marketing tools like banners and sidebar graphics.
- Sample email/webpage scan copy.
- Ongoing merchant communications on promotions, new products, etc.
If you’re using an affiliate platform like Amazon, you’ll get your own link for each of the specific products you’re promoting.
Be sure to check your network’s help or support pages for more information.
Step 3: Start promoting your chosen affiliate offers
In the end, all your hard work finding and reviewing products only pays off if someone takes your advice and makes the purchase, right?
For that to happen, you need to present your recommendation to your audience. More importantly, you need to make your recommendation trustworthy.
This is where a lot of affiliate marketers slip up. They think it’s enough to place a banner ad on their blog that links to affiliate products.
So here’s how:
Option #1: Create a resource page on your blog
The page can promote many different products, but should also organize them according to different types of readers and what they might need at the time. The page must also explain why these products would be useful to them.
In other words, it’s not just a sales pitch. The content should be educational and contain a lot of quality information. The page should also be SEO optimized and rank well in Google search results and drive organic traffic.
Here is a FREE step-by-step guide to starting a blog in just one day (even if you have no technical knowledge)
Option 2: Create and promote personalized content
This content marketing strategy will be the backbone of your affiliate promotional efforts.
Use as many of the following different techniques as makes sense for your blog and your audience.
Note: All of these strategies assume that you are already sending traffic to the latest content you are creating by regularly emailing your list (at least two to four times a month) to let them know what’s new.
A) Write product reviews/comparison
You can write detailed reviews of the products, courses, books, or software that you promote as an affiliate.
Your reviews can focus on a single product or compare competing products side by side.
The second approach arguably builds trust, but it also distracts people by giving them lots of different recommendations.
If you want to review multiple products, one option is to create a review site where all the content is just reviews and affiliate offers. It becomes a “one-stop shop” for your niche.
B) Write definitive content on a related topic
You can write a definitive, comprehensive article on your site to educate your readers and “soft sell” your products, then work on its search engine rankings.
For example, you can write an ultimate guide to create a WordPress blog and include your affiliate links to your favorite hosting providers.
Whatever the topic, make sure it’s permanent content, information that is likely to be useful and valuable for years to come.
You can create blog posts, videos, infographics, or something similar, but whatever you do, it shouldn’t be a sales page. Focus on building trust and authority.
Finally, you need to pay a lot of attention to SEO, make sure you optimize for the right keywords, keep WordPress running fast, and link to your content to get a steady stream of traffic from Google.
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C) Create valuable bonus content
Assuming this is allowed by your affiliate agreement (sometimes it isn’t), you can create bonus content, exclusive to your readers, that helps people get even more value from the affiliate product.
People love bonuses! You can create many types of bonuses fairly quickly and easily while providing your readers with excellent value.
By the way, this is a fantastic way to differentiate yourself from other bloggers representing the same products.
Here are some examples of bonuses you could offer:
- Step-by-step checklists
- Quick Start Guides
- Video presentations or demos
- Free or discounted services (eg coaching calls)
Step 4: Comply with legal requirements (and best practices)
In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that you tell people that you will earn a commission.
But even if it’s not required by law where you are, we recommend it. It’s just good practice.
Don’t be afraid to be transparent. People will appreciate your honesty and want to support you in thanking you for making their lives better.
So wherever you share an affiliate link, whether in blog posts, web pages, or emails, let your readers know that you’ll earn a small commission if they buy through you, and if they choose not to use your link, no worries.
Assure them that you wouldn’t recommend any products if you hadn’t used them yourself or were convinced they could help them.
It’s also a good idea to create an affiliate disclaimer page on your website.
Last Thoughts About How To Start Affiliate Marketing in 2022
Affiliate marketing is all about creating the right content and targeting the right audience. With a little practice and experience, you can actually start earning a good income from the comfort of your home. Focus on high recurring affiliate programs that will generate passive income as long as the customer uses the product.