Say you’re someone who, because of the current pandemic, lost their job. You’re desperately looking for another full-time job–among so many others–while trying to come up with ways to earn money online as a possible alternate source of income in the meantime.
Or say you’re a married someone who stays at home and cares for kids, began blogging a few years ago, have developed somewhat of a following, and are now looking for a way to monetize your website traffic beyond little Google ads.
Or maybe you’ve got a passion for something–like books, say–and have been blogging and social-media posting about it for a few years or so, and built a small community of friends and followers around you, need a small source of income to cover the basic expenses of maintaining that blog and providing value to your readers, and maybe possibly enough income from it that you could make it a full-time job, if you wanted.
Affiliate marketing could help all of you.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
In its simplest form, it’s when a company pays someone not directly employed by them a small commission when that someone sends them someone else who buys their product. In the case of book blogging, the affiliate is the book blogger posting special links to books in their blog or social posts. Those links are set up so that if you, the potential buyer of said book, actually buys the book, the company–Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ThriftBooks, etc.–can tell that the book blogger sent them to their site, and rewards them with that commission.
In my case, I wouldn’t be able to find some of the book deals I find for you without the access I have to a couple of big affiliate marketing databases that book-related businesses and sites around the world help to populate with their deals. If I found a book deal for you through one of those databases, I’ll tell you, like I did here. It doesn’t affect the price you pay for the book at all; it just gives me a little bit of money. That money enables me to cover the basic expenses of running this blog–hosting, back-end technical maintenance, fees, etc.
I’ve spent a lot of time studying affiliate marketing (because that’s what I do, I research), and have put together a list of tips from various sources. While this list is far from complete, and there’s plenty of advice to be had from lots of free sources on the Internet, these tips are from two books by people who have successful experience affiliate marketing:
- Affiliate Marketing: Learn How to Make $10,000 Each Month on Autopilot by Michael Ezeanaka, and
- The Power of Passive Income by Nightingale-Conant, a staff member of Entrepreneurship Media
By way of review of those books, let me share with you, then, some of the tips those two books had in common:
Tip #1: Have a website
It may seem self-evident that that’s where you need to start, maybe with a free WordPress blog or something like that. These days, though, some people are questioning whether that’s necessary with the continued rise in popularity of various social media platforms. You might have heard, for instance, of someone who makes a pretty penny just vlogging on YouTube or posting pretty pictures on Instagram. Some special people don’t need their own site; most of us common people, however, do. It’s your hub, your own little corner of the internet, and you can run it how you like.
Corporate marketers who help bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for their companies using blogs, websites, and various social media channels strategically and in concert with one another would argue that it’s not a one-or-the-other thing, even on the smaller scale of an individual. You should use them all for different things, with a central goal and website in mind.
Nightingale-Conant’s book advises getting a website and accounts that are easy, with the “lowest barrier to entry.” This fits with their model of earning as much income as possible with as little effort as possible. While I don’t agree with their assertion that affiliate marketing can ever be truly effortless–because it takes a lot of work to do it right, at least in my experience–I definitely agree that it’s pretty easy to get started in.
Tip #2: Choose the Right Niche
If you’re just starting out in affiliate marketing, Ezeanaka and Nightingale-Conant advise you to focus on a niche that aligns with something you’re passionate about, that has been done profitably by others, and that takes into account your strengths and weaknesses, skills and talents, and any lack thereof. That’s why I blog about books, as opposed to fashion. Much as I wish I was a model and fashion expert, I’m not, but I do know my way around books, having read them for decades, written a few of my own, gone to a zillion conferences to learn how to write and traditionally publish them, edited several published and unpublished books, and reviewed them for more than four years.
So if you haven’t had an honest talk with yourself about what you really like to do, how much time you have to devote to blogging and affiliate marketing and all that comes with it, do it now. If it’s not easy for you to define what you’re passionate about, make a list of things you like and maybe could really like. Start blogging from a place of those things, since you already have some expertise in and love for them. People can tell if you’re not passionate about what you blog about, and that will mean low numbers, which don’t appeal to companies looking for successful affiliates.
Defining your niche also means you focus on one or two closely related things, like books and writing. Companies looking for affiliates are looking for people who have strong connections with a targeted audience, the kind they can’t connect with just by running a few ads on television.
Tip #3: Develop or Have Good Sources of Organic Traffic
“Organic traffic?” you say. “What’s that? Cars grown without pesticides?” Nope. In the online world, organic traffic is the visits you get to your website or views you get of your social media and other online posts. It’s traffic that came to you naturally, as opposed to “artificially,” or through paid postings. Companies like affiliates with a lot of natural traffic, at least when they’re starting out or small, because that’s really hard for them to get.
When someone recommends a product–like a book–authentically, having used it or read it and liked it, they’re more likely to be able to recommend it in the contexts of other people’s needs. So, if a friend posts about their high stress levels on Facebook, for instance, an affiliate blogger can suggest books that have helped them handle stress and provide an affiliate link. It’s a win-win-win because the friend gets a recommendation from someone they trust for something that can help them, the blogger friend gets a small percentage of the purchase price, and the seller gets the purchase. That’s organic traffic at its finest.
Organic traffic can also include traffic that comes from such conversations and postings in other online forums (e.g., Quora), niche online communities (e.g., Goodreads book clubs), and offline traffic sources.
Tip #4: Join a Good Affiliate Program
Becoming an affiliate–especially a successful one–means not waiting for opportunities to come to you, but actively looking for and applying to good affiliate programs. There’s a lot that can go into the quality of a good affiliate program, and neither Ezeanaka’s nor Nightingale and Conant’s book delve too deeply into that more advanced subject, but suffice it to say that you want an affiliate program that:
- has multiple companies that carry products that your audience would be interested in
and you don’t want a program that:
- charges you to join, or
- asks you to sign up other affiliates
Both books provide good lists of established affiliate programs to check out. I recommend CJ Affiliate because it’s relatively easy to use, has a good amount of book-related companies offering good prices, and offers a decent return.
Tip #5: Produce Quality Content
The more you get into blogging, the more you realize that actually gaining any type of a good following and/or earning any amount of money means more than just writing good blog posts. It also means knowing your audience well and writing to their needs. There is so much I could say on that topic alone, but I’ll save that for another blog post. To know your audience well, you’ve got to have at least a basic understanding of Google Analytics so that you can see their demographics and where they’re coming from. Nightingale and Conant would call those “objective measures.”
It also really helps to have a good understanding of more “subjective measures,” like what they’re searching for (i.e., the keywords they’re using), what hashtags they tend to use, etc. This type of knowledge can be gained from sites like HubSpot and UberSuggest, to name a few.
Writing good content, though, means not just providing value to your target audience; it also means providing the kind of content that other related, more well-known and trusted sites like and want to link to. In book blogging, for instance, if I can get a big book publisher or author to link to one of my reviews, that makes me look better in Google’s eyes. Showing up in your target audience’s search results is literally a virtual, systematic popularity contest because it’s driven, in part, by how many other sites link back to yours.
Tip #6: Produce Quality Content Regularly and Frequently
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, you can’t do all of the above, just write one or two good, valuable blog posts, and expect the affiliate income to just start rolling in. You also need to post consistently and predictably so that you always have plenty of new content for Google to look at and online searchers to find. The more you post on your blog, the easier it is for Google to “see” you and then show you in people’s search results. The frequency and consistency with which you post is up to you and what, ultimately, works for your schedule, but I’ve found that you’ve got to do at least one blog post a week, and several social media posts.
Tip #7: Consider Using Paid Methods to Attract Traffic, Once You’re an Affiliate
Both affiliate marketing books mentioned above recommend using paid methods like Facebook ads, etc. to increase your traffic, especially once you’ve been accepted by a few affiliate programs and tapped most of your organic traffic sources. Like all of the other tips here, books could be written just on this subject alone (and there are, in fact, whole online courses), but suffice it to say here that you want to wait to do that until you’re fairly educated in the blogging, influencing, and affiliate marketing arenas.
Tip #8: Include Different Types of Media in Your Blog and Social Media Posts
I’ve definitely found that the more types of media–images, videos, audio clips, infographics, etc.–I can include in my posts, the better. This is for a variety of reasons:
- People don’t like big blocks of text (surprise, surprise). They like information to be presented to them in nice little tidbits and visuals that they can scan easily to see if there’s anything of value in them.
- You can add alt-text, or back-end text that describes the visuals to someone who is sight-impaired, that helps your posts be more SEO-friendly.
- If you find a video relevant to what you’re posting about, for example, and you embed it in your blog post or share it, you’ve got to make sure to link back to them to correctly attribute for legal purposes. (See below) Linking, attributing, or tagging sources in social media makes them aware that you’re using their video, and if they like what you’re posting, they might either link back to you, or, ideally, contact you in the future for possible partnerships.
- The more images I include in my book blog post, the wider variety of social media posts I can make, especially for Pinterest. Again, that’s a whole other post (sorry!).
Speaking of social media…
Tip #9: Share Your Content in the Relevant Hot Spots
Say you’ve done all of the above–written great blog posts frequently and consistently, become an affiliate with several programs, and done your research–but you’re still not getting the kind of organic traffic you want, the kind that the companies whose products you’re recommending want. You may not be sharing your content in the right places or in the right ways. Every time you publish a blog post, you need to tell people about it.
You can send out emails telling people about this great book you read, or, as mentioned previously, recommend books that you think people will like in social media conversations, in online forums, etc. Whatever you do, don’t forget to do it.
Tip #10: Work Hard and Be Patient
If there’s any complaint I had about either Affiliate Marketing: Learn How to Make $10,000 Each Month on Autopilot by Michael Ezeanaka, or The Power of Passive Income by Nightingale-Conant (besides the fact that we never get Nightingale-Conant’s first name, which I think is odd), it’s that neither of them capture the amount of work that blogging and influencing and affiliate marketing really is. I do recommend reading both of them because they have a lot of really good information, but I recommend Ezeanaka’s book over the other because it has more in-depth information through which you can better grasp the fact that affiliate marketing isn’t automatic or truly passive income. Nightingale and Conant even admit, within the pages of their book on passive income, that “there’s actually no such thing as purely passive income.”
That, if anything, is my main complaint about Nightingale-Conant’s Passive Income book. They write a whole book based on the concept that earning a good income doesn’t necessarily require a lot of work (talking about not just affiliate marketing, but also real estate and stock market investing, etc.), but really, all forms of income will require some work at some point.
So, you’ve got to do that work to get income from blogging and influencing; there are no two ways around it. But, returning back to tip two, if you’re doing it around something you’re passionate about–like books–it doesn’t seem so much work as a “different kind of fun.”
What’s the Deal, Then?
As you know, I find the best deals for you on the books I recommend, and I found a really good deal on one of these books! It is: