Affiliate programs offer an easy way to make money online. But, far from being a get-rich-quick-doing-nothing scheme, affiliate marketing is a real business model that requires dedication and a solid plan in order to succeed.
I’ve used this strategy myself to generate a seven-figure income from my portfolio of websites and below, I’ll share my best advice on how to make money from affiliate marketing. Let's jump right to it.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing refers to the process of promoting other people’s or companies’ products to earn a commission for each sale generated. This strategy is particularly popular because it benefits both affiliate marketers and brands by driving sales and generating income online.
As an affiliate, you search for a product you enjoy and promote it to your readers. When someone makes a purchase through your link, you’re rewarded with a piece of the profit. This strategy also helps the product owner to increase sales.
Sales are tracked using affiliate links from one site to another. Here’s a simple visual representation of how affiliate programs work.
How Much Can You Make With Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a great way to monetize your content, even for beginners. But how much can you really make with this strategy?
Below are examples of people who make a significant income from this marketing method.
Ron Stefanski: One Hour Professor
As an affiliate of multiple brands myself, including One Hour Professor, I’ve generated tens of thousands of dollars in affiliate commissions. I’ve done this for software platforms, WordPress plugins, random affiliate products, and more.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner: Making Sense of Cents
Michelle started the Making Sense of Cents blog in 2010 as a way to improve her finances. After graduating with her master’s, she sought a way to pay off her $38,000 student loan debt and help the readers do the same.
That's where the inspiration for the blog came from—and her passion for saving money and helping others has paid off in a huge way. Today, Michelle makes an affiliate income of over $159,000 per month through blogging.
Ilir Salihi: FreedomRep.com
Ilir Salihi earned over $2,000 from one sale after about six months of blogging. He started by creating in-depth, evergreen content on his financial blog to promote alternative investments.
Over time, his content began to rank highly in search engine results for some important keywords and the sales started trickling in. Now, Ilir runs FreedomRep, a digital marketing blog focused on providing advice for other beginner affiliate marketers to help them achieve the same results.
The Wirecutter had humble beginnings as a blog by Brian Lam before eventually raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars per month from its affiliate products. In 2016, it sold to the New York Times for $30 million dollars due to its success. Now, it continues to be one of the most popular and trusted product review sites on the web.
These are just a few of the many incredibly motivating affiliate marketing success stories, though fair warning: success doesn’t come overnight.
Use these to get inspiration for creating your own stream of affiliate income. If you're ready to get started, follow the best practices below to learn how to make money with affiliate marketing.
How to Make Money With Affiliate Marketing: 7 Tips
Now we've come to the fun part: how to make money as an affiliate marketer. Follow these 7 tips to find success and join the ranks of the countless affiliate marketers making a full-time living online.
1. Create Quality Content
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's worth mentioning because there is no way to succeed as an affiliate marketer unless you create solid content in every piece of communication between your brand and audience.
Your writing should make it easy for your readers to digest your content. Also, it should include effective calls to action to compel your readers to take action.
Furthermore, your content should be reader-centric. It must answer your audience's questions and offer detailed, useful information in an engaging way.
For you to be able to pull this off, you have to really know your audience.
For starters, look at what attracts them to your site. One way to do this is by looking at what readers use your site’s search box for so you can determine the type of content they want to find on your website. Once you have these answers, you must commit to creating quality content regularly.
<div class="tip">It's possible to create a successful affiliate marketing website even if you're not the most talented wordsmith. How? Outsource your content to writing services like Compose.ly. </div>
2. Actually Know Your Products
It's important for affiliate marketers to fully understand the products they sell to their audience.
Your readers trust you to recommend high-quality products that will help them solve their problems and achieve their goals. If you recommend affiliate programs simply for the sake of making money, you’ll lose your readers’ trust. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you have a strong understanding of each product you promote.
Having this knowledge can also distinguish you from competitors and help you stand out as an authority on the subject.
All of this helps to build audience trust, making it more likely that they will not only purchase from you but will also make you their go-to source when they need more information or other solutions.
Don't just grab any vendor you think will be of interest to your visitors. Get to know your audience first, then your products, so you can find out how the products work and the benefits they offer to your readers.
Once you've done your research, or better yet, used the product yourself, then you can decide if it's a great fit for your audience.
3. Engage With Your Audience
This is often overlooked when learning how to make money as an affiliate marketer. However, it's crucial for you to cultivate relationships and build trust with your audience.
One thing most successful affiliate marketers have in common is that they talk to their visitors. They’re very active on platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and they allow comments on their blogs—the perfect opportunity to have conversations with readers.
These are tactics you can implement to similarly engage with your visitors and build trust.
A good way to get the conversation started on your blog is by inviting users to comment at the end of each post. For instance, that could be writing:
- What other blog monetization strategies do you know?
- Share your opinion!
- Leave a comment if you'd like more information.
A call to action like this fosters community interaction and makes it more likely that your readers will continue the conversation.
When you reply, make sure to use the name of the commenter wherever possible. This is a powerful tactic because it encourages your visitors to view your website as a community where they can connect with other like-minded individuals.
4. Put in the Time
Over the years, affiliate marketing has gained a bad reputation because of some marketers giving terrible advice about how to “make money quick” and circulating scammy offers to help people “make money on autopilot.”
The truth is this: Affiliate marketing is hard work.
Only those who work hard at it consistently are likely to build an audience and earn passive income online.
Building an audience and traffic is a slow process, but if you dedicate the time, follow a solid plan, and set proper expectations, your efforts will be met with success.
Whether you’re starting a new site or adding affiliate marketing as a way to monetize an existing audience, the process is the same. You must commit to publishing high-quality content on a regular basis, engage with your audience, build relationships, and develop trust before you can start making sales.
You're not going to earn a million overnight, but if you create content ethically and prioritize your audience's best interests, then this may be one of the best ways to monetize your website.
If you’ve put in a ton of time and can’t seem to make progress, it may be worth finding a reputable business coach to help you understand not just affiliate marketing, but your business as a whole.
5. Earn Trust
In affiliate marketing, it is especially important to establish trust with the audience in order to be successful. If people don't trust you, they won't buy from you—which will make it extremely hard for you to earn money as an affiliate.
Building trust is listed by most successful affiliates as one of the best tips to create a profitable affiliate marketing business. Being trustworthy is the key to getting your audience to take action and maximizing revenue from each of your customers.
You can build trust in a variety of ways. For starters:
- Never promote a product you don't believe in.
- Avoid taking advantage of your readers' visits by adding too many ads on your website pages. There's nothing more off-putting than a webpage that has more ads than content, and if visitors see this on your site, they likely will leave, never to return.
When you build your relationships based on genuine content, you’ll enjoy a lot of benefits, such as:
- Getting repeat visitors that drive more blog traffic
- Generating lots of high-quality backlinks
- Having readers spread the word and recommend your website to others
- Building a reputation as the go-to place for useful content
6. Be Choosy About the Products You Promote
As an affiliate marketer, you need to know which products appeal to your niche. To that end, you must select your affiliate products very carefully and never accept deals for products or services that aren't of good quality.
There is no shortage of affiliate marketing programs, so regardless of your niche, there will be tons of products for you to promote.
Take the time to research the different products in your niche and pick only the best ones for your audience. Your readers are savvy, and they will know if you’re just pushing a product to make money from it but don't really believe in it.
The more you recommend effective solutions, the more your audience will trust you and regard you as an expert on a given topic.
You can also increase your conversions and maximize your earnings using a few strategies, including:
- Test different ad creatives. Change your affiliate product ads often and use different graphics to find the best placement that attracts the most attention.
- Promote information products. Consider promoting digital products, such as ebooks and online courses, which typically have higher conversion rates and higher commissions compared to physical products.
- Promote high-priced products. Consider promoting higher-priced products and services, as well as those with recurring monthly commissions, so you can create a more predictable and stable affiliate income.
7. Maintain Content Relevancy
Affiliate marketers have to stay on top of trends and changes in their niche. This means your content must be relevant and up-to-date.
Monitor trends so you can provide your readers with the latest offering of each affiliate program you promote. Look out for innovative ways to improve usability and make your content more visually appealing.
Find new and improved products to provide even more value to your audience. Even small changes can go a long way in helping to motivate your readers to take action.
For instance, if a particular clothing or diet trend is no longer popular, it's a good idea to remove that content from your site and replace it with relevant content for new products. Alternatively, you can post an update to acknowledge and reflect the shift in trend.
Being complacent will lead to you losing out on your opportunities and getting left behind by the competition.
Even your old content that is no longer on your blog's front page should be updated periodically. For example, add links from old articles to newer, updated ones.
Over the years, affiliate marketing has evolved in complexity. However, following the tips outlined above can help you build a solid foundation for your business and generate a sustainable income selling affiliate products.
Do you know of any other tips to help you make money with affiliate marketing? Let me know in the comments below!
About the Author
Prof. Ron Stefanski is an online entrepreneur and college professor who helps people create and market their own online businesses. Learn more about Ron by visiting OneHourProfessor.com.