How to Monetize your Blog With Affiliate Marketing
If you’ve landed on this post, then you probably already have a WordPress blog specialising in either one of these niches: running, hiking, food, fitness, travel, fashion or lifestyle. Excellent, but now you probably want to know how to monetize it. Hopefully, we were instrumental in helping you start your blog with our ‘How To Create a Running Blog like Trail & Kale‘ guide but if you don’t already have one set up yet then I recommend reading that post first. In this “How To Monetize Your Blog” series I’m going to teach you how to easily monetize your blog with affiliate marketing, display advertising and email marketing.
I have purposefully designed my income generating workflow to be efficient, require as little time as possible to maintain and with the ultimate goal of generating a passive income from good quality content.
This How to monetize your blog series will focus on 3 Key methods for making money with your blog:
- Affiliate Marketing (this post)
- Display Advertising (coming soon)
- Email Marketing (coming soon)
When I started this blog over 2 years ago, I was very careful about keeping my outgoing expenses low, until enough money was coming in to pay for itself. Keep reading to find out how I did it.
There really hasn’t been a better time to start your own blog/business because we truly are living in the digital age. Now is the time where you can literally be making money whilst you sleep because your blog is always online (if you choose a reliable web host like SiteGround) and your potential visitors/customers are worldwide. This to me is one of the most exciting aspects of running my own online business.
The trailandkale.com blog has given us the exposure and opportunity to collaborate with some of the world’s most popular outdoor brands, businesses and tourism boards, interact with people from all over the world and build one of the most popular and dynamic online running communities in the world.
This is quite a long post so make yourself comfortable and get ready to absorb my knowledge on how to monetize your blog with affiliate marketing.
How to monetize your blog with affiliate marketing: Click the links to jump to a section
- Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is the term for when you as a publisher, recommend products or services to your visitors. If one of your visitors then purchases one of these products or services, you receive a commission for helping to generate a sale. In my opinion, It’s very important to only recommend products or services that you truly believe in and preferably that you have tested out for yourself. Otherwise, you are being untrustworthy, and that will inevitably come back and bite you when your readers begin to lose trust in you.
Affiliates are often offered discount codes and cheaper prices to share with their readers, which is another incentive for readers to buy directly from your links.
From a merchant’s perspective, affiliate marketing is a way of employing your own team of sales people. You pay a percentage of the final sale to the affiliate who helped generate the sale for you. Good affiliates put in a lot of work to write genuine content that recommends products and services, so it’s only fair that a small commission is thrown their way for generating sales.
The best affiliate marketing platforms
This is an area that required quite a bit of research on my part. Unfortunately upfront research isn’t enough to know whether or not a platform really works for your niche, you have to try them out to know for sure. This is where I can help you! Read on to discover my favourite affiliate marketing platforms and why I like using them so much.
AvantLink is the highest performing affiliate platform for trailandkale.com. I think one of the major reasons for this is because of the huge number of high-quality merchants and outdoor brands available on there, including REI, Backcountry, On-Running, Holabird Sports, Moosejaw and SO many more. Pretty much all the gear we have wanted to write about so far has been on there.
The commissions that you can earn are very high in comparison to other platforms too but if one merchant has a particularly low commission rate like 5%, you can usually find another one selling the same product but offering a higher commission, like 8% instead.
So there are plenty of products to recommend, and plenty of merchants that offer them. This is particularly helpful if you would like to do price comparisons on your gear reviews, to give your readers the opportunity to buy the product from the cheapest merchant. You will find that options are your friend, especially when testing the performance and conversion rates of different merchants is so important. If this platform works well for affiliates, then it stands to reason that it does well for merchants too.
- Robust reporting – More informative than any other platform I have used so far and sales are tracked instantaneously.
- Paid Placements – Create another revenue channel and sell areas on your blog for advertising with AvantLink’s Paid Placement Auction system (let brands/businesses bid over advert placements on your blog)
- Dynamic Deals – I love this! AvantLink provides deal feeds for any merchant program that you are signed up to, so you don’t have to update deals automatically. This is a great way of sharing top deals with your visitors.
- Custom Tracking – Tag your links so that they can be tracked in more detail within the reporting pages. A nice way to analyse which links perform better than others.
- App Market – Third-party tools that provide more ways to share deals with your visitors providing more ways for you to earn commissions.
- 3 Dedicated International Networks – USA, Canada & Australia
- Long lasting cookie periods
- A small thing but as the platform is so secure, you often get logged out of their website when browsing if you’re inactive for 15 minutes or so. It’s a bit of a pain to have to keep logging back in but I’m pleased they take security so seriously.
- Their Product Ad Widget caused a few display issues on our blog but the AvantLink support team were quick to help me figure out how to fix them.
I have only recently joined ShareASale but it looks like a very promising platform that has lots of merchants to sign up to. I really like their simple dashboard and extensive click tracking. Applying to join has been made into a nice and easy 5 Step signup process. It only took a day for us to get approved after signing up, which is the quickest so far. I had a couple of questions for the support team and they were very responsive too. I’m looking forward to exploring the platform more as we continue to grow.
ShareASale also appears to be a good one for Merchants to join, who want to get affiliates to promote their products.
Amazon is another great affiliate platform for you to join. I really like the fact it has every product imaginable on there and not just in the running, travel, adventure and fashion niches. Commissions are slightly lower on Amazon and the tracking cookies only stay on a visitors computer for 24 hours, once one of your links has been clicked. This means a sale needs to be made within that 24 hour period for you to make a commission on it unless the item gets added to their cart, then you have 30 days.
The Amazon Affiliate program is also global which means you can make money in most countries, as long as you are directing visitors to the correct store depending on their location, made possible by the ThirstyAffiliates plugin which I talk about in more detail later on in this article.
The Amazon Affiliate program is powerful at converting clicks to sales though because the visitor that clicks your link doesn’t have to buy the product you recommend in order for you to get a commission, and so many people shop for something with Amazon every month, so your chances of them buying something while your cookie is active, is pretty high.
- Huge product catalogue – Plenty of great products to recommend.
- High conversion rate – Amazon puts a lot of time and money into their systems to improve sale conversions when you bring customers to their site.
- Global – Although you will need to apply for each region you wish to promote to.
- Only 24hr Cookie period – Unless the product is added to cart
- Lower commisions – Commissions aren’t quite as high as some other platforms.
Testing affiliate platforms properly requires at least 3 months of actually using them. I found this out the hard way on the AWIN platform. My earnings were growing month on month for 5 or so months but I find out later that although sales at the time were attributed to my affiliate account, for some obscure reasons the sales later got taken from me and attributed to another publisher who must have had the last click before a visitor purchased a product. It’s quite possible that I had an unlucky couple of months, although my earnings on AWIN still outweigh the occasional losses from inaccurate attribution.
AWIN (Affiliate Window) is the source of many running, outdoor, fitness and nutrition retailers in the United Kingdom. The fact that they have so many top brands under their belt makes them a necessity but that doesn’t change my feelings about the platform. They are also available in the USA and are rapidly growing their Merchant list. I still make money on the platform so I recommend you sign up with them to give yourself the option to promote some of the available products. It’s always better to have options!
- Large product catalogue – And growing.
- Global programs – including the UK and USA.
- Easy to use Platform
- The system can seem unfair at times – when you lose some commissions months after a sale has been generated via your traffic.
This is the last affiliate program that I would like to give a mention. CJ Affiliate is another very large platform that has a lot of brands in their line-up. It is also a global platform so you can increase your earnings by geo-targeting countries around the world.
- Cross-Device Solution – this is a solution that tracks when a visitor moves from one device to another. For example, a visitor may first click your recommendation link on their mobile but then move to their desktop to actually buy the product. Usually, this would result in you losing a commission. Cross-device tracking will track these commissions.
- Placements Marketplace
- Global – so you can make use of geo-targeted links.
- None to speak of yet…
It’s important to note that you should apply to these programs only once you have your blog set up and have some content published because there are approval processes in place. Be sure to write a compelling pitch when applying to each affiliate program that explains what your blog specialises in and more importantly how you intend to promote the products and services available on the affiliate program. Approvals can take up to a week but all of these programs are FREE to join.
Affiliate marketing, as with most types of marketing, is all about trial and error. Find the errors and don’t repeat them. Discover what methods work well for your business and double down on them.
Affiliate link management with ThirstyAffiliates
This is one of my favourite power plugins for WordPress. ThirstyAffiliates Pro allows me to manage all the affiliate links on our blog. This will be the key tool that helps you effectively monetize your blog with affiliate marketing. One of the things you will quickly learn as you publish more content is that it is crucial to be able to efficiently track and manage all your affiliate links across each post. As time passes, links become outdated and you may need to update them to point to an updated product or even a different product because the old one no longer exists.
ThirstyAffiliates can automatically track when your affiliate links return dead links, allowing you to update them when necessary. What’s more, if you have recommended a product across multiple posts, you can just update the one link within the ThirstyAffiliates Pro dashboard, which will automatically change all your links at once.
I can’t tell you how much of a time saver this plugin is. Don’t forget, time is money and our goal is to free up as much time for us to be able to create as much good content as possible! Content is king and the better you can make your content, the greater the amount of traffic you will be able to drive to your blog, which in turn will feed your affiliate earnings. I would not be able to run Trail & Kale effectively without this plugin as all my time would be forever taken up managing all my affiliate links. I personally just paid for the Pro version of the plugin which only costs $49. The extras features that you get with Pro are incredibly useful, find out what some of them are below.
The Key features that make ThirstyAffiliates my favourite plugin for affiliate marketing:
A brief explanation of some of my favourite features in ThirstyAffiliates Pro:
- Shortening / Destination Cloaking – make those long ugly affiliate links look more professional and consistent. This will increase click-throughs from visitors as the links will look more trustworthy.
- Automatic Keyword Linking [Pro Feature]– This feature allows you to automatically link and affiliate URL to a specified keyword. The link will get applied throughout your blog meaning you won’t have to do any manual linking. So useful!
- Advanced Statistics Reports [Pro Feature] – Handy to see reports on how well all of your affiliate links are doing in one dashboard. You can then do more of what works.
- Geo-location Link Redirects [Pro Feature] – Allows you to attach geo-targeted alternate links. Say for example I am recommending an Amazon product in an article, if I only have a link to the USA Amazon store and a purchasing visitor from the UK clicks that link, then I lose a commission. Geo-location Link Redirects allow me to automatically send my UK visitors to the UK store instead allowing me to pick up commissions in the UK Amazon store too.
- High Speed HTAccess Redirect [Pro Feature] – Speeds up your link re-directs, making them feel seamless.
- Link Health Checker [Pro Feature] – Automatically checks for broken links, so that you can fix them before you lose out on commissions. Without this, you would never know that your affiliate links had stopped working.
Use Google Analytics to re-target high performing posts
It is very important to set up Google Analytics on your blog so that you can see which of your posts perform best in terms of the number of visits. Once you know the answer to this you will be able to create more content that also generates high traffic.
The best way to analyse traffic on your blog is by using Google Analytics. It’s very easy to set up a free account if you follow this tutorial made by Google: Get started with analytics.
Once you have created your free account you will then need to add a little plugin to your WordPress site which connects your Google Analytics to your blog in order to start collecting tracking data. I use a plugin called GA Google Analytics as its free and easy to install.
You should now have Google Analytics tracking visitors to your blog. What you can now do is identify which are your top 10 performing pages. These are the pages you need to be constantly updating and improving your affiliate strategies for because they are the pages that bring people to your site most frequently from Google.
More from the “How To Monetize Your Blog” Series
- How To Monetize Your Blog – Part 1: Affiliate Marketing (this post)
- How To Monetize Your Blog – Part 2: Display Advertising (Coming soon)
- How To Monetize Your Blog – Part 3: Email Marketing (Coming soon)