Affiliate Marketing 101 For Bloggers

Selling products as an affiliate via your blog is an excellent way to make a buck. In fact, you can often do a lot better with affiliate marketing than you can with banner ads. Most banner networks (like Adsense) require that you have a LOT of traffic before you’re going to see any decent income….

Selling products as an affiliate via your blog is an excellent way to make a buck. In fact, you can often do a lot better with affiliate marketing than you can with banner ads. Most banner networks (like Adsense) require that you have a LOT of traffic before you’re going to see any decent income. On the other hand, with affiliate marketing, you do not need thousands of page views per day to make it worth your while.

In this post, I wanted to cover some of the absolute basics of affiliate marketing for bloggers.

affiliate-marketing What Is Affiliate Marketing?

In short, it means you are selling somebody else’s product in return for a commission.

You have an audience for a particular market. So, you recommend a related product which you believe in to your audience. If they buy it, you earn the commission.

When you promote a product, you will use a special affiliate link (unique to you) to link to that product. If the person ends up buying, it’ll be tracked back to you so you get the credit.

Where To Get Involved In Affiliate Programs

There are a lot of places out there where you can get involved in these programs, and they generally fall into three categories:

  1. Affiliate networks
  2. Advertised affiliate programs
  3. Unadvertised affiliate programs

Affiliate networks act as huge marketplaces for affiliate offers. Networks like Clickbank, Commission Junction, AzoogleAds, Market Leverage, Pepperjam – and many more – all these networks act as central repositories for affiliate offers. You can sign up for offers which are related to your audience, then promote them. Any commissions which you make will be sent to you by the network as a check or ACH payment.

The advertised affiliate programs are programs that are not part of one of the major affiliate networks, but are still open for public signup. Generally, you’ll find these at the bottom of a sales page in the form of a link for affiliates to sign up. So, if you find a good, related offer for your audience, you can enroll for the affiliate program and you’re off to the races.

An unadvertised affiliate program is one which is by invite only. Often you will find these types of programs set up around major launches by “gurus” in the market. It is driven by the power of personal connections. These product creators don’t want just anybody promoting their product, so they make their program invite only.

How To Promote

Use your blog to promote your affiliate offers. Even better, use your mailing list.

Generally speaking, the weakest method of promoting an affiliate product is by putting links on your sidebar or using banner ads. People are generally blind to banner ads and your click-through rate is going to be pretty low.

On your blog, the best place to promote is the content itself. That is what people are paying attention to. So, you write a dedicated post about the affiliate product and you link to it. A much more tactful (and fruitful) way to do it is to create actual, useful content and then link to the affiliate product as a tool they can use or as a source for additional information.

I also recommend you pick up a copy of the MaxBlogPress Ninja Affiliate plug-in, which will allow you to track affiliate links, shorten links, as well as auto-link certain keywords to your offers throughout your entire blog. Very convenient.

Another great tactic is to create a video offering some useful information related to the product, then at the end of the video you route the viewer to the product. Now, be careful – this is NOT meant to be a commercial! Instead, you’re providing USEFUL content. THEN you link off to the product. Take that video, get it all over the place via TubeMogul, then embed it on your blog and use your social media profiles to drive traffic to it.

Your mailing list is going to be a HUGE source of income for you by way of affiliate offers. The conversion rate from a single email to a mailing list will generally be a lot higher than your blog.

Some Rules of The Road

As you’re chasing the blog monetization goal through affiliate marketing, it is important that you keep some things in mind here:

  1. Don’t be a whore. Seriously, blogging is about useful content, first and foremost. Don’t just promote things for the sake of hoping to hook a few sales.
  2. Maintain Your Honor. Only promote products to your audience that you actually believe in.  You do not want the reputation of being a person who will promote anything and everything for a buck. Nobody will take your recommendations seriously if you do that.
  3. Foster the relationship. Ultimately, people will buy based on your recommendation only if they know, like and trust you. So, your primary efforts need to be on building up likability and being worthy of their trust. Provide a lot of value to your readers. Strive to help them and make their lives easier in some way. Maintain that relationship with them. THEN, when you decide to recommend a product to them, they’ll be much more likely to take you seriously.

Short of selling your own products, affiliate marketing is perhaps the best way to monetize your blog. When done correctly, you can make a lot of money at it, all while providing value to your readers and having them thank you for it.


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  3. Hey Dave,

    Gosh, I remember when I first read about affiliate marketing…it sounded SO easy and so amazing! The latter is still true but it's definitely not easy huh! Nice post though, I thought you summed up Affiliate marketing nicely and you're completely right on the whole 'don't be a whore' – I've recently unsubscribed from tonnes of lists because these guys promote absolutely anything they can find…and then all my trust for them is gone…good tips.

  4. This is a nice article, I am sure that the way people throng to earn money either through affiliate marketing or through direct advertisements, is alarming.
    As you've rightly mentioned on your rules of the world, a lot of bloggers out there are in for the quick money (which isnt there). Gr8 post, thanks

  5. ..but generating a mailing list is difficult for beginners.

    Good content is essential for your search ratings (plus all the other “good practise” activities we all know but don't always get around to doing!) and for keeping visitors interested enough to read your recommendations.

    Once you have their attention you can entice them onto your mailing list and send them to your affiliate links.

  6. “The conversion rate from a single email to a mailing list will generally be a lot higher than your blog.”

    I agree with you totally on this statement. Money is in the list. It is always wise to grow your mailing list. It is a great way to interact with your readers and at the same time, make some money by recommending them useful products/services.

  7. I think this post is an excellent beginners guide. My only caveat is that I think it applies more to AUTHORITY blogs (fulltime) than it does with

    I certainly agree with the “don't be a whore” comment. That's really damn funny.

    Promoting products you actually care about and believe in leads to more sales anyways.

    I'm glad to see that you are mixing blogging with honest affiliate marketing.

    A lot of people seem to take two very extreme approaches to both of those topics which DO need to be merged in harmony.


  8. I use maxblogpress ninja and love it. I think it makes the aff links very clean and if you have an aff that drops off, it is easy to replace the destination url instead of having to find all the links in your entire blog. great advice

  9. I’ve mentioned before the reason my site receives top rankings for the very competitive keywords in my market are due to the principals I learned and implemented from Dave a couple years ago (remember “blogging for cash” and using wordpress as my site foundation)

    Well, now I’m averaging 6 to 8 THOUSAND pageviews per day but it never occurred to me to tap into the affiliate market in my area….until now!!! Since Belize is growing as a popular tourist destination I think I should be able to work something out with travel agents/hoteliers/tour companies/car rental companies….etc.

    Any ideas on how to structure that without deviating from my site’s primary focus of promoting my real estate company?

    I seem to recall a while back you blogged about hiring capable virtual assistants….I’m at the point where I will have to look seriously at that too!!!

    Jeeeesh Dave, I cant thank you enough for the help you’ve indirectly given me over the years!

  10. I totally agree with only promoting products/services your audience would appreciate. I am so careful at what I choose to put out there. I don’t want anyone to think I am just in it for the money! Great tips 🙂

  11. Very helpful information. I’m wondering if anyone has experienced an affiliate problem I recently had.

    Over the course of a few days I had sold 5 courses for a Clickbank vendor. Instead of my normal commission of @$30 (which I had been receiving for months), I noticed I was only being paid @$2!

    The vendor/author still has not given me an explanation but Clickbank did. They told me the vendor had arbitrarily dropped the commission from 65% to 5%! They said it had just been changed again to 50% (most likely due the stink I made with vendor)

    Has anyone else had a problem like this and do you think I and all the other affiliates have any recourse to recover our lost commissions?

  12. Thanks for the mention of MarketLeverage! This is a great guide for bloggers looking to break into affiliate marketing. I get that question all the time, and it’s really helpful to newbies to share advice from affiliates who have been down the same road.

  13. Great post David! I really like your “Rules of the Road” as bloggers and Internet Marketer in general need to live by those. I hate bloggers and marketers with whom I belong to their mailing lists that only talk about one promotion after another. You need to wine me and dine me with useful free content before you try and get some (money) from me 🙂

  14. So far by promoting products through “educating” our audience serve as a very presell and the results are much better than “hard selling”.

    Of course, the conversion rate is much higher if we are able to show the results after using the products.

    However, I feel that selling your own products is still ultimate aim of a blogger.

  15. This post is really helpful for all newbie affiliates like me. Knowing the do’s and dont’s of affiliate marketing can you save you a lot of time, money, and effort.

  16. Ranking in the search engines for long tail keywords like “cheap blue widgets” or “blue widgets review” will have an even bigger impact on your sales. After all, the search engines are what people use to find what they are looking for.

  17. Really great post!

    It all makes perfectly good sense the way you have explained it. I particularly connect with the promote what you believe in theory. Selling just any old thing for the $$$ will brand you as just another huckster.

  18. Your 3 rules of Affiliate Marketing are spot on. Without rules to live by we would be in a continuous state of anarchy, much like the confusion going on with Twitter where the Wild west is being re-enacted on a daily basis as link spammers are fighting to take over, while the twitter purists forget that some of the people they chose to follow had built a relationship with them at some point.

    It is vital that content be the guiding path for affiliate marketing. If you can provide strong, relevant content to the reader, they are more likely to buy from the author of that good content.

    Keep up the great work,

    Micheal Savoie

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