Blogging is hard work. You're always writing and forever brainstorming so you can write some more. It's hard work that is usually completely unpaid for. But what if you could make money out of your blog? What if all the work you put into sourcing the perfect image and positioning the comma correctly actually put some dollars in the bank? No, it doesn't involve selling your soul, I promise!
Affiliate marketing can be a really great and reliable way for a blogger to make a steady income. But it has to be done right. A lot of affiliate marketers will probably sell you the get-rich-quick affiliate marketing Kool-Aid, but once you drink it, you probably won't see money growing on trees. So today I wanted to talk to you about how to start making real dollars from your blog without turning into a slimy used car salesman.
Step 1: Throw A Party
OK, so this might sound like common sense to most of you, but sometimes people think they are bloggers because they jumped on WordPress yesterday and set up thisismyfirstblog.wordpress.com. There are about two posts (one of them says “Hello World!”) and now they're ready to make the big bucks!
It doesn't work like that. Before you can start making money, you need to build a successful blog. It should provide good content and attract plenty of regular, real readers who enjoy what you have to say. Once you get this party started on your blog, you're ready to get started with affiliate marketing.
Step 2: Play Hard To Get
There are millions of products for which you can become an affiliate and there are thousands of affiliate programs grabbing at you, screaming "pick me pick me!" Don't just give in to the hype—do your research before you start advertising products on your blog. Ask yourself some super important questions like:
- Do I believe in this product?
- Is this relevant to the topic of my blog?
- Would my readers be interested in this product?
- Is it a reliable/trustworthy product or service?
- Will my audience spend $X to buy this product?
- Would *I* buy this product?
Always, always keep your audience in mind when you're picking products to become an affiliate for. A great product doesn't mean anything if your reader isn't interested in it, so be relevant and offer value. If you carefully select which products to promote instead of jumping at every affiliate opportunity that comes along, you're going to make more sales and become a better, more successful affiliate marketer.
Step 3: Be Yourself
This is quickly starting to sound like advice for a first date—"Play hard to get but be yourself"—but it IS sound advice! When choosing a product to promote, it's important that it's something relevant to your blog and your audience but it's also important to be authentic about your experience with it. Your audience reads your blog because they like what you have to say, so if you have an opinion about a product, they will probably be interested in knowing what you think about it. Be honest and provide genuine recommendations.
One of my favorite sites is Smart Passive Income and if you've ever listened to Pat Flynn's podcasts or read his posts, you will come across a product recommendation at some point. Pat's recommendations are usually very personalized and often he will also talk about his own experience using the product or service.
This is pretty powerful stuff for affiliate marketing. His personalized recommendation acts essentially the same way word-of-mouth does for a group of friends and his audience is more likely to buy the product because of the authenticity of his review.
Step 4: Don't Be Slimy
Nobody likes a pushy, sneaky salesman who just wants the money and doesn't mind selling you a lemon in exchange. Affiliate marketers can trick you into clicking on links or redirect you to product pages just to try and make some money out of you. So don't be that guy. Nobody likes being tricked into doing something.
Be upfront about your affiliate links. Carrying on from Pat Flynn's example above, he usually makes a full disclosure when he recommends an affiliate product so you, the reader, will be more likely to trust him. You don't have to put up huge warning signs every time your readers are clicking on a potential money-making link, but a fair amount of visible disclosure that your readers can easily identify (such as at the end of a post that includes an affiliate link) is just good practice. Being open and transparent is the best sales tactic.
Step 5: Practice Zen
So you've done Steps 1 through 4 but aren’t seeing any money yet. Hate to bring out the cliché again, but money doesn't grow on trees and you have to work hard and be patient before you start seeing results. If you're doing things right, you will start seeing results (and dollars), but be patient and always be tracking. Most affiliate programs will provide you with some sort of tracking tool—be sure to use this to measure your performance and make tweaks where necessary so you can keep getting better at it.
Step 5.5: Keep On Being Awesome
You're obviously a little bit awesome if people are reading your blog, so just keep doing what you're doing. Keep producing that great quality content that your audience loves you for. Sure, you will have a few sponsored posts and product review posts now that you're an affiliate marketer, but don't let that overshadow the main content of your blog. Remember that without this content you won't have any readers to sell products to!
That's it for today—I hope you find these tips useful as you get started in the world of affiliate marketing. Let me know if they work for you in the comments below, and feel free to share your own tips with our other readers.