Passive Income or Just Another Job: How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing
Are you wondering how to make money doing affiliate marketing? Most likely, you expect the answer to be simple. Yet, you should not forget about the ‘marketing’ part of the phrase. It is there for a reason. So, you should be prepared to put in actual efforts to promote the product and rightfully earn your commission. Let’s see if there are ways to turn this business into pleasure.
The Fancy Facade & Complicated Inside of Affiliate Marketing
The concept behind affiliate marketing implies that you (affiliate/publisher) display or embed the links to the merchant’s products on your platform in exchange for reasonable compensation when visitors complete the desired actions using your link. Essentially, the algorithm looks like this:
- The company presents you with a personal link that you use to advertise its goods/services. You can utilize it directly (text, image, text+image) or incorporate it into a banner. Amazon Associates even came up with the Product Advertising API to help you integrate their products and related database into your site.
- You earn a reward if your visitors click on the provided link and then take qualifying actions.
- Usually, when this deal benefits the merchant financially, you receive a commission. You get a bounty when the positive implications are hard or impossible to calculate (e.g., users sign up for a free trial). Plus, many merchants present their publishers with bonuses (e.g., for user’s first buy), recurring commissions (as long as people remain clients), free samples, exclusive discount codes, etc.
- You can reach an agreement directly with the brand that you strive to advocate. But if you wish to promote different products or need an intermediary, you can join an affiliate network.
Traditional marketing techniques entail a lot of uncertainty. The affiliate marketing strategy takes this incertitude out of the equation due to its performance-based mechanism. That is why in 2005 The Economist called this method ‘the holy grail of online advertising’.
Yet, finding an effective affiliate is almost as challenging as hiring a knowledgeable marketing specialist. Turns out, in most cases (57%), no more than 10 publishers account for 80% of affiliate sales or sign-ups.
Thus, the companies decided to bet their money on quality instead of quantity. With the new approach, merchants still regard this tactic as one of the most cost-effective, yet they started to spend less percentage of their marketing budget on affiliates, focusing more on scouting only those who can become a valuable addition to a program.
Would Affiliate Marketing Suit You?
You wake up at 11 am, no alarm clocks, lazy breakfast with no rush, working from home, minding your business at your own pace, and then a push notification lets you know that you’ve got another commission or bonus payment. If this is what you imagine…you are not wrong, but you are not exactly right either. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
With the shrinking budget comes the shriveling income. Statista reports that in 2021 most publishers (57.55%) earned less than $10 000. Furthermore, with more strict & selective policies, it becomes problematic to join the initiative you like without proper background or assets of your own.
Yet, the hope is still there. For instance, 1 out of 6 affiliates received up to $50 000, while 4% of the respondents confirmed that their revenue reached $150 000. In addition, a variety of means to promote products online resulted in splitting the original notion of affiliate marketing into subcategories. Now, you can try referral, affiliate, or influencer marketing, depending on the amount of time and resources you are willing to dedicate to it.
This is the least demanding option. In this case, it does not matter how many followers or experience you have, you can simply refer a friend and get your reward. This is perfect for a scenario when you use something permanently or regularly, and you just happen to know other people who will be happy to discover this product or service as well.
It can be absolutely anything.
Your dog looks so stunning that friends keep asking how did you manage to achieve that? Recommend your preferred pet food and give them your link.
Did you decide to take some Spanish lessons and were smitten by the effectiveness of your classes? Tell your friends on Facebook about your experience and leave your link to the site.
Do you have a website, and your hosting has a referral program? Just subtly insert the link at the bottom of a page in a form of gratitude (e.g., ‘Hosted by Kinsta ®’), and wait for your commission.
This scheme traditionally calls for more intense cooperation. In addition, merchants expect you to deliver tangible results. Therefore, in most cases, brands and networks will not admit you as part of the initiative unless you manage to prove that you are worthy of a spot.
You are a beauty blogger. Soon skincare can make you their Ambassador and spoil you with the commission, skincare regiment, 15% discount code for your subscribers, exclusive giveaways, and more. Yet, in exchange, you have to guarantee that you will make unique content featuring their products and bring in more customers.
This one resembles a full-on partnership the most. You are judged not only by the number of your followers but also by their level of engagement with your publications.
Plus, this is a reciprocal alliance. You eulogize the brand’s products on your social accounts, and they share your materials with their clientele. That is how you mutually proliferate your fan bases.
As an illustration:
Amazon Influencer Program encourages you to create a storefront to release and monetize your content, promoting their products. This allows the platform’s users to find you, fall in love with your vision, and start following you.
Many companies and networks merge these types into one partnership/affiliate program. Still, many brands also opt to separate these segments and provide you with the ability to choose the level of engagement that suits you the most.
Zero to minimum knowledge and investment
Requires at least a relatively popular platform and content
Calls for impactful content and expects your audience to match the merchant’s target demographic
Usually does not bring you skyrocketing revenue
If approached seriously, delivers regular profits
Rewards you with money and more opportunities to monetize your content
In most cases, you only get commission payments or discounts
Gives you access to additional perks
Gifts, discounts, and sneak peeks of new products are also part of the deal
The ‘How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing for Beginners’ Guide
If you are determined that this kind of activity would be the right fit for you, let’s proceed with discussing how to get into affiliate marketing in the first place.
Before You Go
If you find an initiative you are ready to participate in, there is no need to rush into it headlong. You do not want to invest efforts and resources in vain. Hence, do your research and:
- Learn more about the company or network. See if they can accept your application because they might reject you for geographical, professional, financial, or other reasons.
- Check that they are not a scam unless you are familiar with their goods or services. You do not want to lose the trust of your audience and tarnish your reputation.
- Find out if this is your responsibility to pay taxes (most likely, it is). If so, study your local tax legislation to avoid any penalties.
The Ultimate Checklist to Start Your Journey
Surprisingly, the most substantial passive income comes to those who are not passive. Think of it as a fishing trip. Naturally, you can sit on the shore and wait for the fish to come. Yet, if you know which spot to choose or what bait and fishing rod work best in these waters, odds are you will take home a bigger catch.
Hence, there are some things you need to take care of before you start making real profits:
- The platform to publish your advertisements.
Social media is slowly drifting towards separate influencer programs. Yet, you can still use your account for promotional opportunities alongside blogs, websites, and mobile applications. Of course, blogs together with the review or coupon sites are the three pillars of affiliate marketing. In 2021, 28%, 18.7%, and 14.8% of brands (respectively) chose them as their preferable channels.
Word of advice
Whichever option you decide to go with, you have to invest serious efforts into crafting your platform, filling it with original content, and spreading the word about it. Because no one will click on your links if you fail to make them visible.
- The goods to promote.
Naturally, you may choose a ‘no strings attached’ attitude to your advertised products or services. However, remember that this strategy might backfire unless your task is to help customers find the best offer that suits their requirements.
More than half of the buyers have already preferred to search for lucrative deals on non-retailer sites instead of shopping directly with companies. Now, when the economy continues to experience a downfall, hunting down sales and promotions is likely to become a popular shopping habit.
Coupons, reviews, and other forms of multibrand platforms can get away with this ‘nothing personal, just business’ approach because they simply present people with the means to find the right deal. Meanwhile, bloggers usually have to advocate and cheer for the brand. Therefore, shoppers believe that among all the affiliate marketing channels, blogs degrade the company’s reputation the most. That is why it is better to genuinely approve of the goods and services you plan to generate promotional materials about.
- The network or brand to cooperate with.
The majority of networks offer educational programs or materials for learning. Moreover, almost half of the merchants (47%) admit that they simply do not possess enough internal resources to monitor and manage the affiliates’ activity. Thus, networks are the best solution for beginners or those publishers who are anxious that something might not run smoothly. Still, direct partnerships traditionally entail more creative freedom, substantial financial rewards, and special privileges.
Overall, if you decide to go join a network, there is no shortage of options here:
- Amazon Associates (Amazon Influencer included). The largest program that unites more than 900 thousand affiliates.
- ShareASale has over 700 thousand publishers. Here you can find Etsy and Honey.
- CJ. Here you can find Google Workspace (by the way, they also have a separate referral program) and other recognizable brands.
- ClickBank has a Spark initiative to help you get your first paycheck as soon as possible.
- impact.com is just full of renowned names, such as Microsoft, UBER, Lenovo, Walmart, and Airbnb.
- KAYAK is your preferred option if you wish to concentrate on the tourism industry and cooperate with KAYAK, HotelsCombined, momondo, and Cheapflights.
When it comes to individual brands, it is better to choose the ones that strike a chord with you:
- Do you know people who would like to create a cool website? Become partners with Leadpages, WP Engine, WIX, or Kinsta.
- Will your audience be interested in your advice on which hotel to stay in during their vacation? If yes, use TripAdvisor to make money out of it.
- Do you like sharing secrets about how to stay young and beautiful with your subscribers? Contact Soon or Birchbox to discuss promotion opportunities.
- Do you have a lot to say about how to optimize people’s eating habits? It might be easy to find common ground with Perfect Keto (check their referral program as well) or HelloFresh.
- Do you have the knowledge, charm, and storytelling skills it takes to talk tastefully about alcohol? Gin Loot might have a collaboration opportunity just for you.
Ability to work with multiple brands
Higher commissions (up to 50%) and bounties (up to $500)
All companies are reputable
Additional perks and exclusive promotional deals
Better coordination & fewer management failures (everything paid on time, etc.)
Direct conflict resolution and communication help to avoid misinterpretation
An enhanced set of administering and analytical tools
More creative opportunities (e.g., you can pitch or brainstorm new ideas and forms of cooperation)
Ability to make the partnership mutually beneficial (e.g., be featured in the company’s promotion materials)
- Marketing skills
Companies kind of expect you to act as their outsourced marketing specialist. Plus, you need to understand what you are doing, what stands behind conversion rate, cost-per-action, and other confusing words. Yet, do not get crestfallen, it might take time to learn, but it is not rocket science, right?
Remember that your product placement should be:
- Captivating. The publication should be compelling enough to motivate customers to click the link.
- Trustworthy. It will not be beneficial for your reputation when it is too on the nose that you are doing this for solely money.
- Logical. It should be visible but fit into the context.
Now when your action plan incorporates all these essential aspects… Ready? Steady. Go!
Your Complete Affiliate Marketing Toolkit
While being involved with a purely performance-based activity, it might be tempting to utilize fraudulent practices (e.g., adware, cookie stuffing, typosquatting, or ‘loyalty’ software). However, these reckless actions can jeopardize not only your income but your reputation as well. Therefore, it is better to refrain from these ‘borderline’ patterns and use legitimate instruments to invigorate your performance.
You can utilize a multitude of means to grab your visitors' attention, such as email, popups, blog articles, videos, and social media posts. Of course, each of them is valuable in its own way. Yet, popup messages are unmatchable in boosting the visibility of your links. In addition, with Claspo you can add display triggers (click, scroll, etc.) and segmentation to approach the right shoppers at the right moment.
Managing every link can be tough even when you work with one partner. Imagine dealing with multiple networks in parallel with direct collaborations. It has a pretty good chance to turn into havoc. That is why you might want to use dedicated administrating instruments to:
- Automatically add & update links.
- Gather all the statistics in one interface.
- Customize, track, and send links.
Most of the popular software requires a monthly subscription, including upfeat (UpAffiliate), TUNE, Scaleo, or JROX Affiliate Manager. But if you take a deep dive, you can come across free and even open-source solutions like eLitius.
Naturally, there will be times when you need to adjust your performance. That is when crucial data and the main benchmarks of your platform will be of use. For example, you promote products via popups. With Claspo you can discover when and where they show the best results by performing A/A (lift) & A/B (split) testings or studying the most converting widgets.
Most people probably google something like ‘how to make money affiliate marketing’ with high hopes for fast and easy remuneration being transferred to their bank account daily. Yet, every reward comes with a price.
There are two viable scenarios when your endeavor will succeed: you either embrace the toll it takes to adjust and learn before you start reaping the benefits, or you have enough assets (e.g., audience, content, means, and skills) to become a valuable addition to your favorite brand’s program from the start. Whichever path you choose, you will have to dedicate a lot of attention and resources to it at first. But if you are smart, tenacious, and creative about your projects, soon, you will be able to maximize your profits while minimizing your efforts.