Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make money online. It is one of our favourite and most successful way of monetising our blog. There are affiliate programs across a wide range of subjects and there is bound to be a topic that will interest you. In this post we will explain what affiliate programs are and how you can earn a great income by becoming an affiliate.
What is affiliate marketing?
I typically do not like to use the phrase affiliate ‘marketing’. I feel that the word marketing can put off a lot of people. I know that it put me off when I first started finding my way around, trying to make a living online, and for the following reasons:
- I thought that it involved marketing and selling things to people. I did not know how to do it.
- Nor did I want to do it. I did not want to be an online salesman. I never liked selling things to people. (This changed after I truly discovered what affiliate marketing was all about.)
- I thought it would be difficult and did not know where to start.
- I wanted to make money quick time. I was looking for easy and fast ways to make money online.
Well, fast forward a few years and I realise that I was wrong on almost all of the points above. Now I only wish that I had taken up affiliate marketing sooner. I was not exactly correct in my assumptions about affiliate ‘programs’. That’s what I prefer to call this now.
Yes, you are selling something to people but not the way I initially thought. It’s more like telling people something about they want to know. So let’s jump right into it with…
What Are Affiliate Programs
Affiliate programs can be found on many websites that call themselves affiliate networks. These are sites like Commission Junction, ClickBank, ShareASale, FlexOffers etc.
This is where various businesses and individuals list their affiliate programs and by signing up (for free) on these websites you can view these offers. You can pick on the ones that you wish to promote, get your special affiliate link and you are ready earn your first commission.
What are affiliate links
Various companies create a way for people to get paid for referring their products and services to other people.
Anytime they make a sale through their specially generated link, the sale is attributed to you and you get paid some of money according to the terms and conditions of the affiliate program. This is how the referral / affiliate program works and you who promotes these products and services is known as an affiliate.
How to make money with affiliate programs
You are probably thinking that till now all this sounds pretty much like marketing and selling and you would have been right if it wasn’t for the kind of things you can promote. Most of times you are selling stuff that people are genuinely interested in. They will appreciate and get value of out the things you market to them.
All affiliate networks are free to join. Be it ClickBank, Commission Junction and once you join them you will be able to see all the affiliate programs from various companies and small businesses available with them. You can start promoting any of them.
While you can start from promoting almost any of the products on Click Bank, for Commission Junction and ShareASale will need you to apply to the advertising program and you will only be able to start promoting after the advertisers give you their approval.
For this reason we recommend starting with Clickbank, unless you cannot find a right product to match your promotional content.
Why start with Clickbank?
There are many advantages with promoting affiliate programs from Clickbank.
Mostly digital products with no overheads & shipping. Most of the products on Clickbank are digital products. Apart from a handful of physical products, the rest are all e-books, guides, online memberships, subscriptions and software. There is no physical delivery involved.
High commissions per sale (upto 75%). Since these products are digital in nature, the recurring overheads are minimal, which is why the referral fee paid to the affiliate is quite high, 65 to 75 percent being the common rate. This means that if you promote and e-course for 40 dollars you can pocket about $30 as profit.
High converting upsells. Most of the sellers offer up-sells as well. Up-sells are add on features or goodies that are shown to the buyer after he has purchased the main product. Usually the up-sells are shown as attractive, one time offers that the customers will never see again. This adds a lot to the initial commissions.
Since up-sells are only shown to buying customers who have already purchased the main product the conversion rate is pretty high and many opt to buy these as well. It is not uncommon to earn upto $100 per sale. This is why affiliate marketing is such a great option for monetizing your online activity and why digital goods rule.
You do not need your own website. The advantage of Clickbank, and many other affiliate networks is that you don’t necessarily need a website to begin. You can just join and start promoting through other means like email, social media accounts etc.
The best affiliate programs to promote
You will be amazed at the number of products services and small businesses you can promote through their affiliate programs. You have clothes and accessory brands including major retail brands, electronics, software, online courses, e-books, machines, tools, web hosting, cloud services, and you name it and there is an affiliate program for it. That should give you some idea about how popular affiliate programs are, with both advertisers and sellers. It is a win-win situation for all including the buyer.
So in this myriad of products which ones should you choose to promote to begin with. I never choose products that offer small percentage as profit. I would typically never consider promoting anything that offers less than 30 percent. The only exception might be if the selling price is high but then those products sell less unless you are looking at a targeted audience in a specific niche.
So I usually go with something that costs 30 to 50 dollars from the main sale and gives you more than 50 percent as a referral fee. Following the above rule I pretty much rule out most physical products especially apparel fashion etc. which usually offer 5 to 7 percent of the sale. This doesn’t work for me. Also because I am not in that niche and I have a selective audience, I can do much better promoting products that offer a higher profit per sale.
This doesn’t mean that these programs are unsuccessful. To the contrary they have thousands of affiliates who do very well promoting them. But what you need is numbers to do well with these affiliate programs.
Just as important as the numbers is the niche. In fact it is more important.
if you have a fashion blog or an Instagram account, you don’t have much of a choice but to monetize your content with fashion related affiliate programs. But the difference is that because you have a niche audience who is keenly interested in what you have to say your offers will convert well into sales, also because the fashion audience is supposed to be keenly interested in new trends and susceptible to new offers.
This is the power of working in an niche and that is why we recommend finding one in any kind of business. Find out what your audience is interested in and offer them that. Better still build an audience with a particular interest in mind so that you can sell what you want.
Highest paying or most successful affiliate programs
Once you sign up with affiliate networks like ClickBank. Commission Junction and Share-A-Sale you can discover for yourself which affiliate programs pay the most and are the most popular. All of them have different ways of telling you how popular a program is with affiliates and how many sales it has been witnessing.
ClickBank will show you the percentage profit for a sale as well as something called gravity. Gravity is measured according to the number of sales made by the affiliates during the last three months. The higher the number the more sales have been made and the more popular the product is with the affiliates.
Commission Junction also gives you the percentage profit as well as network earnings which is a measure of how much that program contributes to the overall network earnings. This is of course a measure of its popularity as well.
You would find similar parameters with other affiliate networks as well. I mostly use ClickBank and work with programs that have a gravity of at least 30. High gravity is not the only thing to look at. Yes it means that the program is popular but as long as the product fits a niche, 30 gravity product can outsell a 300 gravity product. I know this from firsthand experience.
However, look at the popular affiliate programs and see if you can build an audience around them. If you already have an audience find out where the interests lie and find a suitable product for them.
Here is a list of some great affiliate programs that I have promoted in the past and have found success with.
Health and fitness. Are you surprised to learn that programs like weight loss are popular. This genre also includes getting fit modules like yoga, pilates as well as healthy eating guides, health food recipes as well as lifestyle diets like Paleo, Keto etc.
The fact is that all these products do really well. If you have a receptive audience in health or fitness related interest they can be successfully sold to. What makes this a great niche to be in is the sheer number of different programs you can promote in the health and fitness category.
But these programs will be an utter failure if you try to cross sell them to another interest like let’s say employment or work at home. These people are expecting something completely different from you and fitness offers will not work again.
I know this from personal experience I can send an email to 10,000 people on my newsletter with diet and fitness related offers and I will not get a single sign up. Why? Because I am not targeting the right niche. This will come up again and again in our posts. You have to build a niche and build a receptive audience and then try and sell to them. How to build a niche and a receptive audience? We will get to that next.
Finance and credit. There are affiliate programs for loans, credit reports, credit scores, help guides etc. and they do really well when you sell to the right audience. One of the reasons is that they have a very large commission for a sale. You can find finance related products to promote on Commission Junction as well as Flex Offers. I used to run a finance blog and used these programs with some success.
You must keep in mind that this is a serious and competitive niche. You will have to create a respectable and content rich platform, most likely a blog, to get approved to promote these offers.
Self Help Guides. A self-help guide can be about meditation, managing money and anything that pertains to improving the life of a person. These also do really well and are an interesting category to be in just because of the sheer variety of programs available.
Do-It-Yourself Guides. Here also, you can target a wide range of interests and a wide range of audience. There are many e-books and guides for people wanting to build their own furniture, a solar electricity unit, a green house, etc. They also do well in the home and garden category. There are a lot of products you can promote in the home and garden category.
Music Lessons. I have actively and successfully promoted online guitar, piano, violin and online singing lessons as well.
B2B Products and Services. Business to Business is a lucrative category for affiliate programs. All of them pay top dollar for referrals because the customers you get are not one time buyers but longtime customers. This category is called business to business because you are mostly providing products and services that other businesses want such business card printing, customized checks, email marketing services etc. are all such examples.
Web Hosting. Web hosting is one of the hottest affiliate programs you can promote online. They all have payments close to hundred dollars for a single sign up. It is a highly competitive field and it is better suited for people who regularly write about online technical stuff or about blogging. The most popular Web hosting programs are from Blue host and WP Engine.
Digital Services. Cloud storage services like Carbon offer a great Affiliate Program. Phone and cable services from AT&T and others also pay very generously. You can find these affiliate programs on Commission Junction. Just keep in mind that virtually all offers on Commission Junction will require you to submit a blog.
You have to show a serious platform where you intend to promote their affiliate program. The bigger the company the more selective they are about the people who represent them as affiliates.
Sports. This is one of my favorite category. Affiliate marketing is about making money out of your interests, even if you have nothing to sell. Do you play a sport? Do you like talking about it. Well there are many great guides on different sports such as how to perfect that golf swing. Next time you post something on your Instagram account include a link to that guide. People will thank you for it and you will make some money.
The reason sports is one of my favorite category for an affiliate program is because it lets so many people share about what they actually love to do and make money while doing it.
Cooking. If you love to cook and find yourself posting and writing online about it then there are many e-books and guides on Click Bank that your readers could like and appreciate. If you can post pictures and write about your cooking adventures why not start a blog about it and reach even more people and make more money.
Starting a blog as is literally as easy as opening an email account. This is really one of the best ways to start with making money online with affiliate marketing. It’s great if you are interested in something, and you can write about it and share with other people. The more you write and share the more your success is liable to be with affiliate marketing. There is really no dearth of affiliate products to promote. You will find something for everyone and you know what, if there isn’t one you can actually create an e-book of your own and create your own affiliate program by uploading that e-book on ClickBank.
Many have done that and instead of you promoting other’s products, others will promote yours. Definitely have a look at Click Bank University to see how you can create your own simple product like and an ebook and sell it on ClickBank, as well as create an affiliate program for it.
How to promote affiliate programs
The burning question here is how can you find people who will buy things through your affiliate links? Well the people are all there around you but you just can’t start posting links on your Facebook account. That will not do and could even get embarrassing for you. So how are we going to do it? We do it by being knowledgeable about a subject and sharing that knowledge with others.
If you want to go the Facebook way, we suggest starting a page dedicated to the subject. Oh, and by the way did we mention that fashion is also a great niche to work in? People who are passionate about fashion love to post content about it. There are millions who are even more interested than you and there are about a gazillion affiliate programs and items that you can promote.
So the common and popular places to find people to sell are your blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest Quora and any other forum where you have a lot of people listening to you.
There’s nothing better than starting your own blog if you want to make money with affiliate marketing. There is no better way to attract and convert a visitor because you are in complete control of the environment and there are so many ways to target a visitor. Read all about why you should start a blog.
Let me be clear about what I’m saying. To succeed as an affiliate you have to generate content, be it the written word, images, videos or any combination of above. If you want to monetize your activity on social media do a little planning before.
Do not start posting on your personal account. Create a separate page (Facebook) or a separate account (Instagram) first and post your content there. Keep your personal accounts for personal interaction and instead invite your personal friends and acquaintances to follow you on your formal interest page / account.
Posting promotional content on personal accounts is awkward and unacceptable. That’s not what your personal acquaintances are expecting and will reject your content outright. But creating a separate blog beach gives credibility to what you have to say and will build up an audience who is interested in what you have to say.
All right. The idea is to build a readership. You already have friends and family on board. At least the ones who are interested. Now you need to start creating interesting content that will get shared. In fact you should already have some great content in place before you invite people over. You do not want people to see an unimpressive page or a sparse blog. It should look content rich and interesting.
If you are posting on Facebook or Instagram post 5 to 7 informative posts and 1 affiliate offer. Maintain a ratio like that. Do not bombard your viewers with only affiliate links. If you have a blog you can have affiliate links on every post, as long as you are making the post informative and not just about the program that you are promoting.
This is the keystone of promoting affiliate marketing. You cannot sell them without offering value first.
So before you think of promoting an affiliate program think of the value that you can provide to your viewers first then and only then will they trust you with the products you promote.
It is easy to promote your content on Facebook and Instagram and connect with many potential followers and buyers. They have made paid promotions really simple. Add more of payment like a credit card and you can start promoting your content with a few clicks. However we recommend that you understand how Facebook ads work because of all the wonderful features that are available to you.
There are powerful techniques you can use and really get a bang for the buck that you spend on your advertising. Features like targeting specific demographic, gender, location etc. can make the difference between the success and failure of a promotional campaign.
For example you may be writing and posting on weight loss and want women to see your content. You can target only women through your ads and even target a specific age group. Here is a link to understand how to use all the Facebook ad features. The same holds true for Instagram which is now owned by the same people who own Facebook feed.
Paid promotions is pretty much the route people take to become influencers on social media accounts.
Influencers are people who have a fairly large following on their social media account and whom they can influence with what they post about. Posting and writing and building a large following on Instagram is pretty much impossible without the help of paid promotions. The days of organic reach are long gone unless some post goes viral, which is rare, or another celebrity influencer promotes you which is just as rare.
Start a blog. I say this repeatedly to anyone who is serious about making money online. Starting A blog is a great way to do it and affiliate programs happen to be just one of the ways you can make money from a blog.
Starting and growing a blog is a lot of work but it’s also very rewarding when the returns start coming in. It’s also true that some of the richest blogs today were started as a casual pastime without any intention of making money from them. You can start small When the first money starts coming in, you will automatically want to do more and switch to a higher gear. Read this post about how to start a money making blog.
The basic principle is the same. Create content with value and intersperse it with affiliate links to programs that are also of value. Never refer your visitors to substandard offers . Make sure that you maintain the good faith of your followers and visitors.
Which is why it is a good idea to sometimes reverse engineer your content. Search and find some great affiliate programs for it before you start churning out the content. We have already spoken about some hot categories to write in. Nevertheless, research is very very important.
So this post should give you a pretty good idea about how you can use affiliate programs to make money online. Here are some of the popular networks you can join and see all the affiliate programs that are available with them.
ClickBank, LinkShare, ShareASale, FlexOffers and Commission Junction. These should be enough to get you started with affiliate marketing. Do post any questions that you have in the comments section below. All the best.