This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy here.
When I left my corporate job last year, I had no idea how I was going to build my business. I literally, was lost.
I was already blogging (not the best, but blogging, no less) and had no clue about how to begin monetizing my space.
My blog was the best asset I had at the time to start creating a stream of income. So I started reading and researching ways to make money online. There were three main strategies that I came across that I knew I could utilize to start my online business. One of those being affiliate marketing.
When I first started with affiliate marketing, I joined ShareASale and signed up for a few programs. I was super excited to get started because I thought I knew everything I needed to know.
Two posts and a few tweets here and there later, I made a whopping thirty cents. Yup, thirty whole cents.
What was I doing wrong?
Well, I didn’t stick around to find out. I just stopped using affiliate marketing altogether. I was done with it. Over it. Why?
Because I simply didn’t know how to use affiliate marketing effectively and appropriately. I was failing at getting the conversions and commissions I was striving for.
I have come across many people who were in the same shoes I was in. For that reason, I decided to get back into it and try again. After a lot of trial and error, I have learned what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t work.
Since I have invested more effort into my affiliate marketing strategy, I am now making more money than when I first attempted. This month, I made $1,437.54 from using affiliate marketing. Now, I know this is not an income report. But I just wanted to share the difference from when I first started and made only thirty cents, until now.
I now have a clear understanding of what I was doing wrong.
So where was the disconnect?
Well, let’s start from the beginning. To understand how to use affiliate marketing, you need to know what it is first.
The basic definition is that you, as an affiliate, promote another business’ products or services on your website. You are given a special link to do that promotion. When someone purchases that product or service by using your special link, you are given a commission or reward. Promotions are normally done using some sort of text, banner, or display ads.
It is your job as an affiliate to disclose to your audience that what you are sharing is an affiliate link prior to their purchase. In the event that you are interested in using affiliate marketing, be sure to read and adhere to FTC guidelines.
Now, as easy at it sounds to make money with affiliate marketing, it can be a challenge if you fail to use your links strategically.
Related Post: 5 Ways to Rock Your Social Media
So if you find yourself asking the same question I was asking a year ago, then this post is for you! (Yea, you, so take a seat and read!)
The top 10 things you could be doing wrong when it comes to affiliate marketing
You don’t have a relationship with your affiliate program manager.
Just as the relationship between you and your audience is important, so should this relationship be as well. Your affiliate representative will be able to provide you with resources and tools you need to be successful. They want you to be successful! I like to send a quick email introducing myself and sharing about my blog and my audience when I have joined a new affiliate program. Keep open communication with them so you can be in on the know when new campaigns launch and when things change. Having that relationship could also open other doors for you when it comes to working with that brand on other endeavors. So be sure to reach out and connect. If things aren’t going the way you expected, contact them and I am sure they’d be more than happy to assist you in creating a new plan of action.
You don’t let go of what’s not working for you.
If you have tons of ads in your sidebar, all throughout your posts and you are still only making pocket change, it’s time to make some changes. Clearly, what you are doing is no longer working. Rearrange ads, put certain ads in certain posts, make sure what you are promoting is in line with what you are talking about. When I first started with ShareASale, I joined a program for a Christian children’s book because I thought it was cute. I never even got clicks. Why? I had a banner ad all the way in the bottom footer of my home page. It wasn’t the right placement. It didn’t work. So take a look at what you are already doing. If it’s not working, let it go. I rarely have ads in my sidebar now because I promote products and services more so through reviews, tutorials, or providing a resource versus through display ads. That’s what works for me. But it can still work for you, just be mindful of where you place those ads.
You don’t love the product or service you are promoting.
This is a biggie. If you have a pretty good sized following, your readers know your writing style and may even get a glimpse of your personality through what you share online. It is not too challenging to tell when a blogger is connected to a product or service and when they aren’t. Before writing a 200-word blog post on a product (because that’s all you could muster to say), think about your audience. If you don’t really love it, don’t share it with your audience. It’s a waste of time and you won’t get anything from it.
You are sharing products or services that don’t fit your audience.
Guilty. Remember that Christian children’s book I mentioned above? The one that I thought was cute? Yea, it didn’t fit my audience. Not only was no one interested, but I even had someone tell me once that it seemed out of place in my sidebar! Listen to your audience. Not every program or campaign is designed for your audience or your niche. Be sure to only participate in programs that are a reflection of you and your brand. If your target audience is retired grandmothers who garden for leisure, you shouldn’t be doing a sponsored post on a new email app. When you are sharing things that don’t fit your audience, it seems as though you are only doing it for the money. I love my audience. I love my brand. There is nothing that I would allow to compromise my authenticity and my loyalty to each of them.
You overuse affiliate links on your blog space.
I was guilty of this too. Every post had that same little disclaimer at the top. EVERY ONE. And I now go to other blogs and see the same thing sometimes. Affiliate links everywhere! If your blog post is 500 words and every paragraph contains an affiliate link, I’m leaving your post. It’s okay if you have one every now and then, especially during the holiday season (gift guides, round-ups, etc.). But when every single post is sponsored or full of Amazon links. It makes me wonder about your motives. If your entire blog is basically an online hub for ads, what value are bringing to your blog space?
You are in way too many affiliate programs.
Yep. Guilty of this one as well. I could easily say I was in way too many programs. I was in over my head. I was so focused on trying to make a sale that I wanted to be a part of every program possible to make sure I did. But what good does that do? You need to get into a solid 3-6 programs that you really love and promote those heavily. My top 6 include ShareASale, SiteGround, ConvertKit, CinchShare, Amazon, and Linquia. I may promote other things from time to time, like I included Erin Condren in my last gift guide, for example. But if you are trying to promote 20-30 various programs, it #1, gets overwhelming for you as an affiliate and #2 overwhelming for your audience to take all that in. Less is always more, no matter what.
You don’t ask people to use your links.
Now, don’t take this the wrong way and run with it. I don’t mean, telling people to go click your links (if you use PPC- pay per click). When I say this, I mean if you are doing a sponsored YouTube video for BlueApron and you drop the link but don’t say, “Hey, use my link to get a free trial!”, or in my How to Start a Blog in 3 Simple Steps post, I say, “use my link to…”. If I am talking to someone online and they mention to me they are looking for an email provider for their business, I say, “I’m an affiliate for ConvertKit. Here’s my link if you decide to go with them!” Your audience and your peers want to support you. I am always asking other bloggers if they are an affiliate for something I am already about to purchase. Don’t be afraid to ask.
You don’t utilize social media properly.
I think I probably would tweet about a campaign once in a blue moon, maybe on Facebook. But that’s about it. It’s no wonder I only made one sale, i.e. my thirty cents. Social media is your friend when it comes to promoting a campaign. You have to understand each platform that you share on as well. For example, people are scrolling with super speed on Twitter. You have about 5 seconds to grab the attention of a follower. And when a tweet is sent, your followers have to be at the right place at the right time, so to speak, to even see it. You will probably need to tweet that same campaign at least 6-8 times a day to get everyone who follows you to see it. Also, you’d want to use a photo or video to attract attention to that campaign. Just text is less likely to be viewed on Twitter. You want to use proper hashtags such as #reviews #giveaway #subscriptionbox, when necessary (don’t forget to also disclose using #aff, #affiliate, #affil). Pinterest is really great to use for affiliate marketing as well. Social media is what is going to drive traffic to your affiliate links and posts. Get creative, use videos, think outside the box.
You don’t share your affiliate links because you don’t want to be pushy.
I get it, you don’t want to sound salesy or feel like you are being pushy. That’s actually good because you care a lot about your audience. Go you! But trust me when I tell you, if you have an audience that is confident in you and in your content, it won’t come off to them as salesy. Trust and confidence are key factors when it comes to the relationship you have with your audience. As long as you are giving them value, not making every single post a pitch for affiliate sales, or trying to get them to invest in products or services they don’t really need or that you don’t really love (as stated above), then there should be no worries! Be confident in what you bring to the table and trust that your audience will be behind you all the way.
You don’t have an affiliate marketing strategy.
This is going to be the most important one on this list for you to remember. Just like anything else that you do in your blogging bubble, you have to have a strategy. Remember that affiliate marketing is still marketing. All the things I mentioned above are all a part of your strategy. The first thing you need to do is sit down and get out some paper. At the top of that paper, write how much money you want to make each month from affiliate marketing. This month I wrote down $500. Next, you need to write out the programs you are going to promote. So log into your various affiliate dashboards and check out any current or upcoming campaigns. Focus on these. Now, you need to figure out what you are going to write about (like How to Save Money Using Ebates, or Back to School with Walmart) and also list what banners you will place where and what you will promote on social media. Keeping notes of this will allow you to look back at the end of the month and see what worked for you and what didn’t so you can make changes for the next month. Not having any direction when it comes to affiliate marketing will 100% guarantee you will fail at it like I did in the beginning.
Affiliate marketing can be a real money maker for you if you have a solid strategy and focus on what works for you and your audience.
Don’t have a blog yet? No problem! This post will walk you through setting one up in no time.
Be sure to grab your free strategy guide below!
Let me know in the comments, what would you like to know more about on this topic?
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