Resource Guide for Affiliate Marketing
I believe that affiliate marketing should be a part of every online entrepreneur’s business plan. It doesn’t mean you need to implement it right away, but it should be on your radar as a way to increase your income in one of the most passive ways out there.
With affiliate marketing, the beauty is that you don’t have to create any product yourself, you are simply recommending a product to your audience, and when they purchase it, making a commission from that sale.
Although the basic idea behind affiliate marketing is simple, the strategy through which to use this tool can be more complex than most think. There are a number of ways and places to recommend a product:
In an article or blog post on your website;
Within a free guide or lead magnet;
On a ‘resources’ page on your website;
On your social media accounts;
In an email newsletter to your list;
Through an email funnel (**this is my FAVE way, and I’ll explain why below)
In joint venture partnerships
Please ALWAYS remember that you need to disclose your affiliate links everywhere you use them. In blog posts, on social media, in your newsletters. Everywhere. It is illegal not to do so.
How to Get Affiliate Product Links:
If you are a blogger, you are probably already a part of various affiliate programs are are used to inserting product affiliate links into your blog posts wherever you can (if so, feel free to skip this section!). However, if you are new to affiliate marketing, then you may not have done this before.
To get affiliate links for products, you need to be signed up for the brand’s affiliate marketing program. Some brands may manage their affiliate program themselves, but most work through affiliate networks.
You sign up for the network, then request join the brand’s individual program, and then once accepted, you can go in and grab links for that brand’s products that will be embedded with your unique referral link. It means that every time a reader clicks on that link from your blog/social media/email to go to the product, there is tracking and if a purchase is made, you get a commission.
You only need to be a part of one or two networks. Identify the ones that are going to carry the products best fit to your niche and target audience.
The affiliate networks listed below are the ones that will get you access to a huge range of great brands.
Amazon Affiliates - Apply here
Amazon obviously offers a HUGE variety of products, and most people have a built in level of trust purchasing from Amazon. The other great benefit? After a reader clicks your amazon link, anything they add to their cart for the next 24 hours and purchase, you get a commission on. Even if it wasn’t the thing you linked to originally. The downside: You can’t use amazon affiliate links within emails (so in a newsletter or funnel series)
Share-a-Sale (part of Awin) - Apply here
Share-a-sale is geared to predominantly online-only merchants (Shutterfly, Wayfair, Craftsy, One King’s Lane, Land of Nod, and Joss & Main, for example).
CJ Affiliate - Apply here
Their brands include Lowe’s, Domino, Indigo, Pier 1, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and Fabric.com. Once into the CJ Affiliate network, then you need to apply to the brands directly to get into their individual programs.
Impact Radius - Apply here
Can you say Target? Yes, this is the network that has the Target affiliate program. Halle-lu-jah! They also have Pottery Barn, World Market, and other goodies.
Rakuten Linkshare (formerly ‘LinkShare’) - Apply here
This one is a large worldwide affiliate program and works with companies like Anthropologie, Nordstrom’s, and Macy’s.
RewardStyle - Apply here
RewardStyle is a popular sub-affiliate network, meaning they have a large number of brands under their “umbrella”. They are the creators of the “Like to Know It” app which helps influencers monetize their instagram with affiliate marketing. RewardStyle is notoriously hard to get into!
Affiliate Programs for Digital Products and Software:
One of the most under-utilized but lucrative areas in terms of affiliate marketing is in the promotion of digital products and software. And before you start thinking, “well, that doesn’t apply to my niche”… just hang on a sec and keep reading. I think you might be surprised.
Let’s start with digital products. While the traditional physical product affiliate commission is generally in the 2-6% range, the affiliate commission for digital products is more like 25-50%. This is because the profit margin is so high for digital products, that the creators are very willing to offer an excellent commission if you drive sales to their products.
I want you to spend some time really thinking about the online courses, membership programs, eBooks and any other digital products out there within your niche. Brainstorm them all down onto paper. Do some googling. Think about any products like this that you have purchased before. Could you recommend any of these to YOUR audience? Does it align with your niche and into your overall business mission?
For example, let’s say my niche was home decor. I am sure my readers would be interested in learning more about an amazing home cleaning course I took (like these ones from Kendra Hennessy), or a course on de-cluttering, or home organization printables (like these by Abby Lawson).
Obviously you want these products to not compete with what YOU offer, but instead be complimentary in nature.
One place to check out for digital products is Ultimate Bundles. They are a group that bundle together digital products and sell them in “bundles” at super discounted prices. They have a bundle for many different niches. This can be a great affiliate product to promote, as the commissions are high and the quality of products is high (I have personally purchased quite a few bundles myself!). Down the line, you might even try to get YOUR digital product included in your niche’s bundle. Then your commission is even greater (around 70%).
Make a list of all the potential digital products you could recommend. These are going to become products you are going to want to concentrate on in your overall affiliate strategy.
We all use a gazillion software programs these days.
Think through every piece of software that you use that relates to your business niche.
Is your niche health and wellness? What are the apps, trackers, and other tools you use in your health journey?
Is your niche photography? What are the photo editing software programs, storage and backup solutions you use, and more to run your photography business?
Do some digging and find out if any of those software programs have affiliate or referral programs. A lot of times instead of being an affiliate program, they will offer you a flat fee referral amount for every customer you recommend.
For example, I’m an affiliate for Tailwind (the Pinterest scheduling tool I recommend). I get $15 for every referral I make.
Just like you did for digital products, make a list of any software programs that fit into your niche and research whether they have an affiliate program (and if they do, apply for it!).
Identifying your Top Priority Affiliate Products:
Now that you know how to apply to various affiliate programs, I want you to create a big spreadsheet. This will become your affiliate marketing “command center”.
List out any affiliate programs you are a part of (and things like login details), and then also a list of your top 10 or 20 KEY affiliate products. The ones that are both most aligned with your niche and audience, and the highest-commission ones. These will likely be the digital products, the software programs, and the highest-ticket physical products you want to recommend (because recommending a $3 item isn’t going to make you much commission).
Rank all of those affiliate products in terms of commission per sale. Have the highest paying at the top, and work your way down to lowest paying at the bottom.
You now have a list of your priority affiliate products. When implementing the affiliate strategies we are going to go through below, start from the top of this list. Obviously it’s going to make more sense to concentrate your affiliate efforts on the highest paying items. Don’t waste your time with pouring hours into low-ticket items that aren’t going to result in much of an income.
Implementing Your Affiliate Strategy:
OK, below is where we get into the HOW of sharing affiliate links and building out your affiliate marketing strategy. You can use one, several, or all of these options. It’s going to depend on you, your business, and what is the best fit.
#1. Website Articles or Blog Posts
If you have a website and are already writing articles and blog posts, you need to optimize them with affiliate links.
Anywhere you are recommending a product, make sure the link is an affiliate one. If it’s some kind of “how-to” or tutorial post where there is a Supplies List, pull that supplies list up to the very top of your article and link each item as an affiliate link. You want those to be at the top of your article, as most people don’t scroll all the way down. Here is an example from my own blog with a supplies list, and here is another with a “get the look” listed at the top.
You can also utilize “round-up” articles, where the whole purpose is to recommend products, utilizing affiliate links for each recommendation. Here is an example.
If you have been writing articles for a while, you will want to go back and update older posts with affiliate links. You do NOT have to do this for each article, but identifying your top 10 traffic generating articles and ensuring you have gone through them with an “affiliate lens” is a really good place to start.
Go login to your Google Analytics dashboard. From there go to Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages. Here you will be able to see your most popular blog posts. Make note of the top 10 or top 20.
One by one, head into each of those blog posts and add in any affiliate links that you didn’t do the first time around. While you’re in there, you could also upgrade the images or include a Pinterest-friendly graphic, if you hadn’t already.
#2. ‘Recommendation/Resources’ Pages on your Website
Your ability to add affiliate links to your website isn’t limited to blog posts. You can easily create pages that have your top recommended products for your niche.
If your niche is photography, you could have a whole page dedicated to ‘Recommended Photography Equipment and Resources’.
If your niche is food, you might have a page dedicated to the “Top 20 Tools you need in your Kitchen”.
The blog ‘Chris Loves Julia’ does a version of this on their “Shop Our House” page. They show all the photos of their gorgeous home, and then identify where you can get the same products so you can achieve a similar look in your own space.
Pages like this are powerful because they don’t get lost and buried into archives like blog posts do. They live in a prominent spot on your website and are highly visible for new visitors.
You will want to send traffic to these pages regularly. Link to them prominently from your homepage, link to them from your social media profiles and posts, and create pinnable images that direct traffic back to these pages. You can also link to these pages regularly from your other blog posts. Make them a cornerstone piece of content on your website.
#3. Lead Magnets & Email Newsletters
Email lists are one of your absolute most powerful tools as an online business owner. Don’t worry if yours is small at this point, we are going to grow it!
Whether you send out an email once a week or once a month to your list, this can be an excellent place to embed affiliate links. Talk about your latest fave find, a new recommended software program you’re using, or a course you took. This doesn’t have to be the main part of the newsletter, but make it a priority to embed some sort of affiliate product in there.
Just having a “PS. I’m loving these ____ right now” line with a pic of whatever product you are recommending feels relaxed and not too pushy. If those subscribers are on your list, it’s because they like you and follow you, and really want to see what you are purchasing and using.
One caution: From my understanding at this time, Amazon doesn’t allow you to use their affiliate links in emails. Most other programs do, but you can always check into this yourself before sending.
The other place to embed your affiliate links is into your Lead Magnet. Your lead magnet is some kind of free incentive you are offering to encourage people to sign up for your email list (we will get more into the ‘how to” behind this in Step 2: Attract).
If your niche is home decor, your lead magnet could be a “Room Design Guide” based on one of your popular makeovers and all of the product links could be affiliate ones.
If your niche is mindset and wellness, your lead magnet could be a printable affirmations guide with a second page that includes your top 10 recommended mindset tools (apps, books, candles, etc).
If your niche is graphic design, your lead magnet could be some kind of “how-to” guide or a “top 10 tools for graphic designers” that embeds links to your fave graphic design software and other programs.
See how you can work recommendations and affiliate links into those lead magnets? It’s just another place to increase your affiliate revenue, but in a way that doesn’t feel at all sales-y.
#4. Email Funnels
Alright, this is where some of the magic starts to happen.
The above strategies are typically what your “average” blogger has already done, but let’s get into something a bit more strategic.
I am obsessed with email funnels, and you should be too. They can be one of the absolute BEST ways to sell something, and one of the most passive, too. You set an email funnel up once, and then it works on automation for you.
The basic idea of a funnel is this:
Target customer sees your lead magnet or opts into your email list for something —> They automatically receive that lead magnet from your email service provider —> They are then automatically put into a funnel that you have created where they are sent a series of emails over a certain period of time (say 5 days) where there is a mixture of valuable content and a sales pitch —> ultimately you want that customer to buy whatever product you are selling in the funnel.
Most of the time people only think of using funnels to sell their own products. BUT you can absolutely use funnels for affiliate products too.
This is where your affiliate priority list from above comes into play. Creating a funnel takes time, and then driving enough traffic to the place where people opt in also takes effort. You only want to create a funnel for a product that is going to pay a reasonably good commission. Or alternatively, it’s a suite of products that are lower priced, but add up to a good commission.
So let’s go through some examples to illustrate the concept.
Let’s say you are in the photography niche and one of your top affiliate products is a course you have taken on “How to Use Lightroom to Edit Amazing Photos”.
The ultimate goal is to “sell” somebody into buying that course. So you want to target budding photographers who probably already have lightroom but are feeling stuck on how to use it. You need to create a snazzy lead magnet (freebie) to get someone to opt into your email list. A great one could be “5 free lightroom presets” where you share 5 presets you have made with anyone who opts in. So you create those presets, set up your opt-in, and create an automated email that goes out right away with the instructions on how to download those presets. Once that email has been sent, you could create a series of 5 emails that go out over a two week timeframe (so one email every other day, for example). With any email funnel, you want to give valuable content, offer inspiration, and do a soft and “hard” sales pitch. So the 5 emails could be:
Email #1: “My favourite LightRoom trick” (providing value to your reader)
Email #2: “How I Went from this to this” (highlighting some kind of transformation you experienced after taking the course, this is a ‘soft sell’)
Email #3: “How to do ___ in Lightroom” (providing value to your reader)
Email #4: “How my photography got me ___” (highlight something that getting better at photography did for you - increased your income as a photographer, increased your social media following, etc)
Email #5: “Grab the course that changed everything for me” (this is your ‘hard sell’ day where you really push the course; a great way to help boost sales is to offer your own bonus to anyone who purchases the course - like another set of lightroom presents, for example)
Let’s say one of your top affiliate products is an essential oils kit that you want to sell with your affiliate link. Your lead magnet could be something like an essential oils “cheatsheet” of how to use essential oils in your home.
Once the person has opted in, you write a 4-day email series that sells them on the kit.
Email #1: “Why I went through every drawer in our home” (talk about how you de-toxified your home after learning what was in the products you were using)
Email #2: “My top 10 favourite essential oil recipes” (offering value here and mentioning the oils kit you used to make these products)
Email #3: A personal story (highlight a personal story or anecdote here of using an essential oil in some way that really made a difference for something you/your family was struggling with — readers always relate well to story-telling, not just facts)
Email #4: The “hard sell” email (where you highlight the oils kit, what it includes, why you recommend it, how they can purchase it, and maybe even a ‘bonus’ you’ll throw in with their purchase, like a dilution chart or recipe cheat sheet, etc)
See what we are doing here? We are building out these funnels that will start to generate sales for you on auto-pilot.
Start just with one affiliate email funnel. Get traffic to it. Watch how it converts. Then tweak it over time to see if you can increase conversions. Once it’s converting - say at 3 to 5% (total number of sales divided by total number of leads in the funnel) - then just focus on getting more leads into it. Once you have one funnel under your belt, feel free to add another for a different affiliate product! This is a strategy that you can just keep building on over time.
We will be diving into email funnels in more depth in ‘Step 2: Attract’.
Campaigns. This could technically just be under “email newsletters”, but the idea with campaigns is that you actively promote one of your affiliate products when there is some kind of promotion or sale happening. For instance, you might send 3 emails within the course of a week to alert your audience of a sale happening.
An obvious example of this would be Black Friday week. Generally everything is on sale that week, so it would be a great time to do an affiliate campaign to your email list (and duplicate that email content out to your social media following). You would promote the affiliate products you generally recommend but at their sale prices. You could even have a “featured deal of the day” for every single day that week.
Basically it’s any kind of major push you want to do to amp up your affiliate earnings in conjunction with sales. Beyond Black Friday, you could do this during any ‘thematic’ time of the year.
These are the kind of thing you can just plan out in your annual or quarterly calendar.
#6. Joint Ventures
With joint ventures, the idea is that you are promoting someone else’s digital product to your audience. The win for them is that they are getting exposure to a whole new audience, and the win for you is that you can make a good affiliate commission (it should be in the 30% or higher range) from the sales of their product.
Usually joint ventures happen with some kind of joint webinar, joint live video on FB, or just anything where you and the partner are collaborating on something just for your audience.
How do you go about doing this? Get in touch with the person who offers a digital product (course, membership, etc) that is in line with your niche and you think would be a good fit for your audience. Ask them if they have a sales funnel already in place - it might be webinar-based, or a free video series, or some other kind of free incentive that encourages people to sign up to their funnel - and if they have an affiliate program.
If the answer is yes on all fronts, you would move forward with planning out your joint venture collaboration.
You will introduce this person to your audience (this is usually all done via emails to your list), talk about their expertise, and then offer your audience the opportunity to register for your joint webinar/video series/other offer. The person who you are partnering with will have created a special link that you can use so that all of the people you refer are tracked to you. Then anyone who has opted in goes through their sales funnel, and anyone who buys, you make commission from!
It sounds complicated, but anyone who is selling a digital product already is very likely already used to doing joint ventures and will be totally game (it’s a free form of advertising for them to a new audience!).
Here are two examples to illustrate how joint ventures work:
For my own home decor & living simply blog >> I know there are a lot of moms on my email list. I could partner with my friend Kendra Hennessy and promote her ‘Homemakerish U’ course to my audience. We would do a free webinar together to my audience (me introducing her, and then her delivering the content), and then her sales sequence would follow after that with my affiliate link to her course. Anyone from my audience who enrolls in Kendra’s course, I would make a 30% commission (or whatever commission level she offers).
For my GemmaBonhamCarter.com business >> I don’t teach specifically about Pinterest, but my audience are all people who could benefit from utilizing Pinterest to grow their online businesses. I could partner with my friend Meagan Williamson who runs a Pinterest membership program for a joint venture collab. We could have people register for a live class we host on Zoom, and then follow up with a sales sequence for Meagan’s membership program that use my affiliate link.
This might not be a strategy you utilize in the beginning of your business, but it’s a great one to have in your back pocket for when you are more established, have other streams of income working away for you, and you’re looking to diversify. It is also a strategy you want to start using as your email list grows (in all likelihood, going to someone to do a joint venture collab when you have an email list of less than 1000 people just won’t be enticing enough for them to put in the effort).
One thing to remember is not to overwhelm your audience with joint venture offers like these. If you are doing them every few weeks, your email list is going to get fatigued. Doing 1-2 per quarter would be the maximum number I would recommend.
Ask within The Passive Project community itself to see who might be a good joint venture partner for you! You want to partner with people who have your same general target audience, and who offer a product that doesn’t compete with yours.
That wraps up this Affiliate Marketing resource guide.
I know it’s comprehensive, but don’t feel overwhelmed! You can put affiliate marketing on the back burner for now as you ramp up other strategies in your business, or if you do decide to start to tackle it, just choose ONE thing to start with. Start with monetizing your existing blog posts with affiliate links. Or just create your affiliate product list and apply to the corresponding programs/networks.
This is one of those income streams that you are going to build on slowly and steadily over time. You do NOT (and shouldn’t) try to do it all at once!
Hop into the Facebook Group and let us know what is the one affiliate strategy you’re most excited to use.