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Affiliate marketing is the best way to make money from your blog. This is because it has the potential to be hands off once you have a great strategy in place.
Someone else creates the products, they handle sales, they handle complaints…
All you have to do is to add a special affiliate link to a product or service that is relevant to your audience and you can take a slice of that.
Affiliate marketing is that easy and it’s that hard as well.
Unless you get very lucky or have a huge audience, just adding random affiliate links to your articles is unlikely to lead to much money.
Affiliate marketing requires a strategy.
With a good strategy that is implemented well, blogging and affiliate marketing work together as an easy way to make money ongoing.
I know. I make five figures a month from affiliate marketing. I have done it on various sites in various niches including on my travel blog.
I have not “got lucky”.
I worked out what worked then kept implementing it until I grew my income to the levels that I wanted.
Below, you will learn the first step of this process – how to choose the best affiliate programs for bloggers as well as what are the best affiliate marketing programs.
You will learn...
- What’s an affiliate program
- How to brainstorm the right affiliate programs for your blog
- How to find affiliate programs
- What to look for in an affiliate program
- How to join affiliate programs
- Best affiliate programs for bloggers
- What comes next
1. What’s an affiliate program?
If you are new to affiliate marketing and don’t understand what it is, I suggest you start with this guide to affiliate marketing for beginners.
What is an affiliate marketing program? In simple terms, it’s an agreement between a company and a blogger (or some other site owner, influencer, advertiser, etc) whereby the blogger promotes a company in return for commissions for any sales they refer.
It’s not always commissions – it could be a payment in return for any reader you send them. However, usually it’s a percentage of whatever the person spends that you refer to their site. This is how you make money with affiliate links and is how affiliate programs work.
An affiliate program will have a list of rules and terms and conditions concerning how you can use the links, how payment works and anything else you need to know as an affiliate. It’s usually straightforward to open an affiliate account and get started (more about how to become an affiliate below).
Once you have an account, you will be able to create links that you can use on your site and see reports of your earnings.
2. How to brainstorm the right affiliate programs for your blog
The first step in the process of how to find affiliate marketing partners is to write down every company that you think would be a good fit. At this stage, don’t worry if they have a program or not.
- What kind of posts you write and what companies you mention already or could fit in to the articles
- What types of products or services you recommend and which companies sell those products
- Who you use yourself when you buy the products or services that you mention in your blog
Write out as many as you can.
You can also ask your readers at this point. You could do this on your Facebook page or via email.
Where do you shop online for x?
Which hotel booking site do you prefer?
It’s always going to be easier if you stick with well known companies that people already trust than introducing them to new ones so this is something to keep in mind. This is the start of your list of affiliate programs.
When thinking about what might be the top affiliate products to promote, the most important thing is that they will be useful to your audience. Next, products that are higher priced are likely to lead to the best returns for you. It’s also worth considering digital products. Digital products affiliate programs often have the best returns and can be easy to promote too.
3. How to find affiliate programs
After you have a list from step one, you need to find out if these are companies with affiliate programs.
I find a good way to do this is to Google “<company x> affiliate program”. This can be more effective than searching on the company’s own website as often companies that offer affiliate programs have them handled by someone else on another site.
If you don’t come up with anything, find a contact form or email for the company and ask. Asking via a Facebook page can be very effective too.
If you are not coming up with much or had trouble with brainstorming then use Google and affiliate networks.
What is an affiliate network?
These are companies that exist to connect companies and influencers via affiliate programs. Join up to some and go through the list of companies with affiliate programs. Often they have many hundreds (or even thousands) They are also called affiliate marketplaces.
Some of the best affiliate marketplaces that I (or others I trust) use:
- CJ Affiliate by Conversant*
- CommissionFactory – this has Australian brands as well
- Panthera – this has a wide range of digital products and services with great commission levels
- ClickBank – good for digital products (these are usually high commission affiliate programs)
There are so many different affiliate programs that pay in these networks. They will give you plenty of inspiration and hopefully help you find some good options of affiliate marketing products to sell.
You can also use Google to find the best affiliate marketing companies by searching for “affiliate program” along with the type of product you are looking for and the location (if relevant).
For example, “baby shop affiliate program UK”.
I have also found affiliate programs this way.
* Note that I include CJ here as it’s useful as an option because they just have so many different affiliate programs. However, I have found in the last year that trying to get paid has been ridiculous and getting support to fix this has been even worse, so I no longer actively use them and have switched to Travelpayouts for my travel affiliates instead. Travelpayouts is far easier to use for travel bloggers, and I am glad I made the switch.
4. What to look for in an affiliate marketing program
There are lots of different factors to take into account. I will list through them here.
You are unlikely to find the perfect combination so it’s about finding the best combination. One that suits your blog, audience and also pays relatively well.
- Location of the company in relation to your audience. It doesn’t make sense if you have a UK audience to send them to an American company that doesn’t ship to Europe for example.
- Brand recognition. As mentioned above, it’s easier to send people to companies they already know and trust.
- Commission rates. What percentage of the product price do they pass on to you?
- Cookie duration. This is how long after you refer someone to the company that you can still get a commission if they pay. For example, if the cookie duration is 30 days then your reader can buy something 4 weeks after clicking on your link and you can still get a commission (assuming they use the same browser, have not cleared their cookies and haven’t clicked on someone else’s link in the meantime).
- Payment details. How long does the company take to pay you? What’s the minimum payment amount? How do they pay?
You are aiming for a company that is the same location as the majority of your audience, that your audience has used previously, that offers a high commission rate and long cookie duration and that pays you via a method that suits quickly and for low amounts.
If you are not sure what an affiliate program is offering, ask them.
Another thing to take into account is what else the company sells and if you are likely to get commissions from other products if you send your readers there.
For example, I stick to Amazon even though sometimes there are other programs with higher commissions and longer cookie durations. This is because Amazon sells everything and are very good at converting sales from traffic I send to them.
This means overall I end up with more income than using another program.
It’s also easier to deal with just a few affiliate partners rather than having a different one for each product you promote. So affiliate programs that have many product options can be a good choice.
Hotel booking sites
Hotel booking sites are usually available everywhere so what you need to look for is usually called the serviceable area. This is where your readers need to be based for you to receive a commission. You want to ensure this area covers the main places your readers come from.
There are also some different ways that they work out your commission. Here is what I have come across:
- Commission based – This is where you get a % of either the hotel stay cost or how much the booking site receives for the stay. For example, using the booking.com program directly, you may receive 25% of the commission that booking.com receives. The booking.com program in CJ gives you 5% of whatever the person spends on the hotel stay. These are calculated and paid after the stay has been completed so be aware that it can take a very long time from when the stay is booked to when you get paid.
- Set price per booking – In this case, you get a fixed dollar amount when a booking is made. Since you are not waiting for the completed stay, you should get the money faster. This can be a good choice if you are recommending lower priced hotels but I am not aware of any programs that currently offer this – please let me know if you know one!
- Paid per lead – This is where you get paid for a lead, not for a completed booking. HotelsCombined does this. What happens is if someone clicks on your link to HotelsCombined and then clicks from HotelsCombined to another booking site, you get paid a percentage of what HotelsCombined makes from this click. These amounts are generally much lower than a percentage of a booking but it’s easier to get far more of them and they are paid the following month.
It can get complicated and really the only way to work out what will work best is to try them out and see.
5. How to join affiliate programs
It’s generally very easy to join affiliate networks like the ones I listed above. Just apply, answer the questions and usually you have access. Most do not have a minimum traffic requirement.
The individual affiliate programs can be harder. Usually it is automatic but sometimes nothing happens.
If nothing happens, I suggest finding their contact details and contacting them directly to ask. If you don’t get an answer, move on and try again in a few months.
Often, it can just be that they aren’t accepting new affiliates at that time and being knocked back does not mean it was personal.
Amazon is a popular program and does have a requirement of three sales in the first six months. The reality is that if you can’t meet this requirement then it’s not worth being an affiliate anyway.
However, it’s not the end of the world if your account is shut down. It’s easy to reopen and get started again.
Amazon will also manually check your site after your three sales so make sure you meet all their requirements. Note that in 2019 there are now requirements for ongoing sales if you are using their API to display links with a plugin like EasyAzon.
This includes doing things like:
- Not stealing their images. You can’t just take them and use them how you like.
- Including the Amazon disclaimer. They have this in their terms and conditions.
- Using any text from Amazon including their ratings.
- Any mention of exact price unless you are getting this live from Amazon.
Learn exactly how to get started with Amazon here.
6. Best affiliate programs for bloggers
I’m often asked which are the best affiliate programs to make money. The answer?
Every blog has a different audience with different preferences and it’s important to try out online affiliate marketing programs for a set time period then switch to a different one and see what difference it makes. This is how you will work out the best affiliate program for your blog.
Don’t expect to have the same success with an affiliate program as your buddy in the same niche. Even with very similar audiences, you may get different results.
In saying that, there are some top affiliate marketing programs that work well for most blogs.
Amazon is at the top of the list of best companies to be an affiliate for. I don’t think there would be many (any?) blogs out there that would never reference something available on Amazon.
If you have readers in a country that Amazon services, they are definitely worth trying out. I also think this is one of the best affiliate programs for beginners since they are very straightforward to set up and get started (more here).
For hotel commissions, I recommend you join Travelpayouts so you have a few options you can test. booking.com is a good starting point that tends to work well with most audiences. If you have an Asian audience, Agoda can work great. Both are in Travelpayouts.
Otherwise, the best online affiliate programs are likely to be the ones you found in the steps above.
What are the top paying affiliate programs?
Digital products tend to have the best paying affiliate programs. There are many sites to try, like Clickbank, JVZoo and ShareASale, where you can find many digital products to sell. This can include ebooks, software, subscription services and courses.
Hosting often has great returns starting at $50 per sign up, sometimes a lot more (this is why you will see so many How To Start A Blog posts from random bloggers). There are hosting affiliate programs in CJ Affiliate by Conversant.
In travel, insurance can have the most profitable affiliate programs. You can try companies like World Nomads.
For physical products, smaller companies usually have bigger commissions but you do have to weigh this up against promoting a company with a wider range of products which could lead to more sales thanks to your readers possibly buying other items.
Affiliate marketing programs for beginners
Amazon is a great starting point as mentioned above.
If you are a travel blogger, I think Travelpayouts is another great place to start – they have so many top affiliate marketing companies listed so it’s easy to sign up and access many different options of the best affiliate products to sell.
If you have an Australia audience, CommissionFactory is a good place to start as well.
7. What comes next
Once you have joined affiliate programs, it’s time to get your links and start using them on your blog, social media, emails, wherever they allow you to and you can reach your audience in an effective manner.
Working out how to present your links on your blog and getting the right people to your links (ie people who will use them) is a big topic in itself and where I see most bloggers making fundamental errors.
To help you have success with affiliate marketing, you can download my FREE checklist, 7 Steps For Affiliate Marketing Success.
This affiliate marketing step-by-step guide PDF will help you understand what to do next.
I’d love to help you.
How did you pick your affiliate partners? What questions do you have?
Find more posts on making money from blogging here or read my full guide to using Travelpayouts to make affiliate commissions here.