eCommerce Strategy

How to Monetize Your Audience Part 2: Affiliate Links

December 18, 2022

If so, we’re here to answer a common FAQ: how to monetize your audience. This is part two of our series – if you missed it, you can check out part one, How to Monetize Through Advertising here.

The good news is that if you’ve already got an audience, you’re well on your way to monetizing online. Growing and keeping an audience is a must if you want to monetize, and one of the most difficult things to do.

This post is to help anyone who already has a decent-sized audience, whether that’s through a blog, social media, email, or another online platform. Here’s how you can monetize via affiliate links:

What are affiliate links?

Affiliate links, otherwise known as affiliate marketing, are links that you share in your content that lead your audience to a product or service on a business website. Your link will be unique to you so that the business selling the product or service knows who to attribute the sale to.

In general, affiliate marketing works by rewarding you with a commission payment for each sale. Some programs have a slightly different end goal though- for example, some offer commission for leads or for users that sign up for a free trial.

Affiliate links might include hyperlinks which you put into the text of blog posts or emails, URLs that you include in social media posts, or ads that you show on your website. In each case you’ll want to make sure that you’re using a link that identifies you as the referral source. Another type of affiliate marketing may include giving your audience your own unique discount code. For example, you’ll see influencers tell their audiences they can get a discount by using “their” specific code.

Marketer Pat Flynn broke down affiliate marketing into three different types:

  1. Unattached. This is when you have no authority in the niche of the product you’re advertising and no connection with a customer. You might run pay per click ads with your affiliate link and hope people click on it.

  2. Related. You promote products and services that you don’t necessarily use yourself, but are related to your niche. You have an audience which you influence and can recommend products to.

  3. Involved. You only promote products or services that you have used and believe in. You have an audience you recommend those products and services to and you probably produce content that shows you actually using the product or service.

You can find opportunities to join affiliate programs either directly through suppliers that you want to promote, or through affiliate marketing “marketplace” programs that pull opportunities into one place for account holders. The Amazon Affiliate Program is a well-known example.

Pros and cons of affiliate marketing

Is affiliate marketing for you? Consider the relative pros and cons:

Affiliate marketing pros

  • It’s low or no-cost to get into. You simply need an audience to send to the affiliate link.

  • You don’t have to carry any inventory. This is a huge saving on cost and risk compared to businesses that have to buy in inventory.

  • It’s easy to manage. Affiliate software reports on your results and the merchant pays you a commission on your sales.

  • You don’t have to provide customer support. People are aware that they didn’t buy from you directly and will go to the merchant they purchased from.

  • You can make decent money if you drive a lot of sales. The global affiliate market is worth over $17 billion and affiliate marketing is a top revenue source for 31% of publishers.

  • It’s easy to scale and you can earn commissions repeatedly from one link. For example, let’s say you have a popular blog post that gets consistent traffic. It’s possible to earn commissions from links on that post for years.

Affiliate marketing cons

  • Earnings per sale tend to be low, so you need to make a high number of sales to earn decent money.

  • Sometimes it’s a con that you don’t own the relationship with the customer. Owning the relationship would allow you to remarket to them or turn them into loyal, returning customers.

  • Affiliate marketing is not a fast way to online riches. You need to be patient and consistent with growing and influencing your audience.

  • Revenue can be inconsistent. It’s not like getting a regular paycheck.

  • You don’t have any control over the affiliate program. You must follow their rules for how you present their product or service (and competitors will too).

When are affiliate links a good fit?

Affiliate marketing is not for everyone. We’d suggest that if you don’t have an audience that trusts you and who you connect with authentically, then you’re unlikely to do well with affiliate links. However, if you do have a great relationship with your audience, here are some suggestions about when affiliate marketing may be a good fit:

Review sites

If you have a site that revolves around product or service reviews, this is an obvious fit for affiliate marketing. Alternatively, even if you occasionally produce review content as part of your overall content strategy, those reviews offer a great opportunity to share affiliate links.

To maintain transparency and trust with your audience, you may want to predicate review content with a sentence to tell your readers that it may contain affiliate links. People appreciate it when you’re open about your interest in those links.

The most successful affiliate marketing review sites tend to be very honest with their reviews. They’ll talk about the pros and cons of the product and be clear about who it may not be suitable for. Being authentic will play a critical role in keeping that audience you’ve worked to build up! 

When you don’t want to manage the customer relationship

If you’ve built up an audience but you don’t have the time or inclination to manage a customer relationship, then affiliate marketing may be a good fit for you. While you play a role in recommending products or services, you’re not responsible for product queries, returns, or complaints. You make your commission on the sale and have no other role but to keep creating engaging content. 

When you have an audience engaged with your content

If you have an audience that loves to engage with your content, no matter which platform you use, then affiliate marketing may be a good choice for you. This is particularly prevalent among niche content creators, for example:

  • Arts and crafts content creators that share affiliate links for the materials they use.
  • Home decor content creators that share links for decor items.
  • Technology content creators that share links for technology or software products.
  • Pet content creators that share links for pet foods, toys, or other products.
  • Fitness content creators that share links for equipment or supplements.

A common thread among the most successful affiliate marketers is that they have the trust of their audience. If you create how-tos, it’s reassuring to your audience to know that the product link you shared is for the exact same item you used to get the result you shared. Genuine connection comes from being honest about the topic you’re covering and any products you share.

Examples of affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing examples are everywhere - you probably see them almost daily, whether you realize it or not. Some examples include:

  • Podcasts - You’ll hear links given verbally on audio content like podcasts. Usually the link given will include the podcast name, or some connection to the podcast on the end of the URL.

  • YouTube - Affiliate marketing is everywhere on YouTube. Links can be inserted all over the video with different presentations. Ryan Robinson’s YouTube channel where he gives blogging tutorials is one example.

  • Blogging - There are thousands of blog examples that monetize through affiliate links. Golfer’s Authority is a great example.

  • Facebook and Instagram - Content creators monetize by sharing an affiliate link with their post. A key difference between Facebook and Instagram, and other channels like blogs or YouTube is that as a general rule, sharing just one link per post works best on Facebook and Instagram. On the other hand, YouTube videos and blog posts may share multiple links (such as products for each step of a process). Fashion influencer, @imjennim is an example on Instagram.

Is affiliate marketing for you?

Affiliate marketing can net content creators a decent amount of income without the risk of carrying inventory. While your margins will be low, top affiliate marketers make into the thousands every month, and 81% of affiliate marketers make $20,000 or more each year.

The key to doing well with affiliate marketing is to have a large audience which you continue to grow and build a trusting relationship with. People buy based on recommendations from those they trust, so only recommending products that you genuinely have tested and believe in is a good way to go.

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