Updated: 14th October 2021
We’ve all heard the stories about affiliate marketers who’ve made a s**t ton of money. John Chow is one. In just two years, his blog went from generating no income at all to generating $40,000 a month. Jason Stone is another. He harnessed the power of Instagram to make more than $7 million in affiliate sales. Check out our selection of successful affiliates for more examples.
But you can’t just become an affiliate marketer and expect the cash to come rolling in automatically. Instead, making money with affiliate marketing takes time, effort, commitment and strategy. To help you on your way, we’ve listed our top 11 tips about how to make money with affiliate links.
1. Choose high-paying programs
First things first, one of the quickest ways to make money with affiliate marketing is to choose high-paying programs.
Most affiliate programs operate on a revenue share basis. In other words, every time a customer buys a product, you get paid a percentage of the value of the sale. While some brands pay as little as 1% on some products – ahem, the eBay and Amazon affiliate programs – others pay up to 30% or even 40% – such as the ClickFunnels program.
As you can imagine, a high percentage RevShare is a great shortcut to earning more money. That said, it’s not the only important thing. You’ll also have to factor in the average value of the products you can promote via an affiliate program (for instance, a 10% RevShare on an item worth £500 is better than a 40% RevShare on an item worth £10!).
And don’t forget that although higher-value items will earn you more per conversion, you’re likely to get fewer sales as customers will need to consider more carefully before buying something expensive. Ultimately, there’s a balance to be had! Read our guide to the best affiliate programs to learn more.
2. Promote subscription products
Another great way to make money with affiliate links is to promote subscription products. That way, you may be able to benefit from recurring commissions.
Let us explain. If you post a promotion that leads to one of your users buying a subscription product, that customer is likely to pay for the product not just once, but on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis.
Some affiliate programs won’t take this into account when they’re deciding how much to pay you, opting to simply give you a percentage of the customer’s first bill. However, others will give you a recurring commission, where you get paid a percentage of the customer’s bill each time they pay.
Sometimes, this will have a time limit on it, for instance, you may only benefit from recurring commissions for 12 months. Others will continue to reward you for as long as the customer remains subscribed, known as a ‘lifetime’ revenue share. This can be a great way to earn passive income, allowing you to benefit from one conversion long into the future.
3. Work with brands you believe in
Let’s be honest. If you’re promoting a brand and its products purely because they’re high-paying, your users will soon see straight through you.
The best way to get users to click on your affiliate links and, ultimately, make you money with affiliate marketing, is to promote genuinely awesome products that you truly believe in. If you think the products are awesome, the chances are someone else will too. So, it’s a good start!
Perhaps more importantly, however: making genuine recommendations is key to building trust with your users. And that, in turn, is key to building a loyal following that’s going to love your content and click your affiliate links again and again.
4. Pick a niche
You might think that picking a really specific niche would limit your audience and therefore make it harder for you to make money with affiliate marketing. In fact, the opposite is true.
By narrowing your content down to appeal to a small niche, you’ll be able to better paint yourself as an expert in your field and become the go-to for content related to it. Not only that, but if you’ve chosen a channel that allows you to optimise your content for search engines (such as an affiliate website or YouTube), it’ll be a lot easier for you to compete for higher rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and, in doing so, to grow your organic traffic.
Not sure what niche to pick? We’d recommend starting with something that you’re already knowledgeable and passionate about. That way, you won’t get bored of it any time soon. However, you'll also need to check that your niche is profitable. Read our guide to finding a niche in affiliate marketing to learn more.
Bear in mind that you won't necessarily have to create content in that niche forever. Instead, you can expand into neighbouring areas little by little as you grow and start to exhaust relevant topics. For instance, if you chose the niche ‘breakdancing’ (as the marketing manager of Ahrefs, Si Quan Ong, did when he started his first blog), you could later branch out to cover other dance styles, such as hip hop.
5. Put your users first
It might sound counterintuitive to say that you’re most likely to make money with affiliate marketing by… well… not focusing on making money. But when it comes to actually creating your content, it’s kind of true.
Put your users first and focus on providing them with as much value as possible. Whether you’re trying to entertain them, help them, educate them or give them recommendations, put yourself in your user’s shoes and give them what they want.
That includes recommending products or services that will actually be relevant and of use to them rather than putting you and your commission first. This way, not only will they be more likely to listen to your recommendations, but they’ll also be more likely to come back.
It also includes disclosing your affiliate links because, let’s face it, it’s in your users’ best interest if they know you’re earning money from the recommendations you make. A lot of affiliates worry that if they disclose their affiliate links (which, by the way, is a legal requirement), their users will be less likely to click. But in reality, affiliate link disclosure helps to foster trust between the affiliate and their users, theoretically making it more likely that your user will buy.
Don’t believe us? Affiliate marketer Jonathan Fields conducted an experiment where he gave his readers two links – an affiliate link and a plain link – making it clear which one was which. He then measured how many of his users clicked on each. While 24% of his readers chose the plain link, 76% chose the affiliate link, giving him a chance to earn money from it.
6. Encourage clicks
Having said that you should put your users first, you’ll still need to try and encourage people to click on your affiliate links as much as possible. When it comes to making money with affiliate links, there’s a fine balance to be had between the two!
One important aspect of encouraging clicks is to place your links in obvious places that as many people as possible are going to see. For instance, if you’re writing a blog, it’s a good idea to place your affiliate link near the top of the page, otherwise, it might not be seen by people who don’t read all the way to the end.
Another great way to encourage clicks is to include more than one affiliate link in a piece of content. For instance, if you’re writing a blog about the best hairdryers, you could include an affiliate link for every hairdryer you mention. You could even insert a comparison table that helps readers to pick the right hairdryer for them, using a tracking link for each brand. This way, you’re increasing the likelihood that a reader will click on at least one!
Similarly, it’s worth experimenting with ways to make your affiliate links more prominent and enticing. Some affiliates use assets such as buttons and banners. Others consider them too salesy. Ultimately, it’s worth trying a few different tactics to see what works best for your audience.
7. Hedge your bets
Found the perfect affiliate program for your affiliate marketing efforts? One that generates the vast majority of your monthly income?
Although that may sound like the dream, it’s actually not an ideal scenario. Affiliate programs are subject to change, and ultimately, the terms and conditions they ask you to abide by are out of your control. What happens if your favourite affiliate program suddenly lowers your RevShare from 40% to 12%? What happens if the brand ends its partnership with you? What happens if it goes bust, or pulls your most effective product line?
We’d recommend hedging your bets and spreading your marketing efforts out over a number of affiliate programs to make sure that, if you lose your income from one, you’ll be able to carry on making money with your other affiliate links.
8. Work with brands that convert well
A big part of generating sales through your affiliate links is to do with how you promote the products you choose. After all, 80% of sales generated from affiliate marketing are made by just 20% of affiliates (according to Practical Ecommerce), showing that an individual's promotions and tactics must account for a lot.
However, you can only control what happens while your users are engaging with your channels and content. Yes, you can tell them how great a product is and get them excited about it. But once a user actually clicks on your link, you’re handing the baton to your partner brand. It’s up to them to seal the deal!
Of course, no brand’s ever going to have a 100% conversion rate. But if you’re getting paid based on a RevShare, you’ll want to try to work with brands that convert as many clicks into sales as possible. If your partner brand has a terrible conversion rate, that’s going to be a real obstacle to making money through their affiliate program!
Interestingly enough, brands like Amazon and eBay don’t have very high commission rates, but they are masters at conversion, which is one of the main draws of their affiliate programs. By utilising cross-selling tactics, they ensure that you rarely leave their website with nothing in your basket. And, luckily, affiliates get paid a commission on any items their users go onto buy in the 24 hours after their link gets clicked (not just on the product they promoted). Not bad, eh?!
9. Go organic
Did you know that almost 70% of traffic to affiliate sites comes from SEO (according to Statista)? That makes SEO the top traffic source for affiliates.
In case you’re not sure, SEO traffic describes users who come to your site after seeing you listed as a result on a search engine like Google. We call this organic traffic because they’ve landed on your site ‘organically,’ without you having to fork out on paid advertisements to get them there (learn more about it in our guide to content marketing partnerships).
Not only is it great because it’s free. It’s also great because traffic that reaches affiliate sites in this way has a super high conversion rate. In fact, SEO has a conversion rate that’s seven times higher than any other traffic source in affiliate marketing (or so says Profit Social)!
If you’re an affiliate who uses a social media platform like Instagram or Twitter as your primary channel then sadly, you’re not going to be able to optimise your promotions for SEO. These platforms aren’t really designed for building up traffic over time, as anything you post on them will normally disappear into the platform’s algorithms (more on this in our blog about Instagram paid partnerships). Don't worry though, there are other ways to make money affiliate marketing on Instagram!
However, if you have an affiliate website or you’re an affiliate on YouTube, making SEO and affiliate marketing work together hand-in-hand is a no-brainer. Yes, it can be time-consuming but it’s a great way to ensure you’re being found on search engines long into the future, generating you with true passive income. Lovely!
To get started, we’d recommend spending some time researching what your users are typing into Google (known as keyword research) and then writing content designed to answer their queries. Search engines also prioritise sites that are fast to load, trustworthy, have low bounce rates… the list goes on. But keyword research is definitely a good starting point!
It can be tempting to create content left, right and centre without planning too far in advance. Of course, we're all for reactive and timely content, but we believe this should be balanced carefully with a more long-term affiliate marketing strategy.
Why? Well, that way, you can sit down and make sure that the content you're churning out is well-placed to help you reach both your long-term and short-term goals.
Not only that, but putting together a proper strategy will help you to avoid missing out on opportunities that you just didn't spot in time. We'd recommend circling key dates in your diary, like Christmas, Black Friday, Halloween or any other dates that are relevant to your niche. Then, consider how you can leverage those opportunities to create content and promote products that are hyper-relevant to your audience at that given time.
Many affiliates amp up their Black Friday affiliate marketing efforts to boost their income when consumers are actively looking to spend. Others might look to form new seasonal partnerships that can help them to get more clicks at a specific time of year. You might team up with a Christmas hamper brand during the holiday season for instance, or with a theme park during half-term breaks.
You get the idea, but the key is always to plan ahead. Hence why strategising is so important!
11. Promote, promote, promote
There are lots of different ways that you can make money with affiliate links, from growing your followers on social media to leveraging the power of paid advertising, running a YouTube channel, conducting email marketing campaigns or even just sending links to your nearest and dearest via WhatsApp messages. Although we'd recommend focusing on one channel for your affiliate marketing activities to start with, there's no reason why you shouldn't use a secondary channel to promote your primary one.
Let's imagine that you run an affiliate website. You could place an email capture box on your site so that you can promote new blog pieces via an email newsletter, increasing your repeat traffic. Or, you could set up a social media account and promote new blog pieces on there, increasing the amount of traffic to your site.
When you’re choosing where you’d like to promote your primary channel, consider where your target audience is. For instance, if you’re targeting 25 to 29-year-olds, Reddit could be the perfect place to promote your activities as that’s the age group of most Reddit users.
Even though Reddit doesn’t allow users to post affiliate links, there's nothing to say that you can't post links to blog posts you've written, or direct readers to a social channel where you promote affiliate links, helping you to drive high-quality traffic to the place it matters. See what we mean?
As you can see, making money with affiliate marketing takes time and commitment but it’s not rocket science. Ultimately, if you have to take away one thing from what you’ve read, we hope it’s that you need to consider your users’ needs just as much (if not more!) as your pocket’s.
For ideas on how to make money as an affiliate without a website, check out our dedicated guide. Or, if you’re ready to find the perfect affiliate partners, don’t forget to sign up with Breezy. We’ll save you valuable time and resources by recommending hundreds of relevant partners for you. You’re welcome!