This is a post by ProBlogger expert Jerry Low.
Promoting affiliate products is still one of the most effective ways to make money from your blog.
Jayson DeMers points to affiliate marketing as an excellent entry-level place to begin monetizing your blog in this Forbes article, because it is easy to implement and free to start up (just taking a bit of your time).
One of the great things about affiliate income is that it works well with a blog with either high or low traffic. The key is promoting your blog and the products to the right audience – people who need the products you are promoting. With the right marketing tactics, you can make money from affiliate products.
Even better, choose a trusted affiliate program that you already know and love.
If you promote it properly, you’ll find that you can create a long-term source of residual income.
This article will focus on how to make more money blogging via affiliate marketing.
1. Pick the right niche and products to promote
There are two key elements to making good money from affiliate marketing.
First, you have to find a profitable niche. Second, you have to promote the right product.
To accomplish this requires time and research before you jump into the affiliate game. Don’t worry, if you are already promoting affiliate products, I will help you refine what you’re already doing.
How to find a profitable niche?
Finding a profitable niche requires a bit of research.
Here are some tools that will come in handy:
Use SpyFu to check advertisers’ spending on a niche that you wish to tackle. If advertisers or merchants are spending big money on that industry, it means there is money to be made.
For example, advertisers are paying $5.60/click and almost $70,000 per month on the search term “payroll software”.
2- Google Search
Do a Google universe search (search at .com, add &pws=0 and &gl=us at the end of your search strings) on the niche you are interested in. View the search results carefully. Are there any advertisers in the mix?
Login to CJ.com and search for relevant merchants. Use “Network Earnings” (the green bar) as a potential earning indicator. The higher the green bar, the more merchants are paying affiliates.
4- Impact Radius
Login to Impact Radius. Check the “30 days EPC” (affiliate earnings per hundred clicks) for relevant merchants in your niche.
Example of merchant listing at Impact Radius.
5- Use Common Sense
What do people buy online? What kind of information do people search for online? Are there any information gaps you can fill and monetize?
Once you’ve chosen a niche area, it is time to move on to the actual products you’ll promote.
How to find the right products?
Once you’ve decided on your niche, it’s time to find the right products to promote within that niche. There are some specific steps you can take that will help you narrow down your choices.
Method #1- Study others
The first step is to look at what other bloggers are promoting.
There are two messages behind this: one, the product is good; and two, there is money to be made with that product.
The next thing to do is to study and try that product out and find a unique angle to “soft-sell” (more about this later) it.
Method #2 – Soft products
Generally speaking, digital products and services are usually easier to sell.
Think digital downloads (i.e. eBooks, mobile applications, movies), online training courses, professional services (i.e. designers, marketing services, accounting or legal advice), e-commerce platforms, and web tools (site builders, lead generation services, email service providers, etc.).
Method #3 – Products/services that are already in demand
Find a product that already has an existing demand.
Use SEM Rush to see if people are searching for more info about the products. Tip: We often use ‘review’ or ‘compare’ in our searches when we want to buy something. Check search volume for those search phrases when you wish to find out if there’s sufficient demand.
SEM Rush example 1 – Low search volume for the search term “Bit Defender Review.”
SEM Rush example 2 – Higher demand (search volume) for MacPaw Clean My Mac software”
Method #4 – Promote products you already know and love
This is probably the most common way bloggers get started with affiliate marketing. You become an affiliate for something that you’ve used yourself, had a good experience with, thoroughly tested and feel good recommending. You should be fairly confident that others will get the same results you did (or better), as long as they do the work.
2. Be unique and irreplaceable
With affiliate marketing, it is vital that you “soft sell”.
This allows you to influence and drive users to buy what you are promoting. Basically, the soft sell proves to the consumer that the product is what she needs to solve a problem.
The Blogosphere is a crowded space these days. There are over 1 million blog posts written every day on the Internet. That is a lot of noise to sift through. It is easy to get lost in the massive information dump that occurs every minute of every day.
Soft-selling: #1 overlooked online marketing skill
With soft-selling, the key is to be subtle about the fact that you’re selling, yet to think through ways to persuade the site visitor.
So, your main focus is going to be on developing a relationship with your readers and building trust. Once they trust you, you can sell them a product or service you believe in.
The key, however, is to make sure you truly do believe in, or better, love the product. The last thing you want to do is recommend something that isn’t high quality. That will cause you to harm the relationship you have with your readers and they will no longer trust you if you’re just trying to turn a fast buck.
Even though affiliate marketing is lucrative, it is also quite competitive with the numerous blogs on almost any topic you can imagine. The best digital marketers are in the game because the money is good. To stand out from those mega name players, who are pretty hard to compete with, you have to differentiate yourself.
Method #1. Become an expert
Develop yourself and become an expert in your industry.
Stand out as a leader and help others prosper.
One example of a blogger who has become a known name in the blogging industry is none other than the owner of this blog – Darren Rowse. He developed his name as a blogging expert by helping hundreds of thousands of bloggers via his blogging guide and training events. In 2002, Darren read an article about “blogging.” By the next day, he’d started a blog of his own. His blogs grew from a hobby he enjoyed to part-time income to full-time income.
Write definitive and knowledgeable content on the related topic. Include basic info as well as unique info no one else is talking about. Or look at it in a unique, new way.
Grow your presence on social media networks. Interact with influencers in your industry. Post regularly. Interact with others. Remember that social media is a give and take environment.
Guest post on sites where your readers can be found. It won’t do you much good to post on a crochet and knitting site if your niche is personal finance. Seek out related blogs where your target audience is likely to hang out.
Attend conferences and speak at them as a specialist in your area. Network with other influencers at these events. It’s amazing what you can learn over a cup of coffee. Most successful bloggers are happy to share tips to help you succeed as well.
Method #2. Provide unique information that users can’t get elsewhere
Let’s revisit the idea of providing unique information that no one else has covered before.
For example, I went undercover and tried out dozens of hosting companies’ live chat support systems. The results were quite enlightening and I’ve not seen anyone else cover this particular topic or go this in depth on an undercover review.
My readers now know which hosting companies are most likely to provide instant live chat support when they need it.
What can you cover that no one else in the industry has covered?
Tactic #1 Look at what topics your competitors have covered
What is missing? What isn’t covered deeply enough? Is there another way to look at the topic? For example, if you search the phrase “how to improve your golf swing,” some of the top results that pop up include an article titled “5 Beautifully Basic Golf Swing Tips Every Player Should Know,” but directly under that result is “Top 10 Golf Swing Tips.”
As a reader, which would you rather have – 5 tips or 10? You certainly don’t have to cover the same topic, but this is just an example of how you can expand on what others are doing.
Tactic #2 Use tools such as brainstorming to come up with unique ideas
The simplest way to brainstorm is to write a single word in the center of a paper in a bubble and then begin drawing lines and words as they come to mind.
Don’t stop to think, but let the thoughts and the words flow freely. Do this for about 10 minutes and then study the paper. What words are unique? How do they tie into your niche? Which ones can be turned into an article that hasn’t been covered before?
Tip: Also try these 180 blog post ideas by Darren Rowse.
Tactic #3 Tie your personality into your blog posts.
Do you absolutely love to watch Star Wars movies? What about an article on how being disciplined in your golf game is like learning to be a Jedi? Just make sure that it is something most of your readers can relate to and that you tie it back into your niche.
3. Focus on winners
Would you like to instantly make more affiliate income from an existing blog? The trick is to spot your winners, in various aspects, and double down on them. This strategy works in various aspects in businesses and has helped us improve our blog tremendously well.
Spotting the winners in various aspects
To spot your winners, you first need to track your blog and affiliate stats closely.
In the past, advertisers threw out a bunch of radio, television, magazine and newspaper ads and hoped something would resonate with potential customers.
We all knew the expansion of the Internet has changed all that.
As an affiliate marketer, all of your advertising will naturally occur online. The difference is that you have many tools at your disposal today to figure out which advertising is successful and what just isn’t working.
Pay careful attention to:
- Traffic source: You can find this information from Google Analytics or the control panel of your website.
- Performing search keywords: Google Analytics can help you with this type of information and tell you which pages are performing best.
- Advertising statistics. If you take out an ad on Facebook, you’ll gain the ability to check statistics on the back end. You can not only target your ad to a very specific audience, but you can also look and learn more about the people that shared your post, liked your post, or somehow engaged.
Which of your affiliate products are selling the most?
Which ones are the “winners” in the affiliate marketing game for your particular site?
Focus on who’s paying you the most money.
Find out why that product is selling so much better than others.
Now, build content around that product. For example, build a video tutorial on how to use the product, write a detailed FAQ on the product, and explain the problem users deal with and how the product can solve that problem, etc.
In addition to looking at the affiliate products that are winning, you’ll want to focus on the blog content that is winning.
Use Google Analytics to figure out which of your blog posts is getting the most traction.
Which one is getting traffic, but also has a decent bounce rate? Which pages are people actually staying on for a while?
Find the blog posts that are already performing well for you and ask yourself these questions:
- Why are your readers spending more time on that post?
- Is there a problem you solve in that post?
Now, can you spot a gap and recommend a product that suits your readers’ needs from that post?
Winners in traffic
Figuring out where your traffic is coming from can help you increase efforts that make sense.
Do you know where your blog traffic is coming from? Is there a traffic referrer that is sending lots of traffic to your blog?
Once you know where the traffic is coming from, you can increase that traffic in a number of ways.
Say blogger X is sending you the most traffic last month – Invite him/her to guest post on your site. Trade links to his blog so his/her users can find your blog easily. You can even take out a banner ad on his blog to encourage even more click throughs.
Traffic that converts
Did you set goals in Google Analytics?
You can track more than just successful transaction or newsletter signup with goals. For example, if you have written a product review page that converts well – your goal can be driving your readers to read that particular review.
Once you have set the right goal – it’s time to look for traffic source that converts the best. To see this, login to Google Analytics Dashboard > Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium. Find out which traffic source is converting the best – find ways to get more traffic from that source. For example, if Facebook is performing best – spend money and advertise on Facebook. If you are getting hits from Google, take out a few ads on Google, etc.
To investigate your blog traffic, login to Google Analytics Dashboard > Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium. In this example, traffic organic search and Facebook mobile are converting exceptionally well – logic sense tells us that we should work harder and invest more in these sources.”
Affiliate income as a blogger is just one piece of a larger puzzle, but it is the quickest way to start building an income and helping your blog pay for itself.
Once you gain the skills needed to attract a larger audience and also a targeted audience, you will be able to grow your income exponentially.
Very detailed post, thanks for sharing! I really like how you added common sense to the list of ways of finding blogging niches. That’s generally how I find what I will blog about.
Well detailed!! with appropriate citation
Thanks to share this awesome post.
Understanding your users need and choosing a right product is very important to get succes with affiliate marketing. However I don’t have any luck with CJ, but I am using Shareasale and Flexoffers and both of them works great for me. Thanks for writing this beautiful post.
Oh yes, Shareasale are Flex are awesome too!
The reason I mentioned CJ it’s because they were the largest affiliate network when I first started in 2004 and I have been with them for decade. I have no idea with who’s bigger or biggest these days but as long as it works for you, it’s good! :)
Thanks a lot for this great article with tips both for the inexperienced and the experienced.
I am currently looking into affiliate marketing, and I was able to collect a few tips that I’ll be sure to use!
Veloce, I am glad that you found my article helpful.
Great post, Jerry! One of my favorite ways to check the pulse of product popularity is with ClickBank (similar to the CJ steps) and to look at gravity as well as their metrics to see what’s selling and what’s not.
Right, ClickBank! How can I miss that. I’m never really active on ClickBank but yes – I know bunch of super affiliates made crazy money selling soft products found on that platforms.
Great article. I’m trying to get into affiliate marketing and this post helped me a lot thanks
Greetings from Germany!
Right now, I am focusing on providing unique content, to drive audience attention. Hope, this will give me good results in the long journey.
Great, starting out, will be implementing this soon, great share!
Great tips especially for anyone who wants to improve their affiliate marketing. I always check to see where my traffic is coming from on Analytics. Although, I do need to take the time to set up more goals.
I’ve now stopped trying to be everywhere and am focusing my time on where my traffic is coming from. This tip alone can help any blogger make better use of their time.
What I’ve personally found is that by writing tutorials on how to use a product or service has helped me make some affiliate sales.
Thanks for sharing these tips, I’ll be sure to use them to see if I can improve my strategy.
Have a great day :)
This is very useful indeed. Thank you.
But of course, you probably would have to take in to consideration your traffic. It would be best to set up first your site’s reputation. The higher the traffic, the more affiliate profit right?
I read this post some months ago and still consider it the best guide. Today, I have read again and gained some good point how to apply in affiliate program.
Thanks a lot and all the best!