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Six Ways To Make More Money As An Affiliate

Posted By Darren Rowse 7th of November 2009 General 0 Comments

By Johnny B. Truant

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that affiliate marketing is the easiest way to make money online. You don’t have to create a product or develop a service, you don’t need huge amounts of focused traffic the way you do with AdSense, (I started using AdSense a year ago and just recently passed the $100 minimum payout), and you don’t need to do a ton of advertising or SEO to make it work.

All you really need is an audience to whom you can refer products and services.

Of course, the above statement is true in the same way it’s true that you only need food, water, and shelter to live. It’s technically accurate — but personally, I’d like to have Netflix and a few Twix bars, too.

I made around $20,000 in my first six months from affiliate marketing, and the following are a six tips I’ve found that will take you from bare bones to a legit affiliate income.

1. Establish trust

Technically, you can make a few bucks here and there even by tossing out links to people who don’t know and/or like you. I think of these as “cookie toss” sales, because most affiliate setups dictate that each time a person clicks on an affiliate link, that affiliate’s cookie (which identifies the customer as “belonging” to that affiliate) overwrites any previous cookies on the customer’s computer. If you’re on Twitter during a launch and toss out a bunch of affiliate links for the product that everyone is promoting, there’s a chance that your link will be the last link someone uses before buying. You didn’t really refer the sale; you lucked into it.

A far better way to go is to actually have some credibility with your readers, audience, and peers. If you have a blog, work on building bulletproof trust with your readers. If you’re on Twitter, tweet with some integrity, and be a real person rather than a selling drone. If your people like and respect you, they will believe you when you say a product or service is worth buying.

2. Promote only products you honestly believe in

Don’t be a shill. Once you start promoting as an affiliate, you’ll quickly discover how many things are out there to promote. If you hop on every one, your people will turn away because they’re always being sold to. Worse, they won’t believe that your recommendations have any merit because you’ll recommend anything. There are plenty of good things out there, so be a true “raving fan” of a product you like rather than a hawker.

3. Don’t promise the moon (i.e. tell the truth)

No product or service is perfect, so don’t pretend it is. There is a strong tendency (especially in online marketing) to oversell. Everybody’s course will triple your income in two days; every program is guaranteed to whiten your teeth and wax your new Ferrari while filling your hot tub with supermodels. People are smarter than to believe the BS, so don’t feed it to them. (And as a bonus, if you tell the truth, you’ll sleep better at night.)

If you want to go really nuts with this principle, you can take the contrarian’s approach like I did when I promoted a course by pointing out its foibles and the fact that you may well totally fail online. (By the way, I ended up being the top-selling affiliate for that course.)

5. Disclose your affiliate relationships

This really isn’t a bonus item anymore, actually. The Federal Trade Commission is now saying that bloggers must disclose that they will make money if people buy through their affiliate links.

The good news is that disclosure can be a good thing if you’ve established trust already. Loyal readers won’t care that you’ll benefit if they believe that your praise of the product is honest, or if they were planning to buy anyway.

6. Offer bonuses

This is a great one. Recently, I offered to give my $297 Zero to Business program to anyone who used my affiliate links to buy Copyblogger’s Teaching Sells course, which I honestly think is spectacular. Because my course added almost $300 in value to their purchase, customers loved it. And because the commission for Teaching Sells exceeded the price of Z2B, I loved it.

I think the biggest, simplest key to affiliate marketing is honesty and integrity. If you lie, yes, you may make sales — but those people who were lied to will never buy through you again. If on the other hand you build relationships and tell the truth, affiliate marketing results in a natural synergy. You refer people to good products that they will enjoy and benefit from. When they buy, you benefit, too. And when they benefit, they come back to thank you from the referral. In all likelihood, they’ll trust your future recommendations in the future — and then everyone benefits again.

Hey, it beats a plain old “food, shelter, and water” existence, right?


Johnny B. Truant writes about online business, turkeys, and occasionally SpongeBob SquarePants’ pet snail at JohnnyBTruant.com. He invites cool folks to join his laid-back Jam Sessions call series and to connect with him on Twitter @johnnybtruant.

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About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I personally believe point 2 is an absolute must.

    I do like the idea of point 6. I’ve offered bonuses before but never my whole course and now I can see the logic behind it. Awesome.



  2. Thanks for the great tips. I especially like the disclosure factor. I remember being new to the internet and realizing that someone was actually looking to profit off of my clicks. At first, I felt a little taken advantage of. I still would have clicked and bought even if I’d known.

  3. How about number 4? It looks like it’s missing

  4. Great post, very informative. Have learned a lot from your site.

  5. Great article.It is very useful for me.


  6. Great tips Johnny.

    I agree with you that by providing bonuses on the products that you are promoting, you will secure more affiliate sales.

  7. Number 4 was intentionally left out to see if commentators read the article properly!

    Apart from the joke, #2 should be the basis of starting any affiliate program. Without having any trust on the product, one should never try to sell to others.

  8. inspirative post but , traffic still and always be number one in your post. ( or maybe you can put in number 4 which is missing )

  9. Sheila Mae says: 11/07/2009 at 12:58 am

    Are there seasonal differences in affiliate marketing, or is business pretty much the same from month to month?

  10. So what’s no 5? maybe that’s the technique I’m looking for?

  11. Thanks for sharing this useful information and I will follow what you said.

    Thanks again.


  12. It is really important to sell products that you already tried. Then you can provide your honest opinion with pros and cons. I think it is good that you need to tell people you will be making money from the links or reviews. It also acknowledges your honesty.

  13. Thanks for these great points which I will surely follow. But I would have really loved if you would have mentioned a few High paying affiliates, even though I can find them easily through Google.

  14. Thanks for the tip Darren, affiliate sales is definitely something on my to do list, however with a brand new blog like mine http://www.richwealthsecrets.com im even thinking twice of having adsense on their.

    My question is, when would be the right time to start promoting affiliate products without it affecting the readers.

    I’m doing the 31DBBB and i really want to start promoting it from my blog but don’t know when would be the right time?

    Any help would be appreciated.





  15. I just noticed as well, What is tip number 4 Darren?

  16. lol and i also just realized that this article wasn’t even posted by Darren, apologies to Johnny!

    Thank you for the tips Johnny, would you be able to answer my previously posted question?

  17. All five tips are really great for success in affiliate marketing. As you mentioned here about trust which is one most important things that we have to know before sell affiliate products. Before selling products to our visitor first we have to build trust with them.

    We can build trust with them by giving them lots of information, so that they think that our blog is really valuable.

  18. Trust is the part of affiliate sales.If you have created an authority for your blog readers,you can sell them any affiliate product blindly.But it need lot of efforts and time and the engagement with readers.

    Your first point is the best tip for me.

  19. The FTC Guides were silent on disclosure of the use of affiliate links and there are some good arguments to be made that they do not require disclosure. Of course, I can also make an argument that they do require it. In any event, I keep seeing broad statements from people indicating that the FTC guides clearly require it, which is not correct. It is an unknown. With that said though, I agree that transparency is usually a good thing.

  20. What I think is funny is that everyone, save one, seems to have missed the overwhelming theme of this great post.

    Trust is built through brute honesty. True personal branding is about wysiwyg, and if you are honest as well as human, your readers will build and broadcast your community.

    Do not attach your name to a product. Attach a product to your name.

  21. I agree with number 1 completely. Sales drones are awful. I am completely burned out on sales pitches. Readers want to be addressed conversationally. Using the word “I” is huge. Trust is becoming more important as the Internet gets saturated with copy and paste paste sales drivel.

  22. Great and informative post.Got to learn many things from it.

  23. All in all what they say “honesty is the best policy”. Yes its true most of the marketers especially online or maybe telemarketers dishonestly sell products and services. They don’t want to gain the trust or maybe engage the customer into a long term reliable relationship. Subsequently, customer doesn’t want to hear a recommendation next time. To sum up, I think tell them honestly what ever your service or product is and let them decide. Personally I think one should be more than 100% honest when one is carrying out affiliate marketing.

  24. Cookies! Twix! Now you’re speakin’ my language! ;)

    Interesting…and MORE to add to the never-ending list of tweaks and adjustment to make to this here blog o’ mine!

  25. Interesting post, Johnny. The problem with AdSense is that you cannot control every single ad that shows up on your blog. My blog is Christian in nature and AdSense put up one ad that pointed to an occult site. I immediately turned AdSense off. It’s okay if I don’t make anything out of AdSense, but at least I don’t want people to be led astray.

    As you say, credibility is important. So are ethics. God-willing, my Amazon US and UK affiliation and Chrstianbook.com affiliation will do the trick.

  26. I agree. From all the revenue channels at our fingertips, affiliate marketing is probably the biggest bang for the buck.

    Sadly, it’s sometimes hard to sort through the good marketers who truly believe in the products they’re promoting vs. the folks who are looking to make a quick buck.

  27. Okay, here’s Tip #4. I had omitted it, but here we go:

    4. Watch the movie “The Goonies”
    It’s a long shot, but it’s possible that there is an underground cave near you housing a ghostly pirate ship and its buried treasure, which will far exceed any affiliate income you may make from your blog. Use caution with this approach as there may be a weird deformed guy living down there who actually turns out to be pretty cool re: that kid who could do the Truffle Shuffle.

  28. Lam: I think prevailing wisdom says that you should build your blog’s traffic and popularity first — like for 6-12 months or something at least — and THEN add AdSense. You may be lucky with AdSense; I was not. It was a total waste on my blogs, so I took it off.

    I think that if you’re “doing” a product (sorry, not familiar with that one), there’s really no harm in linking to it (using affiliate links) right from the very start. I don’t think I’d try to hard sell it, but if you talk about what you’re doing — especially if you’re having success — and just LINK TO the product, that’s no harm. People who are interested will follow.

    Now, active selling? I’d give yourself some time to build some relationships with your readers. Until some feel like friends.

  29. Sound tips Johnny. Trust is where it starts. If people believe in you they’re likely to believe in what product you’re offering. I agree with you twitter strategy. Be a person, not seller. Your feed will quickly show whether you are one or the other.

  30. The whole tips are very nice.Thanks problogger

  31. Waiting in anticipation of the long awaited 4th tip secretly held back to see if everyone was reading closely.


    What I do now is post comprehensive reviews on the products I promote and place the links within.

    I recently was appalled when I took the affiliate recommendation of one of my online mentors and enrolled in a course trial that I ended up not continuing.

    Although I won’t share the details here, the experience was awful after they charged me for the next month of the course–and locked me out.

    I don’t think the blogger that recommended it actually had been involved in the course…and it was completely opposite of my experience with his previous recs.

    Anyway, I occasionally throw out an affiliate link but more often drive traffic to the review.

    My ranks are high (usually in the top three in Google) for those but my audience still has to be built.

    The subscribers I have from my other blogs are not the audience for most of the products I find available for affiliate marketing–and the ones that might target the group are crap.

    So, here I am blogging and starting to make products for my niche–like I need more to do.


    I get the concept but wonder how you get past the crap to find the gems.

  32. @Sheila – I guess it depends what you’re promoting. Websites aren’t seasonal, nor is any online technology product. If you’re promoting ski vacations, though, that’s likely to flag in June.

    I find that stuff comes in waves, and that’s all on top of “base” products that are evergreen. (i.e. the companies I refer to when building sites for clients.)

  33. Hey Johnny,

    The most effective affiliate marketing is recommending, not selling.

    After utilizing your listed ways of building trust and establishing an honest relationship with readers, you genuinely recommend products that you believe are great. You ethically do it, of course, just like to a friend: you say why you think it’s awesome, and you let them know what you don’t like about it too.

    You’re recommending, not “selling.”

    Another step–which you talked about over on Copyblogger–is to say who it’s NOT for just as much, if not more so. You go that extra distance and explicitly try to eliminate those who aren’t the right match. Not only does that make you remarkable (since most will try to convince suckers), but it establishes even more trust.

    Nice simple list of reminders on how to effectively recommend great products you believe in. A win-win for readers (they get awesome stuff from a trusted source) and you (you gets paid, yo).


    PS. Like another commenter pointed out, where is #4 on the list?

  34. I think not doing any kind of affiliate links is leaving money on the table that could be easily taken. Trust is the biggest key I only talk about products I like and I believe are solid products I’m not going to link to anything I haven’t heard of and can’t speak for. How else am I going to build my trust with the user?

    It’s funny to me how obvious all of this advice is but yet isn’t something I think of or other people don’t as well. Why do we lie to people? How is that better then just being honest and taking any gruff as it comes?

  35. Agree with #2, some affiliates promote product that they don’t even believe in.They just promote that because of high commission percentage and they don’t really care about what their buyers.

    Anyway thanks for this post!


  36. Thanks for sharing this one. I find this very informative and helpful. Due to continuous innovation nowadays, making money is just within our fingertips.Trust and honesty are very important in building a relationship with your market.


  37. Johnny –

    fabulous post and one that I really appreciated. I’ve started making money from affiliate sales and its amazing how easy it can be in that I go to sleep and wake up to an email saying I’ve made x amount of dollars.

    Another useful way is to be to go to person regarding information products. People will approach you to see whether something is worth buying and if your advice is helpful, they will ask for your link. In private communication, I never send out a link unless they ask and I always let people know I can help them with other cool stuff.

    The other way is I help other people get promotion. I naturally talk about other people and sometimes, I’ll get a cut simply for driving more sales. I recently made $800 this way and am very surprised considering I only spend a day writing the blog post.

    Finally, I’ll work with the person offering the product – whether its a custom discount, a bonus or an interview.

    I’m not making big bucks yet because my blog led to getting a job, which has interfered with my blogging. I currently changed designs and i think im yet to fix it. But its a great way to earn money while pursuing other projects.

  38. This is an awesome post Johnny. You’re right.
    We should be up front with our readers; let them know we get paid when they make a purchase from our website.

    I guess I’ll have to update my website.


  39. @Johnny B. Truant Thanks for the tip Johnny, *sighz* its a mentally challenging journey! will definitely stay intouch via your site!

    appreciate your help and time

  40. Six steps that really outline the *requirements* in my book on affiliate marketing. I take #2 to an extreme (probably) but feel like if you haven’t used a product, how in the world can you promote it.

    So many promote just because they can make money. Me? My reputation means more to me than that. I won’t recommend a product I am not currently using and loving.

    Appreciate you and your blogging efforts. Thanks for helping us validate we are doing it right (or wrong).


  41. Yeah, Oleg, great point… I did mention in a post at Copyblogger that I believe in actively pointing out who a product is NOT for. I mean, would you rather rook one sucker in and feel bad about it, or build trust with the many others who see or hear about it?

    That’s this:

  42. Nice article.

    In my experience, at a beginning level, PPC doesn’t help very much. This is because, so many illegitimate groups use this route. The best way I think is to use forums and social networking. On the forums, you get to show everyone who you really are, and build relationships. These relationships help out alot in the long run. They may or may not conduct business with you, but may direct friends to you…who knows

  43. Doing business sincerely and honestly is very important to build confidence. This helps one build and strengthen the business network.

  44. I have learned a lot to you, so sad …. I’ve never managed to sell one’s barangpun although 1-year offer on the blog amazon goods

  45. Starting a business is not a easy job and being on the internet is very competitive. But if you can continue to repeatedly focus on income producing activities, you will reach your goal and be glad you did not quit. Remember “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.”

  46. Hi,

    I’m a consumer journalist writing for baby boomers. I don’t accept free products for review, and I don’t write about things so people will buy them.

    I’m just beginning to find affiliates for my blog and hope to find ones that my readers will buy from. I started with REI, which is good for my audience, baby boomers.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  47. So the most important think in affiliate business is trust and reputation. I surely remember it.

  48. Hi,

    I’m a consumer journalist writing for baby boomers. I don’t accept free products for review, and I don’t write about things so people will buy them.

    I’m just beginning to find affiliates for my blog and hope to find ones that my readers will buy from. I started with REI, which is good for my audience, baby boomers.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  49. I haven’t any success yet. Glad to read this article

  50. It is really important to sell products that you already tried. Then you can provide your honest opinion with pros and cons. I think it is good that you need to tell people you will be making money from the links or reviews. It also acknowledges your honesty.

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