Content Marketers, or more broadly put – bloggers – are known for putting out amazing content. Most bloggers I know take great care in the topics they choose, the way they write and format their posts, the beautiful and comprehensive, professional looking photos they take to include with their blog posts. Bloggers are in many cases, 1 person magazines. They are the writer, the researcher, the photographer, the editor and the producer. No wonder so many are overwhelmed! The problem is, many bloggers don’t have a clear strategy for how to monetize their blogs. Like magazines, some put up banner advertisements hoping that will offer some monetary return on the HUGE investment they pour into their blogs every day. But unlike magazines, banner ads are not typically paid out in a flat fee up front (unless your blog is very established and you have a huge following, and can sell your own ad space) – but rather, earnings are only generated if people click on those ads. And web surfers nowadays have banner blindness. They see the ads a mile away, and very few actually click on them.
So many bloggers trudge along, producing amazing stuff, and not being rewarded with an honest income that is based upon the quality of content they are putting out.
I’m here to tell you – you should absolutely expect to earn a living from your blog, if you are putting the time and energy into it, that I see most bloggers investing. I hear many people say “well, I didn’t start the blog to earn a living” – but now you’re working at it, more hours a day than a regular day job, and are building a growing fan base – why shouldn’t you be earning a living from it!?
One of the best ways to give your earnings a “kickstart”, is through affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is basically the process where you recommend or review products and services that you legitimately use or would recommend, using a special link given to you by the manufacturer or creator of said services. If someone reading your blog clicks your link and makes a purchase, you’ll earn a commission on the sale – paid directly from the manufacturer.
Otherwise known as the big ugly elephant in the room.
You see, from a traditional reputation or perception standpoint, content marketers and affiliate marketers are sort of at odds.
Let me reference a graphic drawn by the artistically challenged, yet still successful affiliate marketing coach, my friend Ashley Coombe. She demonstrates this tension so perfectly:
If you’re going to be successful at monetizing your blog, you need to figure out a way to meet in the middle of this gap – much like, traditional affiliate marketers need to embrace the concepts of quality content marketing, if they want to build long term, sustainable businesses.
So, lets say you’re ready to take a step out to the middle of that bridge, and make your first attempt at Affiliate Marketing.
How do you do it?
Whats the most effective way to make the leap?
The best way to get your feet wet with affiliate marketing, is to pull back the curtain on your own business, and let your readers in on all of the products and services that YOU use, each and every day, to run your business or your blog.
Otherwise known as a “toolbox” or a “resources” list, or whatever fun, creative name you want to call it.
1. Create a page on your site that is dedicated to openly sharing these topics, and put it in your main navigation, or in your sidebar with a nice banner graphic that will draw attention to it. You can link out to it from existing blog posts, where you encourage people to go check out your list of top ______ products that you use.
2. For each product on your list, you want to go look for the manufacturer or retailers of those products, and see if they have an affiliate program. If they do, sign up for it, and use your affiliate link when you link out to the product.
3. If you can’t find an affiliate link for the manufacturer, check out Shareasale for a great selection of affiliate programs (they have a great relationship with bloggers and the affiliate marketing community). The Amazon affiliate program also has millions of products, as well as the Prosperent plugin which is free, which will give you instant access to over 4000 affiliate programs and millions of products – you can use their plugin to do a search for the product you are looking for, and chances are, they have a merchant that sells the product you are recommending. If you can’t find an affiliate program for a given product, thats ok! Keep it on the list, link out to where they can buy it, and move on – you don’t have to exclude things you would recommend just because they don’t offer an affiliate program.
The goal here is to make this list as genuinely beneficial and honest as possible. If your mom wanted to do what you do, and asked for recommendations – write this list as if you were giving it to your mom.
One hint: try to include a few “bigger ticket” items on the list that offer higher affiliate payouts – that doesn’t mean it needs to be an expensive option for your readers, there are many products that are reasonably priced, while offering large payouts for affiliates. And again, only include them if you would sincerely recommend them.
Here are a few examples based upon industries:
- Do you own a blog about photography? Create a list of all of the photo equipment that you use and recommend – and get specific – from the camera, to the lenses, your editing software, photo paper, printing services – list it ALL! Here is a great example of this done well: Stuck in Customs
- Are you a DIY or home decor blogger? Create a list of all of the tools you have in your toolshop, as well as your most favorite crafting supplies or stores. Here is an example of this done well: DIYPete
- Are you a mommy blogger? Create a list of your favorite stores to shop at, stores where you get great deals on kids clothes, etc. Here is an example of this done well: Mom.me
- Do you blog in the health/wellness niche? Create a list of products you use to prepare healthy foods, books that have helped you learn about staying healthy, fitness equipment you use, etc. Example: GoatMilkStuff
- Do you like to show others how to build and grow a blog? Create a list of tools and services that bloggers can use to save time, money, and be more productive when it comes to blogging. Example: Blog Genesis: Tools Every Blogger Should Use 🙂
By kickstarting your efforts at affiliate marketing in this way, you are creating a valuable resource for your readers – and if you happen to earn some affiliate commissions from it – then AWESOME! I know a couple of bloggers who earn more than $10k per month, solely from their toolbox or resources page. Thats pretty amazing passive income, for a few hours of up front time, am I right?
One other thing to note, make sure you are using proper FTC disclosures on your resources page. If you are unclear about how FTC Disclosures work – where or why you should be using them – check out the recent webinar I hosted with Ashley Coombe on “Blogging and the FTC“.
So go out, spend an hour today, and set this up. Its THE best way to make the jump, and I have a feeling once you do, and you’ll see how great affiliate marketing can be, you’ll be hooked!
Comment me this: If you haven’t started affiliate marketing yet, what is your biggest hesitation?
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