Why Blog Affiliate Marketing Is Not A Dirty Word
Say “affiliate marketing” and most marketers cringe because they think sleazy sales.
Affiliates are what comes to mind when you think of someone working from their computer in their pajamas.
BUT would you still cringe if you earned over $30,000 per month from affiliate marketing?
It’s possible. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income makes over $30,000 each month from his various affiliate programs in aggregate. And he’s not alone.
I had a client, a mid-size retailer generating $100 million in revenues who was surprised that his best affiliate generated over $200,000. I wasn’t. The retailer excelled at sourcing his product so that it was well priced but he didn’t understand how to manage his affiliates to increase his sales.
Unlike advertising where a publisher gets paid to rent their media space for a set fee, often measured in terms of CPM, affiliate publishers get a commission for selling other people’s products. The commission is either a set fee per sale or a percentage of the sale.
From the product owner’s perspective, an affiliate is a great way to extend the reach and distribution cost effectively. As a result, affiliate marketing is more like running a sales team than it is about marketing.
Pat Flynn writes the Smart Passive Income blog where he documents his journey as a solopreneur with almost 60k followers on Facebook and 75k email subscribers. While Smart Passive Income started as a way to keep track of his business, it’s evolved into a platform of its own. (It’s similar to Darren Rowse’s Problogger; here’s Rowse’s list of revenue streams.)
One high visibility feature of Smart Passive Income is Flynn’s monthly income reports. Each month Flynn details his revenue streams and expenses with notes regarding his major projects. This enables readers can see how he has built his business as well as how revenues fluctuate over time by product.
Flynn generated $38,923.60 in revenues from 14 different affiliate programs in November 2013. While on average he made $2,780.25 per program, actual sales were as low as $50.00 and as high as $23,700.00. In aggregate, affiliate marketing accounted for 70% of Flynn’s gross revenues for the month.
To put this in perspective, many blogs don’t make even $1,000 per month. Part of what’s powering Flynn’s sales is Smart Passive Income’s size. Its audience is larger than the niche sites it describes. As a result, this helps power his affiliate programs.
Further, Flynn has been ahead of many of his peers in that he has gained momentum using a variety of different media formats. He’s got a lot of video as well as a highly rated podcast. These related media entities drive significant traffic back to Smart Passive Income.
Pat Flynn blog affiliate marketing rules
Here are Pat Flynn’s 2 rules for blog affiliate marketing:
- I only recommend products as an affiliate that I’m extremely very familiar with – preferably products that I’ve used before and have helped me achieve something. If I’m not confident in the product and I don’t feel it will positively help people, I will not promote it.
- I never directly tell anyone to buy a product. I always recommend products based on my experience and in the context of what I’ve done or what I’m doing.
(BTW—Here are more of Flynn’s tips for becoming a successful affiliate.)
While affiliates can be an attractive way to generate revenues from a blog or other content site, the key to Flynn’s success is that he promotes products he uses. This provides 2 forms of support.
- Flynn sells products that he uses and likes. This is like a super review because it shows readers what he likes and how to use the product. Even his income statements link to both the product and related information that his readers need.
- Flynn’s endorsement has a subtext for his audience. This is what worked to help me build my business.
Furthermore, readers like supporting a blog that provides them with real value.
How do you leverage the power of blog affiliate marketing?
Here are 5 tips to enable you to increase your blog affiliate marketing.
- Determine what affiliate programs your competitors are offering. This is an easy way to see what’s working in your niche. If it works for your competitors, chances are that they’ll work for you. At a minimum, set up a bookshelf on your blog to promote the top books in your field.
- Look into the products you’re currently using. Following Pat Flynn’s approach, you can easily endorse these items. For example, I have an affiliate program with AWeber, an excellent email marketing service (and I’d be thrilled if you use my affiliate link.)
- Create related content to encourage visitors to purchase from you. This is similar to Marcus Sheridan’s approach of answering his customers’ questions that ultimately generated over $2 million in sales. Explain why you chose the product and how it compares to similar products. For example, I wrote a post about why I’m attending Social Media Marketing World on my own dime to encourage my readers to also attend via my affiliate program. (BTW—you can still get half off of a virtual package!)
- Test different options. Take another page from the Pat Flynn blog affiliate marketing playbook. Try a variety of different approaches and see which ones perform best. It’s no accident that My Resources, a page that supports his affiliate marketing options, is in the navigation bar.
- Provide multiple entrances to your affiliate programs. Don’t assume that everyone will see the one ad you’ve placed in your right hand column. Give readers multiple ways to access your programs.
Affiliate marketing is a useful way to generate revenue from your blog or other content. While some people view affiliates as sleazy, the reality is that it’s just another way of monetizing valuable content. As a blogger, it’s another way of providing advice to your readers.
Have you used affiliate marketing? If so, what has your experience been?
Join me at Social Media Marketing World this coming Spring in sunny San Diego, California, where I'll be presenting a session on Blogging.
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