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If you've been following along you've read all about my entrepreneurial struggles, how at the beginning of 2016 I completely pivoted my business, and how I've been able to make more money online. A large part of that has been by strategizing and restructuring my site so that the blog itself makes more income, so I can write less for other outlets and spend more time on this site and providing my (thoroughly awesome) readers with more value.
Since I started posting my online income reports in April, I've been getting lots of questions, mostly asking how I've been able to ramp up my blog income. The answer? Affiliates!
But here's a confession: I made a whopping $90 in affiliate income last year.
Affiliates just weren't a way I was monetizing my site.
And 2015 was the first year I did any type of affiliate marketing. 2015! After three years of blogging and building an audience.
But after three years of hard work (and getting a little burnt out on writing, honestly) I wanted to monetize my website in a more passive way so I could a) make more money, like my girlcrush/dream girl Michelle and b) free up some mental and emotional bandwidth to do other things besides chase the content writing dragon.
And it worked! Putting my energy into monetizing my site has increased my income, especially in affiliates. Here's how I made it to my first $1k in affiliate sales.
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But first, What is Affiliate Income?
Income you get from recommending products from other brands to your audience. I see it as a win-win. I get a commission for my influence, and you get to buy with a company that’s reputable, often at a discount because you used my affiliate link.
How to Make Money Online for Free with Affiliates
Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing, so I began looking into a few courses. Hands down, my favorite was with Adi Ganley’s Pinaffiliate Master Class, which taught me how to leverage Pinterest to drive greater traffic to my site and to my affiliate posts.
It’s one of the most well laid out and thoughtful courses of the handful I tried. Also, since I’ve been blogging for awhile, I felt many were a little too basic, but Adi’s was filled with great stuff I didn’t already know that I could quickly implement to make more money.
Also – affiliate income is (for the most part) a traffic game.
The more traffic to your website, the higher conversions you’re going to have because you’re getting more eyeballs on your content.
Lena from What Mommy Does wrote a fantastic (and cheap!) e-book, How I Went from 17k to 350k+ Monthly Pageviews in 9 Months, that I've been relying on heavily to build my traffic. It's an awesome resource! I also enjoyed the sections of the book specifically on how to grow your blog traffic (via SEO and social media and a handful of other methods I hadn’t yet heard of.)
Thanks to those two resources I was able to go from 45k page views to 100k in June.
This is super exciting, because for the longest time I felt I was getting nowhere with my traffic and also because 100k page views was the goal I set for myself for 2016. #killedit. What should my new goal be?
Monetize Existing Content First
This was a great tip I got from the Commission Junction advertisers Facebook group. Instead of worrying about how to pick an affiliate that works and creating new content for that post, they recommend you pick your ten highest performing posts and try to put an affiliate within those.
This is what I did and it’s a great way for beginners who aren’t already doing affiliate income to quickly leverage content they have to get started.
Start (Super Duper) Small
The world of affiliate marketing is overwhelming. It seems as if every brand offers an affiliate relationship and you don't know which are going to work for your audience, what people are going to want to buy, or what’s going to fit in best with your brand.
When I was looking at my top ten posts, I made a list of potential products that would fit, then looked in my affiliate portals to see if any brands were offering an affiliate relationship. Since I make it a brand value of mine a) not to recommend credit cards because of my own bad history with credit and b) to only recommend brands I thoroughly know about and use/love….it narrowed the pool quite a bit.
I’m currently only leveraging six affiliates within my top ten posts and only two new affiliate content pieces. I’d prefer to be a master of a small group first rather than a master of none.
Quantify Your Goals and Track Them Every Day
It isn’t enough to say, “I want to make affiliate income.”
Goals have to be a little bit smarter than that. (And I’m not just talking SMART goals, which I actually kindof hate.)
- Say you want to make $300 a month at first from affiliates.
- That’s $10 per day.
- And if you leverage an affiliate that pays $5 per lead. You just need 60 leads a month, or 2 per day.
Figuring 2-3% conversion, you can then estimate how much traffic you’d need to each post in order to hit the number of sales you need.
Get strategic, my friends!
Promote, Promote, Promote Again
I’m not saying be pushy. People will get mad. (In fact, I had an email from someone who got mad I was doing “too many sponsored posts” and putting them into my weekly email newsletter. Yikes!)
I’m just saying you can’t put an affiliate link in a post and then leave it. You’ll make more money if you regularly schedule that post on your social media channels.
After all, it’s affiliate marketing. And marketing is a touch point game. Statistically they’ve done studies that prove it takes nearly seven “touches” to get someone to buy. Because you’re a blogger and need to be a bit more authentic with your connections, you’ll have to spread this out over time and promote to your audience in a genuine way, but the point is to always be promoting that content.
It took me awhile to get to this place and the learning curve has been steep, but I'm glad I'm now effectively leveraging affiliate income, especially after focusing on audience building for so long. If you'd like to learn more about making money from a blog, click here to read my tutorial or here to grab my course, Beginner Blog Accelerator.