How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
Making money with affiliate marketing is a great way to generate additional revenue for your business, as well as a fun way to make so extra cash on the side as an individual.
But how do you get started with affiliate marketing? What do you need? What do you need to know?
Last year, after having been in business for several years already, I got my first paycheck from YouTube. I was sitting in my office when I got a new email. For the first time ever, my YouTube channel had generated enough ad revenue to earn me just over $100.
Though YouTube isn't paying me anything to write home about (and won't even pay my web hosting for a year), I do make a few thousand dollars a year from other affiliate marketing. And, as I mentioned before, affiliate marketing is a fantastic way to start generating money online with your blog.
How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
Step 1: Find a Product or Service You Love
I don't mean to over simplify affiliate marketing (although most people over complicate it), but the first step in getting started is to find a product or a service you love.
Consider the products you use every day, and figure out which ones you use the most, or the ones that have helped you the most. If you use a particular type of workout equipment, or if you use a particular piece of software, or if you find yourself recommending a particular store, you might be able to get paid for your efforts.
Affiliate marketing is simply an official agreement for you to get paid for sending buyers to someone else. When I send people who need web hosting over to GreenGeeks.com, a product I use for most of my web sites, they pay me a commission if my referral makes a purchase.
Once you've figured out 3-5 products or services you use and would feel good about recommending, continue to Step 2.
Step 2: Ask Its Creator If They Pay for Referrals
Now that you have a handful of products or services you can recommend, the next step is to reach out to the person or company who makes those products and ask if they have an affiliate program or if they pay for referrals.
Most companies are familiar with paying for referrals, but affiliate programs are more common online. So, be prepared to ask about both.
To find if a company has an affiliate program, first look in bottom (footer) area of that company's website. Businesses with larger affiliate programs, or ones that rely on affiliate marketing to drive sales, often have a link in their menu to where you can find more information. The URL for my affiliate program is https://www.ellorywells.com/affiliates. You may also need to reach out to them via their contact page if you can't find this information within a few minutes of browsing.
When you reach out to the product's creator, mention that you love what they've built (if it's true). Tell them how you use it, what you like about it, and that you'd like to recommend it on your blog, podcast, website, YouTube channel, etc. Then ask them if they have an affiliate program, and, if they do, how you could sign up.
Also, a lot of companies make it really easy to sign up, so don't be surprised if you're directed to a 3rd party site like ShareASale who I go through when I recommend WPForms, StudioPress, or WPEngine.
Step 2.5: Create Easy-to-Remember Pretty Links
Most affiliate links are long and ugly. Therefore, they're almost impossible to remember, and even harder to give to people when making a recommendation. This complexity is due to tracking parameters and UTM query strings (read more about those in my blog post, The Entrepreneur's Dictionary) that allow both you and the company to track who referred whom to what product.
So, to make it easier on yourself (and on your visitors), install the PrettyLink plugin for WordPress. There's both a free version and a paid version, but they both function the same way, and this plugin makes affiliate marketing much easier.
By using PrettyLink, you can take a long, ugly, and complicated affiliate link that's hard to remember and make it shorty, pretty, and simple to remember.
For example, my affiliate link for WPEngine is
but by utilizing PrettyLink, I can use ellorywells.com/wpengine. As another example, my affiliate link for Activecampaign is
but can I just tell people to go to ellorywells.com/activecampaign.
If you can make your affiliate links easy to remember, they'll be easier to say or type in a Facebook chat. And, if they're easier to say or type, you're much more likely to use them and make money with affiliate marketing.
Now that you've found a few products or services to recommend and signed up for their affiliate programs, it's time to continue to Step 3.
Step 3: Create Content to Market that Product or Service
Now comes the hard part. It seems like almost everywhere there's some one talking about how they made tens of thousands of dollars of month, and all they do is affiliate marketing.
And it's all bullshit.
Ok, there are some people who make a lot of money with affiliate marketing, my friend Pat Flynn comes to mind, but, for the most part, very few people make enough money with affiliate marketing to make a living. The reason Pat is so successful with it is because he has an almost unheard of level of trust with his audience, and his audience is absolutely ginormous. And he creates tons of content that adds amazing value to his readers and listeners. Pat is a virtual unicorn when it comes to online business, but he's the real deal and a great example to follow.
Anyway, I digress. If you want to make money with affiliate marketing, you're going to have to do some marketing.
Most people think that once they sign up as an affiliate the work is done, and that's just not the case. There is no such thing as passive income, just residual income, and it all starts with creating content that entertains and informs your audience.
Here is an excerpt from my book Exit Strategy about some of the types of content you can create to boost your affiliate marketing efforts.
Writing posts and creating new content can get stale after a while if you don’t mix things up with different kinds of posts. Remember, this is your blog and your business, so you are only limited by your own creativity.
Here are some different post types to help you keep things new, fresh, diverse and useful to your audience. Again, you should substitute the word “post” for the kind of content that is the best fit for your message.
Create a list of books, tools, websites, resources, movies, etc. your ideal client, your “avatar,” should check out or ones that have impacted you in a positive way. The “Types of” type of list post can help your clients discover new things. For example, “10 Types of Financial Tools You Can Use to…” List posts are an excellent way to show what you know while providing a shortcut for your readers. They should be easy to scan, and they also make great YouTube videos and infographics.
Over half of the millennial generation believes they can find whatever they need on YouTube. How to posts are perfect for showcasing your expertise through demonstration. You can use a single video or a series of them, images, or simple text instructions.
Frequently asked and should ask questions are popular posts because they not only provide answers but also give the reader questions they didn’t even know they needed to ask. For example, if you wrote a post called “14 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying Your First Car,” you help new car buyers and establish yourself as an authority in the automotive industry. FAQ and SAQ posts allow you to direct the conversation the way you want it to go.
Similar to the list post, the checklist post is more for listing items required for a particular action. For example, before our first camping trip as a couple, my wife and I printed off a checklist of must-have camping gear and went to the store. The checklist saved us time and helped us prepare. Your checklist should do the same thing.
People love trilogies, quadrilogies, anthologies and multi-part series. These series also work for blog posts because they keep the reader coming back for more, plus they keep people on your site longer with a web of interconnected links.
I learned how to drain a hot water heater by watching a fix-it video on YouTube. These types of posts don’t have to be videos, so don’t worry. Show your reader how to fix a problem they’re having, and you’re instantly a hero.
Similar to the list and checklist posts, Top 10 posts are a list of resources, but only the best. Top 10 posts are lists of items collected and curated by you. People love reading Top 10s because they know they’re about to get the best resources, not the crappy ones, and they know the list won’t take them a long time to get through. Since ten is a definite number, people figure the post is a quick read. Plus, these are opinion posts, and everyone likes to share what they think.
Everybody loves a good quote. Quotes inspire and motivate people all the time. Share a quote you love, or one that’s helped you in some way, write your response and explain what it means to you. Or, share a quote with which you disagree and tell the world why you think it’s wrong. Don’t be afraid of polarizing your audience; strong opinions create engagement and lead to raving fans.
I love a good test/results post. Anytime I get the opportunity to see the results from an expert, I jump on it. Experimentation also helps you build authenticity alongside your authority. When people know you’re not perfect, they’re more likely to relate to you.
The people reading your blog are there for information, correct, but they’re also there because they like you and are interested in what you’re doing. When Ashley and I were in Costa Rica, I shared a post of the two of us standing atop a beautiful waterfall, and my audience loved it! You can be an expert and still be human, so write a personal post to share about your life.
Almost every article on a news site is a recap of recent events. You can do the same thing after a conference or workshop you attend. Share the highlights, the benefits of attending, and make a recommendation as to whether you’d go again next time.
If you plan on making any money with affiliate marketing, the product review post is a must. Even if affiliate commissions aren’t on your radar, or if they don’t fit with your business, product reviews are still a good way to show your reader the best option among many. Share your favorite product alongside its competitors and why you like it. Anyone who reads your post will see you as a trusted source they can go to when they need help making a decision.
While these are some of my favorite types of posts, there are all sorts of ways you can create content that helps you connect with your audience and market your products. For more content ideas check out my post 129 Blog Post Ideas to Help You Get Started, and The Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas on digitalmarketer.com.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to supplement your income. And, it's a great way for you to help your followers, friends, and subscribers get what they want or need.
Whenever I make an affiliate recommendation, I can do it because I've personally tested every product or services. I know that my audience trusts me, and I do not want to jeopardize that by recommending something I don't believe is a great solution.