One of my favorite ways to make money blogging is through affiliate marketing. It was the first method I used when I launched my blog back in 2009. The great thing about affiliate marketing is you can start it at any time (you don't need to have a ton of traffic), and over time, it becomes a passive source of income.
Today affiliate marketing is one of my top sources of income.
So let's talk about what it is and how you, as a blogger, can make money with affiliate marketing.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a way for bloggers, social media influencers, and publishers to make money by referring their audience to a product or service in exchange for a commission on a sale, a lead, or an action taken.
To get started with affiliate marketing, you'll need to fill out an online application. Some programs have strict traffic requirements, other programs vet affiliates, and others approve everyone who applies. Once you're accepted into a program, you can promote your links in a variety of ways:
- Banner ads
- Blog posts
- Written reviews
- Text links
- Social media
- Email marketing campaigns
In return, you'll earn a commission on every sale, lead, or referral made from your unique affiliate link.
Where Do You Find Affiliate Programs?
You can look at your favorite brands and businesses' websites to see if they have an affiliate program. If they have one, it will most likely be in the footer area of their website.
Another way to find affiliate programs is by Googling the company name along with the keywords “affiliate program.” To help you out, I've included a list of popular affiliate programs below.
Rules You Need to Know Before You Begin
Before you start adding affiliate links to your content, there are two rules you must follow:
First, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires bloggers to disclose affiliate relationships. This needs to be done clearly and conspicuously on posts that contain affiliate links. You'll also need to have a disclosure policy on your website.
If you're not familiar with the FTC guidelines, or you need a disclosure policy, here are a couple of resources to help you out:
Second, Google requires all sponsored and advertorial links, which include affiliate links, to have the sponsored attribute. If you do not add the sponsored attribute to your paid and affiliate links, you violate Google's policies — which can result in a manual action or algorithmic penalty. What that means is Google can ban your blog from their search results, which can significantly hurt your traffic and blogging business.
Basic Affiliate Marketing Tips For Beginners
- Choose products and services that you know, use, love, and trust. If you're uncertain about promoting a product, ask the merchant for a copy or sample to review. Remember, these are your readers, and you don't want to lose their trust by promoting lousy products or services.
- Make sure your blog is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and that your content is pertinent and offers real value to the reader.
- Choose products and merchants that are in your niche.
- Build traffic to your site. The larger your audience, the more potential sales and leads you can generate.
- Work with your affiliate managers getting tips, strategies, marketing copy, and tools. They want to help you; if you're successful, they're successful – this is a mutually beneficial partnership.
List of Affiliate Networks and Programs
There are lots of affiliate marketing networks. Who you choose to work with will depend on your niche and the various brands and companies that they represent.
Adbloom is a smaller affiliate network that offers promotions for side hustles like VIPKID, survey sites, and money-saving apps. Payments are made via direct deposit once a month.
Publishers must meet a minimum traffic requirement of 30,000 monthly unique visitors. YouTube and Instagram Influencers must meet a minimum subscriber and view counts that are evaluated on an individual basis.
By far, the biggest and most popular affiliate program is Amazon. With Amazon, you can link to any individual product that Amazon sells. Commission rates vary from 1%-10% on each item sold, depending on your sales volume and product category. Payments are made 60 days after the end of each month and sent out via direct deposit or check. For payment to be issued — your earnings must be at least $10 for direct deposit and $100 for the check.
For acceptance into Amazon's program, you should have 10 high-quality blog posts. Social media influencers should have at least 500 followers.
BrandCycle is an affiliate marketing platform that allows you to share special promotions and products with your readers. They have a ton of retailers to choose from; companies like Zulily, Ann Taylor, Blue Apron, CVS, Etsy, and much more. BrandCycle also offers exclusive brand campaigns for sponsored content. Your account must reach a $50 threshold to receive payment, and payments are issued via the Payoneer platform, either direct deposit or bank transfer.
In terms of eligibility, BrandCycle works with high-quality influencers and publishers who create rich content and have dynamic communities.
CJ Affiliate is a third-party platform where bloggers have access to millions of advertisers. One thing I like about this platform is the affiliate managers are super helpful. They even have a private Facebook group for certified partners where they offer sponsored post opportunities, tips, as well as answer questions.
Payments are made via check or direct deposit every month once your account hits the $100 threshold. Some companies I found on CJ Affiliate are Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Coupons.com, Expedia, Redplum Coupons, Sea World Parks, and tons more.
Anyone that's 18 years or older, and that has a website, can sign up to be an affiliate.
FlexOffers is an affiliate marketing network, where publishers can gain access to millions of products and services that you can promote through text links, banner ads, templates, and other applications. Payments are made via check or direct deposit, weekly and monthly, once you hit a $100 threshold. Some companies that are part of the FlexOffers family are Macy's, Target, Best Buy, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and much more. This platform is super easy to use, and with all of the great companies, it's easy to meet and exceed the payment threshold.
Anyone can sign-up as an affiliate with FlexOffers, as long as they have an approved medium:
- Email marketing newsletter
- Social media channels
Panthera Network is an affiliate network that hosts work at home opportunities, coupon sites, survey sites, reward and sweepstake sites, as well as women's products, and more. Payments are made via check, direct deposit, wire transfer, or PayPal on the 15th of the month for commissions made the past 30 days. The platform is user-friendly, and with the vast array of companies, it is always easy to meet the monthly minimum threshold of $50.
Panthera Network eligibility requirements are that publishers agree to their terms which include no spamming and adherence to ethical business and internet practices.
ShareASale is an affiliate network where bloggers and publishers can connect with thousands of big-name brands. There are over 3,900 merchants to connect to choose from. Each of these companies has a different type of product that they are selling, and they're ready to send money your way for each customer that you bring to them.
Payments are made via check and direct deposit monthly, once you've reached a $100 threshold. Current merchants include Tiny Prints, Stella & Dot, Zulily, Rent the Runway, ModCloth, One Kings Lane, and thousands more. This network is easy to use, they have tons of great merchants, and I never have a problem meeting the monthly threshold for payment.
To be accepted with ShareASale, you must have a valid working website.
Skimlinks is an automated affiliate platform. Bloggers can apply for approval into the network once you're approved, you paste their unique code onto your site. Links are automatically generated and added to your content, and you'll start making money from the reader's clicks. While I like that Skimlinks is totally passive and automated, I don't like that you don't have control over what merchants are being placed on your site.
According to their FAQ page, Skimlinks wants publishers with original content and that mentions products and merchants in an authentic manner.
Sovrn, formerly Viglink, is an affiliate aggregator, meaning it automates affiliate marketing for publishers. Sign up for a free account and paste the dedicated code that they give you into your website. When these links are clicked on, and your readers make a purchase, you'll earn cash.
Sovrn accepts new publishers, but you must meet the following criteria.
Ultimate Bundles is an affiliate group that sells bundles of digital products from bloggers and small business owners for one low price.
They currently have bundles in the following niches:
- Healthy Living
- Meal Planning
- DIY and Creativity
- Herbs & Essential Oils
- Master Your Money
Each bundle contains thousands of dollars worth of digital products, but they are sold for a fraction of their retail cost. Ultimate Bundles does an outstanding job of providing extensive tools, videos, webinars, banners, training, and email copy for each bundle's launch. Affiliates earn a generous 40% on sales, and payments are made via PayPal.
You must have a blog, but there are no traffic or location requirements to join Ultimate Bundles.
More Affiliate Networks
- Aragon Premium
- BC Stack (Blogging Concentrated)
- Impact Radius
- Podcaster's Kit
- Rakuten Marketing
- ShopHer Media
- Shopstyle Collective
Ready to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is an excellent way to make money, diversify your income, and to earn money passively. Just remember to choose programs and products that you yourself would use and buy. Promoting a lousy product or service could damage your reputation, so be sure to always place people over profits.
If you'd like to learn more about affiliate marketing, check out my friend Michelle's course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing — yup, my affiliate link! It's an excellent course for beginners, and Michelle has the proof to back up her methods — she earns $50,000 a month from affiliate marketing!
What other questions do you have about affiliate marketing? Drop us a note; we'd love to hear from you!
Originally published March 20, 2009. Content updated August 21, 2020.