In January I wrote about how to make money from blog advertising.
I promised I’d be back with more information on how exactly it is that bloggers make money, and today, here I am as promised. I’m going to talk about the exciting world of affiliate links, how to use them, and how to make money off them.
I’ll make this as exhaustive as I can. but I can only write it from a perspective of the sites I use, and how they’ve worked for me, so I hope this can help you out if you’re just getting started making money from your blog.
What Are Affiliate Links?
Lets start with the basics, what even IS an affiliate scheme?
An affiliate scheme is a basically a commission based system. Much like in the old days when I use to sell Car Insurance over the phone, every time someone bought something from me I would get a small commission on that sale, every time someone clicks a link on your blog that is an affiliate link and buys a product you earn a small percentage (normally 2-10%) of that sale.
Those are what they used to call “Straight Through Sales” when I was on the phones.
How Do I Find an Affiliate Program to Join?
There are several different ways to join, and earn money from affiliate schemes, so here is a break down of the 3 main ones I know of!
Individual Retailer Schemes
Most major retailers have affiliate schemes, as do many smaller ones. If you are a blogger and there is a retailer you link to a lot, check to see if they have an affiliate program. Amazon and eBay both have affiliate schemes, which were the ones I started with. If you’re a vintage style blogger then Lindy Bop, Voodoo Vixen, Heyday! and What Katie Did all have affiliate programs that I use.
As well as joining lots of individual affiliate schemes, you can join a site like Affiliate Window (where you can find the Etsy affiliate scheme) or Rakuten. These sites manage the affiliate schemes for multiple retailers so you can search for the most appropriate ones for you. You still have to join each one individually, and create links individually, but you have one central dashboard to manage them from rather than visiting several different sites. I am members of these sites, but I rarely use them and find them a bit of a faff if I’m honest!
For Fashion Bloggers a great site to join is ShopStyle Collective. This is a little like a search engine for Fashion Bloggers. You don’t need to join individual affiliate schemes, just search for the products you want to feature and create widgets, or copy the links to use in your blog. Any earnings will then be aggregated and paid to you when you reach a balance of £100, this is high, but ShopStyle also pays out for clicks as well as sales.
Without a shadow of a doubt Skimlinks is my favourite way to use affiliate networks. You simply install a piece of code on your site (which can be done with a WordPress Plugin) and Skimlinks does all the work for you, transforming any links you place that have affiliate programs into affiliate links and earning you money, which it then pays to you monthly by Paypal.
The huge advantage of this is that you can just link to anything you want, and you don’t have to create special affiliate links. It not only makes things quicker, but means you’re not constantly thinking about earning money from your content and your content is more authentic. You might find you’ll make affiliate income using Skimlinks from sites you never even knew had affiliate schemes (this is how I found out Lindy Bop had a scheme!)
If you’re just getting started with affiliate schemes, this is the program I would recommend. I mostly use this, ShopStyle because of it’s advantage as a search facility, and a couple of small individual schemes like Heyday and What Katie Did because they are brands that I link to a lot, but aren’t available through either of the other programs. Most of the large affiliate schemes that are available through sites like Rakuten are covered by Skimlinks.
There are 3 ways I’ve used to make use of affiliate links on blogs and social media.
This is the one people most often think of. Create affiliate links using the dashboard or toolbar app from your chose affiliate scheme and insert them into a blog post. Every time someone clicks and buys, you earn money.
Sidebar Advertising and widgets
Not all blog advertising is based on clicks or monthly fees. Most affiliate schemes offer what they call “Creatives”, which are basically adverts with your affiliate link embedded that you can place on your blog. Places like ShopStyle Collective, Amazon and Ebay also offer the facility to make widgets which will show a particular product or selection of products. When people click and buy, you earn money.
Affiliate links aren’t only for your blog, the links you create can also be used when you share products on your Twitter or Facebook feeds. Skimlinks offers the facility to create a custom shortlink so you’re not posting a huge link full of code. As with all the other options, people click and buy, you make money!
If you use affiliate links you need to disclose that you could earn money from those links. This is not only ethical, but required by the ASA. People do this in different ways. Some bloggers put (affiliate link) after every link they use, others declare at the beginning or end of each post containing them. If you are using Skimlinks then this is nigh on impossible to do, but it is good practice to make sure there is a disclosure on any page that uses them. I had mine in my footer, but have recently moved it to my sidebar as it’s more visible. Skimlinks provides a special button, but as there are other affiliate programs in use mine includes a link to my full policy as well.
As a blogger affiliate links can be a great source of income, but only if they suit your content. If you primarily write about your life and rarely link to products then they probably won’t be a great source of income for you. The great thing about affiliate links is that they don’t rely on high traffic levels to make money, yes, having a lot of traffic will mean that people are more likely to click and buy, but if you have a smaller readership that are really engaged you can still make money. On the downside some people truly hate affiliate links, distrust people that use them, and will try and avoid clicking them. This is one of the reasons I like Skimlinks, it removes the content one step from from the process of creating affiliate links, but some people will still hate them!