What is affiliate marketing and how does it work

by | Feb 12, 2018 | Affiliate marketing | 0 comments

Are you planning on building your blog and dream of making some extra money with it? Or even want to make a full-time income?
Affiliate marketing is THE way to do it. In this article, I will show you exactly what affiliate marketing is and how you can use it to start making your first money and we'll get into some of the technical things to think about.

This post contains Affiliate links, which means if you decide to click on the link and purchases that product or service, I will receive a small commission. But I will never recommend any product or service that I don't know or love myself.

What is affiliate marketing?

I know you probably heard a lot about making passive income with affiliate marketing. And it’s not without reason.

A lot of people are making money blogging by promoting products and services and make a good profit from that.
And that is exactly what affiliate marketing is.

Let’s say that you just went to a great restaurant. You’ve had a great dinner and the ambiance was very romantic. As soon as you meet your best friend, you tell him about it.
The next week he goes to eat there with his girlfriend too.

Now imagine that the restaurant would pay you $10 for each person you sent their way…

If you sent a friend or family member to that restaurant each week, you would make $10 each week and you probably would recommend that restaurant anyway, because you loved it. Right?

As a blogger, you can do this at scale, simply by recommending products you would recommend anyway, but now you can make money for telling everybody about it.

If you’re a beauty blogger and you write an article about how you remove your makeup, using the Maybelline Expert eyes oil-free makeup remover, you could use the Amazon affiliate link for that product. And when your reader clicks on that product link and goes to Amazon to purchase that product, Amazon will pay you a commission.

Or maybe you’re running a blog about online dating advice. You can find a dating course on Clickbank and give an honest review of the product and link to that specific course on Clickbank. Those products will often make you a 50% commission (payout)

In my personal case, I blog about blogging, so whenever someone asks me what hosting company I use, I always recommend to go with Siteground. It is the company I love because they have the best customer service out there. And a big bonus is that they have an affiliate program. So when I recommend them, I always give my affiliate link.

If you think that your blog is not a good fit for affiliate marketing, think again. There are products and services in any niche. And some programs pay big commissions and others smaller ones.

How do you become an affiliate marketer as a blogger?

As a blogger, you’re in the perfect position to become an affiliate marketer.

Here’s why...

You’re writing articles each week, some bloggers even every day. Each article will become part of a bigger library. Overtime every article has the potential to be found in Google search, shared through social media and going viral on Pinterest.

This means you will receive more traffic to your blog and if you’re writing articles that have affiliate links inside them, you can make money for each visitor who clicks through.

If you’re creating a simple website once and not be active with it, it has no point. But if you’re creating content every week or at least on a regular basis, you can imagine that your affiliate income can skyrocket over time.

What products and services are you using right now? Chances are that some or even most of those products can be recommended through affiliate links.

The most important thing about promoting affiliate links is that you’re being honest about it. Let your readers know that you’re making a commission if they click that link and decide to purchase.

And make sure to always be authentic about it. As a blogger, you’re building your reputation. The know, like and trust factor as they call it.

You want your readers to trust you and you will lose all of that when you start promoting products just for the money. If you’re recommending a product and your reader loves it and is happy that you recommended it, they will trust you more and the next time you recommend a product they will buy it again.

So when you want to become an affiliate marketer as a blogger, you can just bring value as you would always do, but now and then put in some links to affiliate products.

Examples of bloggers who make quite an income with affiliate marketing

If you still think you can’t make affiliate income as a blogger, here are a few blogs that are very successful with it.

Just be aware that nobody makes a lot of affiliate income overnight. It takes time and effort, but think about why you’re building your blog in the first place. If you expect to become successful overnight, you’re not going to make it anyway.

Making sense of cents:

making sense of cents

Making sense of cents is a personal finance blog, owned by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, which is a big success story when you think about running an online blog business.

Michelle started her blog to track her own personal finances and when she noticed her blog got more visitors and gained a lot in popularity, she started to monetize her blog.

She made her first $100 with placing an ad on her site and moved from there.

Michelle never considered that this tiny blog had to potential to become her main source of income and now she is even traveling in an RV with her husband and paid off her student loan and now they are living the good life and are location independent.

Her main source of income is affiliate marketing, as you can read in the income reports, she shares every month.

So if you want to be inspired, and don’t know this blog yet, make sure to head over to Making sense of Cents and let that inspire you to take action today.

Smart Passive Income

If you’re into building an online business or start blogging, you probably already know Pat Flynn.

Smart passive income

Pat Flynn is a normal guy, just like me and you, who started a blog for his personal use, called Green exam academy. It would hold all of its notes for his study. He grew it to a larger audience and when the crisis hit, he got laid off from his job.

That blog saved his life because he sold an online course on it.

Later on, he started his blog Smart Passive Income, where he would test out all sorts of ways to make money with a blog. He tested everything himself and then shared his results on his blog.

Over time he grew his fanbase and made lots of money with affiliate marketing, by talking about the products and services he used to pull it all off.

These are just 2 examples, but don’t think they just got lucky. Read between the lines here. They started their blog out of a passion, something that interests them and so can you.

How fast can you make money with affiliate marketing?

Often times bloggers ask how much traffic you need to start with affiliate marketing.

Well, I have some good news for you.

Whether you’re just starting out, or you’re blogging for a few years by now, you can start implementing affiliate marketing right here, right now.

If you’re starting a brand new blog, you can create content around affiliate products today. Will you make a full-time income from it? No, you won’t, because you will need people to come over to your blog to begin with.

But I would recommend starting creating some articles around affiliate products and those will be added to your library of content. You can write it once and over time they will attract more readers. And once you do get traffic to them, you can make quite some money from them.

That’s why I would always recommend thinking about this as a long-term strategy. But you should start with it as soon as you can.

What if you would only get 10 visitors a month to your blog? If 1 of those 10 visitors clicks on your link and purchase, you will receive a commission from it. So you don’t need a ton of traffic to begin with.

Can you imagine why this is a way better way to monetize your blog than placing ads?

I don’t understand why so many people want to get started with ads these days. First of all, more and more people are using ad blockers, you DO need lots of traffic to make some money with them.

Where with affiliate marketing you can make money in somewhat a passive way. You can’t expect to get rich while you’re sleeping. You do need to put some effort into it to begin with, but eventually it can pay off big time.

What are the best affiliate programs for bloggers in 2018?

As you know by now, there are affiliate programs in every niche and to help you get started with this, I compiled a short list below to get started with.

Using affiliate marketing usually comes in 3 ways:

Affiliate networks:

Some companies want to outsource their affiliate marketing to affiliate networks.

Those are the middleman between them as the affiliate product and you, the affiliate marketer.

You can sign up for those affiliate networks and you can choose which companies and products you want to promote.

Some of these networks are:

These are just a few and to be honest, Amazon Associates is one of the most popular ones. Mainly because you can promote basically any product that is sold on Amazon.

And the best part of Amazon Associates is that you will make a commission for every product someone buys within 24 hours after clicking on your affiliate link.

Direct Affiliate programs:

A lot of companies offer an affiliate program through their own website.

Especially in the online marketing world, this happens a lot.

For me personally, I’m an affiliate for companies like Siteground, where I host this blog. I use the Divi theme from Elegant Themes, which also offers an affiliate program.

The best part about digital products and services is that it won’t cost a company that much extra to sell more products and that’s why the affiliate commissions tend to be a lot higher.

As you may notice, you will not see me promote companies like Bluehost. Although they pay a higher commission than Siteground, I’m not a big fan of Bluehost. Lousy customer service and that’s why I mentioned earlier to only promote products and services that you actually love and would use yourself.

If you’re being transparent about it, more people will trust you and that way you can make more money.

If you want to search for affiliate programs in your niche, I would recommend you to go to Google and type in:  your niche + affiliate.

Here Google will show you search results that usually also offer an affiliate program. Look for the terms and conditions and sign up for their program and off you go.

In some cases, companies only allow you to become an affiliate if you actually use their product. Obviously, this is a smart move, because how can recommend a product if you’re not familiar with it yourself.

7 types of content to maximize your affiliate commission:

When coming up with a blog post topic, there are different kinds of posts that allow you to promote a product just to help your reader. And the emphasis here to educate them.

The Review post:

You can create a review post on an affiliate product. If you’re completely in love with a specific lipstick or maybe just read an incredibly good book, you can tell your readers about it.

But go deep with it. Don’t just say that you think that book is good, but tell them exactly why you loved it and why you think it will help them as well.

The tutorial post:

As a blogger, you want to help your readers moving forward and help fix their problems, right?

What if some of your readers are having problems with building their email list, style their hair a certain way or even cook a healthy minute within 10 minutes.

You can help them fix this problem by creating a tutorial post.

In this post, you will show them exactly how to get from point A to point B. You can use these tutorial posts to show how to go there by using a specific affiliate product.

A great example of this is where Melyssa Griffin created a complete tutorial on how to create a resource library on your blog. She wanted her visitors to sign up for her email list and in exchange give them access to a complete library of resources.

She used a paid Wordpress plugin to do this and she showed exactly step by step how to set it all up.

She got more than 200 comments on that post and my guess is that she’s made quite some affiliate commission from that post alone.

[link]Click here to check Melyssa’s post to see how she did it.[link]

Resource page:

You can also create an extra on your website, called Resource page.

On this page you can show exactly which products and services you use yourself, to run your blog or what you always wear inside your handbag. Things like that.

Resource pages are highly visited pages because as soon as your reader gets to know you better, they want your recommendations.

That page is coming soon on this blog and I will share with you what products and services I use myself. So stay tuned.

The Sidebar:

A sidebar is often an undervalued place on a blog, where people share only their latest comments, most popular posts, etc.

But you can use this space also for promoting affiliate products. Lots of affiliate products come with images, called Banners. You can place those banners on your sidebar and make them link to the affiliate product.

Don’t get too excited about this, because I believe it’s not the most valuable way of converting your visitors into buyers. Often times placing banners can scream spamming and it can look kind of obvious. So make sure to not overdo it.

The Footer:

The bottom of the website is usually a place to keep your copyright text and things like that, but you can also use it to place some affiliate links.

But make it strategical. In my own footer, it says that this website is hosted on Siteground and built with the Divi theme. Those 2 links are affiliate links.

I don’t expect lots of people to check my footer out, but I see it as an extra opportunity to utilize affiliate links.

Your email list:

Once you start building your email list, it can be a perfect way of reaching out to your subscribers whenever a sale is going down.

Better yet, it’s your obligation to tell them about it. As long as you’re not being spammy about it. If you are on my email list and you’re looking for a beautiful Wordpress theme. It’s my job to tell you about the Black Friday deal for Divi.

If I don’t do that, chances are you will have to pay more for it if you decide to purchase it later and that will be on me, right?

If I read an awesome book that will help you become successful with your blog’s finances, it’s my job to tell you about it. It will help you move forward faster and you can skip the mistakes I’ve made.

But don’t overdo it. If you’re doing it just for the money and not to help your readers, they will know soon enough.

Social Media:

Another great place to use affiliate links is your social media channels.

As a matter of fact, my very first affiliate sale came in from helping someone out inside a Facebook group.

She was asking questions about Wordpress hosting and I was one of the people who responded.

But instead of just posting my affiliate link in the comments like most people did, I took the time to give her an in-depth answer to her question. I told her if she needed to know more about it, she was free to send me a private message and so she did.

After helping her out with her questions she asked for my affiliate link herself and bought a hosting package at Siteground.

That’s how things can go if you focus on helping someone first and the money second.

That’s why I would always recommend creating an article that will mainly be around helping your reader and if you can use affiliate marketing in there, it will benefit your readers and you.

What do you need to know when you get started with affiliate marketing?

Now that you’re all excited to get started with affiliate marketing, there are a few specific things you need to know. Please, don’t skip this information, because it can make or break your blog in the long term.

There are some things you will need to address when it comes to the legal side and also something you will need to do, to prevent Google from penalizing you when you place your links.

Affiliate disclosure:

When you’re using affiliate links or receive something, whether that is in terms of money or products, you will need to let your reader know this.

You can set up a page with a disclosure about this.

I know that in different countries, different rules will apply. Even in the Netherlands, where I live, the rules are different from the United States.

But just to be sure, I will put those pages up anyway. I want to be transparent with you about this and so should you.

In case you neglect this, you can get in trouble with the FTC.

The FTC has an entire document about this, so I won’t bother you with all that info in this article.

You can download the document here

Besides the fact that you have to do this by law, it’s also the right thing to do for your readers.

They should be buying the products and services through your link by choice.

Adding no-follow tags:

Whenever you’re placing an affiliate link, or a promoted link by any means, it should be a nofollow link.

What are nofollow links? Well, when you create a link, Google will see that link on your blog and think it’s relevant to your post and therefore index it as relevant.

That’s why a lot of companies are trying to get links from other sites to their sites, so it will boost their reputation in the eyes of Google.

But when you get paid in any way to place that link, Google wants to know about this. And you can let Google know this by adding a no-follow tag to the link.

This isn’t just when you get paid in money for that post. Also if it’s a sponsored post and you get sent the product, which is paid in product, you have to use this no-follow tag.

I know that a lot of companies refuse to work with you unless you’re giving the link to their product a follow tag. And there are a lot of bloggers out there who go with it and still make it a follow link. But that’s on them because eventually Google will find out and they will lose their presence in the Google search results.

How to make a no-follow link?

Basically what you will do is add a short piece of HTML code to your link.

Normally your link in HTML code will look like this: "<a href="thebedroomstartup.com" > here is your text  </a>"

When you want this link to be no-follow, you can simply add a short piece of code to it, rel=”nofollow”.

So if you want the first link to become a no-follow link, it will look like this:

"<a href="thebedroomstartup.com" rel="nofollow" > here is your text </a>"

As you see, within the first a-tag, you can add the nofollow tag and you're done.

Now Google won’t rank this link and you’re good to go.

If you’re using a self-hosted Wordpress blog, you can do this easily in 2 different ways.

When you’re writing your post, you can switch from the text editor to the HTML editor and there you will find the HTML code for your article. Now you can place the rel=”nofollow” code to your link.

The 2nd way to do this is by installing a plugin called Ultimate nofollow.

You can find and download it here

This plugin will add a checkbox whenever you’re creating a link, which you can check and it will add the nofollow tag for you.

How to get started with affiliate marketing today:

I know this was quite a long blog post, but I hope it inspired you to go take action today.

Are you creating a brand new blog? Great, I want you to take a pen and a piece of paper and write down 5 different blog posts that will help your ideal reader on their way. And you can use these to get started with making your very first affiliate sale.

As you know by now, you don’t need a lot of traffic to get the ball rolling, but I do want you to take action on this as soon as possible.


Well, believe me, when you’ve made your very first sale, you will create momentum and it will open your mind to all of the big possibilities.

Before I started blogging, I always thought this was something only other people could do. But when I made my very first sale, and it wasn’t even on my blog, it built my self-esteem.

If you still think that you’re in the wrong niche to make affiliate sales or you think you can’t find any products or services to promote, leave a comment below or sent me an email to [email protected] and I will help you on your way.

I hope this article helped you make your first sale or at least opened up your mind to the possibilities and if it did, I would appreciate it, if you could pin this to one of your Pinterest boards or share within a Facebook group so that this can help your friends as well.

Talk to you soon.

Your blogging friend,



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About picture from the bedroom startup

Hi, I'm Chris and through this blog, I'm going to show you exactly what I'm doing to become a professional blogger.

My goal is basically to start a blog from scratch, monetize it and move from the Netherlands to Thailand.

And making lots of blogger friends along the way.

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