I recently received an email from the lovely Amanda of Sears Co. who asked this great question: “how do I get started with affiliate marketing”.
She’s a wonderful member of the sarahjensen.com.au community and in the last few community emails I’ve sent I’ve mentioned affiliate marketing or included some affiliate links.
Amanda is keen to explore affiliate marketing in her business and asked if I had some tips or suggestions to help her get started. And since it’s a topic you might be interested in too, I whipped up an audio (listen via the audio player below) and this blog post to share my guide to getting started with affiliate marketing in your business.
Listen to the Audio
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is essentially a way to get paid for recommending products and services you love.
Think about it, if you leave an appointment with your hairdresser looking and feeling amazing, you’re going to rave about their service.
If you know where to find the best coffee, smoothie or chocolate brownie in town, you’re going to tell all of your foodie friends that they just HAVE to try it too.
Using affiliate marketing in your business is just like that – except with affiliate marketing, you get paid for your recommendations.
Choose Your Affiliate Adventure
Before you start exploring the world of affiliate marketing, I want to offer up this piece of advice:
Only sign up to be an affiliate for products or services that you know, love and trust, and would wholeheartedly recommend to others whether you’re getting paid or not.
I believe it’s important to be really intentional about affiliate marketing and only choose brands or people you stand behind because, if you think about it, it’s not just their reputation on the line it’s yours too.
Your community or clients know and trust you and they take your recommendation seriously. You’re their social proof for that product or service and they place value on your endorsement, so stick with sharing stuff you absolutely love or that makes a real difference in your life or business and you can’t go wrong.
How To Get Started With Affiliate Marketing
Ok so you’re ready to sign up and start sharing affiliate links with your community, but you’re not sure where to start?
I’ve got you covered.
Step one is to brainstorm what I like to call a ‘love list’ of 3 – 5 businesses, brands, products, services, courses or software solutions that you use and love; that make your life or business easier; or bring joy or value to you in some way.
Once you’ve got your list, go through each product or service you’ve written down and ask yourself:
“Will this help my community or clients?”
Because it’s one thing to wholeheartedly love a business but it HAS to be relevant to the people you serve.
So, if you’re a food blogger specialising in delicious, chocolate desserts and you use sugar, flour and dairy in your recipes, you’re not going to serve your community by sharing an affiliate link for a green smoothie powder or vegan bliss ball mix.
And vice versa, if you’re a vegan sharing tips for living a vegan lifestyle, you’re not going to become an affiliate for a fashion brand selling shoes made from animal products.
So the key with affiliate marketing is to know yourself, and to know and respect your audience.
How To Find Affiliate Information
Now you’ve got your ‘love list’ and you’ve crossed off any products or services that won’t bring joy or add value to your community, it’s time to become an affiliate.
For each company on the list, head to their website and look for information about their affiliate program.
You can do this by:
- Searching the word “affiliate” in their search bar.
- Searching the business or product name and the word ‘affiliate’ in a search engine (for example when I wanted to find out if Mailchimp had an affiliate program I searched “Mailchimp affiliate” in Google).
- Review the links in their main website menu (usually at the top of the site).
- If there’s nothing there, scroll to the bottom of their site and see if they link to affiliate information in their footer or bottom menu.
- And if you still can’t find anything, email them or connect via their contact page and ask if they have an affiliate program you can join.
Here’s a quick email template you can use (personalise to suit):
Hi Team [brand/business]
I absolutely love and adore your [insert product or service] and I use it all the time. I’d love to share it with my [clients/community] because I think it would really benefit them and bring them as much [joy/value] as it brings me. Do you have an affiliate program in place and if so, can you please send me some information or direct me to the page on your website where I can learn more?
Thanks and have a great day.
How To Become An Affiliate
Your searching will often lead you to a dedicated webpage where you can apply to be an affiliate for your chosen company, product or service.
The webpage will usually set out some information about their affiliate program and how it works; for example, what’s in it for you, how they run things, how much you can expect to earn from each sale and when you can expect to be paid.
Often you’ll need to click a button to “join now” or “become an affiliate” and you’ll be asked to provide some personal details to set up your affiliate account.
Most businesses will ask for basic information such as your:
- Full name
- Email address
- PayPal address (so they can pay you)
Others might also ask for information like your:
- Address (residential or postal)
- Website URL
- Phone number
Make sure you fill in any mandatory fields (usually marked with a star or highlighted).
And you’ll likely be asked to create a:
- User name (in some cases this might just be your email address); and
Tips For Storing User IDs & Passwords
Helpful tip – make a note of your user name and/or the email address you signed up with, plus your password at the time of joining.
I run a password protected Excel spreadsheet where I store all of my User IDs, passwords and affiliate links so they’re all in one place, but I also have friends who use tools like LastPass to store passwords.
Note: I haven’t used LastPass myself as I prefer to have all of my private details stored in my own network rather than out in the cloud (I’m just old school like that). However you choose to store your User ID, password and affiliate link, be sure to choose the solution that works best for you and that feels most comfortable for you.
Final Steps For Sign Up
The final step in joining an affiliate program is usually to check a box to say you’ve read, and agree to, the terms and conditions of the program. I highly recommend taking the time to read these carefully so you know and understand exactly what you’re agreeing to, and if you have any questions definitely don’t hesitate to reach out to the person or business and ask for clarification before you sign up.
I’m An Affiliate, What Now?
Once you’ve completed the online form or submitted your details you’ll likely:
- Receive a welcome email from the affiliate program confirming things like your user name or password and providing a link to access the ‘affiliate centre’.
- Or you might be redirected from the application page straight to the affiliate centre.
The affiliate centre is an area of the company’s website set up to help affiliates and it usually has things like:
- A settings or ‘my account’ section where you can check or change your personal details and make sure your payment settings are correct.
- An area where you can access and save your affiliate link.
- Information about your earnings and payments to date.
And some affiliate programs offer things like:
- Tips and ideas to help you promote their product or service and earn income.
- Graphics you can use on your website or in email or other marketing.
- Statistics so you can see where your affiliate traffic or sales are coming from (for example, which blog post is converting best).
Once you’re logged into the affiliate centre, it’s worth taking a little time to familiarise yourself with the information and make a note of your unique affiliate ID. I like to save mine in my Excel password spreadsheet along with my username and password so it’s all kept together.
Last but not least on the admin side of things, I’m a huge advocate for transparency in every area of business and it’s no different with affiliate marketing so I suggest making it clear on your website that you’re using affiliate links.
You might like to do that:
- In the footer of your website (Hannah Murphy does this really well).
- In a blog post (see how I do it in this post about reducing your expenses).
- In your terms, conditions or website legal (don’t have legal on your site yet? I use Legal123 and they’re awesome and super affordable).
- On your resources page if you have one (check out mine here).
How To Use Your Affiliate Link & Start Earning Money
Now that you’re signed up as an affiliate and have your affiliate link (also known as a URL) you can start sharing it.
It’s really easy to do, just copy your affiliate URL and link to it in a blog post or on your website, either as a text or an image link.
Not sure how? Simply highlight the text you want to be the ‘link display text’ (or words people see and read), then click on your link button (this will be different depending on what platform you’re using for your website or email newsletter), insert your unique affiliate link, save your work and you’re good to go.
Affiliate Link Example
Here’s an example (with an active affiliate link so you can see it in action):
Let’s say I’ve written a blog post called “5 great courses & communities that helped me grow my business this year” and within that blog post I name Tyler McCall’s Follower to Fan Society as one of my five favourite courses. I might have a paragraph that reads like this:
Tyler McCall’s Follower to Fan Society isn’t just a course, it’s a community of people all helping each other to get great results and grow an engaged following on Instagram. He guides you through so much great content and breaks it down into easy to action, bite sized pieces. His course has helped me consistently share great content that helps my community, and my engagement levels have skyrocketed since taking his course. If you’re ready to up-level your Instagram and turn followers into fans and friends, who want to buy what you sell, this course is for you.
As you can see the words “Tyler McCall’s Follower to Fan Society” is a link and I’ve used my unique affiliate ID to link to his program. That means if someone is interested in the course, and signs up via my link, I’ll be credited with an affiliate sale and receive a payment from Tyler.
It’s just one example of how you can use affiliate links on your website or in email marketing campaigns to create an income stream for your business.
Set And Forget?
But is affiliate marketing ‘set and forget’?
To some extent, yes.
Affiliate marketing can be a great source of passive income but you do need to put in the groundwork to set up the blog posts or other content and make sure you’re sharing it before you’re likely to see your affiliate income flow or grow.
Review Your Links & Results
I also like to do a review of my affiliate marketing plan every 3 – 6 months to make sure it’s still working for me and for my community.
When I do a review I look at the courses, companies, products and services I’m an affiliate for, make sure they’re still awesome and relevant to my community, and I’ll look at how I’m sharing those affiliate links to see what’s working and what could be tweaked, changed or improved.
I also try to include an affiliate link in the top performing posts on my website (but only where it’s genuinely linked to the content and relevant for my audience). I also make sure that my most popular posts have pinnable images so people can save and share the information via Pinterest which both grows my reach with the content and increases my chances of receiving an affiliate sale.
The Wrap Up
The wrap up is that affiliate marketing is a really quick and easy way to start receiving money in your business or add an additional income stream in your business.
Choose businesses, people, products, services and software companies that you absolutely love and would wholeheartedly recommend, whether you receive payment or not, and make sure that any affiliate programs you’re sharing are going to really help your readers or clients.
Once you’ve signed up to a few of your favourites, work out where you’ll share your links and create some super useful content that serves your community. And unless it’s a resource page or list, don’t over-egg the pudding – one or two really relevant, intentionally placed affiliate links are way better than adding a tonne and hoping someone clicks through.
Last but not least, have fun and let your excitement and enthusiasm for the brands you’re recommending shine through. It should be a genuine joy to tell people about the product or service you’re sharing because it’s helped YOU and you just KNOW it can help other people too. Focus on service first and you can’t go wrong!