Making Money with Affiliate Marketing

As far as creating a business based on your writing, one of the easiest is to simply add affiliate links to an existing website or blog. Effectively, you can use the content you normally write about to market products — and get a cut of any sales made through your site.

I had the opportunity to hear Donna McCarthy speak about affiliate marketing at PodCampPhilly earlier this year. She agreed to answer a few questions about how a writer can make money through affiliate marketing.

If a writer already had a blog or a website, what should be her first step if she wants to try affiliate marketing?

The first step is to decide how you want to use merchant affiliate links on your site. Do you want to include specific banners along the top/bottom or right/left navigation bars? Or do you want to include product links within your blog posts?

The next step is to join the affiliate networks. I would recommend joining Commission Junction, LinkShare and Amazon. You’ll then be able to research and see what merchants currently have affiliate programs. Between these three you will be able to cover most of the larger merchants.

There are plenty of websites that promise that we can make thousands of dollars doing affiliate marketing — can you give us a more realistic idea of what a good affiliate might expect to make in a month?

Wow, this is really a hard question to answer. A lot really depends on your site traffic. A couple of things I can tell you. Affiliate marketing is not a quick get rich, set it and forget it revenue stream. It takes some time and patience. Initially you will need to test various merchants to see which ones perform the best on your site. You will also continually need to review your affiliate performance metrics to see what merchants you should leave up and which ones you should swap out.

Another key factor in determining how large or successful you program can be is how much you’re willing to invest in marketing your merchant offers. If you are willing to invest in a PPC campaign for your merchants, to drive traffic to your site, this would increase your revenue potential.

What kind of content or writing style is best for marketing affiliates?

Honestly, I’ve seen all types of writing styles work for affiliates. The key is making sure what you are writing about matches the affiliate merchants you’re promoting.

On the reverse side, if a writer has an informational product, like an e-book, to sell, would affiliate marketing be a good way to increase sales? Could you describe how a writer might approach such a project?

On the merchant side it gets a little more complicated because there are costs and time involved in setting up and maintaining the merchant affiliate program. I would recommend if they’re just getting started, and want to run the merchant program themselves, they use a smaller network like Share a Sale. At Share a Sale, their fees and start up costs are much less than one of the larger networks. Their network is also very merchant friendly and willing to help new merchants get started.

If their merchant program is larger or they do not have the time to set up the program themselves, they should consult an OPM (Outsourced Program Manager) such as myself to help them learn the ropes to launch and run their program.

Donna provides more information on affiliate marketing at her website, DMC Affiliate Consulting.