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How Affiliate Marketing is REALLY Done on Popular Blogs

There’s a lot of affiliate marketing advice for bloggers circulating around. And I’m sure you’re familiar with the basics on how to promote this and that. But is the “common knowledge” the same as what some of the popular blogs actually do.

To be honest, I’m writing this post just as much for myself as I do for you. You see, I’m preparing a re-launch of my blog and I want to get every “money making” insight I can, so I’ve decided to spent the afternoon browsing around the internet and searching for some interesting tricks.

Making Money with a BlogThe standard path of internet income for bloggers hasn’t changed a lot over the years:

    1. create a blog
    2. provide value
    3. build an email list
    4. promote products

And even though it surely seems like a sensible approach, I’m more interested in some side-techniques and alternative paths you can take. Like, for instance, making money off your first-time visitors, even if they don’t want to subscribe to anything.

By doing my short research I found that this is more or less what Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income does. Even though his blog gets visited by a stream of loyal, regular visitors, his monetization methods are very immediate in nature, so to speak.

Multiple programs

Being a blogger-affiliate RARELY means finding just one product and promoting the hell out of it. Looking into a bigger number of products and promoting each one discretely looks like a potentially more effective method.

If you take another glance at Pat and his site (in one of his income reports, for example), you’ll notice that he’s promoting something like 30 different products.

Such an approach allows him to capitalize on all current bonuses and make sure that he can provide something interesting to every member of his audience.

Therefore, the thing worth noticing here is that you – the site owner – never know what’s going to make you the most money. Since you’re not paying for traffic to your individual posts, trying out multiple affiliate products is a good idea because some of those products will to stick.

For Pat, the top performer is a hosting company affiliate program. What it’s going to be in your case … you’ll have to find out on your own, but this can’t be done without trying out a lot of stuff.

Monetize your top content

A situation common on most blogs is that some content can get extremely popular over the long haul.

Normally, there are two periods of a certain blog post’s popularity (where the second one doesn’t always happens):

  1. The initial popularity – due to your subscribers, social media, and the ranking of your homepage.
  2. The long-term popularity – due to the content quality, SEO, and the fact how well the content speaks to the audience’s needs.

Corbett Barr from ThinkTraffic publishes (at least he used to) monthly traffic reports. The latest report (Oct 2012 at the time of writing) showcases the list of the most popular content (image below). Some of that content has been online for a long time, and has become the pillar of Corbett’s site.

Think Traffic

The conclusion here is that popular content is exactly where you should place your main monetization elements.

I know that this might not sound like anything groundbreaking, but it really is easy to get mixed up in all the work and simply not monitor what your top content is at the moment. Therefore, every month, check your traffic, and identify what your top posts are, include affiliate links or other forms of affiliate promotions.

Also, this popular content is a great place to include your newest promotions. For example, even if a given post has been online for two years, editing it and adding a link to some product launch that’s currently being rolled out can be a great idea if the post receives healthy traffic.

Being real sells

If you take a look at every major blog, you’ll quickly notice that the common characteristic of successful bloggers is transparency. After you read a couple of their articles you can almost feel like you know them.

Creating such a level of connection with your audience is way more difficult than it sounds, but one of the main steps is to promote only the products you actually believe in and use yourself.

If you do this, including some simple one-sentence promotions into any given blog post is not difficult at all. You already have experience with the products and know when they can be of some specific help to your audience.

On top of that, you don’t even have to hard sell anything. Mentioning a given product just “by the way” can work well in the long run, especially when your posts are constantly building up their search engine rankings.

Doing reviews

Reviews are probably one of the most popular ways of promoting a product. However, you really have to be careful here. The blogosphere is full of both good and bad examples.

Most authority sites with strong brands would never review anything they don’t have any first-hand experience with. The main goal is to provide some real world info about the product.

On the other side of the fence there are people who review products without ever laying their hands on them. The reviews are written purely from the promotional material, which is a really bad practice.

Of course, you can make a quick buck that way, but your reputation will get hurt during the process.

In a nutshell, do what successful bloggers do, review only the products that you have some genuine experience with.

Becoming the merchant

These days, more and more bloggers take the steps to launch their own in-house affiliate programs. While this approach is only reserved to those of us who have some actual products to sell, it is undoubtedly an opportunity worth looking into.

For example, some niche blogs that have successful affiliate programs are: Lifehack.org (via e-junkie), Firepole Marketing, Nerd Fitness.

Firepole Marketing

Nero Fitness

What’s interesting about them is that, apart from Lifehack, these are not huge sites, yet they can still attract affiliates and provide them with a worthwhile experience.

In short, if you have some products (preferably digital ones), launching your own affiliate program can be worth the effort.

Now, there are some additional issues you have to take care of in order to even pull it off. For instance, payment processing.

Payment processing itself is pretty straightforward when you’re dealing with standard B2C sales (like when you’re selling a product directly). You just set up a PayPal button to handle the thing. However, it can get a bit more complicated when dealing with affiliates.

If you have a good development and marketing machine behind you, you can launch a custom in-house platform, which will handle your affiliate payments on its own. However, in this case you also have to do 100% of the job when it comes to getting affiliates, managing them, processing their data, tracking, and so on.

You can also join a platform like e-junkie, ShareASale or ClickBank, but this means additional money deducted from your earnings (fees).

Doing online payment processing yourself is surprisingly not that difficult. There’s a number of services that can help you do it without having a big part of your money consumed by fees.

Anyway, as it turns out, different bloggers choose different solutions, so it’s hard to point out THE solution. This is mainly up to you.

Comment section promoting

The last trend I want to mention here is using the comment section as a place for promoting affiliate offers. This is done by many bloggers. Let’s take a look at an example found at Entrepreneur’s Journey by Yaro Starak.

Entreprenuers Journey

Just above the comment section there’s a block with an affiliate offer (currently for BlueHost).

This idea may seem simple, but it’s actually a very clever thing to do. The readers who have managed to read your whole post and then decided to take a look at the comments are probably very interested in what you have to say, which can make convincing them to click on your promotions a bit easier.

Even though I have no data regarding the exact results bloggers are getting from this, there has to be some value there due to the apparent popularity of this approach.

I guess that’s it for my observations. To be honest, most of that stuff isn’t even that groundbreaking, but it’s often the simplest things that bring the best results. My conclusion is that we should always pay attention to not only what people are trying to teach us, but also to what they’re doing themselves.

How about you, did you notice anything interesting going on with the top blogs in your niche?

This post is written by Joseph. When he isn’t reading research papers and articles on the psychology of getting people to pay, is working on marketing for ACH-Payments.com

About the Author Zac Johnson

My name is Zac Johnson and I have been an online entrepreneur for the past 18 years and blogger since 2007. This is my personal blog and I welcome you to the site. In full disclosure, it is safe to assume that I am benefiting financially or otherwise from everything you click on, read, or look at while on my website.

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