By now, you’ve likely heard at least something about affiliate marketing. It is nearly impossible to scroll through social media without seeing an influencer promoting a product, and every business-focused blog loves to talk about the risks and benefits of this type of marketing tactic.
But the real question is: Can your blog actually make money with it?
According to a case study by Fat Stacks, it can take several months before an affiliate marketing program breaks even, let alone make any sort of profit. And an ROI of 10% is considered “amazing.”
This, of course, should not deter you from pursuing affiliate marketing through your blog. It is a highly effective way to reach wide audiences and create brand recognition. But remember, as a blog-turned-affiliate marketing site, you are (at least at first) giving away free marketing in hopes of making a slight return if your customers buy directly from your site. There are several steps that you should take in order to ensure that your affiliate marketing blog is profitable sooner rather than later.
Know Which Products Your Audience Wants
Often times, it is so easy to be swayed by potential high returns that affiliate hosts forget the most important part of the marketing process: the customer. The chances of making money through affiliate marketing will be slim to none if your site is not hitting the mark on audience interest.
First of all, you need to define what your blogging brand is before they pursue any sort of affiliate marketing. Do your articles revolve around B2B content, B2C, or a combination of the two? Does your blog provide in-depth reporting with case studies and statistics to back up claims, or is it more focused on general information?
What is the ultimate goal of your blog?
- Provide information?
- Establish thought leadership?
- Generate leads?
- All of the above?
The answers to these questions will help you understand the type of audience your blog attracts and how to turn it into a sustainable business. From there, it is important to dive even deeper into customer analytics for an accurate picture of your audience demographics.
Of course, Google Analytics and social media audience insights are the first places that marketing teams tend to go when looking for customer data, and they are a great place to start. But make sure that you are also taking a look at the kinds of products your audience is interested in.
As your site begins to pick up steam, it’s wise to ask the merchants you deal with for more point-of-sale (POS) data, which you can then use to gather consumer data and give you an idea of what products sell more as affiliates (with the right content), and which ones should be scrapped.
The important thing with affiliate marketing is that your offerings fit into your niche. Just mentioning any brand or service that promises a paycheck could end up creating a confusing message that applies to none of the readers that your blog appeals to. Figure out your brand voice first and then pick and choose the products that fit into that segment.
Give SEO a Big Role in Your Content Creation
Skilled content marketers are obsessed with SEO and keyword research to fuel their messaging. Companies that use SEO in their content strategies have an 85% better chance of higher rankings and traffic rates than businesses that use PPC campaigns. Obviously, result ranking is important in an affiliate marketing program, as you (and your merchants) want your posts to be in the top results of organic searches.
The key here, then, is to pinpoint the queries people are searching for in regards to the products or services you offer. In SEO parlance, this is termed keyword research. You identify these terms and classify them into primary and secondary keywords, and then strategically place them on your blog posts and connected landing pages.
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer is a tool that will get you an in-depth analysis of the search terms in your industry, their search volume, click volume, and web traffic, which will assist you in writing the right copy and content. In addition, it also returns a long list of phrases relevant to your niche.
Making SEO a top priority in your affiliate marketing content will make an impact in the success and reach of your campaigns. Be sure that you are doing your due diligence by researching trending keywords, analyzing CTR’s, and gauging competition for improved SEO results.
Test Blog Page Elements Frequently
Just like it is with any advertising strategy, in order for a campaign to be truly effective, it may have to be changed and altered as time goes by. Different audiences prefer different things and the only way to find the best design strategy is to experiment and track the results.
As your blog begins to post more affiliate-fueled content, it is important that you are actively testing out different designs to see which tactics work best.
Wishpond did a great study on the effect of CTA button placement and its effect on click rates. They found that CTA location largely depended on the intent of the button. If you are trying to grab your reader’s attention to a special offer or promotion, placing the CTA “above the fold” (the upper half of the webpage) will draw in the best results.
On the other hand, inline CTA’s that are embedded into the body of the content are best for prompting action, such as sharing a post on social media or following a link to an additional site. The best rule of thumb here is to experiment with the placement and switch it up depending on the reason a CTA is being used.
On a blog, the best kind of advertising is the kind that doesn’t look like an ad at all. This is often called native advertising, and it makes product promotion natural and more authentic than blatant in-your-face marketing does, which is why many affiliate marketers use this tactic. The best part is that when it is well done, readers will spend just as much time consuming the marketing content as they would regular content.
The key to native advertising is effective product placement that captures the reader’s interest. Again, experimentation is necessary here, and the results need to be relentlessly tracked. Try out some A/B tests and then move on to advanced multivariate testing with product positioning within the content.
In order to attract more merchants to your affiliate blog and boost commissions, you need to ensure your site’s browsing patterns are designed to get conversions. By changing things up and constantly testing for better strategies, sooner or later, you will strike gold.
Over to You
Turning your blog into an affiliate marketing site is a great idea. Not only does it provide your current audience with insightful information on products and services that are catered to them, but it can give you an extra stream of income.
The secret to making affiliate marketing work for your blog is to be strategic and overly critical every step of the way. Make sure that any product you promote is aligned with your audience’s needs and interests. Keep SEO and keyword ranking a top priority in your content strategy and design your webpages in such a way that it encourages sales and engagement. And finally, experiment with your tactics and placements, record the results, and innovate constantly.
Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder of E2M, a full service digital marketing agency and Preceptist, an executive branding agency. Pratik has spoken at NextBigWhat’s UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, and other major events across Asia. As a passionate marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge on publications like Search Engine Land, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web and the Huffington Post.