This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can find my full disclosure page here.
It’s been five years since I first used an affiliate link on any of my websites. Since then, affiliate income has been a fairly consistent income stream, and I’ve learned a ton! And now, I want to share some of my top tips with you. So keep reading to learn all about affiliate marketing for beginners and how to get started!
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
As a beginner, you might not understand how affiliate marketing works, so let’s start with that. In a nutshell, it is a type of online advertising where you gain commissions by promoting other people’s products or services.
So if I promote Gina’s amazing freelance writing course on my website and someone clicks the link and buys it, then I get a small commission for that sale. Or if I link to an awesome product on Amazon (like these cool LCD Writing Tablets I use to keep my kids occupied on road trips) and someone clicks through and buys something, I get a small commission.
You can get affiliate links for all sorts of products and services. Then, once you have a link, you can share it with your audience and get rewarded if anyone purchases through that link.
However, affiliate marketing is also regulated. So you can’t just drop links anywhere you want and watch the money roll in. Instead, you must adhere to the terms and conditions of each affiliate program you join.
You also have to abide by federal disclosure rules, which require you to make it clear that you are getting a commission for any sales made through your affiliate links.
After all, getting money from something can make you biased. So, your audience has a right to know when you’re getting a commission.
How To Get Started With Affiliate Marketing As A Beginner
Now that you understand the basics of affiliate marketing, here are some tips that will help you get started:
Put Your Audience First
You’re here to serve your audience. If you start linking to a bunch of random things that have nothing to do with your niche, or if you start recommending junk, you’ll lose their trust.
Focus on creating excellent content that will add value to your audience’s lives, and then find products or services that help them get even more out of what you offer.
In other words, make sure every single thing you promote through affiliate marketing is something that your audience would actually benefit from.
Do Your Due Diligence
Don’t just join any old affiliate program or promote any random products you find. Do your homework and make sure it’s something you can stand behind with pride. Investigate the company, read reviews, and make sure it fits in with what you’re trying to achieve with your blog or website.
You also want to ensure that you abide by the terms and conditions of each program you join, so read through those before committing to anything. They vary greatly and you don’t want to get into any legal trouble.
Here are a few things to check:
A cookie is delicious! Oh wait – we’re not talking about edible cookies. We’re talking about the kind that affiliate programs use to track whether or not someone has clicked on your link and used it to make a purchase.
The cookie length varies for each program, so pay attention to how long the cookies last! Some might only be active for 24 hours (like Amazon), while others last 90 days (or more!)
Since this will directly affect how much you get paid, make sure you have a good idea of the cookie length for each program before signing up.
Can you share the affiliate links on social media directly, or do you need to link back to your blog first? Are you allowed to include an affiliate link in an email?
Each company has different rules, so read the terms and conditions to avoid any trouble.
Once you know what’s allowed, create a content plan for how you will share your affiliate links. This will help ensure you don’t break any rules or jeopardize your relationship with the company.
How much are you going to get back? Most companies offer anywhere from 5-10%, but some go as high as 25%.
Again, make sure you read through the terms and conditions of each program to know how much money you’ll be making.
Once a purchase has been made, how long will it take to get the commission? Does the program payout directly, or do you need to complete a form requesting payment? Is there a minimum you must earn before you see any money? Will you get a check in the mail or get paid via PayPal?
These are all important details to consider when choosing an affiliate program. After all, you’ll put time and effort into promoting these products, so make sure you get your money in return!
Once you’ve joined an affiliate program or two, you’ll be ready to use your links. But first, get in the habit of being transparent. Make it clear when you are using an affiliate link. Some affiliate programs may even list the specific language you must have (here’s looking at you, Amazon…)
While these disclosures may seem overkill, they let your audience know you are being compensated for any sales made through your site.
You must have the disclosure before the affiliate link. So if your footer includes your only disclosure, people may click through before they get that far. That means you’re violating the FTC’s guidelines. Keep your notice at the beginning so it’s clear that you may be getting a commission.
Trust is everything in this business, and if your audience feels like they’re being taken advantage of, they won’t stick around for long. So be transparent about what you’re doing with affiliate marketing and ensure everyone understands exactly how it works.
Use Your Links
Once you have affiliate links, it’s essential to use them. Otherwise, they won’t do you any good. So go back through your old blog posts and update them with your links.
And start using them in new content. You can create a content plan around the products and services you promote.
Here are a few types of content that make ideal places for affiliate links:
- Tutorial-style blog posts
- Product reviews
- Product comparison posts
- Video content (on YouTube or other platforms)
- Social media posts
- Shopping roundups
- A “helpful resources” page (like this: Family Writing Time Resources)
- Courses you create
- Unboxing content
You can also include them in regular ol’ blog posts.
Check Things Periodically
Links change sometimes. And there’s nothing worse than a broken link on your site. So make sure you check the links periodically to make sure they’re still valid.
Also, watch for changes in commission amounts and cookie lengths. These can change without much notice, so staying up-to-date with any alterations is crucial. Read your emails from affiliates, as those might contain vital information.
Keep Yourself Organized
When you only have one or two affiliate links, keeping track of them isn’t a big deal. But when you start working with more companies, it can become overwhelming.
Set up an affiliate link spreadsheet and add all of your links so they’re easy to find. You can also include the date you add each one to see how long they’ve been active and how much money they’ve made you over time.
Having this information all in one place makes it easier to stay on top of things.
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to life and affiliate marketing. So if there are things you don’t like about a particular product or service, mention it in your post. Or if you think it’s a good fit for certain people but not others, be upfront about that in your review.
No one wants to read a glittery review of a junk product. So keep honesty in mind as you’re writing. it’ll pay off in the long run.
Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: 6 Mistakes I Made
I’ve been a terrible affiliate marketer! I’ve made a lot of mistakes since I first started. Here are some of the biggest blunders I’ve made – I hope that by sharing them, you can learn from me instead of having to learn the hard way!
Only Using A Link One Time Per Article
When I first started out, I’d insert the link once in my blog post. But that’s not enough! You need to include it a few times; using natural language, of course.
For example, if you are talking about a particular product, mention it by name several times throughout your article and include the affiliate link. The more exposure your link gets, the more likely people will click it.
Not Linking Pictures
People click on pictures. It just happens naturally. So when you have an image of the product you’re recommending, include the link in the image, so if people click on it, they get directed to the right spot.
Oh, and speaking of pictures, try to use your own images if possible. That way people can see that you use what you’re recommending.
Not Looking At My Stats
I was so focused on creating content that I didn’t take the time to look at my stats. Big mistake! That’s how you’ll know which posts perform well and which need some TLC. You can also see which links get clicked the most, so you can focus your efforts on those.
Not Updating Old Links
Some of the affiliate marketing programs I’ve been with for a while have changed quite a few times over the past five years. And I’m not always good at reviewing my old posts and updating the links.
This can be a costly mistake, as your old one no longer works once the link changes!
Not Using Social Media
I’m not really much of a social media gal, so it took me a long time to realize I could share many different affiliate links directly on Twitter or Facebook. If I’d taken advantage of that sooner, my results would have increased even more.
Getting Discouraged Too Soon
When I published my first post with affiliate links, I had big dreams and dollar signs in my eyes. But when few people clicked on my link and made a purchase, I got discouraged and almost gave up.
Don’t make the same mistake! It takes time for people to find your content, click on it, and then actually buy something through your link – so don’t get too disheartened if you don’t see immediate returns.
One of my best-performing affiliate posts is one I wrote back in 2018. It’s still a top result on Google, and every year just before Christmas especially, it gets a lot of traction.
It’s definitely a niche post: Gift Ideas for a Child with Angelman Syndrome, but it’s been a mainstay for me over the past 3 years and has steady, annually increasing income.
So stick with it, even if it looks like you’re getting nowhere. You never know when one of your posts is going to take off!
Want Even More Affiliate Marketing Tips For Beginners?
This post is just the beginning – there’s so much more you can learn about affiliate marketing. Pick up the book I wrote with Sally Miller, and start diving into affiliate marketing!
And if you don’t yet have a blog, read this post and get yours up and running:
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.