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What is Affiliate Marketing and Why is it Missing From Your Blog?

I have an amazing TBR list from The Romanvo’s to Witchcraft Trials thanks to the history blogging community.

But, I’ve begun to notice, there’s very little affiliate marketing alongside the great recommendations. This means bloggers, (like maybe you?) are missing out on a way to make money from your blog by promoting products and services you love.

So, I’m here to tell you what affiliate marketing is, answer some of the top questions about affiliate marketing and explore a few programs relevant to history blogging along the way.

There’s a lot to get through so let’s get cracking!

Right Then. What is Affiliate Marketing?

As bloggers, we wear multiple hats like social media manager, copywriter, editor and website designer. Here, when we talk about affiliate marketing, you’re new hat is being an ‘affiliate’.  

Put simply:

Affiliate marketing is the process by which you (the affiliate) get rewarded for sales you generate for an advertiser (the company) made to the public (the consumer).

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work in Practice?

Stepping away from the business-speak. Here’s a fictitious but practical example.

  • You want to promote Tudor inspired jewellery.
  • You apply online to join Tudor Trinkets Gift Shop’s affiliate program
  • They accept you – hooray- and set you up an account
  • You login and find your html/shortcode links and banners of different sizes you can place into your site. It’s copy and paste.
  • Your code will have a unique ID so Tudor Trinkets will know the sales came from your site.
  • Tudor Trinkets will pay you a commission based on the reward system they use in their program.

Answering Your Top Questions About Affiliate Marketing

Back in 2014, when I first dabbled in affiliate marketing it was a bit clunky with mostly banner links and you would often get paid for the number of impression/hits on your site. Social media platforms weren’t as slick, Pinterest wasn’t as big and functionality like IGTV or Facebook Live was just being created.

Now, although you still see banners promoting products affiliate marketing is increasingly personal. It’s less of a blatant sale more a friend-to-friend recommendation, with the explosion of blogs and ‘Youpreneurs’ more people are affiliate marketing and commissions are now given for actual sales not just visits to your website.

So, to help you enter this exciting world of affiliate marketing here are answers to the top 7 questions I see all the time (and the ones I googled the most when I was learning about this stuff too!)

Q1: How do I know what to promote and programs to join?

Imagine you’re reading a fabulous post about The Russian Revolution but then from nowhere, the blogger tries to sell you a phone. Eh!

Firstly, it’s as transparent as hell that they’re just trying to make money. Secondly, it would probably put you off reading their posts.

Do not be tempted to put random stuff on your site not relevant to your audience or pretend you love a product when you don’t. For example, if you blog about travelling to historical places around the world make your links related to travel products and services you’ve used or thought would be useful.

Related Post: If you’re looking for ways to integrate marketing try History Blogging: 35 ideas for blog posts

If you’re still struggling, try answering these questions:

  • What do people visiting my blog enjoy reading about?
  • What do I use and do when creating my blog and posts?
  • What products do I enjoy related to my blog and interests?
  • What do my web analytics tell me about my visitors?
  • What do I talk about, follow or get drawn-to on social media?

Q2: How do I find affiliate marketing programs?

A: There are four ways you can find affiliate marketing programs once you’ve decided on the types of products and services fit your blog.

Firstly, simply type the name of the company followed by the words affiliate program into Google as they may have a page on their website. You could also broaden your search out to a theme such as ‘web-hosting affiliate programs.’

Second, check if you already have one. There has been an increase in companies just including an affiliate link in your account dashboard. For example, Bluehost (web hosting) and ConvertKit (email marketing provider) do this. 

Third, you can sign-up for global affiliate market networks. These, like AWIN, are market places where you can search for companies to apply for and then join multiple schemes under one dashboard/login. As an example, AWIN (at time of writing) covers Waterstones, Udemy and Audible.

Finally, you can jump in directly with big fish like SkillShare and the Amazon Associates Program. This covers all their services such as Prime, Prime Student, Amazon Pantry etc.. and I’m sure you can imagine there are lots of widgets and deal links to use.

Q3: How do I get paid?

A: You will likely be paid a percentage commission for a sale made by someone clicking on your link. The size of the commission will differ depending on the product and the scheme you join. But, you can also get paid for referrals, like someone signing up for SkillShare.

Also, keep a lookout for extra perks like allowing someone 30 days to buy after clicking your link. The Amazon program will give you a commission if they click your link but buy something completely different. Imagine the commission if they snub your £3.99 book but buy a £2,500 laptop!

IMPORTANT: If you’re a business or an individual make sure you’re not breaking any tax rules by consulting with your relevant authority, like HMRC in the UK, if you receive commissions.

Q4: Do I have to have lots of traffic first?

A: You may need a certain level of traffic to qualify for a program but there are lots of programs out there so don’t get disheartened and look around. Just make sure you don’t compromise on the ‘fit’ for your blog. And remember, if you find high-value, good commission rates you don’t need to make millions of sales to get a return. You may just need ten people from a world-wide-web audience of billions!

Plus, why not make one of your goals reaching the traffic number to successfully apply : ) 

Q5: What are the risks of affiliate marketing?

A: The biggest risk is being chucked off someone’s program through lack of sales. Trust me it hurts!

Now, here’s the painful truth. Affiliate marketing takes some time, thought and effort. The days of throwing a few banners on your site, waiting for people to come to you and hoping they’ll click it in massive numbers are over.

Even if you have lots of traffic there’s still work to be done like:

  • Doing a lot of personal promotion. Finding inventive authentic ways to talk about your promotions. You could, do a book review. Do a FB video of you using the product. Create a ‘how to’ instruction video or blog post
  • Planning your editorial calendar, in part, with your product in mind
  • Using Pinterest effectively to drive visitors to your post containing links
  • Creating evergreen live-forever posts that are SEO-tastic so people actually find your page and your links!

Also, look for the small print ‘dos and don’ts’ for each program. When I find the terms and conditions confusing I contact their support desk. I literally say “I’m thinking of doing X, is that OK with you?” before proceeding. For example, did you know you can’t embed Amazon links in word documents but a YouTube video description is OK?

Q6: Where do I put the links they give me?

Overall you’ll be putting the links in places that make sense to the post you’ve planned. But here are some placement tips:

  • Text link multiple times within the same post as part of a natural sentence
  • Use your footer, header and side-bar plus inline (in the middle) of a post or page
  • Create a ‘tools I use,’ ‘books you must read’ or ‘resources’ page and use your affiliate links

Q7: I’m not sure affiliate marketing is for me – I don’t like selling.

Firstly, don’t look at it as selling. If you choose the right programs and products then you’re providing value to your readers.

Here are some examples:

Someone reads about your amazing Hampton Court Palace trip and you offer a discount link from a tourism company they can use.

OR

You’ve just read an amazing new book about The Wars of the Roses, you provide a link to the book so people can buy it and enjoy it too!

OR

In the process of creating your blog, you’ve found an amazing tool; app, software or social media scheduler that you think would help fellow bloggers.

Conclusion

I started this post by saying I had noticed an absence of affiliate marketing within the history blogging community. I hope within this post I’ve simplified some of the jargon, given examples you can relate to and encouraged you to explore how your amazing history blog can be monetized and grow.

If you’ve got a different question, drop it in the comments below or reach out to me.

And….if you’re already using an amazing affiliate program let everyone know so we can check it out too.

Catch-up soon.

Elizabeth Hill-Scott

Elizabeth Hill-Scott teaches entrepreneurs and bloggers who want to start, grow and monetise a successful niche blog in the fascinating field of history. She is also a post-graduate and communications expert who spent over 15 years advising senior UK politicians and public figures.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jason Coote

    Excellent post. I’ve done a little bit of affiliate marketing but you’ve given me a lot to think about with your experience of this field.

    Much appreciated,

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