9 Steps Towards Ethical and Lucrative Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing can be an extremely lucrative and effective way to monetize your blog and really turn it into a business. In order to maximize your affiliate marketing impact, you need to add a little extra to your set-up and presentation. Your content has to be original and sincere, but that alone won't lead through to click-throughs and conversions. Here's a list of tiny changes that make big differences.

 

1. Create stronger calls-to-action.

Most beginner affiliate marketers end up being unoriginal about calls-to-action, usually sticking one at the end of a blog article or email. But more advanced affiliate marketers know better—they increase the effectiveness of their calls-to-action by putting thought into where they place them and what they say. So:

  1. Know how your readers end up at your site. Why are they there? What are they looking for? What do they hope you'll provide?
  2. Make sure your call-to-action tells your readers what you want them to do next and what they'll get when they do that.

I recommend using graphics or contact fields to engage readers and jump start their sign-ups.

 

2. Use emotion to encourage conversation.

Don't shy away from getting personal. It's all about sharing your passion for fashion, your niche, and often your life, with your readers. Of course, you don’t have to share every detail with them—just share what will engage them. Get them to really feel how excited you are about the products you're affiliate marketing. Focus on catching your reader's’ attention with strong headlines and titles.

 

3. Mix up your post types.

Try out different forms of media. Articles, infographics, videos, podcasts—you name it. Track what works best, then come up with your own rhythm for mixing media so that people know what to expect and how often to expect it.

I can't emphasize consistency enough. Consistency in your visual formatting is essential for creating a strong identity with your blog.

For example, on our blog, our regular posts tend to include only text, but we do have some with images and infographics. Every so often we'll have quote graphics in our posts, too. No videos yet, but who knows what's just beyond the horizon?

 

4. Consider pop-ups or lightboxes.

Pop-ups appear over your site page asking your visitor to take (or decline to take) an action. Lightboxes are semi-transparent, shaded overlays that partially mask a page, forcing a visitor to pay attention and take an action.

Some bloggers swear by them; others insist they're invasive. I say that whether or not you use them is entirely up to you! The important thing is to find out what your visitors think.

Consider how using various tactics will affect them: will they increase conversions to your site? Or will they halve your stats? Test it out and track your results. Have fun with it! But make sure you also maximize your affiliate marketing and connection effectiveness by following a plan and staying organized.

The best affiliate model is always the one where everyone walks away happy: you, the person or company whose product you are promoting, and most of all, the customer. That's why you need to do your homework when deciding what products to promote. Make sure you've used the product, followed the instructions, or read the book.

Here's a list of things your affiliate model should do:

  • Give your readers at least one truly awesome benefit or advantage (such as an early release).
  • Give yourself satisfying rewards and commissions.
  • Accurately represent the vision of the person or company behind it.

Focus on creating win-win-win situations. It's as simple as that.

Well… maybe not that simple. How do you make sure you stay on target with your affiliate marketing focus?

 

5. Stay organized.

From your very first recommendation, take the time to set up an Excel worksheet that details:

  • The product
  • What type of product it is
  • Its website
  • Contact name and email
  • Contact Twitter and Facebook details
  • Niche
  • Network, if applicable
  • Commission
  • Product price
  • Cookie status
  • Tiered/not tiered
  • Your affiliate link
  • Your user login in and password, if applicable
  • Media used to promote it
  • Post or video title and URL
  • Where you’ve promoted it
  • Click-throughs
  • Conversions (if applicable)
  • Advertising costs (if applicable)
  • Commissions

And don't stop there—any other data you have or want to track, drop it there. Don't forget the feedback!

Tip: Include your own personal notes or rating system for each entry so you can record what was wildly successful and what wasn't. The most successful affiliate marketers are often self-proclaimed “tracking freaks.”

When you're organizing your tracking system, don't focus so much on click-throughs, but rather on what information you'd like to be instantly accessible. Prioritize:

  • Where you can find the affiliate resources you need for each product.
  • Your earnings on specific product recommendations.
  • Your earnings for specific affiliate marketing networks.
  • Log-in information for those networks.
  • Log-in information for guest posts on someone else’s blog, when they contact you and ask you to write another post.
  • Log-in information you’ve given to guest writers for your own blog.
  • Specific website URLs and product names.

Note that it’s particularly important to have contact names and details if you are working with a larger company or network.

 

5. Maintain your integrity.

In recent years, affiliate marketing has actually fallen out of favor with Google. But if you work at it ethically, you can still make a pretty penny. Link build to benefit your visitors by:

  • Including a blogroll that links to other bloggers in your niche.
  • Being picky about where you post your links.
  • Featuring other bloggers and linking to their blogs.
  • Following niche experts and commenting on their posts.
  • Joining niche forums or Facebook groups and participating regularly with meaningful feedback and thoughtful answers. (If there isn’t one for your particular, specific sub-niche, start your own!)

 

6. Outsource and network.

Outsourcing is very common today, especially with virtual companies. If you've been following along with Blogger Babes, you probably know that we outsource, too.

As your blog and business grow, you'll need to start outsourcing tasks to contractors. It’s normal to be hesitant at first, but remember—even though you're truly amazing, there's only so many hours in a day. You can't possibly do everything at once. It's okay to need help, and better to have help than rely solely on yourself.

To make it easier on yourself, outsource tasks you aren't particularly fond of. Maybe you absolutely love writing articles, but hate answering emails. Why not hire a virtual assistant? A VA can help you out with administrative tasks so you can save your energy for doing the things that you enjoy. Other things you can outsource include social media work, graphic design, or maintaining an editorial calendar.

Speaking of social media… while it's a great—and extremely popular—tool, there's nothing that beats networking in person. Here's a short list of ideas for building a network in the flesh:

  • Take a class. See if there are any available to you nearby. Choose ones related to your niche so you can meet like-minded people.
  • Attend trade shows to get to know both product suppliers and the people who love the products.
  • Host events in your area, like meet-ups or workshops. Meet-ups tend to be easier since they're more casual, whereas workshops take more time and energy. You never know who you could meet at these events!

Of course, always keep your goals in mind when outsourcing and networking. Make sure that everything you do is aligned with your goals.

 

7. Choose the best product or network.

Affiliate marketing with integrity means that you endorse products that readers will genuinely love. Here's a simple guide on choosing the best products.

  1. Before you buy the product, Google it to see if it has any complaints or negative reviews.
  2. Read the reviews instead of just glancing at the numbers.
  3. Decide if the product looks like it'll fit into your and your ideal reader's lifestyle.
  4. Purchase the product.
  5. Try the product. How did you like it? Would you recommend it?
  6. Check out response times for customer service. This is important because the product might work well for you, but it might not for other people.
  7. Make sure the commission is worth your while. Some questions you'll want to ask your affiliate partner:
    • A big-ticket item will need fewer sales to make it worth your while, but can you land them with your particular audience? Is the product the perfect solution for their needs?
    • Are there tiered sales, so you are making money on second-tier sales (i.e. through your own affiliates)?
    • Are there lifetime cookies?
    • Does the product include a regular, recurring monthly commission (e.g. a premium membership in an exclusive niche forum or a monthly graphics club?)
    • Does the product or service’s company provide affiliates with both resources (banners, graphics, instructions, FAQs) and the ability to track monthly conversions and commission paid?
    • Does this company or network offer upsells or upgrade versions of the product or service? How long has it been in business?
    • Can you brand the product? Would it be perfect for a JV partnership opportunity?
    • Does it absolutely solve your ideal subscriber’s most pressing need?
    • Are your competitors promoting the product? If so, what can you add to make your offer instantly more appealing?

Tip: Be thorough when you research products. Remember that the more thorough and honest you are in your review, the better. Honesty builds trust with your audience.

 

8. Interact with your readers.

You'll often see blogs with carefully promoted affiliate products, using multiple, perfectly-placed calls-to-action. And you'll notice that they receive a good amount of engagement.

If your affiliate marketing strategy is successful, you'll see people respond to the relevant posts with comments that…

  • Ask specific questions (especially about points raised in the post).
  • Relate their own similar experience.
  • Share a valuable link or tip that has helped them.
  • Thank the author either for the tips or the product recommended.
  • Thoughtfully argue a point, adding insights or examples.
  • Relate why they love (or hate) the recommended product.
  • Share additional ways they use the product.
  • Relate their experiences with the product’s customer service.
  • Relate good or bad features that made a difference to their experience.
  • Take a tip in the post one step further.
  • Make suggestions.

This is where ethical affiliate marketing strikes gold. This type of enthusiasm and feedback (positive or negative) clearly indicates that you've made a connection with your readers. Treat their feedback and suggestions as research so that you can identify needs and problems you didn’t know existed. Become the hero your commenters deserve.

You can take that heroism a step further by engaging with the comments section! Sadly, a lot of blogs have plenty of engagement, but don't actually hear back from the blog owner. Don't make that mistake. Do all you can to respond and interact with readers who comment!

If you want to keep your engagement going, check all your platforms daily for comments, questions, and responses. Always try your best to address them—after all, interacting with readers and subscribers builds credibility, and not responding makes it seem like you don't care for followers' opinions or have bigger fish to fry. Above all, give helpful and thoughtful answers.

 

9. Interact with your affiliates.

It should go without saying that you want to treat your affiliates like gold. Your affiliates should feel like they know you, and know that you're a valuable resource to them. That means answering all their questions to the best of your abilities.

But your interactions shouldn't stop there—you need to educate your own affiliates, too. Give them resources that you think they might need. Take the time to come up with a policy for them that clearly states your expectations. Make it easy for your affiliates to promote you by providing them with what they need to know and use.

Be wary of accepting just anybody as an affiliate. It's okay, even recommended, to be a little picky. Your stats could be inflated by affiliates who do nothing, your reputation could be damaged, and some people even manipulate affiliate codes to double commission. If you're not comfortable with tracking, it's a good task to outsource to an experienced affiliate manager—this is something you don't want to laze on.

Another practice to be aware of is cookie stuffing. Cookie stuffing is when an affiliate manipulates code so that visitors on their site get one of your cookies regardless of clicking affiliate links. One way to spy a cookie stuffer is if your affiliate has a much higher conversion rate than peers, but a lack of sales.

Before you hire an affiliate manager, make sure they know how to handle cookie stuffing or network manipulation. Your experienced affiliate manager should also be able to suggest strategies on setting up conversion codes so you can track order numbers.

Here comes the hard part—if your affiliates are promoting products unethically, you need to remove them immediately. It's difficult, but you need to remember that anything they do in your name affects your reputation, too.

So, ethical affiliate marketing boils down to:

  • Caring about the people to whom you are selling.
  • Putting in time when purchasing, testing, and using products.
  • Sharing your best tips.
  • Being honest about products that don’t measure up, even if the commission is sky-high.
  • Building your reputation as well as your personal brand
  • Making sure that visitors and subscribers know they can trust you.
  • Making sure people turn to you first, because they know you will always have their best interests at heart and look out for them.

Remember—it's all about helping people out in your niche. If you want powerful results from your affiliate promotions, not only do you have to take care of nitty-gritty mechanics and trends—you also have to keep checking yourself and your focus.

 

What are other ways that you incorporate affiliate marketing tactics in your blog? Comment below with more tips!

 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on November 3, 2015. It was updated on June 7, 2017.

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3 Responses

  1. Raivyn dK

    EXCELLENT POST! 🙂 I haven’t seen one so in-depth about affiliate marketing- looking forward to more, and I definitely recommend other bloggers take notes. Tons of great info here.

    – K
    http://inf3kted.com

    Reply
  2. Jannine

    Thank you for all of the valuable information! It can be hard to find in depth articles about affiliate marketing and you’ve bailed it with this one!

    Reply