There are lots of ways to monetize your blog: advertising, affiliate marketing, ebooks, selling a product. It's always best to diversify though, and find the right mix of all of these things for you and your audience, but as I've mentioned before, I make the majority of my blogging income via affiliate commissions. It's not for everyone though.
Here's how to determine if affiliate marketing is right for your blog:
- Do you post outfit pictures?
- Do you feature items you love on your blog?
- Do you talk about shopping?
- Do you review things you've purchased for your readers?
- Do you write about sticking to a budget?
- Do you write about personal style and wardrobe styling?
If you answered yes to any of these, then affiliate marketing will probably work well for you. If you tend to write more about runway fashion or new designers as opposed to “where to buy,” then it's not likely that affiliate marketing is the best monetization strategy for you, or at least not your main money-maker.
The key to any monetization strategy really is that it is a NATURAL fit to your blog, integrates seamlessly into what you're already talking about, and never compromises your voice or the trust you've established with your readers.
I don't recommend starting your blog and immediately using affiliate links, although I know that some do. When I started, I didn't realize I had an option, and anyway, my blog was just a creative outlet for my passion for shopping, so I took some time building up trust and linking to boutiques/designers I liked anyway (even though I wasn't getting paid for it). Once I started taking advertising and adding in affiliate links, it wasn't any different than before; everything was seamless and non-intrusive.
Sign up for affiliate programs
Linkshare, CJ, Pepperjam, RewardStyle, are all good places to start. You have to apply to each one and be accepted, and make sure you read all the fine print as you're doing so. Some programs have minimum payouts, or you have to earn a certain amount a month or pay a fee. RewardStyle is geared specifically towards fashion bloggers and has the best tools, offers some of the highest commission rates, and brings together nearly all of the fashion/lifestyle-related programs in one place. Otherwise, you'll have to look and see which affiliate programs the merchants you want to work with are part of and apply to them individually. For example, Nordstrom works via Linkshare and Shopbop works via CJ, but they're both included in RewardStyle.
*edited to add ShopSense – I left this out originally, because it's a pay-per-click model instead of direct commission, but the pay per click rate is calculated based from your sales conversion, so you will see your earning increase as you drive more sales and traffic.
Once you do decide to pursue affiliate marketing, make sure you disclose that you may make make a commission off links you share on your blog (I do this at the bottom of every post)
Deep linking (linking directly to a product you're featuring) is the most effective way to use affiliate links. Linkshare and RewardStyle make that VERY easy, and CJ has widget builders you can use in your sidebars. I've found that linking to products in the text of my post is the most effective way to use affiliate links. Too many graphic ads in your sidebar will be overwhelming – and keep in mind that everyone else will have access to those same ads; save your ad space for exclusive deals you get with advertisers.
Keep a close eye on what your readers are clicking on and buying to know better what sorts of products and tools resonate with them.