on October 14, 2020 (last modified on March 1, 2022) • 18 minute read
What do Wirecutter, Nerd Wallet, and The Points Guy all have in common?
They are all extremely successful affiliate marketing sites raking in millions upon millions of dollars in affiliate sales. This stands in stark contrast to what you might find if you, Google, “affiliate marketing.” Scroll through a few pages of search results, and you will enter a rabbit hole of empty promises offering “a chance to get rich quick, “passive income,” or my personal favorite, “make money while you sleep.”
No legal and ethical business allows you “to make buckets of money while you sleep,” at least not without investing a whole bunch of time and/or money for years to get that business up to that point. I digress.
Because there are many affiliate scams, many marketers are quick to dismiss it and forget there are tons of legitimate businesses that use affiliate marketing to make money without resorting to questionable or underhanded tactics. In this post, we’re diving deeper into the world of affiliate marketing, including:
Affiliate marketing is a strategy of promoting another company’s products or services on your website, email, and/or social media channels in exchange for a commission.
For example, if you run a content site all about website hosting, you might become an affiliate partner of your preferred web hosting platform, like Bluehost. Then, whenever someone lands on your website and then signs up for Bluehost, you will earn a commission.
If this sounds familiar, it is because it is the earliest version of influencer marketing. In fact, affiliate marketing has been around since the early Internet days.
Google pioneered one of the earliest versions of affiliate marketing with Google Adsense back in 2003. Many media companies, online publishers, and content sites still rely on Adsense today.
Since affiliate marketing has been around since the early 2000s, and you don’t need to buy any products/inventory, the barrier to getting started is low. All you need to do is buy a domain name, build a website, create some content, and sign up for an affiliate program or two.
Back in the early days of affiliate marketing, you could literally slap together a 5-page site in Dreamweaver, find a couple of products with high commission rates (that you of course haven’t ever used before), add the links all over your site, and start raking in that sweet cash. Let’s just say – the days of making money with a 5-page Dreamweaver website are long gone. While it is still possible to make good money with an affiliate site, most niches are saturated, so you are going to need to do A LOT more to stand out.
The best affiliate marketing sites boil down to relationships and trust. It is about building trust and rapport with your audience FIRST so that when you start making recommendations on your website, emails, and social media, they will be more likely to buy what you are promoting.
The second part is building real relationships with the companies of the products you are promoting so that you really learn the ins and outs of these products. However, for those just getting started, the easiest affiliate program to start with is Amazon’s Affiliate Program. Once you create and verify your account, you can start promoting specific products on Amazon with your affiliate link on your site. Once you understand how affiliate marketing works, then start diversifying away from relying 100% on Amazon and building your own affiliate relationships.
Of course, don’t forget to set the right affiliate marketing KPIs, and to start measuring your performance early on.
“I am not big on affiliate campaigns,” says Deniz Doganay of PC Games Sales.
“However, as a personal hobby I quickly created an affiliate website for pc games which I have been sharing within the gaming community and quite pleased with the progress so far.
The website is not even half finished yet and is already bringing in sales. I guess it’s all about finding a niche, providing value for that niche and then getting in touch with the right communities and markets.
Having a personal passion in the subject also helps! Have not put any budget into marketing campaigns yet, however once I do it will be very limited.”
“I ran a winning affiliate marketing campaign by leveraging product reviews,” says Andre Oentoro of Breadnbeyond.
“Since we’re an explainer video company, there are a bunch of video tools or software that ask us for collaboration. We tried their tools and shared our personal experiences of using it. We made a detailed, insightful review by highlighting the features and listing all the good points and the cons of the product.
The reviews are genuine and unbiased. It’s crucial in building trust with our audience. It tells them that we’re looking out for their best interests, not just promoting something you claim is absolutely flawless when it’s not.
From doing this strategy, we won’t only increase our website traffic significantly but also allow us to develop a lifelong relationship with several video software companies.”
“Reaching out to affiliates one by one with a very personalized email,” says Tom Zsomborgi of Kinsta.
“I know this is time-consuming and not a good tactic for large companies but we are seeing great results by engaging with affiliates through these conversations.
Thanks to these emails we can send them the exact URLs of their existing content including a paragraph or two and a screenshot where they could add our service with their affiliate link.
We provide all the content for them to minimize the effort on their end and thanks to this we are getting a very high success rate of these emails. Not to mention the start of a long-term and fruitful cooperation.”
“We ran an affiliate marketing campaign for a web hosting company,” saysHarpreet Munjal of WowBlackFriday.
“The company was offering a good discount due to its holiday season sale. We planned and executed our strategy for the sale to generate revenue through affiliate marketing.
We found some easy to rank keywords and ranked those keywords on the top of Google. Also, we did promotion on social media and through our email list.
The results from our efforts were insane! We generated a 6 figure (200k+) affiliate commission in less than a week. That was the first time when we got this kind of success.”
“Our most successful affiliate marketing campaign has been with our content creator and review partners,” says Ryan Hindes of Amerisleep.
“These campaigns consist of several steps, the first being us sending our affiliate partner one of our products that they’re going to focus on when creating content.
We launched hybrid mattresses this year so I sent out several of our new hybrid beds to our affiliate partners. Upon receiving the mattress, the partner wrote an in-depth product review and also created video content showcasing the mattress and its various features and materials.
This type of affiliate marketing campaign is the most successful for us because customers do a lot of research before spending several hundred dollars, and sometimes over a thousand dollars, on a mattress online.
Our affiliate partner publishes their review on their website to share with their audiences and their video on their YouTube channel. They embed the video into the published review as well and promote the new content through their email lists and social media accounts for increased exposure.”
Sure, there are dozens (and dozens?) more GA metrics you could track. But, starting with these 10 commonly tracked GA metrics will give you a pretty high-level view of how your marketing is working…
If you want to track these in Google Analytics, you might find the visualizations limiting. It’s also a bit time-consuming to combine all the metrics you need in one view.
To better understand how your website performs in terms of traffic growth and conversions, we’ve made this plug-and-play dashboard that contains all the essential metrics for understanding how successful you are at optimizing different aspects of your website.
This Google Analytics dashboard offers a complete view of how your website is performing and converting at-a-glance and helps you gain valuable insights such as:
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Google Analytics account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
“One of our most successful affiliate marketing campaigns we ran recently was creating a credit card finder app in the form of an interactive quiz,” says Paul Kim of Simple Rate.
“At Simple Rate, we help consumers and businesses find the right credit card, and instead of just ranking all the cards in a typical affiliate article, we create a quiz that can be completed in under 60 seconds. We marketed the quiz as “Find the perfect credit card in under 60 seconds” and the conversion rate has been amazing.”
“Keystone Puppies is an online directory where puppy breeders can advertise their available puppies for sale,” says Shawn Hostetter of Keystone Puppies.
“We partner with a pet insurance company that we recommend new puppy parents to. We started recommending this specific company a while ago, so when we had the opportunity to make it an affiliate partnership, we couldn’t say no!
We have a disclaimer at the bottom of our web page, remarking that while we do receive a small bonus when our customers turn into theirs, we’d recommend their company even without the payment!”
“We ran an affiliate marketing campaign for customers to compare car insurance quotes,” says Melanie Musson of AutoInsuranceCompanies.org.
“It was very successful because it was a service that was useful to our customers and saved them money. It was a win-win. We won because of our affiliate partners paying us, and our customers won because they were able to find better car insurance coverage.”
“At Lend-Grow, we leverage affiliate partnerships with great success in the financial space,” says Harris Schachter of Lend-Grow.
“Our partners publish high quality content and monetize their sites by referring us traffic to their already warm audience of people seeking student refinancing loans, personal loans, and more.
Since launching in March, affiliate partnerships are a great way for both parties to succeed in sales and marketing while our owned channels are coming online.
Just in August, we’ve seen over $1M in funded loans come through our marketplace, just from affiliate traffic.
If you have a business you can create a referral program with, I highly recommend it. Or if you are a blogger or content creator, look for affiliate programs you can monetize with.”
“One of the best uses of affiliate marketing is with influencers,” says Paul Burke of SimpleSlides. ”We’ve ran full cash deals with influencers and it’s been so hit-or-miss.
By providing an affiliate component, it ensures the incentives are aligned for us and the influencer. They only see the upside if we do so it’s in their best interest to promote our product as well as they can.
We had one deal with an influencer go so well it provided us a 10x return on our cash investment. Influencer also received 3x what they would have received if they only took the cash upfront so it worked out well for everybody.”
Related: 18 Expert Tips for Running Your First Influencer Marketing Campaign
Daniel Snow says, “For one of our clients, Perfect sculpt, we put together a viral online marketing campaign that combined celebrities, influencers (large and small), “theme” pages on social media, and paid acquisition (Facebook and Google) to rapidly scale in a profitable manner.
Related: 12 Tips for Tracking and Measuring Your Influencer Marketing Campaigns
“At LambdaTest, our most successful affiliate campaign has been associating with Tech Influencers,” says Junaid Ahmed of LambdaTest Inc.
“When we launched our affiliate platform in 2017, we tried all different ways to make it successful, however what worked for us really well was collaboration with various tech influencres.
We collaborated with various influencers informing them about the platform and the kind of commission they can earn by promoting LambdaTest and the rest as they say is history.
We now have more than 500 affiliates on our platform who are constantly bringing us great numbers in revenue every month.
In the below links you will be able to see how they are promoting LambdaTest with their unique affiliate link:
“I have a blog post on my website that generates thousands of dollars in affiliate income every month for my small business,” says Jorden Makelle of Writing Revolt. “On top of that, this blog post has been a super helpful resource for my audience, so it’s a win-win.
In the blog post, I teach freelance writers how to set up their writing portfolio website. Since I personally used Bluehost as the hosting service for my own site, I promote my Bluehost affiliate link within the blog post.
This has been a very successful way to generate income via affiliate marketing because the blog post is super in-depth and serves a specific and somewhat small target audience. All of the success has been organic, and it has been so successful that my next step will be running ads to this blog post!
An important takeaway here for anyone looking to get great results with affiliate blog posts is to target a narrow and specific audience, and only promote products you truly believe in. Your trust with your audience is the most important thing in your business, so you need to deliver amazing value in your content if you want your affiliate campaigns to be successful!”
Editor’s Note: To track and measure how your blog performs from month to month, use this Blog Performance Tracking Dashboard. To learn which blog posts convert search traffic into users or customers, you can use our Organic Blog Traffic Dashboard.
“The campaign most notable is with Iconic Santorini in Greece,” says Isabella Garofanelli of Your Luxe Lifestyle.
“It was simple but effective. The campaign consisted of content created and then careful coordination with the brand as to when we would deploy the campaign. In addition, the campaign ran for a limited time, included a giveaway, and drove traffic to the brand based on the urgency of the limited run and the prize.
The campaign itself isn’t up any longer but the content created is still available at the links below.
She had over 600k digital impressions on social media and the client actually licensed the images to be used for their own marketing purposes.”
“We ran an affiliate marketing campaign a few months ago,” says Kevin Sahin of Scrapingbee. “We knew that the hardest part is to recruit partners to promote your product and we had great results with this strategy:
We first scraped a list of B2B SaaS APIs landing pages from IndieHackers / ProductHunt/AngelList.
For each home page, we looked for the ones that have an affiliate/partner page.
For each SaaS API running an affiliate program, we looked at the structure of the affiliate link, to get the URL parameter with the affiliate ID.
We analysed their backlink containing this URL parameter in Ahrefs to get all the affiliates websites/blogs of the partner
We reached out to everyone, asking them if they wanted to join our affiliation program, and got a crazy reply rate of 50%. The previous steps allowed us to craft highly personalised emails like, ‘We saw you joined X partner program, and we thought ours would be a good fit for your audience because …’
Past the first contact, we nurtured our future partners by providing them with detailed capabilities of our API, content ideas and the promise that we would promote their content on our social accounts.
Offering them a generous 25% lifetime affiliate commission was a key part in persuading them to join us.
So that’s how we managed to recruit 40 partners! And since the beginning of this affiliate campaign, about 10% of our new customers are coming from this channel. Not bad for a day of work.”
“As a full-time affiliate marketer, I thought I’d share details about my most successful affiliate marketing campaign in the rapidly growing micro-mobility industry,” says Paul Strobel of ERideHero.
“I have been promoting the Apollo Scooters affiliate program through my micro-mobility website ERideHero and through video reviews on our Youtube Channel.
Apollo Scooters is quickly establishing itself as a major brand in the electric scooter industry. The company has a lot of great publicity and solid user reviews on multiple platforms.
Promotion of my website content and videos, along with active engagement with prospects on social media, have been the cornerstones of my Apollo Scooters affiliate marketing campaign.
It’s been my most lucrative campaign by far.
Payouts are regular and on time, done via wire transfers supported. Whereas most other affiliate programs in micro-mobility have a commission percentage in the 3-5%range, Apollo Scooters offers 6% and a very fair cookie duration better than most.
“The affiliate marketing campaign that Today’s Business is running for Tomahawk Shades has been extremely successful,” says Joe Sanfilippo of Today’s Business. “We onboarded Tomahawk Shades to the AWIN affiliate network in August and started recruiting publishers right away.
Below are some of the stats from the program:
AWIN Affiliate Program Performance (8/13/2020 – 8/25/2020)
As you can see, this has been a great new stream of revenue for Tomahawk Shades and in just two weeks the program was driving nearly 30% of overall revenue for the e-commerce store.”
“Over the past 5 months, we have launched a blog on our website that currently draws in about 35,000 pageviews per month,” says Michael Kenler of Anabolic Aliens.
“In addition, Anabolic Aliens has been partnered with York Athletics to run an affiliate marketing campaign. This campaign has existed passively under the partners page on the Anabolic Aliens website.
However, now it has found the spotlight, as York created advertising banners for the sidebar on each Anabolic Aliens blog. Income from the affiliate marketing campaign with York is already skyrocketing.
When you are able to maximize an affiliate marketing relationship through content marketing, you will reap the financial benefits in no time!”
“We collaborated with partners during Q4 of last year to execute a holiday push campaign,” says Ryan Cramer of PingPong Payments.
“We targeted 5-10 top collaborators and we’re able to incentivize them with a holiday bonus, if they surpassed account sign up goals that we set with them. It activated a creative push for our publishers to think “outside the box” to get their audience to engage with our brand and to activate a subscription with us. Well worth the time, and effort of planning we put in.”
In sum, the most successful affiliate marketing campaigns boil down to trust and relationships.
It starts with building real relationships with the brands you are promoting so that you understand the ins and outs of the products and services you are promoting.
Then, it is about establishing enough trust, expertise, and rapport with your audience so that when you promote a product, many will buy it.
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