The year was 2011.
I’d just broken the news to my family and friends that instead of using my newly acquired Master’s Degree to get a swanky PR job in midtown Manhattan, I was going to pursue travel blogging.
After my parents realized I wasn’t speaking Russian and that travel blogging was, indeed, a career path, they nervously asked me:
But how will you make money?
I’ll admit that in those early days of blogging I really had no clue. Plus, there weren’t nearly as many opportunities to earn an income as there are today (oh and psst, you can snag my *top* money-making strategy in my free 5-day email course here).
One method I did see others using was Google Adsense, which I never got into because I didn’t want someone else choosing my ads. There had to be a better way.
Which is how I came across affiliate marketing. If you haven’t heard of it, affiliate marketing refers to promoting certain brands and earning a commission when a purchase is made through your special affiliate link.#Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to #makemoneyblogging. Here's how to get started! Click To Tweet
What I’ve loved about this from the start is that I can promote brands I genuinely love and earn a commission at no extra cost to my readers. Additionally, it’s passive income; once you’ve placed the promotional content where you want it, the link can continue to bring you money.
The thing I’ve learned over the years, though, is there’s a *right* way to do affiliate marketing and a *wrong* way.
To help my fellow travel bloggers — and future travel bloggers — learn from my past mistakes, I’ve created this handy dandy workbook: How To Craft Profitable Affiliate Posts.
Download it, read the following affiliate marketing tips, fill it out and start earning profits!
Also, if you want to save this strategy for later don’t forget to pin the infographic version by clicking here (or scrolling to the bottom of this post!).
Psst: Would you rather learn via video? I’ve got you covered!
Step 1: Apply To Programs Wisely
To get an affiliate link from a company, you need to first apply to be in their program. While some brands host their own affiliate programs — with applications often found on the brand’s website footer — many place their applications in affiliate marketplaces. Some of these include CJ.com, Refersion and ShareASale.
These marketplaces feature thousands of potential affiliate brands, making it easy to simply apply to a ton, see which ones accept you and then promote them.
The problem: if you’re not particular about who you promote, it’ll likely end up being a waste of your time. This is especially true since you don’t get paid to be an affiliate partner *until* you make a sale.
Additionally, your readers may view you as “trying too hard” and be turned off.
A smarter strategy: Choose brands you actually love, and, most importantly, that your audience would truly benefit from using.
For me as a solo female traveler, highlighting safety products typically brings me a sizeable return on my time investment. That being said, if I spent time highlighting a surf board brand, there’s no indication that anyone in my audience would buy.
Step 2: Consider The Payout Amount
Okay, so you’re researching the affiliate programs of the brands you love.
Here’s the thing: there are plenty of affiliate programs where the payout is incredibly low. I’ve seen a few where clothing items would’ve earned me 10 cents each. I’d have to sell ten pieces of clothing to even make $1 — and then I’d need to pay taxes on that!
Not worth it.
What you want to do is make a list of your potential programs, and note what the payouts are for each. After you’ve got your list, do the math as to what you’d earn with one affiliate sale. What about five? Ten?
Apply for the programs that will give you the biggest return on your investment.
And while I don’t mean to repeat myself, remember again to choose brands that your audience will actually be interested in (because even if an affiliate pays you $50+ per sale, if it’s something your audience won’t ever buy it won’t be worth your time).
Step 3: Create Your Content Plan
While there’s nothing wrong with simply linking to your affiliates naturally when the occasion arises, if you really want to make money you’ll want to be more strategic than that.
What you need to do is give people a reason to click your links. Even more, you want to attract those who would be interested in your affiliate partner while they’re reading your posts.
In my opinion, there are two main routes to go: tutorial posts and inspiring stories.
How-To Posts: Is there a tutorial you could give where the affiliate brand is the main focus? For example, if you become an affiliate for CouchSurfing, you could do a tutorial on “How To Travel Europe For (Almost) Free Using CouchSurfing”.
Inspiring Stories: The other avenue is using storytelling to highlight how a product enhanced your life. Maybe as an Airbnb affiliate you do a blog post on an amazing Airbnb castle you stayed at in France. Or maybe you’re an affiliate of Clever Travel Companion pickpocket-proof garments, and you tell a story of how everyone in your tour group was robbed except you because you were wearing their tank top.
Here is an example of an affiliate-focused post I wrote on Clever Travel Companion myself!Want to create a #profitable affiliate marketing plan? Tip #3 on this list is key! #blog #travelblog Click To Tweet
Step 4: Have Good SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to optimizing posts to be found in online searches organically, meaning you’re not paying for advertising. Having good SEO will also be what allows your affiliate marketing efforts to earn you passive income, days, weeks, months and even years after your promotional post has published.
I recommend utilizing two tools for optimizing posts for SEO:
Keywords Everywhere: Once you install this toolbar extension you’ll get a small dark circle with a reddish “K” in the center. Click that, and go to “Bulk Upload Keywords.”
This is where you’ll be able to research your potential keywords (which, by the way, can also be phrases). What you’re looking for is a keyword or phrase that someone interested in your post might search.
So, if your post is about traveling Europe on a budget, some keywords might be “europe on a budget,” “budget travel in europe,” “europe budget guide” and “backpack Europe cheap.”
Click “Get Search Volume” and you’ll get a list of your potential keywords with more information next to them. What you want is a keyword with a high Search Volume (meaning it’s searched often) and a low Competition (meaning you won’t be competing with a ton of other webpages).
Competition ranges between 0-1, with 0 being less competition and 1 being higher.
If you need keyword inspiration, you can type a potential keyword into Google and search it. Keywords Everywhere will give you information on your keyword searched, as well as a list of suggestions if you scroll to the bottom of the search page.
YOAST SEO Plugin: Install the plugin and activate it. Once activated, you’ll see a box with spaces to fill in below your post. This is where you’ll enter your keyword, as well as a meta title and meta description that include your keyword toward the front.
Remember, this is what readers will see if they search a phrase in your meta description. So, you’ll want it to be enticing.
Here is an example of my YOAST SEO plugin box filled out for a post on art experiences in Florence.
Notice how above my responses there’s a green circle next to Keyword? Green is your goal! If the post doesn’t have great SEO, you’ll have orange or red.
Also notice underneath my responses it offers suggestions for improvement? The plugin really does make SEO foolproof!
Don’t feel like doing keyword research? While I do recommend you utilize this tool, if the tech aspect of blogging has you losing your mind, keep it simple and think like a searcher. Consider what keywords someone who would be interested in your post might search.
Step 5: Add A Beautiful Pin (& Pin It!)
While you’ll certainly want to promote your juicy blog post across all social media channels, Pinterest is a must.
Why? Because Pinterest works more like a search engine than a typical social media network. This means you can use keyword-rich descriptions in your pins to rank higher in Pinterest search. It also means that people on Pinterest are usually looking for solutions to problems, whether that be figuring out how to travel Europe on the cheap or how to travel safely through Colombia.
You’ll want to make your affiliate post really easy to share on Pinterest by creating a vertical Pinterest-optimized graphic with a gorgeous image that’s relevant to your post and a text overlay. Scroll to the top of this post for an example. You can make a graphic like this easily in Canva, which offers swipeable templates, too.
Without this, most people won’t share your post on Pinterest, even if it’s good. This is because Pinterest favors aesthetically-pleasing vertical images.
I also recommend installing the free SumoMe plugin and adding the Image Sharer feature.
As shown above, this creates buttons that allow the reader to easily share your graphic on social media — including Pinterest!
Tip: Head over to this post to get the scoop on how to improve your Pinterest game (including how to easily set up engagement-generating Rich Pins!). Additionally, you can score a *free* Pinterest profile makeover checklist by clicking here.
Step 6: Make Use Of Included Tools
Many bloggers don’t realize this, but opportunities to market your affiliate partners go beyond text links. For instance, widgets are sometimes offered, such as a booking widget if your partner is a hotel booking website, or a quote generator if your partner is a travel insurance comapny.
See how I created a widget with my affiliate partner Agoda, that helps people book a hotel in Tana Toraja, which was the place discussed in the post?
So, if you’re telling people how to travel Paris on $50 a day or less, you might include a hostel-booking widget or Couchsurfing widget, if available.
Check your affiliate dashboard to see what tools are made available to you to help with promotion.
Step 7: Include Sources (& Let Them Know)
Once your post publishes, let the affiliate partner know and ask them to share on their platforms. Additionally, let any other sources and brands mentioned know, too.
Going back to your content plan — you may even consider specifically seeking out other bloggers as sources. You can see how I used this tactic here in a post titled “10 Amazing Stories That Prove Travel Insurance Is Essential.” The goal: to promote a travel insurance partner.
After your post publishes, email each source and let them know. I recommend going a step further and making it reallyyyyyyy easy for them to share.
Here’s an example that I use for Jessie on a Journey:
Step 8: Don’t Forget Your Email List
You should always be working to build your email list. These will be your most passionate community members, not to mention the easiest to market to as you already know they’re interested in what you talk about.
Now when I say “market to your email list” I don’t mean spamming them daily with affiliate promotions. I mean choosing the affiliate partners that would truly benefit them. Then teach them a strategy for utilizing the product or tell them a story about how it’s helped you in real life (so they can picture how it can help them).
Sound familiar? Yes, you’re essentially writing a blog post, typically in a more conversational tone. You can even use the blog post from Step #4 and tweak it.
Step 9: Ask For A Higher Payout
Here’s something many bloggers don’t realize: when you’re doing well with a program, brands are often happy to give you more money. Hey, you’re earning them income; it only makes sense they’d want to keep you happy. The more money you’re able to earn, the more time you’ll likely spend promoting them.
The thing is, you’ll often need to ask for that higher payout — sort of like asking for a raise from your boss. So, ask away!
Now listen, I do recommend eventually creating your own products and services — something I talk about in my FREE e-course, The *NEW* Strategy For Profitable Blogging.
That being said, before you get to that point, and even after you do, you can also earn a nice chunk of change with a strategy built around these affiliate marketing tips.Overwhelmed by affiliate marketing? These #tips make it easy - and profitable! #blog #blogging Click To Tweet