The business of blogging | affiliate links

by | Feb 14, 2017 | Running a Business | 19 comments

This is part four of the overall series “The Business of Blogging“, but it’s part three in the more specific topic of monetization (making money off of a blog).  In this post, I’ll be sharing about affiliate links and how they work.

First of all, what are affiliate links?

They are special links from a blog post (or social media post) to a specific company, product, or service.  The blogger makes a commission if an item is purchased when a reader/follower clicks through one of those links.

Simple enough, right?

So, how do affiliate links work for the blog reader?

In my opinion, affiliate links are a kind of monetization that are a win-win in most cases.  A blogger is sharing a product or service that you might be interested in and, if you are interested, and make a purchase based on their recommendation, they earn a small bonus for referring you.  Affiliate links are a way to keep blogging content free, but still profitable.

I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of referral bonuses out in the “real world” and I’m a fan of them in the blog world as well.  If someone shares something with me that I love, I like the idea that they get a perk from that.  As a blogger who uses affiliate links, I like that I can make a little money off of my referrals, reviews, and product recommendations.

The best thing about it is that the reader doesn’t incur any additional cost to purchase through an affiliate link.  You can click over, purchase the product (or other items on that site), and it all happens behind the scenes.

Here’s the hitch…

Affiliate links, just like sponsored posts, are based on trust.  You are trusting that I am only going to be blogging about and using affiliate links for products and services I love, use, and genuinely would refer my friends to purchase.  You’re also trusting that I’m not going to create content for the sole purpose of trying to make money through affiliate links.  I do think there is a fine line and each blogger has to decide where that line is.

For me, affiliate links are almost always an afterthought.  I create the content and then look through the post to see where I can place affiliate links.  I’m not as savvy with affiliate links as I probably could be, though!

How do affiliate links work in blogging?

As I just mentioned above, I am not super savvy when it comes to affiliate links, but I’ll share what I know and how I use them.

First of all, affiliate links have come a long way since I first started blogging.  In the early days, a blogger had to sign up to be an affiliate with each company, making it a laborious process.  I was an Amazon affiliate for a long time and that was it.  In recent years, though, companies like Share-a-Sale and Reward Style have popped up to partner bloggers with an affiliate network of stores.  You sign up with them and then have the ability to use affiliate links for hundreds of companies.

I use Reward Style and Amazon for almost all of my social media and blogging affiliate links.  I buy a ton of things off Amazon, so that one is handy.  I like Reward Style, because a lot of stores I love work with them, like Anthro, Gap, Pottery Barn, etc.  AND they work with Etsy, which is awesome, since antiques are my thing!  I can link to ironstone, quilts, and other things I love that my readers might want to purchase.

To create an affiliate link with Reward Style, I have installed a bookmark to my browser called the “link ninja”.  When I am on a site or specific item and I want to create a link, I click the “link ninja” button to generate a link where I can share it on my blog or social media.  It’s a pop-up box that looks like this…

 the business of blogging | what are affiliate links and how do they work? | miss mustard seed

…and then I paste the link into my post, just like this…

the business of blogging | what are affiliate links and how do they work? | miss mustard seed

For Amazon, there is a tool bar at the top, so any time I view an item on Amazon, I can just click on the toolbar to generate a link.

the business of blogging | what are affiliate links and how do they work? | miss mustard seed

As you can see, I’m (sadly) shopping for a new camera on Amazon, so I linked to that as my example.

When a reader purchases an item through that link within a set period of time, you make a small commission off of that purchase.  The rules and percentage differ depending on the site and the item, but it ranges from a few cents to a few dollars.  Obviously, the higher the price, the higher the commission.  But all of those little nickels, dimes, and dollars add up and some bloggers make a full-time income off of affiliate links alone.  For me, it’s a little supplement to other streams of income (I share the details of that in this post) and it’s a part of diversifying how I make money from my blog.

Affiliate links can go beyond the blogging world, too.  You can use them on social media, which I think is becoming more and more popular, since engagement is up on social media and down on blogs.  I rarely place affiliate links in social media posts, but mostly because I don’t talk about a lot of products, except my own, on social media, so it just hasn’t been applicable.

I hope this little flyover has filled in some of the gaps for you (if there were any) about affiliate links and how they work.

Next time in this series, let’s have a chat about social media.  You can find that post HERE.


  1. Jude

    I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for making the text in your blog posts black again, or at least darker than the lighter gray. It has been so much easier to read the last couple of days! Keep up the good work! I love reading your blog everyday!

  2. Elizabeth

    There’s probably a good reason for this, Miss M, but why don’t you reprint all or some of your blog content on your Facebook page?

    Reusing the text would further leverage your content while creating more opportunities for affiliate links, wouldn’t it? Even if you had to cut or otherwise edit the blog, it might be worth it.

    Your content is always excellent, so I think you’d be doing a favor for your social-media friends who don’t subscribe to your blog..

  3. Elizabeth

    Oh, wait… I see that you do that already, so hopefully it broadens your ability to monetize the text.

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      Yes, I do put up a post preview on Facebook, but ultimately, I want readers to click over to my blog to read the entire post. Facebook has set things up, so a blogger really can’t make money directly off of Facebook engagement, but they can use it to direct traffic to sites that are traffic-earning, like a monetized blog or an affiliate link. I prefer to direct the traffic to my blog, though, because I think if I shared affiliate links with my audience regularly, it would be a turn-off. I do share affiliate links on Facebook on a rare occasion, though, like when Pottery Barn was running an amazing sale on one of my favorite throws. I genuinely thought my readers would want to take advantage of that.

      Anyway, I hope that answers your question! 🙂

  4. Carla from Kansas

    Thanks so much for the information Marian.

  5. ellie

    From what I understand about Reward Style, if you click a blogger’s link that takes you to the item thru rstyle, the blogger doesn’t just get a commission on the item they recommended but on everything that person purchases at that store for the next 30 days. Is this true? I know a lot of people who read fashion blogs (where rstyle commissions really rack up) feel very deceived by this. Especially those that force you to click the link just to see what the blogger is talking about.

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      You are referring to the “cookie” length, which varies, even through the same affiliate network. It all depends on their terms with that company and I believe it can even vary from blogger to blogger, depending on their performance and standing. 30 days is really long, based on my research. As I understand it, most cookies last for a few hours and maybe a few days.

      I see your point, though. Are people getting commissions off of sales that aren’t really related to the referral? Yes. Bloggers do make money off of sales not related to their specific referral. So, if I link to a specific item on Amazon and you check it out, don’t buy anything, but come back an hour later, unrelated to my blog, and purchase a bunch of school supplies for your kids, I’ll make a commission off of that sale, because of the earlier referral.

      I don’t think there is anything deceptive about this. I don’t know how long each cookie lasts, so I can’t disclose that to my readers. And, it doesn’t change the cost of the item for the buyer, so it really doesn’t affect them. It’s a transaction between the company and the blogger.

      I do acknowledge that there is some sticky territory in the world of affiliate links, though. As I said in the post, it is based on trust and readers can always decide to not click links from a blog post if they do not wish to support that blogger.

  6. Karen

    Thank you for sharing! A new camera? Lucky you!

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      Well, I love my camera, but the outlet to “tether” it to my computer isn’t working. It needs to be repaired (cleaned and calibrated, anyway), but it’s showing its age and it’s time to buy a new one, so I always have a backup. I’m dragging my feet a bit, though!

  7. Megan

    It’s also important to know that the FCC requires a disclosure notice prior to any sharing of affiliate links.

  8. Paula Carli

    Love your blog; love all the information and your designing. But I have to admit, when I read blogs with all the ad pop ups, I find myself, closing out quickly because they are so darn irritating. People are using them so much, they are coming across the bottom, on the side, right across what I am reading and you constantly have to click the X button. They do help both sides, but I am really missing the old fashioned, just text and picture blogs without all the ads and pop ups. Just an old fashioned kinda gal opinion.

    • Marian Parsons

      Paula, I don’t like pop-ups, either, and for that reason, I do not allow them on my site, so I’m not sure what you’re seeing. If you’re looking on a cell phone, there are ads in the content, because there isn’t a side bar. If you’re looking on a desktop version, there is an ad at the bottom of the page called a “sticky footer” can you can close out, but it may reappear or change out as you open new pages. Some of the ads will expand, but none of them should be “pop-ups” that cover the content.

      Anyway, I understand preferring an ad-free blog, but ads are how I make my money and make this site free to readers. I wrote an entire post about it if you’re wondering how ads work…

  9. Carol S

    I was just scrolling down to get to the place where I could post a comment and read Paula Carli’s regarding the ad pop ups. I was wondering why you decided to change from just a teaser part of your blog in the email vs. the current scenario of running the entire blog content in the email. It certainly is nice to read your blog from start to finish without ad pop-ups. However, now my visits to your website are less frequent. Specifically have to go to the website to make a blog comment and to look up other things besides the blog. Does this change impact your revenue streams?

    • Marian Parsons

      Actually, that was an oversight! Since I don’t usually read my own blog posts in my e-mail, I didn’t realize that changed. We will be changing it back, because you’re right, I don’t get ad revenue if a reader doesn’t visit my page.

      And, about the “pop-ups”, I do not have pop-up ads on my site, so I’m not sure what that reader is seeing. I have an ad that is on the bottom of the page called a “sticky footer” that can be closed out and it will reappear on a new page and sometimes change out, but it doesn’t pop up over the content.

  10. Jo

    Thank-you, I will be bookmarking this!

  11. Jennifer Williams

    Thank you so much for taking the time to break everything down for all of us! You and your blog are fabulous!! I have an etsy shop and I’ve just recently started a blog and I’ve been looking into affiliate programs. And all of the fun and not so fun stuff that come along with it wowza lol. I’m really glad to hear that you only put links up you trust love and would use yourself I’ve been having a discussion with someone about this because I won’t sign up for anything that I would not use myself. I’ve been called stupid and everything else because I’m not in it for just money. Yes I know that blogs can become profitable but I also know that doesn’t happen over night. I do not treat my etsy shop that way to me it would be like making my products of something I know to be cheap and selling it anyway. It would be pointless to even start something up if I’m going to run it right into the ground. I’m sorry for just venting while comenting lol. Just wanted to say thank you

  12. Missy Lewis

    I ran across this series on blogging at such a perfect time, Marian! I have been hobby blogging for a few years, but have recently begun researching ways to increase my audience and make an eventual living of it. I’ve always loved your blog and have been thrilled to watch it grow!
    I currently work a full-time job outside my home, but aspire to return to my position as full-time homemaker in the near future. I appreciate you sharing these tips for how to monetize a blog. Blessings as you continue to touch lives!

  13. Vivek

    Blogger can be a good platform for picking up the ideal audiences for promoting our affiliate links.

  14. Criss

    Thanks for sharing useful information with us. Great job with your article. Keep up the great work. Actually we can save a lot money using coupons and cashback websites because we have to shop whole life to fulfill daily day needs and by shopping with cashback or reward sites we can save huge amount. Well, I also have a plan to create new affiliate website such as coupons and cashback website and looking for solution that can be used easily and without having deep development skills. I have read a lot of articles to find out best solution and found revglue and there solution to build coupons and cashback websites looking very easy to use, how to create coupons and cashback websites with revglue can be found at revglue(.)com/bespoke, they are providing cashback, coupons cms templates and API and offering free wordpress plugin with as well, but I am confused while working with this platform because i don’t have working experience with this company. If anyone have working experience with this affiliate platform please share. Thanks


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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