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 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.
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 link to 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 for the blogger?
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 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. It’s a pop-up box that looks like this…
…and then I paste the link into my post, just like this…
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.
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 a blog, 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…