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Five Keys to Affiliate Marketing Success

This post may contain affiliate links. FinanceSuperhero only recommends products which help Restore Order to the World of Finance.

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When I started blogging in 2016, I honestly had very little idea of how bloggers make money.  It’s no secret that I started this site as a fun hobby with a primary goal of helping people navigate the complicated maze that is personal finance. A few months into the journey, I discovered that there was an ethical way to maintain my new hobby, still help people, and earn money: affiliate marketing.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing—the process of earning commission by promoting other people’s products—is a core component of developing a profitable blog in most niches. Successfully navigating this aspect of blogging is crucial in determining whether your blog remains a hobby or generates profit.

I struggled mightily in this area, to be honest, until I made the decision to invest in a course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

If you’re not familiar with course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing was designed by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, the founder of the popular blog MakingSenseofCents. In the course, she shares the techniques and strategies that help her make over $100,000 per month blogging—yes, you read that right, per MONTH.

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing makes affiliate marketing achievable. You can see your blogging income grow from the beginning, and the information in this course will help you well into the future.

If you’re not earning money through affiliate marketing, then you are leaving money on the table.

Bloggers and online influencers can all successfully promote products to their audience and earn an income, while being genuine and trustworthy.

You can read more about the course here.

Five Simple Keys to Affiliate Marketing Success

Within weeks of working my way through the course material and applying Michelle’s actionable advice, my affiliate income began to grow. In less than 6 weeks, I had already earned back my entire investment in the course. And my testimonial is just one of hundreds.

Simply put, there is a reason that over 1,000 bloggers have taken Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing—the strategies work! The proof is in my income reports listed below.

  • January 2018 Blog Income Report: How I Made $3,004 Blogging
  • February 2018 Blog Income Report: How I Made $3,026 Blogging

Since applying what I learned in Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing,  I’ve learned that there are five keys to making money with affiliate marketing.

Following these keys has helped me 30X my blogging income.

If you’re just getting started on your own monetization strategy on your blog or looking to earn more through affiliate marketing, I am confident these strategies will help you improve upon your current performance.

1. Be Open About Who You Are

My biggest mistake when launching my blog was writing anonymously. Money is a vulnerable subject, and I honestly had doubts about whether anyone would care what I had to say about personal finance. And I really didn’t think they would take my product recommendations seriously.

Once I started to open up about my identity, financial situations, mistakes and triumphs, I began to earn the trust and respect of my readers. Readers became much more interested in my story and advice once they saw that I was a real person with real struggles. And sharing our story of paying off a sizable chunk of student loan debt in less than two months didn’t hurt, either.

Our vulnerability paid off in more ways than one, too. Our student loan story was shared with hundreds of thousands of people on CNBC and .

I can’t stress this enough: if you’re serious about achieving success with affiliate marketing, you need to put yourself out there and be 100% open and honest with your readers. If you’re dishonest, readers will start to wonder what you have to hide. They are looking to you for help, and you absolutely must earn and keep their trust if they’re going to take you seriously.

2. If a Product Doesn’t Help You or Your Reader in Ethical Manner, Don’t Promote It

This point is simple and doesn’t require an example, but I’ll provide one anyway. Suppose I started promoting mediocre credit cards on FinanceSuperhero because they paid really great commissions to affiliates. Readers would see right through that and quickly realize I was just promoting them for my own interest.

On the other hand, if I personally used and benefited from an amazing travel rewards card and wanted to share the benefits with readers while also detailing how it helped me? Now we’re talking!

The cardinal rule of affiliate marketing, in my opinion, is this: never recommend a product you wouldn’t use yourself or recommend to your family. I don’t do it, and I never will. It just isn’t worth making a few dollars if you have to be disingenuous to do so.

Simply put, if you’re not genuine, it could destroy your entire website.

3. Get to Know Your Audience and Fix Their Problems

In blogging, building relationships with your readers is a two-way street. They need to know and trust you, but you need to understand them, as well.

Think about your readers for a moment. What are their needs? Biggest fears? Current struggles?

It becomes much easier to provide meaningful service and product recommendations that will help your readers solve their problems if you know the answers to these questions. If you don’t understand your readers problems, how can you possibly point them toward the right solutions?

If the answers to the questions above aren’t obvious, dive into your Google Analytics and see which posts and topics drive the majority of your traffic. And don’t be afraid to ask your readers what they need through surveys, blog posts, and email (more on that in a moment).

Most bloggers aren’t going to ask their readers what they need, and by doing so, you will stand out and make a real connection with your readers.

4. You Need to Build -and Market to- Your Email List

It has been said that most new visitors will decide if they are interested in your blog in the first 5-10 seconds. In that time, they are looking for clues about the value your blog can provide them. Depending upon how they arrived at your blog (Google, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook), they may not even realize that they are on your site!

One of the biggest mistakes that hold bloggers back from affiliate marketing success is failing to convert new, interested visitors into regular readers. After all, most people aren’t usually too excited to buy a product or service because some random person recommended it.

Regular readers, on the other hand, trust you.

What’s the key takeaway? The best way to convert a new reader into a raving fan is through your email list.

If you’ve neglected your email list up to this point, there are plenty of free or inexpensive WordPress plugins, services, and tutorials to help you with the technical aspects of building your list. The best way to rapidly increase your list is by offering a valuable free incentive to get your readers’ attention. My free 3 Day Budget Breakthrough email course is a perfect example.

When readers sign-up for your list, they are trusting you with a small piece of their digital life. At that point, it’s fairly safe to say that they will be open to product and service recommendations you offer.

5. Focus on a Core Group of Affiliate Products

One of the most common mistakes bloggers make—and I have done it myself—is trying to promote too many products or the wrong products to their readers. I have learned that it is much more effective to focus on a small group of products and services that specifically address the needs and problems of my readers.

Once I realized my mistake and narrowed my focus, my affiliate income started to grow and has continued to grow every month.

The truth is that you know your readers better than anyone, and you are uniquely positioned to help them in ways that others can’t match. If you’ve earned their trust and have demonstrated that you can provide solutions to their problems and make their lives better, many of them will knock down doors to purchase products and services you recommend.

I recommend making a list of the own problems you’ve encountered in relationship to the topic of your blog. Then create a list of the products and services that have helped you overcome those problems. If they have an affiliate program, you should definitely join it. Even if they don’t, recommending a quality product to your readers will only help build trust over time.

Bottom Line

When it comes to successfully building a solid affiliate marketing earnings base, there are no short cuts: you need readers, you have to earn their trust and respect, and you absolutely must put them in touch with the right solutions to their current problems.

Of course, these five keys will only take you so far. If you’re truly serious about transforming your blog from a hobby into a serious side hustle or even full-time business, I highly recommend enrolling in Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing as soon as you can.

The lessons I learned in the course go far beyond the core principles I shared in this post, and I’m confident the course can help you get on track to reach your blogging goals as well. Since completing the course, I’ve 30Xed my blogging income, which makes it one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

Don’t forget to check out more information on Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing here.


What are your current struggles with affiliate marketing? Have you read any books or taken courses to improve your strategies?

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