Maybe you have a website where you share your deep knowledge of tech products. Or, you regularly engage with social media followers about your travel adventures or cooking experiments.
You may be able to leverage that influence into a side hustle through affiliate marketing, where content creators partner with brands, promote products through unique affiliate links, and earn commission on any products they sell.
If you aspire to make enough money online to become a full-time business owner, this guide can help you get there. Explore 16 affiliate marketing tips you can use to get a slice of the affiliate marketing pie.
These affiliate marketing tips are designed for affiliate marketers looking to get the most from their affiliate marketing efforts. Get advice from experts on how to pick an affiliate program, serve your target audience, and make more affiliate income.
1. Launch your affiliate site with existing content
While affiliate marketing is a good option to start making money online, you need a portfolio of existing content to get started. If you don’t have a library of content on your site already, prep at least 20 articles before you launch your affiliate marketing platform and seek partners.
Pro affiliate marketer Stacey MacNaught says, “Over the last two years, by far the greatest performing sites for us have been those where we’d created 20-plus pieces of content before putting a website live.
“It’s so easy to stress over how something looks, but we know that until we get a certain volume of good content live, nobody will see the site anyway,” Stacey adds. “My personal golden rule is to have a whole list of content pieces researched in advance and a good number written up so the site is launching with content in place.”
2. Diversify your affiliate partners
Don’t put all of your affiliate eggs into one basket. A company may choose to close down its affiliate program, deny payouts, or slash commission rates.
For example, the Amazon Associates program notably cut commissions in April 2020 across numerous product categories. Amazon affiliates promoting home improvement items had their commissions cut from 8% to 3% with a week’s notice.
A good rule of thumb: One affiliate partner shouldn’t make up more than 50% of your revenue. That way, if an affiliate network cuts rates or shutters its affiliate marketing program, your business doesn’t sustain a significant financial hit. It’s easier to replace half of your revenue than all of it.
3. Own the relationship with your audience
The key to making money as an affiliate marketer is to have a loyal, engaged audience who cares about what you have to say. That’s hard to do if your content marketing campaigns are struggling to reach them.
Social media and YouTube channels are often the steps for affiliate marketers looking to share their product recommendations. But relying on these online channels can be risky. First, many algorithms deprioritize organic social media posts to push marketers into buying ads. And, when it comes to your audience, you don’t own it; the third-party platform does. Your account could be hacked, deleted, or reported and you might lose your entire audience.
Mitigate that risk—and have a direct line of communication with your target audience—by having them join an email list. Not only are you in total control over how and when your affiliate content reaches your audience, but you land in a place that isn’t oversaturated: their inbox.
This affiliate marketing tip doesn’t have to be anything complex. Simply add a pop-up box to your website that gives people something in return for subscribing to your newsletter, like a free checklist or discount code.
4. Become affiliates for audience-recommended products
An affiliate marketer’s audience is key in their success. A superb, under-utilized way to build that audience—while leveraging your ideas for passive income—is to become an affiliate for the products your audience recommends.
Michael Keenan, co-founder of Peak Freelance, did this with his freelance writing community. He recognized members were looking for a new customer relationship management (CRM) tool, so he tested a bunch of popular options. Bonsai came out on top, and Michael joined its affiliate marketing program and was paid to recommend a tool he already liked—and that his audience was searching for.
Michael's ability to listen—and be responsive—to his audience helped him to trial different options that he knew beforehand would gain traction. “Keeping your ear to the ground is especially important as an affiliate marketer,” Michael says. “Host natural conversations with your audience. Then, sign up to the best affiliate program and get paid to help your audience succeed.”
5. Know the ins and outs of the products you’re recommending
As the saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” And that translates to knowing the products that you’re recommending in affiliate marketing.
Ebike Generation founder John Murphy was able to successfully leverage affiliate marketing for his ebike dropshipping business because he knew his products and the customers he served.
“Because I was writing all of my product descriptions, I was getting very familiar with all the types of components, what they do and how they perform, the different types of bikes,” John says. This knowledge base proved key in effectively reaching his hunter audience, and providing them with the content they wanted and needed about heavy-duty hunting ebikes.
As part of his business strategy, he also teamed up with affiliate marketers to elevate his brand. “That’s been [an] absolute game changer for me,” John says. He ultimately created an affiliate program using an app discovered on Shopify. “Although I give away a commission, those are sales that would’ve been to somebody else.”
6. Disclose affiliate links
Disclosure is necessary when recommending products in return for commission.
That’s because customer trust is an essential element in affiliate marketing, and customers won’t purchase items from people whose recommendations they find trustworthy. If you don’t disclose that you’re earning commission for mentioning a product, and they discover this fact elsewhere, you risk alienating your customers and losing brand loyalty.
“When your audience believes you have their best interests at heart and trusts your recommendations, then all three parties [the affiliate, affiliate company or network, and audience member] in the affiliate marketing relationship ultimately benefit,” says top affiliate marketer Pat Flynn.
Still, it’s not just your audience’s trust you risk losing. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has strict rules on product endorsements that prevent affiliate marketers from misleading customers. You need to disclose any relationships you have with a retailer—including products you’re incentivized to sell.
Wirecutter, for example, has a disclaimer at the top of its affiliate content, just below the navigation bar. Anyone reading the article knows the website may receive a commission if items are purchased through a link.
7. Share discount codes
Retailers often compile a list of online marketing materials for their affiliates to use as part of their program. Typically, banner graphics and email marketing copy make the shortlist. But it doesn’t hurt to ask your affiliate partners if they have active discount codes that are redeemable on the products you’re promoting. These coupon codes do a brilliant job of converting people who haven’t yet tried the products you’re recommending.
Once you have a discount code to share with your audience, spread the word by:
- Sharing it on social media with direct affiliate links to shop.
- Sending an email to your audience that directs them toward the sale.
- Updating any affiliate-related website content to reference the discount code.
- Adding “discount” to the meta description of your review pages to encourage searchers to click through.
8. Become a creator on Instagram
Not all affiliates need a website to start making money. Social media platforms—including Instagram—are rolling out new features to help affiliate marketers get paid. You can sign up for a creator account on Instagram to unlock more features, like analytics to help you find retail partners and promote your affiliate links.
If you don’t meet the requirements for the creator program, you can still share affiliate links in your Instagram bio, in Reels, or through a link aggregator like Linktree.
9. Write product reviews and tutorials
Did you know that online reviews make a difference when buying a product? One survey found that 93% of consumers look at product reviews for their purchasing decisions. By writing reviews for affiliate products that are optimized for search engines, you’ll reach people already in the purchasing process for the item.
In this example, Instagram affiliate marketer Emma Louise reviews books in her content. A link in Emma’s bio sends her followers to Bookshop, where she has a dedicated page as part of the bookseller’s affiliate program.
10. Try comparative formats
Comparison pages are slightly different from standard product reviews. They pit two options against each other and help a shopper determine which one best fits their needs.
Get people clicking your affiliate links in that process by publishing comparison pages on your website. Optimize the page for the comparison keyword and push people through your links by guiding them in their purchase decision.
YouTuber Hot & Flashy produces topical review content that appeals to her target audience. Here, she compares several sunscreen brands, including affiliate links in the description.
Within the video description, this link for BK Beauty takes users to a dedicated page for the affiliate partnership.
Affiliate marketer Ryan Robinson also takes this approach to writing affiliate content.
“While many of these hosting comparison articles have relatively low search volume (think less than 1,000 monthly searches), the reader is perfectly primed to make a purchase decision right after they get the answer they’re looking for,” he says. “On the back end, I, of course, collect an affiliate commission whenever someone reads my comparison article, clicks a link, and decides to sign up with a provider I’m covering.”
Comparison articles let the affiliate earn commission on both (or all) the options featured in content—even if the audience picks the “losing” product. “I have the opportunity to generate a sale even if a reader resonates with something about the company I’m less ecstatic about recommending. It’s a win-win!” Ryan says.
11. Post product roundups
While a product review can be extensive—running thousands of words—you can take steps to quickly capture your reader’s attention. Do this by first including a product summary, advises Monica Lent, founder of Affilimate.
“You can optimize your click-through rate (and ultimately conversions) by including a summary of the product early in the post for the skimmers,” Monica writes. “A good product review summary should clearly answer these key questions: Do you personally recommend this product? Who is this product best for (e.g. travelers, new parents, tall people, etc)? Where can the product be purchased? At the best price?”
Providing a snapshot product overview can help you maximize your onscreen real estate, which is —important when visitors spend less than a minute on a website.
12. Consider search intent
Keyword research informs the topics you should be writing about on your affiliate website.
Alongside monthly search volume and keyword competition, consider the search intent of the user. This is the reason a user makes a search query on a search engine. They could be looking for information, looking to buy something, or looking to find something. Even within the “looking to buy” category of intent, there are varying degrees—someone could just be starting their search for a product, or they could be ready to buy it now. Your job as an affiliate marketer is to align your content with their intent.
Search marketing specialist Ted French puts this into practice: “If they found the page by searching for ‘best TVs’ in Google, then they’re likely close to purchase and they’re expecting to be bombarded with good offers and recommendations, so you can be super aggressive with your affiliate links.”
Jake Thomas, founder of Golden Hearts, took this approach with his affiliate content. He had Google’s auto suggest do the legwork on finding new content ideas by typing “best _ for golden retrievers” into the search bar. At the time, the term “best brushes for golden retriever” came up as the first suggestion.
“After looking at which posts ranked on the first page of Google, I saw that they were all list posts, so I made a list post as well,” Jake says. “To make my article more helpful, and therefore rank higher, I thought about what question the reader would have next.”
With this approach, his post covering best brushes for golden retrievers shot to the top spot on Google and still ranks among the top search results today.
13. Keep an eye on trending topics
Consumer tastes often follow trends, so as an affiliate marketer, it’s important to keep up to date. Keyword research tools can help you keep current by showing you trends in search activity. Subscribing to relevant newsletters and reading industry resources is also crucial to make sure you’re on top of trends.
For example, TikTok trends can give you a snapshot of what’s trending at any given moment in your specific industry or niche.
“Stay up-to-date on current trends and be open to new chances. Replace that content with something new and popular to represent your timeliness,” says Adam Wood, co-founder of RevenueGeeks.
14. Link to localized landing pages
The beauty of running a successful affiliate marketing business is that you can reach customers all over the world, so long as the partners you’re working with distribute inventory there. The chances of this are high, especially if you’re partnering with Shopify stores. More than one-third of all Shopify traffic comes from international visitors.
Global shoppers have different requirements that need to be met throughout the purchasing process. The most important? Prices in their local currency—something the vast majority (92%) of international shoppers need to see before buying through a multinational online store.
Work around that by linking to localized landing pages. Many affiliate networks will create them for you within the dashboard.
15. Run ads around peak shopping seasons
While your affiliate marketing business doesn’t work by selling your own products directly to the consumer, you’re still an online business. You make commission on another retailer’s products and the end goal is the same: generate revenue.
Draw inspiration from successful ecommerce marketing strategies and tie in your affiliate promotions with peak shopping seasons such as:
- Valentine’s Day
- Mother’s and Father’s Day
- 4th of July
- Black Friday and Cyber Monday
- Christmas and New Year’s
If you have the cash to spare, put some money behind social media and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
While customer acquisition costs shoot up during competitive periods, it’s a great way to maximize your chances of building an audience—and your email list—at a time when shoppers are actively looking for products to buy.
16. Report on affiliate link conversions
How do you know the products in your affiliate marketing strategy are selling?
Much like any digital marketing campaign, set regular reminders to review your most important metrics, including:
- Clicks. A low click volume for a heavily promoted product could indicate your audience isn’t interested in the item you’re sharing.
- Conversion rate. The percentage of people who clicked your affiliate link and purchased something. The higher, the better.
- Earned income. The amount of money you’ve earned by promoting a product.
You can find most of this data inside Google Analytics. Affiliate networks and partners will also have a dashboard that shows this information.
The goal with reporting is to uncover the most popular and profitable products so you can continue promoting them—and deprioritize those your audience isn’t purchasing.
Bonus affiliate marketing tip: Find your most popular product and ask the brand for a higher commission. Show them how valuable you are as an affiliate. Promise to continue doing great work—and drive more revenue—if they can give your audience a super special discount code.
Make more revenue as a Shopify affiliate
The Shopify affiliate program exists to help marketers make money by recommending world-class business tools.
Best suited to entrepreneurs, educators, and influencers that inspire their audience to start an online business, you’ll earn generous commission on any paid customer you drive to Shopify’s suite of commerce products.
In other words: You win when your audience does.
Getting more from your affiliate marketing strategy
Now that you’re armed with more than a dozen expert-recommended affiliate marketing tips, it’s time to put them to work. As an affiliate marketer, you have multiple options for running your affiliate marketing business. Pick the best affiliate program (or programs) to suit your audience, and start promoting affiliate products today.
Affiliate marketing tips FAQ
How can I be successful in affiliate marketing?
To make the most of your affiliate marketing strategy, try these affiliate marketing tips:
- Diversify your affiliate partners.
- Own the relationship with your audience.
- Become an affiliate for audience-recommended products.
- Know the ins and outs of the products you’re recommending.
- Disclose affiliate links.
- Share discount codes.
- Create an Instagram affiliate shop.
- Write product reviews and tutorials.
- Publish comparison pages.
- Write a product review summary.
- Consider search intent.
- Keep an eye on trending topics.
- Link to localized landing pages.
- Run ads around peak shopping times.
- Report on affiliate link conversions.
How can I grow faster in affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing can take time, but you’ll grow faster by testing out different channels and identifying the best ways to connect with your target audience. It also helps to have a large audience, so you’ll grow faster in affiliate marketing if you also spend time growing your social media following.