Affiliate marketing is when you earn commissions on product sales you refer to another business. They’re similar to the refer-a-friend programs your cable TV company uses that pay you $50 for people you sent their way. With Internet businesses, these referrals are much easier to generate through email newsletters and Facebook posts, and can have much higher payouts. This post explains how affiliate marketing works so you can take advantage of revenue-sharing products you already tell others about.
People ask me all the time what products I use. I’m happy to share the names of companies I trust and love so why not be rewarded for the referral? The most common questions I get are about my domain registration, hosting company, and website template. After referring these companies dozens of times I realized they all have affiliate programs. Now when I send a friend to these sites, the system knows if my friend made a purchase and pays me a commission. Take a product you love and do a search for the product name plus “affiliate” and you’ll know if they have a program.
How Affiliate Marketing Works
First, find a product you love.
Find out if they have an affiliate program. If they do, there’s typically a page where you can signup and grab your own personal link you can use to promote the site. You can see an example of my affiliate page.
Your personal link will be tracked so the company will know how many people used the link, and how many sales occurred. Use that link on your website, in emails, in forums, and on Facebook. The affiliate program places cookies (a fun word for anonymous future tacking) on the user’s computer to track future purchases too. For example my affiliate program gives you credit for sales up to 6 months after you referred someone. This means your friend doesn’t have to buy right away for you to get credit.
You get paid according to the company’s affiliate terms. I pay affiliates monthly via PayPal for the previous month’s referrals.
Amazon’s Affiliate Program
Amazon has a nice program that pays between 4% and 15% of earnings. That can be pretty big if you’re referring cameras and photo equipment. A simple way to refer these products is to create a “What’s in My Bag” page on your site and list out all your photo gear (including the bag) with each item using an Amazon affiliate link. Clients will want to be like you and buy based on your recommendations. similar pages about what to wear, props, accessories, or even a fun reading list might resonate well with clients too.
Why Advertisers and Publishers Like Affiliate Marketing
I don’t pay for any advertising, but it doesn’t mean I don’t get advertising on other websites. I often get approached by other websites asking if I want to pay for placement on their website either with a banner ad, listing in their directory, or similar positioning. This approach to advertising leaves the advertiser in a dilemma – can they earn more profits from that ad than they paid for it? Sometimes yes and sometimes know, but I never take that gamble. I’d only pay for a sure thing. This is why [Facebook and Google advertising] models have made them the biggest, most successful companies in the world. Advertisers only pay for what they get (pay per click) and can choose the amount they want to pay to reach each new person.
Rather than pay for placement on photography-related sites, I offer them a share of my sales. By asking me to advertise they’re telling me that their audience will buy from me and I should pay them for that exposure. If that is the case, then they can earn more money from me by getting paid for the buyers they refer. So I eliminate my risk by paying nothing up front or out of pocket, and they earn 50% of the revenue for people they send my way.
Now it is in the person’s best interest to “promote” me instead of “advertise” me since they have a vested interest in the performance of my product. They will now read my products to make sure they like and approve my material. Instead of a simple banner placement (that few people click) or directory listing (where I will appear next to several competitors), they will write a product review, include me in their email newsletter, and mention me on social media.
Through revenue share (affiliate marketing) we both earn more and I get a well positioned endorsement.
Laws Regarding Disclosure
The FTC requires that all affiliate promotions be clearly identified on web pages. I agree with this law, as it insures that readers know when a website owner is getting commissioned for placement. It doesn’t mean the person doesn’t love the product, or that what they say about it isn’t true, just that there is compensation involved. Do you ever wonder if Oprah is getting paid by the companies represented in her favorite things? I don’t think she does, but in the online world you don’t have to wonder.
The FTC law explains why you see “affiliate link” after some web links. It’s the site owner’s way of being honest with you. I mention it so that if you do become an affiliate, you make sure to tell your readers.
My Affiliate Philosophy
I love paying 50% affiliate commissions for those who talk about my ebooks. I love when photographers refer me to friends and I wouldn’t reach such a broad audience any other way. I think you should be rewarded for that.
A lot of what keeps my blog running is the affiliate income. Referring great products helps compensate for my time to find and share great information to grow your businesses. It reduces my need to create new products every month (that would eventually decrease the quality) or slam my site with dozens of banner ads.
I only endorse products I have used, have a high level of quality, and that I think will benefit photographers. If I referred bad products it would harm my reputation far more than it would earn me. By sharing great products I become a more trusted resource for quality information. I hope you will share my products in the same respect.