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How to diversify your income with affiliate marketing

If you want to diversify your passive income stream, here’s everything you need to know about running a successful affiliate program. Just follow these 4 steps.

If you’re at a point in your business where you’re ready to diversify your income — without having to create another digital product (for now) — we have just the solution.

Enter… affiliate marketing.

If you don’t know how to tap the power of affiliate marketing (yet), you’re in for a treat today.

We’ll show you exactly how to set up a successful affiliate program to leverage your current network and target audience, and expand your bottom line.

But, first things first. Let’s quickly cover the benefits of partaking in an affiliate marketing program.

What is affiliate marketing, and why should I use it?

Pat Flynn , founder of Smart Passive Income and one of the most successful affiliate marketing entrepreneurs, defines affiliate marketing as:

“Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting another company’s product or service. You find a product, promote it to others, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.”

So, the affiliate brand (the merchant) pays you (the publisher) a commission percentage every time you bring in a sale for the merchant (in other words, land them a customer).

For a visual look at how affiliate marketing works, check out this affiliate marketing chart :

Wondering how big the profit pie piece is?

Pretty big.

In fact, well-crafted affiliate marketing programs can give you a staggering 30% boost in revenue .

Especially if you partner with a program that offers high affiliate commissions with a payout that’s based on cost per action (CPA) instead of cost per impression (CPM).

Take web hosting company Bluehost , for example.

Blogging expert and successful entrepreneur, Adam Enfroy, shares how to make up to $130 per sale selling Bluehost’s affiliate products.

With affiliate products like Bluehost, you get paid per action — for each sale transaction you instigate — rather than the impressions you provide.

From an annual revenue perspective, you can earn anywhere between $20,000 to over seven figures annually.

Pretty lucrative for passive income, no?

It’s no wonder affiliate marketing spending in the U.S. alone is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022 , which is more than three times what affiliate marketing businesses accounted for 10 years prior.

If you’re curious about the types of products affiliate marketers are promoting, a major 81.4% of affiliates promote B2C products and services.

Product type aside, though, the main takeaway is:

Partnering with the right affiliate programs is an easy way to make money online. And enough to certainly make it worth incorporating an affiliate program into your digital marketing strategy.

Of course, there’s a right way to set yourself up for a successful affiliate marketing campaign.

Here’s how to do it in four straightforward steps.

4 steps for running a successful affiliate program

#1. Align yourself with the right affiliates for your specific brand

Possibly the most important factor in running a successful affiliate program is working with the right affiliate partner.

This means being choosy and promoting products, services, and brands that you can authentically vouch for.

Authenticity is so vital these days that a staggering 86% of consumers claim that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support.

Not only is authenticity something your target audience needs and craves, but it also impacts your bottom line.

If you don’t partner with the best affiliates for your brand, it can cost you a pretty penny.

In fact, this is one of Pat Flynn’s early learning lessons when he was first contracting with affiliate partners.

He made a $300 mistake by promoting an affiliate site with products that he didn’t fully understand.

The consequence? He came across as inauthentic, which was harshly exposed in his flat 0% commission rates.

“I had spent $300 on a couple dozen clicks, and those clicks had amounted to zero sales… My $300 mistake was a wake-up call,” says Pat.

“Affiliate marketing is about fostering genuine long-term relationships with people you trust, products you love, and companies that align with you and your philosophies.”

We couldn’t have said it better. Basically, join affiliate brands that align with you, your brand, and your audience. Anything less, and whatever short-term gains you might have will disappear when your audience’s trust tanks.

Like anything that you publish under your content marketing umbrella, it’s important to create valuable and quality content that includes your affiliate products.

It’s also important to disclose your affiliate status with your viewers. Different channels have different requirements and formats for how, but I highly recommend checking out the FTC guidelines if you’re in the U.S. to save yourself potential trouble down the road.

A go-to format for creating quality content around affiliate products is to publish tutorials, like this how-to webinar by successful creator Pete McPherson.

If you have a thriving blog, write an educational article that helps your target audience achieve a relevant goal.

A great way to incorporate this affiliate blogging is to write about why and how you use affiliate products to achieve your own goals.

This is exactly what Becky does in her Why I host my online courses & memberships on Podia article.

Becky also leverages her blogging skills and publishes affiliate links in her Podia vs. Thinkific product review post.

You can also see where she clearly discloses that they’re affiliate links a little further down the post:

Beyond product reviews, you can also diversify your content formats. Here’s Becky’s high-quality — and authentic — product review in video format on her YouTube channel .

An ideal place to include your affiliate product links is in your YouTube video description, like so:

Pro tip: To boost your SEO and visibility in YouTube’s search engine, include highly-searched keywords in your description, too. By boosting the searchability of your new affiliate videos, you’ll up your conversion rates.

As if Becky’s content formats aren’t diverse enough, yet another great place to promote affiliate links is on your site, just like her Tools I Use page.

Whether it’s a podcast, WordPress blog article, or YouTube video, the point here is to incorporate your affiliate links and mentions into high-quality content that’s authentic and valuable to your target audience.

Your audience trusts you to be an expert in your niche, so when you make a product referral, it’s important the affiliate products add value to your target audience.

This is the reason why affiliate links and high-quality content go together like avocado and toast.

From a trending standpoint, content is still king, with bloggers and content sites earning nearly a 40% share of publisher commissions .

And in case you’re wondering what’s happening on a broader scale, there’s an emerging trend taking place where cashback and loyalty affiliate publishers are occupying a bigger piece of the pie.

The main takeaway here is to include your affiliate links inside content pieces and formats that blend in naturally with your overall content marketing plan.

Whether you’re part of an affiliate network, promoting Amazon products, or running an entire affiliate website, you need to do more than just give people links. You need to give them a reason to click.

From there, it’s about dispersing your content to more places, including your social media channels.

#3. Leverage your social media platforms

Once you’ve created your high-quality content pieces, it’s time to share them with the world.

As a publisher, you likely already have a process for this, anytime you create and publish a piece of new content — but, it doesn’t hurt to do more of it and get extra exposure for these affiliate content pieces, especially on your social channels.

After all, 67.3% of affiliate marketers connect with customers on social media platforms.

You can take it a step further and support your customers who purchase your affiliate products using social media groups.

Just like founder of Purple Teacup, Hope Hanson-Baker, does with her private Facebook group that supports clients as they brainstorm ideas and acclimate to Podia’s all-in-one platform.

Hope teaches people how to become thriving bloggers, like in her Blog Lab 101 online course, so joining Podia’s Refer-a-Creator affiliate program is a match made in heaven — particularly for people who want to set up sites without needing any coding.

If you happen to be a social media influencer, posting relevant affiliate content isn’t limited to ecommerce sites and physical products.

In fact, you can promote digital products and SaaS products as a social media star.

Take mother and daughter team, Kim & Kalee, who host The Kim and Kalee Show podcast, for example.

The two are affiliate members of digital marketing expert Amy Porterfield ’s Digital Course Academy. Here’s one of their Instagram posts featuring the affiliate promotion.

In their blog, they even published an article explaining why they became affiliates of Amy’s Digital Course Academy.

Another great platform for promoting business affiliate products for small businesses and SaaS products is LinkedIn.

Given that LinkedIn now digests 15x more content impressions than job postings, it’s a great social media platform to start conversations about business-oriented affiliate products.

If you’re in need of a social post format, try this template:

Social post format template

[before and after pic]

This is me before and after [product] in my life (the difference is not so subtle).

I cannot tell you how much [product] has [benefited] me.

If you want to [benefit], you might want to try it, too. I share the link in my bio.


This is me before and after Podia in my life (the difference is not so subtle).

I cannot tell you how much the platform has decluttered my business AND life.

If you want to streamline your entire online business without having to touch a single line of code, you might want to try it, too. I share the link in my bio.

Beyond social media, there’s one more crucial place to deploy your affiliate links, and it’s the widow maker of online marketing channels — email.

#4. Deploy an email marketing campaign

Our final tip today is to also get the word out through an email campaign.

In the same way that you use an email marketing tool like Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign to send newsletters and helpful content to your subscribers, you can also build a mini-email sequence that promotes your affiliate products.

These days, email is so widespread that you can expect an abundant average return of $42 for every $1 you spend on email marketing.

This means using email for affiliate sales is an opportunity not to be missed.

I’m sure you already receive tons of emails in your own inbox promoting other affiliate products. I know I do. Here’s one from Amy Porterfield promoting Marie Forleo’s B-School, for example.

She even offers her own bonuses to sweeten the deal.

If you’re wondering how many emails to send out promoting your affiliate links, I’d say at least a few.

If you’re afraid to send too many, don’t be. In 2018, I received 15 emails from Amy Porterfield promoting her affiliate links to B-School.

I didn’t mind because I’m the right audience. As long as your email list is targeted and the retailer you’re working with is in your niche, you shouldn’t have any problem sending promotional emails.

Looking for email templates to use in your own messages? We’ve got you covered.

Here’s a variation of a product launch email template that should work nicely with the introduction of your affiliate products:

Product launch email template

Hey [first name],

This is too good not to share - it’s a quick story.

[past time frame], I was [pain point].

It was so bad that [pain point].

But, there’s a happy ending: I was able to [results].

That’s right. And not only was I able to [result], but I did it within [time frame].

Which begs the question, how?

By [method], I reached [results].

Amazing, right?
I’m sharing this because if it can help you [results] too, then I’m helping you [achieve result].

And that’s my mission.

Head over to [link] to change your world.

[sign off]

Strong note: If your link doesn’t direct your subscribers to a landing page where you detail out your affiliate relationship with the product and you’re in the U.S., your email will need to. You can append it as a P.S. at the bottom, like so:

P.S.: In compliance with FTC guidelines, note that this email contains affiliate links for which I will receive a small commission on the sale of certain items. This does NOT change the price for you.

For a more sales-oriented email template , give this one a whirl:

Sales oriented email template

Hey [first name],

If you’re experiencing [pain point], then you know how [pain emotion] it can be.

You’re not alone.

[story illustrating, in detail, the moment of tension from the problem].

What if I told you that can all change?

With one change…

[story illustrating, in detail, the moment of pleasure from your offer/solution].

Pretty incredible, right?

The good news is, [affiliate product] is available for you to try [for discount].

I’m thrilled to share the love. Give it a whirl and let me know what happens.

[sign off]

As with the previous template, make sure that your link points them to a landing page where they can easily see your affiliate relationship with the merchant, or include it as an amendment at the end of your email. You can read up more about FTC guidelines for affiliates here .

Regardless of the length of your email sequence, the advice here is short and sweet:

Don’t forget to include your affiliate links in email content, too. It’s a channel that’s known for producing impressive conversion rates.

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Here’s to running a successful affiliate marketing program (and adding to your bottom line)

You can earn more money in your online business without having to create new digital products. Just promote high-quality affiliate products that you believe in.

Here’s how to run a successful affiliate program and diversify your income stream:

  • #1. Sign up for affiliate programs that you can authentically promote to help your niche audience. If you’re a customer of the affiliate products, that’s ideal.

  • #2. Create and publish educational and valuable content, where your affiliate links can seamlessly fit in. Try an array of content formats, especially on your most successful channels.

  • #3. Promote your high-quality content with affiliate links on your social media platforms.

  • #4. Send out a series of relevant, helpful emails that promote your affiliate links.

May you earn extra chase in your small businesses and startups with a successful affiliate program.

By the way, if you want to streamline your entire online business operation, including email management, it’s doable under Podia’s truly all-in-one platform. Just take this 14-day free trial for a ride to experience the codeless ease of use.

About the author

Cyn Meyer was a content writer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and communities scale with their creators. Cyn also enjoys playing music, helping retirees live active, healthy, engaged lifestyles, and hopping into the ocean.