Becoming an advanced affiliate marketer doesn’t just happen overnight.
Honing this revenue model takes time. But the payoff is worth it.
Affiliate marketing creates an important income stream for content creators. More importantly, if done correctly, it provides an invaluable service to audiences by connecting them with reliable and trustworthy products and services.
For this master class in affiliate marketing, I rounded up experts from the personal finance world. Sharing perspectives from both publisher and advertiser worlds, this post is designed to help you maximize your affiliate marketing efforts.
Not only do these experts share ways to increase your payouts, but they also troubleshoot some of the most common affiliate marketing problems.
If you feel like you need a refresher, check out the intermediate post here.
Then, when you’re ready to take your affiliate marketing to the top of its game, it’s time to dive in.
How to Increase Affiliate Marketing Payouts
As someone interested in advanced affiliate marketing techniques, there’s a good chance you’re looking to increase your income from affiliate marketing.
Working with more affiliate partners is one way to do that. However, an equally prudent tactic for anyone having success with affiliate marketing is to increase your current payouts.
Asking for Increased Affiliate Marketing Payouts
Jim Wang, the founder of WalletHacks.com, says, “If you have had success with a program, start talks with the affiliate manager and try to increase your payout. If you’re at the base payout, all programs will have room to move up if you can increase your volume.”
You don’t need to wait until you increase your volume to have those conversations either. In fact, Wang suggests reaching out with ideas on how you intend to increase your volume.
Options to increase volume might include:
- Producing more posts about a product or service
- Including the product or service on existing lists
- Changing the placement of the product or service on lists
- Incorporating the products or services into email newsletters
All of these steps show that you are willing to put in the work. Wang says, “Managers want more volume. If you can show them that you’re serious about getting more volume, they’re more likely to increase your payout or provide volume tiers to hit to get higher payouts.”
Top Tools to Measure What Matters
One thing that affiliate marketing experts all affirm is the importance of knowing your numbers. Affiliate marketing isn’t about having the most traffic or the highest rank. Instead, it is about being in tune with your audience and your affiliate programs. To do that, you need to measure things that matter.
Jim Wang echoes that common advice by saying, “If you aren’t tracking, you need to put a system in place so you know what is working and what isn’t.” In addition to setting up and using a tracking system, he underscores the importance of analyzing the data. Don’t just focus on the positive. In fact, Wang says, “Track what is performing well. If something isn’t performing, remove it.”
To get a better handle on how content creators might track their affiliate marketing, several experts from the personal finance sphere weighed in with their favorite tools and techniques. Get ready to take notes!
Most content creators understand the importance of SEO. However, the focus is often on how to get on page one for the main keywords. Emma Johnson of Wealthy Single Mommy suggests using tools like Ubersuggest to be more strategic with your SEO and organic traffic.
Ubersuggest allows you to research keywords on both your site and in general. By focusing on tangentially related keywords, you can improve your rank and monitor your traffic.
Johnson suggests focusing on 1-10 smaller terms. Track the terms, create content around them consistently, and get creative about how to monetize with advertiser affiliate programs.
As you work, make sure that you keep a record of your efforts. You can use a tool like Ubersuggest to monitor, or you might prefer to make use of a traditional spreadsheet.
Using Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics
The key to tracking isn’t to collect as many numbers as possible. Instead, you want to mine for the most valuable data.
Sa El, the co-founder of Simply Insurance, says that the first thing content creators need to do is install Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics. El says, “Google Tag Manager allows you to track events and Google Analytics is useful for tracking goals.”
Why are tags so important? According to El, they allow you to know the specific content on your site that is getting the most clicks.
For instance, let’s say your content describes different fintech tools. By setting up a tag and triggers, you can see which tool is getting the most clicks. How does this actually work?
El says, “Anytime someone clicks on those links, an event is triggered. You can then use Google Analytics to track clicks and events, allowing you to know your numbers even better.”
Emma Johnson also emphasizes the importance of using Google Analytics. She stresses that content creators should gather data on their top-performing content, looking specifically at time-on-page data.
Analyzing places with higher bounce rates will point out aspects of your site that can be optimized. This can be useful for anyone who is looking for a direction to begin cleaning up their content and maximizing audience experience.
Another part of data collection is the organization. Managing affiliate links can become increasingly complex as your partnerships grow. Sa El says, “The best way to avoid tracking issues is to start with a program that will allow you to manage all of your links in one place.”
ThirstyAffiliates fits that bill according to El. It is an affiliate link management plugin that is available for WordPress.
ThirstyAffiliates allows you to cloak links with custom links. You can also make sure that your commissions are protected. In addition those benefits, ThirstyAffiliates allows you to easily insert links into blog posts while maintaining flexibility.
Sa El suggests using these custom links from ThirstyAffiliates because “if the affiliate product ever changes, or they change platforms, you don’t have to go and find every instance of the URL. You only need to go into the ThirstyAffiliates program and update the affiliate link.”
This is a huge organizational benefit and time-saving technique, especially as your affiliate partnerships expand.
Networking and Building Relations for Advanced Affiliate Marketing
To advance your affiliate marketing, you should focus on numbers and strategies. You also need to prioritize building relationships. In fact, relationship building can make or break your success with affiliate marketing in many cases.
For some affiliate partnerships, in-person meetings aren’t optional; they’re essential. If you are looking to get into credit card affiliate marketing, it is vital to meet in person.
In general, as online becomes more like offline life, it would not be surprising to see more partnerships focusing on connecting in person.
Conferences & Events to Improve Affiliate Marketing
So you know you need to cultivate real relationships. Where do you start? As with anything related to content creation, it can be overwhelming taking those first steps.
Conferences are effective because they allow you to get the maximum value out of a short amount of time.
Rather than trying to attend every conference and in-person event you can find, be strategic with your starting point. Both FinCon and Affiliate Summit are excellent options.
For me personally, my first Affiliate Summit conference was inspiring, and it was an opportunity to meet advertisers with programs I could join. It gave me the chance to meet face-to-face, shake hands, and kick-off campaigns feeling like I understood the brand and they understood me. Knowing this, I actually modeled aspects of FinCon around Affiliate Summit.
As someone who regularly attends conferences, I also see them as an opportunity to strengthen existing partnerships. Partners can discuss trends, talk about what is working, and share more about their needs. Conferences also offer prime opportunities to discuss payout.
In addition to attending FinCon and Affiliate Summit, publishers may also want to consider attending the major affiliate network conferences. Two network conferences that have been hugely beneficial for my own affiliate marketing are CJ University and Rakuten Optimism.
CJU is an annual conference that prioritizes networking. In addition to getting much-needed face time with brands and potential partners, there are also plenty of opportunities to learn. CJU has keynotes, sessions, and training for both publishers and advertisers.
Rakuten DealMaker is a two-day conference that focuses on affiliate marketing. With everything from meeting tables to keynotes, you will have a chance to learn from some of the biggest disruptors in the field. It’s a great event to get a marketing education, do business planning, and most importantly networking!.
Every network conference has yielded a significant ROI. Not only have I found new partners and strengthened existing partnerships, but I’ve also learned more strategies to improve my affiliate marketing.
I have a chance to see what other people are doing and what is working for them. Then, I can let those lessons inspire and inform my work.
Troubleshooting Top Affiliate Marketing Mistakes
For many people, success with affiliate marketing is what allows them to become full-time content creators.
Excelling at affiliate marketing looks different for different creators and different niches. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all recipe for affiliate marketing success, there are common affiliate marketing mistakes that many creators struggle with at some point.
To help you troubleshoot your content or to dodge pitfalls in the future, I rounded up a group of affiliate marketing experts to shed light on common problems. In addition to helping you identify common affiliate marketing mistakes, they offer fix-up strategies that you can implement right away.
Affiliate Marketing Mistake #1 (Not Expanding Your Approach)
Sometimes, affiliate marketing gets overdone.
In fact, that is probably why some people have the misconception that affiliate marketing is spammy or scammy. It isn’t–or at least it shouldn’t be. But it is sometimes misunderstood by content creators. Because of this, there are many content creators who have yet to explore affiliate marketing fully or even at all.
In addition to not capitalizing on the potential for affiliate marketing, other content creators box themselves in with affiliate marketing options. For instance, bloggers only share their affiliate links in posts or YouTubers only include them in show notes.
The Fix: Take Advantage of New Programs and Branch Out
The first step is to make sure that you are taking advantage of all that affiliate marketing has to offer you as a content creator. Larry Ludwig of LarryLudwig.com points out that under-monetization can be a real problem, but it can also be easily combated.
Content creators don’t need to fear affiliate marketing or associate it with selling out. Instead, Ludwig says that affiliate marketing can be the perfect fit for content creators, especially if you are promoting something that audiences will use and trust.
You might also want to review our beginner post to better understand how powerful and helpful affiliate marketing can be!
To really take advantage of your affiliate links, Anthony Kirlew from The Newton Group suggests leveraging a new medium with the same message. He says that “if you have a blog post that is performing well, creating a video on the topic might have the same success in front of a video audience and vice versa.”
Another important way to increase audience awareness of your offers is to share that content with your email lists and social networks. That means using your presence on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms as a way to direct people to your affiliate offers.
Related: If you’re looking for ideas to expand your affiliate marketing, check out Joseph Hogue sharing strategies to find success with affiliate marketing on YouTube.
Affiliate Marketing Mistake #2 (Letting Business Drive Editorial)
Once people start to have success with affiliate marketing, they often want to incorporate more of it into both new and existing content.
This might mean revising existing content to include more links or letting affiliate offers drive your new content. People sometimes find themselves surprised that all of this additional work doesn’t move the meter much in terms of affiliate success.
In fact, this strategy sometimes becomes a square-peg, round-hole approach to content creation, leading to a misalignment between content and affiliate programs.
Jim Wang says, “Don’t shoehorn in affiliate programs to existing posts if it doesn’t make sense. Only promote it if it’s a good fit.” Wang adds, “If it’s not a good fit, readers won’t sign up or buy. Plus, readers will get tired of it.”
The Fix: Put Your Audience First
Of course, if you want to grow your affiliate marketing, you need to do more of it. But as a content creator, it is imperative to be strategic.
When asked how he avoids the problem, Jim Wang says, “If I’m writing about something, I generally try to finish the post mentioning whatever I would’ve normally mentioned, then try to find an affiliate that fits.”
By doing this, he can keep his content aligned with his audience.
Another reminder from Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents is to focus on your audience, not anyone else’s.
She says, “Just because one affiliate product can be successfully promoted on one blog, doesn’t mean that you will see success with it too. For some blogs, the topics may be so different that your readers just aren’t interested in the subject.”
Your audience wants to feel understood. The affiliate offers you promote should show them that you understand their needs.
Larry Ludwig pushes this further, saying that once you “lose your audience’s trust, it really is game over.” That means that the products and services you promote should deliver value to your audience by addressing their needs and concerns.
Audiences can sense if someone is overdoing it with affiliate offers.
Ludwig elaborates, saying, “People see through it and that can damage your brand and your audience’s trust.” Instead of falling into the extremes of overpromoting or underpromoting affiliate offers, focus on the middle group and keep your audience in mind.
Affiliate Marketing Mistake #3 (Not Directing the Reader)
You’ve joined affiliate networks, and you’ve started to have some success with affiliate marketing. But maybe you’ve noticed recently that your numbers have started to stagnate, or worse. Maybe you’ve seen a downward trend.
One affiliate marketing mistake has to do with giving your audience too many options. Sometimes, the content has an abundance of links that end up distracting the audience’s attention. They might click over to other content on your own site, or the links may even direct them elsewhere online.
Anthony Kirlew says that too many links can divert a reader’s attention from the affiliate link. With how fleeting your audience’s attention can be, they may never return to that affiliate link.
Another way that content creators can miss out on audience interaction with affiliate links is to focus on too many types of content monetization. Ads can cannibalize your affiliate sales.
Kirlew cautions again, “Using low paying ad networks such as AdSense which can distract readers from reading the complete blog post where they may miss the opportunity to visit the affiliate offer.”
The Fix: Focus Attention on Your Affiliate Links
As a content creator, it is important to remember the purpose of affiliate marketing. Your content should direct them to a solution that your affiliate fulfills or propel them through a series of actions that the affiliate can support. That means that it is important to be deliberate when placing links in your content.
Instead of including as many related links as you can, be more intentional with a small number of links. Less is more.
Also, give your audience multiple opportunities to interact with the affiliate. Kirlew says, “Keep your content focused on driving clicks to the affiliate offer and give readers more than one opportunity to do so within a blog post.”
In addition to being thoughtful about the number of links in each post, it is important to really zero in on your monetization strategy. “While [display] ads may seem like a way to monetize a blog, affiliates [marketers] often give up dollars for pennies by allowing someone to click on an ad as opposed to their affiliate link. Be cautious of using low paying ad networks,” says Kirlew.
Affiliate Marketing Mistake #4 (Not Thinking Beyond SEO)
As a content creator, there’s a good chance that you spend at least part of your time thinking about search engine optimization.
For good reason, SEO is a powerful tool that can drive much-needed traffic to your site. But what some people don’t realize is that an overreliance on SEO can actually neglect other strategies that may be useful.
The Fix: Explore Other Strategies to Promote Affiliate Programs
There are other strategies besides SEO and sharing content organically that content creators can explore. Other strategies that people who are ready for advanced affiliate marketing might use include:
- Email marketing
- Media Buying
- A/B Testing
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner advises not to overlook the power of email. In fact, she says, “My favorite technique is email, hands down.” Of course, it isn’t just a simple as setting up an email list and pressing send.
Instead, Schroeder-Gardner says, “My favorite strategy is to create some sort of freebie opt-in, such as a free email course, and give high-quality content/advice, where you also recommend affiliate products along the way. This has done wonders for my blogging business, and is actually fairly easy!”
Related: See Michelle’s paid course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
The success of this also depends on the quality of the freebie you offer. The more value you deliver, the more likely your audience is to continue opening your emails.
One of the most misunderstood strategies is media buying. While media buying has been around for decades, thanks to social media, the media buying landscape today looks quite different. A media buyer’s job is to connect an advertisement with a target audience by placing ads on platforms like Facebook or Instagram.
Todd Stearns of Aragon Advertising says that media buying can play an integral role in affiliate marketing success.
Stearns also says that this isn’t something that people should expect to find immediate success with.
In fact, Stearns says, “Content creators might lose money for the first few weeks or months.” He is quick to stress that the ROI is tremendous, especially for content creators who are willing to spend time learning how media buying works and really feeling out the process.
Another important consideration for content creators is what is happening once they get traffic. Whether your traffic is organic or paid, you need to consider what the audience sees and does once they reach your site.
That is why Stearns suggests that content creators spend time focused on website optimization. Use A/B testing to test out everything from headlines to images. The slightest increase can have a huge impact on your audience’s experience and your ROI. Stearns adds, “You don’t want to lose people who you could convert to revenue.”
Final Thoughts on Advanced Affiliate Marketing
As a content creator, you know you have countless responsibilities. Some people might want to juggle it all. However, as you pursue more advanced affiliate marketing, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to wear multiple hats. In fact, working with an affiliate manager is a strategy that many content creators use.
Affiliate managers help keep programs up to date and ensure that you stay compliant. They can also mitigate some of the feelings of overwhelm you might feel.
Kumiko Love from The Budget Mom is relatively new to the personal finance world, yet she is taking affiliate marketing by storm.
When she realized that she could work with other people within the FinCon community to advance The Budget Mom, she jumped at the chance. Working with an affiliate manager allowed her to get into affiliate programs that aligned with her existing content and wouldn’t compete with her original products either.
Use these tips to advance your affiliate marketing. And don’t be afraid to reach out to the FinCon Community for help. Whether it’s making plans to attend a conference, networking with other content creators, or even reaching out to affiliate managers, take one step today to advance your affiliate marketing.