Editors note: The following is a guest post from the HarvardHomemaker, one of the many bloggers and affiliates on the ShareASale Network. For more information, and to read more from the HarvardHomemaker – make sure to visit her website at http://www.harvardhomemaker.com/ Enjoy!
When I first started blogging last October, I literally knew nothing about affiliate marketing. I didn’t understand what it was, and I certainly didn’t expect my brand new blog to be of any value to merchants. I remember almost falling off my chair when I was accepted into my first program. And that was nothing compared to my reaction when I saw my first sale come through! It was a party around here, that’s for sure!
It’s been a steep learning curve, but 10 months later, I now have a decent handle on it all. Read below for five lessons I’ve learned during my first year in affiliate marketing:
#1. Content First; Affiliate Links Second
While it can be so exciting to start monetizing your blog immediately, make sure that you aren’t writing for the sole purpose of selling to your readers. That will be completely transparent, and you will probably lose your readers along the way. Be true to yourself and your interests, and let the affiliate marketing come second.
While there are times when I might center a post around some affiliate links, most often, I write first and work the affiliate links in second.
I have learned to search not only for merchants that seem to fit well with my site, but I often search under “products” as well. When writing a post, if I mention a product I use, a good majority of the time I can find that product (or something similar) within the ShareASale database. I can then apply to that merchant’s program, and if accepted, I simply plug in that affiliate link. While there are times when I might center a post around some affiliate links, most often, I write first and work the affiliate links in second. I feel like that method has helped me to build my blog simply because my content is authentic, and so when I do link to something, my readers will know that I must feel that there is true value in whatever I’m sharing.
#2. Make It Personal
I have found that when I can say, “I have this exact product, and I love it!”, my conversion rate is much higher. I always try to place banners and links carefully so they fit with my content, but being able to point your readers to a specific item that you have yourself, and can recommend personally, goes a long way.
I have gotten to the point where I actually use ShareASale to do my own shopping! If I am in need of something, I will search for what I’m looking for within ShareASale or at sites that I know are in their network. If I find it, I’m always hopeful that I will be happy with the product so then I know I can use an affiliate link to recommend it someday, and I could even use a picture of my own item. (Images go a long way–use pictures whenever possible on your site!)
#3. Be Persistent
When you apply to a program, you may not be accepted the first time–or the second time, or the third time either! I have applied many, many times to various programs until I was finally accepted. Occasionally, I have had to reach out via email to the merchant to explain why I think my blog would be a good fit for them. Making contact like that can really make a difference.
Making contact like that can really make a difference.
With that said, keep in mind that some merchants don’t work with affiliates who live in various states due to nexus tax laws passed there. (NY, IL, AR, CT, NC, PA and RI). Unfortunately, I happen to live in one of those states, so occasionally merchants turn me down solely because of my address.
#4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Things
Over time, if you feel like you are being undervalued by a merchant, don’t be afraid to reach out. Perhaps your conversion rate is really high, but you are only making a 5% commission. (If you joined a program at a 5% commission rate, that doesn’t mean the merchant can’t change that rate solely for you. If you are a valuable affiliate, the merchant would like to keep you happy, just as you’d like to do for them.) Maybe you earn twice the commission from a competitor, and you ask a merchant to consider matching that. You could also ask for products to review, or inquire about special coupon codes for use on your site. The least they can do is say, “No.” And if your request is declined, maybe you just start directing your attention toward other merchants who are willing to give you a bit more.
Just remember that there really are no “rules” here. It doesn’t hurt to ask, especially as your site grows and you see more and more conversion. The back-and-forth via email or even over the phone helps you to establish a relationship with your merchants, too. Maybe that connection will lead to them thinking about you the next time they want to send out a new product for review, or they might contact you to write a sponsored post.
#5. Don’t Undervalue Yourself
Never forget that you are in the driver’s seat as an affiliate. As excited as I was to be accepted into my first program (someone actually wanted to work with me!!), I now realize that merchants need people like me. They are seeking out people who can not only point potential customers their way, but do so with a recommendation.
I was approached by a merchant a few months ago because I was sending a lot of traffic to their site, and they were wondering if I’d consider doing a sponsored post. Of course I was thrilled, and a part of me wanted to accept whatever terms they threw my way. But I had to remind myself that those clicks were all potential sales for this merchant. I had suddenly become quite valuable to them, and I had to make sure I didn’t sell myself short. After many emails and a phone conversation, we came to an agreement that worked for both of us, and that included a special coupon code I requested to protect me from having readers leave my site to go find a coupon code–and then I’d lose the commission. The merchant was more than happy to work with me on that.
That experience was a good one for me. I felt like they treated me well and vice versa, and I now find myself linking back to that merchant whenever I can simply because I like them. Affiliate marketing is business, yes; but you can still make friends along the way.