13 dos and don’ts of affiliate marketing from a 6-figure content creator


Disclosure: This site is sponsored by affiliate programs. We may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post. As an Amazon affiliate partner we may earn from qualifying purchases.

I used to be skeptical about affiliate marketing.

For years, I thought it was nothing more than a pyramid scheme. I thought it meant constantly nagging your friends to attend some sort of Tupperware/jewelry/makeup party where you guilt them into making a purchase.

And I certainly didn’t think it was possible to make any kind of real money with content creation. Unless you’re a celebrity with millions of followers like Kim Kardashian, of course.

But after launching a series of successful blogs and learning what affiliate marketing really was, how it worked and how to make money with it, I can firmly say that I am now a believer.

In fact, this blog alone makes between $2,000-$12,000 a month in passive income with affiliate marketing.

And so, In today’s article, I am going to share a few of my best tips and tricks on affiliate marketing. Topics covered will include:

  1. What is affiliate marketing?
  2. How do I find out what companies have an affiliate program?
  3. How many followers do you need?
  4. Is affiliate marketing worth it?
  5. 13 affiliate marketing dos and don’ts
a beauty blogger compares two foundations
(photo by New Africa/shutterstock.com)

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is the act of promoting a company’s product or service in exchange for a commission on leads, customer referrals or sales.

And it has nothing to do with multi-level marketing, contrary to popular belief.

You’re not trying to sell things to your friends and family or convincing them to become salespeople too. Nor are you hosting “parties” at your house with high-pressure sales tactics.

You’re partnering with established brands to promote products to followers on your existing website and social media platforms.

For example, a beauty blogger might partner with a company like Sephora by joining its affiliate marketing program and generating referral links to relevant products. They would then use those products in a make-up tutorial and direct viewers who might be interested in making a purchase to use the blogger’s referral link. Whenever a viewer clicks on that link and completes a purchase, the beauty blogger receives a commission from the sale.

Commissions vary by vendor. And some advertisers even offer incentives like discounts and coupon codes that you can pass on to your readers, subscribers and followers.

Sticking with our beauty blogger example, Sephora, offers commissions of up to 5-10% (at the time of this writing). This means, if a viewer purchases a $100 perfume after clicking on a referral link, the blogger would receive up to a $10 commission.

Some vendors may even offer flat-rate commissions.

The lowest affiliate program commission I’ve ever personally seen offered for a single sale is 1%, and the highest commission I’ve ever seen is a flat $1500.

a beauty blogger applies lipstick
(photo by New Africa/shutterstock.com)

How do I find out what companies have an affiliate program?

Honestly, I usually just think about brands that I already use and love and type “[brand name], affiliate program” into a Google Search query.

But if you’re not quite sure where to start, you can also join an affiliate marketplace like Awin, Impact or CJ.

a beauty blogger smells her products
(photo by New Africa/shutterstock.com)

How many followers do you need to be an affiliate?

While some affiliate programs may have follower requirements, the vast majority do not.

But keep in mind, if you don’t have an established following, your odds of making a sale are low.

For instance, when this blog was in its infancy with only a few hundred viewers a month, I’d be lucky to make more than $5-6 a month.

Now that I have nearly 40,000 visitors per month and several thousand followers between social media and Youtube, my affiliate sales have grown to that previously mentioned $2k-$14k range.

And while few affiliate networks have minimum follower requirements, many do have minimal sales requirements. For instance, Amazon Associates requires at least three qualified sales in the first 180 days to remain in the program. So do your homework ahead of time, and don’t sign up for programs that have minimal sales requirements until you have a decent following.

a beauty blogger shows her audience how to apply makeup
(photo by New Africa/shutterstock.com)

Is affiliate marketing worth it?

Yes, affiliate marketing is worth it. At least to me.

And trust me, I had some doubts in the beginning. It’s pretty discouraging when you spend hours producing content that barely produces any results.

But affiliate marketing, as with most things in life, requires practice, time, and dedication.

Now, without further ado, let’s get into the big dos and don’ts of affiliate marketing.

Dos and don’ts of affiliate marketing

1. DO select a niche

If you’re serious about affiliate marketing you have to treat it like a business. That means picking a niche and building a loyal following. If you’re selling electronics one minute, and curling wands the next, you’re going to lose people.

2. DO build an audience

The bigger your viewership, the more sales you’re likely to generate.

3. DON’T rely on a single affiliate partner

For best results, apply to multiple affiliate programs, and promote multiple affiliate products. Affiliate programs come and go all the time and are constantly changing their commissions and payout structures. As the old saying goes – don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

4. DON’T break the rules

Every affiliate program has its own set of rules and regulations and you’ll need to make sure that you’re well acquainted with those guidelines before promoting that company’s products and services else you might risk getting kicked out of the program. A few of the most common rules include:

  • Not cloaking URLs (more on this later)
  • Remembering to always include disclosures (more on this later too)
  • Not buying ads that target a brand’s name or trademark

PS: I’ve learned most of those the hard way. Do as I say, not as I do. I made these common mistakes so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

5. DO include a disclosure

Speaking of following the rules, be sure to include proper disclosures on your site, in your videos and in your social posts.

For example, you’ll notice I have a small disclosure at the top of every blog post that reads: “Disclosure: This site is sponsored by affiliate programs. We may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post. As an Amazon affiliate partner, we may earn from qualifying purchases.

Different programs may require different wording, but sales disclosures are actually a requirement of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Needless to say, disclosures should be taken seriously else you might find yourself in legal trouble down the road.

6. DON’T use cloaked URLs

I learned this one the hard way just because I failed to read the instructions for Amazon Associates and it almost got me kicked out of the program.

The practice of cloaking an affiliate link involves creating a pretty link like “morganoverholt.com/amazon” that forwards to the official affiliate link that might look something more like this “https://amzn.to/3NMxP5j”.

While some SEO experts will tell you that cloaked URLs are the way to go, many programs ban the practice.

This is why, today, I use the ugly URLs every time, just to be on the safe side.

7. DO promote products and services you know

For best results, only promote products and services you know. Your followers can tell when you are being inauthentic.

Plus, Google recently started penalizing canned promotional content (like generic product lists) in a recent algorithm update. Search engines, like your readers, want thorough, personal recommendations.

8. DON’T be dishonest

Speaking of being thoughtful, you also want to be honest.

Almost every single time I write a review, I always make sure to include at least one or two “cons” to balance out the “pros”. This keeps my reader’s expectations in check and builds trust with my audience.

No product or service is perfect. And if you act like it is, you’re just going to come across as spammy.

9. DO tell a story

Fun fact, I actually have a background in home shopping. Yup, this is me.

And while I wouldn’t exactly employ every sales strategy from the home shopping world to affiliate sales, I can testify to the power of storytelling.

As I mentioned above, people like to hear about why and how you personally use a specific product or service.

So talk about the problem that the product or service solved in your life. Talk about how it’s improved your life. Talk about why different products and services from competitors didn’t work for you … etc.

10. DO use your own photos, screenshots and video

On the topic of getting personal, I also find that sharing my own photos, screenshots and video drastically improves my chances of success.

I rarely sell as many products when using the general vendor-supplied product pictures as I do when sharing personal, casual shots of myself using the product.

It lets the consumer know that I actually own and use the item. Plus, the Google search algorithm prefers unique and personal content anyway.

11. DO engage in cross-channel promotion

Also, be sure to engage in cross-channel promotion. Don’t limit your mediums to a single channel like Facebook. Instead, make sure you’re posting content to a variety of platforms. Popular mediums include:

  • TikTok
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Blogs
  • Twitch
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

12. DO give people permission to buy

This is another tactic I learned during my stint in home shopping.

Successful affiliate marketers don’t pressure people to buy something they don’t need. They give people permission, and justification, to buy the things they already want.

And the great thing about content creation is that it’s already highly targeted. Meaning, that if someone is reading your blog or watching your videos they’re probably already somewhat interested in, and curious about the subject matter.

Tell your audience about how they can use the product in their own lives. Tell them about how it will improve their lives. Give them permission to treat themselves or someone they love.

If it sounds too much like a sales pitch, your audience is less likely to click.

13. DON’T give up

And finally, whatever you do, don’t throw in the towel too early.

Building a dedicated target audience, no matter the medium takes time.

The first affiliate sale I ever made was just $6. While that tiny amount of money is barely even enough to buy a coffee in this economy, I remember jumping up and down in the living room because to me, that $6 was a sign that I was onto something.

And years later, that $6 grew into thousands.

Do you have any questions about affiliate marketing? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to connect with me on social media.

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