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What would you say if I told you that you can make money while you sleep?
Seriously. We’re doing it with affiliate marketing.
When Hailey and I started Growth Marketing Pro in early 2017, we never planned on making money from blogging.
We started writing for fun.
But pretty quickly, people wanted to pay us for our time.
So we started monetizing the blog in two ways:
- Our audience wanted to speak with us. So we started charging for our time.
- Affiliate marketing: when users clicked on our software recommendations, we began making money from their purchases. This is called affiliate revenue. In other words, we would get a revenue share from the sale of products we feature on the blog.
Affiliate revenue became super interesting to me and Hailey.
We started by selling our favorite webinar tool at the time, EverWebinar.
We already had a bunch of articles about the product anyway — so we just added a few buttons with our $1 14-day trial affiliate link.
Lo and behold, readers clicked and bought the product!
At first we couldn’t believe it. But the more we saw, the more affiliate income became completely irresistible to us…
Affiliate income is passive income.
Passive income = income that takes no work to generate… 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
We began to imagine a world where we could share our honest opinions in blog posts, and get paid for doing so!
That’s the dream, right?
Table of Contents
Making money with affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is awesome because you don’t need a product to sell. You can sell someone else’s.
For Growth Marketing Pro, affiliate marketing is lucrative and like I said, very passive.
If Hailey and I stopped working on the blog tomorrow and moved to Mexico, we would still make make money!
Maybe you’ve tried affiliate marketing before without much success.
I’ve spoken with hundreds of entrepreneurs who have tried and failed.
That’s not surprising. Hailey and I fumbled around in the beginning too, but now we’ve distilled it all down to a pretty easy formula… a formula that makes us $10s of thousands in affiliate sales every month.
Follow my tips and you can replicate our successes. I promise.
It was then, I decided to start writing about my favorite marketing tool on earth: a landing page software tool called Instapage.
Slowly but surely, pageviews on our Instapage blog posts began to climb.
Google began to see me as an expert on landing page software and soon enough Growth Marketing Pro ranked #1 for nearly every landing page software search term.
My honest, unbiased reviews and musings were enough to convince Google and our readership of my deep understanding of the topic.
Lo and behold, people began to purchase Instapage through my Instapage affiliate link on articles I wrote.
For every user who purchased the Instapage product, we made 30% of the sale.
And guess what: last month we made $7,554 from Instapage affiliate sales alone! Multiply that by 12 months = $90,648. Yup, we should minimally make $90k this year from Instapage — passively!
And Instapage is just one of our five biggest affiliate partners.
“Okay cool Mark,” you’re probably saying to yourself. “Enough bragging. How does this help me?”
Don’t worry, I’ll shut up in a minute and tell you how to recreate our successes.
“Mark, why are you telling me any of this?”
You would think Hailey and I would want to keep this information to ourselves. Won’t more competition hurt our business?
- Our audience trusts us. Hailey and I engage with our audience every day. We answer emails, reply to comments, take requests, etc. If your audience trusts you, all the competition in the world will not take your sales away.
- We’re experts on the topics we write about. Hailey and I wouldn’t be able to sell pet toys, books, TVs, health products, nutrition products, juicers, SAT prep courses or almost anything but marketing software. But on the topic of marketing software, we’re experts. Seriously. We do this stuff all day, every day. That means we win Google searches and prove the value of our affiliates better than anyone else on the internet.
The point is, if you have a niche expertise and don’t betray the trust of your audience, you can sell a product… without having to worry about anyone else stealing your lunch.
The 5 ways to succeed at generating affiliate income
Like I said, in late 2017 we really started to figure this stuff out. And just 18 months later, I bought my first apartment — all with blogging income!
Generating affiliate income isn’t that complicated. And it doesn’t even take that long to start generating a few thousand dollars a month.
Hailey and I only write three days a week for a couple hours each day.
I promise, if you’re an expert at something… anything… you can create an audience and sell a product.
Most people don’t spend the time, though.
But if you’re bold and you want to succeed, follow the steps I lay out below.
(Inspired and want to start a blog? Read here)
1. Trust and personality breed affiliate sales
What do Hailey’s and my dating life or our quirky friendship have to do with affiliate sales? Nothing.
But what does that stuff have to do with our brand?
In the words of a blogger peer, Pat Flynn: “People connect with people, and the more you can become a person in the eyes of your audience, the easier it is for them to connect with you—it’s as simple as that.”
The first step in selling anything on the internet is trust.
People know Hailey and I as real people. They may know that we met via Skype years ago when she lived in New York and that that she moved here to work for me at a startup. They may know that I love basketball but play like I couldn’t make the JV team.
Share the good, bad and the ugly. Be honest in your reviews. No person, tool or product is perfect and if you say it is perfect, your audience definitely won’t trust you.
That’s why Hailey and I share personal anecdotes and give all the information we can about everything we sell. And we never sell anything we don’t know and love. If we betray our audience’s trust, we’ll put ourselves out of business.
Stories help illustrate why a product is important. They put things in context and make your pitch more relatable. Plus, they continue to build trust with your audience. Even more, your search engine optimization (SEO) will benefit. Google likes to rank content that keeps users on page longer. And stories do just that.
Give away secrets!
You may have a secret sauce that you don’t want to share.
There’s so much noise on the internet. If you can give your audience something really useful — thought leadership — you’ll be rewarded in sales and Google ranking.
Build trust. Be rewarded.
2. What should you sell? Start with the pain, not the product
So now you know where in the customer journey to sell, but what should you sell?
Once you’ve started to build your audience and develop a relationship with them, you’ll start to learn what that audience needs. The next step is to identify products you can recommend to meet your audience’s needs and help them in their journey.
First, keep in mind that sometimes the products will be ones that allow you to generate an affiliate income and some won’t. You never want to start with a product or commission in mind. You want to start with the problem, then find solutions for it.
This is about trust, not sales! I promise, sales will follow if you give your audience the best information possible.
To understand what the visitor to your site needs, think about their frame of mind. Use Google Analytics to understand what the most trafficked pages on your site are. Then think about what the user on that page is ultimately trying to achieve.
- Consider what the audience is searching for to land on that page.
- Use a tool like Crazy Egg to see what parts of the webpage your audience is spending the most time on.
- Survey them! So many people skip over this step. Send a SurveyMonkey survey to your email list and just ask them what they’re coming to you for and what tools could help them reach their goals.
You need your recommendations to be precise and targeted, so your audience can 1) get the information they need and 2) reach their goals.
Once you’ve identified what you want to help your new visitor achieve, think about how they’re going to get there. What’s their roadmap or path to success? Defining the steps on this path will help you determine exactly what kinds of products will help your audience at different points along the path.
What can you sell?
Software, courses, advanced webinars, stuff on Amazon, electronics and almost anything else. Start your search for products to sell here.
3. Play the long game
How should you sell?
It’s all about intent.
Simply put, someone is more likely to purchase Instapage via our affiliate link on an article titled “Instapage vs Unbounce” than they are on an article titled, “How to Run Facebook Ads.”
Naturally, the purchase intent of the user on the “Instapage vs Unbounce” article is much higher than on an article more generally about Facebook advertising.
Therefore, your pitch needs to be different. For the user reading about Facebook ads, my goal is always to engage the user and introduce them to the concept of landing page software — which will help them run Facebook ads in a more cost effective way.
The pitch matches the intent.
I don’t try and sell readers Instapage right then and there. Instead, I funnel them to a page about landing page software or simply collect an email address. Your goal should be to build trust and genuinely engage.
Readers can smell inappropriate and unnecessarily forceful sells from a mile away.
Relationships take time to build.
The goal is to lead your audience to the right conclusion, not force it down their throat. Instead of “buy Instapage now,” try and introduce them to concepts that will change their thinking. You need to “soft pitch” them.
“Want to run Facebook ads more intelligently?”
“Great, you should learn about landing page software and what it can do for you.”
4. Be an expert and beat Google
I’ve been using landing page software since 2012. I’ve spent thousands of hours doing the following:
- Building landing pages
- Running marketing campaigns to those pages
- Testing all the different tools: Instapage, Unbounce, Leadpages and Clickfunnels
- Interviewing the CEOs of landing page software companies
- Optimizing landing pages
- And basically exploring every facet of landing page software… not with the idea of selling it eventually… just because I needed it to growth hack for companies I worked for in San Francisco.
That makes me a real expert.
And in the world of affiliate marketing, expertise does two things:
- Builds trust. Yup, again it comes back to trust! I have a unique and authoritative perspective on how best to use landing page software, which helps my readership trust me.
- Builds your organic traffic. Google ranks authoritative stuff. If you’re just regurgitating what everyone else on the internet is saying about a topic, the sources you’re taking from will rank above you. Google ranks thought leadership.
The best way to build free, truly passive income is via SEO — Google search traffic. The best affiliate marketers earn a good deal of their income via SEO.
The good news is that the same great content you use to build trust with your audience should boost your Google search rankings.
Remember: being an expert doesn’t mean making things up, being too grandiose or deceiving your audience. Showing your expertise can be as simple as:
- Giving first-hand accounts of your experience with the product you’re selling in the form of data or stories
- Interviews with users or creators of the products
- First person reviews via video or audio
- Taking slightly controversial stances on the topic
Doing some of the above will build trust and help you rank on Google, guaranteed.
Also read: Build an SEO Strategy From Scratch
5. Write about the right stuff
Hailey and I write about everything. Usually, we write about growth hacks and about our experiences with tools we use every day.
We both just love writing.
But if you’re writing to give yourself the highest odds of making affiliate sales, you need be a little more thoughtful.
The goal should be to rank as high as possible for keywords the “furthest down the funnel” — concepts that are very likely to yield purchasers.
I’m reminded of this fact every month. Quick story:
I actually started another blog — a healthcare blog called ManlyWellness. One of the keywords I rank for is “how to increase your penis size”… Try not to judge me.
I get 80,692 organic searchers to that page per month! And in a normal month, I make less than $200 in affiliate sales from it. That’s really, really bad.
So while that page gets tons of traffic and funnels people to other parts of the site, there isn’t nearly enough intent in that search query to sell a product on it. My audience is probably a bunch of 13 year old boys on their parent’s iPad.
Keep intent in mind when you’re choosing topics to write about… especially if you’re just getting started.
Affiliate marketing takes time and commitment. That’s the first thing you need to understand.
If it was easy to do, everyone would try to make passive income on the internet.
It’s going to take time — months, even years. But if building an audience on the internet and making passive income is a goal of yours, I promise, it’s worth the effort.
Plus, if you’re writing about what you’re passionate about, it won’t even feel like work!
If you want to run an idea by me, email me and I’ll respond within a day or two. Trust me.
*Articles on this blog contain affiliate links that GMP receives a small commission from at no cost to you. We only recommend tools we trust. And never ones we don't trust.