Affiliate Marketing Basics

Affiliate marketing is one of the most profitable and convenient ways to make money as a female blogger. If you’re looking to understand what affiliate marketing is and how it works, then you’ve come to the right place!

Let’s get started on affiliate marketing basics:

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is a way for brands to get new customers referred to them. As a blogger, you become the middle man (middle woman!) between a merchant and a consumer. Because you made the connection, you take a small commission of whatever the consumer purchases.

In some cases, the consumer may not make a purchase, but instead, leave their email and you may get a “finder’s fee” for making the referral.

Essentially, you act as a bridge between the two parties using what’s referred to as an affiliate link.

The most common form of affiliate marketing is sales-driven and it can be found everywhere online. Chances are you’ve clicked an affiliate link, made a purchase, and generated a commission for someone without even realizing it in the past!

How does Affiliate Marketing work?

The way affiliate marketing works is when one of your readers clicks an affiliate link, a cookie is placed on their browser by the merchant to track their purchase and tie them back to you.

A cookie is just a small piece of data that is stored on someone’s browser. Cookies are used for many other things as well, like remembering your account when you visit Facebook, for example, or showing you an advertisement for a product you viewed recently. Cookies don’t stay on a browser forever though, and the user can always remove them, though the average consumer isn’t typically aware of them.

Cookies don’t last forever, though. Amazon’s standard affiliate link cookie lasts 24 hours. If you work with RewardStyle, then the cookie length is on average 30 days, but varies by retailer.

How much Commission can I earn through Affiliate Marketing?

If someone clicks your link and makes a purchase during the cookie’s lifetime, you earn a commission! How much, you ask? Well, that depends on the retailer and network!

Recently, Amazon changed its commission structure to depend on the category of the item purchased. Notice I wrote “item purchased,” not item linked. You will still earn a commission for most affiliate programs on your reader’s total purchase, even if the reader doesn’t purchase the item you linked. Pretty fantastic right?

Let’s say you really love this Oribe Conditioner on Amazon and want to promote it. You put a link on your blog and wait for someone to purchase. If a reader clicks through and goes on to purchase 4 different luxury lipsticks, and her total comes to $100, you’ll earn $10 from that sale because the luxury beauty category is currently at a 10% rate. If you’re thinking about becoming a luxury beauty blogger, now is a fantastic time, as that category is currently paying the highest commission rate!

Amazon is somewhat unique in that it pays commissions based on the product category. Most affiliate programs have one single commission rate – meaning no matter what the consumer purchases, you would earn X percent of the sale.

How can I become an affiliate marketer?

The best way to become an affiliate marketer is to start a blog around a topic where your readers are interested in products. Once you’ve got a small audience (I would aim for at least 100 visitors a day to your site), you can start applying to affiliate networks and programs.

You can become an affiliate marketer in a few different ways:

  1. Join an Affiliate Network like RewardStyle, Skimlinks, Viglink, or Shareasale
  2. Join a merchant’s affiliate program directly, such as Amazon Associates.

Affiliate networks are companies that manage affiliate programs for retailers.

RewardStyle is the best affiliate network for fashion bloggers, for example. They work with retailers such as Nordstrom, West Elm, Sephora, and a ton more. The majority fall into the fashion category but the number of home and beauty retailers they work with is quickly growing.

The benefit to joining a network is that they negotiate higher commission rates on your behalf. The downside is that they take a percentage of your earnings.

Commission rates will greatly depend on the affiliate network you use. For example, One Kings Lane is a retailer on both RewardStyle and Shareasale. The commission rate for One Kings Lane sales via RewardStyle’s links will earn me 10.5 – 15.0%. Sales made via Shareasale will earn only 5%. This is because RewardStyle has negotiated a higher commission rate for their publishers.

You should absolutely compare multiple affiliate networks to decide which one will earn you the most profit!

Legal Disclosure

Before you start placing affiliate links everywhere, make sure to research the disclosure laws surrounding affiliate links in your country and/or state, as well as with the affiliate program itself.

Amazon Associates even has a specific statement you must place on your site to earn money from their program (see section 5).

While I am not offering legal advice, I can say that disclosing your affiliate link usage is required by law in the United States! Whatever the laws are in your area, you absolutely want to abide by them as your hard-earned money can be withheld from you if you don’t!

Affiliate Marketing Key Terms

Publisher: Another word for blogger or influencer. This is you! Top-earning publishers include Rachel Parcell of Pink Peonies and Aimee Song from Song of Style.

Merchant: The retailer you are linking to, such as Wayfair, Walmart or Amazon, etc.

Conversion Rate: The rate at which your click-through readers make a purchase. If you have 100 visitors who clicked your link, and 1 makes a purchase, your conversion rate is 1%. RewardStyle considers 1% a good conversion rate, while an Amazon conversion rate of 4% tends to be considered very good.

Cookie: A small file of data sent from your website and stored on your reader’s computer by their browser after they click an affiliate link. Used to track their purchases and earn you a commission.

I hope you have a better grasp on what affiliate marketing is and why it’s so important after reading this post!

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