Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to turn a passion project into something that makes money. But throwing a few links up on your blog will only take you so far. If you actually want your affiliate marketing relationships to pay off, you should consider creative ways to promote your affiliate links that also provide value to your readers.
To do that, take a page out of the content marketing handbook brands are using; start creating interesting and useful content that does the double job of helping your readers make smart purchasing decisions and helping you make more money from your affiliate marketing.
Here are a few types of content you can try out to get started:
One of the easiest types of content you can use to promote affiliate products is reviews. Simply write up your opinion of a product based on your experience. You can describe how you used it and how it helped you.
The goal here is to be more thorough and helpful than outright promotional (although it’s good to explain what you like about the product). You want to keep your readers’ trust while providing them honest information on what makes buying the product useful.
Take the review of Credit Sesame over at 20somethingfinance.com.
The piece includes over 1,000 words and a number of screen shots that thoroughly explain what the product is, how much it costs, and what users get from it if they choose to start an account. The writer even anticipates questions readers might have and answers them.
It’s clear that the writer’s recommending the product, but they do so in a way that’s more educational than salesy, which ultimately comes off as more persuasive to readers.
2. Product comparisons
You will want to answer the questions your readers are most likely to have when it comes to choosing what products to buy, like trying to figure out what’s different about two competing products in order to determine which one is best for them.
You can answer that question with a product comparison post. As with reviews, you should focus on providing all the information your readers could possibly need rather than pushing the sale.
We Rock Your Web does a good job of pitting small business accounting software products against each other in a comprehensive comparison post. They include mini-reviews of each product, a ranking of their top three picks, and a comparison table that looks at the products’ features and costs side-by-side.
That’s all extremely valuable information to any small business owner trying to make a decision. As such, it both builds trust in the blog and is likely to encourage many readers to click through one of those links and make a purchase.
3. Informational Videos
While text is the most obvious format to stick with when it comes to affiliate marketing (it’s much easier to include a link within text than most other formats) a lot of people do prefer consuming content in video form rather than reading it.
You could always combine the best of both worlds. Create a video that explains the benefits of the product you’re helping promote (or do a video version of your review) and embed it within a post that provides similar information.
Yaro Starak pulls that off with impressive results over at the Entrepreneur’s Journey blog when he writes about using a stand-up desk. Both the video and the post lay out the reasons for why a stand-up desk is worth it and how to put one together. The blog itself includes a number of links to the specific products he bought to put his stand-up desk together, so a video doesn’t have to preclude your ability to link out.
For people that prefer video, and for any topics or products that really lend themselves to making a video (like this one did), making informational videos coupled with text can be a great way to promote affiliate products.
4. How to articles
You could take a couple of different approaches when it comes to using how-to articles for affiliate marketing. You could write articles that describe how to get the most out of a product or make use of certain features. Or you could use more general how-to articles to point readers toward affiliate products.
The Penny Hoarder offers a good example of the latter with their How to Build a Home Gym for $100 post. It addresses a topic relevant to their frugal audience: how can you stay in shape while also saving money on a monthly gym membership? And the topic gives the site plenty of opportunities to link out to product pages for relevant items readers can buy.
5. Video tutorials
Like how-to articles, video tutorials give you an opportunity to show your readers how to make the best use of the product you’re recommending. These can particularly be useful if the affiliate products you promote on your blog are complicated to use, like software that has lots of features.
For many types of products, a video that provides a visual walk through can be a lot more helpful to your audience than words that communicate the same thing. With software, knowing where on the screen to look and click is important. And with something like workout equipment, seeing someone use equipment properly can ensure those watching are more likely to use it correctly and safely.
For an example of how video tutorials can look, Envato Tuts + has a number of brief videos showing viewers how to do multiple things in Microsoft Power Point in different ways.
As with our earlier video example, the tricky thing here becomes how to include your affiliate link. By hosting these videos on your own website embedded within a blog post, that shouldn’t be an issue. You can include a link to the product both above and below the video.
As an extra tip here, by including a written version of the tutorial in the same post like Envato Tuts + does, you can still optimize the post with your chosen keywords to improve its SEO and you have plenty of opportunity to include your links. And it’s good for your followers too, who have their pick between a video and text, based on their personal preferences.
6. Educational webinars
Businesses frequently use this tactic to promote their wares and there’s no reason affiliate marketers can’t do the same. Consider what informational topics are relevant to the affiliate products you represent and craft an educational webinar around them.
If your blog is focused on personal fitness and your affiliate products are mostly gym equipment and supplements, you could host a webinar on “10 Habits to Help You Stay Healthier This Year” that highlights the affiliate products. If you run a blog focused on helping people save money and your affiliates sell products that help you track your spending, you could host a webinar on “How to Start Keeping a Budget.”
Whatever route you take, a webinar requires more of a time commitment than most of the other content types on this list, so you need to make sure you pack that time full of useful tips and information. Webinars are also interactive, so consider ways to get people more engaged, like including surveys or taking questions throughout the webinar.
The Freelancer’s Union recently set up a webinar based on tips to help members Save for Retirement with the help of Honest Dollar, a company that provides retirement plans. To help track which customers come to Honest Dollar from the Freelancer’s Union promotion, they set up a special price for members to sign up with.
If you can’t work out a similar deal with the affiliate company to entice your attendees and track how many customers came from your efforts, you can send a follow up email afterward with affiliate links to any products you mentioned, so you don’t lose a linking opportunity.
7. Gift guide
While it’s possible to put a gift guide together that includes affiliate links together at any time, you’ll likely get the best results if you publish a gift guide around the holidays when everyone’s scrambling to find good gift ideas for loved ones.
Beth of Budget Bytes published a Gift Guide this past December that collected a number of items that are appropriate for her quirky, frugal cooking brand. It never feels promotional and when she describes, for example, why she loves each of the cookbooks she recommends, it feels authentic, honest, and persuasive.
8. Longform guides
This is another common content tactic businesses use. They often employ longform guides as a way to collect leads, but where a business is likely to put their guide behind a sign up form, you might be better off publishing it to the open web to get SEO points and make the affiliate links more accessible.
Longform guides are appealing because they pack more useful information than shorter forms of content, so (if they’re good) the reader appreciates getting a huge amount of valuable information for free. That makes them more likely to click on it, share it, and potentially revisit it.
One of the most popular pieces on the College Info Geek site is The Ultimate Guide to Building a Personal Website. And Thomas, the owner of the site, is not kidding when he calls it the “ultimate guide” either. It’s over 9,000 words long and includes all the specific steps required to start a website, from picking a domain and web hosting plan, (and turns out, he has pretty good taste there) to choosing from popular themes.
9. Seasonal content
Many of the topics people care about and seek out vary throughout the year. In October suddenly everyone loves costumes and pumpkins. In July, vacations and days in the sun dominate our thoughts.
Brainstorm all the seasonal trends that relate to the topics you cover on your website and turn those ideas into content that goes up at just the right time for people to be primed for it.
If you have a blog about healthy cooking, write about pumpkin recipes in October and healthy Christmas cookies in December. If your blog’s about makeup and skin care, then point people toward the best sunscreens to buy in the summer.
The Frugal Girl, assuming that readers will have cleaning on their mind at the beginning of the New Year like she does, chose the beginning of January to highlight a good deal on cleaning supplies.
She recognized early January as the time of year when people are making resolutions and used it as an opportunity to draw attention to one type of product needed to follow through on those good intentions.
10. List roundups
Sometimes simply doing the work of curating a list of similar items is valuable to readers. The Wirecutter maintains an ongoing list of good deals, along with more specific lists of products like The Best Accessories for Your iPhone and iPad.
Putting all those products together in one place saves readers the time and trouble of going out and finding those products and deals on their own (or missing them entirely due to ignorance). And it pretty well guarantees that they’ll click on The Wirecutter’s link if they see something they like.
Content marketing has gained the buzz it has for good reason. Providing valuable information to readers is one of the best ways to gain their loyalty and steer them toward smart purchasing decisions. Some creativity and work can help you launch more interest in the affiliate products that make your website profitable. Branch into these content types, or see what other great ideas you can come up with. If your content is truly helpful, you’re likely to gain more profit from your affiliate marketing because of it.
Psst… did you know HostGator has an affiliate program? Earn $125 per qualifying signup! Learn more here.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.