There are all sorts of ways to monetize your blog – not all of which are created equal. Whether it be with ads, sponsored posts, premium content, etc., turning your blog into a money-making machine is a big step!
Of all the potential routes you can go here, monetizing your blog with affiliate marketing is one of the best (and most humble) ways to do it. No one wants to visit their favorite blog to see that it’s been overcrowded with promotional messaging and other elements that scream “sellout!”
Affiliate marketing is the ideal balance that allows you to keep the sanctity of your blog – while potentially earning some dough!
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What is Affiliate Marketing?
For those who aren’t familiar, affiliate marketing (in the sense of blogging) is when you place links to products, services, and retailers within the body of your content.
These links are provided through affiliate networks – Amazon has a very extensive affiliate program.
When a visitor views your post, clicks on the affiliate link, and buys the product/service, you get a commission!
Basically, affiliate marketing gives you the opportunity to sell products and services related to what you blog about.
Here is an example of a travel blog selling travel-related books in an affiliate marketing-tied post:
Now, getting into the affiliate marketing game with your blog isn’t as easy as it might sound. Just like any other type of online business, it takes a serious effort to get a website into a position that it generates substantial revenue.
The thing with blogs is that most visitors don’t typically arrive with the intention of buying something. They are looking to be entertained, learn something, get a new perspective, etc. Generally speaking, one of the hard truths you need to face with affiliate marketing is that success probably won’t come overnight.
There are many different factors that play into your ability to make money with affiliate marketing. Placing the right products and services in front of interested eyeballs takes a fair amount of examination and strategy.
In this post, I want to go over some of the most important metrics to keep your eyes on – and use as a compass for your monetization strategy.
1. Transactional Keywords
Transactional keywords are a big deal.
Chances are, you get a lot of your web traffic through organic Google searches. Doing your research and understanding which types of keywords are drawing in traffic says a TON about your following and what they want from your content.
In general, there are three major categories of keywords:
Most of the keywords used for blogs fall under the Informational category. These tend to be for searches seeking answers – not products, services, or businesses. In other words, people searching informational keywords are not explicitly looking to be sold to; they are looking to learn something.
Some examples of informational search queries would be:
- How to ____
- Tips ___
- ___ Guide
Given the informational nature of blogs, these types of queries should be the focus of your keyword research – for they will be the source of the bulk of your traffic.
Navigational keywords are a bit more specific than informational keywords. These types of queries are when the searcher is looking for a specific entity – which could be the name of a blog, a business, magazine, etc.
You probably won’t have to worry about optimizing for these types of keywords until you have a substantial following.
Ok, now to get back on track with the name of the section.
Transactional keywords are the search queries that have purchasing intent behind them.
- Buy ____
- Best [name of product/service]
- ___ cost
- ___ pricing
- Cheap ___
- [name of a product/service]
Plain and simple, if you want to bring in organic traffic with a higher likelihood of buying, you’re going to need to rank for these types of keywords.
For example, let’s say you run a technology-focused blog and you are creating an affiliate post listing out models of headphones.
Let’s start with the focus keyword best headphones. Using our handy keyword research tool, Ubersuggest, let’s see what kinds of transactional keywords we’re working with.
- Best headphones running
- Best headphones earbuds
- Best headphones to workout
- Best headphones noise canceling wireless
- Best headphones for the gym
- Best headphones for working out Bluetooth
These keywords all have a pretty decent transactional intent – and would be crucial to include in a listicle with affiliate links to different headphone models.
Once your affiliate posts are live, you need to keep track of how these transactional keywords are bringing traffic to your website. In Google Search Console, under Performance on the left menu, click on Search results. This is where you can see the search queries in which people are finding your site.
As you publish more and more affiliate posts with transactional keywords, you need to be keeping close tabs on these data sets. Essentially, your ability to draw in traffic for these terms equates to how reliable Google sees your website.
2. Conversation Rate (Sales)
If you go the affiliate marketing route with your blog, you are (in a way) turning your site into an e-commerce platform.
What is THE most important metric that e-commerce website owners need to track?
Conversion rate refers to the percentage of total visitors versus the people who take the page’s intended action. In your case, the intended action would be to buy a product.
We talked about how important it is to track your web traffic from transactional keywords. Keeping track of your conversion rate is the next step up. This process helps you to understand the relationship between your website traffic, content quality, and how you are able to encourage people to buy.
To reiterate, blogs, by nature, are not e-commerce stores. When people visit e-commerce websites, they are actively looking to buy something. In an affiliate blog, you’ve got to convince them to buy. In many ways, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
So how do you track conversion rate on an affiliate blog?
While there are several ways to track this in Google Analytics, it’s super easy and straightforward with the Amazon Affiliate Network – if you choose to sell Amazon products. From the main dashboard, go to Reports. Here, you can see all the clicks, sales, and commissions you made on certain links.
Now, to go a step further, you can compare this data to the pageviews in Google analytics by clicking on Behavior, then Site Content. From here, you can simply search for your blog post with the respective affiliate links.
Looking at the screenshots, we can see that the affiliate blog post selling travel books got 20 views in December (Google Analytics).
Going back to the Amazon Affiliate dashboard, we can see that there were four orders in the month of December. Therefore, the conversion rate on this page would be 20% for this month.
As any sort of online retailer, conversion rate is the most important metric to track. If you plan on getting your skin in the affiliate marketing game, you will need to get very familiar with this process – as well as ways to optimize it. But conversion rate optimization is a topic for another day.
3. Traffic Source
This is a big one.
Hopefully, you rely on a few different channels to bring in website visitors – organic search, email, social media, referrals, etc. In the name of revenue, you need to have a strong understanding of which channels are most valuable in driving traffic to your affiliate posts.
For example, if you promote your blog post with affiliate links across a number of social networks, which ones typically bring in the most visitors? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter?
Marketing – as a whole – can be summed up in a single sentence: Find what works, refine your strategy around it!
The same concept applies to your affiliate posts.
Keeping tabs on traffic sources is super easy in Google Analytics.
From the Home dashboard, go to Site Content, then All Pages.
From here, you can choose which posts you want to examine – which would be your affiliate posts. Click on Secondary dimension, select Acquisition from the dropdown menu, then select Source/Medium. You should be able to see where people are finding your affiliate posts.
Say for example, you wrote a post titled “The 10 Best Tools to Get for Your Next Camping Trip”.
Over the next few months, you notice the post has been making a fair amount of sales. Your Google Analytics is telling you that the post gets lots of visitors through Facebook when you share and re-share it.
Obviously, this is a good sign that Facebook is a big money maker for your affiliate posts. Therefore, your future strategy should be focused on sharing these posts to your Facebook audience.
4. Top Sales-Generating Posts
Pinpointing your top selling affiliate posts is the easy part. Finding the wisdom that makes them top sellers is tricky.
Truth be told, there are a million reasons why one of your posts could be a stud in making sales – some might not appear to have any rhyme or reason. Your task here is to examine these posts under a microscope and find the common threads.
- Is it the title?
- The formatting?
- Keyword demand?
- Word count?
- Date/time the post is shared?
- Channels it’s shared on?
As you could probably guess, this is going to require some critical thinking and analysis – as success can be attributed to many different factors.
However, if you look at many of the most successful affiliate marketing blogs – across various industries – the common denominator is that the posts are engineered to answer their audience’s pressing questions.
For example, take a look at this post from Nerdwallet:
The demand for answers around the topic of “credit cards for bad credit” is very large. Let’s take a look at the Questions feature on Ahrefs and see what we’re working with:
The Nerdwallet post clearly answers several of these sought-after questions.
- What credit cards can I get with bad credit?
- How to apply for credit cards with bad credit?
- How to get credit cards with bad credit
So, with this in mind, take a look at your top selling posts and ask yourself, “what questions am I answering with this post?
At the end of the day, formatting, verbiage, and technical details are going to be second banana to how you answer questions + provide solid solutions.
Over to You
Running an affiliate blog is easy. Running a successful affiliate blog takes a lot of hard work, analysis, and refinement.
I’m going to echo what I said earlier about affiliate marketing: success probably won’t come overnight. There are many different metrics that come into play with online sales – in any capacity. Keep these four under close watch and use them to develop your affiliate blog!
This post was written by Kevin Svec. Kevin is the Chief Content Strategist at E2M Solutions Inc. He is highly experienced in planning, creating, and distributing blog posts, eBooks, whitepapers, and any other sort of educational content. Kevin is also a seasoned copywriter, with a lot of experience writing website copy and ad content. When he isn’t rock climbing or enjoying one of Southern California’s gorgeous beaches, Kevin is writing for Impulsive Wanderlust, a travel + leisure website he created. Connect with him on LinkedIn.