What are Affiliates?
Well, for the sake of simplicity, in this blog we’ll define an affiliate as anyone who makes money from another site by linking to their site. This means you will potentially become an affiliate. Any site that is providing the links and banners for you to use on your website, YouTube channel or social media channel is considered the merchant.
Affiliate income works quite simply. The website uses a very simple tracking code that immediately gets tied to the user when they visit their site. This cookie is an internal cookie, so it’s not usually subject to some privacy law or concern. It just tells the merchant which affiliate sent someone to their website. Usually, the link will have someone’s “affiliate ID” at the end of it like this: “Mywebsite.com/my-product/ref/11”.
The “/ref/11”, would be considered your personal tracking tag and usually, you can just put it at the back of any link you want to use yourself. This is particularly useful if there’s a certain product you want to link and you’d like to claim credit for the sale of that product. We do this all of the time for affiliates that use our web design services. This sort of linking is much more popular and greatly effective compared to linking someone to the homepage of a website and expecting them to make a purchase.
What is a Cookie Window?
Most affiliate cookie windows last for about 30 days on the low end and 90 days if the merchant is feeling extra generous for some reason. Most of the time though, expect to be in a constant search for those generous affiliates. Once you find good reputable companies though, they are wonderful to work with and will be glad to pay you commissions for the products you sell.
Does the Cookie Work All the Time?
No, the cookie does not always work. It could be the way the cookie tracking is implemented on the merchant’s site. A customer also could use a different device to ultimately make the purchase on the website. However, I have also found that the main reason cookies don’t work is due to deliberate malfeasance by the merchant. A lot of merchants simply lie about the cookie window or don’t implement a very good tool on their website for tracking orders. Many merchants don’t want to share their margins with you as an affiliate. One thing that is also common is for a merchant to use affiliates for the initial momentum they need for driving traffic to their websites and then to drop them or suddenly change their policies so that no one can make money. This isn’t fun!
For that reason, affiliate income cannot be truly considered passive because it requires some upkeep in searching for new affiliates and maintaining correct links/login info. Merchants very commonly will switch to a new system that changes all of the links to their website. Usually, they do this without telling you. It’s up to you to find out why you stopped earning income on a particular merchant’s affiliate area. Is it a traffic problem? Do your links still work? Did they change their product pricing?
Either way, if you find a “gravy train” of a merchant that keeps awarding you high-paying affiliates, ride that train until you get kicked off. Usually, people thinking about starting an affiliate program will end up setting their commission rate either too high or too low. If it’s too low, no one will join their program. If it’s too high, they end up wanting to cancel it altogether.
How Much Traffic Do I Need?
You don’t actually need as much traffic as you would think for a powerful affiliate income. We’ve seen people make as much as $1000 in a month from a single affiliate with only 500 clicks. That’s nearly $2 per click. You’re definitely not going to make that much with normal ad placements on your website. In fact, for this particular merchant, you could just announce the product to your YouTube viewers or email list and see great results. Finding the right merchant is going to be highly dependent upon your niche though!
Let’s say you only got around 1000 views per video, but you knew it was pretty consistent. If you did one video per day, that would amount to 7000 impressions of your affiliate link (If you put it at the top of your description) per week. Using a method like this is a great way to get concentrated affiliate traffic to flow to your affiliate links over time. Also, if your YouTube channel struggles to make enough money just from Youtube’s ad revenue, adding affiliate links is a great way to supplement that. That’s why almost every major YouTuber makes use of affiliate links. I think a great starting point for affiliate links in YouTube videos is if you have more than 500 views on each video you release. If you have less than that, you can try using affiliate links, but you’ll want to increase your traffic and consider inviting your subscribers to join your mailing list.
Email Newsletter Traffic
As mentioned above, placing a singular link in your video’s description is a very powerful way to start funneling traffic to a particular URL. You could actually grow a mailing list with YouTube in the same way. If you already have a newsletter audience on something like Mailchimp or ConstantContact then you can go ahead and start putting affiliate links in your emails. As I stated previously placing a link at the very top of the email with the call to action you want them to perform will result in the most clicks. Don’t just expect people to look for your affiliate link at the bottom of an email, tell them what you want them to do. Internet users (myself included) are simple. When they see a big button, they will click on it. Make use of these big buttons in your email newsletters and people will click your links.
You need at least 1000 email subscribers before you start seeing those great results from affiliate links. We’ve seen great results on email campaigns that earn hundreds and thousands of dollars from just a few clicks. It’s just that you can’t get those clicks until you have a large pool of people to send the email to.
Keep in mind though that a lot of affiliate programs ban email marketing as a tactic for sending traffic to them (bummer).
Website Traffic (Passive Blog)
This method of sending traffic to a merchant is probably the hardest, yet most effective. I’ve seen passive blog posts that have less than 100 page views per month just because of how laser-targeted the search keyword is. For example, a “best cheap coffee grinder” post links to a coffee grinder on amazon and a large percentage of those who searched for that phrase are actually ready to buy the coffee grinder. Not all traffic is equal, and passive blog traffic is about as targeted as it gets. Use this to your advantage. Technically if you are some kind of PPC genius, you could use Google Ads to send traffic to an affiliate link. This is typically frowned upon though, so I would recommend organic traffic all day long!