Affiliate Programs – How to Make Money with them?

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Academia de Marketing Digital

For those who work with digital marketing, the term “affiliate programs” probably rings a bell. However, few marketers use affiliate programs as a way to monetize traffic to their websites and blogs. In the conference called Afiliados Brasil I have been organizing since 2012, together with my business partner Flavio Raimundo, we aim to encourage the market and give the more than 2,000 participants tools and insights on how to work with affiliate programs and affiliate marketing. It is a growing market with incredible profitability potential. It is the perfect business model for companies, agencies, content producers and market influencers.

The world’s first affiliate program was originally created in 1996 by Amazon, when the American company launched its Amazon Associates, which still works to this date and is used by millions of people around the world. Since then, affiliate programs have grown to the rhythm of technology, with attribution models, cookies and all the features that today allow you to control all the work, contrary to what was once possible.

Regardless of whether you have already worked with affiliate programs or not, this article is meant to be a comprehensive and understandable guide on how to use affiliate marketing to make money and effectively monetize traffic from websites and blogs.

Types of Affiliate Programs

There are several different types of affiliate programs and strategies to properly promote them. As expected, there are affiliate platforms that offer different programs, from different companies, with different monetization models as well. There are several types of affiliate programs, according to the requirements and needs of each of the companies that promotes them. Each model has a unique purpose, and the monetization model itself makes you adapt your strategy:

  • CPA – Cost per action
  • CPS – Cost per sale
  • CPC – Cost per click
  • CPL – Cost per lead/form
  • CPM – Cost per 1.000 impressions

These are the most common and popular structures and terminologies, although it is possible to find others on some affiliation platforms.

As a rule, regarding affiliate programs, the operation method and conversion are almost always based on the same cycle:

The cycle of affiliate programs

This basic cycle is now a much more complex one, with developments in terms of traffic, attribution models, cookies, commissioning rules (Last Click, First Click, Multiple Cookie Count, etc.). There is a whole lot of options, settings and tools that allow us to understand everything that happens on and off our website, which gives us a better understanding of what strategies to implement to increase conversions.

Google Page Layout

A few years ago, at any of Google’s algorithm update, the American company launched an upgrade called page layout, which basically focused on sites and blogs that put advertising first and content second. For Google this was the wrong way to work, and along with the penalties that the websites and blogs began to suffer for being neglecting content as a plan B, the company also released some images that explain, according to the vision of the company, how to properly structure a website or blog. Let’s take a look:

Google Page LayoutGoogle Page Layout

According to Google, which by the way owns the largest affiliate program in the world, Google Adsense, this is the perfect design to work on content and conversion, without harming what is most interesting to the user, which in this case is receiving content. If we take a close look at Google, the advertising is either merged with the content or has a well-defined place among the content.

If we think that for Google itself that is the most correct way to place the advertising banners of Media Display, imagine for an affiliate. Although Google Adsense works with image and text ads that fit the content written on websites and blogs, the reality is that an affiliate will not promote a product that is not agreeing with their audience, such as recommending a diet product on a website about cars.

Therefore, for anyone who has a website or blog, I always recommend following an ad positioning structure similar to the one Google recommends. Not only because it is the one that makes the most sense, but especially because it works and continues to give the user freedom to absorb content in the first place.

Affiliates should not be treated the same way as Google Adsense ads!

On-site conversion strategies

For those who work with websites and blogs, using on-site conversion strategies is critical to succeeding with affiliate programs. Regardless of the amount of traffic from your websites or blogs, monetizing that traffic is crucial. Professionals who do not monetize their traffic are similar to the idea of opening a window and throwing money away. It just does not make sense!

If we consider that your site or blog is an asset, that asset must be profitable. Just as an investment fund needs to generate revenue, a website or blog should do it just as well. Not only because it has traffic, but also because it has costs. Cost with domain renewal, cost with hosting, cost with maintenance, etc.

Display Advertising

Let’s start with display advertising. The most common ad format on websites and blogs, and one of the oldest on the internet. In fact, in 1998, an advertising banner had a CTR of 98%, that is, for every 100 visitors to a page, the banner received around 98 clicks. Nowadays, a 1% CTR can be considered, in many cases, a very positive result. That means 1 click for every 100 visitors.

The change in the way the public consumes content, and especially the way they view advertising, forces content producers and bloggers to be more creative and deliver useful value to their readers. And display advertising also needs to be worked on in order to create beneficial value to the user.

Display Advertising at blog's content

Regarding display advertising, there is a very simple rule: the best places generate the best conversions. This means that if the banner ads you want to use are not positioned in highlighted places, the conversion is unlikely to be positive. Placing banner ads in “above the fold” locations is critical, where the user can view them correctly without the need to scroll. This applies to both the homepage and content pages.

One of the lines I say a lot in my lectures is: display does not convert!

I say this for a very simple reason. If we look at the common CTR in display banners, we quickly realize that there are many other ways to monetize traffic, which convert significantly better. Actually, in my opinion, display only works well when we use it as a way to do remarketing. In such cases, the display works quite well, with the advantage that the user has already seen our content and will be affected in another way by the publicity. In fact, we’ll be running an ad based on something he has already seen on our site, and that is extremely powerful.

E-mail marketing

E-mail marketing is another extremely powerful way of working with affiliate programs. In fact, affiliates, digital producers, bloggers, etc., all use e-mail marketing as one of the main ways to monetize their content and/or market their products. An e-mail marketing list can do wonders for an online business regardless of the niche market or whatever you are selling.

Email Marketing

Capturing contacts for e-mail marketing actions should follow the same principles of lead generation, for example. I talked about it in another article; the way you capture leads is not much different from how you capture e-mails for a newsletter. At the time that I had a blog called Money School, I used to capture e-mails through a fairly simple pop-up. I offered one of my e-books in exchange for the subscription to the newsletter and this generated me a list of more than 40,000 subscribers in a really short period of time.

Naturally, the work with this mailing list at a later time is critical. If you are constantly submitting proposals and products to your mailing list, chances are you are going to wear your list out and simply stop selling. It is important to properly nurture and work with an email list. Here are suggestions for you:

  • One sales e-mail for every five content e-mails;
  • Schedule your communication routine and do not send more than 2 e-mails per week;
  • In content e-mails, deliver the content directly in the email;
  • Ask your readers questions and answer them whenever they interact;
  • When recommending a product, test it and give your honest opinion (this includes both good and bad points);
  • Analyze your upload metrics, such as e-mail and click-through rates, to find out what content your audience likes best;
  • Find a formula that works well with your audience and repeat it.

Another important aspect to consider is the amount of data captured. It is essential to realize that the more information we capture, the lower the conversion rate. It means that if we capture only the email address, the conversion rate will be much higher than when we capture e-mail address and name, for example.


For many years the famous phrase “Content is King” has been etched forever in the minds of marketers. This phrase conveys the idea that content is “king”, meaning that through marketing strategy and content production, it is possible to really make a difference in terms of results.

But if we work the content correctly and generate traffic, it becomes fundamental to convert it into money. Affiliate programs are a great way to convert traffic to money through good content. Nowadays, while it is harder to position a website or blog in Google’s organic results, the reality is that by producing quality content, we are a step closer to that goal.

Conversion of affiliate programs with content

Regarding affiliate programs conversion through content, whether on websites or blogs, there are several things to take into consideration. Take a look:

  • Always use “nofollow” links when it comes to affiliate links;
  • Use 302 redirects to mask affiliate links;
  • Use text links and related image ads;
  • Create really interesting and traffic-generating content;
  • Do not use too many links in a single piece of content.

In some types of content, it may be interesting to use buttons and call-to-action for a given product. However, the most important thing here is the piece of content. It is the content that will generate traffic at the first place, so put all of your hard work on the content. The more complete your piece of content is, the greater the likelihood of getting a good position in the SERP and consequently raising quality traffic to later convert into sales through affiliate programs.

Product reviews

Another interesting thing to work on the content level is to create landing pages with product reviews and compare several similar products to each other. When we compare similar products through reviews, we give the user the possibility of choosing one of several similar products. That increases the conversion on products and makes the user more confident about their choice. In addition to that, create several quality reviews regarding each of the products, which of course is interesting to generate quality content on that same product.

Whenever possible, I also recommend the use of rich snippets, which are those five stars in a review. They do not exist only because they are a way for users to see a vote for a particular product from 0 to 5 stars. They also help identify content in Google’s organic results. Take a look at this:

Rich Snippets on Google

You can deepen your knowledge on Rich Snippets here.

Off-site conversion strategies

When strategy is focused on the outside of your site, there are also many ways to generate quality traffic and/or conversions directly from other media, whether promoting content, making ads on Facebook or Instagram, etc. Releasing your content off your site as a strategy to generate greater conversions is critical. Something like what I have already talked about in one of the last articles about Content Marketing.

Facebook Page

Facebook pages, when properly set up, are a great way to capture traffic. Of course, with the fall of Facebook’s organic traffic reach, making ads is vital to achieving good results, or at least ensuring that the page’s audience has access to the published information. That way, it is essential to create a content strategy that includes not only sponsored content, but also the organic content, what makes the page move regularly and end up generating interest in the community. This is a great way to get Facebook traffic to the key content of your site, where we can later convert that traffic into affiliate commissions.

Facebook campaign results

If we take into account that by promoting certain content, we get clicks to the site around 10 cents a click, what does that represent for the business? If we imagine that with an investment of USD 1000, for example, we get a return of 10,000 unique visitors to a particular page, what would be the conversion of that traffic into affiliate commissions? That is the math we need to do!

Sponsored content on Facebook

That is the result of an article promoted through ads on Facebook. Of course, that traffic must have a concrete goal, meaning it could be to generate commissions on affiliate programs, or to get customers, or more consulting services, anything anyway. There is always a purpose when traffic is generated on a certain content.

If you imagine that this can be done by investing very little money, directing large amounts of traffic to key contents of your website or blog, product reviews pages, etc., then we are sure that the investment made on Facebook can actually generate a substantial return on commissions. Just do the math and be sure to know what is the conversion of the paid traffic on Facebook into buying customers of a certain product advertised on your site.

Affiliate platform records

The reality is that if you cannot see your level of conversion in affiliate programs by Google Analytics, you can always look at your numbers on the affiliate platform itself, since you’ll easily notice the increase or decrease in the number of new subscriptions, new purchases or any other metrics you are tracking regularly.

Of course, advertising is almost always a way to get in the way of things. Since content production is time and patience consuming, especially regarding SEO (Search Engine Optimization), investing in advertising is a way to accelerate the process and achieve great results in a short space of time. In addition to the purchase of advertising, there is also the purchase of traffic.

Buying traffic is basically a more aggressive strategy of targeting traffic from one site to another. In this case you are buying ads to your website where you are advertising your affiliate programs.

Media buying

When buying traffic — something I will explore further in another article — there are several factors to keep in mind when tracking real-time stats in Google Analytics, since not all traffic will convert in the same way in your business. But more important than the traffic purchased, is to see if that traffic is actually generating the expected return and figure out how to scale that business strand to reach new heights. That way, pay attention to the following metrics in Google Analytics:

  • Number of unique visits (of course!);
  • Pages/Visits help you to perceive readers’ retention on the site;
  • Average length of visits (the same thing);
  • Bounce rate is important to realize the user’s first impression;
  • New visitors vs. Recurring visitors also help you to see if you are getting new visitors or visitors who have already been on the site;
  • Conversion in affiliate programs.

Naturally, these metrics may be customized in any strategy that works based on the purchase of advertising or traffic, whether directly with the publisher, via Facebook Ads or any other platform. When talking about traffic purchase formats, consider the following:

  • Interstitials
  • Pop-Ups
  • Pop-Unders
  • Display
  • Sponsored articles
  • Facebook Ads
  • Google AdWords
  • Facebook Vídeo
  • YouTube Vídeo

All these channels are important to be worked on. Of course, according to your website and the type of affiliate programs you work with, you will always need to conduct tests and realize which traffic converts best on your side. Each site is a site, and conversion levels fluctuate immensely depending on the type of product you are promoting and the quality and navigability of the website.

Have you ever worked with affiliate programs?

If you have never worked with affiliate programs, know that there are hundreds of affiliate platforms in the market, with offers of all kinds. This means that you will find affiliate programs for almost every business area, such as telecommunications, insurance, banking, sports, etc. Each platform has its own programs, companies and campaigns, so you’ll probably end up signing up for more than one platform, to find what you’re looking

Affiliate Platforms (Digital Products)

Affiliate Plataforms

Mobile Affiliate Programs

Naturally, there will be even more affiliate platforms on the market. However, this list contains the ones that I consider the most important and relevant for those who are starting and/or for those looking for viable alternatives to monetizing their traffic.

Good Work!

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