In this episode, we’re diving deep into Stage 4 Part 2, where we unravel the complexities of crafting a successful affiliate marketing strategy for bloggers. Here’s what you’ll learn:
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Happy Friday, friends. We are continuing with Stage 4 today, and we're talking about Stage 4 Part 2 as we examine the seven stages of blogging. And Part 2 is all about mastering your affiliate strategy. So let's say the tasks I put under this stage and section include building an affiliate strategy with a 12-month plan and then obviously executing on that strategy. What do I mean when I say strategy? Well, I think about researching it, researching the right programs, doing the SEO, research for that, developing your content on that, rolling that into your email marketing and your social media promotions, engaging your audience with, you know, different opportunities to get that affiliate in front of them, diversifying your affiliate programs, managing the performance, refining your strategies, all of those sorts of things are what I mean when I'm talking about an affiliate strategy, but that's way more than we can cover in a podcast. So what I want to spend some time today with you doing is just reviewing what I think are five key considerations that are very important to think about as you begin to build your plan. Maybe what I would say is five things you need to have an answer to before you build your 12-month strategy. So if you are new to blogging and new to affiliates, basically all an affiliate is, is you are promoting someone else's product and when you make a sale, they give you a piece of the revenue because it's not your product. So if it's your product, you get to keep all the revenue. Somebody else's product, they're sharing the revenue with you because you took the time to promote them. That's a very simple explanation. There are things to consider. How much are they sharing with you? What's the cookie, the length of the cookie? So does somebody click on that link? Do they have to click the link directly for you to get credit for that? Or is it seven days later, you still get credit, 30 days later, you can still get credit? And then I am wondering what's going to happen as, because Google's already started rolling out this, you know, the updates where they're phasing out third-party cookies. And that is what affiliates use, third-party cookies. So I don't know, I don't know how that's going to impact the affiliate world. That's something I need to do some research on. Actually quite frankly, just thought of that right this second. But even if it's just direct links going forward, because that's all they can manage, it's still worth investing your time in. I'll tell you, I know a blogger who doesn't get a lot of traffic to his site, but is a very, very specialized niche and sells, you know, has regular articles, but sells a lot of things from Amazon. And so again, his blog's not that big, but he's very specialized. He's very good at writing the details about the things he's selling, and they're not low-priced items. And he's making a couple hundred dollars a day. Now I don't make that much from Amazon. My audience is not an Amazon audience, or my content is not Amazon content. I should probably say it that way. But for this person, it's working out really, really well. And I think that's just, you know, he's new, he's not getting, he's not even getting enough traffic to show, to join Mediavine yet, but he's making great money. And when I talked to him about it, I think the trick was selecting the right keywords. Really, you know, low volume, they're low volume keywords, but they're low competition keywords too. And that's really making a difference for him. So anyway, that's just my little bit of encouragement. Even if you're new, it's not too early to start. So let's talk about these five considerations. Here's the first one. Understand your audience. It is crucial. You have to not just know what you're talking about, but what the needs and interests and problems are of the people who are reading your blog. Now, if this sounds familiar, we went through this exercise when we talked about personas, but you want to pick products that really align closely with your audience's preferences and the content that's on your blog. And I'm going to give you an example of a failure on my part with regard to this. So I know if this is your first time listening, I have a hyperlocal travel blog out of Atlanta. I know my audience really well. We've been together for a long time and my audience is a drive market. Now they definitely go on vacation. A lot of my reports indicate a lot of people are going to Europe, which is interesting, and I don't have any European content, but they travel more than most people and that travel is in the drive market. But I heard from everybody in my space, in the travel space, that car rentals are the way to make affiliate money. So I signed up with a car rental affiliate program and it's a great program. It's a 365-day cookie and that's unheard of. I did that through Travel Payouts and put it on every applicable page on the blog. That includes all my high-performing pages, all the destination pages, I mean a good 80%. I want to tell you how many car rentals I sold in about six months. You ready? Zero. Zero. And I should have known that. I should have known. I should have listened to my intuition and more than intuition, listened to my knowledge about my audience before putting all that effort in. Now obviously it validated what I was thinking about, but there was a lot of time to add all of those links and to research the affiliate, to add all of those links. So trust yourself in that you know your audience. Don't listen necessarily to other people in your space, but really look for things that resonate with your content and your audience's needs, problems, and interests. The next thing I would say is, or number two, is choose the right affiliate program. So they're not all created equal and I alluded to this a little bit earlier, but there are, sometimes you have to, you know, a place that you want to work with for an affiliate, they have one program, either they're hosting it or they only work with Commission Junction or they only work with Impact and that happens and you have to go with what you got. But there are several places like Booking.com, for example, if you're in the travel space, that work with a lot of different platforms. So Booking has their own offering. I work with Booking that way and with Stay 22. I know Booking is part of Travel Payouts and there's probably some other places where you can sign up as a Booking affiliate. I prefer Stay 22 because I make more money that way. And the things you want to look for are, what is the commission rate? So does the rate change? Because they will negotiate different rates with different places. What is the cookie length? Their cookie length might be different for different places. Also how does that affiliate program, how well are they known for paying people? So I do not want to call out anybody poorly, but there are some places that are having a, you know, my check is delayed for quite a while. It becomes a problem at some point. They owe us money, we're not getting the check. For example, Stay 22 never had that problem. In fact, they've had delays from their vendors, but they still pay us. And I think a company like that, it's really important to point out and to look for partnerships like that. So, you know, look at their support and the resources they provide. Places like Impact, for example, I have a great affiliate partner who I use through Impact, but they don't offer me any really support or resources. Where I have other places, another company that I work with, TripShock, they send me newsletters, Get Your Guide does this too. Here are the best performing things this month. Not just best performing in your inventory, but best performing from their company's perspective. So you can look and see, okay, this is selling a lot. Is it applied to my content and my audience? And if it does, you can add that in. So, you know, you want to look for the right program. Number three, creating high quality content beyond your blog. So what I would lump this in with is email marketing and social media. If you're doing email marketing, you have the ability, obviously, to include, you know, if you're sending a newsletter, include an affiliate there, if it makes sense for you, right? But the other ways that you can use affiliates that work well for us include a nurture series marketing. Now, I know remarketing is require special software, we use drip for it, it's fantastic, but it's not available to everybody. So I'm going to speak from a nurture series side. We have a Blue Ridge Mountain, Georgia, lead magnet. So when people opt into that lead magnet, they're going to get some quirky things to do in that city. But to that there's then a series of four more emails that go out to them. And two of those emails include where to stay with affiliate links from state 22. So you know, if you're, if you sell books on your website, then you might have somebody who I'm just pulling this out of thin air but let's say you have a booklet, a free list of romance books. And somebody downloads that list. Well, that list can be all affiliate links. And then you could follow it up with, you know, most people who like romances also like, I don't know, cookbooks. That's probably not true. But you see where I'm going here. And then you, you know, the next email in that series before you put them in your newsletter list is another list of books with affiliate links. You can do it for, for cooking, a cooking blog. So let's say they download, you know, your list of Italian recipes, you know, 10, the 10, your 10 favorite Italian recipes. Well, you could follow that up with your favorite, you know, spaghetti sauce, crock and the olive oil that you love. All of those things, Nurture Series. And so it's, what I like about that is that you're sending them things that they're probably going to enjoy. And you know that because of the lead magnet that they downloaded. And then of course, you can also do use social media. And we've talked about many chat before. So if you are talking about on your, you know, on your Instagram or your TikTok account, you're talking about a special pot that you use for cooking, you know, egg drop soup, which I'm about to make because we have some leftover duck I'm excited about. Then you can say comment duck down below, and you'll tell them, you know, what, send them a link to what pot that you're using. And that can be your affiliate link. So you just want to absolutely think about affiliates on your blog, no doubt. And that's where I'd suggest you start, but you want to think about how else you can use and promote those same links. Number four, optimize your posts for SEO. So you want to make sure that your content is discoverable, not just in email and social media. And what I really recommend you do, because I have never recommended this before. But I, I've seen a lot of evidence in the way things have changed for 2023, that this is valuable. And that is to really double down on the lower volume, long tail, lower difficulty keywords for your affiliate marketing. I really used to think and to be honest, I think it used to be the case that, you know, I'm not going to write about this long tail keyword with an affiliate, because only 10 people a month are searching for it. And even if I get on top, you know, top of page one, what am I gonna get 20 links, 20 clicks. But if you can find the right affiliate partner, 20 links can be a lot of money, 20 clicks out 20, you know, 10 20% of 20 people visiting purchase, that could that can really add up. And I think the the competition factor is really important here, especially in the way that Google's changed in 2023. So I would really encourage you to think about those low volume keywords that maybe if you're like me, you've been ignoring in the past, I wouldn't necessarily write about them with that write those articles with those words for non affiliate posts. But for affiliate posts has the potential to be really lucrative. Look at that. For example, that the blogger that I talked to you about the very beginning, and especially if you have higher volume products that you can link out to. And then point five, the last one of the day is to track and analyze your performance. You've got to know what's working and what's not working. You've got to know which pages it's converting on. And I really like Affilimate for that. I love the heat map on Affilimate. I would encourage you to check them out. I'll put a link to them in the show notes. But if you're making, you know, even I would say, well, let me let me think if you're making more than $1,000 a month from affiliates, then you should definitely consider this. I mean, if you're not making that, but you think you have the potential to then you probably still want to invest but I wouldn't recommend being someone who makes more than $1,000 a month and not having insight into which pages are doing well, which links are doing are converting best, the heat map and where people are clicking. For example, like we would have lists of the top tiny houses in Georgia that you can rent. And I can look and see that, you know, people are clicking the top two. And then for some reason, like lots of people were clicking, let's say, I can't remember the exact number, but let's say the one in position 11. And so we're skipping everything in the middle. That lets me know, okay, I think I want to take that number 11 and make it number three, or two, or one, because people obviously are being drawn to it for whatever reason, something that it says or the picture that I used. And so that way it gets in front of even more people. That's the type of analyzing and updates that I'm talking about. And Affilimate's a great way to do that. So those are my five tips. I hope that you will consider putting a 12-month affiliate strategy in place. And even if you're already doing affiliates, I think there's still cause for evaluating the programs you have, making sure you're picking the right programs based on your audience, looking at how you can expand your affiliate reach through social and email, making sure you're picking the right keywords, maybe coming up with a list of keywords that you want to target for 2024 and putting them on your planning list and then really tracking them. So whether you're just getting started, whether you've been doing it for a while, still these five points are still very important as you consider your affiliate strategy.