Here’s How Affiliate Marketing Works

Affiliate Marketing

A while back you might have read Brian’s Effective Copywriting Tactics for Affiliate Marketing, which offered some great advice. But something tells me you might have wondered how to apply that advice to real-life affiliate marketing.

I’m going to show you exactly how I implemented those 5 tips with the Thesis theme affiliate program. And this isn’t theory–I used these five steps to earn a four-figure commission check in just ten days.

1. Endorsements

“Effective endorsements are sincere and enthusiastic based on real experience with the product or service.”

In the case of a blog theme, the strongest endorsement you can give is using the theme for your own blog. I bought the developers membership for Thesis, which allows use of the theme on an unlimited number of sites and other perks.

I left the credit link to the theme in the footer even though my membership didn’t require it, but changed it from a direct link to an affiliate link. Combine that with spending the time to heavily customize the theme for my own site, and you see that I not only endorsed the product, but also showed the heights to which it could be taken with a little work and ingenuity.

2. Reviews

“…you add credibility by pointing out how the product or service isn’t perfect (let’s face it, there are very few perfect offerings), and then go on to explain why the imperfection doesn’t negatively impact your perception and enjoyment of the product or service.”

I decided to do an in-depth review of the Thesis theme after I had used it for a few days and spent a lot of time getting used to working with it and what it could do. I was completely honest in my review (and gave full disclosure on my status as an affiliate), citing why I liked the product, why I used it, the benefits I received from using it, and also a wish list for future upgrades (also known as complaints).

In addition to pointing out the few problems I had with the theme from an advanced user’s standpoint, I posted the solutions for working around them. People reading the review knew I was aware the theme wasn’t absolutely perfect, but also saw why those small imperfections hadn’t prevented my use of or satisfaction with the theme.

3. Tutorials

“Remember, teaching and selling are closely related, so “how to” content that naturally gets a prospect more comfortable with a purchase is smart.”

About a week after I published the Thesis theme review, I launched a tutorial on how to make your WordPress theme more user friendly. The tutorial was not directly related to Thesis, but I mentioned my use of the Thesis theme (linked to my review of the theme) several times in the review and one of the tips was specifically aimed at themes using widgets without PHP support (like Thesis).

The tutorial is extremely useful to all WordPress users, and is aimed at people looking to improve their WordPress theme. This is naturally the perfect audience to target when selling a premium WordPress theme, and any hard-sell would be counter-productive.

4. Bonuses

“Using a bonus or special deal approach is a great way to uniquely sweeten an affiliate offer.”

Near the end of August, Chris Pearson let me know he was running a special offer for the Thesis theme, offering anyone who purchased the theme by August 31st a free copy of the soon-to-be-released Cosmo theme. I downloaded a banner advertising the offer and put it near the end of the review in an effort to “sweeten the deal”.

Additionally, I sent out a twitter message on my twitter account advertising the special on the last day of the sale. These two small actions tripled my sales for the last day of August over the few days prior.

5. Articles

“In other words, can you create content that has independent value and also makes you money, no matter where it’s syndicated or scraped?”

You’re reading it. This article shows you how I took Brian’s Five Effective Copywriting Tactics for Affiliate Marketing and put them to real world use.

I’ve created an article that has independent value as a “step-by-step example” or “case study” for affiliate marketing that will likely still make me money in theme commissions, no matter where it is scraped or syndicated. That’s because people interested in learning how to make money from their blogs will more effectively click through and find out all of the features and benefits of using the Thesis theme on a commercial blog.

Easy, right? :)

About the Author: Rae Hoffman is a veteran affiliate marketer, CEO of website publisher MFE Interactive and the author of the often controversial Sugarrae Internet Marketing Blog.

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Comments

  1. Very nice indeed. It’s awesome to see someone put good advice to work and then be able to hand out more good advice afterward (and score a nice check at the same time!).

  2. a very good article.. thanks.

  3. I wish I would have seen this article four years ago when I was getting started and learning about Affiliate marketing. I spun my wheels while a whole lot of gurus in that industry pitched and confused me.

    This article is really the essence of what needs to be done everything else is just details to worry about later in the process instead.

  4. Great tips, Rae. The articles on your website were one of the things that convinced me to buy Thesis when I was looking for a good WordPress theme. Like you, I’ve been very happy with it and have provided some tips and tutorials that I hope people like. Now you’ve given me even more ideas. Thanks for the advice!

  5. This write-up, and the links you provide, are superb, Rae. I’ve been using Thesis since it came out, but you’ve given me great ideas (through your links) on how to use it more fully, and you have great advice on marketing. Thank you.

  6. My affiliate profitability is directly connected to my making a page that states my position on the product, plus blogging about the product. I don’t have a high traffic website, (sigh), so I am always amazed when someone there is impressed enough to link through and buy!

  7. Sounds great and spot on. Many times bloggers try to affiliate market a product no one knows about, so educate them! Tell them what it does, what it’s for, and how to use it.

  8. Great explanation!

  9. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to get your guest post on a blog that has been heavily promoting Thesis (which BTW, I too purchased) and that has tons of readers who may be on the fence about Thesis ;).

  10. Exactly – as I said, #5 in action ;-)

  11. Meant to say #5 in action, though after the fact ;-)

  12. I must admit, I gave up affiliate marketing because I simply cannot make a sale. I think it is also my fault because I just leave the banner ad on my homepage and never promoted it.

    With this informative article, I think it is high time to try again.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. This is so great–simple, straightforward, and on the mark. Really cool, thanks Rae!

  14. I like your real life, real time example.

  15. Thanks for the advice. I learned something new – replacing the footer link with you affiliate link. Nice!

  16. Does this post signify the coming of the low tide on CopyBlogger? Very nice, Very good… I’m getting bored. Sorry guys. Chris Pearson is an average web designer. This post is regurgitation. Copyblogger is one of the best blogs on the net. Don’t dilute your great content Brian and Sonia. Remember your roots. Remember your core content?

  17. >>>Sorry guys. Chris Pearson is an average web designer. This post is regurgitation.

    Except that this post was not about Chris Pearson or Thesis… Thesis was simply the easily verifiable example used. I’m a professional affiliate marketer who employs an entire staff with the process. Sugarrae is one personal blog and thesis is one small program. The post was about how to really make some cash via affiliate marketing and was done to illustrate that if people get off their rears and actually follow the great advice given here, they’ll find success with it. So if you think it was about Thesis/Pearson, you might want to read it again. But you’re right, this isn’t a “writers” piece. But by now, I’d imagine all the great writing advice has given a lot of the copyblogger readers an audience – and if they don’t learn how to monetize that audience – writing for many will always be a pastime.

  18. Great case study in affiliate marketing — something I’m looking to implement very soon. Thanks for sharing the tips! It’s always fantastic to see theory in action.

  19. I personally found this to be a smart, useful post about monetizing a content site. Yes, it’s simple, but it’s also something that many readers here can go out today and *act* on, instead of nodding their heads & doing nothing.

    Not everyone will find every post useful, of course.

  20. I think this post is fantastic, and thanks to Rae for doing it. People are always asking for real-life examples, and she certainly didn’t have to share.

    Chris Pearson is an average designer? I guess I have bad taste given that he’s *my* designer and business partner. :)

  21. I’m new to affiliate marketing and this case study is a great way to help learn some tips and implement them on my own. Thanks!

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

  22. Nice post, Rae. Thanks for sharing.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt having a blog that already has wide readership…these tactics alone don’t result in a “four-figure commission check.”

  23. >>>it doesn’t hurt having a blog that already has wide readership

    I know you specifically probably didn’t mean it “like this” Mike but, I wasn’t handed a blog with a readership… I built it up, same as I have any of the affiliate sites I own. My “wide readership” isn’t the sole reason I sold themes. If I hadn’t done the above, I’d have sold a few, but no where near as many as I did. I can say that with certainty after a decade in this industry. Secondly, you’d probably be surprised at how “not as wide as you think” my readership is. I break a lot of rules with my language and brash ways. ;-) There is no reason someone else can’t build up their site same as I have with many of them, and use these tactics with four, five and six figure success. Except maybe their own willingness to accept defeat.

  24. I like Chris Pearson’s work and you guys have done a great job together. I subscribe to The Best Damn Blog On the Planet (lol) as well and I don’t need to wish you guys all the best — you’ve already done that and will continue to do so — and I really love your work. I’m just finding the current subject a little over done (not majority, just a little crispy on the edges).

    And I take back what I said — his work is WELL ABOVE AVERAGE. So I apologise.

    I’m not a big fan of affiliate marketing. And I think my underlying dislike for that subject area materialized as a criticism against Thesis — which it shouldn’t have.

    In honesty I haven’t had a good look at Thesis but I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about it. There are some amazing themes out there. But we’re not writing reviews for fun right? So that’s affiliate marketing. It can degrade the value of something to those of us who see through it.

    I guess my comment sought to highlight that. Not the place for it, so once again, apologies to all.

    I shall continue to subscribe. But I won’t be using the words ‘very nice’ and such. Sorry! lol

    I shan’t be so hasty when again I next comment.

  25. majorly*

    HA HA, once again the haste has taken me for a ride!!

  26. >>>It can degrade the value of something to those of us who see through it.

    I’m curious as to what you “saw through”? I’ve never pushed a product in a *personal* manner as suggested above unless I believed in it. I value my reputation too much to sacrifice it for some affiliate sales… but my readers also know that. If you noticed, I pointed out that I reviewed it honestly – warts and all. Of course people can see through insincerity. And trust me… I a lot of things, but insincere isn’t one of them.

  27. >>>big fan of affiliate marketing

    Lastly, this usually amounts to people not being a fan of affiliates they’ve had contact with or exposure to in the past… and not of affiliate marketing itself.

  28. @ChrisJB – I can appreciate your position as I’m not a fan of marketing that feels like hype, either. But I don’t feel that is the case here. Not for me, at least. Here is more of my story.

    I recently decided to create a blog to present my thoughts on software engineering and engineering management (www.SumErgoCode.com) and purchased a domain and hosting from wordpress.com. Then I couldn’t find a theme I liked, and learned that you are limited in your choices on wordpress.com. So I went looking for a theme. Along the way I ran into Chris Pearson and Thesis. After a good deal of research (including reading Rae’s blog) I bought Thesis (and moved the domain to my own host).

    Because I have an interest in marketing, know a thing or two about web hosting, domain names, adwords and such, I figured what the heck – why not become an affiliate for this theme? If it was good enough for me (and I can be a picky bastard) then surely there are others like me that would benefit from it. So I set up http://www.thesistheme.org as my affiliate site.

    My basic message is that Thesis was good enough for me, so it might be good enough for you, and you should at least check it out. If I make a few bucks from this effort, great. If not, no big deal. I’ve spent way more of my time and effort promoting free, open source software for zero compensation (because I believe in it) than I ever will spend promoting Thesis.

    But I will try to watch myself so that when I’m wearing my “enthusiastic marketing hat” I’m not inadvertently diluting my message or shortchanging my principles. Your post was a good wake-up call in that regard. Thanks for keeping us all on our toes.

  29. The trick of substituting an affiliate link in the footer alone made the whole post worth it: that was golden. I also like what you said about choosing to accept defeat in a comment above. It is a choice, and it’s most people’s choice, even though all the while they claim to be dreaming of success. And that is the difference between simply reading good advice and implementing it.

    If any of you are on Twitter, Rae is a hoot to follow: http://twitter.com/SugarRae

  30. I think you’re both right. And let’s face it, we needn’t get too bogged down in ethics when it comes to WordPress themes. Sell as many as you can I say. If I could withdraw my first comment I would.

    My personal opinion on Thesis. I’d change the font weight to normal on p#logo. Bold’s a bit chunky.

  31. Hi,

    Nice to meet you online. I am an affiliate marketing specialist working for online B2B trading company in China. We use Performics a lot. Also have some knowledge of Google Adwords. I hope to share some ideas with you and establish a link with your blog. I have added your blog to my website. My blog is: weicao1984.blogspot.com

    Thank you

    Wei

  32. To be honest this reminds me a little more about how marketing informational products works and less about physical products … but I guess that was your intention.

    Good read.

  33. That’s a great breakdown Rae, thanks. The tutorial examples have worked great for me in attracting business.

  34. Great post Ray, and congratulations on that nice cheque ;)

  35. I’m learning alot from here! thanks!

  36. Hi Rae

    I read thru the five steps that you wrote, and i truely belive it works. Like mysef. I always register a domain name with my keywords on it.Then try to get the domain name like exmaple:www.abcd-review.com. This is one of the techq which does helps in affliate marketing. True enough though. There is also another way. And its getting lots of traffics from some of the sites. I share here. if you are a good copy writer.
    Write the site as SPAM or negative reviews for the start. It rather difficult to do that. But i found some sites doing this method.
    And there are high seraches on it better then review sites. Imgine when we do a product serach and finding out reviews on it. If you happen to see this. link.
    abcd-spam.com saying. Do not know wether this product is positive or not>??? people will click and read. at the end of the review. They will end up recomending the products itself.

    hope my point can contribute to your blog
    edward

  37. Great post.Of the 5 steps I find article marketing to be particularly effective. Articles submitted to the bigger article directories tend to get ranked well in the search engines

    Bonuses are retty relevant if you want to make a sale or get an opt in these days

    In fact most savvy internet users have come to expect a bunch of freebies

  38. Your monetization points are step by step and excellent. You don’t have to be an A list blogger to make $$ online, if I can do it anyone can do it ;)

  39. As a followup to my earlier post about the Thesis Theme blog that I created, I’ve posted information about the latest Thesis release here:

    Thesis Theme 1.2 Revealed

    And I continue to learn from Rae’s examples. Thanks.

  40. Great blog, remember to execute what you start. Do nothing and get nothing!

  41. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future. Thank you

  42. Things sure do change with a little time. Thesis or Genesis, which is the best framework to use is a current question. The competition will be good for everybody in the future.

    Keyword density, use more or use less, it is an ever changing marketing world.