What’s the secret to effective affiliate marketing?
It all boils down to engagement.
If you have a page with an affiliate offer that ranks well for searchers in buying mode, that’s pretty high engagement. You need a trusted, authoritative site to pull that off, which means strong content and plenty of links.
But don’t forget that the very same content creates engagement with regular readers first. If you’re building authority sites that attract subscribers, you get more than one shot at affiliate revenue. You profit first with your direct readers who trust you, and then continue to generate revenue over time thanks to strategically-placed cross-links and search traffic.
The lowest form of affiliate marketing engagement comes from simply sticking affiliate banner ads on your site. I’m not saying you won’t make any money from those ads, but it’s certainly not the most effective way to capitalize on the relationship with your audience. And banner ads don’t rank in search engines, right?
So let’s take a look a five copy tactics that can bring you immediate and long-term revenue from affiliate programs:
A personal endorsement is the strongest way to pre-sell an affiliate offer, assuming your audience values your opinion. Effective endorsements are sincere and enthusiastic based on real experience with the product or service. That’s not to say that people don’t pitch things just for the money, but that can be a dangerous game that erodes your trust and authority if the product or service is poor.
As with any effective copy, endorsements focus on benefits more than features. You might find that picking out the most compelling benefits is easier in a personal endorsement, because you’ve experienced those benefits first hand. Share how a recommended product or service has changed your life for the better, and you’re naturally talking benefits.
A review differs from an endorsement in tone and structure, but by the end of the piece, you end up with an endorsement nonetheless. Let’s face it… writing up a negative review might be a great way to vent, but it’s not the smartest revenue strategy when it comes to affiliate marketing.
So, as with endorsements, it’s smart to review products and services you actually use and benefit from. From a copy perspective, 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.
Years ago, the easiest way to do really well with content-based affiliate marketing was to release a free ebook loaded up with affiliate links and watch it go viral. That strategy can still work, but generally the content must be much stronger, and the affiliate pitches more subtle. Another long-time strategy is the email mini-course, in which you deliver tutorial-style content by autoresponder that ultimately promotes one or more relevant offers.
These days, producing video tutorials that show how to use a product or service are extremely effective at pre-selling affiliate offers. Remember, teaching and selling are closely related, so “how to” content that naturally gets a prospect more comfortable with a purchase is smart. Plus, you can use broader tutorial content as an “ethical bribe” to get people to subscribe to your blog or a targeted sub-list, which allows for multiple relevant offers to be made over time.
Using a bonus or special deal approach is a great way to uniquely sweeten an affiliate offer. You essentially promise to add in an additional item if people buy through your link, or you work out a promotional deal with the merchant that only you can deliver. You then work the extra value into your endorsement, review, or announcement with a great headline and benefit-oriented copy.
You’ll see this strategy used quite a bit in competitive pay-per-click situations, and also during big product launches where lots of people are promoting at once. But it’s a really strong strategy anytime, because it demonstrates that you’re focusing on adding value and delivering great deals to your audience.
Can you promote affiliate offers with your regular content? 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 can, but it’s tricky. Let me give you an example with an article I wrote last year called How to Create Ebooks That Sell.
In this article I managed to:
- Create a compelling keyword-rich title
- Deliver independent value
- Attract links
- Generate positive comments
- Endorse a product while disclosing the affiliate link
- Make a healthy 4-figure profit immediately
- Rank for my targeted keyword phrases
- Collect continued monthly commissions
- Receive reader emails thanking me for the recommendation
When I spoke at PubCon late last year, I dissected this post and explained everything I did and why. But I think if you simply take a look at it in light of what we’re exploring in this series, you’ll figure it out.
What about Disclosure?
Disclosure of affiliate links has been a hot topic lately. From a pragmatic standpoint, being transparent with your audience can solidify your relationship with them, and that’s really what this is all about. But there are also ethical and legal issues to consider, none of which are cut and dry.
So, in the next post, I’ll try to shed some light on the subject of disclosure. Hopefully you’ll understand the issues surrounding disclosure of affiliate links a bit better, and even see how disclosure can be turned into a selling point rather than a liability.
About the Author: Brian Clark is the founding editor of Copyblogger, and co-founder of Teaching Sells.