This post contains affiliate links. Because this is an affiliate marketing blog, so, #duh. This means I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to increase your revenue stream as a blogger, but in order to do it effectively, you need to do it right. There are specific steps any blogger needs to take in order to successfully monetize their blog using the affiliate channel, but taking these steps ensures you'll be set up for success. All of this is relative to a WordPress site, because if you really want a good blog on a good platform that will help your SEO, you need to be on WordPress. You're doing yourself a disservice by using anything else.
10 Steps to Monetize Your Blog with Affiliate Marketing:
Buy your domain.
I use GoDaddy, but sites such as NameCheap work just as well. Just make sure you think long and hard about what you want the domain to be — it should have an identity, be easy to remember (and type) and not look … stupid as a URL. This blog, bourbonandsparkle.com, contains two simple words, a joining word and is easily associated with me and my personality. It doesn't necessarily indicate what the blog is about, but it is simple to remember and to type out.
Secure your social handles.
This should really be 1a, because it's just as important. Your social handles should be identical or super similar to your domain, but they may not necessarily be available. Take Apogee — we use @apogeeagency on Instagram, but on Twitter we have to use @apogeeagency1 because some random company in the UK owns @apogeeagency. This also means that we actually have to differentiate on business cards, PowerPoints, etc.
Get Good Hosting.
Here's the thing: You don't want a shitty website, and in order to not have a shitty website, it really needs to live on WordPress. This means that you need to pony up for hosting. The good news: You can get pretty much top-of-the-line hosting for as little as about $15/month. I use WP Engine for both this blog and The Minimalist Wedding. I've used it for years with other businesses, and it's incomparable. The level of service is worth every penny … and $15 isn't even that much. I have also had decent experiences with DreamHost. Both these options have WordPress installers, making it easy to get up and running on WordPress. (Psst: Use my link and you'll get 20% off your first payment with WP Engine.)
Bluehost is also a very popular, affordable option I've seen many bloggers begin with.
Find Your Theme.
Your theme is super important. It's how your blog looks, but it will also be how your blog functions. Not all themes are created equal. Aesthetic is key, but so are functionalities and features. I prefer mine to have sidebar options, and multiple menu options as well as lots of customization opportunities. I found mine through Station Seven, which has some very clean and pretty designs perfect for blogging. Creative Market is also a good place to check.
Time to get your hands dirty with the back end of your blog. My #1 with a bullet for affiliate marketing and blogging is PrettyLink Pro. I eat, sleep and breathe this plugin, using it to shorten, cloak and brand my affiliate links, as well as setting up keyword and URL replacement and tracking clicks outside the networks. For about $50 a year, the Pro capabilities are totally worth it. My other must-have is Yoast SEO, which helps me make sure my posts are properly optimized for the search engines. I also use the Type-A FTC Disclosure Plugin (the paid option allows for a variety of disclosures based on the situation ie: sponsored, affiliate, free product, etc.) for my disclosure statement (see the top of this post), Akismet Anti-Spam to weed out the spambots and Disqus for commenting.
Content is king, and should be your priority as a blogger. Find your voice, hone it and share it. Write what you know, versus what you think people want to hear. Tell your story, but tell it well. Use Grammarly, spell check and the readability tips from Yoast SEO. Be original and be concise. Know your audience.
Join Affiliate Programs.
Join the top networks — ShareASale, Awin, CJ. Find one or two relevant programs in each to start with — some of my favorites for general audiences include Fanatics, Jane.com and Etsy. If you need more specific recommendations based on your content, don't hesitate to contact me.
Focus on text links and images. Banners should be used inline to help bolster brand awareness and on the sidebar just for increased visibility. Text links on both brand names and keywords are where it's at, though. Good images, which can often be found in a program's creative on the network, should also be linked as people tend to click on images often.
Test your links, double-check that your content is tight and share! Hit publish, share on your social channels and let it be known that your post is out there. Share a couple times over the course of a week on each channel. Then share again a month later. And just keep sharing. I use Shareist to schedule ongoing shares of posts over time, so I can pretty much set it and forget it.
Test New Partners, Add New Content, Repeat.
Always be learning, always be testing, always be creating. These steps will help you build your audience, diversify your affiliate revenue and hone your skills as a blogger.
It's important to remember that blogging and affiliate marketing are a long game. There's nothing overnight about this process, but it's incredibly rewarding if you are committed to putting in the time and energy to doing it right.