Getting Started with Affiliate Links
Hello! I'm Charlotte, and I'm the founder of Blog and Beyond. I'm a slightly sarcastic 22-year-old grandma from Glasgow who loves The Sims, Hugh Laurie and programmes about airports. I've been blogging at Colours and Carousels for nearly eight years and work freelance in digital marketing.
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What are affiliate links?
In simple terms, affiliate links allow bloggers or other content creators to earn a small commission for promoting products they (hopefully) love. They use trackable links and cookies to show retailers that the content creator is pushing traffic to the site, and if the viewer makes a purchase the person who directed them to the site is rewarded with a small percentage of the sale. It's not just bloggers who use affiliate links, big sites like Unidays, magazines and cashback sites also use a lot of affiliate links to fund their businesses. Nowadays, you'll see affiliate links all over the place, from a YouTuber's description box and your favourite Instagram babe's profile to a magazine's shopping highlights and those Facebook pages that share memes all day long. BuzzFeed posted a list of 25 unusual things you can buy on Amazon? Yup, affiliate links.
Using affiliate links can be a great way to support your favourite content creators, as these don't come at any extra cost to the user and help the person providing you with fantastic content for your entertainment with a few extra pennies when you're shopping. For me, the small income I make from affiliate links helps to cover costs like my domain, my Buffer subscription and my Adobe packages. Personally, I only link to the things I'd actually be sharing anyway, so it fits in naturally with my content and writing style.
How do you get started?
First things first, if you're looking to earn money with your blog you need to register with HMRC. Even if you're only making pennies, it all needs to be properly declared. Read more about managing your finances as a blogger here.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of platforms out there dedicated to consolidating affiliate programmes in one handy place. I'm a member of a few, but even then there are still thousands out there that I haven't discovered yet. Alongside these platforms, some brands have their own individual affiliate platforms that they run in-house, and I find that the best way to see if that brand you love has an affiliate programme you can apply for is simply to search for "brand + affiliate" and see what you can find.
Here's a quick rundown of the platforms and programmes that I know of, and my favourites:
RewardStyle is probably the platform I use the most when it comes to affiliate marketing, particularly for my fashion and beauty content. As a whole, RewardStyle seems to have the best rates for retailers I use most often, like ASOS and New Look. I love their widgets, which I use on my blog all the time, and you can also link it up to your Instagram via Like It To Know It if you're so inclined. I've made the most money through RewardStyle, probably because I use it the most, so it's worth checking out for fashion, beauty and lifestyle bloggers.
ShopStyle is similar to RewardStyle, except that it works on a pay-per-click basis instead of pay-per-purchase. You can earn a small amount each time someone clicks on your link to a retailer, but you won't earn any commission on purchases. This is definitely a good way to get started with affiliate links, particularly for new or smaller blogs, but the earning potential can be limited in comparison to commission-based models.
Awin is one of the newer programmes I've signed up for, and it tends to cover a wider variety of sites in comparison to RewardStyle and ShopStyle which lean more towards fashion and beauty. You have to pay £5 to sign up to Awin, but this will be returned in your first payout. One of the advantages of Awin is their Convert-a-Link tool, which when installed automatically converts suitable product links into affiliate links with no extra effort on your part.
Amazon Associates is a platform I'd definitely recommend and is one of my favourites alongside RewardStyle. The best thing about Amazon's affiliate programme is the huge range of products they have on their site and it's particularly useful if you promote things like books on a regular basis. The commission rate can be pretty small, but it does add up. It's worth noting that the Amazon tracking only lasts for 24 hours, whereas most others tend to last for around 30 days, so there's a much smaller window to earn money in. This is my second biggest earner behind RewardStyle, even with the lower commission rates.
Skimlinks isn't a programme I use anymore, but it is incredibly easy to use, making it ideal if you want something that earns a bit of pocket money without too much effort. Skimlinks automatically adds affiliate links to your blog, transforming any product or brand mention into an affiliated link wherever possible. My only pet peeve with this was the lack of control, as I like to be able to decide what links I'm going to include and the businesses I'm going to promote. Control over this is important to me, because I want to ensure I'm only sharing things that I really love, otherwise there's no point!