Affiliate Marketing for Absolute Beginners

f you’re looking to monetize your blog, affiliate marketing is a great place to start. Many networks don’t require you to apply and you can start monetizing your content immediately.

But just because it’s easy to get set up, doesn’t mean that it’s an easy way to make you millions. We’re clearing up some misconceptions and sharing some huge benefits to adding affiliate marketing to your monetization strategy.


What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular ways to get paid as a blogger. Chances are you’ve dabbled in affiliate marketing before or are already a member of a network (or several).

Bloggers can use affiliate links naturally within their content to link to specific items (clothes, accessories, kitchen tools, home decor, beauty products and so much more) and when a reader clicks a link and/or makes a purchase, bloggers may receive a small commission for influencing the sale.

I like to think of it as a salesperson in a store who works off commission. We’re just like that, but instead of making sales in person, we’re doing it online!


How do I join a network?

Many networks just require you to sign up, but some are invite-only. It’s best to look at the different networks that other bloggers in your niche are using and find out what’s best for you. Next step?

Sign up or apply! If you’re a new blogger, most invite-only networks like RewardStyle will not accept you until you’ve been blogging regularly (3x a week or more) for at least 6 months and have high-quality content and growing social platforms.


Are all networks the same?

All networks are similar but will have their own unique differences and features. It’s usually the pay structure that varies from network to network.

Some networks pay-per-click, while others pay you a commission when an item actually sells. This is important to consider when selecting a network because it can greatly influence how much you make.

If you know your readers love to browse but don’t end up purchasing, a pay-per-click structure is probably a better option for you. If your readers are big buyers, a commission structure could be more lucrative.


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Can I join more than one network?

Yes, but you can only use one link at a time. Do note that if you’re linking to the same retailer, ie. Nordstrom, from two different networks, you may end up canceling out your own links and making no commission.

We always recommend trying out a single network for about 3 months so you can really see the benefits over time. When possible, select a network that has multiple retailers so you have lots of options for linking, rather than only linking to one specific retailer’s site.

ShopStyle, Commission Junction, Amazon Affiliates, and RewardStyle are just a few that allow you to link to multiple different retailers which makes the whole process a lot simpler for you!

You might also consider using different networks during different seasons. For example, the holidays are a great time to use a platform that pays your commission based on sales because readers are more likely to be shopping and buying during this season.

In the slower months, it may be more beneficial to use a pay-per-click model when you know people won’t be shopping as much. Do some testing and you’ll figure out what works best for you!


What is the best platform for beginner fashion & lifestyle bloggers?

The two most popular platforms for fashion and lifestyle bloggers are ShopStyle and RewardStyle. RewardStyle is invite-only, so for beginners, we highly recommend getting started on ShopStyle!

If you want more information on the differences between these two networks, we have a whole post about it here!


How do I get paid?

As I mentioned above, the actual payment structure will differ from network to network, and each network may pay out differently as well. Most we’ve worked with payment through PayPal which is easy and convenient, but some may do direct deposit or even send a check.

Many networks also require you to hit a certain amount of commission before getting paid, and most often it’s $100. That means that any commission you make will be withheld until you hit $100. After you hit $100, you’ll be paid out during the next pay period.

Commissions are typically paid out 30-90 days after sales are made to account for returns. You will not be paid a commission on returned items, so expect your commission to be a little lower than what it originally started at the end of the month. This is totally normal!


When can I expect to make money?

The cool thing about affiliate links is that you can literally start earning money immediately, but don’t expect to be making hundreds or thousands of dollars overnight.

It takes time to build up your audience and as your audience grows, your sales will too. Jess and I both blogged consistently for several years before we ever made real money from affiliate links.

While affiliate commissions make up a part of our income, it varies month to month and is neither of our main sources of income.


How can I maximize my earnings?

To maximize your earnings, you need to be posting consistently and frequently! We can’t state that enough! The more content and links you put out there, the more likely you are to make money.

Obviously, the larger your audience and readership are, the easier it is to make money from affiliate links. When you’re posting regularly, your traffic will grow at a faster rate as well.

We also recommend featuring new products as often as possible. We know, it’s not always possible! But, readers want to buy EXACTLY what you’re wearing, not a similar item.

You should also figure out what price point your readers are comfortable with and stick to featuring pieces in that price range to maximize your sales. If your readers are fresh college-grads and you only feature high-end designer pieces, don’t expect a ton of commission to come from them.

But, if you start mixing in links to items under $50 or $100, chances are you’ll start seeing those sales increase! Jess and I both found that when we featured in-stock products at a price point we knew our readers were comfortable with, we made far more sales than we did before!


What are cookies and how do they work?

Cookies are magic little bits of information that get stored in your readers’ browsers when they click on an affiliate link. Cookies typically last 30 days, which means that if a reader clicks on a link for that gorgeous blue lace dress at Nordstrom on June 2, but doesn’t buy it until June 22, you still get a commission from the sale as long as that reader hasn’t clicked on another blogger’s affiliate link to Nordstrom since that first click from your site.

Here’s another cool thing about cookies. Let’s say that same girl who clicked the blue dress and didn’t buy comes back a few weeks later and ends up buying 10 other items from Nordstrom—you will get a commission off that entire sale because your link is the one that led them to that site in the first place.

Awesome right?! That’s why it’s so important to build up those links consistently throughout every blog post. It’s quite often that I look at my analytics and see a sale for an item that I posted earlier that month (or even months before) and I still get credit for sending them to that retailer’s site.

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