Affiliate marketing is like a traditional business, but with even more upside. You get a healthy part of the profit, minus logistics, customer support, inventory, and the risk and complexity of developing your products.
It’s a great model for advertisers, too. Brands only pay affiliates when the product gets sold, making it a low-risk way to scale their marketing efforts. That’s why 81% of brands use affiliate marketing to drive more sales.
As affiliate marketers and affiliate site owners, we’re always on the hunt for more sales. We’re looking for the next best thing that will increase our revenue but sometimes spend time on complicated tactics that barely move the needle.
In this article, we dive deep into lesser-known strategies to make your sales skyrocket in 2021 and beyond, along with concrete examples of how they’re working in the wild.
Sounds good? Let’s get started.
Affiliate Marketing Strategies to Skyrocket Your Sales
Affiliate marketing is a 12 billion industry. The overall worth of affiliate marketing has been increasing from year to year. Nowadays, you can find affiliate publishers that make anywhere between a couple of hundred bucks to millions of dollars a year. To make sure you get your affiliate site value up, you need to apply some of these strategies if you’re not already doing so.
#1: Go for Affiliate Programs with Recurring Commissions
Since most affiliate commissions are one-time payments, finding affiliates that pay recurring or even lifetime commissions is extremely hard especially after the latest Amazon affiliate commission cut.
More often than not, if you refer to customers who turn into brand loyalists and repeat buyers, you won’t see a single cent beyond the commission you made on their very first purchase.
That means you’re getting an extremely small percentage of the total revenue (also called the Customer Lifetime Value) you brought to the company in the long run.
On the other hand, some businesses are happy to share long-term profits with affiliates. When you refer a customer to a company whose affiliate program pays on a recurring basis, your commissions recurs, too. That means every month the customer pays their subscription, you also get a cut.
Examples of products with recurring affiliate commissions include:
- SaaS affiliate programs like email marketing software, landing page builders, and hosting providers.
- Physical subscriptions like subscription boxes (think BarkBox or GLOSSYBOX).
- Memberships, course platforms, and other digital products with recurring fees.
Another positive side for advertisers is that it rewards customers and affiliates who stay with the product for a long time. So you’ll send more qualified and educated leads, and they’ll stick with the product longer. It’s a win-win.
The best part? Recurring commissions means your affiliate revenue compounds and becomes more predictable. If you get hit by a Google Core update or lose some important rankings, customers you’ve already converted will keep paying your commissions.
Essentially, you keep getting paid commissions from companies until their customers churn out. It can also increase the overall valuation of your site if you decide to sell.
#2: Diversify Your Affiliate Content Strategy
Especially with Google’s product review update, it’s clearer than ever that you don’t want to depend on a single content type to drive your revenue.
Product reviews might be the most obvious kind of affiliate content, but that also means it’s some of the most competitive to rank for and doesn’t necessarily convert the best either.
Instead, think outside the box and write affiliate content your competitors haven’t tried yet. Here are some great examples of affiliate content:
- Case Studies: One of the best ways to create affiliate content that converts is by showing the results a product helped you achieve. Case Studies with specific examples, images, and before-and-after photos are an excellent way to add credibility to an affiliate offer.
- Tutorials: Tutorials that require an affiliate product to complete the goal are one of the easiest sells. It’s super easy to convert as you’re showing people exactly how to use something while simultaneously recommending it.
Your tutorials should provide an in-depth overview of the features of the tool with actual screenshots that illustrate exactly how people can maximize its value.
This helps legitimize your tutorial and turns you into a trusted brand rather than just another random affiliate site. Not to mention that the conversions will be as high as ever.
With this type of content, you can’t just gather information online or fake knowledge about a certain tool. You need to either purchase the tool and test it out or recommend a tool that you’re already using.
- Lead magnet funnels: Some buying decisions take a long time, especially if you’re trying to promote a high ticket offer. Offer a valuable opt-in as your lead magnet, and educate the reader about more complex and expensive products through the sequence.
- Ebooks and Courses: Similar to a tutorial, you can collect email addresses and help your visitors make an educated purchase through an ebook or course. As long as the product you’re promoting is essential to the goal, it can convert extremely well.
- Resources pages: If you’ve got a dedicated audience that relies on your recommendations, a resource page is a great way to round up your affiliate links for products you regularly talk about. Anytime a reader sends a question, a link to your research page is a text snippet away.
- Video content: Create a compelling video affiliate review showcasing real-world use of the product through YouTube videos. Not only do they convert well, but including a video inside your SEO content is a great way to increase dwell time.
- Comparison Posts: this has become a go-to type for a lot of affiliate sites. It has a high search intent since the people that are looking for a head-to-head comparison between two products are more likely to convert compared to traffic coming from a higher point of the funnel. Brands like TechnologyAdvice does this often with CRM products:
Next to helping with increasing conversions and revenue, creating these types of affiliate content hubs help your SEO strategy tremendously as google can crawl your content faster and easier.
You can A/B test these formulas of content and find what works the best for your audience.
#3: Over-optimize your content
Optimizing your content is the best way to make more money from the same amount of traffic. Instead of sprinkling links throughout your content and praying for clicks, you can be more intentional about your link placement and calls to action.
Here are some of the best ways to drive informed clicks to your affiliate offers:
- Mention your affiliate offer early in the post: While your 3,000-word SEO-optimized article is going to impress Google, lots of readers want to cut to the chase and know your top recommendation as quickly as possible. Make it easy for them to click by providing a summary at the top of your content. Here’s how we do this at Hustler Ethos, and you’d better believe most readers click that button instead of reading a 5,000 words podcasting guide:
This increases our conversions and also helps busy readers skim through our content and get the most important info. Not bad.
- Use comparison tables and “Best For” labels. Besides making your top pick clear, explain which products are best for people with different needs.
For example, labels like “Best for Tall People” or “Most Compact” help people choose their number one criteria and make a buying decision quickly. This technique is used by some of the best converting sales pages in the world: those on Amazon.com.
If you’re not sure which features to compare in a comparison table, check out which ones Amazon is using on their sales pages. Here’s an example from lightweight tents:
Another variant of this would be having product boxes in your content. These products boxes help you highlight your affiliate offers and increase the overall impression rate on your affiliate links just like I did with this fintech apps round-up article:
This tactic is widely used by big brands like the New Times Wirecutter too:
- Use an exit-intent pop-up: Exit-intent pop-ups are extremely effective at grabbing the user’s attention right before they click off your page.
If you have a top-performing affiliate, putting them on an exit pop-up is the simplest way to drive more traffic to that offer and generate more conversions for that particular product.
Here’s how I like to do this:
- First, find the best-performing commercial pages (highest traffic + conversions).
- Secondly, identify your top affiliate offers and check if they have a coupon or a special offer you can promote on your pop-up. If they don’t have any offer, try to work something out with them or find a similar affiliate with a special offer to promote.
- Finally, design an exit pop-up (there are several tools to do this such as Campaigns Monster or other page builders like Elementor) and integrate it into your page.
Time-sensitive offers tend to convert extremely well and lend themselves to an urgent call-to-action. Here’s an example of a very successful pop-up I created specifically for a high-converting surveys page from Hustler Ethos::
Pro tip: Notice how I chose the affiliate with the best offer to promote, not necessarily the one with the highest commission.
Just something to keep in mind when choosing what affiliate products to promote.
#4: Grow an email list:
As affiliate marketers focusing on organic traffic, it’s easy to assume a fresh batch of buyers will land on your site every day. But we both know what happens when core updates or fresh competitors enter the scene. Traffic can change dramatically, and cause big problems when the lion’s share of your revenue comes from just a few pieces of content.
Needless to say that retargeting your customer through Google, Facebook, and even Twitter ads can be a bit pricey nowadays. On the other hand, email is 40x more effective than Facebook and Twitter at customer acquisition and is nearly free compared to PPC, it’d be unwise to ignore it.
This is exactly where email comes in: Email helps you build trust with your readers, and make sure you’re top of mind when they are ready to make a purchase.
Both of these things result in higher conversion rates. Plus, an email list you can reach anytime helps you hedge against losses in organic rankings.
Looking for a great way to start affiliate marketing with email? Start with an email course. Teach your visitors how to accomplish an important task within your niche, and offer products they can use to get there faster.
#5: Hone in on your affiliate tracking
Once you’ve found products that convert and an article template that drives clicks, the next step is to scale out. But unless you’re tracking your affiliate conversions properly, you won’t actually know which content, on-page elements, and copy are responsible for your success.
It’s like fumbling around in the dark even though you’ve got a flashlight in your hand. You just need to put in the batteries.
There are various types of affiliate tracking but here’s a quick recipe on how to start: For each affiliate network you’re in, find out what their SubID format is.
An affiliate SubID is essentially a campaign ID, which will appear in your affiliate reports next to your conversions. You usually add it to your affiliate link as a query parameter, the same way you’d do with a utm_campaign parameter with Google Analytics.
Each affiliate network or software has a different format, so you’ll have to adapt it for each link.
There are tons of ways to use SubIDs for tracking. You can use the slug of the page (e.g., “best-lightweight-tent”) to better understand which pages are driving conversions. You can include the product being clicked (for example, “Coleman-Sundome-tent”), the element of the page (e.g. “comparison-table”), or even a unique name for a single link (e.g. “Coleman-tent-comparison-table”).
Starting simple with the page name is a good way to go. But even that can be a lot of work because you have to adapt links all over your site.
Luckily, it’s possible to outsource it on a platform like Fiverr or Upwork, or use an affiliate tool that can automate this for you.
#6: Create freebies around your best-performing affiliate pages:
Again, we circle back to sending more traffic to your best-performing affiliates. Affiliate marketing is a numbers game. If an affiliate is high converting, then sending more traffic would mean more commission, hence this new strategy to fulfill just that.
Creating freebies and lead magnets doesn’t just help with acquiring emails and generating leads. It can be a great way to funnel your customers back to your best-performing affiliate post.
For example, if you have a page about the best cashback credit cards, you can create a freebie about how to improve your credit score and funnel those readers to your post.
By the time you’ve educated readers about the solution, they’re ready to sign up through the resource you’ve created.
The other reason this works great? People who’ve bought once already convert at a rate of 60-70%, compared to first-time buyers who’re closer to 1-3%. That is a massive difference.
Besides being able to reliably and repeatedly contact people who’ve bought before, you can also use these freebies to pitch related products.
For example, if someone downloads your freebie on a review about GoPro cameras, it’s only logical you’ll guide them through the accessories next.
#7: Make the most of what’s already working
If you are already doing affiliate marketing and seeing results, why not double down on what’s working now before jumping to new unproven strategies. Here’s what I like to do to maximize my affiliate revenue:
- Check if your affiliate links are working properly: One of the worst feelings is clicking one of your own affiliate links and landing on a 404 page. Most broken link checking tools get caught by the anti-fraud measures affiliate software puts in place to detect automated clicks. This means you have to check your affiliate links manually on a regular basis.
If you have a lot of posts, start with the most trafficked/highest earning pages and affiliates. You can even outsource this process to a VA and pay them hourly.
- Find revenue drops and replace products that no longer perform. There are a lot of reasons why a product doesn’t convert as well as it used to: maybe it’s outdated, the featured reviews are critical, or it’s simply out of stock. Go to your affiliate network’s platform and check the analytics and your performance report from a year ago, and compare them to today. See anything that’s stopped converting? Test out an alternative. Since your content is already getting traffic, you’ll be able to see if it converts quickly.
- Contact your affiliate manager and negotiate higher commissions. If you’ve had a solid track record of sending quality leads, many affiliate managers are open to negotiating better commission rates. A single email can double your revenue overnight if you go from 4% to 8% on the Dropbox Offer. Don’t underestimate how flexible affiliate managers can be if you’ve proven your site as a reliable source of leads.
- Compare rates between different affiliate networks. Many merchants are listed on multiple affiliate networks and also run an in-house program. To offset the costs charged by networks, you’ll often find programs through networks that offer lower commissions. Compare the different networks a merchant belongs to, and see which one offers better rates and is being actively funded by the merchant.
The best part? Your readers won’t even notice the difference since this is all done behind the scenes while your revenue can go up as high as 10%.
All in all, Affiliate marketing is still the most viable to make money online. It’s easy to get started with, but to scale it, you’ll need a solid strategy in place. If I had to boil it down to a single point, it would be this: find out what’s working, and do more of that.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. A well-rounded affiliate marketing strategy includes diversifying your affiliate products and traffic sources, on-page optimization, and a healthy amount of tracking so you know where to invest your time. But once you’ve got a system in place, it’s pretty easy to apply it to new content.
Just don’t forget about improving the content you’ve already created for the quickest results and immediate learnings. See if you can identify exactly how much money each of your articles is earning, and replicate the most lucrative in adjacent topics.