I always get giddy when I talk about affiliate marketing.
It’s just so darn cool.
You know what I mean?
Okay…fine then. I guess I’ll have to convince you.
And I’ll do so by telling you about how the best type of affiliate marketing can help you increase the income you’re earning from your food blog (and I know you think that is pretty darn cool).
I want to make sure we’re all on the same page before we jump into my main point for this post, so I’d like to take a moment to share a thrilling short story entitled “A Very Basic Example of Affiliate Marketing.”
A Very Basic Example of Affiliate Marketing
- Sally has a product.
- Bob has an audience.
- Bob signs up for Sally’s affiliate program.
- Bob publishes a blog post promoting Sally’s product.
- Sally pays Bob a commission for every product that someone buys after clicking on Bob’s affiliate link.
That’s it. A very basic example of affiliate marketing. Can you see why affiliate marketing is also called performance marketing? Bob’s income is based solely on how many products he’s able to sell (i.e. how well he performs).
If you’re actively monetizing your food blog then chances are that you’re engaged in affiliate marketing, and chances are even better that it’s the kind of affiliate marketing where you are the publisher and you’re promoting another company’s product.
But here’s the thing: most bloggers aren’t involved in the best type of affiliate marketing: affiliate marketing as the merchant.
To put it more simply, most bloggers are Bob, not Sally.
It’s not bad to be Bob. In fact, if you’re not yet promoting products like Bob does (as the publisher) then I’d suggest you stop reading this post and watch the affiliate marketing course to learn how you can implement Bob style affiliate marketing on your blog.
If you already understand the publisher side of affiliate marketing (Bob style), then keep reading!
Real Life Examples of Affiliate Marketing as a Merchant: Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro.
You don’t have to be a big brand in order to setup an affiliate program for your product. We have affiliate programs for both Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro. Here’s the overview of how they’re setup.
Pinch of Yum
We currently sell one product on Pinch of Yum, the Tasty Food Photography ebook. This has its own affiliate marketing program.
Affiliates for the Pinch of Yum Tasty Food Photography eBook get a 50% commission. That might sound steep, but 50% is a pretty common commission for eBooks, especially considering the fact that the eBook we’re selling is at a lower price point ($29). If the commission was lower (say, 25%) it would be harder to motivate affiliates to promote the products, as their commission would be pretty low ($7.25).
We use E-Junkie to sell the Tasty Food Photography eBook. We also use E-Junkie’s affiliate network to manage the affiliate programs for this eBook. Two for one!
E-Junkie’s affiliate network is basic compared to other affiliate networks, but it provides everything we need in order to effectively run the affiliate programs for the eBook.
The best part about E-Junkie’s affiliate network? It’s free. You don’t have to pay anything extra to use it and E-Junkie doesn’t take any percentage of the transactions. That’s a really good deal, especially considering the fact that our E-Junkie plan costs less than $20 a month.
The biggest downside with E-Junkie’s affiliate network? You have to issue the monthly payments on your own and send out 1099s to affiliates that earn $600 or more in a year. Neither or these things take much time, but the primary issue is that you have to remember to do it. If you don’t, your affiliates won’t be very happy.
In May of 2014 Pinch of Yum affiliates earned $1,247.76, resulting in $1,247.76 of income earned for Pinch of Yum.
Food Blogger Pro
The Food Blogger Pro affiliate program is a recurring, tiered affiliate program that pays an increased percentage based on the number of transactions that each publisher has.
The recurring part means that a publisher gets paid a commission for the lifetime of the member, not just the first payment.
The tiered part means that the publisher gets paid an increased commission percentage based on the number of transactions that they generate each month.
As you might imagine, this type of affiliate payment structure is a little more advanced then the straight 50% we pay for eBook affiliates. We knew that we needed to work with an affiliate network that could meet all of these requirements so we researched a handful of networks. We found the best fit to be ShareASale, a network that is known for being customer focused and feature rich.
The best part about ShareASale? Affiliate marketing is all they do, so they do it really well. ShareASale doesn’t have anything to do with distributing the product or collecting payment for the buyer. They only act as a middle man in the affiliate transaction.
Another benefit with ShareASale (and most other affiliate networks) is that they take care of paying your affiliates as well as submitting the necessary tax documents.
Less tax stuff = happier Bjork.
Sign up fee
The biggest downside with ShareASale? You have to pay to join as a merchant. The total cost to start as a merchant (at the time of writing this post) is $650.
You also have to pay a percentage for every affiliate transaction that occurs. The per transaction fee is 20% of the amount you pay to the affiliate.
Don’t let the sign up fee and payment percentage hold you back for joining an affiliate network though. Your payment helps ensure that ShareASale will continue to have quality support and product development.
In May of 2014 Food Blogger Pro affiliates earned $289.50 resulting in $777.60 of income earned for Food Blogger Pro.
I have a small blog, should I still have an affiliate program?
That question is the main reason that I wrote this blog post.
We get countless emails from bloggers that ask how they could be earning more income from their blog. The issue is that their blog doesn’t have enough traffic to earn significant income from ad networks.
Enter the affiliate program.
As many of you know, building traffic isn’t easy. It takes time, some luck, and lots of persistence. But you don’t need traffic to a blog in order to create an income online.
With an affiliate program, it doesn’t matter how much traffic you have to your blog. The only thing that matters is the quality of your product (it has to be awesome!) and the quality of affiliates that sign up for your program. An affiliate program allows you to remove your blog (and your traffic levels) from the income equation.
An example of how affiliating marketing can help a small blog
Selling an eBook on your blog
Let’s pretend you write an eBook about how to eat healthy when you’re traveling for business. Your price point is $20. You decide that you’re going to sell the book on your blog, which has an average readership of 1,000 people per post. With a 1% conversion rate (which is about average) you could expect to sell 10 copies, making you $200. Not bad, but (as is always the case) it could be better.
Selling an eBook through affiliates
If the eBook had an affiliate program you could get in touch with some popular healthy eating blogs (or business blogs) and offer them a free copy of the eBook and mention that you have an affiliate program that pays a 50% commission.
Let’s pretend one of those sites signs up as an affiliate. They have an average readership of 20,000 per post. We’ll assume the conversion rate is .05% (lower because the audience isn’t familiar with you or your blog). With those numbers, after you pay your affiliate commissions, you’d make a cool $500 (20,000 readers x .05 conversion x 50% commission).
We’ve seen this exact situation play out time and time again with Tasty Food Photography. The only difference is that oftentimes the affiliates are not people we’ve actively sought out, they’re simply bloggers that have read the eBook, enjoyed it, and then signed up to be an affiliate so they could tell their readers about it and earn a commission. Imagine if we took the time to actively reach out to bloggers and education them about the affiliate program (hey…that’s a good idea, we should do that!).
So yes, even if you’re a little blog, you should still have an affiliate program. It might even be one of the smartest decision you make in your journey to create an income from your food blog.
Pretty darn cool, huh? 🙂
What if I don’t have a product?
It’s tough to have an affiliate program if you don’t have a product, so the solution is to…you guessed it…create a product. 🙂
We think the best first product to create is an eBook. We talk about specifics in the eBooks courses, covering everything from picking a topic to creating an outline to uploading it and selling it on E-Junkie.
What do you think?
What do you think? Have you ever thought about creating a product? What are the fears you face that are keeping you from doing it? Would there be any reason that you wouldn’t want to have an affiliate program? Maybe you already have an affiliate program…if so, how’s it going?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading!
Thank you Bjork – the article is very interesting as well as really clear and easy to understand. I guess that I need to think about a topic for an E-Book next…
Glad to hear it Selma!
Thanks so much for this article. I’m half way through writing an ebook and was wondering what I could do with it when I eventually finish it!
Awesome! Be sure to come back and post the link here when you finish it. I’d love to check it out.
Great article!!! I am writing an EBook and a health and fitness course and this story was a revelation. When I finish I will test it out and let you know how I go 😉
Sounds good! I’d love to hear about it.
I don’t have a whole lot of traffic yet so this was incredibly helpful – Now I need to think of a product! 🙂
Hey Shashi! Great to hear from you. 🙂 Regarding a product: I’d start to keep track of the questions that people ask you…whether it’s friends, family, or blog followers. You might start to see a trend that can clue you into a topic that you can focus on.
Helpful, thanks so much, Bjork. I’ve been hearing that same thing again and again about products and small blogs making money: if you sell something that will genuinely improve your readers’ life, you can make money no matter how few pageviews you get.
Thanks for checking it out Jelli. So true! I would also add to that sentence a little snippet at the end:
…if you sell something that will genuinely improve your readers’ life, you can make money no matter how few pageviews you get…**as long as people are exposed to the product in some way.**
Hence the reason for leveraging affiliate marketing: People have to be exposed to it (marketing) in order to have the opportunity to purchase it.
First, I always love reading your articles and learn so much from you! I actually have recently created a product called “Love Yourself Green’s 21-Day Guide to Eliminating Mild to Moderate Depression”, and it’s going well so far in the testing phase (I’m testing it out on friends). The problem is… I don’t actually have a website set up yet. I do have an old website that I’m not using anymore, but don’t want to sell it through that. Do you think that I could sell it through Facebook or do you think I should wait until I get my website up and running first?
It would be possible to sell a produce without a website, but you’d need to do it through some sort of marketplace (like the Amazon marketplace or Appe’s iBook). If you’re self-distributing it (using something like E-Junkie) then you’d probably want a site to sell it on.
I’d be interested in checking that out and considering being affiliate!
This is great information, thanks for sharing! I really love the idea of writing an e-book, but the fear that keeps me from doing it is that I’ll put all this work and effort and hours in and just get crickets in response. Ahhh I get a little panic attack just thinking about that! I love my readers and know I have some loyal ones but I’m just scared they won’t quite follow me that extra step!
I know exactly what you mean Lauren! We felt the same way with Food Blogger Pro (and all of the other eBooks that we did). It’s scary. But don’t let that keep you from doing it!
Here’s a post that I wrote about it that talks a little bit about how we work through some of those fears of “what if this isn’t helpful to anyone?!?” https://www.foodbloggerpro…
Bjork, thank you so much for this! This has been something that has been top of mind lately so when I saw the email regarding this it was perfect timing. This is some good food for thought moving forward.
Awesome Kelli! So happy to hear that the timing worked out like that. 🙂
I was wondering if you ever looked at Post Affiliate Pro, I bought it in hopes of building an affiliate program, and was just wondering your thoughts of it?
I haven’t. Is it a plugin? What are you thinking of using it for?
It is a complete back office program. What I am gathering, it is the same as shareasale, but you have complete control over everything. I really am not sure how to explain it.
Since I’m cooking through the food holidays on my blog, I’ve thought about converting the experience into an eBook when all is said and done (far away in December). Good info you shared here, thanks!
Oooh… great post! I am going to create an ebook, or an online course perhaps and an affiliate program through e-junkie. I think that once I start makeing more income… the shareasale would be better! Thanks!
Hey Bjork! Question. What about purchasing an affiliate network plugin vs going through a program like ejunkie or sharasale? Is the benefit of going through affiliate networks that they also list your product through searches, so people might randomly sign up for them?
The benefit of ShareASale is two fold (1) they’ll have a built in list of affiliates that can sign up for your program and (2) they handle all of the payments and tax stuff (REALLY nice). This isn’t true for E-Junkie.
Wow, lots of great info! Thanks for sharing! I’ve just started going through the ebook videos on FBP and thinking on writing an ebook, but am very new to blogging and would expect crickets from my own blog as I just don’t have the traffic now. This gives me some motivation to keep at the ebook idea!
I keep putting off doing an e-book. It just feels like that One Huge Project that I can’t find time for. You won me over. I’m going to get serious about putting that on my schedule. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing Bjork, this post is so helpful, concise and easy to understand.
This is super helpful and easy to understand. Thank you!
Cool concept. Monetizing is important but so is a customer’s expectations of our product. We should monetize in the context of UX. I ask myself regularly, what happens to a UX when they encounter a price wall? Am I losing them or am I still able to retain them? Ideally, I would like to establish rapport and find a way to charge for my services. In the world of food blogging, so much is free. It’s hard to know what people will pay for. I guess that’s why so many people write cookbooks or target the food bloggers (lots of products for us food bloggers out there today).
But the problem is that I am a very small blog, and if I’ll spend $600 on signing up for ShareASale, even if I get really good commissions it won’t pay out for the signing up fee….