How do they do it?

The internet is full of social media personalities, Youtubers, and bloggers who aren’t simply building large followings, they’re making big bucks!

Just check out these numbers:

Of course, most blogs, Instagram accounts, and YouTube channels don’t earn those dollars. Many simply weren’t created for that purpose.

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Still, there are many that result in some pretty decent income for their creators. Keep reading to explore the world of affiliate marketing and other ways in which people earn an income online.

So What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a way of earning passive income. Bloggers engaging in affiliate marketing earn commissions by helping others sell their product.

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There are two parties involved in affiliate marketing. The first is the seller. In some cases, the seller passes on affiliate marketing duties to affiliate network. The second is the affiliate aka the blogger.

To earn commissions, the blogger links to the seller’s products on their blog. When audience members click the link, and make a purchase the affiliate gets a commission. The more products sold through the blog, the more money the blogger stands to make.

There are several ways a blogger can approach affiliate marketing when it comes to disclosure. Many bloggers will include a general disclaimer in their blog alerting readers that they are an affiliate marketer, and that they do earn money promoting the products that they mention. They may even directly request that readers click and buy in order to help them keep their blog up and running. Others don’t disclose their status as an affiliate marketer at all. Many feel the latter is unethical.

Here are four things smart affiliates do when choosing merchants or affiliate networks, and deciding which products to promote.

They look for merchants that are relatable to their audience.

A company’s values are more important than ever. Millennials and members of Gen Z prioritize doing business with brands that reflect their values. They’re also attracted to brands that they feel ‘get them’. Before this is dismissed as some silly Millennial trait, it should be noted that this isn’t unique to any one generation.

They seek out products that are relevant to their blog.

This is just common sense. People follow blogs to be entertained, to learn about specific topics, or to learn about the blogger themselves. Products that don’t relate to one of those three things aren’t likely to get much traction. You can probably imagine that a health and beauty blog directed towards women over fifty would mention anti-aging products for example, but not workout supplements aimed for twenty somethings.

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Ben Givon, CEO of Baff Networks points out that “The key to succeeding with affiliate marketing is to choose the right advertisers and create a story around their product rather than throw and aggressive sales pitch to your audience. The best content formats that you can create for your affiliate partners are the following ones: product reviews, tutorials, case studies, interviews and ultimate guides.”

They ensure they are dealing with reputable merchants and networks.

Nobody who wishes to learn affiliate income long term wants to work with a company or network that has sub par products. They certainly don’t want to be associated with one that offers poor customer service. Doing research is extremely important.

They position themselves to be accepted by the most desireable networks and merchants.

As you might expect, Many affiliate marketing opportunities aren’t open to just anyone. No high end merchant wishes to have their merchandise pushed on some random blog that doesn’t meet some sort of quality test. Bloggers who want to work with the best merchants and networks work hard to create great content, and to build a strong audience.

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There are various ways that bloggers can incorporate affiliate marketing into their blog. These include:

  • Writing favorable product reviews and including affiliate links within those reviews
  • Discussing their personal experience with affiliate products
  • Writing informative articles about affiliate products
  • Inserting plugs for affiliate products in posts

Some bloggers don’t speak of their affiliate marketing in their posts. Instead, they just keep affiliate links permanently embedded in their blogs.

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It is important to note that affiliate marketing isn’t necessarily limited to blogging. People also engage in affiliate marketing through Instagram and Youtube. Essentially, as long as members of your audience click a link, and the merchant is able to trace that link back to your website, blog, or social media page, you should qualify for a commission.

This is arguably the easiest way to earn money online. There is no need to produce or store inventory. There are no shipping or packing costs. In fact, affiliate marketing can be done with virtually no upfront costs. If need be, the process can be nearly effortless.

Affiliate marketing, however, isn’t the only way how money is made on the web. Some other common options include:

Direct Advertising

This method is pretty straight forward. Bloggers and website owners simply register with entities such as Adsense or Viglink in order to offer advertising space. Google’s Adsense is arguably the most popular. Bloggers using Adsense essentially allow Google to strategically place ads on their blog or website. In turn, they receive payment for page impressions, as well as for clicks.

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There are positives and negatives when it comes to using direct advertising. The most popular companies offering this are quite reputable, and they do pay what they owe. On the other hand, the ads can make a page seem cluttered and a bit ‘spammy’. There’s also no direct control over the ads that are displayed. The prevalence of ad blockers also make this option less than desireable.

Sponsored Posts (#spon and #ad)

You’re scrolling through your favorite celeb’s Instagram. Then you see a gorgeous beach photograph. It reads something like ‘Weekend time in the sun with the fam! Nothing like paddle surfing, picnics on the beach, and a sweet new pair or acme brand board shorts. #blessed #beachlife #family #acmebrandboardshorts’

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Now it could be that the online personality really just loves them some acme board shorts. It’s more likely that they are being paid to mention the product.

Just like any other form of advertising, the major brands are going to seek out celebrities, and extremely popular internet personalities for sponsored posts. That doesn’t mean that only the famous can make money through sponsored posts. Smaller companies, or businesses focused on a very niche audience are often willing to work with bloggers and social media personalities if they believe their products are a good fit for their audience.

The average sponsored post earns about 300 dollars. That’s not much, but it can add up. The number also shows that earning money this way isn’t out of reach.

Direct Sales

What comes first, the product, or the social media presence? That’s a good question. In truth, one person’s social media presence may be created for the purpose of marketing a product. Another may create a social media presence, and then create a product to further monetize that presence. Whatever the case may be, blogs and social media accounts are an excellent platform for direct sales.

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There are a wide variety of ways in which bloggers and other social media personalities can directly sell their products. First, they can simply place links to purchase their products on their social media pages. They can also mention their products directly in their content. Another popular option when it comes to digital content (as opposed to physical), is to gate content and only allow people who pay a subscription fee to access that content.

Here are few other, common, direct sales methods:

  • Using a call to action to encourage readers to make a purchase
  • Presenting a pop up ad when visitors enter or exit a website or blog
  • Promoting products in social media posts
  • Focusing blog content around products for sale

The problem with direct sales is that it’s off-putting. Someone visiting a blog for the first time might be repelled by a direct sale pitch. It’s worse if the product seems irrelevant, or if the content seems to only focus on promotion.

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That’s not to say that direct sales don’t work. Clearly they do. Whether it’s an offer of an app, signing up for an online class, or ordering a physical product, people absolutely make money through direct sales.

Ultimately, direct sales work best when trust has been established and relationships have been built.

Guest Blogging

When a blogger has established themselves as a very good writer, a subject matter expert, and they’ve grown a sizeable following, other bloggers may pay them to guest blog. Basically, they get paid to write blog content as a guest writer on another person or company’s blog.

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People are willing to pay for guest blogging services for a few different reasons. First, it’s likely that the guest blogger’s audience will read and share the blog as well. This automatically increases the size of the audience and engagement. If the blogger is very well known, they can promote the post on social media and drive traffic that way as well.

That’s just one way to earn money through guest blogging. Another way that bloggers earn money is to allow bloggers to write blogs for them. In these cases, someone with a product or service to promote, pays to write a blog. For example, someone with an ebook on Italian cuisine might approach a wildly popular cooking blogger with a paid offer to write a post for their blog.

Personal Appearances/Consulting/Seminars

Once a blogger or online personality builds a large following, and becomes well known even outside of their target audience, they can earn quite a bit of money through personal appearances. How this works specifically depends on the personality involved.

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For example, a well known digital marketing blogger such as Neil Patel will make significant amounts of money as a consultant for companies seeking his expertise, or speaking at seminars. An Instagram celebrity might earn pretty significant income making public appearances or appearing at conventions. These appearances might be at nightclubs, resorts, conventions, or grand openings. Basically, these internet personalities are paid to appear wherever someone thinks their presence may boost attendance.

There’s no solid data on the earning potential for bloggers or other online personalities. There’s simply too many factors to make predictions in this area. It’s safe to say that small portion of bloggers, youtubers, and other online personalities make a significant of money, some earn a living, some supplement their income, and others struggle to make money at all. Those who wish to make money online through affiliate marketing and other programs certainly have their options. It’s simply a matter of picking the best one.