BFK’s Holiday Blogging Guide: Part #1: Making the Most of Your Affiliate Links

The fourth quarter and holiday season is easily the biggest earning period for us as bloggers and influencers. Readers are looking for gift ideas, entertaining and decorating inspiration, holiday outfit ideas and advice to make their holiday seasons easier and more festive. Using affiliate links strategically throughout your content during this season and leading up to it can greatly increase your earnings and make it incredibly successful.

The best part? You don’t have to go above and beyond or reinvent the wheel to up your affiliate earnings this year. (If you are looking for some affiliate networks to join, don’t worry, we’ll list some below, too!) 

Readers are used to digesting your content on your blog, so take advantage of that! You don’t have to create a fancy new shopping website or digital magazine (those are old news, thank goodness–they were so much work, haha!) to make money this season.

Stick to the types of content that you’ve already been creating and mix in a few new types to introduce! We’ll jump into content creation in part two of this post next week, but today, let’s talk about how you can be monetizing your existing audience more effectively. 

Know your audience 

First thing’s first, if you don’t already know your audience’s spending habits, it’s time to figure them out! There are a couple of ways to do this: 

Affiliate dashboard: look at any affiliate networks you’re already apart of and dive deep on that information. Many will provide analytics or at least insight into which items are being clicked on and/or purchased. Make sure you pay attention to three major things we outline below. 

Audience surveys: Don’t have existing affiliate analytics? That’s okay! Do a series of polls on Instagram stories, or set up a blog survey with google forms to ask your audience where they like to shop, how much they typically spend per item, and what types of items they’re looking for the most help with. Essentially, ask them how you can become their #1 resource for holiday shopping!

Here is the information you’re really looking for here:

Most popular retailers: Do you consistently link to 10 retailers (i.e. Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Shopbop, Old Navy, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, etc) but find that most of your sales are coming from, say, 3 of those?

Instead of trying to post to more retailers, focus on those top 3-5 that convert well, and make the majority of items you’re linking to from those retailers. You can still mix in links from other retailers, but focusing on the shops where people are buying things will help up your commissions 10 fold. When we figured this out, it made a HUGE difference. 

We also recommend focusing on multi-option retailers like Nordstrom, Target, ShopBop, etc. That means brands that sell multiple brands, price points and items for many different people. You’re more likely to get a big sale from Nordstrom because your readers can shop for themselves, their mom, kids and husband in one place, instead of visiting multiple different single-brand retailers where they’ll have to input their information and credit card details over and over again. Making it easy for your readers to shop and they’re far more likely to spend more!

Item Type: What sells well for you might be different than what sells well for another blogger–so don’t get distracted by what others are posting. You might find that sweaters, jeans and basics might be your top selling items, so focus on finding great quality basics that you know your readers will love. Or, you could find that handbags and accessories sell best, so make sure to add extra links for those items or even create unique posts that only feature that specific item type.

Price: Last, but definitely not least, knowing your reader’s spending habits in terms of how much they are willing to spend is crucial! If they don’t typically buy things over $50, it’s not a good idea to feature designer bags and boots in your holiday guides. Instead focus on items they can afford and will be more likely to click and purchase. Many people are concerned with budget during the holidays, so if you cater to your readers’ price point, you’re going to be more successful.

Monetizing with affiliate links: 

What are affiliate links exactly?

So, let’s dive into how to use those links most effectively. But, first, what ARE affiliate links?

If you’re unfamiliar with affiliate links, let’s do a quick refresher: affiliate links are specific URL’s with an affiliate’s name or ID attached. With these links, and affiliate network is able to record the traffic sent to specific retailer’s websites. When a reader clicks on your link, your ID is stored in a cookie on their browser. The good thing about cookies is that many affiliate networks have long cookie windows (average is about 30 days). 

So, what exactly does that mean?

Let’s say a reader clicks on an affiliate link from your website to Nordstrom. They land on the site, browse a bit, but don’t buy anything. If you’re using a network that has a commission-based structure, such as RewardStyle, you’ve made $0 at this point. But, if they come back to Nordstrom within that 30 day period and make a purchase, you’re eligible to get a commission of their total sale (not necessarily just the item sale) as long as they haven’t cleared their cookies or clicked on another influencer or blogger’s cookie in the meantime.

The same applies for a pay-per-click based model, such as Shopstyle’s platform–only, you get paid based on the amount of clicks you get on a given link. Depending on the platform, they may up your payment per click if you higher conversion rate (i.e. someone clicks and buys, vs. just click) but that, again, will vary by platform.

Why is this important?

Building your affiliate links by placing them throughout content on a regular basis can help build up those cookies and potentially get you more money. We still will see sales from products that we linked to months prior because the cookie window was still open. The cookie window doesn’t open until someone clicks on that link, so old content with affiliate links can still get you commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase—even if a product is now sold out! Some of our highest income-creating posts are actually old, but since the information is relevant and there are links within them, they continue to generate income!

How to Best Use Affiliate Links

It might seem simple, just throw as many links into your content as possible, right?!

Wrong.

One big aspect that can make or break you with affiliate marketing is reader trust. If you’re loading your content with as many links as possible, it might come off as salesy or spammy instead of genuine. It might seem counterintuitive, but adding less links could benefit your more because your readers trust that you’re sharing products you truly love or use yourself!

Make sure you’re not only linking to specific products, but also product landing pages like “Jeans” or “Outerwear” as well as retailer homepages. Making sure you use a healthy combination of all of those as well as implementing tools like widgets, boutiques and other features your affiliate network offers can give readers a wide range of options for clicking and shopping. This results in more income for you!

Different Types of Affiliate Networks

As we touched on above, affiliate networks typically work in one of two ways. You either get paid by the click, typically a few cents per click, or you’ll get a commission, or percentage of a total sale on a retailer’s website. This is the big difference between ShopStyle and RewardStyle (invite only). ShopStyle pays per clicks (and if you’re converting those clicks to sales your rate can go up), while RewardStyle is commission-based. Each retailer on those platforms may offer different rates, so make sure to look for retailers with higher commission or payout rates whenever possible.

We often get asked which structure is best, and the answer is, well, it depends. If your readers love to browse and click, but rarely buy, then the pay-per-click model might be best for your, but if you’re readers love to shop and buy, then a commission-based structure might be more lucrative. Both are great and have awesome perks. Knowing your audience and how they shop, can help you decide which structure will benefit you the most. In the next section, we’re sharing some of the best affiliate networks that you can join immediately.

Affiliate Networks You Can Join Now

You might notice that a lot of these are pretty similar and that’s because…well they are similar! I’d make sure to look through their list of retailers, pay structure and other details before deciding to join.

ShopStyle: https://www.shopstylecollective.com/landing Great for fashion and lifestyle bloggers. You’ll find most of the retailers and features as you would with similarly targeted networks like RewardStyle. Their structure is pay-per-click.

CJ: http://www.cj.com/ One of the largest affiliate networks with tons of different retailers to choose from.

ShareaSale.com: http://www.shareasale.com/ If you can’t find a specific retailer on CJ, you’ll probably be able to find it here! Another huge affiliate site with all types of products.

Rakuten Affiliate Marketing: https://rakutenmarketing.com/affiliate.html Yet another great affiliate network with tons of retailers to choose from.

Amazon Affiliates: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/

These next two are a little bit different in that they work automatically. Once you’re signed up and have any necessary scripts or plugins installed, they’ll automatically add affiliate links to your content. This is a great way to make a little extra cash, but I’ve found that sometimes it links to random websites or products that might not be a good fit for your site—so make sure you’re checking occasionally to make sure it’s on brand!

Skimlinks: https://skimlinks.com

VigLink: http://www.viglink.com/

This last one is invite only, which means you’ll need to apply to their program and it can take a while to be approved. There is no guarantee that you will be approved either, so if you’re new to blogging, your best bet is to start with one of the above until you’ve built up a decent following.

RewardStyle: https://www.rewardstyle.com Primarily used by fashion and lifestyle bloggers. (What Blair and Jess use most often). 

Products That Convert Well During the Holidays

Still wondering which products you should be focusing on the during the holidays? Good question! According to past years, these types of products convert particularly well! Take in mind, this is an average and may not prove true for your audience, but it’s a good place to start. We’ve found that the overwhelming consensus across the board is that items under $100 convert best!

  • Sweaters (basics, what types of sweaters are trending this year: ruffles, oversize, etc.)
  • Accessories (handbags, scarves, jewelry
  • Shoes (mules, slides, boots, booties)
  • Outerwear (winter coats, suede and leather jackets, trench coats)
  • Kids (clothing, toys and decor for home and dining)
  • Home Decor (seasonal items and decor and
  • Beauty (makeup, beauty kits and sets)

Gearing up for Black Friday & Cyber Monday:

These are typically two of our biggest revenue generating days of the ENTIRE YEAR in terms of affiliate link revenue, so plan accordingly! Here are some tips to maximize your earnings and be a trusted resource for your audience during these two crazy shopping days!

Avoid information overload

Trying to plan your content around these two days can be insanely overwhelming for both you AND your readers if you try to post too much information at one time. Everywhere you look there is something on sale, so instead of posting every sale you can find, focus on being a really great resource for your readers, who are likely feeling overwhelmed!

My audience has told me that all the sales are very overwhelming for them, and that it’s much helpful for me to post less, more specific things.

So, for example–I won’t post EVERY single store I can find that’s on sale. I will narrow them down to the handful of stores I know my audience shops at the most. (I get this info both from asking them directly via surveys and instagram stories, and by looking at my affiliate dashboard analytics, if you have those, but if you don’t, simply asking your audience where they shop will be immensely helpful!)

This is the biggest mistake I made as a newer blogger, thinking that the MORE stores I posted, the better, but that’s simply not true. You ONLY want to post the most relevant content to your audience. In this case, more is definitely not better.

What do I mean by that? That means that I will post sales from stores like Nordstrom, Shopbop, Ann Taylor, and LOFT, because I know my readers shop there most often, but I won’t post sales from Bergdorfs, or SAKS, or Old Navy, because I don’t shop there personally and they aren’t as popular with my audience. Including those is just adding to clutter that they don’t need to see and making them more overwhelmed.

Highlight a handful of favorites by category

I’ve learned that it’s much more helpful for my audience to find what they’re looking for if I group my favorite on-sale items by category. For example, my 10 favorite pairs of boots and booties, or my 10 favorite on-sale coats under $200. This is a win-win for both of us, because I’m making it much easier for my readers to shop, and therefore, I’m increasing my own conversion rates and making more money!

Take advantage of Instagram stories

Since last year, Instagram stories has come onto the scene and become a really powerful monetization feature.

You don’t have to have the swipe up function to be able to monetize instagram stories effectively.

You can do a video highlighting your favorite items that are on sale (if you’re a fashion blogger, show people what those boots look like in real life, or if you’re a food blogger, show them all the features of that KitchenAid that’s on sale and why it’s your #1 most important tool, or if you’re a decor blogger, show people that soft new pom pom blanket you purchased and how to drape it over your sofa, etc) and create a separate page on your blog where you paste the links to everything you’re wearing, and direct your readers to click the link in your bio for all the item details. Or head to your top converting retailer on Black Friday and take videos of what you’re trying on, what you like about certain items, etc. OR, if you’re a

Video is an INCREDIBLY powerful conversion tool, because it highlights the details of the item so much better than an online product photo!

Use existing imagery where you can

I’ve found that photos of me wearing specific items tend to sell much better than just items in a collage or product roundup, because it gives my readers an idea of how/when/where to wear the item, what the details of the item are, etc, so re-use your existing photos whenever you can. (I.E. if you wore a certain pair of boots a month ago in an outfit post, use that photo again in your Black Friday post guide, and link back to that old post so people can get an idea of how to wear them!)

Stay tuned for future posts where we’ll dive into holiday content creation! For more info on affiliate monetization, see our affiliate marketing Q&A and how to use affiliate links strategically

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I'm Blair Staky—I help women turn their blogs into thriving businesses by sharing my secrets to growing a 6-figure blog. I'm so glad you're here!

Leave a Comment

  1. 11.16.17
    Liz said:

    Do you know which networks are affiliated with Zara? Thanks in advance!

    • 11.16.17
      Jess said:

      Zara doesn’t work with any networks to my knowledge!! They’re the worst hahaha

  2. 11.16.17
    Erin said:

    Such great tips! Thank you so much for sharing them, Jess! 🙂

    • 11.17.17
      Jess said:

      Thank you Erin!! So glad they were helpful!

  3. 11.17.17
    Amelie said:

    SUCH an helpful post! I’ve been struggling a lot with affiliate marketing lately, so hopefully these tips will help me!

    • 11.17.17
      Jess said:

      So glad they were helpful, Amelie!!

  4. 11.18.17
    Chelsea said:

    Just signed up for my first two affiliate networks! Thanks so much for laying everything out in detail; it’s incredibly helpful!