The Ethical Way to Earn Money Online (Even If You Have Nothing to Sell)

The Ethical Way to Earn Money Online (Even If You Have Nothing to Sell)

Don’t worry. You can admit it.

You secretly wish your blog was more than just a hobby.

But it’s costing you more than it earns. And that’s the hallmark of a hobby, not a serious endeavor.

Even if you have no desire to transform your blog into a business, you’d like it to at least pay its way, right?

Because blogging costs are many — web hosting, email lists, domain renewals, social media tools. They all cost money — and every month your blog comes up short.

Of course, you already know one popular option for monetizing your blog — you could create a product. But you just don’t feel ready yet. And besides, creating and promoting a product takes time.

What you need right now is a way to earn a little money from your blog without a ton of work.

Fortunately, a way exists that’s highly effective, requires little ramp-up time, and is used by some of the most respected names on the web.

Many bloggers have heard of it, but for a silly reason completely ignore it…

Why Most Bloggers Ignore the Easiest Way to Earn Money from Their Blogs

If you don’t have a product to sell, one of the best ways to earn money from your blog is to sell products that other people have created.

It’s usually referred to as affiliate marketing. Here’s how it works…

You introduce your readers to a product, and if they happen to make a purchase as a result of your introduction, you get a commission as a thank you.

It’s pretty simple, but you’d be hard pressed to find a topic that inspires as many strong opinions.

Some revere it; some despise it.

Some use it; some abuse it.

But you don’t consider it because hawking someone else’s products has always felt, well…

A little bit sleazy.

You see some other bloggers doing it, and you can’t help but feel they’re just in it to make some fast cash and couldn’t give a damn about their audiences.

But here’s the straight-up truth:

When done the right way, affiliate marketing is one of the most powerful ways to earn some money from your blog and actually help your audience.

The Living Proof That Affiliate Marketing Doesn’t Have to be Sleazy

Do some people abuse affiliate marketing for their own gain? People who will do — and say — anything for a quick sale? Sure.

But for as long as people having been selling things to other people, unscrupulous operators have always lurked on the fringes.

And you won’t have to look far to find such operators in the world of affiliate marketing.

That said, affiliate marketing is also used by some of the most ethical people you’ll find in blogging and online marketing.

People like Pat Flynn. John Lee Dumas. Even, yup, you already knew it — Jon Morrow, the man behind this very blog.

All three of these massively popular and respected bloggers promote affiliate products as a way of earning more revenue from their blogs.

How are they able to do so, while also maintaining an enviably close relationship with their audiences?

After interviewing both Pat Flynn and Jon Lee Dumas, and carefully dissecting one of Jon Morrow’s finely crafted promotional affiliate emails, I’ve put together five golden rules for earning money from affiliate marketing and staying squeaky clean.

Not only do these five rules give you an ethical blueprint for affiliate marketing, but they also provide a system for building long-term trust with your audience.

Rule #1: Start with the Right Question

Here’s the number one question most bloggers ask themselves when they start exploring affiliate marketing.

“What product should I promote?”

Unfortunately, it’s totally the wrong question. It will either:

  1. Freeze you in your tracks, or
  2. Lead you down a slow road to ruin.

The question you should ask instead is this: “What is my audience trying to accomplish?”

Answering that question will point you toward the products, tools, and resources that will help your audience accomplish what they desire.

If you don’t already know the answer, finding out is much simpler than it sounds. All you have to do is come right out and ask them.

The first time I ever built an email list, I added a simple P.S. to the auto-response email they received right after signing up:

P.S. I’d love to hear more about you and your business! What do you do, and how can I help? Hit “Reply” to this email and let’s chat. Your response will go to my personal inbox instead of a robot. 🙂

Simple, conversational — and a surprisingly large percentage of people took the time to write back and tell me exactly what they needed help with. You can incorporate this type of P.S. into any email you send to your list, or you can even send them a dedicated email.

Once you understand the needs your audience has, ask yourself: “What products will help them achieve that?”

Rule #2: Never Promote a Product You Don’t Use

One of the worst dinner parties I’ve ever been to centered around a pork belly dish the host had never tried making before.

Rather than going with a recipe he loved and had cooked before, he went with something brand new from a random blog he’d only just found.

The party itself wasn’t bad, but the food most definitely was. Fortunately, everyone was able to laugh about it.

Offering a product to your audience sight unseen, risks a similar catastrophe. And your readers might not be as forgiving as those dinner party guests.

Think about it — would you recommend to a friend a restaurant you’ve never visited? Would you put your in-laws up in a hotel in a strange part of town you don’t know? (Well, depending on your in-laws, maybe you would! But you get the picture.)

Just as you normally wouldn’t do those things, you should never promote a product you haven’t used.

As Pat Flynn says, “Before deciding to actually promote it as an affiliate, it’s always best to use that product first so you can understand the user experience that THEIR PRODUCT will provide for YOUR AUDIENCE. You have to understand what that’s like because the trust that you have with your audience is the most important thing in the world.”

Using a product that you recommend also opens the door for a better way to promote that product, according to John Lee Dumas:

The most effective way to promote affiliate products is to have genuine success USING the affiliate products. Recently, I was the number 2 affiliate for the launch of Easy Webinar. The reason I was able to have such a successful launch is because my audience saw me using their platform to run streaming webinars 7 days a week and report the results via our income reports. Fire Nation trusts us and the results we have, and it turned out to be a total win win!
 
The results you’ve personally achieved with a product speak louder than anything else and can save you from having to be too “salesy” with your audience.

At LeadPages, we’ve found that the best affiliates are always the ones who truly love using the product and believe in its value, which is one of the reasons why the affiliate program is exclusive to customers.

No sales pitch in the world can outperform a story of personal success from a person the audience trusts.

Rule #3: Pick a Product That Builds Their Trust

Many bloggers choose a product based on the commission structure — how much it pays, whether it’s recurring, etc.

It might sound like greed, but more likely whenever they ask their readers to buy something, they feel like they’re asking for a favor. And since you can’t ask favors too often, they figure they might as well make as much money as they can when they do.

But that’s totally the wrong way to look at it. Promoting a product is not a withdrawal from the “trust bank.” It’s a deposit — if you choose the right product.

According to Pat Flynn, commission levels shouldn’t factor into the decision you make to promote a product as an affiliate:

It’s not about the commission… it’s whether or not that product will completely help your target audience. You’ll have more click-throughs, more conversions, and more trust with your audience.
 
Pat’s answer hints at an often-overlooked benefit of making a successful affiliate sale — if your audience buys the product through you and has a great experience with the product, their purchasing trust in you increases.

To put it simply, they’ll more likely buy from you in the future, whether you’re recommending another affiliate product or launching your own.

And even if they don’t buy from you again, you’ll have strengthened the relationship by introducing them to a product they love.

So when analyzing affiliate opportunities, consider more than just the amount you’ll make off each sale. Consider how many outstanding experiences you can create and, ultimately, how much trust you can build.

If you get a sizeable commission — great. If the commissions are recurring — even better. But consider these details bonuses or cherries on top rather than key factors that guide your decision-making.

Rule #4: Promote Valuable Free Content, Not the Product

Even when a product is outstanding and you’ve achieved great results with it, directly asking your audience to purchase it can sometimes be daunting.

Luckily, many product creators also develop high-value free resources for you to promote instead — resources that ultimately tie into an offer to buy one of their products.

Usually, they work like this:

  1. You send your audience (via a unique link) to a free resource created by a second party that will teach them something valuable (a free video course, for example).
  2. After going through the free resource, they will be sent an offer to purchase a more expansive, related product.
  3. If they purchase that product, you receive a commission.

Recently, John Lee Dumas made his affiliates very happy by offering exactly this type of free resource. As he said:

It may seem to go against the grain, but free is proving to be incredibly valuable for our affiliates in 2015. With the launch of FreePodcastCourse.com and TheWebinarCourse.com, our affilates are now able to offer their audience a completely free and very valuable product that doesn’t require an intial investment. Both of the courses are great funnels into our paid communities, but only after delivering massive value.
 

If you’ve been following Smart Blogger for a while, you’ve even occasionally seen these offers for yourself.

Back in January 2015, Jon Morrow sent out an email recommending a new free video series from Danny Iny of Mirasee about building online courses.

The video series had tons of value for anyone interested in building a product, but it also acted as an on-ramp for people to register an interest in Danny’s paid product.

Jon’s email to his list is an excellent example of how to promote this kind of offer in a way that is 100% transparent and keeps your audience’s best interests in mind.

So let’s take a look at a few of the finer points…

First, Jon introduced Danny as one of the best online course experts he knows:

Danny has made almost as much money as me from online courses. And to be frank, I’m intensely jealous of his Superman T-shirt (watch the videos, and you’ll see what I mean).

What’s more, he’s a smart dude, a great teacher, and a standup guy. I have absolutely zero problem recommending him.

In lieu of me, he’s the absolute best guy you can go to for this information. Maybe the only guy.

So, go watch the videos.

 
This segment of the email does something very important — it tells Jon’s audience, “I know Danny. I trust Danny. He will add value to what you do.”

Jon is letting us know that he follows and trusts Danny’s advice, and we can too. In a sense, Danny is the product, and Jon’s recommendation is based on his personal experience with Danny.

Next, and perhaps most importantly, Jon is 100% transparent in acting as an affiliate for the course that will be coming out:

To be totally transparent, I’m also partnering with Danny, so if you buy anything, it benefits me. That’s just another sign of how much I believe in him, though. I only partner with the best of the best.
 
This leaves no questions in the audience’s minds about Jon’s motivation for promoting the course. He takes control of the conversation and let’s them know that, yes, he will make some money if they buy, but that’s not his primary motivation for sharing the series with them.

Last but not least, Jon signs off with a sentence that takes any remaining pressure off:

If you’re interested, take a look at the free videos and then decide for yourself. And if not, I’ll be back with another great blog post for you shortly.
 
This leaves the decision entirely in the reader’s hands, with no pushiness. It’s the opposite of that word that makes so many bloggers cringe: salesy.

In fact, Jon’s subtly saying: “Whether you buy Danny’s product or not, it’s not going to affect your relationship with me.”

So if you’re looking for a way to ease into promoting affiliate offers, take a cue from Jon and find out if the product you’d like to sell as an affiliate has relevant free resources you can promote instead.

Rule #5: Create Your Own Collateral

Of course, promoting free resources isn’t the only way to promote affiliate products without being salesy.

Let’s take Pat Flynn as an example. He’s been wildly successful promoting paid products on his website, SmartPassiveIncome.com.

In fact, a quick look at his latest income report shows that Pat made just under $60,000 in affiliate earnings during February 2015. The month before that he made over $70,000.

If you didn’t know Pat, you’d probably think he’d have to be pushing other people’s products pretty damn hard to make that kind of money. Maybe even engaging in a few unscrupulous tactics to squeeze every last dollar.

And yet Pat is widely considered one of the most ethical bloggers out there — he’d be the last person to shove a sales pitch down your throat. So how in the world is he earning so much affiliate income month after month?

By providing his own content, not sales pitches. As he puts it:

Don’t just talk about [the product] a little bit, include a call to action, and then a link. Get into the insides of that product, and show people what it’s like. Like those popular unboxing videos on YouTube, share every part of it and how to use it, what’s cool about it, what’s not cool about it, and let these potential customers understand what they’re going to get when they get it.

Creating walk-through YouTube videos which provide massive value on their own even without a hard sell at the end always perform best for me. You’re giving a tutorial on a hot topic, and you just happen to be using that product to either make things easier or faster, or become the solution they need.

 

For example, the $37,650 in commissions he earned from Bluehost.com (check out his income report) came from a video he put together called “How to Create a Blog in Less Than 4 Minutes.” In the video, he doesn’t just pitch Bluehost; he teaches viewers how to do something valuable (create a blog) and shows off a product that makes it easier (Bluehost).

Another effective strategy is to create a “Resources” page on your website so visitors can see the tools you personally use and recommend. As a matter of fact, Smart Blogger implements this strategy in the form of a “Tools We Recommend” post.

To give another example, networking expert and Smart Blogger contributor John Corcoran wrote a post on his blog featuring this video showing how to use the relationship management tool Contactually to handle email follow-ups:

Not only is the video genuinely useful, but it subtly signposts the fact that this is a tool John personally uses. And under the video there’s a clearly marked affiliate link to use if readers do want to find out more.

john-corcoran-affiliate-text

Regardless of the content format you choose to go with, the formula is simple:

  1. Determine something your audience wants to learn to accomplish.
  2. If you don’t already know, learn how to successfully accomplish that thing.
  3. Give your audience a piece of content that takes them step-by-step through accomplishing that thing, and show them the products you use to do it.

Additionally, if you really want to go above and beyond (and you should), Pat Flynn recommends offering support for the products you recommend:

Offer support. Ask for questions. Yes, you’d need to know the product well in order to do that (remember, I said treat it as if it were your own, so would you sell something of your own you didn’t know much about?), but those people who will take you up on that offer are the ones who are on the fence, and you and your reply could be the little nudge they need to feel secure and comfortable with their purchase.

It’s Time Your Blog Became More Than Just a Hobby

Let’s face it.

It’s about time your blog stopped freeloading and started paying its way.

And if you don’t have your own product to offer, affiliate products are the perfect solution.

But promoting them isn’t about pushy sales pitches and sky-high commissions.

It’s about understanding what your readers need.

It’s about finding products that can help them get it.

And it’s about supporting them so they can reach their goals.

When you do it right, you’ll further enhance the trust you’re building with your blog.

So let’s shift your blog from being just a hobby to something a little more serious.

Go out and find a product your readers will genuinely love. And they’ll love you a little more too.

About the Author: Will Hoekenga is a copywriter at LeadPages™. Ready to get started with affiliate marketing? Grab their entire free 11-part “Affiliate Marketing System” course here. It will walk you through the complete process of earning affiliate income while also adding massive value to your audience.

63 Comments

  1. Andrew
    May 14, 2015 @ 07:45:44

    Hey Will…

    Great post. Affiliate marketing is something that I did all wrong in the beginning. Mainly because I didn’t or wasn’t promoting products that I used. A huge no no.

    You NEED to do that so you can get the full user experience yourself in order to promote it properly.

    One thing I noticed about affiliate marketing is that you have to do something to separate yourself. Like what pat flynn did with blue host or offering additional, complimentary products with that affiliate product … so it boosts the value. It’s not necessary but it works.

    Great post.

    Andrew

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 14, 2015 @ 08:45:13

      Hey Andrew, thanks! I think almost everyone gets affiliate marketing wrong at first, including myself. Back in the day, I thought it would be as simple as just dropping a few Amazon affiliate links here and there in my posts.

      Like any other worthwhile strategy, however, you get out what you put in. Pat’s Blue Host tutorial is a great example — he put in the time, created something really helpful to his audience, and separated himself from others offering the same thing (great point, btw).

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Gael Breton
    May 14, 2015 @ 09:17:59

    Great post Will,

    I love where affiliate marketing is headed to be honest. Just a few years back, it was a sleazy/lazy way to “make money online” that dodgy people who didn’t want to bother building their own products used and that mostly crappy product producers used to make easy sales.

    Nowadays, at least in online marketing, there’s a TON of great products I’ve been able to recommend to people through free tutorials, “how to” guides etc. If you combine that with free trials, it makes selling while adding value to your crowd relatively frictionless and people thank you for it.

    I for one prefer “promoting” over building products and I really love just finding great recommendations for our audience and pus them there.

    One think I learned though is that even though you promote other people’s products, you should actively work on owning the audience so you can keep promoting to them rather than act as a gateway people forget about.

    That’s my 2c. Great article once again.

    Gael

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 14, 2015 @ 09:58:01

      Agreed, Gael — it’s improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Part of that could be because more and more great products are focusing time and energy on creating great affiliate partnership programs, and educating their affiliates on the best/proper ways to promote the product successfully.

      Regardless of what’s caused it, it’s definitely a good thing.

      Thanks for reading, and the kind words!

  3. Lisa
    May 14, 2015 @ 11:05:15

    Hey Will! I’m the outreach coordinator for Danny Iny, and I just love that you featured Jon’s email from our launch in this! That was one of the best affiliate emails I’ve ever read. Jon just about had me buying our course — and I helped write the course. 😉 I saved it as an example of some of the best email marketing I’ve seen!

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 14, 2015 @ 11:13:13

      Lisa! I love what y’all do at Firepole. The email was a great example, and it speaks to the quality of the work you and Danny are doing. 🙂

  4. Evan Stevens
    May 14, 2015 @ 11:37:26

    Hi Will! Excellent post! I’ve recently started to develop the affiliate marketing angle on my blog and completely agree with point #2. While putting up links to products with high commissions is tempting, with a product you know and love, you don’t even have to sell it. You are able to tell someone why you use, what benefits it provides and how it could help them. No sales pitch needed! Keep up the good work!

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 14, 2015 @ 12:02:20

      Completely agree, Evan! If you have truly gotten a lot of value out of a product, it’s infinitely easier to share it with your audience, and it never feels like you’re selling. Thanks for reading!

  5. The Guy Who Flies
    May 14, 2015 @ 11:41:55

    Thanks for this article and all the advice.

    I’ve been trying to master affiliate marketing for a long time and have had disappointing success so far. I keep trying things to see what works so I’m seeing small improvements.

    The overwhelming majority of reviews or recommendations on my site are actually things I have personally bought or used. Even a high proportion of the low number of book reviews on my site are books which I’ve actually bought. Little wonder I’m not seeing much return when I have such outlay.

    I’ve also had a resources page on my site for about a year (this is something I picked up from Pat Flynn who I am a big admirer of) yet there is no interest from my audience in that page.

    I’ve found a couple of products recently which have engaged my audience so I’m thankful for that. My previous requests for feedback from my audience as to what they want me to focus on received no response. I guess I need to keep on trying.

    For anyone new to this just remember affiliate marketing is not easy. It is hard work. Follow the advice above and it should make it easier but don’t expect results overnight.

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 14, 2015 @ 11:52:44

      Great points. At the end of the day, it’s still all about building a meaningful relationship with your audience — and that’s never something that happens overnight. Keep it up!

  6. Alex
    May 14, 2015 @ 11:59:24

    Thanks for the useful post!

    Where would we best find fitting affiliate partners though, how would you go about that?

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 14, 2015 @ 12:23:36

      Hey Alex, once you’ve found something worth sharing with your audience, I would just Google the name of it plus “affiliate program” or “partnership program.” You could also reach out directly to the company and ask about an affiliate or partnership program. If they don’t currently have one, they may be willing to work out a special arrangement with you.

  7. Bonnie
    May 14, 2015 @ 12:55:00

    This is the information I was looking for. Thank you!

  8. Joann
    May 14, 2015 @ 14:28:31

    Wow. This made me re-think of my current affiliate marketing practices. Thanks for writing this!

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 14, 2015 @ 15:16:36

      Sure thing, Joann! Glad to hear it was useful for you.

  9. Royalty Free Music
    May 14, 2015 @ 15:07:29

    I love #4. I have learned the hard way that most people really don’t want to have products pitched to them… like ever.

    So now I am a huge advocate for promoting free content. Ideally, I think that the content should be interesting to your ideal audience. And even supportive of whatever you would like to eventually sell.

    That should help attract the attention of the right people.

    If anyone is interested in learning more about how I am growing my business, just shoot me an email. I’m really nice!

    Aaron, the Custom Music Guy
    Aaron at FreeCustomMusic.com

  10. TighterWriter
    May 14, 2015 @ 15:18:40

    Great information! Thanks, Will.

  11. soluty olarewaju
    May 14, 2015 @ 15:27:01

    Thanks will i totally agree with the rule 1, perfectly going to use this tips in building a better relationship with my audience thanks.

  12. Mohinder Verma
    May 15, 2015 @ 01:12:14

    I thinks this post starts from where most of the bloggers stop thinking about making a perfect blog. I think my search ends here and I have kept a note of few points which was lacking in my blog posts.

    Thanks Will Hoekenga for sharing such a wonderful and helpful post.

    Mohinder Paul Verma
    BloggingFunda – A Community of Bloggers

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 15, 2015 @ 10:15:16

      Thanks, Mohinder! I appreciate that.

  13. Brigitte Lepoix
    May 15, 2015 @ 04:00:25

    Hi Will,
    Thanks for this post, I’m part of the “doing it wrong club” in regards to affiliation programs.
    I will concentrate on selling my own stuff first and grow up my list before anything else !

    Regards,
    Brigitte

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 15, 2015 @ 10:17:00

      Hey Brigitte! Nothing wrong with building your own products first. Either strategy is great as long as you’re executing it the right way. Thanks for reading!

  14. Rob Lawrence
    May 15, 2015 @ 07:07:12

    Right on, Will. It’s only ever both wise and ethical to promote a product you use.

    I make a point of using affiliate links, from people I know and trust, if they recommend a product. In some ways, it’s a way of saying “thank you” and creating a win / win / win for all.

    Win for the buyer being recommended a good or great product from a trusted source (who has gone to the trouble of testing it and recommending the product or service)

    Win for the person who has gone to the trouble of raising the awareness of the service or product

    Win for the supplier of the product. I haven’t yet met a supplier who is upset about losing a commission to someone who has gone to the trouble of marketing their product on their behalf.

    Thanks for the further insights and round-up. This is an article worth bookmarking and sharing!

    Out of interest, your chats with Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas – are they available for public consumption?

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 15, 2015 @ 10:21:40

      Thanks for the additional insights here, Rob. I also find myself going out of the way to use others’ affiliate links when I can.

      Regarding the chats with Pat and John, shoot me an email at will.hoekenga@ave81.com and I’ll hook you up!

  15. Katherine Swarts
    May 15, 2015 @ 10:23:13

    You don’t say much about choosing affiliate products for their compatibility with your blog’s niche. There are some graphic novels, humor collections, etc., that I very much enjoyed reading in my leisure time, but wouldn’t market on my blog because they lack obvious connection with its “life can be hard, but there are ways to keep it joyful nonetheless” brand.

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 15, 2015 @ 12:13:28

      Hi Katherine, I think this issue is solved with the first two questions I recommend asking:

      “What is my audience trying to accomplish?”

      “What products will help them achieve that?”

      If you start with these questions you should end up with products that are compatible with your particular niche.

  16. Greg Strandberg
    May 15, 2015 @ 11:58:12

    Is anyone worried that a heavy reliance upon affiliate sites could be perceived as unnatural in the eyes of Google?

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 15, 2015 @ 14:26:43

      Hey Greg, not sure I understand your question. Are you concerned that Google might penalize you for putting too many affiliate links on your own site?

      • Greg Strandberg
        May 19, 2015 @ 11:31:13

        Yeah, I guess that’s what I’m getting at. I’m thinking of the doorway algorithm update, and I’m confident myself that in a year Google will be cracking down on overzealous affiliate links. They’re spam – your user isn’t visiting your site to see that, and most likely you didn’t start your site for that purpose. In other words, you’re deviating from your path, and Google will crack down on this. Many web-based businesses will fail and there will be lots and lots of opportunities for sites that aren’t hit.

        I’d say if you’re doing 1 to 2 affiliate posts a week, you’ll have problems soon. That’s just my opinion, and I expect many will disagree with it. Time will tell.

  17. John Corcoran
    May 15, 2015 @ 14:26:59

    Thanks so much for the mention Will! I love your approach here. Great tips.

    The funny thing is I never started promoting Contactually because I thought it would make money. Their affiliate program is modest by comparison to other products I’ve promoted. But I really do promote it because I believe in the product and I love the company (I’m a huge fan of everyone there – Zvi, the CEO, Tony the co-founder, Brian Pesin in marketing – they’re all great). So I think the lesson is promote products for the right reasons and you’ll be rewarded, and in fact I do get a steady stream of people who sign up to try it out through my affiliate links.

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 15, 2015 @ 15:13:42

      Sure thing, John! It was a great example.

      I’ve heard nothing but good things about Contactually from anyone who uses it — which is usually a good indicator that it’ll be a perfect product to promote.

  18. Sherman Smith
    May 15, 2015 @ 15:41:34

    Hey Will,

    I really like these posts. This advice needed to be reiterated towards me since now I’m focused on doing affiliate marketing. At first I was going about it all wrong LOL.. Slowly i’ve been learning and making those improvements.

    One thing you put emphasis on is to focus on the needs of your audience. The best thing you can do is to just ask them flat out. Being interested in their business and concern about their struggles will definitely go the right way.

    If you’re affiliate product can help them, then great, you have a better chance to get commissions. If not, point them in the right direction. This builds a great reputation for you and this can go a long way!

    Thanks for sharing Will and I hope you have a great weekend!

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 16, 2015 @ 14:27:46

      Thanks, Sherman! Yeah, flat out asking your audience how you can help them seems a little odd at first. I’ve talked to many folks over the years who are scared it will make them look like they don’t know what they’re doing.

      99% of the time they’re pleasantly surprised to find that people actually really love and appreciate being asked that question. It’s something I almost always recommend doing.

  19. Kevin Duncan
    May 15, 2015 @ 17:10:08

    Hi Will,

    Love your work on LeadPages, so I was thrilled to see you writing here on BBT!

    I highly concur with your tip to only promote what you use. It’s just good form. If you don’t like it enough to use it (or to have used it in the past), why are you pushing it onto your readers?? I use and love Rainmaker, so I promote it. Ditto Aweber.

    Thanks for the great post, Will, and congrats on getting to guest blog for such a wonderful site!

    I’ll be tweeting this right away. Have a good one, Will!

    -Kevin

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 16, 2015 @ 14:23:01

      Thanks for the kind words and for sharing, Kevin! Agreed about BBT — definitely an honor to write for such a quality site.

  20. Academic Papers
    May 16, 2015 @ 01:19:47

    Great post! Nowadays articles is growing up and thanks for sharing this nice information with us.

  21. Dennis Seymour
    May 16, 2015 @ 02:20:34

    I could still remember the days I had to write copy for long ass affiliate sales pages 🙂
    All the spammy things ultimately contributed to why I stopped with affiliate marketing. I got into it the wrong way, with the wrong education.

    I certainly do like the direction now so I’m open to going back and doing more.

    Great post Will, love how you structured this and told a good story.

    PS. Love LeadPages BTW. It’s been nice to me.

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 16, 2015 @ 14:25:25

      Thanks, Dennis! And glad to hear you’re kicking ass with LeadPages. 🙂

  22. Peter Banerjea
    May 16, 2015 @ 10:13:37

    Hi Will,
    Good post.
    What I really like about affiliate marketing is how it benefits subscribers. I recently bought a Ryan Levesque product because Jon recommended it. I would probably not have considered it if I had come across it in any other way.
    Affiliate marketing is a great way for customers to know that they have an offering they can trust.
    Peter

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 16, 2015 @ 14:24:21

      Thanks for adding that, Peter — that’s something I overlooked. When you trust somebody (like BBT readers trust Jon), recommendations really help you cut through the noise and find resources worth investing in. Great point!

      • Peter Banerjea
        May 16, 2015 @ 23:35:45

        Hey Will,
        Completely forgot to mention something!
        I had been a leadpages user for a few months when Jon promoted you guys- last year.
        In a video, Jon mentioned the exact template to use to get a 50% opt in rate. Ever since I have been using that template I have been getting around a 51% rate on my ebook lead magnets.
        If Jon hadn’t promoted leadpages through that video, I would still have been stuck at a 35-40% opt in rate.
        Obviously that raised my confidence in Jon and leadpages to higher levels.
        That’s the power of affiliate marketing!
        Cheers!
        Peter

      • Will Hoekenga
        May 17, 2015 @ 00:34:18

        Yessss, that’s what I like to hear, Peter! Would love to see that landing page if you don’t mind sharing. Shoot me a link on Twitter if so! @willhoekenga

      • Peter Banerjea
        May 17, 2015 @ 10:09:08

        Hey Will, thanks for your interest! I have sent you the link.

  23. Damian
    May 17, 2015 @ 05:58:21

    Hey will,

    That was an amazing resource. Thanks for shating all these valuable info.

    When I finished reading your article a question flashed in my mind. How do you deal with affiliate programs that don’t pay you? Or how do you choose the right affiliate?

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 17, 2015 @ 16:21:12

      Hey Damian, thanks! When you say “affiliate programs that don’t pay you,” do you mean companies or people who just don’t have affiliate or partnership programs in place?

  24. Damian
    May 17, 2015 @ 05:58:39

    Hey will,

    That was an amazing resource. Thanks for sharing all that valuable info.

    When I finished reading your article a question flashed in my mind. How do you deal with affiliate programs that don’t pay you? Or how do you choose the right affiliate?

  25. Nico
    May 19, 2015 @ 00:07:09

    Nice article. Covers a lot of the ethical parts of affiliate marketing. If you have a long term engaged audience then these tips are really important as it helps with getting repeat customers.

  26. Arbaz Khan
    May 19, 2015 @ 01:55:36

    To make passive income through affiliate marketing, you should know everything about the product that you are going to promote.

    And that’s going to happen only when you own the product. I have seen a lot of bloggers who make insane amounts of money by promoting products that they personally use. The best example here would be Pat Flynn.

    If he can make money, then anyone can.

    Great article, though! Enjoyed reading it. 🙂

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 19, 2015 @ 10:33:05

      Agree 100%, Arbaz. We require all affiliates to be customers at LeadPages, and I think that’s been one of the main reasons why our program has been successful. Thanks for reading!

  27. Shikhar
    May 19, 2015 @ 06:56:58

    Awesome Post Thank you so much.
    Keep it up

  28. Laurie Stone
    May 19, 2015 @ 11:12:43

    Hi Will,

    Yes, my blog has also been freeloading for some time although I’m still working on building traffic (maybe that never ends). I love the idea that I should never promote a product I wouldn’t use myself. Feels right. Thanks for the good advice.

    • Will Hoekenga
      May 19, 2015 @ 11:21:55

      Hey Laurie, I can confirm that traffic building never ends. It never hurts to have more. 🙂 But it’s always great to start building with the right foundation — that makes things easier in the long run. Thanks for reading!

  29. jason
    May 19, 2015 @ 18:22:21

    Wil

    Thanks for the great read, first off.

    What is so attractive about affiliate marketing when you first start off in the blogging world? I don’t really know but, when I thought I was going to try to start my own business, i looked up many different things. None was so attractive as being an affiliate marketer. So, I jumped on the bandwagon and rode hard. But, with little knowledge on how things worked I fell flat on my face.

    Make a long story short, the dreams of setting on the couch, and raking in all the millions was a failure. With over a year stuggling to make it, I stumble upon Jon Morrow. The rest was history.

    I am still a rookie, with rookie questions. Dose anyone know of a great blog, or something dealing with landing pages

    Again thanks for the great read

    Your Friend
    Jason

  30. Lorraine Reguly
    May 20, 2015 @ 03:58:54

    I’m new to affiliate marketing, and often find others’ methods sleazy.

    Thanks for the great advice!

  31. Biplob Karmakar
    May 21, 2015 @ 03:09:31

    Hi Will, Online earning is not so easy without any good guidelines. Especially those involved with Affiliate Marketing, Thanks for sharing such a valuable post.

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  36. Samantha
    May 23, 2015 @ 10:27:38

    I agree with you regarding “we have to promote products which we use” its quite true that users intent to buy products which we used personally.

    Thanks

  37. Matthew Olszewski
    May 29, 2015 @ 14:47:25

    Nice entry. When it comes to advertising on the blog, I’m not a supporter of that idea. Perhaps it makes sense when advertising your own products. However, there are so many ads on the internet, I think it’s better to focus on other ways to promote products such as making a good squeeze page.

  38. Kevin Collins
    Jun 04, 2015 @ 13:58:58

    “If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.” HENRY FORD http://quotesia.com/quotes/henry-ford/#ixzz3c7F3R2ta

  39. Deborah Owen
    Jun 04, 2015 @ 23:12:48

    I have a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity (http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com) writing school and am not allowed to advertise affiliate products. Is there a way to do this on my WordPress blog? If so, could you give me some directions on how to do that? I don’t know how to put the graphic in. Thanks very much. I love your tips.