One of the most common questions I get as a blogger is how the heck do you make money from your blog?
Well, one of the biggest ways I monetize my blog is through affiliate links.
In 2016, almost 18% of my blogging income was made with affiliate links. So, how can you do the same thing, and what rules do you need to follow to prevent you from getting in trouble?
What are affiliate links?
First things first, what the heck are affiliate links? They’re links to different products or services that you’d use on your blog. When someone clicks on the link and makes a purchase, you would get some sort of kickback for the sale.
There are a lot of different companies that offer affiliate links, and the rules and rates differ per company. You typically need to apply for the opportunity to use affiliate links, but on a lot of sites, it’s not difficult to be approved.
So, what affiliate links will you see around And Possibly Dinosaurs? Four major websites: Amazon, Bluehost, Envato, and Creative Market. I’ve also got affiliate links for a few of the courses I’m enrolled in, but I’m not usually linking to those super often.
In addition to different rules and rates, each company is going to have a different payout schedule. Amazon, for example, logs your payments two months after they happen (so, in December, you’ll see your October payments), and sends it to you once you reach $10 or more.
Bluehost, on the other hand, pays you $65 per person who signs up for hosting (no matter how much the person spends), but you have to reach $100 within 12 months after your first affiliate sale before they’ll send you any money. After that, they’ll send you payments roughly 45 days after each affiliate sale with no minimum.
Confused yet? I highly recommend at least skimming through the terms and conditions of each affiliate site you sign up for so you know what’s actually expected of you before you see any of that money.
What rules do you need to follow to use affiliate links?
In addition to the terms of each affiliate site, there are certain rules you need to follow so you don’t get in trouble with the powers that be.
1 | NoFollow Links
First, you need to make sure any affiliate links you use on your site are nofollow links.
Normally, when you’re creating a link in HTML (so, the text editor in WordPress), it will look like this:
When you’re using an affiliate link, you need to add rel=”nofollow” to your link, so it will look like this instead:
So, why do you have to do this? To prevent Google from getting mad at you.
Whenever you link to another website, Google (and any search engine, really) figures you’d only be linking to good content, and therefore rewards that site with better SEO. However, if you’re being compensated by that website, Google doesn’t want those links to count for the site’s SEO.
Because if people could pay someone to link to their site from another site, think about how spammy the top results on Google would be.
So, Google wants you to use rel=”nofollow” so the algorithm knows not to follow that site for SEO purposes.
If you don’t, and Google finds out about it, they tank your site’s SEO. So, use nofollow links!
It’s also important to note that this goes for any compensation, not just affiliate links. So, if you receive money for a sponsored post, or receive a free product to review, or receive a discount on a service for a review, you should be using nofollow links.
2 | Disclaimer Statement
In addition to nofollow links, you need to have a disclaimer statement on your blog that says the post contains affiliate links that you could make an income off of.
If you’ve got affiliate links in your blog post, you need to have a clear, layman’s terms statement on the same page, and it needs to appear before the links.
So, if you’ve got the statement at the bottom of your post, it’s not good enough. You could still get in big trouble.
Not sure what to post? Feel free to use mine:
This post contains affiliate links that I could make commission off of. All opinions are my own. Learn more.
This is a US law, so it really only impacts bloggers in the US, so make sure you’re checking your country’s laws! I’m referring to this publication from the FTC, specifically section 1 about Proximity & Placement.
Also, please note that I’m not a lawyer, so this should not be considered legal counsel. If you’re unsure of what rules to follow, please consult a lawyer!
3 | Report Your Affiliate Income
Now, let’s say you start using affiliate links and actually make an income off of them. That’s the goal, right? Well, that doesn’t mean that’s automatically fun money to do with what you want.
You have to report any income you make from your blog on your taxes. That includes income from affiliate links.
You can get a fancy software like Quickbooks to log all of your income. Or… you could create a spreadsheet and keep track of everything.
I recommend the latter, at least at first. It’s free.
4 | Check the Terms of Each Site
And finally, make sure you check the terms of each site. You don’t want them to find out you’re (unintentionally) breaking the rules, and therefore kick you off the affiliate program!
For example, with Amazon Associates, you’re not allowed to share affiliate links via email. So, no linking to your favorite Amazon products in your weekly newsletter.
So make sure you go through the terms and conditions of each affiliate site you sign up for, and make note of rules you should be following.
Plus, it’s nice to make yourself aware of minimum payment thresholds and payment schedules so you know when the heck you’ll actually see your money!
So, there you have it! Affiliate links are an awesome way to monetize your blog. But you’ve got to make sure you’re following all of the rules!