Passive income through affiliate marketing, if done properly, is one of the best ways to earn money with your blog, and let’s be honest: Making money online while you’re sleeping is every blogger’s not-so-secret-dream.
Is earning passive income really possible for everyone?
Disclaimer: The last part of this blog post is still work in progress and I will add some more examples and screenshots to the current content. Stay tuned and thanks for your patience!
A while ago, at the beginning of my career as a travel blogger in 2013, I wrote a comprehensive article on my top strategies to make money online and the response has been overwhelming. Many bloggers contacted me to ask me specific questions about Affiliate Marketing. Why?
To be transparent and helpful, I shared a few screenshots of my earnings, and when the readers saw that roughly 80% of my income came from Affiliate Marketing, with peaks of 2500/3000$ per month (While being at the very beginning of my journey with the “Travel Affiliates” ) I certainly aroused their interest.
Considering the amazing response, I realized that the travel blogger community didn’t have enough online resources that focused solely on Affiliate Marketing.
Sure, there are plenty of valuable tips on the topic online, which are applicable to the travel industry too, but each niche faces specific challenges in order to be successful with affiliates, the travel blogging niche in particular.
This article aims to fill this gap by sharing with you everything I’ve learned on the topic, through direct experience and obviously my rookie mistakes too!
I’ll tell you how I was able to earn more than 2500 USD a month by implementing an Affiliate Marketing strategy on my website, but most importantly, I’ll give you concrete and actionable tips, resources and tools to achieve similar or better results!
This is not meant to be the ultimate Bible on affiliates. Everything you’ll read here comes from my own experience and even if the basic principles are the same for every website and industry, you’ll need to apply them considering your own blog and audience. This point is very important if you want to succeed with the affiliate programs.
Are you ready? Let’s get started learning with the Affiliate Marketing Guide for Travel Bloggers!
What is Affiliate Marketing:
“Affiliate Marketing is the practice of promoting products or services from other companies on your blog. Each time someone books a service or purchases a product from a link or banner placed on your website, you receive a commission”.
The good news:
It is very easy to set up and implement affiliates on your website, all you need to do is to request to join the Affiliate Program, or “Referral Program” with the companies you are interested in working with, wait for their approval and start placing links and/or banners on your pages.
The not-so-good news:
It’s “slightly” less easy to get immediate results in terms of earnings, but if you’re willing to invest some time by studying and researching beforehand, you will eventually be able to earn a steady income via Affiliate Marketing.
Why Preliminary Research Is Important Before Implementing An Affiliate Program:
As mentioned above, to get good results with these programs, you’ll need to spend a bit of time “researching”, but what do I actually mean with that?
To put it simply, if this is your first time trying any affiliate marketing strategy, read as much as you can on the topic.
The “Research” Stage is very important and it is one of the most underestimated parts of the process. When I speak with other travel bloggers about affiliate programs, more often than not they immediately associated them with placing banners or “booking widgets” on their sites (randomly) waiting for the money to roll in.
I wish it was that easy! Affiliate marketing is so much more than that, and the more you are aware of the best practices to put in place, the better your results will be. Hence: Research is paramount for your success!
These strategies are not rocket science, but knowing them will help you get started on the right foot, avoiding wasting too much time on things that don’t work. You will get a better idea of what’s best for your Travel website and it will help you to put together a good strategy.
When I first implemented my affiliate links I was able to earn more than 300 $ after a week of using them.
Beginners luck? Maybe. But I believe that all the months I spent reading articles on the topic helped me in a big way to achieve these results.
At the end of this post, I’ll give you a list of the most complete resources to read on affiliate marketing so that you can start your research phase now!
The research part might seem to be a “waste of time”, but it will save you big headaches later on, so don’t skip this step.
Eight Essential Steps To Implement The Right Affiliates In A Travel Blog:
STEP 1: Know your readers
You should have a very accurate picture of why your readers visit your blog.
What are their interests, gender, location, and age? All of this information will help you to identify the most useful affiliates for THEM. After all, your readers are the ones who will click on the link or banner which in turn equates to passive income in your pockets.
This is very important because If you don’t know who are you writing for, how can you help them and give them exactly what they want?
But there is something else that’s even more important: “Your Readers” Is a generic term. Way too generic. If you have a Travel blog, unless it is a niche blog for one destination, you’ll write about several destinations, with different angles, right?
When I say “Know your audience” what I truly meant is “Know your audience for EACH ARTICLE” (or at least for each typology of article/topic). For example, the people reading an article about “What do in “x” Destination, might be a totally different audience from the ones reading “Best places to go to “x” with kids or “Best Hotels for couples” in “x” destination.
So, even before starting to write an article where you’re planning to implement your affiliates, you should ask yourself: “who am I writing for?” Imagine the people who will read your post: Are they young couples? Retired couples (or both?), family with kids? Singles? You get the gist.
This way not only you can craft a better article for the right people, but you’ll also know which affiliates will convert the most. A win-win situation for everyone.
There is no such thing as “My audience” if you have a general travel blog. You will have an audience divided into “segments”. Use it to your advantage!
STEP 2: Focus on your most popular articles
With a mention on the best type of posts to place your affiliates
Instead of writing a thousand brand new posts, trying to rank high on Google, which is time-consuming, or placing random links and banners everywhere (the worst practice ever), take a closer look at your existing posts.
Create a list of 5 -10 articles that already get some organic traffic.
You don’t need to have spectacular numbers to do well with affiliate marketing. Of course, the more the traffic, the more chances you have to convert your readers into “customers”, but don’t get discouraged if you have less traffic, but a very targeted one. You could do quite well in that case too. Remember the old saying, quality over quantity.
You can find your top-performing articles on Google Analytics or even better on Google Search Console (which will give you the exact words and sentences for which you are already ranking for, and this includes the actual ranking as well as the trend for the past)
Usually, in-depth destination guides and detailed reviews on products you truly love and use are the best posts to monetize with affiliates.
Sometimes you can get good results with more personal articles, but they are trickier to convert, unless you play smart with the title and, most importantly, you are honest with your readers and always provide value by fulfilling their needs.
Do you want an example? A personal post on your travel misadventures can be used to recommend the best travel insurance, or a post about your fears on the road can be a good opportunity to talk about a book that really helped you.
The list can go on and on, but the message stands: Be real, be passionate and overall be HONEST with your readers. Many bloggers tend to forget that their first mission is to be useful, not to squeeze their reader’s wallets at all costs. Which leads them to lose their trust in you.
YOUR READERS AREN’T STUPID AND THEY ARE THE REASON WHY YOU HAVE THIS JOB. TRY TO HELP THEM AS YOUR FIRST GOAL. EVEN IF SOMETIMES, YOU WON’T EARN ANYTHING FROM IT.
STEP 3: Concentrate your efforts on the articles that have profitable keywords:
OK, you have narrowed down your articles to the 5-10 most popular ones, the next step is to find the ones with the right keywords.
Even if It’s always good to have organic traffic, not all of your articles can be monetized. Unfortunately, when people find you with the “wrong” keywords, you won’t make any money.
Examples From My Blog: Right Keywords Vs Wrong ones
One of my most popular articles is on “How I ended up in a Sex exchange Sauna in London”. It certainly brings traffic to my site, but the people who find me are clearly searching for spicy stories online, so monetizing it with affiliates would be a waste of time. I tried to recommend some books on the topic (as an experiment) and the result was as expected: ZERO.
On the other side, I have a few destination guides about Italy the UK and Sardinia that drive good amounts of targeted traffic to my blog. People who find me, clearly need info on those specific destinations, and they find exactly what they are looking for.
They want in-depth info and they research profitable keywords such as ” Italy Road trip” for example and a few other keywords. Needless to say, as soon as I placed recommendations for Hotels and activities into the article, I started making money immediately.
This is a clear example of how to monetize your articles in a smart way, thinking of what people want, the info they are looking for and taking into account whether they are ready to book their holidays when they research for a certain keyword or not. Below is an example of one of the articles that I monetize with affiliates.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER ON RANKINGS, KEYWORD DIFFICULTY AND DOMAIN AUTORITHY:
My main niches (Italy/Uk/Sardinia) are among the most competitive in the market, which means that it took me a hell of a lot of time, effort and patience to get where I am today (and my competition is FIERCE). My blog was fairly new when I reached the top page of Google for a few keywords, and, at that time, I had a very low Domain Authority.
Never say never. You should start by writing what your readers want, using the easiest keywords with a decent monthly volume, and when your Domain Authority and trust increase, you can “revive” the post using more competitive keywords with higher monthly volume.
This example could serve you to understand that you can make it if you put your efforts and patience in it. It took me nearly 2 years of hard work to achieve these results, but now I don’t have to do anything special (other than the advice I give you here) to see the money rolling in every month. Some months more than others, but in the Travel Industry, it’s pretty standard.
This is the great advantage of Affiliate Marketing: If you work hard enough, on the right articles (you don’t necessarily need to have many of them), you can relax (a bit!) 😉 and see the money coming in…even when you’re asleep!
STEP 4: Write with passion, be real and honest. Always:
Your readers are smart, and you are a consumer too. I bet that you don’t go to the first blog you find to book your holidays. Why should you put your trust in a random blogger after all?
Heck, I know of bloggers that, focusing only on making money, write In-Depth destination guides to places they haven’t even visited or where thy have briefly stayed, passing themselves as experts for that destination. What a way to earn a reader’s trust, huh? 🙂
For the records: I too have written about destinations I haven’t visited but 1) I explicitly say that. 2) It is usually a destination where I’m about to go or I’m interested in going and I don’t fake that I was there. 3) I ask the help of an expert in that destination and I state it. That’s quite a different approach.
If you are a brilliant writer and an expert marketer, this strategy might work for a short period of time, but it will ruin your reputation in the long run. Guaranteed. Your readers can tell whether or not you are truly enthusiastic (and really knowledgeable) on a place or a service.
Sure, people look for information, and if they find it on your blog they will be satisfied, but this doesn’t guarantee that they will click on the “book here” link on your site.
There is plenty of researches showing that people don’t buy driven by reason alone. They buy using their emotional side of the brain. Sometimes by impulse even (Don’t we all know it?)
A recent study, by Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman, concludes that we buy based on our emotions and we justify it with logic.
So what you’re giving your readers are your words: It might be a dream destination. Or a place you truly love. Your enthusiasm must be so contagious that they should feel the urge to book and be there as soon as possible!
But the enthusiasm has to be genuine, if you want to fake it, do it at your own risk. You are also a consumer, so you have to write thinking like one. Would you be tempted to visit a place after reading your article? If the answer is no, you need to make a few adjustments.
I’m not saying you have to use superlatives every 5 words (they would actually sound fake sometimes). Enthusiasm can be sensed by the way you write and choose your words, by the things you choose to highlight or whether you add personal anecdotes or not.
This is reason #1 why I have been able to make more than 3000$ per month during peak season on one article alone when I was starting out. I didn’t overthink. I wrote about a place driven by pure passion, and according to the comments (and later on, by the bookings), it paid off.
I also replied to every comment by giving long, entusiastic and detailed advice. All for free. That’s basically the number one rule of being successful with affiliates. The answer Is not necessarily massive amounts of traffic. IT’S THE READER’S TRUST.
Be real, be passionate and give tons of free resources to your readers. It’ll pay off for you as well. 100% guaranteed!
STEP 5: Write detailed, long and useful articles. Readers will love it and so will Google:
We all know that in the blogging world “Content is King”, and this holds true for the affiliates as well. In my experience, the longer the article, the better it converts. It’s not a coincidence that my most popular articles where I successfully use the affiliates have no less than 3000 words. What are the reasons?
Note: Some of the “Affiliate marketing Gurus” state that long articles are boring for the reader. It might be true, but only for the non-targeted ones, and we already know that they won’t click on our links anyway.
- The information is detailed: You can’t possibly write an in-depth guide using less than 1000/2000 words. You still might attract visitors with shorter articles, but in order to “Pre-sell” with the affiliates (I hate this word, but it’s how marketers call it), the more details you give, the more your readers will find it useful.
- It attracts the right Audience: Your targeted audience wants to collect as much info as possible on a destination or a product/service, as long as the article is not a huge mass of text. Always use paragraphs, chapters, images and bullet points to break it down in smaller parts and allow the reader to skim the content easily.
- It converts better: All a short article can do for your audience, even if it’s brilliantly written, is to arouse their curiosity, but it doesn’t give them the urge to book their holidays or try a service right then and there. The content is relatively shallow, nothing they couldn’t find elsewhere. Their “emotional” side is not stimulated enough. Hence, they don’t buy.
- It ranks for more Keywords: When you write long posts (with the reader in mind), they will rank for more keywords, including the “long-tail keywords”. This means that over time, you’ll get much more traffic from Google, as even if some Keywords don’t have high search volume, they will add up and contribute to bringing even more targeted traffic.
A word of advice: Don’t try to unnaturally stuff your article with keywords, or stretch it more than it’s necessary. Write long guides only when it’s appropriate. Remember: Always aim for quality over quantity.
STEP 6: Only recommend products or services you trust and know VERY WELL:
As already said, the key to be successful with affiliates is TRUST, make sure to recommend products and services you’ve used or known well.
You’ll have to point out the benefits and highlight any room for improvement, if necessary. No product, service or destination is perfect after all.
This step is very important. You’re helping the reader in making an informed decision. Even comparing more than one product or service is a good “strategy”. A product can be great for someone, but others might find another one more suitable for their needs.
Give your readers all the info they need and leave them the freedom to choose what’s best for their needs without pushing them into booking something at all costs.
I don’t know about you, but when an article is too pushy I find it pretty annoying and definitely counterproductive so I end up buying nothing. Just the same way I do when a salesperson follows me everywhere in a clothes shop.
This is, in my experience, one of the biggest mistakes made by travel bloggers complaining they are not having good results with affiliate marketing.
They keep adding banners or booking widgets and expect people to click on them. I tried both tactics, and I can say without a doubt that the deeper the link, the more it converts. This is especially true if the deep link is naturally placed in the context of a relevant sentence.
I’m not suggesting to get rid of banners and widget altogether, as depending on your traffic, they might add up on the total earnings. However, if you compare the performance of banners vs. deep links, the banners are a lot less effective.
People tend to avoid banners because they find them annoying, especially if they are all over the place. If you still want to use them, you should personalize them using some nicer graphics (make sure that the affiliate program allows you to do so).
Use the “campaign labels/names” in your affiliate links as much as you can. This way you can check out which affiliate links are converting the most and in which specific article. A very powerful affiliate tracking tool, not used enough by travel bloggers.
SEO And Keyword Research: Useful Tools And How To Use Them To Double Your Traffic:
Six Crucial Factors To Consider Before Signing Up To An Affiliate Program:
- Relevancy to your Audience: Do my audience trust the brand? Are the products useful?
- Cookies: Do they have cookies? Sometimes you might choose one with less or no cookies
- Reliability: Do they have a contact you can refer to? Do they pay on time? Are the Dashboard and tools intuitive? Are their terms and conditions clear?
- Options Offered: Deep linking is usually a must for better conversions.
- Serviceable Areas: Do their links grant you a commission from everywhere in the world Or just from certain countries/areas?
- Commission Scheme: Is the commission scheme clear and reasonably good for you? Are there tiers or a flat rate? Are you sure 100% that they will pay you per lead even if you don’t generate any sales?
Useful List Of The Most Profitable Affiliate Programs For Travel Bloggers
With specific comments, Pros & Cons and where to find them to sing up
- Commission Junction:
- Affiliate Windows:
- Impact Radius
- (More to come)
DIRECT AFFILIATE PROGRAMS FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY:
- (More to come)
How To Read The Stats On Your Affiliate Account To Improve Your Performance:
And also decide when its time to remove an affiliate that is not performing
Notes On Travel Affiliate Programs, how They calculate Your Earnings And More:
Different ways to calculate the commission percentage. The average conversion rate for the travel industry affiliate programs. Difference between pay per lead and pay per sale
Best Ways To Place Your Affiliates To Maximize The Conversion Rates:
More Earning Opportunities: Combining Affiliate Marketing With Sponsored Posts.
Final Recap – Ten Reasons Why Some Bloggers Have Great Results With Affiliates:
- MONEY IS NOT THEIR ONLY GOAL: They don’t write solely because of that. They genuinely want to help while doing their job (even if sometimes it’s hard they keep doing it).
- STRATEGIC THINKING: Having a clear strategy is of paramount importance for them, they set clear goals, actions, lists of things to do to achieve these goals, and set precise deadlines for everything.
- PASSION AND HONESTY: They don’t sugarcoat a destination, and usually mention the con’s (If present). They have a clear, personal point of view and aren’t afraid to share it.
- AUTHORITIES FOR A SPECIFIC TOPIC/ DESTINATION: People easily trust their advice and their comment section is filled with questions from normal readers, rarely other bloggers (same applies to social media & Co).
- THEY GIVE THEIR READERS TONS OF FREE INFORMATION: Sometimes asking nothing in return. Meaning that they are willing to help also in posts where they have nothing to gain, monetarily speaking.
- TRACKING THE RESULTS AND STRIVING TO IMPROVE: They meticulously keep track of the results they achieve and always try to improve them, by working hard to rank for more keywords or changing their strategy if it’s not working.
- THEY TRY SEVERAL AFFILIATES: But end up choosing the ones they trust enough to recommend. They don’t sell their souls to the devil for money. For affiliates or any other blog-related subject. They want to earn money, obviously, but also provide a good service.
- THE “NEVER GIVE UP” / “NO-PANIC” POSITIVE ATTITUDE: They don’t give up easily, they keep trying until they see the results, knowing that with the right strategies is possible to make decent money with affiliate marketing. When they suffer from a setback, they don’t panic, they analyze what they might have done wrong and /or what they can do better to recover from it.
- THEY ALWAYS GIVE MORE: They give even more value to their readers by replying to (almost) ALL of the comments for free, even if it’s time-consuming, but they recognize the importance of replying.
- PATIENCE IS THEIR SECOND NAME: They know Travel affiliate marketing is more of a marathon than a sprint and that it could take months, sometimes years to see tangible results, but this doesn’t put them down. It challenges them to improve if anything.