Starting a Blog: Affiliate Marketing for Noobs (Beginners)

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Welcome to part three of our journey to making $500/Mo profit online.

Whether you are looking to launch a blog, YouTube channel, podcast, or become a Twitch streamer, it makes sense to get wise about affiliate marketing. Not only is affiliate marketing, one of the best paying ways to make money from your content, but its also the fastest and easiest way to make money with a small audience.

If you are just catching up with our journey, we have six months and only 1k, to launch a new website that makes 500 dollars a month profit. In our last post, we did a rundown of the various ways blogs typically make money and determined that affiliate marketing was the surest path making money.

For more information, check out part one and part two of our series.

Blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels require thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of readers, listeners, or viewers to make money with traditional ads. In fact, in blogging alone, depending on multiple factors beyond the scope of this post, it takes about 1000 readers just to make 10 to 50 dollars. Ouch!

With affiliate marking, you could make 10, 50, or even 2000 dollars with just one reader. Assuming, of course, you get in front of the right reader with the right offer.

So now that I have your attention, let's make money happen!

What is Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a fee or commission for recommending a company's product or service. If you have ever signed up for a product or service, and they offered a bonus or cash for referring friends and family, then you are already familiar with affiliate marketing.

Affiliates are simply influencers (bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, streamers, etc.) that sign up to promote a company's product or services and receive a fee for doing so.

You see this all the time and may not even notice it; maybe your fav blogger or celebrity might recommend you check our some new hotness and provide you their link to the product and many times a custom discount code.

Affiliate programs are kind of a cool way to make money because you can recommend products and services you believe to you following and make some money without increasing the cost to your reader.

For example, if you are a Mommy blogger and dig a baby monitor for sale on Amazon, you can refer your readers to the monitor and receive a commission if they make a purchase. The readers pay the same price regardless of if there used your link or not, so it's pretty much a win/win.

Some websites scour the internet and find the absolute best prices, services, and products to recommend to their readers. This can be a huge benefit for readers. If a reader is looking for the best on a software solution, it's nice to go to a review post and see how the various software packages stack up and are shown the best price.

So, when used ethically, promoting affiliates can be a benefit to your audience. It introduces them to new products and solutions that may save the reader time and money. Cool right?

Dark Side to Affiliate Marketing

Unfortunately, there is a light side and a dark side to most things in life. When appropriately used, affiliate making can have a positive impact; however, misused it can cost people money.

We can probably all agree when Obi Won used the Jedi mind trick to convince the stormtroopers, “these are not the droids you are looking for,” that was a positive use of the force. However, if Obi Won were using the force to pick up women at Cantinas, then that would be an abuse of the Jedi mind trick and a dick move.

If you are going to engage in affiliate marketing, then you have an ethical responsibility to do the right thing.

However, if you think that you can make some quick cash with shady tactics and questionable practices, let me dissuade you of that notion. There is a robust regulatory and compliance framework to prevent abuse of affiliate offers.

Not only do you risk the wrath of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), most affiliate providers require you to agree to terms of service that forbid shady tactics, boiler room marketing, and Blackhat tactics. At best, you could lose your status as an affiliate, and at worst, you could find yourself in breach of a legally binding contract and face the legal consequences of such.

There are so many great ways to make money legitimately, in a mutually beneficial way; it's not worth damaging your reputation or risking your site. Doing the right thing is the best path to building a profitable website.

So, let us talk about the rules and affiliate marketing correctly.

Disclosure

When it comes to affiliate marking, it's essential to remember the 3 D's: disclosure, disclosure, disclosure.

You can prevent most problems by being upfront and forthright with who you are, who you are representing, and the fact that you may earn a fee/commission from affiliate links. Not only is it a best practice, but it is a requirement of the federal trade commission.

The FTC requires that affiliate links be labeled as such and that content containing affiliate links include an appropriate disclosure. Also, each affiliate program you may wish to work with may have particular guidelines, terms, disclosure statements, and even privacy policies that they require to be included.

Lastly, Google has its own best practices regarding affiliate offers and pages containing affiliate content. Google wants to ensure that its users are receiving quality information and that websites are not misleading readers or engaging in questionable practices to game the search results.

Like the FTC, Google wants to see content containing affiliate links be marked appropriately. Additionally, Google also requires paid for, or affiliate links are listed as ‘no follow” or “sponsored.” We will go over how to set up links properly when we cover setting up the blog.

Don't worry; it's super easy with the right tools.

Speaking of Disclosure

Many people think they can jump over to Godaddy, buy a domain name, bang out a simple website, and then they are off to the races. However, just because you purchased a domain name doesn't mean you have permission to use that name online as a business.

Most states have rules regarding fictitious names. So, if you purchase the domain name MikeyIsTheGreatestEver.com it does not mean you can call your business “Mikey Is The Greatest Ever.”

Typically, you are required to set up a business with the state or file for a “Doing Business As” (DBA) certificate. While every state has different requirements, the reasoning is relatively universal.

To protect the public, the Government does not want people setting up a fake business and concealing who they are and deceiving and harming the public without consequence.

If you are looking to build a long term profitable business, then you should do everything by the book. You can hire a lawyer who specializes in small businesses to set up the correct paperwork.

You could attempt doing it yourself. However, I would suggest you use a service like LegalZoom to get you set up. With LegalZoom, you set up an LLC or a DBA very inexpensively.

Having an LLC for your blog is nice because you can separate the blog's finances from your finances, you may enjoy some protection if things go wrong, and if you want to sell the business the road, I think it's nice to have an LLC.

If you are concerned about privacy having an LLC is ideal, you can conduct your blog business in your business name without running afoul of the state's fictitious name requirements. As your blog grows, you may find that you need to sign up for multiple ad networks, affiliate programs, invoice sponsors, and more.

It's nice to be able to give them your business information and a W9 for your business, apposed to forking over your personal information.

Lastly, if I do not have you convinced yet when you are large enough to close sponsored deals for several thousand dollars, it looks way more professional and less sketchy having a proper business.

Even More Disclosure

Many bloggers initially with to remains anonymous; maybe its because they will share personal experience and feelings online, or perhaps they don't want family, friends, or work knowing they moonlight as a blogger. Generally speaking, it is ok to blog anonymously by using a pen name or pseudonym.

However, it worth mentioning a few items to think about. Google, to cut down on spam, bad actors, and misleading information, has started to place more emphasis on the “credibility” of the author of the content. Google has called this E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

Google's effort is to ensure those producing content, special people advising the money and health space are appropriately educated and credentialed to do so. Websites and content produced by authors with low E-A-T will have a significantly harder time appear in a favorable position in Google.

Blogging anonymously will make developing E-A-T slightly harder. So you may want to consider this when determining what niche you will launch your blog. If you are going to review movies or video games, Google probably doesn't care if you have a college degree or not. However, if you are going to give medical or health information, then Googles going to want to see you have the proper medical chops.

So you are absolutely set in blogging under a pen name, you probably want to avoid the health and natural health space. Even if you are not blogging anonymously, you probably want to avoid the natural health space, its a tough niche. 

One item that Google looks for in determining the trustworthiness of your blog is if you have a contact page with a real address. Having a physical address and phone number for your website is a small step in proving that you are a “legitimate” business.

Obviously, this may pose a challenge for anonymous bloggers, who won't want to give out their home address. A few solutions would be to use a virtual office location or a UPS store box. Alternatively, you could sweet-talk a friend or family into letting them use their address, just don't be surprised if they steal any free samples brands send you.

You might be tempted to set up a Post Office box, but you may run into problems using PO boxes. For example, if you wish to create an email list for your blog and affiliate marketing, most email providers require that you have a real physical address.

Several of the programs I am going to show you in the next installments will all require a physical address, so you should spend some time working out how you plan to resolve that issue sooner than later.

Yet Even More Disclosure

If you have a particular license or work for certain employers or industries, you may have disclosure requirements.

For example, if you are a financial advisor such as a registered rep or registered investment advisor, you may have a requirement to notify your firm. You may also have to submit your content to compliance and/or include disclosures on your site.

Blogging anonymously is not a clever way to circumvent compliance. Whatever genius thing you think of to circumvent the rules has likely been tried before and failed. No matter how carefully you are, you leave “footprints” across the internet that can lead people back to you, especially if you are breaking the law.

Don't risk your career over something stupid, follow the rules, and when in doubt, ask your supervisor, employer, compliance, etc. what the rules are.

Acting in Good Faith

I know that this can seem overwhelming; however, it's an essential set of setting up a blog. It is best to set up everything correctly when you start so that you are not scrambling to fix things later.

It is a good idea to get your business structure in place now and secure the use of a name because the last thing you want to do it pick out the perfect domain name and find you can't use it as a business name.

If you act in good faith, you will avoid most problems when affiliate marketing. Don't try to conceal who you are or that a link is an affiliate link. Additionaly, ensure that you have all the appropriate disclosures and contact information on your website.

Boring Stuff

So far in our journey, we have focused on the tedious but necessary work that goes into starting a blog, we had to develop a plan to make money and cover how to set up your business correctly, so you don't fail before you even start.

In our next installment, we will delve into picking a domain name, setting up a website, and optimizing to make money.

Stay tuned and drop any questions in the comments below!

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