Blogging is one of the best ways to generate affiliate sales because it gives you a platform to review and talk up products. While you can make commissions, a lot of bloggers either get greedy and go in for a cash grab or follow bad advice and ineffectively use sloppy techniques.
No "Sloppy Techniques."
Below are five things I’ve learned and implemented on my sites to stay unbiased and ethical, while still earning affiliate profits. These tips are from an affiliate perspective, but they can be applied to other business tips and plans, too.
1. Linking Out to References.
Spread that link juice and link out to your references. Usually, most bloggers only use one type of link: an affiliate link. Anything clickable is only there to help the blogger make money. While you should definitely get paid for your efforts, it makes for bad posts and you'll seem desperate for cash.
Linking out to references may seem like a terrible idea. You are practically giving away where you got your inspiration, and you may even be linking out to better content. However, the truth is that this has the opposite effect. People actually trust your content more. It's showing that you're trustworthy, that you're going to give good information even if you don't get a penny for it (don't worry, you'll get clicks and sales).
Your primary task should be generating trust, not sales. Concentrating on sales is short-term and desperate, while trust leads to lasting relationships and readers who will come back and click more affiliate links.
2. Link Out to Competitors.
If openly sharing your references was hard, this might be nearly impossible. Your competitors have good content, but your job is to be better. However, you have to remember that you are trying to build trust and to sell products without being greedy and desperate. You only do that by being truthful and saying that yes, your competitors exist and, yes, they have good content.
While you shouldn't praise them too much (it's not like you'll ever see Target telling people to shop at Wal-Mart), you should let people know that they exist.
Personal Example: I have a tech blog: Power Moves. I know my strengths and weakness as a blogger. I’m good at breaking things down into simple terms for my readers. There are a lot of times where there’s a better more detailed version of what I’m talking about. I always link to my competitors in that situation.
3. Give Readers All Options.
First of all, explore all of the best and most popular options. While you should definitely show your passion, you shouldn't let it block you from being unbiased. If there is a product that's just as good or better than your personal favorite, then be sure to mention it.
Secondly, give each product equal time and praise (if applicable, we'll discuss this later on). Talk about their details and specs, and get into how they actually function. Something might seem amazing on paper, but be terrible in real life. Despite wanting those affiliate clicks, you should tell people how the product actually functions.
This last point might be hard, but if there's a product that's exceptional and being talked about a lot, but there are no affiliate opportunities, you should still talk about it. You'll build trust and perhaps be one of the few voices talking about the product. Not only that, but new businesses are always adding affiliate links (or adding their products to Amazon), so it might be a matter of time before you can get a commission.
Personal Example: I looked at streaming devices on my blog. My favorite device that I tested was Apple TV. What’s the problem with that? Apple TVs aren’t sold on Amazon, so there’s no easy way to recommend it and earn a commission. Recommending a product where you don’t directly benefit financially builds long-term trust with your readers.
4. Scam Products.
Many affiliate bloggers get stuck in a tunnel where all they see is clicks, commissions, and money. There are a ton of products that are scams but offer massive commissions. You know these exist, and you know that bloggers are praising these products as much as possible just to grab some cash.
It's hard to avoid these products when you see how much money others are generating by lying, but it typically leads to short-term results and a major backlash when people see that you're supporting something terrible.
Tell people the truth. If you want, you can still add an affiliate link for those who still want to try the product, but be open about how awful/scammy it is.
Outside Example: Here’s a great story about online mattress companies giving extra money to bloggers for saying nice things.
5. Questions and Concerns.
Many reviews are just rehashing of Amazon stat sheets. It's easy to see that a product has certain features, but what's harder is knowing how it actually functions. Aside from giving people the real scoop, you should also anticipate questions and concerns.
This takes longer because you have to understand your reader, know what he or she cares about, and you have to do more than just respin stats. If you're not sure what their questions or concerns are, then do research. How?
Try the product or service for yourself.
Read other reviews and see comments and questions readers are leaving.
Check forums for similar products.
It's easy to just breeze over stats, but it's harder and longer to get into the real meat of the topic and talk about what your audience really wants to know. If you're in this for the long haul, then take the longer route.
Personal Example: I looked at a coupon and rebate website, Ebates.com. The site seems sketchy from the outside (it’s not). I address the talks of Ebates’ legitimacy at the beginning of the post and explain why it gets a bad reputation. I brought attention to something before the reader even thought about it.
Money is a powerful motivator, but don't come off as desperate. Your blog should be about reviewing and selling while still maintaining quality. Give people real information, link out to content even if you don't own it, and you'll quickly find yourself with a dedicated audience that will keep coming back for more. Pull back on selling and focus more on giving people what they want to read.