Here is our in-depth post from our speech at TBEX Asia with all the details including information we didn’t have the time to talk about. I hope you can get the best out of it and hopefully I can help you to make more money.
I will publishing useful information that will help you have a better travel blog, or any other kind of blog you run.
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What you will learn today:
- Basic concepts of affiliate program
- Why take affiliate marketing even deeper for specific travel niche blogs
- The steps to create your own affiliate system including finding businesses, pitching, promoting and tracking sales
- Completing the affiliate system cycle (Money cycle)
Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of the products, I really appreciate it if you use my link. If you have any questions about the tools or software, please contact me and I will do my best to answer.
Basic concepts of affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is one of the most common ways to make money off the Internet and the concept is really simple.
- Blogger signs up for an affiliate program
- Blogger puts links in their website to promote the products
- Receives a commission every time someone clicks on the affiliate link and makes a purchase
Travel bloggers can implement affiliate marketing in their blog a variety of ways: travel gear reviews (read my tutorial about how to make reviews), hotel reviews and travel tips and destination guides.
If you’re seriously thinking about making your blog your business and want to make a full time or even part time income off of it, you need to learn about affiliate marketing.
With so many programs out there to join, any travel blogger can find some product that fits their niche and if done properly, they can make a nice chunk of change off of it.
Affiliate Marketing Flow Chart
So you can see the entire process from beginning to end, here’s a flow chart of how affiliate marketing works which depicts the steps we just mentioned in the section above.
Why should travel bloggers join an affiliate program?
- Passive income
- Online and available 24/7
- Millions of products to promote
- Monetize your blog
Disadvantages to affiliate marketing:
- Small commission
- Some commission rates earn you mere cents
- One time client
- The reader clicks on the affiliate link and is taken to another website where they enter their contact information there. Most of the time, they don’t interact with your site any further
Why we created our own affiliate system
After using the basic travel affiliate programs for awhile and being frustrated with the commission rates, we decided to take another approach to it.
As a niche specific blog, and in this case a destination specific blog, we decided to talk to the companies and businesses themselves to see if they would be willing to set up an affiliate agreement with us.
By doing so, we were able to increase our commissions up to 5 times or more on one sale, establish a personal relationship with businesses, strengthen our authority of our niche and give our readers a better value.
Building an affiliate system
Creating this kind of affiliate agreement isn’t as difficult as people may think. The difference is that there are a couple steps you have to do manually, you need to use various promotion methods and it takes more effort.
But you will see that the rewards are completely worth it!
So now let’s go over the steps to set it up.
Step 1 – Finding companies and businesses that fit your blog
The first thing you need to do is pick which products and services that fit your blog. How do you do this?
It’s pretty simple. There’s several ways to know what your readers are looking for and you should already have a good idea for a niche specific blog.
Ask yourself these questions: what do readers contact you for? what are readers looking for on your blog?
You can find the answers by using tools like Google Analytics that tell you what your tops posts are or what keywords lead people to your blog. You can find yours by going to your Google Analytics account and looking under Behavior > Content > All pages for top posts.
In our case, our 50 things to do in Costa Rica article is our most popular post meaning people are interested in finding out what are the best activities or tours to do.
You can also survey your readers which gives you the most accurate information without a lot of work on your end. Send an email to your mailing list subscribers or post on social media, asking your readers what they’re looking for and how you can help them.
Take this knowledge to find businesses and companies that will answer your reader’s needs which leads you to step 2, pitching those businesses to work with you.
Step 2 – Pitching the business
So now that you know which businesses and companies you want to work with, it’s time to contact them. The important thing is to emphasize why you would be a great fit for their business and vice versa.
Some important factors to include in your pitch email are:
- Your blog’s niche
- Your target audience and demographics
- Your content and why it fits the business
Remember, quality over quantity when it comes to traffic. It’s great to have big numbers to show but it’s better to have 5000 readers who know what they’re looking for than 10,000 who visit your blog once and never come back because they have no idea. Show the business that you have authority in your niche and that you have influence by tying all the factors above together.
Step 3 – Business agreement
Congratulations! You’ve successfully pitched the company. Now it’s onto the next step to negotiate the terms of your partnership.
Keep in mind that everything you negotiate must help you stand out from the rest of your competition.
One way to do this is to secure a discount for the product you’re offering and although it sounds backwards, you can do this by giving away part of your commission.
On average, businesses give around 20-25% commission in the travel industry to the seller but you can keep 15% for yourself and let the reader have a 10% discount.
For example, let’s say a hotel room costs $100 and they give $25 commission to whoever sells the room. Instead of making $25, you keep $15 and give the reader 10% off the room. But why should you be giving away money?
If you give away $10-15 of your commission and give it to the readers as a discount, you can promote this as an exclusive deal. Now your offer becomes more attractive to readers and increases your chances of them purchasing through you.
You are still making more money than the 3% with the normal affiliate programs and depending on your relationship with the business, you can negotiate extra benefits if possible to give more to your reader.
Another important aspect of the business agreement is separating out customer service responsibilities and billing. This is up to you and the business and you can figure out how to handle it as it is different for every situation.
Step 4 – Promotion
Now that we’ve finalized our agreement, it’s time to integrate it into your blog and promote it. The easiest way is to write blog posts about it and link it in relevant existing articles.
Other methods of promotion include:
- Social media
- Email subscribers
- Optimize the post for SEO
- Blog tools such as banners, pop ups, sticky widget
Step 5 – Tracking sales
Now that you’ve made the agreement and started promoting it on the blog, you also need to figure out how to track your sales.
Going back to the negotiation part, you have to choose the right business to work with and feel comfortable working with them. You need to have solid and open communication because tracking sales it is one of the most important aspects of the blogger and company relationship.
The perfect scenario would be if the company already has their own affiliate software or to encourage the company to get one but not all businesses want to do this. And if they don’t, you need to come up with another method.
One of the methods we use is the classic contact form where you can set it up so that all the parties receive an automatic email: the client, us and the company. You can do this by using free plugins such as Contact Form 7 or you can upgrade to the paid versions such as Ninja Forms or Gravity Forms.
By using this method, you will get notice that a reader wants to purchase something from your blog and that the business has been notified already.
From that point on and according to your agreement, the company will have to confirm the reservation to the reader or you will have to contact the company. It depends on the agreement you made.
In our position, we always let the company contact the client since they can give better and faster information.
The second way we do this is by using my favorite tool LeadPages which is a must if you want to take your blog to the next business level.
Here is screen shot of one of the forms we use and the notification we receive every time someone opt-ins. You can click here to find out more about this excellent tool.
The process is pretty much the same as the contact for but in this case, your reader will fill out a form which is actually an opt in form that you can set up using a lead generation software.
By doing this you will get an email notification that someone wants to purchase something and at the same time, you can add them to different email subscriber lists which is another part of the affiliate system.
These are two easy ways to track the sales and it will require follow ups and constant communication with the business. It’s recommended to keep a record of every lead so you can keep track as well.
Completing the affiliate system cycle (Money cycle)
This is the most important part if you want to make money with any affiliate program you use on your blog.
Through the affiliate system you set up, you will be able to keep the clients email like I mentioned earlier. Now I am going to show you some of the things you can do with this information in your affiliate system cycle to make more sales and build a reader relationship.
Car Rental Example
Let’s go back to the renting a car example. Think about the readers profile. Obviously they are planning on driving around the country so just by knowing this, you can use this little bit of information to build a relationship.
Going back to Lead Pages and the email subscriber list, once your readers opt-ins you can then separate him into a dedicated email sequence you created for this type of reader.
For the person renting a car, you can create an automated email sequence full of quality information to help your reader. As soon as you develop this relationship, you can begin to add affiliate links and promote other relevant products which equals more sales.
In order to do this, you need to sign up for a email marketing tool that allows you to create different lists, keep track of open rates and automate email sequences.
Email Marketing Tool
Any person that makes money online knows that the money is in your subscribers list and this is a necessary tool to have. There are many tools out there but if you’re serious about making money from your blog, we recommend a paid tool such as Aweber.
Another example is if someone is booking a family hotel, you know they are looking for family friendly activities. If you happen to offer tours in your affiliate system that are family friendly, you can include them in your email sequence.
This creates more opportunities for sales from the same client and furthers your relationship with them. Remember it’s important to continually tweak your email sequence to see what works better for your audience.
Affiliate system chart
That being said, here is a flow chart of the complete affiliate system working in your niche.
It’s the same concept as affiliate marketing: someone clicks on your affiliate link, buys something you make money. However, with this concept you will be able to keep their email address and add them to your various email sequences to grow your reader relationship and promote other products.
How to create email sequences
Having an email marketing software is a must nowadays and I highly recommend you to get one and start building your list. I know there are free versions but premium services offer extra features that will help take your business to the next level.
If you need some tips on how to get started with creating email sequences, follow these steps below.
2) Once you have your account ready, click on Create a list. Fill out all the information required and don’t forget to set up a thank you email (readers love this).
3) Click on Messages and then Follow Up Series.
4) Click on Create a message and start creating your emails.
As for when to send your messages, that is up to you but there are many resources that offer insight into the best time to send emails.
I hope that you learned a little bit more about affiliate marketing, how to implement it in your travel blog and how you can take it one step further for niche specific blogs.
I want to thank everyone who came to our talk at TBEX Asia, we really appreciate it! I’ll be publishing more in-depth guides and articles on taking your travel blog to a business level so don’t forget to subscribe for all the updates.
And if you found this information useful, feel free to pass it on to anyone else who you think might enjoy it.