Making money with your blog is a great goal, but figuring out how to do it can be daunting. There are a handful of ways, including selling your own products, ad networks, and affiliate programs. In today’s post we are going to address affiliate programs – what they are, how they differ from display ads and ad networks, and how to best use them.

What is an affiliate program?

In the simplest terms and affiliate program is a program where you sign up with a merchant company to promote their products or services. In exchange, you make a % of each sale that you send their way. Amazon is a common affiliate program, paying 2-5% on most sales that their affiliates send their way. We have a list of affiliate programs that we’ve found that offer products and services helpful for those with chronic illnesses, you can view that list here.

How do affiliate programs differ from ad networks and display ads?

Affiliate programs should not be confused with ad networks or display ads. Ad networks, like Google Adwords, pay you a flat fee (a few pennies typically) each time someone clicks a banner displayed on your site. Display ads are ads that are purchased on your site. A company may pay you a flat fee to display their ad on your sidebar for a month. The amount they pay is usually based and the amount of traffic your site has.

What’s the advantage of affiliate programs?

The advantage of and affiliate program over the other option is that you can make money with a smaller audience. With ad networks and display ads you are getting paid based on your traffic. If your traffic is low you will make pennies. It took me over a year to get my first $100 check from Google Adwords on But, with affiliate programs, you can make money promoting products that are very specific to your readers. As long as your readers are engaged you will probably make more money with a couple of really good affiliate programs than you will promoting ad networks.

How do you promote affiliate programs?

Affiliate programs can be promoted in a variety of ways, but your best bet is to promote them directly to your audience by talking about the products. Affiliate programs are ideal for products you actually use, because you will likely be talking about products you use and enjoy anyway.

Sidebar banners

You may want to add a section in your sidebar and/or your homepage that shows products you particularly find helpful. Make sure to link to those products using your affiliate links. You may also choose to include banners within your posts (these can be added using widgets, allowing you to set at what point in the post the banner(s) appear).

Blog mentions

Blog mentions are probably the best way to promote products via affiliate programs. Just remember to make sure that you include a disclaimer at the top of your posts that the posts may contain affiliate links (this is required by law). Talk about the products naturally. You might do product reviews, but you may also just mention your favorite products in other posts, or have posts that feature lists of your favorite products.

Social posts

You can promote your favorite products via posts on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. You may want to use a URL shortener when doing so, as affiliate links are often long. Legally, you should also include something to show that it’s an ad – #ad or #sponsored are common ways of doing this. Again, your best bet is to talk about products in a natural way, mentioning how much you enjoy them and the benefits you’ve found personally.

Email Promotion

If you have an email list, which you should, you can promote affiliate programs to your list in the emails that you send out. You may include them as a banner ad, or just as something you talk about as part of the email. You may also choose to devote an entire email to a specific product or service and promote it that way.


Some programs offer you a coupon code that you can give out instead of someone having to click a specific URL. If that is the case, make sure you tell people about that coupon code when you talk to them in person about that product. For products you really enjoy and find yourself talking about a lot, you may want to make up business cards that you can hand out that include your coupon code and/or the affiliate link.

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Julie Ryan

Julie Ryan is a freelance writer and editor. She blogs about living with chronic illness at - She is also a regular contributor to and

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