Affiliate marketing is a strategy that many bloggers and content marketers rely on as an additional revenue source — or even a major stream of income. Often those conversions depend on how you present information on a given product or service through a blog post, video, podcast or other medium.
As a web developer or designer, you have an advantage. The reason is simple. Because you are in a direct, one-to-one working relationship with a client, your influence is much greater when it comes to suggesting products or services for a project you will be delivering.
Affiliate links are a matter of trust
Trust works two ways for affiliate marketers. They should not only build trust with their readers, but also trust the products and services they are promoting. But for web designers and developers, getting a client to use an affiliate link brings even more trust into the equation because even though it’s a small part of the project, it can have a huge impact on your client relationship and the long-term success of the project.
Whereas most people hope that a person clicks on an affiliate link, you can drive your customers to it directly by giving it as a professional recommendation.
When should you use affiliate links?
Use affiliate links while working on a project with a client:
Initial planning and discussion
At the very beginning, soon after you have secured your new client, make it a point to have a discussion around products and services that you recommend and disclose your relationship as an affiliate.
For some, this is the hardest part because, unfortunately, you might already have the misconception that affiliates are slimy. In fact, your client may have the same idea. But what I found in my designing days is that, because they have hired you, they have already placed considerable trust in you.
Simply say something like: “Sometime during this process, I will be sending you links to purchase XYZ service or product. Most of these are affiliate links. They are all products I know and trust and have used with other clients. And although I will make a few bucks from the sale, you will never pay more by using the link.”
Refer a hosting company
If your new client is looking for a host, you might either be a host reseller or an affiliate. In either case, often it’s a relationship that you have built with the host.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having two or three good hosting companies that you refer, as any one of them they may be the best solution for your client’s project.
In any case, there is nothing wrong, after discussing your client’s needs and deciding on a host, with asking them to use your link when purchasing.
Related: GoDaddy affiliate marketing programs
During site building
Once you have committed to a client project, there are a couple of ways to do this. First, you might choose to use your own licenses for plugins and themes, incorporating that into the overall project cost.
Or maybe you prefer to have your client purchase their own licenses as it gives them more freedom and allows for more flexibility in the relationship.
If you choose to do the latter, once you decide on what is needed, there is nothing wrong with asking your client to use your link when purchasing.
If you have a continued relationship with your client, there will probably be times when they need to grow out their site or add new functionality. This gives you the opportunity to make recommendations and suggestions. At this point in your relationship, it may even become easier for your client to simply ask for the link when they get ready to make the purchase.
Use affiliate links when writing blog posts for your own site
If you write a blog post, existing and past clients might read it. Consider using affiliate links, although sparsely, in posts where you are sharing solutions.
But helpful, content-rich posts can easily be sprinkled with a couple of links.
A word of caution on adding affiliate link banners to your posts and sidebar: If your site has a blog, but primarily is there to cultivate new customers, any distraction can pull your prospect’s attention away. Make sure you understand the focus of your site and don’t divert your visitor from the reason they were engaging in your content in the first place.
Use affiliate links in a Resources page on your site
You might want to create a page on your site with trusted resources. Although you might not get tons of traffic to that page, it’s a good option to have if you want to direct someone there.
For example, if a past client asks you about a new plugin and you have it on your resource page, you can easily provide the answer to them and then request that if they decide to purchase it, here is a link. Likely you have already built that trust with them and they won’t question the link.
In addition, you may not want to have a link in your main menu to this page. Again, think about what you want visitors to your site to actually do. As suggested before, it may be more of a page that you send people to and a better spot for the link might be in the footer so that anyone returning can find it.
Explain to your clients about the affiliate links you might send them. But also, as it is now law, let anyone who visits your site know that some links are affiliate links. You don’t need to put it by each link, but add it to your privacy/policy page and consider putting it somewhere on each page.
The need for transparency is key when it comes to affiliate marketing. Fulfilling legal and ethical requirements is as simple as adding a statement to your website and perhaps on each page.
For example, adding something as simple as this to your footer along with your copyright will work:
“Please note that links on this site may be affiliate links. By clicking on them you don’t pay any more and I make a few bucks.”
On our site, it is not only in the footer. We also add the same text at the end of each of our blog posts.
Build your affiliate income
As a web developer or designer, you have the perfect opportunity to add an extra income stream through affiliate marketing. Once you have built the habit of sharing links with clients, you will learn how natural it becomes and how accepting clients will be.
In fact, as trust and relationships are built, it will probably surprise you how many clients down the road might send you an email that they are purchasing a specific product or service and ask you if you have an affiliate link they can use. I still get those emails.
How far you go with affiliate marketing is up to you
In the end, you will be the one who needs to decide if this is something you want to add to your business model. You may refuse to be involved with any kind of affiliates and that is OK. But don’t let anyone discourage you. You alone should make the decision.