Has your blog been penalized by Google for whatever reason?  Are you looking for another, more sustainable (and Google friendly) way to bump up your online income?

Affiliate Marketing Has A So So Reputation

You may want to consider affiliate marketing. Some think affiliate marketing sounds sleazy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  If you do it the right way it’s a great avenue to help solve your readers’ problems.  And it’s a legitimate advertising tactic for many mainstream businesses.  Within a few years, I predict it will be very difficult to find a business that doesn’t have affiliate marketing as part of their ad budget (or at least considered it).

But why should you care about affiliate marketing?  Because:

#1- it’s got huge potential to make you money and…

#2- if you choose your programs wisely, you can truly help solve your readers problems

So the next question is, how can you be successful at affiliate marketing in a crowded niche like personal finance?  It’s tough to get conversions if everyone out there is offering the same affiliate programs as you.  I’m sure many of you have tried a few of the popular ones like Mint or various brokerages and credit card offers.  But if everyone promotes them, how do you differentiate yourself?

Stand Out From The Crowd

I suggest you go beyond a banner ad or review post.  Start by figuring out a common, but very specific problem in your niche.  Then lay out an action plan to solve that problem and weave in affiliate programs as supportive tools.  The action plan can be a single post or better yet a series of posts or an entire authority website.

Here’s a few examples to get you brainstorming:

Problem # 1 How can you save enough to reach your retirement goals? Solution: Lay out various retirement scenarios and a detailed approach to budgeting at different income levels.  Affiliate Support: Weave in programs like Mint and brokerages.

Problem # 2 How do you book an economical trip to Europe? Solution: Create a list of itineraries for different budgets and tips for booking air, land, and sea travel.   Affiliate Support:  Weave in travel sites, cruises, travel insurance, or even rental houses (like VRBO.com)

Problem # 3 How to plan a wedding on a budget? Solution: Create a week by week action plan for coordinating the event.  Specify when decisions need to be made and tactics to get deals on each aspect.  You could even lay out recommended spending scenarios based on how much a couple has to spend.  Affiliate Support:  Weave in budgeting software, formal wear and dresses, invitations, flowers, photography, Honeymoon travel, and even jewelry!

Getting Started

A good first step is to create a list of problems in your niche.  Try going through your blog comments and see if there are any tough questions you’ve helped answer.   The tougher the question, the more content you can provide in your action plan!  I’m sure if you thought about it, there’s at least one thing you know how to do really well (and that someone else is interested in learning).

Once you’ve selected an interesting problem, start outlining your solution.  I like to break out the solution into as many segments of detailed content as possible.  For each segment, think about what type of product could help solve that part of the problem.  Then go to Google and type in the “product + affiliate program”.  There’s an affiliate program for just about everything, so if you can’t find one let me know and I’ll even help you brainstorm!  Just be careful that you only choose products that are helpful and you would actually use yourself.  Don’t insert products just because you see big commission rates or you’ll quickly lose any chance of building an audience.

Affiliate Post Examples

* Personal Capital Review – A Sit Down With The CEO – This is my Personal Capital review post I wrote after sitting down with the CEO, COO, and VP of Marketing for two hours at their HQ. Because it is unique, it has done a great job in search. It’s thoroughly and insightful, unlike other review posts where the author doesn’t even use the product!

* Motif Investing Review: The ETF Killer? – Another meaty review post I wrote after sitting down with 50 Motif Investing employees in engineering, research, marketing, and the CEO. The review is extremely thorough, and I absolutely love their value proposition of letting individuals become their own fund managers for cheap.

* Prosper P2P Performance Review – Prosper is also based here in San Francisco, and I wrote about my returns after waiting two years to see how things panned out. Most other review posts just slap together something immediately.

All three review posts rank very highly in Google, and so they should. I am an authority affiliate who has actually spent hours sitting down with the very people who work at the companies I review. For Personal Capital, I’ve literally worked in their SF and Redwood City Offices for over 1,500 hours from Nov 2013 – Feb 2015. For Motif Investing, I’ve spent about 200 hours so for in their offices in San Mateo. And for Prosper, I’ve had multiple lunches with their marketing people in San Francisco.

Write great reviews and you’ll do fantastic in affiliate marketing, especially if you use the products (I use all three) and truly believe they will help your readers! You can make good money online as a blogger. You just need to stick around long enough to watch the flowers bloom!

Updated for 2016 and beyond.