The Blogger’s Guide To Affiliate Links: rStyle, ShopStyle, Amazon, And More
Using affiliate links on your blog is one of the best ways to monetize it.
I earn a good chunk of my blogging revenue (over $5,000 every month) in affiliate income, so if you’re not using affiliate links on your blog, I recommend you do this ASAP!
The good thing about affiliate links is that even absolute beginners can use them. Even if you’re not getting much traffic yet, I recommend you start using affiliate links. You have nothing to lose, and you’ll start monetizing as soon as your traffic increases.
In This Post
I’ll be going over all of the best of ways of earning affiliate income for bloggers. This includes Amazon, Affiliate Networks (LinkShare and ShareASale in particular), RewardStyle, and ShopStyle. I’m currently using ALL of these, so I’ll be telling you all the details: what they are, my experience, as well as the pros and cons for each revenue stream.
How Affiliate Links Work
In a nutshell, affiliate links contain a tracking code in the URL. If someone buys through your affiliate link, you’ll make a commission. This commission varies but it’s generally between 5% to 15% depending on the merchant.
In order to have affiliate links on your site, you have to partner with companies that offer an affiliate program. Many retailers do, and they’re either a part of a bigger Affiliate Network (like Linkshare, ShareASale or rStyle) or manage their own programs (like Amazon).
Most Affiliate Networks and Programs are relatively easy to join. The biggest exception is rStyle.
Affiliate Network: The big network that manages a multitude of Affiliate Programs for brands. For example, Linkshare and ShareASale are Affiliate Networks. They host Affiliate Programs for Sephora, Nordstrom, Forever 21, and so on.
Merchant/Advertiser: The retailers and companies that are on the Affiliate Network (such as Sephora, Nordstrom, Forever 21).
Publisher: You, the blogger or website owner.
Commission: The percentage of the total sale that goes to the publisher. You get a commission based on everything that was purchased through your affiliate link, whether or not the specific product you link to was purchased.
Cookie Duration: When someone clicks your affiliate link, they get a cookie. The cookie will expire after a specific length of time, which means your affiliate link will become invalid. So if the Cookie Duration is 24 hours, you get a commission as long as a purchase is made within 24 hours, after which the cookie expires.
Let’s start with something that ANY blogger can use and start earning from relatively quickly: Amazon.
Amazon, the biggest online retailer, has its own affiliate program. And it’s great for multiple reasons, especially for beginner bloggers.
- You can easily get accepted (as long as your blog isn’t violating any rules). You don’t need any traffic.
- People actually buy from Amazon all the time! This means that you’re more likely to get a commission.
- Creating links is simple, and their whole platform is user-friendly. You can see all your stats and track your progress.
- They have a huge product selection, so the odds are you’ll find relevant products to link to.
- The cookie window is only 24 hours. Which isn’t super uncommon in affiliate programs, but you’re not getting paid unless the purchase is made within those 24 hours.
- Low commissions. Amazon used to have okay-ish commissions, but they’ve cut them quite dramatically in recent years.
- Also keep in mind that you’re not getting paid until your balance reaches $100. If you’re just starting out, it might take a few months to receive a payment.
What’s The Commission?
The commission starts at 1% for categories such as Health & Personal Care or Grocery. It averages at about 4% for most items. At the top, we have Luxury Beauty with 10% commission.
Here are the rates:
Amazon also offers bounties depending on what the shopper signs up for. For example, if a shopper signs up for Amazon’s baby Registry through your affiliate link, you’ll earn $3.00. You can click here for a full list of the bounties as well as the commission structure.
Note that you don’t need to link directly to Amazon’s Baby Registry (or any other service) to earn the bounty. The reader simply needs to click any of your affilaite links and sign up.
How to Become an Amazon Affiliate
Click here to sign up for Amazon’s Affiliate Program. You’ll need your Amazon account information, or you can create a new account.
2. Affiliate Networks
If you’re just starting out as a blogger, I also recommend you join an affiliate network (particularly the ones I mention below). This is the best way of earning affiliate income when your traffic isn’t big enough for rStyle (I’ll go through this later).
Affiliate Networks are good because:
- They’re huge, meaning you can join a ton of Affiliate Programs from top brands and retailers. This also includes the fashion and beauty industry.
- Anyone can join them, and they typically don’t require a big audience.
A few popular Affiliate Networks are:
- LinkShare (Rakuten)
- Pepperjam Network
- Impact Radius
- CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction)
I’m only going to talk about LinkShare and ShareASale, which are also my favorite. I think most bloggers will mainly benefit from those two.
If there’s one Affiliate Network you should join, this is it. LinkShare is the most popular network in the fashion and beauty niche right now, hosting retailers like Nordstrom, ASOS, Sephora, Bloomingdale’s, Forever 21, Birchbox, and Net-A-Porter.
Who’s On LinkShare?
Here are some of the Affiliate Programs you can join on LinkShare:
- Charlotte Tilbury (8%)
- Nordstrom (2%)
- Net-A-Porter (Private)
- e.l.f. (5%)
- Marc Jacobs Beauty (8%)
- Smashbox (8%)
- Laura Mercier (8%)
- Estee Lauder (4%)
- Bobbi Brown (8%)
- Benefit (4%)
- The Body Shop (3%)
- Sephora (Private)
- Cult Beauty (5%)
- Kohl’s (4%)
- Wildfox (7%)
- Birchbox (5%)
- Betsey Johnson (7%)
- Forever 21 (4%)
- Bloomingdale’s (2%)
- JC Penny (3%)
- ASOS (7%)
What Are The Requirements To Join?
No requirements, and it’s free for publishers. Once you’re on the network, you’ll apply to all the Affiliate Programs you want. A few programs will have traffic or country restrictions, but most will accept you as long as you have a legitimate website.
How Do You Join LinkShare?
Click here and fill out the form. You’ll need to enter your contact info and website data.
I’d say that ShareASale is the second most important Affiliate Network for bloggers in general. If you’re in a healthy or green niche especially, this would be a great network to join. Anyone who’s a lifestyle, beauty, or fashion blogger will also find great opportunities.
Who’s On ShareASale?
- Shopbop (1%)
- Ulta (5%)
- QVC (1%)
- American Apparel (3%)
- American Eagle Outfitters (2%)
- Banana Republic (1%)
- Forever 21 (4%)
- Free People (4%)
- Gap (1%)
- Gilt (3%)
- LOFT (5%)
- Lululemon (2.5%)
- Mango (2%)
- Old Navy (1%)
- Philosophy (5%)
- Revolve Clothing (5%)
- ROMWE (10%)
- Urban Outfitters (5%)
- Zappos (8%)
What Are The Requirements To Join?
No requirements, and it’s also free for publishers. Once you’re on the network, you can apply to all the different Affiliate Programs, and in my experience most of them will accept you. The main requirement is having a legitimate website.
How Do You Join LinkShare?
Click here to create your account.
I’ve been on rStyle for only a few months now, but I’ve been seeing great results. So much that I’m in the process of changing most of my links to rStyle! I’ll tell you why it’s my favorite network in a little bit.
rStyle of RewardStyle is essentially an Affiliate Network like the ones mentioned above, but it’s very different. First of all, it’s blogger-focused, especially for the fashion blogging niche. It’s also more exclusive, meaning they don’t accept everyone who applies (true story, I got denied twice).
Because it’s especially tailored for bloggers, rStyle is sleek, easy to use, and most importantly, it combines ALL the major brands and retailers.
I mentioned that rStyle is different from the other Affiliate Networks mentioned. This is because they don’t have their own affiliate platform, and they use Affiliate Networks that are already in place. So rStyle comes between you (the blogger) and the Affiliate Network (like LinkShare or ShareASale).
This is actually a good thing, and I’ll tell you why below.
RewardStyle has a lot of advantages over the other Affiliate Networks.
First of all, rStyle is much bigger. If you’re a fashion or beauty blogger, it combines all the brands and retailers you’re talking about on your blog (basically, it combines all the Affiliate Networks in 1 place, so that you don’t have to join them all).
rStyle offers higher commissions. Because RewardStyle generates so many sales (through ALL their bloggers combined, which is huge!) they’re able to negotiate better commissions. I don’t think I can share exact numbers, but they offer higher commissions than you get through LinkShare and all the others. I was also told that their average cookie duration is 30 days, which is excellent.
Another huge bonus to rStyle is how easy it is to create links! If you’re not familiar with Affiliate Networks, you don’t know how time-consuming it is to create custom affiliate links. The struggle is real! It’s a time-suck, and rStyle makes it quick and painless thanks to their browser widget. 2 clicks. Done.
Another advantage of joining rStyle (and the reason why I joined them) is that they’re able to get any brand or retailer they want, whereas you as an individual blogger aren’t always able to do that. I’ve had trouble getting into some programs before, which is super frustrating.
rStyle is also more sleek and modern in design, and it’s much more user-friendly than other networks (which can be intimidating and hard to figure out).
Also, rStyle manages all the individual programs for you. Sometimes retailers decide to switch networks, and this is a bummer for bloggers. It means all our old links suddenly don’t work, and we have to go through the struggle of changing them. rStyle makes this easy for bloggers.
Their “customer service” is also top notch. Every blogger is assigned a manager to guide them and help them along the way.
It’s not as easy to get in, which is unfortunate for new bloggers. You need to have a social media presence and good engagement among other things.
One quirk I’ve had with rStyle is their limited reporting system. There’s no way of telling which products you’ve sold, and the exact commission for every order. You only see the commission you received (as pictured above) but you don’t have access to the total sale, individual items sold, or even the commission in percentages. LinkShare for example gives you all this information.
Another thing to consider is that rStyle has all the control on your links if you use them. They can drop commissions at any time, or do whatever they please. And if something happens to rStyle and they go down, your affiliate revenue will go to 0 overnight. You should always have a back-up plan, and never put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to affiliate earnings.
What’s The Commission?
The commission varies based on the advertiser. The minimum commission is 4.9% and the maximum commission is 30% (if we exclude some exceptions that offer even more). The average commission is a bit over 10%.
How To Get Into RewardStyle
rStyle claims that the following are determining factors:
- Large and growing audiences. many of our daily sales are coming through social networking sites like Pose, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and we also look for comments on your blog.
- Consistent posting (at least 3x a week) about monetizeable products.
- Quality imagery and original content that is both creative and aesthetically pleasing to your readers.
- Linking all linkable content, so that your readers will be directed to retailers’ sites.
- Consistent, clean and editorial design that pervades the whole blog, (like Luella & June, for example).
Note: From what I’ve seen, I believe that the first factor is by far the most important one. If you have a large audience, especially on social media, you’ll get accepted.
My Experience With RewardStyle
rStyle definitely only wants bloggers with established sites. I applied twice before getting accepted. Third time’s the charm! But that’s also when they changed their application form to include your website traffic and blog income, which I believe helped in my case (since my social media numbers didn’t reflect my traffic).
After getting in, I was immediately greeted by my manager who was helpful and friendly. She’s still always there to answer my questions, and I also get useful updates. It’s a well-oiled machine and one of the best networks in terms of efficiency. If you’re a newbie to affiliate links, they’re willing to work with bloggers to increase their revenue.
The biggest surprise when joining rStyle was their commission rates, which are higher than I expected. Their whole platform is easy to navigate, well-designed, and they have different widgets to make your life easier. One of them is their linking widget, which makes creating links super easy.
How To Sign Up
Click here to create an account and apply to rStyle.
Last but not least for beginner bloggers is ShopStyle. This one’s similar to rStyle but one major difference: they pay per click rather than sales/commission. This means that every click is monetized, and you get a few cents per click.
ShopStyle functions in the same way rStyle does, in the sense that they come between the blogger and the Affiliate Network. When someone clicks your ShopStyle affiliate link, you’ll automatically get about 5 cents per click. The cookie then goes to ShopStyle, and if the user makes a purchase through your link, it’s ShopStyle that gets the commission.
It’s a gamble, but it makes sense. Only a small percentage of users who click an affiliate link end up buying something.
So if you’re using commission-based affiliate links on your site, most clicks earn you $0. And every now and then, you get lucky and someone makes a purchase, which typically generates at least a few dollars in commission for you.
If you don’t have a big audience, ShopStyle might be a good option for you. Especially if you know your audience, and you know that they’re not big spenders (i.e. if you have a high click-through rate but low commission).
- Every single click is guaranteed to be monetized.
- They accept all bloggers and you can start earning immediately.
- Good for bloggers with little traffic.
- Good for bloggers who get many clicks with very few sales.
- User-friendly platform and modern design.
You might earn more with purchase-based commission. Like I said, it’s a gamble, but I believe that most bloggers typically earn more from purchase-based commission than paid clicks.
What’s The Commission?
For me, it’s roughly 5 cents per click.
My Experience With ShopStyle
ShopStyle was easy to join and quick to get the hang of. I use purchase-based commission links on my site, so I only wanted to test out ShopStyle.
A while ago I placed 2 ShopStyle links throughout my site as an experiment. In the last 6 months, those links received 1,700 clicks and my earnings were $85. This means that I’ve received exactly 5 cents per click.
How To Join ShopStyle
Just click here to create a new account. It’s easy to join.
To Sum It Up
Above are all my recommendations for bloggers who want to use affiliate links on their sites. Amazon is a must and will always come in handy. If you’re an established blogger, I recommend you join rStyle. I also suggest LinkShare and ShareASale to everyone, so you can familiarize yourself. Lastly, if you’re not getting a ton of traffic yet, ShopStyle might be a good option for you!
Personally I don’t like putting all my eggs in one basket in terms of affiliate links. Right now, I mainly use Amazon, LinkShare, and ShareASale, and I’m also switching over to rStyle. If you’re using rStyle, I believe it’s good to have a backup.
Hope this was helpful!
Do you use affiliate links on your blog? If so, what do you use? Tell me below!