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For some bloggers and website owners, affiliate marketing income seems to be as elusive as Ahab’s Moby Dick, while others claim to break five figures or more. So which one is it? Can you really make a sizable income from affiliate commissions?

I have been travel blogging since 2007, and for the first eight to 10 years, I was definitely in the Ahab category. It was frustrating. I put out a lot of high-quality content, added affiliate links and banners, and if I was lucky, I made a sale every couple of months. Why wasn’t it working?

I decided to study and analyze how successful bloggers were doing affiliate marketing and learn from them. After months of research, I boiled it down to two simple points that separated my (failed) approach from their successful strategy. After implementing these two changes, my sales went from a handful every couple of months to a solid four-figure monthly income stream.

1. Know your audience

For effective affiliate marketing, you need to know who your readers are and what they are interested in buying. If you mainly write about budget travel tips for young travelers on their first  and your readers fall into this travel group, your affiliate link to Bali’s luxury hotel for $500 a night is not going to convert.

Get to know your readers. Learn about their demographics, location, and behaviors. Do they prefer one hotel booking engine over another? Do they book last minute or plan months in advance? Do they tend to click on text links or widgets with images?

A great way to learn about your readers is by looking at your Google Analytics. Under the Audience tab, you will find a lot of information about your website visitors’ demographics, including age, gender, and location. Under the Events tab, you will discover which links your readers click on, and you can track the ones that perform best.

Another option is to run a survey and find out more about your audience. This is a great way to fill in the gaps and ask for more detailed information about your readers’ preferences and behaviors.

Testing is crucial to confirm your findings. Try different link colors, buttons, or calls to action. Try various product platforms and test which one performs better.

2. Timing and targeting

Timing and targeting go hand in hand. Whether your traffic comes from search engines or social media, you need to find the right people at the right time and present them the right content to make a sale.

Imagine your reader like this: They have made their decision to go to New York. They know they want to do a food tour. The only thing they are not sure about is which food tour is right for them. They sit in front of their computer, credit card in hand, ready for you to tell them which tour to book.

If you have an article titled “Best Coffee Shops in New York,” you will have a hard time converting your reader to book a hotel. However, if you add a link to a “Coffee and Sweets Walking Tour in NYC” article, you might get a few sales.

The best strategy, however, is to write specific and targeted affiliate articles. Many bloggers call these “buying guides” that fit your reader profile. Instead of adding semi-related links, you write specific articles focused on one goal: affiliate sales.

These articles target precise niches that include buying terms such as “Best ‘X’ in

X’”, “‘X’ Review”, “‘X’ vs. ‘Y’ Comparison”, and other keywords that people use when they are ready to buy. While these keywords are often very low in volume, they tend to convert better and are easier to rank for. As a small blogger, it is almost impossible to rank for keywords such as “Hotels in New York.” However, with a keyword like “Best Family-Friendly Hotels in Brooklyn,” it is much easier to rank high on search engines.

It is crucial to come across as authentic. It is best if you write about a topic you are familiar with, or your readers will sense that you are not genuine. Don’t write about food tours in NYC if you have never been to the Big Apple. You don’t necessarily need to have tried every food tour on the market, but the more personal experience you have, the more your readers will trust you.


After implementing these two steps on my blogs, I started to see significant growth in affiliate income. Implementing these two simple strategies allowed me to transition to a full-time blogging career and created a solid four-figure passive income stream every month.