10 Ethical Tips to Monetize Your Podcast with Affiliate Marketing

Whether you're podcasting for business or pleasure, promoting affiliate products and services can be a great way to monetize your podcast. Here are 10 tips to help you use affiliate marketing effectively.

Before I talk about this, keep in mind that you don't have to monetize in order to profit from your podcast. I don't think monetization should ever be your primary focus, even for a commercial podcast. Nonetheless, bringing in some extra money can help you continue or improve your podcast.

You probably won't get rich with affiliate income, but it can be a nice added benefit to give you a few extra dollars and better serve your audience.

What is affiliate marketing?

An affiliate program is where a company gives you a special link or code you can promote to your audience. When people take action with that link or code, you may earn a commission. These are usually based on a percentage of what the referral spends, anywhere from 1%–75%. But some programs do pay a flat rate for particular things.

Affiliate programs are different from sponsorships. Nearly anyone can join affiliate programs (as long as you comply with their terms and maybe meet some basic requirements), but sponsorships are more targeted and carefully picked.

“Affiliate marketing” may sound like a dirty term, but it really isn't. You are delivering extra value to your audience by recommending something of value, and you receive value in return. That's the ideal model.

1. Seek to meet your audience's needs

Your listener/viewer is most important in monetizing your podcast. If what you want to promote isn't relevant to your them, either by need or desire, then it's not worth whatever income you might earn.

Get to know your audience to discover their needs. Ask them questions about their pain-points, what they enjoy, how they use your content, and such.

You may think a particular affiliate program is a perfect fit for your audience, but they may not need it, want it, or be able to afford it.

For example, the average listener to my Once Upon a Time podcast probably doesn't a way to watch the TV show, because they already do! They're also probably not interested in Internet-business products.

When you meet your audience's needs with your recommendations (usually within relevant context), your audience will be far more likely to take action.

2. Promote what you truly believe in

When you promote something, it's a form of endorsement from your reputation. Companies know host-endorsed sponsorships are far more powerful than ad-insertions, and even preferred by the audience. So consider carefully whether you truly believe your audience will be well-served by what you're promoting.

It's okay to use affiliate links to things you may not like (such as within comparisons or reviews). After all, not everyone will agree with your conclusion and your criticism may actually convince them why they want the thing you don't recommend.

For example, I am an affiliate for a podcast-transcription service, just in case someone truly needs that, but I don't promote it. If you've been following me for longer than a couple months, then you probably know how negative I am toward podcast-transcriptions for show notes.

You don't have to limit yourself to only what you've used, but try at least research anything you recommend, even if only to know the quality of the company enough to endorse new things they offer. For example, when Harry's sponsored one episode of The Audacity to Podcast, I got to try a Harry's razor and I compared it to a fresh razor from the company I had been using. That experience gave me personalize talking points that allowed me to be more effective. And in case you're wondering, yes, I'm still using and paying for Harry's razors because I truly believe in what I advertised.

3. Become an ambassador

Instead being merely a catalog of recommendations, promote the product or service as if it was your own or you had some vested interest in it.

Here are some ideas:

  • Make a review and explain why you like the thing, especially why you like it more than alternatives.
  • Make tutorials showing how to use the product or service.
  • Create a landing page that educates your referral on their decision instead of merely pointing them to the product page.
  • Offer to help your audience with the decision or with the thing you recommend.
  • Create a bonus for high-value affiliate/joint-venture (JV) deals.

Becoming an ambassador for your recommendations will help your audience make their decision, build further influence and authority for yourself, and possibly even open a relationship between you and the provider. For example, I now podcast with an Electro-Voice RE320 that was given to me by the company because they were familiar with my videos and endorsements.

4. Make it relevant and get creative

The two most-common affiliate-promotion techniques I hear are either fake-sponsorships (“This episode is brought to you by …,” which is legally questionable) or contextual recommendations (“buy this thing we're talking about at …”).

Contextual recommendations will definitely be the most relevant to your audience. For example, when you're talking about a particular book, that's a perfect opportunity to promote your affiliate link for that book.

You can also get creative with your promotions. You could have a special segment that promotes an affiliate, such as “what I'm listening to/reading/watching this week.” Or a “tool/tip/recommendation of the week.”

Here are a couple examples (you're welcome to copy these).

The featured podcaster microphone of this week is the Electro-Voice RE320. I use this microphone myself, and so do Dave Jackson from School of Podcasting and Stargate Pioneer from Better Podcasting. Tweet me if you use an RE320, as well! And if you would like to use this same great microphone, learn more about it and buy it through theaudacitytopodcast.com/re320 and that will help support the podcast.

This tool of the week is TextExpander, suggested by John Doe. This is what he uses to save time entering simple and even complicated text into almost anything. When we looked at TextExpander, we can see why John and many others recommend it! Visit theaudacitytopodcast.com/textexpander to learn more, get your own copy, and even support the podcast at no extra cost to you! Thanks for the suggestion, John!

5. Give simple calls to action

If you're going to recommend a product ensure the process for your audience is as simple as possible. If you have to give instructions beyond visiting a simple URL or promo code, then try to simplify.

For example, asking people to visit your website, find a banner in your sidebar, click or search for the product, and then purchase is too many steps. Instead, give them a simple and memorable URL and include it in your show notes.

This is one reason I so-often recommend Pretty Link (Lite or Pro version). It's much easier for me and my audience if I say, “Try SiteGround's great web-hosting at theaudacitytopodcast.com/siteground.” Both free and paid versions of Pretty Link allow you to make those simple URL redirects (which should be 307 temporary redirects).

If you have a lot of URLs or recommendations, then point your audience to your show notes for the appropriate links. For example, I say, “Visit theaudacitytopodcast.com/affiliatetips for the links to everything I just recommended” instead of overwhelming you with a dozen different links.

6. Track each podcast's earnings separately

Most affiliate programs allow you to add sites, campaigns, IDs, or other forms of tracking. This allows you to see which podcast or “brand” is earning income. This also means you don't have to create multiple affiliate accounts, which is especially nice with platforms like Amazon Associates where your percentage goes up when you refer more sales.

I don't recommend that you get crazy making separate campaigns for every episode (unless the process is as simple as updating a URL). Start with tracking simply the separate podcasts or brands that you host.

When I first started the Podcasting Deal Alerts newsletter, I made the mistake of using the same Amazon tracking ID as The Audacity to Podcast. Thus, after a very profitable holiday season, I had no idea whether that increase in profit was from the deal alerts. Now, I have a separate tracking ID for the deal alerts so I can see how profitable it is to my subscribers and to myself.

7. Comply with laws, terms, and commonsense ethics

Money makes things complicated. It's best for you to disclose when you'll be compensated for a recommendation. I know this can feel tricky because then your audience may think you're compromising your morals simply for a few dollars. That's where you must invest in building your authority, reputation, and influence. Also, how you promote the affiliate deal can also inspire or dispel suspicions.

Furthermore, make sure you read the terms of your affiliate relationship. The most common things you need to know are where and how you're allowed to promote your affiliate relationship. With any affiliate link, it's reasonable to assume using your own affiliate link is against their terms and will get you kicked out.

Also consider commonsense ethics. For example, don't promote illegal activities, don't promote adult things to an audience of minors, don't promote scams or marketing traps, and such.

A potential affiliate approached me for my Once Upon a Time podcast with an offer that sounded like a perfect fit. We set up the agreement and when I tested the affiliate link, I was horrified to see the URL bounce through several questionable URLs (most of them blocked by my ad-blocker); and then the final landing page seemed like nothing more than an email-harvesting tool to add people to a marketing email list. That smelled like spam to me. I immediately ended that relationship and explained why.

Your relationship with your audience is worth far more than money. Be very careful and respectful of that relationship and your own reputation.

8. Simplify your processes

Promoting and linking to different affiliates can start to get complicated. Here are the three best tools I recommend to simplify your own process.

  1. TextExpander—This can make linking to affiliates as quick as typing a short abbreviation. You can also do fancier things, like turning a standard URL into an affiliate URL.
  2. Pretty Link Pro—This is one of my favorite and most-valuable WordPress plugins. Not only does it allow for easy friendly-link creations (like /affiliate), but the Pro version can do more advanced things such as automatically hyperlinking keywords with your affiliate link (like this: Pretty Link Pro) and version 2 can dynamically redirect users based on their location (for example, theaudacitytopodcast.com/amazon takes USA visitors to the USA Amazon store, Canadian visitors to Amazon.ca, and so on).
  3. AAWP—This is my favorite Amazon-affiliate link-maker for WordPress. Inserting an Amazon affiliate link into your WordPress content is as easy as pressing couple button and searching for your product—all without leaving WordPress! The links can even be internationalized so visitors in other countries will be taken to the relevant search results (or even directly to the product) in the Amazon store in their country.

9. Remember your international audience

Because podcasting is global and you probably have an audience outside your own country, ensure your affiliate links work for the majority of your international audience.

Some promotions may be limited to only a particular country and can't be helped. Others may be available worldwide. And others, such as Amazon, may need to be localized.

That's where Pretty Link Pro or AAWP can make things much easier by allowing you to internationalize your links. For example, I might point you to /atr2100 to buy the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB microphone. But in the United Kingdom, that microphone is twice the cost of the Samson Q2U, so I could make /atr2100 point UK visitors to equivalent microphone.

10. Be patient

Affiliate income is usually a slow build. When your content is timeless, every affiliate promotion has the potential to exponentially increase your income.

Here's how that works. Assume that every episode you publish has one relevant affiliate link. With only one published episode, you get have one opportunity to earn money from each “podsumer” (my term for podcast-consumers). 50 episodes later and you have 50 times as many opportunities.

Plus, any one of your old episodes could be found and inspire someone to purchase through your link.

Here's another way to look at it. Assume each episode of your podcast earns $1 its first month, 50¢ the next, and 10¢ per month after that. With 50 published episodes, you could be earning $5 per month from episodes you already published in addition to what you earn from new episodes!

Yes, you make get a wave of income with each new episode, but every wave still leaves continuing ripples.

What has been most effective for you in using affiliate links? Comment below or tweet @theDanielJLewis.

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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.

About the Author
As an award-winning podcaster, Daniel J. Lewis gives you the guts and teaches you the tools to launch and improve your own podcasts for sharing your passions and finding success. Daniel creates resources for podcasters, such as the SEO for Podcasters and Zoom H6 for Podcasters courses, the Social Subscribe & Follow Icons plugin for WordPress, the My Podcast Reviews global-review aggregator, and the Podcasters' Society membership for podcasters. As a recognized authority and influencer in the podcasting industry, Daniel speaks on podcasting and hosts his own podcast about how to podcast. Daniel's other podcasts, a clean-comedy podcast, and the #1 unofficial podcast for ABC's hit drama Once Upon a Time, have also been nominated for multiple awards. Daniel and his son live near Cincinnati.
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[…] agree with Daniel J. Lewis when he says that when you promote something, it is a form of endorsement from your reputation. […]

6 years ago

Great article; thanks for putting it out there.


[…] agree with Daniel J. Lewis when he says that when you promote something, it is a form of endorsement from your reputation. […]

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