Last updated on May 19, 2021
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YouTube is in a fantastic position. It’s the second most visited website globally and the second most used search engine. It has over one billion users, and creators upload millions of videos daily. If YouTube were a standalone company, it would be worth more than $150 billion, which is more than many corporations listed on the S&P 500. The number of channels earning $100,000 is very impressive.
Of all the ways to earn money on YouTube, advertising revenue stands out in most people’s minds. The YouTube Partner Program (YPP) enables users to earn money from advertisements served on their videos. A channel must reach 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months and 1,000 subscribers to join YPP. Google AdSense issues payments to content creators monthly.
Ad revenue is an excellent way to make money from uploading videos, but you might not qualify for YPP or you might want to attract additional income. That’s where affiliate marketing comes in. Many YouTubers double as affiliate marketers and generate commissions for selling products and services indirectly.
Affiliate marketing is a performance-based advertising model. An affiliate (publisher) promotes a product or service online and receives compensation for achieving a specific objective or action. A merchant (advertiser) specifies the goal, which is usually a valid sale. For example, the merchant will pay an affiliate a 30 percent sales commission. The merchant may use one or multiple cost per action (CPA) and compensation arrangements, such as cost per sale (CPS) and cost per lead (CPL). These are also known as pay per sale and pay per lead.
Affiliate marketing on YouTube is legal just like other social media networks. However, if the primary purpose of your content and activities are to drive people off YouTube and onto other sites, it will likely violate YouTube’s spam policies.
Many YouTubers do not disclose their affiliate links, but they should. The FTC has disclosure guidelines about affiliate marketing to help educate viewers, increase transparency, and reduce conflicts of interest. Standard practice is to disclose affiliate links in description sections and the channel’s about page. For example, “The video and description may contain affiliate links. If you click on a link, I may receive a commission. Money earned helps to support my channel.” There are various ways of saying the same thing so craft a statement to your liking.
YouTube Affiliate Marketing
Here are a few ways to promote affiliate links on YouTube.
1. Video Descriptions
Video descriptions are the second most valuable area after videos. A description is used to describe a video’s content, creator, copyright details, improve search engine optimization (SEO), and direct traffic to websites. Many publishers place affiliate links in their descriptions.
A best practice is to use a URL shortener to shorten links. Otherwise, links might appear unnecessarily long, unappealing, and spammy. A word to a few words should precede your link for context. For example, “I use Grammarly to check my grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Install its browser app for free: ow.ly/VWwi3055f25” “Install its browser app for free” is a call-to-action. A call-to-action (CTA) consists of words that urge an individual to take a specific action, for example, buy now, learn more, and click here. Use CTAs in your descriptions to get people clicking.
Video comment sections enable creators and viewers to interact. If you’ve enabled comments for your video, you can post, like, and dislike comments, and reply to other people’s comments. Also, you can edit and delete your comments. A creator can pin a comment to the top of the section for greater visibility. Viewers will see the comment at the top with the “Pinned by” icon and channel name.
You can add affiliate links to your comments and pinned posts. However, you should do so in a clear, non-spammy way. For example, “My favorite WordPress list building plugin is Bloom by Elegant Themes. Learn more: owl.ly/sfdf31d” If your viewers are asking questions or wanting recommendations, you can add affiliate links to your replies as well.
Some affiliates post links, with or without comments, on numerous channels, which is a terrible strategy. Community settings allow creators to manage comments, live chats, and block links. When “block links” is selected, new comments with hashtags and URLs are held for review, and live chat messages with URLs are blocked. Furthermore, YouTube has comment mechanisms and filters in place to thwart spam. For example, YouTube will move some comments to “Held for review” and “Likely spam” folders for creators to approve and decline. Users who abuse comments and discussion/community forums run the risk of getting suspended and terminated from the platform.
3. Community Page
The community tab allows creators to post updates, create polls, share GIFs, and interact with subscribers and visitors. Building a community helps to foster a deeper connection with your audience and can lead to long-term channel growth. It’s also an excellent place to add affiliate links. Visit my community page for an example.
4. About Description & Links
Under the about tab, you can add 10+ links. Many creators add links to their sites and social media accounts. Links should relate to your channel, topics, and videos to increase clicks and conversions. For instance, if you create fitness videos, direct your viewers to products and services that you use and recommend.
Cards and end screens direct viewers to specific videos, playlists, channels, websites, merchandise, and crowdfunding campaigns. You can add up to five cards and four end screen elements to a video.
Affiliate marketing with cards is tricky because you can only promote your website(s) and sites approved by YouTube. Instead, many affiliates use cards to direct viewers to their sites, which contain affiliate links. Secondly, YouTube supports many websites that have affiliate programs including Shopify, Etsy, Ticketmaster, and Microsoft. Therefore, it’s possible to add affiliate links from specific sites.
What happens if you redirect to an unauthorized site? While sophisticated publishers might be tempted to redirect users by using custom links, you should avoid trying to game the system if you want to remain on YouTube. YouTube states,
Don’t use cards to further redirect to unauthorized sites from your associated website. Make sure that your associated websites comply with our Community Guidelines, Terms of Service, and other policies for this feature. Violations can result in your videos being removed, strikes against your account, and/or termination of your Google account. Refer to YouTube’s policies for more information.
Showcasing URLs in videos doesn’t make sense and is amateurish. Instead, savvy marketers prompt and direct viewers to links in their descriptions, cards, and end screens. For example, “check out the links in the description section for more information” or “click on my card for a 40 percent discount.”
You can feature videos on your channel’s home tab for returning subscribers and new visitors. Featured videos can attract above-average views, so you’ll want to add affiliate links to your descriptions.
If you promote your YouTube videos on social media, you can include affiliate links. Suppose you’re about to post your latest video on Facebook. You could add a brief description and an affiliate link.