Affiliate Marketing on Youtube: Who does it and is it worth it?
In the time it takes you to read this sentence, hundreds of hours of new video will have been uploaded to YouTube.
Altogether, 6 billion hours of video are viewed on YouTube every month - close to 1 hour/month for every single living person on the planet.
So, of course, affiliate marketing on YouTube is a thing - and a wildly profitable one at that.
Who does it? How do you get into it? And is it actually worth investing in YouTube affiliate marketing?
Let’s find out.
What is YouTube Affiliate Marketing?
YouTube affiliate marketing is the process of creating videos and placing affiliate links in the actual videos (via annotations) or in video descriptions.
That’s as simple as it gets. Just as you might write a blog post on “how to install WordPress” with an affiliate link to ThemeForest, for example, you can create a video showing the WordPress installation process and include an affiliate link in the description:
Here’s an example of a link in the video description:
And here’s one in an annotation (sometimes called an overlay):
Whatever methods you use, the objective is the same: redirect traffic to an affiliate landing page.
(Or you can also direct users to an email sign-up form if you have a more nuanced funnel that promotes affiliate products).
Who is Doing YouTube Affiliate Marketing?
If you’re a serious content creator on YouTube, there’s a good chance you have at least one affiliate offer somewhere in one of your videos.
YouTube is so massively popular - among creators and consumers - that it just doesn’t make any sense not to.
However, it’s probably worth making a distinction here between casual marketers and professional marketers.
In the first category are serious content creators who happen to place the occasional affiliate link in their videos. For them, affiliate marketing is one more way for them to make money, not the only way (these folks often make money with ad views, platforms like Patreon, and sponsored content).
For instance, the StartUp Survival channel usually shares useful survival tips. In some videos, however, it includes affiliate links directing people to reviewed products.
In the second category are channels that exist solely to earn affiliate commissions. For such content creators, all content development revolves around its ability to earn affiliate commissions.
For example, this channel only has BlueHost review videos to earn affiliate commissions:
Fortunately for everyone, YouTube seems to have a lot more of the former than the latter (or, perhaps, their algorithm filters out the spammier content). And because of YouTube’s immense reach, it is possible to be a serious content creator and still make solid affiliate commissions.
For instance, Marques Brownlee (MKBHD) has high quality tech review videos where he frequently adds Amazon affiliate links:
Worth A Buy is another channel that reviews gaming products and tells viewers if the game/accessory/console is “worth a buy”.
The videos are high quality and make great money without being spammy.
What Type of Videos Can You Make to Generate Affiliate Revenue?
There are almost infinite different types, styles and formats of YouTube videos. However, there are a number of standard formats that have proven to be successful.
While most of these don’t lend themselves perfectly to affiliate marketing, there are a number of formats that do present the opportunity to promote products and services.
Product Review Videos
Single product reviews such as this video or comparison videos, such as the one below, are a great way to create videos that can promote products.
It has been suggested that 62% of consumers watch review videos before completing a purchase and 52% of customers are more likely to purchase a product featured in a YouTube product review video.
This is the perfect opportunity to create content that can help get that sale over the line for retailers while earning yourself some nice commission through the affiliate revenue.
How To Videos
This video showing people how to clean their gutters is a perfect example of the type of video that can be informative at the same time as recommending products.
It would be easy to put links in the description to purchase each of the products mentioned in the video at Amazon or Home Depot if you were signed up to either of their respective affiliate programs.
Best Of Videos
This video simply curates the commercials of the best lawn mowers on sale at the moment.
Now, we wouldn’t exactly recommend that you rip ten videos and cut them together in this manner. The real value comes from building yourself as an expert on the subject matter so that your audience values your opinion.
On the other hand, this post has over 7,000 views. Within the description, there are links to purchase each of the ten lawn mowers on Amazon.
It is easy to imagine similar round-up videos in various niches -
- Best Hair Straighteners
- Best Gas BBQs
- Best Golf Driver
- Best Keyword Research Tool
- Best Running Shoes
Each of these has the potential to be a successful video that can generate substantial affiliate revenue.
How Do You Get Traffic to Your YouTube Videos?
Google Organic Search
One way to get traffic to your YouTube videos is to rank in Google organic search.
For certain queries (such as the one below for “apple cider vinegar dosage”), you can see that YouTube videos occasionally rank.
You can use Ahrefs to come up with ideas for what posts you should make videos for. You want to develop videos for keywords that already have videos ranking.
To find out what keywords have videos ranking, you can use Ahrefs.
Start by putting your site in the Content Explorer.
From there, you can navigate to organic keywords.
Once you get here, it is simply a case of clicking “Features” and selecting the “ Video” option to reveal all of the search queries that you rank for where a video is also ranking.
You can make this more effective by also filtering for “Position” so that it only shows videos that are ranking on Page 1 of Google.
Not only can you do this for your own site, but if you are choosing not to launch one, you can do this for sites that would be competitors if you had your own website.
From this, you should have an endless stream of content ideas and a way to get traffic to them because you know that type of video ranks for a specific keyword.
PRO TIP: Remember to do keyword research so that you know if there is sufficient search traffic. It is probably not worth your time to create a video for a search query that only gets 20 searches per month.
The best way to get traffic to your videos is to build up a base of subscribers.
The top account on YouTube, PewDiePie, has over 56 million subscribers.
Every time he releases a new video, each of these subscribers can see in their subscription bar that there is a new video available.
As you can see on the left-hand side of the screen, there are a number of channels with numbers beside it who have released new videos.
On top of that, there is the added bonus of the recommended videos.
YouTube will recommend videos similar to the ones that a viewer regularly watches to them on their homepage.
As you can see, channels that I have subscribed to “MSNBC” and “Copa90” are featured prominently.
YouTube Related Videos
YouTube makes money through ads.
The more videos that you can get your viewers to watch, the more ads they will see. Similarly, if you can get users to come to your channel from other sites, such as Facebook, and have a long session viewing many videos, YouTube will give you more prominence in related videos.
YouTube wants you to attract as many users as possible back to YouTube to start a new session and wants them to watch as many videos as possible.
If you can do that, YouTube will work with you to promote your content as it is beneficial to them.
There is clearly more to gaining prominence in the related video section than that, but it is definitely a good place to start.
YouTube Organic Search
YouTube is the second largest search engine, behind Google.
Ranking in YouTube organic search can be an incredible source of highly targeted traffic.
YouTube organic search is the same in principle to Google organic search. There are various ranking factors, tips and tricks that can help you rank.
However, because of the different platforms, these ranking factors are different.
I’m not going to profess to be an expert on how to rank on YouTube organic search but there are plenty of people out there who can teach you how to do this.
What Affiliate Offers are Available?
All affiliate offers.
This is the beauty of YouTube. YouTube is not a niche in itself but a platform that allows you to broadcast to an audience regardless of what your niche is.
I would recommend that, if your niche allows it, you start with Amazon.
Beyond that, there’s a range of great affiliate programs that cover almost any topic.
Pros of YouTube Affiliate Marketing
- Massive audience: I won’t repeat the statistics again, but you already know this: YouTube’s traffic is massive (and growing). People across the world are watching millions of videos on every topic under the sun. You won’t find any industry that doesn’t have a hungry audience waiting to buy.
- High growth: Video is eating the web. It is estimated that by 2019, 80% of all content online will be video. YouTube’s own revenues have grown from an estimated $1 billion in 2012 to $9 billion in 2016. This means that not only will you get tons of views, your views - and revenues - will actually grow over time.
- Lower competition: Unlike the web, video is still largely devoid of competition outside of a few niches (gaming, tech, beauty, fashion, etc.). If you can get in early with some quality content, you can dominate the niche and build a massive audience.
- Freedom to choose offers: Outside of a few no-go niches (gambling and adult offers), you have pretty much all the freedom in the world to plug in any offer or website, especially after you’ve established trust by maintaining a non-spammy, high quality channel. It’s still not the same as owning your website, but close.
- More stability: Thousands of marketers spent millions building up Facebook pages only to see their organic reach go down the drain as Facebook changed its algorithm. This is unlikely to happen to YouTube because of the subscriber system and the more stable search algorithm.
- Can build a loyal audience: People who like your videos can “subscribe” to your channel. This means that they’ll get your new videos in their “Subscribed” feed even if you don’t do any promotion. This captive, loyal audience is a massive plus for anyone creating quality content.
- Easy SEO (sometimes): Videos appear in 55% of keyword searches on Google. 82% of these videos are from YouTube. Because of lower competition on YouTube, it’s relatively easy to get your video ranked at the top of the SERPs.
Cons of YouTube Affiliate Marketing
- Content creation: The biggest hurdle by far. You can’t just hire a $10 writer and build up a bunch of pages. You actually have to create interesting, compelling videos to get any viewers. Doesn’t help that most people aren’t comfortable before cameras.
- Niche-specific challenges: It’s relatively easy to create content for the “tech how-to” niche (like “how to install Windows” or “how to use WinRar) - you just need a screencasting software and a microphone. For niches like DIY plumbing, however, you need significant time, energy and skills. This often compels marketers to flood the easier niches, increasing competition.
- Linking restrictions: According to Google: “If the main purpose of your content is to drive people off of YouTube and onto another site, it will likely violate our spam policies”. This shouldn’t be a problem if you have quality content, but if you have a purely-affiliate focused model, YouTube might press the ban button on you.
- Difficult to get traffic: For a topic like “how to setup WordPress”, you will be entirely dependant on search engine traffic (either YouTube or Google/Bing). In such niches, getting traffic can be the hardest part.
Should you Start Doing Affiliate Marketing on YouTube?
Video is the future.
However, YouTube itself is a very competitive environment already. This means that you need to be really sensible when choosing your niche.
It makes sense to launch a YouTube channel in conjunction with a website. This gives you more options for monetization rather than simply depending on on-page conversions from links in the description.
Especially considering that these conversions will become harder with YouTube now advertising related products beneath videos.
With a website, you can get people to opt-in to email, push notifications and re-targeting. This allows you to maintain the relationship across various platforms and sell to your audience when the time and products are right.