5 Ethical Rules for Affiliate Marketing

Not only do these 5 ethical rules for affiliate marketing give you a blueprint , but they also provide a system for building long-term trust with your audience.




You want to start earning a little money from your blog WITHOUT a ton of work but not exactly sure HOW?

Fortunately for you such a thing DOES exist that’s highly effective, requires little ramp-up time, and is used by some of the most respected names on the web.

Many bloggers have heard of it, but for some silly reason completely ignore it………You have heard of it as well…..it’s usually referred to as AFFILIATE MARKETING…..and here’s how it works:

  • If you don’t have a product to sell, one of the best ways to earn $$money$$ from your blog is to sell products that other people have created.
  • You introduce your readers to a product, and if they happen to make a purchase as a result of your introduction, you get a commission.


“Do some people abuse affiliate marketing for their own gain and do or say anything for a quick sale? Sure. But for as long as people having been selling things to other people, unscrupulous operators have always lurked on the fringes”…..says Will Hoekenga (a copywriter at LeadPages)


You see some other bloggers doing it, and you can’t help but feel they’re just in it to make some fast cash and couldn’t give a damn about their audiences.


But here’s the straight-up truth says Will:



When done the right way, affiliate marketing is one of the most powerful ways to earn some money from your blog and it will actually help your audience.


Here are Will’s 5 ethical rules of affiliate marketing that you should follow IF you want to start making some money from your blog:


Rule #1: Start with the Right Question

  • Here is the number one question most bloggers ask themselves when they start to explore affiliate marketing…….“What product should I promote?”
  • The question you should ask instead is this: “What is my audience trying to accomplish?”
  • Answering that question will point you toward the products, tools, and resources that will help your audience accomplish what they desire.
  • If you don’t already know the answer……All you have to do is come right out and ask them.
  • Once you understand the needs your audience has, ask yourself: “What products will help them achieve that?”


Rule #2: Never Promote a Product You Don’t Use

  • Before deciding to actually promote it as an affiliate, it’s always best to use that product first so you can understand the user experience that THEIR PRODUCT will provide for YOUR AUDIENCE.
  • You have to understand what that’s like because the trust that you have with your audience is the most important thing in the world.
  • Using a product that you recommend also opens the door for a better way to promote that product.
  • The most effective way to promote affiliate products is to have genuine success USING the affiliate products.
  • The results you’ve personally achieved with a product speak louder than anything else and can save you from having to be too “salesy” with your audience.
  • No sales pitch in the world can outperform a story of personal success from a person the audience trusts.


Rule #3: Pick a Product That Builds Trust

  • Many bloggers choose a product based on the commission structure – how much it pays, whether it’s recurring, etc.
  • But that’s totally the wrong way to look at it.
  • Commission levels shouldn’t factor into the decision you make to promote a product as an affiliate
  • It’s not about the commission it’s whether or not that product will completely help your target audience.
  • You’ll have more click-throughs, more conversions, and more trust with your audience.
  • An often-overlooked benefit of making a successful affiliate sale is this:  If your audience buys the product through you and has a great experience with the product, their purchasing trust in you increases.
  • And even if they don’t buy from you again, you’ll have strengthened the relationship by introducing them to a product they love.
  • So when analyzing affiliate opportunities, consider more than just the amount you’ll make off each sale.
  • Consider how many outstanding experiences you can create and, ultimately, how much trust you can build.
  • If you get a sizeable commission – great.
  • If the commissions are recurring – even better.
  • But consider these details bonuses or cherries on top rather than key factors that guide your decision-making.


Rule #4: Promote Valuable Free Content, Not the Product

  • When a product is outstanding and you’ve achieved great results with it, directly asking your audience to purchase it can sometimes be daunting.
  • Lucky for you, many product creators also develop high-value free resources for you to promote instead – resources that ultimately tie into an offer to buy one of their products.
  • Usually, they work like this:
  • You send your audience (via a unique link) to a free resource created by a second party that will teach them something valuable (a free video course, for example).
  • After going through the free resource, they will be sent an offer to purchase a more expansive, related product.
  • If they purchase that product, you receive a commission.
  • This leaves the decision entirely in the reader’s hands, with no pushiness.
  • So if you’re looking for a way to ease into promoting affiliate offers, find out if the product you’d like to sell as an affiliate has relevant free resources you can promote instead.


Rule #5: Create Your Own Collateral

  • Don’t just talk about [the product] a little bit, include a call to action, and then a link.
  • Get into the insides of that product, and show people what it’s like.
  • Another effective strategy is to create a “Resources”  or “Highly Recommended” page on your website so visitors can see the tools you personally use and recommend.
  • Regardless of the content format you choose to go with, the formula is simple:
  • Determine something your audience wants to learn to accomplish.
  • If you don’t already know, learn how to successfully accomplish that thing.
  • Give your audience a piece of content that takes them step-by-step through accomplishing that thing, and show them the products you use to do it.



Even if you don’t have your own product to offer, affiliate products are the perfect solution.  But promoting them isn’t about pushy sales pitches and sky-high commissions.


It’s about understanding what your readers need. It’s about finding products that can help them get it. And it’s about supporting them so they can reach their goals.


When you do it right, you’ll further enhance the trust you’re building with your blog.



Now don’t you think it is time YOUR BLOG became MORE than just a HOBBY?



If you enjoyed this post and found TONS OF VALUE, please take a moment and share…..Thank you 🙂


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To Your Success,
Joan Harrington

About Joan

Joan is a full time blogger/network marketing coach whose passion comes from helping others learn how to brand themselves through blogging and become an expert blogger

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0 thoughts on “5 Ethical Rules for Affiliate Marketing

  • Sojourner

    I approached a few brands/products that I really like to see if they had affiliate programs which is how I came to promote EnCircled and MatadorU. Other then that, I belong to BlogHer which is a network. Unfortunately, I can’t choose which ads run, but I am able to set some parameters.

  • Mary Sloane

    I loved this article on Affiliate marketing! it makes so much sense. Why don’t more people do it this way?

    I think the biggest take-away that I got was the right question to ask yourself, “What is my audience trying to accomplish?”

    It is so important to focus on the audience if you want them to sign up and ultimately buy from you. They’ll also trust you much more when they see you actually have their interests at heart!

    Really loved the article!

  • Dereco Cherry

    Number 2 is so true Joan, Anything you promote you should own it yourself and like you said if you have success with the product a personal testimony goes a long way with your audience. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • rozbeads

    We were approved by a few fashion companies for affiliate marketing. We have included some fashion with our jewelry in a few blogs but it isn’t something we can do too often. It sounds like a great idea and implementing it will require balance.

  • Sasha

    Hi Joan, this is a really great article, I think you have made some fantastic points that I don’t think a lot of people really consider with affiliate marketing, I’m actually just starting to explore affiliate marketing again (I had some small success with it a few years ago but you have really given me some great points to think about). I really like what you say in #5 Create Your Own Collateral, I think this is the key one a lot of people miss, they just put a button/banner in the sidebar and expect that to make sales. What people need to do is approach it like a sponsored link that you would work into a blogpost that is relevant to the reader. Also LOVE your #4 tip, I never would have thought about this but it makes sense. If the originator of the product has to use a sales funnel just to drive sales then it does make sense that people wouldn’t nessarily go direct to purchasing the product from an affiliate and still need to be buttered up in a sales funnel.

    • Joan Harrington Post author

      Hi Sasha,
      Thanks so much for your feedback and awesome comments!! I feel so many people who get into affiliate marketing really do not KNOW how to do it right ya know? So glad you resonated with this post!!

  • Donna Merrill

    Hi Joan,

    What a great blog post that is surely needed in the affiliate marketplace. So many people do it the unethical way that it makes me pull the hair out of my head!

    There is a code of ethics and it must be followed in order to sell anything. You sure have hit all the points here. I especially like don’t sell a product you haven’t used yourself. I too do affiliate marketing and never will even mention a product I haven’t used myself. This way when people opt in, you can answer the questions they may have.

    When affiliate marketing, it is always good to do a review and give our own unique voice to the product. This will build that know like and trust factor. And whenever we are selling affiliate products, we sure do need to stand behind them ourselves and take responsibility for all those who have purchased it from us.


    • Joan Harrington Post author

      Hi Donna,

      Thank you so much my friend! I hear ya, I see so many people doing affiliate marketing the unethical way and it drives me crazy as well lol

      You are definately right about the “code” of ethics that an affiliate marketer should follow. It just makes sense to sell a product that you have USED so you can help the person with whatever they have questions about because you know 🙂

      Appreciate your feedback!!


  • Beverley Golden

    These 5 rules are ethical indeed, Joan. I really appreciate hearing the one that says to only promote something you use! This is such a big key in all areas of our lives. So many people are promoting things just to make money and have no personal interest or relationship to the product/service at all. I believe that everything we do in life, both online and offline, is about building trust and relationships so I am delighted to see that someone in the affiliate marketing space really gets this and shares it too. Another great share and the information is both interesting to me and valuable to anyone considering ways to jump into the affiliate marketing world. Thanks for another great post!

  • Stacy

    Hey there, I have gone through your whole article and its like a tank full of information. Great job! Those 5 points are really very much necessary in the fields of Affiliate Marketing. I am a newbie in this field. So, I am still learning things. And in that case I am using Affilorama Tutorials. Those are good and professional level stuff. I think, newbies like me can try those. It’s easy to try.

  • Michelle Williams

    I first learned about affiliate marketing some years ago from Rosalind Gardener who wrote The Super Affiliate Handbook and who is pretty well known as the queen of affiliate marketing. A lot of what you say in your blog Joan is echoed in what I’ve been taught and so it confirms that I’m on the right track! Your blog offers a ton of really good advice even if for newbie affiliates. I think readers will gain much insight after reading. Thanks for sharing.

  • Renee Becket

    Hi Joan!
    Like your 5 steps to success in affiliate marketing. I might add the secret ingredient, to always keep moving forward (i.e., never give up). Thanks for always providing excellent value for newbie entrepreneurs and online business owners. It’s great to know how to build a profitable affiliate biz. Best 🙂

  • Deb Nelson

    Love that you focus on the affiliate marketer’s audience and what they will find valuable AND that you should only join affiliate programs for products you’ve used. Great tips here, and I might add that you should also let people know you’re in an affiliate program – transparency is important and it also lets people support you as you build your business.

  • Leanne Chesser

    You’re exactly right about the question, Joan. We have to find out/ask what our audience wants and then offer that (whether it’s affiliate products or our own). I also agree about only promoting what you use. I only promote what I use AND what I think is awesome that also fits with what I do in my business and what my audience is looking for. One thing I love to promote only pays me a few dollars per sale . . . but that doesn’t matter because it’s a great product that meets the above criteria.