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10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs on your Blog

We’ve now looked at a number of popular affiliate programs for bloggers and today I’d like to finish off this series by giving a few tips that should help bloggers get the best results out of any affiliate program that they choose to run with.

1. Consider your Audience

It almost goes without saying – but it’s worth putting yourself in your readers shoes and consider what they might be looking for as they surf by your blog. Are they shopping for specific products? Might they be looking for related products or accessories? What would trigger them to purchase? Start with your reader in mind rather than the product. If you take this approach you could end up doing your reader a favor as well as making a few dollars on the side.

2. Genuine Recommendations and personal endorsements always work best

There are literally hundreds of thousands of products and services for you to choose from to recommend to your blog’s readers but making money from them is not as simple as randomly adding links to them from your blog. Your blog’s readers come back to your blog day after day because something about you resonates with them – they have at least some level of trust and respect for you and perhaps the quickest way to destroy this is to recommend that they buy something that you don’t fully believe will benefit them.

The best results I’ve had from affiliate programs are where I give an open and honest appraisal of the product – including both it’s strengths and weaknesses. The most successful affiliate program I’m involved with here at ProBlogger is Joel Comm’s e-book which I reviewed here. If you read the review you’ll see that I not only tell readers who I believe the book is for but I also mention those it is NOT for. In a sense I critique it. On a surface level one might think that this wasn’t a wise move and that I should have given a glowing review – however the sales that I’ve had through the program have proven otherwise. People want to know what they are buying first and even if they know a product has limitations they will buy it if it meets their particular need.

3. Link to Quality Products

We all like to make sure we’re buying the best products money can buy – your readers are no different to this and are more likely to make a purchase if you’ve found them the best product for them. Choose products and companies with good reputations and quality sales pages. There is nothing worse than giving a glowing review of a product only to send your reader to a page that looks cheap and nasty.

4. Contextual Deep Links work Best

When I started using the Amazon Associate Program I naively thought that all I had to do was put an Amazon banner ad (that linked to Amazon’s front page) at the top of my blog. I thought that my readers would see it and surf over to Amazon and buy up big – thereby making me a rich man. Nothing could have been further from reality – I was deluding myself.

I always says to bloggers that I’m consulting with that they should learn something from contextual advertising when it comes to affiliate programs. The secret of contextual ads like Adsense is that a reader is reading a post on a particular topic on your blog and when they see an advertisement for that same product they are more likely to click it than if they saw an ad for something else. The same is true for affiliate programs. A banner to a general page on every page on your site won’t be anywhere near as effective as multiple links throughout your blog that advertiser products that are relevant for readers reading particular parts of your blog.

So if you’re writing a blog about MP3 players and have a review for a particular product – the most effectively affiliate program that you could link to from within the content of that page would be one that links directly to a page selling that specific model of MP3 player. This is how I use the Amazon program today. It is more work than contextual advertising because you’re not just putting one piece of code into a template but rather need to place individual links on many pages – but I find that it’s been worth the effort.

5. Consider positioning of links

One of the things I go on and on about with Adsense optimization is the positioning of ads. I tell bloggers to position their ads in the hotspots on pages (like the top of a left hand side bar – or inside content – or at the end of posts above comments etc). The same principles are true for affiliate advertising.

6. Traffic levels are Important

While it’s not the only factor – traffic levels are obviously key when it comes to making money from almost any online activity. The more people that see your well placed, relevant and well designed affiliate links the more likely it is that one of them will make a purchase. So don’t just work on your links – work on building a readership. Not only this, consider how you might direct traffic on your blog toward pages where they are more likely to see your affiliate links.

7. Diversify without Clutter

Don’t put all your affiliate efforts into one basket. There are plenty of products out there to link to so there is no need to just work on one. At the same time you shouldn’t clutter your blog up with too many affiliate program links. If you do so you run the risk of diluting the effectiveness of your links and could disillusion your readership.

8. Be Transparent

Don’t try to fool your readers into clicking links that could make you money. While it may not always feasible to label all affiliate links I think some attempt should be made to let people know what type of link they are clicking on. I also think consistency is important with this so readers of your blog know what to expect. For example here at ProBlogger usually put a note beside or under affiliate links to simply let readers know that that is what they are. On my Digital Camera Blog I don’t do this because of the large number of such links make it clear by the text around the link that clicking on it will take them to some sort of shop or information where a purchase is possible (ie a link my say ‘buy the XXX product’ or ‘get the latest product on XXX’.

9. Combine with other Revenue Streams

Affiliate programs and advertising programs are not mutually exclusive things. I’ve come across a few people recently who have said they don’t want to do affiliate linking because it will take the focus off their Adsense ads. While there is potential for one to take the focus off the other – there is also real potential for both to work hand in hand as different readers will respond to different approaches. You should consider the impact that your affiliate links have on other revenue streams – but don’t let one stop the other.

10. Track results

Most affiliate programs have at least some type of tracking or statistics package which will allow you to watch which links are effective. Some of these packages are better than others but most will at least allow you to see what is selling and what isn’t. Watching your results can help you plan future affiliate efforts. Keep track of what positions for links work well, which products sell, what wording around links works well etc and use the information that you collect as you work plan future affiliate strategies.

UPDATE – Check out my update to this post – 6 More Tips for Affiliate Marketing on Blogs.

What tips would you give someone getting into affiliate programs? What has worked well for you? What hasn’t? Share you experience and ideas on affiliate programs below.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • One thing I would say to people who are starting up with affiliate schemes is to try and stay with one or two actual suppliers, for example, TradeDoubler and maybe another.
    I say this because you have more chance of hitting the payment threshold than if you are running affiliate adverts from a number of suppliers.
    If the same products can be sourced from a company that’s within TradeDoubler, for example, and the terms are not very different from someone outside, as you promote more businesses from within TradeDouler you have more chance of reaching the payment figure.
    There is also the advantage of not having to log in to a number of different affiliate schemes, taking up valuable time,only to find that you have earnt a few pennies.

  • Good point Craig.

    I definitely agree with Darren about keeping affiliate links “contextual” – it is possible to build keyword links with Amazon to show links that it thinks are relevant – to do this dynamically you could pass the keywords into the appropriate part of the affiliate link. In WordPress this could be done with custom fields, although I’m not too sure how effective it would be.

    What I’d really like is for Amazon to produce relevant affiliate links based on the content of the page, a la AdSense. I’m guessing this isn’t quite possible yet, unless I’ve missed something?

    Rob

  • One idea on how to pick your affiliate ads would be to check the stats of your Google Adsense for Search searches to see what people visiting your site are looking for. If you notice that there is a particular search that sticks out you could run a complimentary affiliate ad.

  • Amazon won’t do it for you a la AdSense, but you can always feed Amazon a list of relevant keywords to search for. It’ll require a bit of programming work on your side, and a lot of experimentation, but it’ll give better targeted products. You can even do something like what I’ve done in WordPress: use a custom field in the post to hold keywords for that post, then have your Amazon box search for those keywords.

    You might also try the CG-Amazon plugin, which automates this process somewhat. (I didn’t like it because it came with a bunch of other stuff I don’t need and don’t want, but it might be perfect for some people.)

  • Great post Darren

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  • Your fact to be transparent has finally sunk into my brain- An I have corrected my ways. Thanks for your all your advice and this post. I will retain it to keep in my file.

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  • Very informative ! I’ve just started my affiliate program site about 3 month ago and I’m still testing now.
    Thanks for the great post !

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  • Hello,
    There are two separate ingredients to living your dream by creating income with affiliate programs online. They are vital to your success both as a sponsor and as a downline member.

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  • Thank you for sharing these tips Darren.

    Just a few days ago Amazon launched their Omasake program, it’s not exactly contextual (meaning it can run with Adsense on the same page), but can show targeted ads based on the page content and previous purchases of the visitors on your site.

    I’m designing a new niche based site and will try.

    Regards!

  • Thanks for the information, Darren! I have been an affiliate with Amazon for several months now, and have not generated any income…Probably because I have not been contextual! You have really opened my eyes on this…I plan on adopting this strategy on my on blog! Thanks again.

  • Wow!!! Just ran across your site (problogger.net) and can’t read enough of the information fast enough! You have made some excellent suggestions and tips! Thank you so much for the information that you have imparted. We have a small breeding program of Bengal cats, http://www.DiCaprioBengals.com, and we are new to internet marketing. What you are saying makes so much sense and we are able to take much from it. We are going to bookmark your site, problogger.net, and recommend it to many of our friends! Thank you so very much.

    Sincerely,

    Greg & Denise Abel
    http://www.DiCaprioBengals.com

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  • I’ve just started affiliate marketing. After reading the blog, i was very impressed that i could use the blog for promotion of my affiliate programs. Thanx Darren !

  • harry weisenfeld

    I also started an affiliate marketing campaign, it seems to work great.

  • Joe

    I’m new at this whole blog scene. My efforts at monetizing my blog are likely being wasted, as I’m not really doing any of these things.

    Presently I just have Clickbank products and I list one at the end of some posts under the bold “Scheme of the Day.” I mostly just make wise guy remarks about the product and only occasionally actually recommend something.

    To your points:

    1. I am trying to match a product or service to the content of the post.

    2. Perhaps it would be wise for me to make a section on my blog titled “products I actually recommend” or something to that nature.

    3. I think I will continue to link to bad products as I make fun of them, as it shows readers that there are indeed bad products out there.

    4-6. I’ve got a lot to learn.

    7. I am not currently putting an affiliate link in each post in a small attempt to avoid cheesy clutter.

    8. On being transparent. Good point, but I currently don’t mention anything at all about the links making me money. I really don’t see the need to, as I don’t really recommend anything and I think many people may already know that I make money off a link if they purchase through it. Hopefully most people won’t care if I make a commission.

    9. I wanted to use AdSense but not in my posts. I wanted to put them off to the side; however, the ads all appear to match my unprofitable and non-ad matching blog title. I will probably test further, as I think I do want AdSense.

    10. Just starting out in tracking results. Google Analytics seems helpful, but I’m a raw newbie at this blogging business.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing and wish me luck. I’ll need it. Sorry I couldn’t share any valuable experience to others. If anything, my approach may be helpful to others by showing them what not to do. Ha ha.

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  • Wow great tips. I usually only use Adsense, and have 1 small affiliate site, but I don’t really understand how people actually make so much money through commissions.

  • Darren, thank you for these wonderful tips. But, I have never earned a single dollar from Amazon associates. Adsense is working well.

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  • Great tips, I’ve yet to use affiliate ads. I’ve applied for a few for my niche, still waiting to get approved.

    cheers
    -Brandon

  • rob

    thanks for the tips, your posts are always a pleasure to read

  • Olu

    Wao! This site is an ocean of information.
    I have learnt so much in the last 2hours of
    being here. You are doing great.
    I was actually thinking of how to use a blog
    to promote affiliate products, i stumbled
    on this site and got answers.
    God bless you bro. You will see more
    of me here.

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  • Wow, I am an Amazon Affiliate for my book (Lifetips 101 Entrepreneur Tips) but I hadn’t even thought to put it in my blog. I want to make $2500 a month and it not be a “huge” revenue stream!!

    Susan Payton
    Egg Marketing Small Business Marketing Blog
    http://www.eggmarketingblog.com

  • Excellent post. Thanks for the tips about affliliate programs. I’m just getting started and was getting a little impatient with it.

  • I have been using google analytics in conjunction with adwords to see how my customer base is doing. My problem is that I am still trying to get enough people to make the data worthwhile.

  • Great to know all about Amazon Affiliate Program, can anyone tell me how do you place links that pay in your blog. Pardon my naivety. Also please someone tell me how you increase traffic to your blog.

    Your advice will be appreciated,

    Thank you all.

  • Hey Darren, you have some good points here – these tips are really usefull for affiliate marketing in blogs.

    Thanks

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  • Hi Darren,

    Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and am so thankful I discovered your Affiliate Programs blog info. You’ve helped me get more excited rather then overwhelmed at the potentials of being an Amazon Associate for my blog.

    One question: Is there a difference between signing up with USA: Amazon.com or Canada’s Amazon.ca? I’d rather sign up with Amazon.com if that targets the bigger US market.

    I’d appreciate any advice.

    Emmanuel
    Motivatorman

    The Adventures of Motivatorman:
    http://www.motivatorman.blogspot.com/

  • thank’s for your tips , i have to learn more from you.

  • very informative and relevant article. Contextual advertising for affiliates is a very good idea. It has more effort but I m sure it makes more sense from reader perspective. I ll definately try that in my blog. I think the big challenge for me now is to generate traffic..

    Vineet Nair
    http://internetbusinessjunkie.blogspot.com

  • It has taken me a while to realize that banners don’t work but I have learned the hard way and through testing that related deep text links to in fact work much better.

    Does anyone know if it is required now to use “aff” to indicate when you are using an affilliate link or is it just recommended at this point. I have not noticed any of the big gurus doing this yet.

    Thanks for the great post.

  • http://www.SeductionLand.com does not use any banners. We hear that it actually cheapens the site by using them. Watch live pick up videos and infield sarge videos at http://www.Seductionland.com Also cruise by there seduction store or interview section

  • Hey thanks for a lot of helpful information. It has given me a deeper understanding of Affiliate programs.
    Well written and well presented.
    Thanks Darren

  • In the past few weeks I have become an affilaite for a product for one of my sites. What I have learned the hard way is that I should have taken more care in checking out the website. I was given an affiliate link that just lands up on the home page and is several clicks away from the product I am writing about. The text on the pages is not conducive to seducing someone into buying.

    Is there a way of doing something with affiliate code to get it to go to particular pages?

  • Hey,

    I just stumbled upon this blog and you have some very great articles on being successful in the blogosphere. Keep up the great work!

    Dan W.

    taktics.blogspot.com

  • Latoya

    Hello,
    I rreally really loved your content on affiliate marketing because I have been looking and looking for more tips on how I can make an affiliate marketing blog before I create one. I want to make sure that I know everything about affiliate marketing before I start my marketing affiliate biz. I think I would successful and I do not wanna think I will fail because failure should never become an optioin when trying to start an affordable business like this. God bless!

  • It’s interesting reading a post from so long ago. Your writing skill and style have improved in leaps and bounds over the past three years. ;-)

    Still, the content, as ever is spot on with great insight. Thanks for sharing these tips. It makes me want to dig in and work on those affiliate links right now.