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5 Lessons on Making Money with Affiliate Programs

Posted By Darren Rowse 4th of September 2008 Affiliate Programs 0 Comments

In the last 24 hours I’ve been interviewed 3 times and on each occassion I was questioned about affiliate marketing and how to make money from it.

Here are 5 lessons that I found myself touching on in each interview.

Affiliate-Program-Lessons
Image by foundphotolj

1. Relevancy between Audience, Product and Content

One key to high conversion when promoting affiliate products is to align as much as possible the needs of your audience, with the product that you are promoting and the content being produced on your blog.

For example if my readers are all beginner digital photographers, I’m producing a blog with content that teaches basic principles of photography and I was to promote to them a book or course on beginner to intermediate photography tips – I’d have a pretty good chance of generating some sales and therefore commissions.

However if I was to promote the same course here on ProBlogger the campaign would fall on it’s face and I’d probably do my reputation more harm than good.

2. Trust is Crucial

I find that affiliate promotions tend to work best on a blog that has been around for a while where the readership has been journeying with the blogger for a while.

When you read someone’s solid advice on a daily basis over a couple of years you’re much more likely to buy something that they recommend than buying something off a complete stranger. It’s all about establishing credibility and trust.

3. Traffic is Key

There’s no getting around this one – you increase the chances of a conversion with the number of people who see your invitation to purchase a product.

Of course it partly depends upon the audience – not all traffic is equal.

For example I could hit the front page of Digg with my post promoting a product and get 100 times the traffic that a normal post would have and the conversions would not be 100 times higher (simply because Digg readers don’t tend to take much note of affiliate products and because I have no established relationship with them).

However as your loyal readership grows in numbers you do tend to increase conversion possibilities.

4. Reinforcing the Message

I wrote about this in my ProBlogger Newsletter a few weeks back – but I find that rather than just posting once about a product that you’re promoting – it can be much more effective to find ways to reinforce a message over time. You might start off with an announcement post that tells your readers about what you’re promoting, you might follow up a few days later with a review of it, then follow up a week later with a reader testamonial, then follow up with an interview of someone behind the product….

The key is to find useful ways to talk about the product without annoying your readership (not always easy). In doing this you remind and reinforce the ‘pitch’ for you reader to buy.

5. Positioning

Affiliate promotions tend not to work very well if all they are is a banner ad in your sidebar. They will still convert – but nowhere near as well as if you position your promotion inside a post itself as the topic of the post.

Write about the product you’re talking about, talk about how you’ve used it and make it personal.

Get more tips like these at 10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs on Your Blog

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.
Comments
  1. Hi Darren,

    These are some great, practical tips!

    I haven’t had much success in affiliate marketing yet. I would follow these tips and I am sure the conversions would improve.

    Being a non-USA site (I write primarily for the Indian audience), one problem I face is lack of affiliate options. I would really appreciate any thoughts from you or other readers on this.

  2. Thanx Darren, those are some good tips. I’ll read your previous post on “Ten Tips” as well, thanx again.

    Cheers
    Davin

  3. Great post, but dont you think affiliate marketing takes a large amount of traffic.

    I do believe that affiliate marketing is almost in effective for a blog with little amount of traffic or a new blog on the scene.

    Google adsense and other advertising programs may be better then

  4. Very good information. Especially useful for me because I’m starting a brand new adventure into making money blogging.

  5. I’m going to be starting affiliate marketing properly soon and these tips are great. I am looking for more knowledge on aff marketing so if you feel like it Darren, post a few more articles please =]

    – Carl

  6. This is really interesting. I think trust is key. People are definitely more likely to click through if they believe that you ‘recommend’ whatever is on offer.
    I’m sure there’d be some way to mathematically put these factors together to determine how effective your affiliate marketing may be, but its important to note that a whole lot goes into making it in this field ( or any other MMO field too ).

    Nice post – as usual

  7. Great advice Darren. I know many out there appreciate these types of articles.

  8. Inside the post always gets better conversions.

  9. thanks for the tips. what is your opinion on linking every so often to the affiliate post? or is internal linking to landing pages destroy the blogs feel?

  10. Darren,

    I agree with your last point … writing a post about a product will yield better conversions than simply puting a banner on the side of your post.

    I even learnt from Yaro Starak http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com that you actually might need to present an offer up to 10 times!

    So repitition is another element of success when it comes to affiliate sales on your blog.

  11. Nice post Darren. I couldn’t have said it better. Too ofter I see people push aff links to the wrong audiences or without any presale or supporting information.

  12. Traffic doesn’t carry much meaning in affiliate, the targeted customer carry more weight compared to the visitor who doesn’t in need for product. I prefer with low traffic but all targeted rather having a thousand of visitor but ended up with 1 sales. Isn’t i better have 100 visitor but all potential customer?

    That’s my 2 cent…

  13. I found that 1. and 5. are absolutely crucial. (3 is obvious and 2 and 4 are good additions). If you can’t match audience and product, you can drop the affiliate right away.

    The funny thing is, that it is of course the same with usual ads, but since ads are not that performance-based (especially if you use CPM), it is seen more often to have ads that don’t match the audience 100%. Which they should of course.

  14. Another great post about affiliate marketing Darren and 5 great tips!

    I’ll add a point about picking the right affiliate programs. Shop and compare and note that commission isn’t the biggest thing – CONVERSIONS ARE.

    Now if you find a program that pays highest and converts well that’s golden! But if one program pays 10% and converts terribly and another only pays 8 but converts like gangbusters, you are probably better off with #2.

    Most programs don’t state their conversions rates up front. So evaluate the merchant’s web site and see if one appears to be a better sales vehicle than another.

    Check for commission leaks like Adsense ads or advertising banners that will take YOUR visitor off the merchant’s page and make HIM money, but not you.

    Research in affiliate forums – many affiliate programs are discussed and you can sometimes determine the good ones and also ones to watch out for.

    And if nothing else you can email the affiliate manager and ask what their conversion rate is. This is another test, if they don’t answer in a timely fashion it could indicate the program is not very pro-actively managed.

    Thanks again for the great article Darren.

    Linda Buquet

  15. Thank you for these great tips Darren!
    Really nice, informative and helpful techniques for better Affiliate Programs performances!

  16. I think it starts with building a steady stream of targeted traffic and building trust with your visitors.Also, concentrating on one excellent affiliate product instead of 100 at the time will make it easier to focus and you will not spread your self too thin.

  17. Point #1 is critical point and always determine success of affiliate marketing.

  18. Traffic and Positioning are the two key things that are needed to be successful in affiliate marketing.

  19. AS always I leave your post feeling like I have a lot of work to do. And I do! I have not been planting my affiliate promos within the post itself. Thanks again for a great post.

    http://thealternativeenergyinvestor.blogspot.com

  20. Do you have a list of the best affiliate programs? I still don’t find good ones.

  21. I have all the points done in the post, with the exception of traffic. The number of visitors is growing, and things are looking good, but my low traffic keeps the affiliate sales low, too.

  22. I’d add to that : Choosing a lucrative program…

    There are some programs that don’t pay out high commission but sell very fast. On the other hand some products sell only once a month and earn you more …

    Also take into account the cookie life, some programs have only 1 month lifetime and after that, they’re gone, while some others have a 1 year life time, etc …

    Lex

  23. Thanks Darren!

    I find “Reinforcing the Message” a very helpful pointer…

  24. Great tips. I just recently just put a couple adsense ads on my blog on getting a job in Orange County. I dont know if I would put anything like affiliate ads on there yet as I dont really have a regular audience. But I will definitely remember these tips.

  25. Omar asked:

    “Do you have a list of the best affiliate programs? I still don’t find good ones.”

    Sorry you haven’t had much luck yet. However, someone’s list of what they think are ‘good’ programs may not work at all for you because the key is the program needs to be well targeted to your audience.

    Some of the programs considered the best or most lucrative are in the financial, insurance, travel and education markets. But those are all highly competitive and not a good place for newbies to start.

    You can join a couple of the affiliate networks like Shareasale or CJ and they let you search by keyword and/or by category. I like CJ just for research because they will give you a variety of metrics you can use to compare the different programs in a certain niche.

    Another way is to simply search Google for “Your niche keyword” affiliate program.

    Hope this helps and best of luck!

    Linda Buquet

  26. I’m still waiting for my new blog to gain enough traffic to start introducing ads.

    But I already see a problem getting the right ads for my readers, since so many of them are for get-cured-quick schemes and I have railed against those!

    Keep these good articles coming! We need them!

  27. Great tips Darren! I would love to interview you for MLTV at BlogWorld later this month.

  28. Just what I needed, big thanks for the post :) Just one more question – how big traffic ~ is needed to start submitting affiliate products? 500? 1000? I just don’t want to start doing this while I have no appropriate audience. Can someone share?

    How about Google Adsense? There is sense putting adsense in your web..if you have, let’s say 500 unique visits per day?

  29. @5starAffiliatePrograms: “Now if you find a program that pays highest and converts well that’s golden! But if one program pays 10% and converts terribly and another only pays 8 but converts like gangbusters, you are probably better off with #2.”

    Good point. You’ve made me reconsider an affiliate with a pretty low commission right now, but with higher conversion potential. Since their software is subscription-based, the commission is recursive.

  30. Nice tips. I’m still building my blog, so I’m avoiding advertising at the moment, but I’ve made certain to include affiliate links within the content of posts where it makes sense. I’d like to eventually support the site mostly on affiliate marketing, so it’s great to see more useful advice on how to do so.

  31. I like to your blog since it gives me many advice, thanks ton

  32. Thanks for the post

    I’m just wondering about affiliate marketing though… is it unethical to advertise or review a product – when you are getting paid for it?? Regardless of whether your being honest or not about the product… I would like to know whether or not you should have to tell people that you are getting paid a commision when people purchase something you are recommending.

    I’m aware that newspapers are required to write when a story is an advertorial. Yet I notice that blog writers don’t seem to have to commit to these same rules.

    We all know what happened to John Laws who advertised banks in his radio chat show – without making people aware that he was being paid to do so.

    I’m not trying to be critical…I just wonder what others think??

    jess

  33. Jess – yes this is a debate that people have had for years. It’s a tough one that many have different stances on.

    Many bloggers will disclose within a post (or even next to any affiliate link) that the link is an affiliate link. Others (like me) have a disclaimer somewhere on their blog. Others choose not to have any disclosure.

  34. Hi Darren,

    Thanks for those great comments. Building a website is a long road full of pitfall, and it’s always nice to read your articles.

    cheers.

    Alex.

  35. Thanks Darren for the tips. You are my inspiration!

  36. Trust is essential. The more trust you have with someone the more likely they are to buy something from you.
    I mean if you best friend recommended you buy something, then you are way more likely to buy it than if a random tell you to.
    Become a friend to your audience and then try to sell products to them

  37. It’s funny how all of this info is common sense but we still need you to tell us.

  38. @Jess – I’m one of the ones who doesn’t bother with the disclaimer. For one, everyone in my niche knows when I recommend things that I sometimes get paid if they buy something.

    They don’t have a problem with it. In other niches I still don’t see the need for telling people “this is a link that, if you follow it, I will get paid” because it is fairly obvious to most people that websites advertise, review, and recommend things to make money.

    My simplistic take on it is: When your favorite show cuts to commercial, they don’t announce “hey we’re cutting to a commercial and if you buy something from them they might keep paying us to run their commercials.”

    People just know that’s how the world works.

    Now, as for the legitimacy of what people promote and HOW they promote products, services, books, etc. Reputation is more crucial on the web now than ever. Unscrupulous site owners pushing junk and low quality stuff don’t retain subscribers or readers.

    Therein lies the control over affiliate marketing: reputation. It is the type of “free market system” that decides whether someone is going to make it on the web or not based on their reputation for picking winners.

    Also – variance matters. The percentage of things you recommend as an affiliate should be much smaller than the things you recommend as a publisher looking to point readers in the right direction out of pure karma points.

    Readers pay far more attention to what you do for them and their interests than anything else. If the net gain is high, they will tolerate a great blogger’s need to make a living and they don’t need to know (though it is always obvious on good blogs when it happens) when something is an affiliate offer or not.

  39. good lesson, I am agree with you, traffic is the keys…..thanks

  40. Great lesson. I think I learn a lot from this but I like the 2nd the most. Tinh

  41. thanks, that’s a very good post , thanks a lot

  42. I think #3 is very important in order to make money with affs. Thanks for these very useful tips.

  43. So, the key is relevancy…

    Besides relevancy, I always read in a blog, in an ebook or other type of media that transparency also play a role, like hiding the affiliates link(Affiliates Link Cloaking).

    But I find that seems to take advantage of others weaknesses…

  44. Affiliate Marketing is a good way to earn money but it does not mean that you can be an affiliate of all kinds of programs. It should be a part of your niche.

    Anyway, nice articles darren.

  45. very interesting post. My blog isn’t anywhere near that level yet but definitely something useful to keep in mind when planning.

  46. I’ll keep this all in mind once my blog starts bringing in higher traffic. It’s beginning to, but it’s a slow process.

    TheAndySan
    http://www.theandysan.com

  47. Building trust and credibility is absolutely vital for a blogger. There are a handful of people whose opinions I hold above others because they’ve always provided great content and their past recommendations have been spot on. I’m much more likely to buy based on their recommendations than I would from a faceless affiliate link on a spammy blog.

  48. One of the hardest lessons for me to learn when it comes to affiliate earnings was that banners don’t convert. I guess I’m stuck in old-school thinking that billboards pique interest in consumers, but those same lessons don’t apply to the virtual world.

  49. Nice post Darren.

    Thank you for effective and practical tips.

  50. Nice tips Darrin, but what about a “Call to Action”? The best affiliate conversions are when I recommend a product and tell the reader to click here to purchase it.

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