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How to Make Money With Affiliate Programs on Your Blog – More Thoughts

Posted By Darren Rowse 5th of September 2008 Affiliate Programs 0 Comments

Yesterday I shared 5 lessons on making money with affiliate programs on your blog.

As I read through the comments on that post and pondered it some more thoughts came to mind that I think are worth adding:

Test and Track Results

I’ve written numerous times on ProBlogger about testing and tweaking advertising on your blog (for example – this post on how to run Split Testing).

The same principle is true for running affiliate campaigns on a number of levels.

1. Split Testing Banner ads

If you do run banner ads to promote your affiliate campaign (do remember yesterday I said that they don’t tend to work as well as in post promotions) you can run some split testing in a similar way to the one mentioned in the Split Testing article. Instead of showing two different versions of AdSense ads – just show two different types of banner ads that promote the product you’re promoting. You just need to make sure you have a method of tracking which banner ad is converting best (many affiliate programs will either give different tracking ids or will track different banners for you).

2. Track What Your Readers Respond to

Yesterday I mentioned that instead of just promoting an affiliate product once that it can be worth running a series of different types of posts to promote it over time. The beauty in doing this is that you begin to see what your readership responds to. You might find that few people sign up for a product when you first announce it but when you write a review that sales increase. Alternatively you might find that when you offer a bonus they sign up more or even that they respond to you doing an interview with the person behind the product. The key is to try different things but then to watch how they convert.

Testing the conversions on affiliate programs seems so basic – but it amazes me just how many bloggers I see using affiliate programs who just seem to slap up a quick post saying to ‘buy this product’ and don’t seem to get creative in trying new methods of promotion.

3. Test different programs and their conversions

In yesterdays post Omar asked for a list of best affiliate programs. It’s a common question but one that is really impossible to answer because there are literally thousands of options open to bloggers and different programs will convert differently for different blogs. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this partly depends upon the relevancy of products to your content and audience – but it also depends upon other factors including the sales copy of the landing page that you send traffic to (some pages will appeal to some audiences more than others), the profile and brand of the site you send traffic to, the price of the product etc.

The key when you’re in the affiliate marketing game is to experiment with different affiliate programs and products within them. You might find that a program like Amazon’s Associates program fits best for your audience (despite it’s lower commission rates than some others) because your audience is familiar with it, or you might find a program like PepperJam (which has a lot of great affiliates in the one network) is better suited to you or you might even establish a relationship with a smaller company who has their own private affiliate program because their product just ‘fits’ with your audience.

The key is to look for relevant products that fit your audience’s needs and then to track the conversions.

One more thing about Choosing Affiliate Programs

There are some great comments in the previous post about choosing affiliate programs – particularly from Lex G and Linda. They both pick up that it’s not always the highest paying affiliate program that is best. While it’s great to find a high priced program that pays out a high percentage commission – you might find that the price is out of the reach of the type of audience that you have and that another program that pays less commission and that is lower priced could actually earn you more.

A lot of people write off programs like Amazon’s Associates program because of their lower commissions and price points on items like books – however I’ve found that Amazon can work very well for me (it remains in my top ways to make money blogging at #4 on the list. While I don’t see the spectacular sales that some other programs can earn – the hundreds of smaller sales that I can see on any given day can certainly add up.

How Much Traffic Do You Need?

Dainis asked in the comments of the previous post how much traffic would be needed before starting to promote affiliate programs.

This is another good (and common) question – and as with many aspects of making money from blogs it is a question that different people will answer differently.

My personal approach is to start promoting these types of programs early. I’ve written a long post on when to put advertising on a blog previously and much of what I say there is also relevant to affiliate programs but my main reasons for starting early are:

  • While you might not make much with just a little traffic you could make some.
  • Starting early gets your readers used to the idea that you make money from your blog. Adding it later could put some offside.
  • Learn how to monetize your blog before you have readers so you can make your mistakes in front of just a few rather than a lot of people.
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 and LinkedIn.
  1. So far, just over a month into my blog, I only use Google adsense adds in my blog. I do this for no other reason than lack of advertising knowledge. I always see those nice looking 6 square adds that always seem to be in the bigger blog’s sidebars and wonder, “Where do I get those cool adds?” Is that from your affiliates?

  2. Love that last line. Better to screw up in front of a few rather than many.

  3. Great timing Darren. The Affiliate Marketing learning curve is steep, but you’ve helped even out the plain :) Thanks mate.

  4. I use Google Adsense and that give me higher return than anything else.
    I tried Widgetbucks, but that sucks.. Slows sites like anything.
    Chitika has good possibilities but very US centric.
    I used Amazon but less customization possibilities.
    Google owned Doubleclicks is also a good option.

    Person to person : YMMV (Your mileage may vary.)

    Happy blogging everyone.

  5. I like your analytic approach to making advertising work. It can be applied to any business trying to make money.

  6. I say try, try, try, and try again. You have to try everything and then stick with whatever did the best. Do not stick with something that is not working.

  7. One thought on affiliate marketing:

    You want to pick products that not everyone in your niche is pushing.

    A couple years ago affiliate sales were bringing me in $2000-3000 a month. My traffic has more than tripled since than, yet my affiliate sales have actually lowered.

    I believe its because that my niche of men’s magazine type sites has expanded and there are more sites promoting the same products.

    The problem with this is that the cookies will keep overriding one another. Even if you write a glowing review that ultimately causes the person to buy… you may not get credit for the sale.

    If you have the clout that Darren has you can probably demand a head start over the competition, but if you’re a lesser known blogger I think you’re better off finding new innovative products to push, rather than the ones everyone in your niche is pushing.

    Unfortunately for us, the minute we start promoting a new product, every seems to follow our lead.

    In that case… you create product, and get your imitators to promote it!

  8. Thank you, Darren, for the article and for the link to “When Should I Put Advertising on My Blog?”

    My blog has been going for a bit over 2 months and has got a great start. I have been wondering about the timing for putting advertising on it. You have persuaded me that now’s the time.

    “Make your mistakes in front of a few people, rather than many” really hit home!

  9. I am glad to read the last 3 statements because it corroborates what I had always assumed being a beginner. My blog is about 2 months old, and doing fairly well for the time frame.
    I started out with adsense and amazon affiliates right off the bat and that helped because ad placement went into my design consideration on the onset.
    People have commented on my use of ads without even building a base, but I had always figured my readers would be better of getting used to it now than later. I have also been able to tweak my ads positions based on friends reviews and comments, and make my mistakes early. Keep up the good work, I have found alot of your posts helpful.

  10. Thank you for the information that you posted over here.

    I really appreciate your frank and open approach to share and discuss on matters that most marketing gurus would prefer to keep to themselves.

    Although I started writing blogs to document certain articles on subjects that I thought was pertinent for making money from the internet as well as for important information that I thought was vital.

    However its quite recently that I learnt from elsewhere about how some bloggers are making quite a lot of money by writing on something which they pursue as hobby.

    Infact I did not know much about Adsense too and have begun to apply it in my blog.

    This lure for money from Adsense and elsewhere is what is driving me to write on subjects that in my opinion is important.

    Your blog is informative and frankly I am learning.

    In the meantime you may visit my humble but highly informative blog to Learn, Earn and have Fun from the Internet at


  11. Great tips, I just started working the affiliate program route and am excited to see how well I can do with it. I’ll surely use a lot of these tips to help maximize the amount of money I can earn.

  12. One site on finance I have never been able to get affiliate programs to work. I started a site on cycling and the affiliate programs work much better even though traffic is similar. It’s hard to put your finger on why – perhaps I know more about cycling.

  13. My blog is only three weeks old and I’m using Amazon – but my focus is not really to make money (yet). Because I blog about a ‘foreign’ country it is easier to show readers what actually are ‘Norwegian’ products through Amazon without violating any copyrights. So it’s kinda like a service I’m providing so my readers can see the products and think ‘wow – I never knew that was Norwegian’. Then they can investigate if they want to. I think my simple ‘Norwegian Stuff’ title introduces the ads in a way that breaks the barrier of ‘selling’ to ‘service’.

  14. I have definately found that not the highest paying affiliate program is the best. I have tried an affiliate program which earnt twice as much but I sold none, yet I sold a few of a another product which I earnt less on.
    I don’ do much on affiliate sales on my website. But I believe I definately will in the future

  15. Thanks for tips. I really like Affiliate Programs… They offers much more commissions and you can make much more money than from “regular” advertising networks.

  16. I’ve been testing quite a few advertising programs on my blog and Adsense stills seems to do the best.

    I agree with Darren about getting readers “used to” advertising early on. I started advertising straight out of the box on my MysoreAshtanga.com blog without problem. But on my other blog KaliLilla.com, I did get a little rumbling when I began “dipping my toe” in monetization after having no ads for 6 months. Also inline test ads have worked better here than the banners. Still learning!! :)

  17. I’ve been using Amazon UK’s affiliate programme for a while and was making next to nothing from it. But then 50% of my traffic is from the US and only 7% from the UK. Unfortunately, the various Amazon stores are separate, so directing an American reader to a product on Amazon UK earns you no money if they go on to purchase that product on Amazon.com.

    By detecting which country the user was coming from and serving up a link to the appropriate store I was able to drastically improve my returns.

  18. Great post and i too agree that you should start with affiliate products quite early within a blogs life span given the same reasons you said.

    Good post.

  19. My first week of blogging I signed up for every program available which of course was a mistake. I am trying to organize and focus now.

  20. I do think it s best to start as soon as you can with an affiliate program,places like Amazon are great for all manner of promotions as the range of products on offer are of a more recognized brand and standard and since Amazon is one of the original affiliate programs, there are great ways of building links from your Amazon account now.

    They say that the best affiliate programs are the ones that provide you with the best tools for spreading the word, lots of choice makes for more creative ways to earn an income online.

    A collection of some of the best affiliate programs have some special points to note that they all should have in common.

    1. uniqueness of the product – a high demand makes it irresistible, as does the quality of the actual product.

    2. The price does effect the sales conversion somewhat especially if the sales copy is rubbish, sometimes a cheaper product could be a bargain to buy and to promote as it’s less cheaper, but if the quality of the product is naff then there is no point to promote garbage.

    $7 products often are a good choice and work both ways for the affiliate and affiliate company or sole trader, a good $7 report or ebook could provide some value at around 25 plus pages and still be worth the price of $7, so this cuts down on refunds.

    Just by looking out there at as many affiliate networks or places to find affiliate programs you are sorting through the best opportunities for you and you particular situation and that’s all that matters!

  21. Darren,

    This is a great reminder for bloggers who either dabbled in a few affiliate banner ads or wrote them off because they didn’t think they had enough traffic.

    The voice of experience(ahem)speaking here.

    I’ll take another look at my stagnant Amazon program and look for ways to build product recommendations for stuff I’ve bought and liked into my blog posts.

    Thanks again for the reminder to all bloggers who have so much on their plates they actually don’t even see their nose.


  22. Darrin, you are 100% right about Amazon. Alot of affiliate marketers don’t like it because of the small payouts, but they add up fast and readers are more comfortable buying something at Amazon. PLUS, this opens the Amazon door, almost 80% of the time, the purchases made have nothing to do with my door-opening link!

  23. Interesting thought from Bobby Rio in the comments above on selecting a niche affiliate that not a lot of others use. Of course, that is tough to do and stay on theme with your own audience. However, I can see the value in offering a unique opportunity to readers that they haven’t seen elsewhere around the web.

  24. Can’t agree more with all of these great tips. When we first started trying affiliate programs I thought we would never see more than a few cents! Then one day we hit upon an ad that did fabulously. We recognized that it was a product very well matched to our readership’s interests, and have since added several more promotions from the same company with equal success. It’s not about what great products are being offered out there – it’s all about the match! I personally like Linkshare because of the ease of which you can create individual product links through their traditional log-in layout and their great reports.

  25. I am still a bit unsure why Affiliate ads are the way to go as I have used them on my sites and have not even earned a penny. I believe it is because they are based on that company getting a sale from someone clicking through and then buying. That seems like a slim chance when the person viewing your site probably wasn’t planning on “shopping” when they are on your site. If they came to one of my blogs it would be for information, not to shop. Maybe I am doing something wrong?

  26. I’ve got another question that I never saw anywhere… How much traffic to my website does it take to justify looking at the statistics and concluding that a program is better than another ? after 1k hits ? 10k ? 100k hits ? For little websites, it’s hard to figure out if the stats mean something or not… if you got 3 clicks on a banner and 7 on another, it doesn’t tell me much.

  27. Thanks Darren to mention my question, I was just wondering if there’s a list of affiliate program (not associated with Amazon, like the Co.cc). It’s easy to integrate and liked by readers or visitors.
    I tried to search with google, but it gave me many irrelevant results any ideas?

  28. I must admit to being somewhat mind boggled by the complexity of this, as the internet matures, the nuances develop and the need for more and more knowledge is so apparent. It’s just lucky that good people write wise words like they have here. Good for novices like me :)

  29. The main key I tell everyone with Affiliate Marketing is to stay focused on what they are doing. Focus and improve everyday.

  30. These two posts, about affiliate programs were sensational, thanks Darren!

  31. it’s srcond time for me to read your posting above, I think your suggestion are right…. I must learn and evalute my mistake to be more better…thanks

  32. Thank You for response and advice! I got Your point and yeah, I am sure You are right, I will monetize my website immediately! :)

  33. I like the method you choose for the advertising. Advertising is the most important way that makes popular our product or services
    Nice Post and thanks for your useful information.

  34. Its a nice article and gives a gud knowledge abt making money through blogging. I tried working on what u hav said in your article but found little problem with somethings like how to knwo which banner add is giving u more reevenue.
    I also found somet gud articles related to affilaite marketing on a anothe gud site http://www.dzinearticles.com/

    i think people must check it out

  35. I still don’t have good placement adsense after doing some split test….maybe some mistake, I will try again, thanks

  36. Darren,

    You’re great! You give everything for others to learn.

    I’m still new to blogging, affiliate marketing though…

    But I’m hell bent in following your footsteps. This article is really enlightening.


  37. with low traffic under 500visitor/day very difficult run affiliate program like amazon, my earning stag…..then I use adwords as fuels….

  38. I would be curious to know what you consider “few” people instead of many.

    I’ve been blogging about cookies since June of 08. My blog readership is over 4000 per month and climbing. For me (being a new blogger) this is a huge number. But I also realize there are blogs out there getting far larger numbers than this.

    Is it to late to make this change? Are my numbers to large? Or is my blog still considered a baby next to some of the others out there?

  39. great tips…..I alresdy use no 1 with good result, thanks

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