This post was written as part of the Blog Hop Conference at Home and you can check out the other 2 dozen + conference sessions being offered at Blog Conference Newbie’s Blop Hop Conference Agenda!
Something that has been coming up a lot recently is whether affiliate sales is useful for bloggers, or is a waste of time. My answer would be – both! (So helpful, I know.) Affiliate sales via a single banner stuffed into a crowded sidebar is probably not going to do you any good at all. However, affiliate links as part of an overall blogging plan (you have one, right?) can be highly successful! Even for “mommy bloggers” or lifestyle bloggers or whomever the black-sheep of the blogging community is this week.
Here are some tips for increasing your revenue using affiliate sales wisely, without spamming your readers or junking up your sidebars.
1. Link in the Sources or Recommended Reading Section of a Post
This is especially helpful when covering a health, technical or scientific type of topic. For example, this post about relieving back pain during pregnancy is something I felt the need to source my information on. Notice the links in the book titles at the bottom of the post? Anything where you would source your information or include additional resources for your readers to confirm or expand on what you’re telling them. Just add the affiliate link to the book title anytime you mention a book as a source or recommended reading. Quick, easy and can add up over time.
2. Find Affiliates for What You’re Already Talking About
Are you a foodie? Then look for affiliate programs from kitchenware companies, coupon sites and cookbooks. A pregnancy website will have affiliate links to maternity clothes, baby diapers and cord blood banking. This website has affiliate links to WordPress Themes, ebooks and educational stuff for bloggers. That’s what I’m already talking about so those are the links my readers are most likely to click and most likely to ultimately purchase.
3. Only Use Affiliate Programs That Represent Products You Can Talk About
I would never affiliate for basketball equipment. Why? Because I know nothing about basketball. My husband, a point guard in high school, is a basketball freak and even with that it took me 5 years and marriage before I realized there were plays in basketball. (True story.) If I started representing basketball equipment it would be the biggest sham in the world, for reals. And I’m just not willing to go there. Especially where there are so many other affiliate opportunities that ARE things I actually care about.
4. Use Affiliate Links Within the Text of Your Posts
I touched on this already but I will tell you – a banner ad for me has about a .8% conversion rate. That means 100 people have to click the ad before anyone buys. And my click through rates on banner ads are pretty high on this site, but still not THAT high. Not compared to posts with the link actually put right into it. For a good, recent sample you can see the post I wrote about the Savvy Blogging Summit Recordings Special. See how I put a link right on the words of the post? That converted so much better for me because people reading the post were more likely to click that link, and also more likely to buy. They were automatically interested in the topic because they took the time to read a post about that topic.
5. Choose Affiliate Programs Wisely – Get the Most For Your Link Value
I know I mentioned Amazon earlier and I just want to say – it’s one of the worst affiliate programs out there. There are no cookies attached to your affiliate code so your readers have to click your link and then purchase immediately in order for the order to “count” for you. In addition to that, the sales percentage you are given is minuscule, only 4% or so, compared to many of the other affiliate programs available.
Price and Revenue Share Considerations – Look for affiliate programs with either a high percentage of revenue share or higher priced item (or both). After all – 40% of an $11.99 ebook is much better than 40% of a $5 ebook. When comparing two similar products, price and percentage should be taken into account when making a final decision.
Cookies on the Affiliate Link – Look for a longer cookie on the affiliate link. This just means that if someone clicks your link, checks out the product, but then leaves, will you still get credit if they buy later? With cookies, the website will know that YOU sent the reader first so when the reader goes back a week later and finally purchases, you will still get credit. I like to set up my affiliate programs with a 30 day cookies because that gives a full month for a purchase to take place. Longer is better.
6. Share Affiliate Deals and Specials When They Have Good Value for Readers
Some affiliates spam you with weekly “deals” and coupons that never seem of high worth. But other times those specials are really of value and a timely savings for your readers. The Savvy Blogging Summit Specials I linked to in #4 is a really good example of that. Got the email, thought hey 50% off is a great deal, it was time sensitive, I checked it out, I bought the recordings myself and wrote the post while I was downloading my own learning lessons. It was a high value for my readers.
7. Resources Page or What You Need Page
EricaSays has a great example of this on her Resources for Bloggers page. It’s a great place to link up many of the most common tools or books or items that you use personally, or that you often recommend to clients and friends. I love that on this page she lists not only what the item is, but what she loves about it, who it will help, when you should get it, etc. The page looks nice and her readers consider it HELPFUL…a useful tool to bookmark and come back to, not a hard-sell-car-salesman feeling thing.
8. Don’t Duplicate Your Affiliate Programs Within Topics
I have two WordPress Themes I do affiliate programs with, Genesis and Headway. Those are the two themes I use all the time. Those are the two themes I love. Those are the two themes I can answer questions about when readers ask me questions. Why would I promote other themes I’ve never used, can’t help my readers with, don’t know anything about. Besides that there is the trust factor.
When I tell my readers, try Genesis or Headway, they can trust that I’m familiar with those two themes and have used them. If I say try Genesis, Headway, Thesis, Woo Theme, Elegant Themes, ……..etc, etc they will lose trust in me and my affiliate sales will be lower overall. It might feel that giving more options will lead to more sales but that simply isn’t true.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Your Affiliate Programs
None of you thought I was “out to make a buck” when I mentioned Genesis and Headway Themes. You understood that it was part of the discussion to illustrate a point. It provided value to you as a reader, and a link on the title of the theme didn’t seem out of place (everyone who wants more info can click the link and if a reader doesn’t care for more info they simply don’t click the link.) It’s all very low-key, however you HAVE to actually mention an affiliate product and include an affiliate link in order to make money with affiliate sales.
I was so afraid of this at first but once you start getting the hang of it you learn your audience. For example, I had two very affiliate-oriented posts this month because two of the programs I’ve been with for awhile had time-sensitive specials. I was a little afraid at mentioning both in the same month. But you know what happened? My readers thanked me. Why? Because I’ve been here a long time and they know I’m going to give them value. And I did – even with two affiliate posts….both of those posts provided items of value that I myself invested in.
10. Affiliate Sales Will Build up Slowly but Continue Over Time
The best time to start generating revenue through affiliate sales is 2 years ago. But since you missed that deadline already, the next best time is today. There are some large affiliate networks that make it easy to sign up with big-box stores or large companies. These include LinkShare, Share-A-Sale, EJunkie, Commission Junction, Pepperjam and others.
What you’ll also find is that many small business owners, ebook authors and bloggers have affiliate programs as well. I have affiliate programs for my ebooks. Don’t like my ebook? There’s an entire ebook library you can become an affiliate for. I know bloggers who offer affiliate programs for menu planning services or blog design referrals. Check around your local circle of influence and see what is available!