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CPC Ads Vs Affiliate Programs

Robyn writes a thought provoking post with the title of Why Use Affiliate Ads Rather Than AdSense or YPN?

In it she points out the benefits of going with affiliate programs that pay larger amounts when people purchase a product in comparison to CPC (cost per click) ad programs like AdSense which generally pay a smaller amount for a click on the ad.

She writes:

“One advertiser recently sent me an email reminding me of their current affiliate promotion. It was roughly (details changed to protect my hide):

1. 10 Subscriptions – Get $50 Home Depot or Best Buy Gift Card
2. 50 Subscriptions – 2G iPod Nano
3. 150 Subscriptions – XBox 360
4. 275 – Home Theater System ($1000 value)
5. 500 – Tickets to the Affiliate Summit, $500 airfare and 3 days lodging
6. 1000 – Serious renumeration

Now, this was for a service that costs between $10 and $20 dollars, depending on plan, and it’s a really popular service at that. And, remember, this is, in addition to the $15 lead spiff. So, in essence, for option #6 you would make around $5K for the above bonus and $15K for the lead spiff.”

It’s an interesting topic and one that I’ve seen fans of both CPC and Affiliate programs argue over many times.

While the above argument is logical and seems to make sense I would argue that while 1000 subscribers to a service seems like an easy enough thing – I’ve never managed to get that type of hit rate in my three years of blogging (despite using affiliate programs on many of my blogs).

My own opinion on there is no clear winner in the CPC/Affiliate program debate on a big picture level and it’s a question that needs to be asked on a topic by topic basis.

Some blogs are naturally suited to CPC whereas others do much better with affiliate programs. This depends on many factors including the topic (ie my gadget blogs tend to do better with CPC and blogs like ProBlogger do better with affiliate programs), the voice/style of the blogger, the type of readers (ie loyal readers seem to respond better to affiliate programs where as search traffic does better with CPC) and other factors.

Where do you focus most of you online money making attention? CPC ads, Affiliate programs or a combination of both?

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.

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Comments

  1. It’s a tricky one. In all my years of web development, I’ve tried all sorts of affiliate programs and so on.

    All in all, adsense comes out on top by far for me personally.

    Allways willing to try new things though ;)

  2. james says:

    I’ve had dismal performance from most affiliate programs, while adsense has been a consistent performer over the last few months. To get respectable response to affiliate programs, I have to link to them directly from posts. This means allows me to earn a few dollars when I link to a book I’ve discussed on Amazon.

    Affiliate programs are often region specific – I made the choice to make my blog “USA-centric” (even though I’m Canadian), since Americans make up about 80% of my site readership. The trouble is that 20% of visitors aren’t going to mesh with my US affiliate programs — they’ll want to buy from local providers.

  3. brem says:

    CPC requires lots of traffic, and quality traffic, to generate decent revenue.
    Affiliate requires lots of traffic, quality traffic, and people willing to BUY online.

    So in my opinion, Affilate programs reach a narrower clientele than CPC ads.

    Now, what really is the best is selling space for a monthly fee, but in order to do that, you have to make a name for yourself first, and choose the niche wisely. Some niche are more suited for online business than others.

  4. Scott Howard says:

    The only thing that I have focused on is CPC.

  5. Leroy Brown says:

    I still haven’t had any success with affiliate programs, though I honestly haven’t made a concerted effort. Perhaps it’s worth a shot to see what happens.

  6. Thanks for the attention Darren!

    I really have never tried very hard to make affiliate marketing work (like real efforts via adwords or the like). This makes me more interested in it though.

    …and it makes me understand the reason people make fake search pages and participate keyword arbitrage (and why them spam). It’s certainly something I wouldn’t do, but I can see why they are motivated to do so.

  7. Ian Anderson says:

    Personally, there is no contest on which ads perform better. CPC makes more by far. In fact, I’ve had no success with affiliate ads on my sites.

    It is important to note that most of my traffic is search engine traffic.

  8. Rich Owings says:

    I’ll play the contrarian here.

    I like using Amazon. It’s a great CPA revenue source for me. And it is a significantly better revenue source than AdSense or Chitika.

  9. bernard says:

    I have also been using affiliates a lot and now mix both in my sites. The difference for me is that with affiliates, one will have to push things more, using newsletters etc while the CPC adverts are just passive income.

    I would not choose one or the other but rather mix both sensibly.

  10. Curt says:

    I’m currently developing a new blog that I think is in a niche market — I’m not sure what the audience will be like for it but I’m assuming more than my personal blog which is actually surprising me with it’s traffic lately.

    The ad question is still on the do I add ads or do I leave them out for now and add them after popularity. If I do add ads what sort of ads to add etc. It’d be nice to see what the majority of people think on this.

    When you start a blog do you have ads on first and hope for the best or add them after gaining a readership — hoping not to loose your readership after adding them? Then do you do CPC (I’ve only ever used Adsense) or affiliates better (basically Darren’s question).

  11. marc says:

    I intent to compare a view scheme over time. But first I have to draw attention to the blogs get meaningful numbers.So keep an eye on http://mastertheweb.blogspot.com/ over the next months ….

  12. Josh Dorkin says:

    We use CPC and affiliates, and we’re well suited for affiliate advertising. It is not even a close comparison. CPC blows affiliate ad revenue out of the water. Just my observation

  13. The PC Doc says:

    It depends … if you have a product that you can sell via affiliate links that solves a problem that the user has, host it on a page that attracts visitors in high numbers (and you write good, compelling closing copy), you can make a good return (very good) with affiliate programs and CPC.

  14. John Hood says:

    I use a combination of affiliate advertising and CPC. The former is proving more successful!

  15. Khurrum says:

    I’ve seen a lot of adsense optimization tutorials but not many CPA ad optimization tutorials. Would the same stuff apply or would you need to coerce the readers to do the action?

  16. Lindsay says:

    Once you decide to promote affiliate programs, you find yourself writing content that is intentionally designed to pre-sell. Maybe that’s fine for you, but I know I’d prefer to write what I want without trying to sell things to my readers. Programs like Adsense allow me to do this, and there’s no need to tailor my content to achieve results.

  17. I’ve yet to see any return on any of the affiliate programs I am assoicated with, but like someone mentioned before, I haven’t really made as big of an effort than I could.

  18. UsedMac says:

    My site is almost exclusively Affiliate except for one Google Ad. The Aff. links far outperform CPC in trials that I have carried out. It also helps to have a private offer aff. payout percentage worked out as well.

    The site is http://www.usedmac.ca

  19. KimC says:

    Your generalization sounds solid in theory: affiliate programs are better suited to sites with a loyal readership, while CPC works best if your site receives mostly search engine traffic.
    Like most of the other commenters, I have gravitated toward one to the exclusion of the other, and according to your theory I picked the right one.
    Have you considered taking a poll to check your theory? I would love to see the results.

  20. George says:

    I think PC Doc is correct. I have some blogs and sites that have made a little more money from affiliate programs than Adsense when the product I promoted fit in well with the readership.

    On the other hand…

    Adsense is much easier, because you don’t have to pre-sell. Also, (like Lindsay says) when you use affiliate programs you start to write posts to pre-sell another person’s product.

    I used to make a good amount of money from ebay with one of my sites (more than my adsense earnings), but over the last year Adsense has far outperformed ebay. At this point, Adsense is the clear winner for me.

  21. George says:

    One more thing I just was reminded of:

    You should sign up for at least one affiliate program so you can put up an affiliate ad in the place of the public service announcements that Google displays when it is not serving ads on your blog.

  22. Patrik says:

    I run a website about draw poker (in Swedish) and a couple of blogs. On the poker page I run mostly affiliate programs for poker sites. And on the blogs just one banner of adsense links.

    The affiliate programs perform a lot better so far. It probably has a lot to do with more people visiting my poker site, more ads for the affiliate programs and that the adds offer something of value to the visitors. (Pokersites that they might not have heard of before, that also usually offer sign up bonuses)

    So affiliate programs may not per se perform better than CPC programs, but in my case they certainly have performed much better. But it might just be that I so seldom update my blog ;)

  23. Linda says:

    Thanks for all the comments. I am just starting a blog, and you have all given me things to think about. I do think I want to get ads up right away. It seems like I may as well start from the very beginning. Visitors to the site (if there are any), will be used to the ad.

    I thought that if you had adsense, that’s the only ads you can use on a site. Am I right?

  24. Terry Zulit says:

    Here is rather long article all about my experience with Adsense income vs affliate commissions:

    http://www.zulit.com/2006/12/10/the-super-affiliates-of-internet-marketing/

    Terry

  25. I suppose its a hard thing to decide which is better. I suppose it depends on your site audience. In theory CPC is great because it doesn’t have to wait for a sale conversion. But if you get your conversion level for the affiliate ads correct I suppose it can earn more.

    I am only starting in this blogging world but hope to combine both together.

  26. moonburst says:

    At the beginning, cpc would be a better deal for the beginner blogger seeing as how the blog is not yet set up with the network of people they are aiming for. After you have built up your network/readers, traffic, etc. you can choose a program that would be good for your blog. The more focused your blog is, the better your chances that affiliate programs will work out and the better your sales would be.

  27. Kenny Graves says:

    I would think a mixed of all would be the best route to go. Why put your eggs in one basket? If I had enough traffic I would do pop-ips/CPm, CPC and affiliate marketing (CPA or per Sale)
    That way you get a mix of all of them going at once. That imo would be the best route to go.

  28. Model Volume says:

    Interesting to see various opinions. So for I have had minimal success with affiliate marketing compared to adsense. I think alot of it depends on your niche (web site subject matter) and the type of visitors you draw in.

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