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Why Affiliate Links are the best Form of Blog Advertising

This Post was submitted by Matt Jones, the author of Blogging Fingers

With bloggers looking for alternatives to AdSense, which is renowned for it’s low click-though rates on blogs with ‘web-savvy’ readers, one of the golden oldies of Internet advertising has been making a comeback. Namely, using affiliate links.

Out of all forms of advertising affiliate links are the least obtrusive to the reader. Long lists of affiliate links are unnecessary because the key to affiliate marketing with blogs is pre-selling and so other than ‘top 5 affiliate programs’ in a sidebar there is little use for listing large numbers of affiliate links.

Pre-selling is content for your blog! Writing a fair review of an affiliate program or of a product (from a certain affiliate program) is both useful for your readers, while being fantastic for the search engines.

Fresh Organic Traffic

Normally the name of the affiliate program/product will naturally be in the posts’ title and throughout the main text of the post. If people link to the post they will probably use something like E.g. “Matt’s review of – insert name of affiliate program” – in the anchor text, which also helps that individual post rank very highly in the search engines.

In other words, reviewing a post about a specific affiliate program/product automatically adds a keyword phrase (usually the name of the affiliate program/product) to your sites ‘long-tail’ of keywords and provides prolonged low levels of organic traffic.

This screenshot of part of my long-tail traffic helps illustrate this:


Longtail-Visits

The left collumn is the keyword phrase used, the right is the number of visits.

The Cycle of Honesty and Reward

Unlike with AdSense, bloggers have direct control over the affiliate links and so if a reader makes a purchase/carries out some sort of action through your affiliate link and are happy with what they got then a level of trust has been gained. This improves the probability that the reader will return (increasing page views generating revenue from other advertisements) and you will be able to recommended more products to them.

This in-turn encourages you to make quality recommendations and so the circle of honesty and reward continues.

We already know that just about any form of advertising works on ‘normal’ people, but ‘web-savvy’ readers are a tougher nut to crack. However, they have several characteristics which actually make affiliate links work better with them than with ‘normal’ readers.

Characteristics of ‘Web-Savvy’ Readers:

Cat-Computer

  • They have a build in scam and spam detectors and will catch you out even if you have a BS in BS. The Cycle of Honesty and Reward can be used to the bloggers advantage here. The web-savvy readers ‘up the pace of the game’ forcing the blogger to play better, with better programs/products which is good for everyone.
  • Web-Savvy readers subscribe to RSS feeds. This in almost creates a captive audience who read only the post and don’t even see other sidebar advertisements, which is great for a post with affiliate links. An RSS feed is surprisingly similar to a single-column landing page of affiliate marketer trying to sell an eBook because in an RSS feed all the focus is on the content.
  • Web-Savvy readers can usually absorb a greater quantity of information and so the pre-selling, while still concise need not be cut short if you run over the 500 word mark. More posts can also be written presenting more opportunities for revenue generation.
  • Many web-savvy readers have blogs of their own and may link to yours. They are even more likely to link if they bought a product on your recommendation and were happy with it (Honesty and Reward again).
  • Web-savvy readers are more obsessive. What I mean by this is that once they have read a certain amount of content from a blog, providing they like it enough the chances are they will visit regularly or subscribe to the Feed.

Most of those characteristics are based on the core principal that web-savvy users are trained to focus on the blog content, which is where the majority of the affiliate links should be.

The only real downside to using affiliate links where the reader is aware of them is that they may be suspicious as to where your ‘allegiances’ lie and forming trust will be that tiny bit harder. However, this weakness can be used to the your advantage due to the personal nature of blogging.

The Crunch

A non-web-savvy person may visit a site and buy a product right away only to never visit again. This is the opposite to a web-savvy person. A web-savvy user would take longer to have their trust won over but once they have been, they are committed for longer and will generate more revenue in the long-run. Therefore, due to the characteristics listed despite popular opinion, by using affiliate links, web-savvy users are more valuable than non-web-savvy people.

How to Gain Trust From Web-Savvy Readers

  • Not having every post about an affiliate program/product you recommended.
  • Write about sites you don’t recommend explaining what is wrong with them. This shows you are critical and carefully chose the best programs/products to promote.
  • Spread out the promotional posts with some that contain advice about using affiliate programs, which will help the reader earn more with the program you recommended (often mean you earn a greater commission). This has the added benefit of helping your reputation grow as an expert in your niche and I personally find writing advice far more stimulating than churning out reviews.
  • Spend extra time to answer their questions respectfully, thoughtfully and accuratly because they will read the answers you gave to previous questions.

Conclusion

Too many bloggers are living with the deluded excuse that they are failing to make money with their blog because web-savvy readers read it. This was perfectly understandable when the only thing anyone could talk about was AdSense, but the rules of the game are changing and choosing specific affiliate programs is even more precise advertisement targeting than AdSense is. It integrates perfectly with blogs and should be fully utilised.

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. Chris says:

    A very imformative article. i will be applying the techniques to my own blog in the future.

  2. pre-selling is great, grab the attention and write a good review or even a negative review on the product. I presell on squidoo and on my blog as well. I even provide pre selling topics to my list saying why this product is bad – and yet they click or even purchase

    just sending them to the affiliate and let them read the traaaiiilling sales page is just too much for an average person to read

    a small review or a good attack to the affiliate program is a great way to get clicks and hopefully sales!

    great topic!

  3. Matt, this was a great post! Thanks, Darren for having him on the blog. The question of how to profit ethically and honestly from web-savvy readers in a manner that is a good fit with the blog is a vexing one, and your ideas make a lot of sense. I learned a lot, thanks!

  4. Michelle says:

    I have been wondering for a while how a high RSS readership attracts advertisers. I get it now. Thanks for a great article!

  5. Anne says:

    I have to agree on this one. Readers tend to trust blog more than an ordinary site. They feel closer to the owner that way. You know how people trust their “friends” when it comes to buy something. Blog owners are their friend to trust online. Writing a quality review will not only building the trust level, but also help improve your keywords arrangement and gaining more quality readers.

  6. Maki says:

    What is interesting to me is that the first half of Matt’s post was very similar to an article I wrote two days ago.

    Here’s the link, if anyone wants to do more reading on the same topic:
    How Pre-sell Pages can Easily Increase Conversions for Your Affiliate Links

  7. You hit it home when you made the statement that web-savvy readers very rarely click on Adsense ads. I’ve found this out myself after having lots of success with my old website which definitely did not have a web-savvy audience. I’ve been trying Adsense on my new technology blog and I’ve found that I’m lucky if I can get one click a day with Adsense. I’ll definitely have to look into this affiliate links thing. Thanks a bunch!

  8. Zen Zoomie says:

    Super advice for a newbie blogger. I was thinking about the RSS = don’t see the sidebar problem earlier today–perfect timing!
    Chronicles of a (Wannabe) Professional Blogger

  9. Billy says:

    This absolutely true, with the low ctr of adsense on blogs, it is worthwhile to utilize affiliate links within the context of your blog entries. Majority of good content gets picked up by engines when reviewing an affiliate product or services, and whenever readers click on the link, your website is credited with the traffic with a persistent cookie until a sale is made.

  10. Tom says:

    This is exactly the kind of push I needed to get me to focus on properly monetizing my site. Well written and clear, it’s easy to see why Matt was invited to post on Problogger.

  11. Jason says:

    What’s funny is I tried using affiliate programs years ago and made nothing, and now I make almost near what I make off AdSense with them now. CJ, Amazon Associates, ClickBank… They’re great.

    What’s nice is that you get to promote products that you know are quality. It makes me feel good at least. Sometimes when you mention a good article about making money online, for instance, you get all these crappy advertisements from AdSense.

  12. Dave Starr says:

    Very useful post, Matt.

    Two things struck me the most:

    How tiring it is to read the essentially the same complaints (dare I say “whines”, with no cheese) on so many blogs of otherwise competent bloggers. “My readers won’t click my ads”. Well, here’s something to do about it, which is more than I can say for the last 1001 blog entries I have seen on the same subject.

    Second you picked up on something very important when you mentioned ‘web savvy” readers often check to see how vistors are treated. I have opted out of a number of “money” blogs that I would otherwise still be subscribed to becuase the bloggers either don’t respond to comments (if you don’t have time to respond, turn the darn things off) or respond “snarkily” they turn off more readers than the one they may be venting upon. “Nazi” and “Dork” are just a few of the snide names I’ve seen “name brand” bloggers call readers in the past month or so … want to guess if they are still in my feed reader?

    Great stuff, again, thanks.

  13. starleads says:

    This is a great advice. I guess it also depends on the niche you are working on.

  14. Sam Jackson says:

    A great post, very informative, but I can’t help but find it very funny that in the RSS feed I read it from there was a feedvertising advertisement for AdSense :)

  15. Thanks for the advice. Although I read lot of blogs about SEO I never see any ads as I am using firefox with ads and javascripts blocked and I believe that other regular readers must also be reading similar. This may be the reasons for blog sites getting low CTR in adsense.

    Chandra Mohan
    [Allscriptsdemo]

  16. Allan Tan says:

    It give me a shift (mindset) in what I should focus in putting in my blog.
    Thanks for that simple yet very insightful writing.

    Allan.

  17. Prasanga says:

    hi, thank for the info , I have a quite a few affiliate links on my blog I am getting more traffic.

  18. Matt Jones says:

    Maki – I wrote this post before 2 days ago… you can ask Darren! (I think it was about 5 days ago).

  19. willy says:

    I use affiliate link every page of my blog, I will chang it…

  20. Alvin says:

    I’ve learn something from this post. I think I will give a try on advertise Affiliate Links. A great advice for me =).

    Thanks.

  21. while one can say that one tries to recommend only good products, but when there is a conflict of interests like in this case, the lines sometimes become blurred. The question one needs to ask is ,’If i’m NOT being paid to write this about this article, will I still do it?’ I wld think that many a times, the answer is no. Why? Because unless a product is really fantastic, you wld not really bother and how many affiliate products out there are fantastic? What makes blog posts stand out? Those that are unique and have really good content. If you review alright products that are not fantastic, you are creating an alright post that will also not stand out if you want to look at it that way.

    Nevertheless, i’m not saying this is not a good source of revenue, but this conflict of interests will always tend to compromise one’s standards and significantly more if one is not careful…

  22. Blend says:

    Good article. I like traffic from organic search because it for long term traffic. Good keyword on our affiliate review and make top on organic search this will make the visitor become buyer.

  23. Mike says:

    Re comment #21 – What tends to happen for me is that I write a post straight off the bat and then realise that without even consciously thinking about it that I’ve actually name dropped companies or products that I have an affiliate partnership with so the link out is a genuine one.

    Personally I couldn’t link out to a product or service just because of the affiliate partnership. I’ve got to know that it adds value to my reader.

    Interestingly enough, I wrote a review of Yaro Staraks free eBook the other day and that was one of the hardest articles I’ve ever written! Knowing that I would drop my affiliate link in, I found myself editing and re-editing just so that the copy didn’t look spammy. I endorse the eBook 100% and so it shouldn’t have been so tough. I guess that’s why I could never do Pay Per Post or any of those kind of things.

  24. Tara says:

    Ooh, this is true! This is true!

    I talk about luxury products and services all day long on my blog, and I can attest that the greatest percentage of my traffic comes from people searching for those things.

    I think having your own unique voice as a blogger is key, too.

  25. Mosley says:

    I also had a post about this here is the link if you want to check it out.
    http://mrbaconpants.com/thearchives/270

    I guess great minds really do think alike. ;)

  26. Artem says:

    Sometimes an often use of affiliate links is not good. I have only two of it on my page, but Blog Explosion denied my blog because of “much quantity of affiliate links” :(

  27. chris says:

    Matt,

    Would you keep the affiliate adds flowing with the content of your blog? ie, I have a blog at http://www.40hourstogo.com which is work related. I incorporated Yahoo Hot Jobs as one of the affiliates, should I keep with the same theme on any additional affiliate links?

    Thanks. This was a very informative article.

  28. Matt Jones says:

    chirs, I would try to think ‘what will interest and be of use to my readers’, that way the conversion rate would be high and your readers would be happy, this normally involves the ‘theme’ of the affiliate programs to be closly related to the blogs topic.

  29. I think I just may link to your blog through one of my blogs! Maybe even on my cool sites one I put in my link, it’s more related to Web Design, so maybe there instead… Anyway, I think this is a really good post.

    My problem in the past was I wouldn’t use any advertisements at all! I just LOVE to write! Then I end up writing too much and not making any money, so I throw all of the ad’s in at once and people are probably appalled at the accidential aggressiveness of the ads. I’m finding balance though :-)

    Actually, I’ve changed the link to the web design link, because that’s where I’m going to post your link at. Also, I took your advice, and used an affiliate link in my (what will be) post before the one mentioning your website.

    Thanks again!
    David

  30. I posted the wrong link after all, lol. I’ll put it there instead now.

  31. CoolLion says:

    A nice post need to think about it……may i will follow your advice

  32. Missa says:

    Hey I just want to say that your blog is one of the best that I have seen. Thank you for the great tips about affiliate links on blogs.

  33. Michael says:

    Good point. Anchor texting affiliate links within a review is a great idea. It’s ingenius. People don’t trust a webpage they never seen before so its hard to make a purchase. What people rather do is find another person out there that talks about their view about that product. If its positie, it might become a sale and you get the commission. Thanks.

  34. Cher says:

    A good technique to promote affiliate programs so that one could get affiliate commissions instead of less adsense clicks.

  35. jim says:

    Great article..I am proud to say Im apart of Matts Blogging Community and have featured him twice allready at blogcarnivals..Great work guys keep it up

  36. Sangesh says:

    Hey Darren,
    I am also trying to join more affiliates. Thank you for all the valuable tips about affiliate programs.

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