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Are Affiliate Programs with Small Payouts Worth It?

Today this question about affiliate programs landed in my inbox:

“Darren, could you answer a question for me? I notice that a couple of weeks ago you promoted Leo’s Zen to Done ebook with an affiliate link. I was surprised that you did this because the commission from it is just a few dollars – loose change really. Wouldn’t you be better off promoting high value products? Do you really need the few dollars that a sale brings? Doesn’t it all get too bitsy?”

Blogging-For-Loose-Change
Photo by Aytena

This is a good question and one that I’ve seen a number of bloggers arguing over the years when given the opportunity to go with income streams with small dollar values associated with them.

I could probably write a long answer to the question – however I think the best answer is to say that there’s a lot of businesses going around that make a lot of money out of lots of small payments (micro payments).

Micro payments add up over time.

Let me illustrate with some real analysis of part of my online income from the day after I promoted Zen to Done. Here’s some of the income that I earned that day from a few of the affiliate programs that I run:

So the total income from these affiliate programs for that day was $287.78 from 65 sales. That’s just $4.43 per sale.

$4.43 per sale doesn’t sound a lot to be earning – but when you have 65 of them in a day it makes a nice supplementary income for a blogger. I say supplementary because I also run advertising and other larger affiliate programs on my blogs (see below).

Of course to get the 65 sales you need a good volume of traffic and you need to find quality affiliate products that relate to your blog’s topic (read more on how to make money from affiliate programs on a blog) – it’s not just a matter of sticking an affiliate program on your blog with 17 readers and expecting the sales to roll in.

PS: I should point out that I only included in this list some of the smaller affiliate programs that I promote. Not all affiliate programs have small payouts. I work with a few affiliate partners with products that pay out more than the ones in the list above also (for example promoting AdSense through their referrals program can bring in $250 for a full conversion). Why wouldn’t I just promote these? It’s simple, these tend to be fewer in numbers in terms of conversions – but together with a higher number of small affiliate conversions they can add up to a nice income.

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. Jim Moon says:

    Every little bit counts right? Throughout time, it really starts to add up. Great post Daren.

    Thanks,

    Jim Moon

  2. I Have my own affiliate program targeted at bloggers and the goal was for my fellow bloggers to make money too. They could do one post about it , add a banner or text link and forget about it. From that point on, it’s passive income.

    Now, I agree that a blogger should not rely on 1 income stream alone. If you have bigger ones, then do promote them but the higher the price, the more difficult to sell it. The smaller ones are easier and will add up at the end of the year.

  3. mmj says:

    I think the key is multiple programs with multiple blogs. Even companies like Engadget have many, many websites.

  4. Dave says:

    I view it the same as running three or four sites earning smallish amounts on their own – as a group, the total sums up nicely, and if the income is consistent, works out at tidy sum at the end of the year.

    While it would be great to have one affiliate program (or income stream) that pays highly, I imagine they are few and far between, have smallish conversions, and is a little too much like putting all your eggs in one basket.

  5. Yep, look after the pennies…

  6. vietnam says:

    Hi all,
    I think that is trued but if your are new blogger how can you have experience about that? Please give for me your articles.
    Thanks Darren Rowse

  7. Most bloggers will have to settle with pennies (like me when I start monetizing my blog).

  8. I am starting out with just pennies. Every little bit counts in my opinion.

  9. I think it is well worth it.
    If you only make a few hundred bucks a year by doing that, that can cover for you hosting cost.
    think about it that way.

  10. I agree, it’s all about having different pockets of income stream and in the end it adds up.

    You cannot always focus on the big pay-outs only or else you might be leaving some good money on the table.

    Gisele

  11. Sucker says:

    Go ahead and skip over all the low-paying programs. That just leaves more for me :)

  12. James Mann says:

    Great post Darren

    So many people think they need to promote affiliate programs with big payouts to make money online when the truth is there is a ton of money available through these affiliate programs offering small commissions or payouts.

    If it were not for affiliate programs with smaller payouts I would not have had any income over the past 3 years.

  13. I have had alot of experience with affiliate marketing and deffinately agree you inclue some of the penny makers in your campagin. On my sight I have list the programs I have been the most sucessful with along with several e-books on affiliate marketing and search engine optimization.
    Check it out @ http://www.teamaffiliate.net

  14. Zlatara says:

    It’s hard to run those small payout sponsors if you don’t have large traffic… I can make 1$ a month then with Amazon!

  15. davao says:

    wow. great inspiration not just for bloggers but also small time developers.

  16. Natasha says:

    Hmmm I’m glad you posted this, because i have been looking at different affiliate programs for when my site goes live and was wondering the same thing. i agree that every little bit counts. Good post.

  17. windyridge says:

    How can I become an affiliate of Real Blog Videos? I am interested in the WordPress one in particular

  18. Jimson Lee says:

    The CTR and conversions are much much lower with affilates than Adsense for example.

    So you need a lot of traffic to make the sales and commissions. And I mean a LOT.

  19. Inhibitor says:

    Speaking in my area of expertise (the MMORPG video game market), there’s a good example of this line of reasoning.

    Practically everyone has heard of World of Warcraft at this point. It has reached a paying subscriber total of over ten million, each one paying $15 per month (after purchasing the game for $35-50 dollars). This all adds up to quite a bit of change.

    However, there’s a free-to-play MMORPG called Maplestory. The graphics are well below what you get in WoW, and it looks to be a more “childish” game on the surface. There’s no subscription fee, and no purchase of the game is required, but there are quite a few things in-game that can only be obtained by purchasing them in the “Item Shop”, usually for a dollar or two.

    In 2005 (the last year they have released figures on), Maplestory generated $250 million in revenue from microtransactions.

    I agree…find what fits your market (and your strategy), and don’t turn your nose up at microtransactions. They will add up quickly…as long as you have the content to bring people to your site, and engage them enough to put them in a “purchasing” frame of mind.

  20. Bob Angus says:

    The key is to know your audience (yes, that applies to more than just your content). What do they want to buy? AND how do they buy it?

    Sometimes the big payout items have a longer, more considered sales cycle, which can impact your conversion rate. Based on your audience, you have weigh not just the commission rate terms. The volume of traffic, the type of traffic (buyer/browser), CTR, conversion rate… and the commission rate all need to be considered to maximize your affiliate revenue.

    Oh, and not putting all of you eggs in one basket helps too.

  21. Youfoundjake says:

    I think it’s also a great way to diversify. Why be depended on just a few money makers?

  22. simon says:

    Well, I do promote Google AdSense and get a great conversion. I think that is because AdSense for content just recently available for Traditional Chinese users. Not many publishers know about Google AdSense before I promote it. The conversion is great!

  23. Stephanie says:

    It’s amazing how fast a few small sales can add up. While I like to get the biggest commissions I can, if it’s relevant an item that only offers a small commission is still worth posting.

  24. DefogMyBlog says:

    Well Darren I think you should raffle one day of loose change for your regular comments people. Christmas Eve might be a nice day for it!

  25. mcangeli says:

    It is surprising how much $10 here or $20 there can add up. Its also a nice perk to get a long forgotten about affiliate check every once in a while…

  26. Mike says:

    Your right, every little bit counts. Just more money in your pocket. It all adds up over time.

  27. Luq says:

    while affiliate links are a great way to make a little extra cash on the side i doubt its a good idea for new blogs or websites coz you’ll barely make 1 referral a month.

    Great post!

  28. So far I’ve had more luck with high paying programs… but then again I’ve never aggressively tried to monetize anything.

  29. side-line says:

    since i started using all kind of affiliates, I have noticed that my dependency on adsense has diminished a lot. So all bits help, more than just a bit.

  30. soeren onez says:

    I don’t know if you have a similar phrase in english but in german it is a old farmers truth to say:

    “If you do not dignify the cent, is the dollar not woth”

    I think here it is exactly the same. If I look only at the big keywords like credits and try to earn money with this, I will not earn a cent. But if I see waht i can get my payment will be much higher then zero.

  31. Dave says:

    It all adds up.

    We receive checks from about thirty different companies each month.

    Our biggest checks all started out as small ones.

    I always like to look at the yearly revenues that a small monthly check might bring.

    Let’s say that a smaller affiliate program earns you $5 per day. Doesn’t seem like much, but over a full year, that’s over $1800. That’s a lot of money.

  32. Positve Flow says:

    I think affiliates with small payouts can be worth if they convert really well but usually I tend to go for higher paying offers. I takes just as much time/effort to promote an product that pays out $100 or a product that pays $35. Do the math 10 sales and $100 = $1000, 10 sales at $35 = $350. You can see the benefits quickly. Biggest payouts are usually better.

  33. Wigglepig says:

    Thankyou so much for the inspiration! I just started my blog a few days ago and added google adsense yesterday. And I am EXTREMELY happy that I got one click on my add so far and almost 40 readers coming in!!! (the click was a friend) :) Hey – you got to start somewhere!

    Keep up the good work!
    /Wigglepig

  34. Max Powers says:

    This might sound strange to some of you regular bloggers but as a new site, getting those first little bits of money credited to your account has a psychological effect that maybe you are on the right track.

    I was excited when the first penny came in.

  35. GettyCash says:

    I’ve just started to use Amazon affiliate program. I really hope I can make some money off it.

  36. Sangesh says:

    Gee Darren,

    You provide so many new and other affiliate site for us, which are not found by users like us. You make our work that much easier.

    Cheers.

  37. Whamma says:

    It’s easy to spread yourself too thin by joining too many affiliate programs, a program like Linkshare has many top name brands with varied commissions. The volume of traffic needed to make real money is huge.

    Also see workfromhomepay.com

  38. Mike Smith says:

    My girlfriend asked me today about an ebook I wrote. She asked why I don’t try to sell off the rights like I did on a previous one because this one wasn’t selling as fast as the other.

    I told her, even if it makes 1-2 sales a day, that’s worth it. $10-20 per day is WAY better then 0 in my book any day.

    Great post, and good for you using the smaller affiliate companies. So many bloggers have the EXACT same ads it makes me sick :)

  39. sexyMG says:

    Nice article! I like using litte pay affiliates, because every $ is needed. Buying more sites, better is the profit.

  40. morgan says:

    Great article …

    thanks for posting all this info

  41. akshay says:

    do frequent posting really increases google search visitors?

  42. akshay says:

    smaller payouts are nt worth ones if you are having less web traffic…

    simple MBA says volume == sales

  43. Andy T says:

    A small payouts on ads is OK! As long as not over doing it to effect the style of the writer.
    The payout from pay affilliates can proof how propular the article writer [I try not to use successful, because bad writer right topic can also propular]. The payout is also the reward for the writer’s intellectual contribution, a small support for his/her living. So that we can have more people to write, more content to read.

  44. As somebody said, “The ocean is made up of tiny drops.” Simple but very true!

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  46. Matt says:

    I run a website based on a referral marketing scheme, and I can say it does pay off. It hasnt taken much time to setup and referrals are flowing quite nicely.

    It can only gain momentum and I havnt done bad out of it so far!

  47. Trula says:

    Darren you have so much good advice on this blog. I could stay here all day, reading and learning. Great post, very helpful!

  48. I agree with this post. Most blogs do not have the traffics of Darrens. But I would definitely be okay with any pay out from the affiliates I use. Thats part of building your blog, figuring out the best solution for your specific need. Keep up the good writing Darren!

    scott