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When Affiliate Marketing Can Be a WIN/WIN/WIN Situation

Several years ago on my photography site I was approached by a company who sold a software product for photographers. They wanted to run a banner ad campaign on my site to promote a new product.

Their product was a quality one from a source I trusted and it was relevant to our readers so I sold them a banner ad that would run in the sidebar of my blog for the duration of a month for the cost of $2000.

The month ran it’s course and I emailed my contact at the company to see if they’d like to renew the ad. They didn’t.

It turns out that the banner ad had not driven enough sales for them to justify running the ad again (from what I know the sales generated from the ad made the company about $1000 – so given they paid $2000 it was a loss).

A year later noticed that they’d released a new product so I emailed them to ask if they’d like to try another ad campaign – potentially something in a different position on the site or even a competition/giveaway to give them a different type of exposure.

They said now but mentioned that they now had an affiliate program and would be willing to give me a review copy of the software for me to review. The commission on this $100 product was 30%.

I signed up for the affiliate program – wrote a post that gave a fair review of the product and posted it onto the blog. I pushed traffic to that post in our weekly newsletter and via social media and we ended up selling around 300 copies of the software over the coming weeks – making a total of $9000 in commission.

A Win/Win/Win for All Parties

While affiliate campaigns are not always going to have this result – I think this is a great example of how affiliate marketing can actually be a Win for everyone.

It was a Win for Me

Obviously I was happy with this affiliate campaign. While it took a little more work to review and write a post than to put a banner ad in our sidebar the increase in earnings from $2000 to $9000 was great for the bottom line of my business.

It was a Win for the Brand

The beauty of an affiliate program when you’re the manufacturing a product is that you only pay out when you generate a sale. The risk is pretty much non-existent for the company.

Rather than making a loss of $1000 they generated $30,000 in sales and took 70% of that. It also would have brought them new customers that they could promote to in future.

It was a Win for My Readers

The other party in any affiliate promotion is the reader. I like to think that they also won in this campaign because instead of seeing a banner ad that was all ‘marketing’ from the company they had the opportunity to read a fair review of the product.

I go out of my way in these kinds of reviews to show the pros and cons of products and help readers to make an informed decision.

In this case we had a number of readers email to say that they’d seen products from this company being advertised previously but seeing a review had helped them to make a decision if it was something that would help them.

When Affiliate Marketing Works Best

Of course affiliate marketing isn’t ‘easy’ money.

While the above story might seem rather ‘seamless’ and an easy it is important to note that the result was only possible after several years of building up:

  • Traffic to the site
  • Trust/relationship with readers
  • Credibility/authority

The other factors at play were:

  • A high quality product
  • A product from a reputable source
  • A relevant product that matched the needs of our readership

3 Simple Questions to Understand Why Your Affiliate Promotions Are Not Converting

I had an email this morning from a blogger who has built a great loyal readership to their blog and who has been attempting to monentize that readership lately by doing some affiliate promotions on that blog.

The problem – nobody is buying anything that they promote.

I spent a few minutes on Skype with the blogger to unpack the problem and asked a series of questions to try to get to the heart of the matter. Here they are and why I asked them:

1. Why are your readers coming to your site?

Getting in touch with the ‘intent’ of your readers is really important when thinking about any kind of monetization. Are they there for community, information, advice, to buy something, for research, for fun or something else?

Understanding the reason for your reader coming will give you some hints as to what they might respond to in terms of promotions.

For example – if they are their to learn something, promoting a ‘how to’ type eBook might be the best thing to promote. If they are there to research buying something – you might be better to promote the products that they’re researching.

Unfortunately not all reader intents convert particularly well with affiliate marketing. For example if they are their for a sense of belonging – unless you can promote a conference or community for them to join you might be better in thinking of a different model for monetization.

2. Are the products you’re promoting relevant to your readers?

This might seem like a no brainer but I’m amazed how many times I see bloggers promoting products that are on a completely different topic to what their blog is even about.

The products you promote as an affiliate need to be:

  • high quality (anything low quality will burn the trust of your readers but if you promote great product they will thank you for it)
  • relevant to the topic of your blog
  • relevant to your readers needs and intent (see point #1)
  • at a relevant price point – i.e. don’t promote high value products if your readership don’t typically have big budgets!

Are You Promoting in a Personal Way?

Another common mistake that I see bloggers making when promoting affiliate products is that they simply stick an affiliate banner or link in their sidebar and think that that will drive heaps of sales.

The problem with this is that it is little more than an ‘ad’ and your readers will likely be blind to it.

By far the most effective ways to promote affiliate products is to write about them in a personal way – from your own experience. This means you probably want to choose something to promote that you have personal experience with that you can give an honest endorsement or review on.

Your readers read your blog because they want to hear from you – so tell them about what you’re promoting it and why you’re promoting it.

Do this in a blog post primarily but you’ll also want to consider emailing your newsletter list for important promotions too and of course following it up with some social media status updates too.

By all means try some banner ad affiliate promotions – but you’ll find your conversions are significantly higher if you add a little of YOU into your promoting of products.

There is a great more to affiliate marketing than what I’ve written above – but if you’re not seeing conversions the above 3 questions might just help to unearth some strategies to help you move forward.

5 Ways to Prepare Your Blog for Affiliate Selling

This a guest contribution from full time affiliate marketer, Nrupen Masram.

Using your blog to earn a passive income through affiliate sales is something many bloggers aspire to. Isn’t it? But you won’t make money if you don’t get visitors to your site and you won’t get that consistent traffic until you have a blog worth visiting.

There are lots of ways to generate affiliate sales through your blog but having affiliate products to sell is just a small part of the picture. This article will focus on five elements you should consider, before and after you sign up to any affiliate programs.

1. Become A Niche Expert

If you simply focus on making affiliate sales, you’re likely to scare people away. When you do a search on Google for anything related to a particular niche, what are you looking for? Usually, you’re looking for expert. So, it follows on that if you’re an expert in a particular niche, you’re going to attract traffic. So how do you establish yourself as an expert?

There’s more than one piece to this puzzle. You obviously need lots of knowledge about your niche. You need your own blog where you can share your knowledge and engage in discussion. Write plenty of content to educate people. Once people are comfortable with you as an expert and you’ve developed a community, you can start slipping in affiliate products in your blog posts.

Nobody wants to be sold to all the time. They want to believe they’re making the buying decisions on their own so when you include affiliate links and products in your blog posts, you should aim to provide genuine solutions to common problems.

2. Create a Recommended Products and Tools Page 

Word-of-mouth advertising is by far the best, strongest and most effective form available…and it’s free! Everybody’s favorite price. This is what you are trying to harness in affiliate sales and you can consolidate all your best product recommendations on one page. As you’re building your reputation as an expert, your followers will trust your opinions and a single page of recommendations allow you to recommend products outside of a blog post.

Every time you recommend a product or tool, you’re putting your own reputation on the line and that’s one of the most valuable assets you have in business. Never recommend a product or service that isn’t good quality and never lie, say a product is good if it’s not. You only have to do it once to lose all the trust you have built up with many of your followers.

You can also create your own tools and products and add them to this category if you have the necessary skills or are willing to outsource this aspect of your business in order to make even more money.

3. Write Product Reviews

Product reviews are a great way to include affiliate links in a useful and educational blog post. Where possible, never write a review about a product you haven’t used yourself. If you’re going to make money this way, it’s best to truly know how well a product performs so you have be honest with your community.

However, it’s not always possible to use every single product and so some reviews will be based on research and opinion. You must always write an honest, but positive, review of the product and have an affiliate link within the review that goes to the product.

It’s critically important here that you don’t hide the fact you’re an affiliate. A lack of transparency may cost you the trust of some of your readers. There’s nothing wrong with making commissions based on reviews you have written if you’re honest about everything.

4. Build Your Own Mailing Lists

A growing mailing list is key to long-term success in affiliate selling and your blog for that matter. However, just because somebody subscribes to your blog, it doesn’t give you permission to hit them with countless sales emails every single day. You’re smarter than that!

Using an autoresponder (such as Aweber or GetResponse) will help keep in regular contact with your subscribers but you should vary the type of information contained within the emails. Regular newsletters give you the opportunity to share free articles, reports, ebooks and even free products sometimes.

Your affiliate sales emails should be interspersed with these other emails so the people on your lists don’t feel like they’re always being sold to. This comes back to building relationships and rapport. Also allow your subscribers to provide feedback to make sure you know if you’re taking the wrong approach.

Banner Ads 

Banner ads can be effective but you need to consider the size and placement within your blog. Most affiliate products tools have a selection of banners you can use so test different ones to see which banners can give you the best results for your money. Avoid large banners and ones that have clashing colours  Remember that they’re merely one aspect of your blog design. They shouldn’t overtake everything else you worked so hard to design.

Making money with affiliate sales can be very lucrative but it’s not as easy as waving a magic wand. It involves a lot of short, medium and long-term planning to ensure your business grows consistently and your income also grows. Never be afraid to change things to see if they can improve aspects of your business. You can always change them back if they don’t work.

You’re the master of your own destiny (and your blog). Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

My name is Nrupen Masram. I started affiliate marketing after completing college and since year 2010 I am full time affiliate marketer. I sell both physical as well as digital products but mostly my income comes by promoting physical products. I am not millionaire marketer but I do earn full time online. I write about affiliate marketing on my blog http://NrupenMasram.com.

Affiliate Marketing: Cult or Cash Cow?

This is a guest post from communications and marketing consultant Brook McCarthy.

Image courtesy of Federico Stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

When I was a young hippie, I accidentally joined a cult. I was a student of religious studies at the time and believed I was merely observing, until one morning, when I found myself at 5am, chanting to a giant image of the guru in a group. Normally, nobody gets me up at 5am. As cults go, they were lovely people. There was the small matter of the group being accused of the 1978 Sydney Hilton bombing but, when all is said and done, I have very fond memories of my time in the cult.For some years now, I’ve been following a particular woman online. I wasn’t a committed devotee, just an observer. Last year, I considered doing her online business course but was overawed by the price. I moved on.

The buzz begins

A year later, the buzz began again. Three different online personalities, of whom I consider myself a card-carrying devotee, all began spruiking this course. They offered gifts of their own e-books and courses, one-to-one consultations and the promise of being ‘in the know’ to further encourage purchase. The price was the same, but a year had passed so I’d had time to get used to it.

Each affiliate promised this course would bring clarity, a well-trod path to business success, and digital kinship which, as an online marketing professional, is sacrosanct. All the video tutorials on the web cannot add up to the loving support of a well-informed, well-connected community eager to help a member out.

Digital kinship

And so deciding to take the course came down to choosing which affiliate offered the best bunch of incentive gifts. I chose to give my affiliate money to the person who offered more community – a small, private Facebook group with additional weekly teleseminars where my questions would have a chance of being answered.

I’m not a natural joiner. Apart from my brief cult phrase, I struggle to fit in with a sports team or mother’s group, a church group or political affiliation. But I am swayed by the opinions of those I respect.

And therein lies the power of affiliate marketing, the smartest evolution of marketing since Seth Godin coined ‘permission marketing’.

As businesses develop tribes whose leader they respect, these leaders introduce others to their tribe. The tribe gains another resource to learn from, the leader gains respect for having introduced another valuable leader, and the tribe of the introduced leader grows.

Watching their bank account swell, the business leader finally sees how their endless blog posts, emails, tweets, updates and promotions have paid off, the joiner taps into curated information, education and online kinship, and the affiliate needs only market to the networkers, not the network.

Power to the people

We need word-of-mouth to make sense of the world. Curating and interpreting information begins in infancy with our parents, and continues throughout school and college.

For all its algorithmic updates, Google cannot deliver quality information curated especially for us. Increasingly, we rely on tribe leaders to present, curate and interpret information for us. We no longer seek open access to more information, but leaders whose opinions we respect and closed, exclusive communities with a limited amount of quality information that is relevant, useful and valuable.

Hitching your reputation

Becoming involved in affiliate marketing means hitching our professional reputation to another’s. As a business owner with a tribe, our value is our relevance and usefulness to our tribe. Reputation is both our key asset and tradable commodity, should we choose it.

Reputation is slow to build and easy to destroy. A leader’s reputation and earning ability diminishes with each poorly-thought out email campaign or dodgy affiliate program they promote and they must rely on aggressive list-building strategies to keep growing their tribe as people demonstrate distrust by unsubscribing.

Cults with money

Crowd

Image by unknown photographer, licensed under Creative Commons

Whatever reservations you have against cults, you may transfer to affiliate marketing. Whether you deem the financial incentive of affiliate marketing clearer and cleaner or murky and self-interested depends on you.

Crowds have power. There’s no lonelier position than when you feel you’re the only person who doesn’t believe someone is wonderful. You begin to doubt your judgment when you’re the lone wolf apart from the pack.

But we have eyes, ears and wallets. We are all active participants in online cults when we subscribe to a business’s updates and eagerly read what they have to say. So keep your eyes and ears open and consider the following:

1.    Reputation is slow to build and quick to destroy

You’ve spent years carefully cultivating a tribe, forging relationships with other bloggers and business owners and growing your social media following, so don’t throw it away with one poorly-researched, hasty affiliate promotion.

2.    Personality is important

As bloggers whose success relies heavily on interacting with our followers, you know personality is important so always consider whether the personality you’ll be promoting will resonate with your tribe. Sometimes people’s personalities grow on you, something they grate you into shreds.

3.    Be wary if don’t need to buy or try beforehand

 You have integrity, right? So demand the same from the business owner who wants you to sell their stuff. You cannot recommend something if you haven’t tried it. You may point to others’ recommendations and testimonials, but be wary of whether these are paid for in cash or kind. Don’t gamble on this – you need to know what you’re recommending.

 4.    Expect resources 

Even those who write for a living need a boost from time to time in how they articulate the benefits of others. We coach clients in how to refer others to us and ask specific questions in order to secure a good testimonial, so you can expect that the business you’re an affiliate of gives you lots of copy you can use to send to your list. This should be well written. And no, exclamation marks don’t equal fabulousness.

5.    Keep it small

When we overwhelm people with resources, information and directives, they become overwhelmed and confused. And confused people don’t buy. Hopefully, you are working on your own products and so you want to pace your affiliate promotions so that they don’t conflict. Don’t become ‘that guy’ who only emails with affiliate links. Become known as the leader who only promotes a choice selection of quality products that sing to your tribe, while reinforcing your status for discernment.

6.    Consider upping the community ante

People don’t purchase e-courses and e-programs because they are looking for information. They purchase because they are looking for guidance, handholding, feedback and support from a community. Consider whether you can add extra value to your affiliate promotions by creating your own community to support people through the program. You don’t need to be a rah-rah cheer squad, but you do need to show you have your tribe’s best interests at heart.

How do you choose the right affiliate program for your reputation?

 

Brook McCarthy is a writer and online marketing strategist specialising in the health and wellbeing sector. Download her ‘Authentic Marketing Manifesto’ for us poor souls concerned with being natural, ethical, and inspirational, as well as effective.

The Ultimate Guide to Making Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program

Today, I was looking back over some of my earliest attempts at making money from blogging. I realised that this month marks 10 years of me using Amazons Associates Program.

My Start with Using Amazons Affiliate Program

I first heard about Amazon’s Affiliate program in April 2003. I had been blogging for 6 months and was beginning to realise that this new hobby of mine was going to cost me a little money (for hosting, design etc).

I was newly married at the time and on a very tight budget. I realised that if I wanted to keep blogging, I needed to find a way for my blogs to pay for themselves. So began my hunt for ways to do just that.

I began to experiment with two methods of making money from my blogs – Google’s AdSense program and Amazon’s Affiliate program.

Of the two, AdSense has certainly earned significantly more money – however, Amazon’s Affiliate program has also been an important income stream.

10 Years and $420,000 later…

I’d love to be able to calculate exactly how much I’ve earned from Amazon in that time but their current reporting system only goes back as far as 2008.

However – after doing some reconstructing of my earnings I’ve put together the following chart of (the years 2003-2007 are based upon earnings numbers mentioned in previous posts here on ProBlogger but are not exact).

Amazon Earnings 2003 2012

This years earnings look to be tracking along at around the same rate as the last two, for the same point in the year.

Overall I estimate my Amazon earnings, since 2003, are around the $420,000 mark (USD) – although, as you can see, the bulk of it has been in the last 5-6 years.

So while it’s nowhere near my #1 income stream Amazon’s Affiliate program has certainly been important to me.

I share these results not because I’m the biggest Amazon Affiliate going around. I have no doubt I’m in the middle of the pack and that there are a lot bigger than me*. I share these results because, over the years, I’ve heard many many bloggers write off the Amazon Affiliate program as not being worth the time.

*I make this assumption based upon the fact that I’ve never ever been contacted by Amazon directly and I know a few other affiliates who have regular contact with Amazon and who’ve been assigned account managers over the years because they do so well from the program.

Why Many People Don’t Use the Amazon Affiliate Program (and Why I DO)

The usual reasons I hear people giving for not being an Amazon affiliate include:

  • The commissions are too small. They start at 4% and for most products can go as high as 8% depending upon how many products you see sold.
  • Because most people on Amazon buy low priced products like books, so 4% of a $10 product doesn’t add up to a worthwhile commission.
  • Because people have to make a purchase from you within 24 hours otherwise your affiliate cookie stops working.

The above reasons are all valid. There are other options that pay higher commissions (although not so many for the type of products Amazon sells), you can promote higher value products and there are programs that have longer cookies… but there are also some things I like about Amazon.

In 2007 I wrote a post titled 9 Reasons Why I AM an Amazon Affiliate and while the post is old, most of the points still are relevant today.

The main reasons I still am an Amazon Affiliate (apart from the obvious fact that it converts for me) are:

  • Amazon is a trusted brand – everyone knows Amazon. If someone were going to buy online, Amazon would have to be one of the safest options.
  • Commissions on higher value products – while 4% on a book isn’t a high commission, if you promote a high value product (like a camera) the commission can be decent.
  • People buy more than one item at a time – when you send someone to Amazon you earn a commission on whatever they buy, whether they end up buying what you sent them to or not. Many people load up their cart with numerous items so commissions can add up.
  • Easy integration – Amazon provides some good tools and widgets to help you integrate the sales channel into your website.
  • Holidays are boom times – Amazon runs some good seasonal sales. Thanksgiving to Christmas can be a particularly profitable time to promote.
  • Amazon has a wide array of products – Amazon is so much more than books these days. There are so many promotional options that most niches would probably find something relevant to their audience.

Obviously I’ll never argue that Amazon’s Affiliate program (or any other income stream for that matter) is perfect for every blog – but I do think it is worth considering.

20 Practical Tips to Make Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program

Over the years, I’ve written numerous Problogger posts on making money with the Amazon’s Affiliate Program.

Below is a compilation of some of these most powerful tips – based upon my experience  of working with Amazon’s program over last 10 years. I’ve updated them to make them as relevant as I can for 2013.

I’d LOVE to hear your tips and experience of using Amazon’s Affiliate Program in comments below, as I’m certain there is a lot more that I could learn!

1. Traffic Traffic Traffic

night_traffic.jpg

Let’s start with the most obvious point – one of the biggest factors in the upward swing in my Amazon Affiliate earnings (in the chart above) has been the corresponding upward swing in traffic.

As with most methods of making money from blogging, the more eyeballs that see your affiliate promotions – the better chance you have of them converting.  Of course, this is a generalisation as not all kinds of traffic converts – but more of that in the next point.

Does that mean it’s not worth experimenting with Amazon’s Affiliate program if you don’t get much traffic?

I think it’s definitely worth using early on. While you won’t earn a heap, you will learn a lot and earning a few dollars (or cents) is better than none.

In the first 3 months of using Amazon I earned a whopping $31.80 (around 30 cents a day). Sure, it wasn’t much but I often wonder what would have happened if I’d let that minuscule amount discourage me and stop my from trying!?

So yes, experiment early but if you’re just starting out your main focus needs to be on creating great content and building traffic to your blog. In the long run, that is what will help you earn more from Amazon (and other income streams).

2. Loyalty and Trust Convert

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Another major factor in the increase in earnings has been the type of readership I’ve gathered on my blogs.

While I do get a fair bit of search engine traffic, I’ve found that in most cases (and there is an exception below) search visitors don’t sign up to the affiliate programs on my blogs. Loyal and repeat readers do.

The main reason for this is that readers who connect with you on a daily basis, over the long haul, begin to trust you (and your blog). When you make a recommendation, or do a review, they’re more likely to take that advice that someone who has give arrived from a search engine link.

3. The Intent of Readers Matters

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Another big factor in the equation of Amazon Affiliate conversions is the intent your readers have when they visit your blog.

Why are they there and where are they in the ‘buying cycle’?

I began to understand this in the early days of Digital Photography School. I looked at the growing traffic to the site but realised that my Amazon affiliate earnings weren’t keeping up with the traffic growth I was experiencing.

I realised that DPS was a blog that largely shared ‘tips on how to use a camera’. As a result, it wasn’t really attracting readers who were in a ‘buying mood’. In fact, I ran a survey and found that many of my readers had recently purchased a camera and were on my site because they wanted to learn how to use it.

So I began to add to the mix of content on the site with more articles relevant to people buying a digital camera. I wrote tips with advice on buying cameras, reviews of digital cameras and equipment etc. This culminated in a whole new section devoted to ‘cameras and gear‘.

Slowly this has attracted a new type of reader to the blog: readers who are researching their next camera purchase, readers who are more likely to click a link to Amazon and who, once there, are more likely to make a purchase.

If you want to attract search traffic that is more likely to convert, consider creating content that attracts people in a ‘buying mood’.

4. Relevancy Matters

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This is another common sense tip that many of us mess up. The more relevant your products are to your audience, the better chance you’ll have of converting.

  • Promoting iPods on a blog that largely talks about spirituality and you’re unlikely to make a lot of sales (believe me, I tried). Try promoting relevant books, CDs and DVDs instead.
  • Rather than promoting perfume on your travel blog try travel books, luggage and other travel products.

Amazon doesn’t work with every topic and sometimes it is hard to find a product that matches your topic. Try different products related to your topic and track which products convert best for your audience.

open-door1.jpg5. Get People in the Door then Let Amazon Do What They’re Good At

One of the great things about Amazon is that it is a site people are familiar with and trust and they’re very good at converting visitors into buyers. Amazon has honed their site to present people with products relevant to them (based upon previous surfing and buying habits) and over many years they have tweaked their site so converts really well.

As a result, I find that if you can people to visit the Amazon site (pretty much for any reason) a percentage of them will naturally end up buying something. The cool thing is that whether they buy the thing you linked to or not – you still earn a commission!

I have found that one size doesn’t fit all. Rather, specific types promotions of particular products work well with Amazon. I have also had some success by getting people in the Amazon door for other reasons. For example I’ve experimented a couple of times on dPS with running a posts that gave readers a hypothetical $1000 to spend on photography gear and asked them to surf around Amazon and choose what they wanted to buy. The result was 350 comments (a fun community building exercise) and quite a few sales and commissions!

While a ‘get people in the door’ strategy might seem to grate a little with my ‘Relevancy’ tip above – the key is to get people in the door in a relevant way.  In my case, I was getting my photography readers to go window-shopping on Amazon, for cameras.

Once they are there, the purchases they make might not be ‘relevant’ to your blog but their motivation to visit should be.

NYT-extended-list-715372.jpg6. Social Proof Marketing 1 – Best Seller Lists

People are more willing to make a purchase if they feel, they’re not alone – that others have and are buying with them. I’m sure there is an insightful psychological reason for this but from where I sit, buying seems to have become a communal activity.

One of the most powerful social proof marketing strategies I’ve used, when promoting Amazon affiliate links, is creating ‘Best Seller’ type lists for readers. These lists show readers what is currently popular, in terms of purchases in our community.

A good example of this technique in action is my Popular Digital Cameras and Gear page on DPS. I update this page every few months and prominently link to it on the blog. Those two actions together, convert readers to buyers really well.

To construct the list, I simply go through the Amazon affiliate reports/stats and find which products are selling the best from within my community. I then categorise those results by product and ‘Waahlaaa’ – we have a best seller list that shows what readers of my site are buying in the last few months.

Bestseller lists convert well because readers know that others in their community are buying these products too. I guess it’s Wisdom of the Crowd mentality but it works!

Another quick example of this was a post, 23 Photography Book Reviews [Ranked], where I ranked the top selling photography books in order of sales. I additionally linked each book to reviews we’d done on the blog.

Note: the key with these ‘best seller’ lists is to drive traffic to them. Two ways to do this is to prominently link to these pages from within your blog plus linking to them from within other posts. This second method means your post doesn’t just convert for a day or two.

Also be sure to promote them through social media channels because these lists of what is hot are often shared well.

Another Note: Another way to create a bestseller list is to look at the ones that Amazon creates. For every category on Amazon, you can rank products based on how they are selling (popularity).

For example – here’s the Camera and Photo best selling page (affiliate link) that ranks the best selling cameras and gear. You can even drill down further to look at best selling DSLRs, Flashes and Lenses.

These lists give you hints as to what products are hot to promote but you could easily pull them together into a list of products to feature on your own site.

7. Social Proof Marketing 2 – Reader Reviews

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I used to review all the photography books featured on DPS. It was mainly because I couldn’t find anyone else to do it and partly because I’m a control freak.

However, one day I had a reader offer to write a book review for me. I knew the reader so I was confident the review would be OK to publish. As with all my reviews, it had an affiliate link to Amazon in it. I was a little skeptical about whether the review would convert. I thought my readers might not respond as well to a stranger’s review of the book. I was wrong.

The review not only converted as well as my normal reviews – it did even better than normal!

This could have been for many reasons but one reason I suspect came into play was the way I introduced the reviewer. I didn’t build them up to be an “expert”. I introduced them as a ‘DPS reader’, a regular reader who wanted to share some thoughts on a book that had helped them.

I suspect the social proof concept came into play a little here. Readers saw another reader recommending something in a genuine way and wanted to get a copy for themselves.

Note: interestingly Amazon themselves uses reader reviews as a fairly major feature of their site. Why? They work!

8. Genuine Recommendations and Reviews

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Apart from my ‘best seller lists’ mentioned above, there are two main ways that I promote Amazon affiliate links.

The first is in ‘Reviews’ for products (the second I’ll cover below in the next point). These links are where I, or one of my writers, will genuinely test a product and give it the once over.

I insist my writers actually read the books, test the cameras and use the software products they are reviewing. I encourage them to be as genuine and unbiased as possible, to point out both the pros and cons of the product. While there’s some temptation to hype up a product and only talk about its positive points, a real review will help your reader relationship over the long haul and I find actually helps promote sales.

Review links work well because it’s usually people who are considering buying a product who really read reviews. It comes back to capturing readers with the buying mood/intent mentioned in point #3.

9. Informational Links

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The other type of Amazon affiliate link I use is when I’m mentioning a product in passing and/or a new product is announced. For example, when Nikon announced the Nikon D300s we immediately posted about the news because it was a notable and anticipated camera announcement. The camera was not yet available in stores and we were not able to get a review sample yet – but it was available for Pre-Order on Amazon so we linked to it.

There was no recommendation or review attached to the link but it was a relevant link for readers who wanted to know more (price, specs, pictures etc). Some readers even pre-ordered the cameras from that link.

Similarly, if we’re writing about Photoshop or another photography post-production software we’ll usually include a link to the software. Again it’s not a review link but rather an informational/contextual type link.

These don’t tend to convert as well in terms of sales but they do get people ‘in the door’ at Amazon that can help with sales from time to time.

10. Contextual Promoting is King

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One of the biggest reasons my initial attempts with Amazon simply didn’t convert was that I thought it’d be enough to slap a button on my sidebar, featuring a product or Amazon.

Amazon gives publishers a lot of these type banners or widgets but despite trying almost all of them, I had little or no success with using them. Instead – 99% of my conversions have come from links to Amazon from within blog posts about the products themselves.

By all means experiment with the widgets and buttons Amazon gives you. If they do convert, then more power to you but every blogger I’ve talked to that has had success with Amazon tells me that contextual links, from within blog posts, work best.

11. Promote Specials, Promotions and Discounts

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Amazon has hardly any products that don’t have a listed discount. Most books are as much as 30% off the recommended retail price and at different times during the year, Amazon runs other special discounts and promotions on different products or product categories.

Keep an eye out for these kinds of promotions because they can be well worth promoting (if relevant to your readership). In fact, last time Amazon had cameras on special, I promoted the sale to my newsletter readers and had readers emailing me to thank me for letting them know about it.

Another related tip is that when you’re writing a product review and Amazon has a listed discount – include a note about the discount. For example, in this recent photography book review I link at the bottom to Amazon and note that it is currently 36% off.

11. Multiple Links Per Post

When I used to write product reviews, I used to include just one affiliate link. For some reason, I thought that a single link would be enough and I didn’t want to run the risk of annoying readers with more links. However, one day it struck me that the reviews I was writing were quite long and by the time people got to the end of them, the link to Amazon was no longer visible.

At this point I started to experiment with a link at the top and tail of the review. I did some heat map tracking to see which links were the most clickable and also used Amazon’s tracking codes to see which one would ‘convert’ to a sale more often.

The results were interesting:

  • Both affiliate links were clicked quite a bit but the link under the article was clicked slightly more than the link at the top (despite being under the fold)
  • The link at the end of the review resulted in more conversions than the link at the top
  • The people who clicked on the top link still purchased (although not as many) but interestingly it wasn’t always the product I reviewed.  It was often related products

I concluded that having read a product review, people felt more informed to make a purchasing decision. As a result, if they did click a link after reading the review they were more likely to buy the product. Those clicking on the top link seemed to be more in a ‘surfing’ mode. They clicked on the link less because they wanted to buy it but more out of interest to learn more. Some bought the product and some bought other products once they were ‘in the door’ at Amazon.

These days I generally (but not always) use two links per review post.

  • The first link is usually on the first time I use the product name
  • The second link usually has a stronger call to action e.g. ‘check it out on Amazon’ or ‘get a price on XXXX’ or ‘buy your own copy of XXXX here’.

Live Example: Let me illustrate it with a quick video (from a few years ago) that also picks up my next point.

12. Link Images to Amazon

While doing some heat map tracking of where people were clicking on my reviews I learned that there was quite a bit of ‘click activity’ on images of the products, even when those images were not linked to anything.

Note: I use CrazyEgg for creating heatmaps – it has the option to track clicks on all areas of your page, even where there’s no link to click.

There’s something about an image that people are drawn to and that makes them click. I began to experiment with linking images to Amazon with my affiliate links, setting up a tracking code to test whether they converted. While they didn’t convert as well as text links, they did convert in some instances and to this day I still use this technique most of the time.

13. Buy Now Buttons

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This is a technique I’ve heard others having real success with but one I need to experiment with more.

It basically involves using a ‘buy now’ button in your post. I suggest placing it below a review as a starting point. I’ve written more about the technique here but the first time I heard this being applied, the blogger actually used the yellow Amazon Buy Now button in his posts. The familiarity of the button seemed to help increase conversions.

Again – it’s not something I’ve done much of but it could be worth a try!

14. Multiple Promotions Per Campaign

I’ve talked about using multiple links in a post but another way to increase conversions on a particularly hot product is to promote it more than once, over time. I only do this on very popular or highly anticipated products but it certainly works well.

The key is to find a number of different ways to talk about the product over a few weeks (or longer). I wouldn’t do all of the following for a single product but here’s a few ways I’ve done it on occasion in the past.

  • If a highly anticipated camera is announced by one of the manufacturers, I immediately publish a post announcing it. Amazon often has advance notice of these announcements and will usually have a page up for it where it can be pre-ordered on the same day it’s announced. I link to it immediately in my announcement post.
  • A few days later I might post a post asking readers what they think about the camera or one of its features. For example, I recently wrote a post asking readers what they think about the idea of a camera with an inbuilt projector after the release of the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj.
  • When the camera hits stores, I might post a short post announcing that it’s available.
  • When we get a review product, we’ll post a review of it with our recommendations.
  • We might, at some point, post some other reader reviews of the product if enough of our readers have it.
  • We might also compile a list of quotes from other sites that have also reviewed the product.
  • We might pull in and embed some videos from YouTube that show the products features.

Again – I would NEVER do all of these things with a single product but if it’s a significant product release and newsworthy over a month or so around its release we might cover it in 2-3 posts.

You know your readership best so tune in to where they’re at and whether you’ve posted too much on the same product. You don’t want to over do it but if it’s a product your readers are discussing and are interested in there’s plenty of ways to bring it up (and promote it on Amazon) more than once.

15. Focus Upon the Holidays

Amazon associates christmas

If you check out this I shared here on ProBlogger back in 2009 you’ll notice that the yearly 4th quarters were usually bigger than those proceeding them. The reason is simple – Christmas and Thanksgiving.

The only December that I saw a downswing was when Google temporarily de-indexed my first site for a few weeks. Every other year there has been healthy rises for the later half of November and all of December (the last few Decembers have been massive).

The upswing in sales around Christmas is partly natural as people are more in a ‘buying mood’ at that time of year. I like to take advantage of this by creating content that is specific to the holiday season.

Content such as buying guides, reader questions getting people talking about what they’re looking to buy or would like to receive for Christmas, lists of popular/recommended products etc.

16. Promote Related Products

One of the challenges I came up against when writing about cameras regularly was that while a certain percentage of my readers were actively shopping for a new camera, many readers already owned one. In fact, writing a ‘photography tips’ blog means you attract more people wanting to learn how to use a camera that they already own, rather than buying a new one.

As a result, I often do more promotions on ‘related products’ than cameras themselves. That means promoting lenses, flashes, memory cards and other photographic accessories as well as photography books (which is strongly related to my core ‘tips’ focus).

One great way to get ideas for related products to promote is to look at the stats/reports that Amazon gives you to see which products readers are buying. After a while you’ll start to notice that they’re not only buying the products you directly promote but other products as well. Some will be completely irrelevant to your niche – but many times trends will emerge that could signal other products that it might be worth promoting.

Let’s look at an example of this. Following is a screen capture of a small part of the orders on my Amazon account a while back. I have arranged them in order of how many were sold.

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What you can see in this screen grab is that the #1 electronic item sold in the period was a Canon 50mm lens. You can see that in the ‘product Link Clicks column’ that people came to Amazon directly through a link from my site to this item – it’s something I promoted on DPS.

However look at the next most popular item (the Tiffen 52mm UV filter). You can see in the ‘Product Link Clicks’ column that there is a ‘0’ figure. I never promoted this product directly on DPS – yet 44 people bought it.

The next two items were things I promoted but the next 8 were things that people bought in number by themselves without me promoting them at all. To me, knowing which items people buy without my prompting is GOLD!

It’s possible that Amazon is promoting them heavily or that one person is buying a lot of the one product, or they just could be great products that almost sell themselves for one reason or another.

Whatever the reason, I’ll look into them further and see if they could be products I should be promoting somehow.

You can bet there will be a post on dPS soon that highlights some of these ‘hot/best selling accessories’ among our readers!

17. Promote Pre-Orders

I’ve already mentioned this one above but one of the things that I do is promote the ability to Pre-Order products on Amazon.

It doesn’t happen for every product but I find that Amazon will sometimes create pages for new products before they’re even available for purchase.

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When I post an article announcing a new camera I always check Amazon first to see if they’ve already created a page for that product. If they have, I make sure to mention that the product is already available for pre-ordering on Amazon.

For example a couple of years ago when Canon Released the Canon EOS 50D DSLR I used this technique. This post generated 10 sales of the camera before it was even available in stores. While two of them cancelled their orders later 8 sales of a $1000+ product certainly add up!

18. Track Your Campaigns

Until a bit over a year ago, I just promoted every single Amazon affiliate link with the one tracking code. I was lazy and while I saw which products were selling, I never really knew what links on my blog were converting and what ones were not.

Eventually I decided that I needed to know more about what was working for me so I started tracking campaigns. Amazon allows you to create 100 tracking ids (once logged into Amazon Associates you manage them at this link).

I didn’t realize there was a limit until a few years back when I hit the maximum. I wish Amazon would increase it! To be honest, I find their tracking system pretty messy and think it needs an overhaul however, it is great for testing what works and what doesn’t. Most of what I’ve written about in other tips in these articles was learned through tracking.

Because there’s a 100 tracking code limit, I suggest creating a few general tracking codes, one for each blog and perhaps one for each category on your blog. Then use other codes for major promotions that you’re doing. This way not every Amazon link will be tracked but important ones will.

Note: I’m told that Amazon do give more tracking codes if you email them but it’s a bit of a drawn out process. If you need more it’s worth a try (I know I’ll be trying).

19. Small Ticket Items Add Up

One of the most common criticisms I hear about the Amazon’s Affiliate program is that there are just too many small commissions. Getting a commission of a small percentage on a $15 book just doesn’t cut it for many people.  Some people use this to justify not using Amazon at all while others just promote big-ticket items.

While I agree that these small commissions are not much on their own – they do add up.

Yesterday I earned $506.03 from Amazon. It was actually a pretty good day, higher than average. One might think the higher than normal figure came from selling some big ticket items but that wasn’t the case. The highest commission for the day was a $21.34 commission. The vast majority of the sales were books sold from my list of photography books, which we promoted on social media recently.

The other beauty of getting lots of smaller ticket sales is that they go towards increasing the commission tier you’re on. The more items you sell (not the more $’s you refer – but item numbers) the higher % commission you make from Amazon.

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In the screen capture above you can see that when you go past 6 items referred, you move from a 4% commission to a 6% commission. If you keep referring more, the commission increases. The only category of product not included in this is consumer electronics (frustrating for a camera guy!).

This means that if you refer enough small ticket items you can double your commissions.

Note: Amazon lets you choose two types of payment structures – ‘Classic’ and ‘Performance’. The classic one has a 4% flat commission – while the ‘performance’ one has the tiers. I’m not sure why anyone would select ‘classic’ so make sure you choose ‘Performance’!

20. Big Ticket Items are the Cream on Top

While I strongly advise promoting small ticket items to help boost your sale numbers and commission figures, it’s also worth targeting some bigger ticket promotions too.

In my experience, they don’t convert anywhere near as well as cheaper items but when they do, they can give your revenue a real boost. As someone promoting cameras that can sell for several thousand dollars, I’ve had single commissions in the hundreds of dollars range (even when the commission is limited to 4% on consumer electronics).

For example, last month I saw the sale of the Nikon D800 36.3 MP CMOS FX-Format Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) (yes that IS an affiliate link). It sells for over $2700 and generated me a $111 commission.

Here are a few more smaller but still significant ones from the last week:

amazon-affiliate-earnings

While these bigger ticket items are certainly not selling in as great a number as books – they contribute a significant amount to the total earnings of the month.

10 More Tips on Using the Amazon Affiliate Program

To finish off this ultimate guide I want to share 10 more general, overarching tips and principles I’ve found helpful when making money with Amazon’s Affiliate program.

1. Time is a Major Factor

As I mentioned at the start of this guide, the $420,000+ that I’ve earned from Amazon has come over 10 years.

While the last 5 years seen me earn over $50,000 per year from Amazon, it took 5 years of building to get it to that level – with the first 3 years really not earning much at all.

That was partly due to increasing traffic. It was partly due to my regular inclusion of affiliate links in my posts. I don’t promote Amazon in every post but in an average week I’d say I link to Amazon in at least 4-5 posts. That adds up to 200-250 posts per year and around over 2000 posts in the last 10 years.

These posts act as a doorway to the Amazon site. As the number of posts has increased, my blogs have begun to rank higher in Google and my loyal reader numbers have grown, the number of people going through these ‘doorways’ has increase– hence the escalation in earnings.

2. Start Early

I recommend that bloggers start to use Amazon’s Affiliate Program early. In doing so, you’ll be populating your blog with links into the store that may not convert brilliantly early on but which can potentially convert for years to come as your blog grows in popularity.

The other good thing about starting early is that you’ll learn a lot about affiliate marketing. Most of the lessons and tips that I’ve shared in this series of posts have come directly from my own experimenting with Amazon’s Affiliate program.

I knew so little in the early days and I made a lot of mistakes but each time I messed up I learned another lesson that has helped me to grow my Amazon earnings into a more significant part of my own business.

3. Experiment with Widgets and aStore

I’ve already mentioned that I largely rely upon contextual links to promote Amazon products. I find these offer the best conversion however, I do know of a few bloggers who’ve successfully incorporated a variety of the widgets that Amazon gives their affiliates to use.

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Similarly – I know some readers who do pretty well with aStore, which is a tool whereby you create your own little online store using Amazon’s technology.

I’ve tried to use this a couple of times and have had a little success with my photography and ProBlogger bookstores but know I need to do more with it to take it to the next level.

I guess it comes down to experimenting with the tools and seeing what works best with your audience. If you’ve used some of these widgets I’d love to see examples of where you’ve had them work for you – please share links in comments below so we can all learn!

4. Transparency with Readers

There is always debate about the topic of transparency when affiliate marketing comes up. Should you disclose that your links are affiliate links or should you not?

 

The answer to this will partly depend upon your location. If you’re in the US, the FCC requires a disclosure – but in other parts of the world you are not required to do so.

Each blogger will ultimately have their own stance on this and it’s important to work out what sits well with your own ethics, the flow of your site and the law.

Being in Australia, I’m not required to do anything by the law (although I hear talk that there may be changes around this). I don’t disclose every single Amazon link on my photography blog in a direct way but do I have a disclaimer/disclosure page on the blog. When I’m doing a ‘best seller list’ always include a disclaimer on those posts as the whole page is filled with affiliate links. I have also written numerous times on DPS about how the links to Amazon earn us money and help the site to keep growing and be free.

I was nervous the first time I mentioned this to readers and expected a backlash however, what I found was that most readers not only accepted it, they encouraged us.

In fact, a few of our readers tell me that if they’re going to make some kind of purchase at Amazon that they always come to DPS to click on one of our links to do so! Transparency isn’t as scary as you might think (although this might depend upon your audience a little).

Here on ProBlogger I disclose Amazon affiliate links. That’s mainly because there are fewer of them and because my readers here are more savvy with the idea of affiliate programs (I don’t have to explain what an affiliate link is every time I mention one).

5. Don’t Hype – Put Your Readers First

When you engage in any affiliate marketing, always keep your readers’ best interests at heart.

I’ve been critiqued for taking this view over the years by groups of bloggers who seem to put the priority on ‘making money at all costs’. While you certainly can make money without a focus on quality content or building community and by hyping up the things that you promote – my approach has always been to put the reader first.

I do this because I want to build a solid reputation and a loyal readership of people who trust me. I’d rather make less money and still have a reader than make lots of money and never see the reader again. For me, this comes not only from my ethics but my belief that in the long term building a good profile and reputation leads to other opportunities for profit.

The problem with hype is that you set readers up with expectations that are beyond what the product you’re recommending can deliver. This might lead to a sale but it also leads to disappointment and anger – the loss of readers – damaged reputation etc.

6. Pick High Quality Products

This follows on from the last point but is worth stating on its own. The success (or failure) of your Amazon Affiliate Program hinges upon the products you choose.

When you promote quality, it is much easier to be both genuine in your reviews and recommendations which leads to conversions and commissions.

Wherever you can, test the products you recommend to ensure their quality (or find someone who can do it for you).

7. Be Bold

One of the recurring themes I hear from readers is that they worry about using Amazon links too much, asking “Won’t readers push back?”

I have always shared this concern but as you’ve probably picked up by now, the reader push back has been almost non-existent.

Perhaps this is because I carefully choose the products I promote or because I often promote these links in posts based upon reader feedback. I can think of less than 10 occasions when I’ve had people on my photography site question the links. In fact, as I said above, I’ve had more people give positive feedback about them than anything.

I guess there would come a point where too much promotion would get a negative reaction so you want to be a little subtle about your promotion but in general, I think readers can handle more than we might think they can.

Note: I think the line where readers will push back probably will vary from blog to blog depending upon their readership. For example here on ProBlogger I get a little more negative feedback from readers on affiliate promotions. I suspect ProBlogger readers are a little more tuned into the issue and suspicious of some of the affiliate marketing that goes on around the web.

8. Localized Audiences? Try Local Amazons

Another comment that sometimes comes is that Amazon.com doesn’t work brilliantly for blogs and sites with traffic from countries outside the USA.

A couple of reflections on this:

Firstly – it’s not completely true. I previously had a blog with almost completely Australian traffic and it converted reasonably well with Amazon. Amazon does ship some products to Australia and other countries (books, CDs etc) so if you’re promoting those products it can work.

Of course I always missed out on the bigger ticket electronic items that didn’t ship outside the USA. This was part of the reason I moved my efforts to starting Digital Photography School, which has a more global audience.

Secondly – if your traffic is localized to a country with its own Amazon store, join the affiliate program for that store and promote it. I know one of the UK photography sites does very well from promoting the UK version of Amazon. I also know one blog that adds two links to every post he does – one with the US and one with the UK store.

I’ve also heard that some people use geo-targeting tools to look at where a reader is from and serving them a localized link for them.

9. Topics Convert Differently

One forum I came across was discussing my previous articles and a number of people reported that Amazon didn’t work on their sites (doubting whether I was telling the truth about my earnings). When I delved a little deeper, and looked at their sites, the reason for their lack of success with Amazon became apparent – their topics.

Some topics will naturally fit with Amazon better than others. In the end, it comes down to the fact that Amazon is a product related affiliate program so it only works when people buy stuff. If your blog is on a topic that doesn’t have any natural connection to people buying stuff it is going to be an uphill battle.

In my experience, it’s product-related blogs that tend to do best with Amazon. Most blogs probably have at least some possibilities (for example here on ProBlogger I occasionally link to a book that relates or a computer or electronic tool that I think might be useful to bloggers) but the reality is that this blog will never convert as well on Amazon as my photography site.

10. Keep an Eye on Amazon

My last tip is to keep an eye on what Amazon is doing. I mean this in two ways:

1. Learn from Them – be a regular user of Amazon. You don’t have to be an active buyer but surf the site regularly and pay particular attention to the way that THEY are promoting products on their site.

Amazon has spent years perfecting the art of online selling and you’ll learn a lot about online marketing by observing how they do it. They constantly test different ways of promoting products and have evolved their site quite a lot over the years. See what widgets they use to promote related products, watch how they use reader reviews, and see the way that they describe products.

You’ll also be in a better position to pre-sell the products you recommend if you look at the page you’re sending people to before you do it.

2. Watch for Opportunities – earlier in this guide I mentioned that you could tap into a number of promotions Amazon on their site. Some of these are promote directly to their affiliates. For example, they send out emails to affiliates semi-regularly, promoting their latest promotions. They also have a blog where they do likewise.

If you read the blog and get the emails you’ll see promotions where they are offering discounts to readers but also where they’re giving bonus commissions for some items or categories of products. Not all of them will relate to your niche but over time some will.

However, there are other opportunities they don’t promote to us as affiliates but which you can still tap into. For example, today I was surfing on Amazon and came across their Camera Deals page.

The page is a sales page promoting any deals that they’re running on digital cameras. On the page are some pretty decent deals that are worth promoting on my photography blog.

This is just one of many promotions that Amazon is always running on their site. Keep an eye out on the site for what they’re doing that relates to your niche and you’ll find some good stuff to promote.

The more you keep an eye on how Amazon are promoting products to their readers the better informed you’ll be about how YOU can do the same thing.

Share Your Amazon Affiliate Program Tips

This brings to an end my ultimate guide to making money with the Amazon Affilate Program. I’ve shared everything that I’ve tried  but what about you? Got any tips to add?

10 Popular Affiliate Programs for Small and Medium-sized Blogs

This guest post is by Charles Dearing of WhoIsHostingThis.com.

As we’ve already seen today, affiliate marketing is a relatively trouble-free way for bloggers and other website owners to earn money. In fact, these days, even social media sites can become lucrative platforms for affiliate marketing campaigns.

Because affiliate marketing doesn’t require affiliates to offer their own products or services for purchase, but only to place promotions on their sites for other merchants’ products, it frees affiliates from many of the responsibilities and complications of traditional sales models.

Affiliate marketing programs typically work by having the merchant handle all the logistics involved in selling products or services, processing customer orders and payments, and shipping merchandise—all while the affiliate sits back and collects a commission for each agreed-upon action completed by the visitors the affiliate sends to the merchant’s website via an affiliate link. As long as the affiliate has done her homework and chosen a trustworthy affiliate program, she needn’t worry about non-payment.

Affiliate networks administer programs for individual merchants, handling all the work involved, while generally providing tracking and reporting capabilities to their affiliates to help them keep tabs on their revenues and determine which products or services are producing the best returns. These tools can be helpful to an affiliate in fine-tuning the line of products she decides to promote on her site and, ideally, increasing revenues as a result.

However, all affiliate programs are not created equal. Which are the most popular programs available today?

1. LinkShare

Reportedly the largest affiliate network, with over 10 million affiliate partnerships, LinkShare took the number-one spot in the 2012 Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks for platform strength, support quality, and international capabilities.

LinkShare offers over 2,500 affiliate programs and lets you choose whether to have every aspect of your affiliate channel managed for you or whether you would rather manage your own program using the company’s various service and support options.

2. Commission Junction

Said to be the largest affiliate marketing network in North America (though it operates globally) and claiming the number-two spot in the 2012 Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks for being “the best at balancing the relationship between the merchants, the network, and the affiliates,” California-based Commission Junction, owned by ValueClick, Inc., offers affiliate, media, and tracking services and provides either a self-management or company-managed option for your affiliate relationships.

In addition to its regular pay-per-action affiliate program, the company also offers a convenient PayPerCall program to help affiliates “ensure they get paid commission for the leads they generate, thus further monetizing existing ad placements and having the opportunity to expand their promotional…online and offline campaigns.”

3. ShareASale

Claiming the number-three spot in the 2012 Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks for being the “overall best performance marketing network in the world today,” Chicago-based ShareASale has over 2,500 merchant programs and features brands such as HootSuite and PS Print.

ShareASale has received excellent ratings, with the company’s reputation/security, ethics, customer service, and ease of commission payment receiving glowing reviews.

4. Amazon Associates

Placing fourth in the 2012 Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks, for a reporting system that “far surpasses other big networks,” this is one of the largest and most diverse affiliate programs available.

As most people know, Amazon.com offers such a wide array of products that there’s bound to be something to fit your niche. In fact, they offer over a million products from which you can choose to monetize your website or blog. Amazon Associates is a pay-per-sale affiliate program.

5. Google Affiliate Network

According to the network’s Overview page, “Google Affiliate Network helps advertisers increase online conversions on a performance basis and enables publishers to monetize traffic with affiliate ads.”

Google Affiliate Network is a pay-per-action network that pays commissions to its affiliates for driving conversions (sales or leads). The network requires a Google AdSense account for posting ads to the affiliate’s website or blog and facilitating affiliate payments.

6. ClixGalore

ClixGalore is an Australian PPA (pay-per-action) affiliate network that also has offices in the US, UK, and Japan. The company offers various types of programs, including PPM (pay-per-impression), PPL (pay per lead), PPS (pay-per-sale), and PPC (pay-per-click). Many programs pay in US dollars.

Some well-known brands that use ClixGalore for their affiliate offerings are Bluehost, Time Life, Trend Micro, Citibank, and Fox Sports Shop. While not as widely known as some of the other affiliate networks, ClixGalore is a solid network that offers thousands of potential merchant programs. The network also offers a two-tier network. By referring other affiliates to the network, current affiliates can receive a portion of their earnings.

7. PeerFly.com

PeerFly is a PPA network with its own proprietary software system. The network made the 2012 Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks, which stated regarding them, “They are courteous, helpful, and point you in the right direction.”

The network also took the number-four spot in the 2012 Blue Book of Top 20 CPA Networks, for its high popularity, great staff, and excellent platform. PeerFly accepts publishers from all over the world and offers thousands of merchant programs.

8. ClickBank

A well-known affiliate network, ClickBank features digital products, such as e-books, software, and membership sites. The program reportedly offers up to 75% commissions on its tens of thousands of products. Commissions are paid weekly, and direct deposit is available to its affiliates.

Over the years, this network has remained popular, though some have questioned a few of its practices. Despite this, the company enjoys an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau.

9. MaxBounty

MaxBounty came in sixth in the 2012 Blue Book of Top 20 CPA Networks, though it didn’t make a showing in the Blue Book’s top 20 affiliate networks. In business since 2004, the network was founded on the philosophy of paying its affiliates more.

MaxBounty pays affiliate commissions weekly, and the company appears to have a good reputation among its affiliates. In fact, the network is popular among many top affiliate marketers and has received numerous positive reviews and writeups and critiques over the past several years.

10. Neverblue.com

Neverblue is a pay-per-action affiliate program that pays its affiliates for lead, download, and sale generation, as well as for new affiliate referrals. While Neverblue didn’t make the 2012 Blue Book of Top 20 Affiliate Networks, it did take the number-one spot in the 2012 Blue Book of Top 20 CPA Networks.

Note: Neverblue’s parent company, Velo Holdings, Inc, filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy earlier this year and now plans to sell the network at auction to pay its debts.

Despite this, the affiliate program has stated the following: “This filing will not impact Neverblue’s ability to meet client needs in any way—we intend to continue to operate business as usual without interruption. Neverblue’s business is fundamentally strong and we intend to make all affiliate payments on schedule, in a timely and reliable manner.”

Its management is just as confident that the sale will not affect Neverblue’s ability to meet its affiliates’ needs in any way. While this company tends to inspire high confidence among affiliates, you’ll have to decide whether to jump in now or wait a while to see how things go after the sale.

What’s your favorite network?

If you’ve been thinking of trying affiliate marketing to monetize your blog, consider testing these ten programs to see whether they fit your niche and audience. If you’ve used any of these programs, we’d love to hear your thoughts on them in the comments.

Guest post contributed by Charles Dearing, for WhoIsHostingThis.com – A review site and webmaster tool that enables you to discover which web hosting company any site is hosted with. They also provide information about all the popular webhosts like Blue-Host.

What’s the Best Type of Affiliate Site? [Case Study]

This guest post is by Anshul Dayal of Nichsense Niche Marketing.

Once upon a time, making money with affiliate marketing and AdSense was a question of following this step-by step recipe (circa 2009):

  1. Find a product to promote on Clickbank or other affiliate networks.
  2. Find a low-competition keyword.
  3. Register an exact or partial match domain.
  4. Write up a product review stuffed with keywords (which was of course always positive).
  5. Plaster the site with affiliate banners, links, and AdSense.
  6. Launch website or blog and wait for traffic.

Sound familiar? I can certainly relate to that, as I have built such sites during the early phases of my internet marketing endeavours. Fast-forward to 2012, and suddenly things don’t look as rosy for anyone looking to put up hundreds of these sites and quit their day jobs.

Before we start the actual comparisons between various affiliate models, I’d like to take a moment to explain the definition of an affiliate site for readers who may be new to affiliate marketing.

The idea here is that visitors may be looking for information on a product (eg “weight loss pills”) by means of organic search. A typical affiliate site will usually provide a review of such a product with affiliate links, and if a visitor makes a purchase or takes action through these links, the site owner earns a commission from the vendor for the referral. Such a site is usually based on the recipe I talked about above, which often provides very little in terms of genuine information and is purely designed for affiliate sales.

With constant changes in the search engine landscape (especially the Panda update from 2011, and more recently Panda 3.3) the above recipe is no longer enough to build what we would describe as a successful affiliate site. In fact, now you can safely say that Google is on a mission to weed out these thin affiliate and AdSense sites for good—it’s even de-indexing them completely from its search index.

Amongst other factors, Google is now making it difficult for established affiliate sites that are thin in content to rank in the search results. One of the other interesting and emerging trends associated with such affiliate sites is the user clickthrough rate (or CTR) in organic search results. Over the years, many marketers have realized the power that exact-match domains have held with search engines like Google, and were heavily exploited for affiliate-type sites.

This has somewhat impacted the way exact-match domains are now perceived by many people and they will be hesitant to click on such sites when they show up in the search results, as they are commonly regarded as low quality. To demonstrate this a little bit more, let’s take a look at a search term like “cheap office supplies”. Here is what typical search results may look like:

  • http://www.cheapofficesupplies.org
  • http://www.staples.com/office-supplies
  • http://www.officeworks.com.au/office-supplies

Which search result you are more likely to click on? My guess would be either staples or Officeworks (if you are from Australia).

Using that information, let’s compare two affiliate site models as case studies:

  1. An affiliate site based on the most common model: a micro-niche site. These sites typically contain four or five pages of content (most commonly articles and reviews) and are for most part focused on getting visitors to click on affiliate links or AdSense ads.
  2. An affiliate site you would be proud to show your family and friends, which I describe as an authority blog, where “real” people would turn to look for real and trustworthy information and is more likely to convert affiliate links to sales in 2012 and beyond.

Let me just add that examples discussed here are not my sites, but I do own just over 50 AdSense niche sites ranging from micro-niche sites like the first model (with around five pages of content) to authority sites based on the second model (with anywhere from 20-100 pages of content).

Without a doubt I am now a strong proponent of the second model, with clear emphasis on delivering content and value.

Case study 1: AfricanMangoScam.net

This is an affiliate site which fits nicely into the first model. It offers a “review” of the the popular African mango pills for weight loss. Interestingly, the domain also contains the word “scam”—a common tactic employed by many marketers who claim to provide visitors with information on the legitimacy of the African mango weight loss pills.

The site follows a layout common amongst the majority of micro-niche affiliate sites: a landing page with a product review claiming to inform visitors if the African mango pills are a scam, one or two weight loss images, a YouTube video, and lots of affiliate banners.

As expected, the product review dispels the African mango pills scam and gives it a thumbs up with an affiliate text link conveniently located below the article body. In terms of other content, there are links to two other articles which are somewhat related to weight loss.

A quick look at the SeoQuake toolbar reveals just six pages of indexed content, which is common amongst affiliate sites of this nature. As you can see, a site like this can be built in a day, but is it a sustainable model? Let’s look at the second case study for a comparison.

Case study 2: ShedYourWeight.com

This particular site is also focused on the weight loss niche, but it’s based around many pages of weight loss-related content and unlike a typical micro-niche site, you don’t land on two big blocks of AdSense ad units or multiple affiliate banners in the widget.

Instead, visitors are invited into the site with a sliding banner of pleasing images, and links to various articles as they scroll down. It is interesting to note that many of these articles are also optimized for several weight loss-related keywords (eg “Jenifer Hudson weight loss”).

So, where are the affiliate links? They are nicely positioned alongside many of the rating-based product reviews inside the weight loss products category. Additionally, the visitors only see AdSense ad units as they navigate to deeper and individual posts within the site—not on the landing page.

Another key attribute commonly associated with a high quality site is the use of relevant categories to carefully group similar posts and content. Categories make it easier for users to find related information, and encourage them to stay on the site longer. Shedyourweight.com follows this standard quite well with several relevant categories conveniently listed in the top navigation bar.

Visitors are also encouraged to sign up for a free weight loss tips guide, through a clean and well positioned opt-in box. Additionally, a Facebook Like box is also positioned on the sidebar, with a significant number of fans for a site of this nature. If I was to pick a negative, it would have to be the lack of social share buttons within the content, which is now used as one of the key signals of quality by search engines like Google and Bing.

In terms of statistics, SeoQuake reveals a whopping 1460 pages of indexed content for this site, and a closer look at the site’s traffic statistics through SEMRush reveals an estimate of 6500 monthly unique visitors from its top 20 organic search terms.

Based on these numbers, we can estimate a monthly revenue of at least $10-15k with a conservative conversion rate of 10% and possible AdSense revenues of $1500 with an average CTR of 5%. That said, the actual revenues are possibly a lot higher as we are not even considering any sales through email marketing and long-tail traffic.

As you can see, there is a lot more work involved with building such a site, but no doubt this particular site is likely to earn significantly more revenues in the long run. It’s something that has the potential to be a real sustainable business for marketer of any level.

I want to add that you don’t necessarily need thousands of pages of content to build a high quality affiliate site. Even ten to 20 pages can often be enough—as long as the information you provide comprehensively covers your chosen niche or topic, and is not just one or two biased articles with affiliate links.

So which model are you more likely to choose now for your next affiliate site? Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Anshul Dayal is the author at Nichsense Niche Marketing blog offering cutting edge niche marketing strategies for starting a real, sustainable and profitable online business. You can download his step-by-step guide to launching your own profitable niche website on his blog http://www.nichesense.com

Blog Smarter: Turn Your Blogging Skills into Successful Affiliate Promotions

This guest post is by Regine Becher of Syndicated Partners.

Like most bloggers, you probably want to make some money from your blog. Chances are good you’ve tried things like writing product reviews or putting banners or links to affiliate products into your sidebar.

But while many bloggers have mastered the “Art of Blogging” (or at least the basic principles) successfully, earning money from your blog doesn’t seem to be that easy. So what could be better for you than to use your blogging experiences and skills to improve the results of your affiliate promotions?

In this post, I’ll show you how you can re-purpose three of the most successful blogging strategies to get more out of your affiliate promotions. As a nice extra, these tactics will also have a positive effect on your blog. But more importantly, you’ll learn how you can merge them into a combined and even more powerful strategy for your affiliate promotions.

While some of what I write may seem simple or self-evident to the more experienced affiliate bloggers, it’s this way of tying it all together into one strategy that will make the affiliate promotions on your blog really stand out.

Let’s look at the three important blogging strategies on their own first.

Write (and promote) for your audience

You know that well enough—if you want your stuff to be read, it has to match your audience’s interests. The same is true for your affiliate promotions, in particular for the products you choose to promote: they have to be relevant for your audience.

This sounds self-evident, but frankly I’m stumped at the number of bloggers who have an affiliate banner for a hosting company on their blog—even though their audience clearly isn’t thinking about computers or internet when visiting their blog.

So instead of promoting your hosting company on your garden blog, why not try it with an affiliate link for garden tools, or link to an ebook about gardening?

Publish (and promote) quality

You know the game… Quality content attracts real readers which are interested in the topic. An excited and engaged audience. (Just look around here on ProBlogger if you don’t believe me.) It also makes people stay on your site longer, come back for more, engage with you and others, and recommend you to friends.

Just the things you want for your blog.

The same holds true for any products you promote: choose quality. Again, this seems to be self-evident. But take a look around at some blogs and see what they promote. (Or take a close look at your own blog, just for good measure.)

A lot of times, I see just the same banners or “product reviews” for the same old products. It seems that a lot of affiliate bloggers don’t bother to pick a product by its quality. Nor do they care about the “quality” of the vendor, i.e. about his integrity, and about how much he cares about his customers.

In the long run, your readers will notice the difference. And they will trust your recommendations just because they know you watch out for them.

Even the quality of the affiliate program should matter to you as affiliate. After all, you can and should expect a fair treatment for your efforts. Affiliate promotions are a business deal between the vendor and you, the affiliate. If a vendor doesn’t care about the success of his affiliates, why should you bother to promote his products?

So, again, be picky. Choose the right kind of products to promote.

Establish expertise—not only for yourself

This powerful blogging strategy has several facets which can all play together:

  • You can establish yourself as expert on your own blog by posting the right kind of content.
  • You can establish yourself as expert to a wider audience by guest posting on other blogs.
  • You can establish other people as experts on your blog by publishing their guest posts.
  • And you can establish yourself as a “meta expert”, as the go-to guy/girl of the experts in your field, by publishing a selection of guest posts by recognized experts in your field and/or by interacting with them on your blog, e.g. through interviews.

Again, you can make use of the same strategy in your affiliate marketing. If you want your readers to buy the products you’ve selected for them, they need to do two things: trust your judgement, and trust the vendor to deliver quality. A big step towards the first is if your readers see you as the expert. That will make them much more likely to trust your recommendations.

But don’t forget about the second part, about trusting the vendor. Before somebody buys from a vendor you recommend, they have to be reasonably sure that this person will be honest, and that (s)he will deliver quality.

To some extent, you can establish that trust towards the vendor with your recommendation: if readers see you as trust-worthy, your recommendation carries some weight, too.

But you should also consider establishing expert status for the product creator on your blog. Then when a reader clicks on your affiliate link, he will already be prepared to trust the vendor whom he sees as expert.

Tie these strategies together for even more power

Just by using these three strategies, you can improve the results from your affiliate efforts a lot. But there’s a very simple, though rarely used way to combine these strategies into something even more powerful:

Publish guest posts by product vendors on your blog, and include your affiliate link in the byline.

Now, just to be clear about it: I’m not talking about promotional content or “product reviews”. I’m talking about guest articles with real, quality content. And about establishing the vendor as the expert (unlike a product review, where you are the “expert” who reviews). And, of course, about picking and promoting the right kind of products in the first place.

To fully understand the power of this strategy, put yourself in the shoes of your readers for a moment:

They come to your blog. They know you publish good stuff, and you’re an expert in the field—you’ve done your best to establish that status. On your blog, they read a guest article by another expert. It contains great content, is helpful, informative, and entertaining.

They like the style and want to read more of the same.

Do you think they’re likely to click on the link (your affiliate link) in the byline? And do you think they might be willing to spend money on a product by this expert?

To achieve this, you only need to re-purpose and tie together the three simple strategies you’re already following when you blog: write for your audience, publish quality, and establish expertise. Do this by choosing the right products, and then publishing informative guest posts by product vendors with your affiliate link included.

In return, you get more out of your affiliate promotions for everybody involved:

  • Your readers get to read great content.
  • You recommend a good product which will improve your readers’ lives in some way.
  • You make it easier for your audience to trust your recommendation, to buy the product and thus to improve their life.
  • The vendor has a chance to make more sales and get happy customers.
  • And you? You benefit from fresh quality content. You have a chance to enhance your reputation even further. And of course there’s the thing with the affiliate commissions…

In short, it’s a win-win-win. What I like most about this strategy is its simplicity. Despite being a really powerful strategy, it’s also about as simple and easy as it gets.

To show you just how easy it can be, I’ll give you the outline again in eight simple action steps. Why don’t you just give it a try and actually do the steps while you read along?

1. Choose a few good products to promote

By “good”, I mean quality products from trustworthy vendors with a quality affiliate program. And of course products which fit the interests and needs of your audience.

2. Sign up for the affiliate programs of the vendors

Make sure you read the terms of the affiliate programs, and are happy with them.

3. Check the existing promotional material

If the vendor offers promotional material for his affiliates, browse through it to check if there are any suitable articles you could use.

Don’t be disappointed if there aren’t any, though—usually vendors provide what is most asked-for by affiliates, and most affiliates don’t use this strategy… (bad for them, good for you!).

If you find ready-made articles by the vendor anywhere, make sure you’re allowed to enter your affiliate link. If in doubt, ask. If no suitable articles are readily available, go to step 4.

4. Get in touch with the vendors

Introduce yourself, and give them the URL of your blog. Be professional: you’re contacting a potential business partner.

Ask for suitable articles, and explain what you want to do with them (establish the vendor as expert on your blog, give your audience good content, and generate sales for both of you). It should be clear that you’re not looking for purely promotional material, but for actual content.

Make sure it’s absolutely clear that you will use your affiliate link in the resource box and/or the article content—you don’t want to risk any misunderstandings about this.

To increase your chances of getting suitable material, you can also point out that the articles could have been published elsewhere before. Most vendors, especially the more established and successful ones, won’t provide each affiliate with a different set of “unique” articles.

I’m not going into the depths of the “unique content” discussion here, but since this is not primarily an SEO strategy, it may not matter for you whether the guest articles on your blog have been published in other places, too. The quality of the articles is much more important! The internet is a huge place, and chances are very high your readers haven’t seen them before.

5. Read between the lines

Not every vendor will send you suitable articles. But regardless of that, their replies might tell you a lot about how they do business, and how they treat their customers and affiliates. Even if somebody can’t provide you with articles, he/she might be a great guy or girl, and there might be options for other business ventures in the future.

Just be open for ideas.

6. Check the material you get

Seriously. You want to feature the vendor as expert. So to make this strategy work, you have to stick to your standards. Make sure you only publish articles which:

  • are a good fit for your audience and topic
  • contain real content, are entertaining, informative, or helpful
  • aren’t promotional
  • meet your quality standards

A good test is to ask yourself if this article would be worth publishing without your affiliate link. If an article doesn’t match your requirements, don’t use it.

7. Insert your affiliate link

Insert your affiliate link for the vendor in the places you two agreed upon. Then double-check the link, just in case.

8. Publish

To add even more leverage, don’t just publish the article on your blog. We’re talking about serious, quality content here—about guest articles you could and should be proud to anounce to your audience and to the world.

Use social media to point people to the article. Link to it in your newsletter, or publish it in your ezine. Add it to an autoresponder sequence for your mailing list, so that any future subscribers can read it, too. Or link to it from your “thanks for opting in” page.

After all, if you’ve chosen the right kind of guest article, your audience will love you for the pointer to the post! Once you’re done with all the steps, go back to step 1 and start over.

The biggest enemy of success…

We’ve all been there: you read about a great new strategy that would move you forward quite a bit. You’re very excited about the idea, and make plans to implement it as soon as possible. Only “asap” usually turns out to be tomorrow. Then next week. Then next month. And then never.

Sound familiar? Why don’t you do it a bit different this time? I’ve given you eight action steps above. Take a piece of paper or open a file right now and start a list of suitable products and affiliate programs. If you’re already signed up for such affiliate programs, go straight to step 3. Check the available content for suitable pieces. And if you can’t find any, don’t pass go, proceed with step 4 and send a note to the vendor(s). Right now.

Worst case is you’ll spend the next hour getting in touch with potential business partners—not the worst thing that can happen to you today, is it?

Editor’s note: tomorrow, our final posts in this series look at blogging smarter (and more profitably) with WordPress.

Regine Becher is an affiliate manager and JV broker. To help affiliates and bloggers get more out of their affiliate promotions, Regine runs a service called Syndicated Partners, where affiliates can download quality articles and publish them with their affiliate link inside.

5 Tips for Maximising Your Earnings from Amazon’s Affiliate Program During the Holidays

With the holidays almost upon us, now is a time for bloggers who are Amazon Affiliates to act to capitalize on what is usually one of the most profitable times of the year.

While Amazon is not my biggest source of income (it makes up around 5% of total income for me) it does spike at this time of year. Here’s how Amazon performed in 2010 and into the early months of 2011 for me.

amazon-earnings.png

As you can see, December is always the biggest spike in commissions for me, but November and January are the second and third highest earning months of the year.

Obviously the holidays are times when people are in a buying mood, and with all the holiday sales already under way, now is the time to act to maximize your commissions with Amazon if its an income stream you want to get the most out of.

Tips for maximizing Amazon commissions

So how do we get our commissions up in the coming weeks? Here are a few quick tips to start with:

1. Get people in the door

Okay, this isn’t rocket science, but the best thing about promoting products on Amazon is that it’s one of the best-optimized online retail stores. Amazon are known for testing their design and sales techniques and, as a result, if you get people in the door of Amazon.com, you’re well on the way to getting some commissions.

The cool thing about Amazon is that anything people buy once they’re in the door from your referral link will earn you a commission. So while you might suggest a book or a camera, if they end up buying a ride-on lawn tractor you’ll take a commission for that (don’t laugh—I sold one of those once)!

So drive people to Amazon and let the site do its work. Much of what I’ll outline below are some techniques to get people in the door.

2. Promote the sales

Amazon currently have a lot of sales going on. Black Friday sales are already underway and Cyber Monday sales will follow—in fact, in the leadup to Christmas there will be regular sales and promotions going on in most departments.

The key is to watch for what is currently on special and to be promoting the best of it. For example, in their photography department they have some great cameras on special including one that we use at our place—the Canon Powershot S95. I promoted it a couple of times on social media earlier in the week and saw several sales.

So keep a watch on what’s on sale in terms of products that relate to your niche. Choose the ones that will fit with your audience the best and promote them!

3. Bestseller lists

People love to see what other people are buying to help them determine what they should buy. There are many ways to utilize this in your own promotions on Amazon.

  • Use one of Amazon’s bestseller lists: Almost every type of product on Amazon can be sorted based upon what is selling best. For example here’s their Best Selling Digital Cameras and Gear list. You can refine these further to hone in on specific types of products, like DSLRs, Lenses, Point-and-Shoot Cameras.
  • Affiliate stats: Another way to create a bestseller list is to look at the stats that Amazon gives you as an affiliate to see what people have bought previously via your affiliate links. This will only work if you’ve referred a decent amount of sales, but it’s particularly useful if you do, because you can present the list as being the bestselling products in your community. That’s how I created the Popular Digital Cameras and Gear page, which is my top-earning Amazon affiliate page on dPS. I similarly do smaller focused bestselling lists like this one for lenses.
  • Surveys: Surveys are another way to create these lists. Survey your readers to find out what their favorite products are, and report back to them the results (example).

4. Buying guides

Another type of list post that readers love, and that converts well, is the “buying guide,” where you walk your readers through a variety of products of a certain type or price point. It’s like a list of mini-reviews of products that your readers might find useful.

An example of this that worked well for us last year was 15 Must-Have Photography Accessories under $25.

5. Hypotheticals

This one is a little from left field, but has worked well for me on two occasions (and I’ll be running it again in the coming days). On each previous occasion I gave my readers a hypothetical sum of money to go and spend on Amazon on cameras.

The challenge was to go and research what cameras they would buy from the Amazon Camera section and then to come back and report on the products they’d buy. The links to the section I suggested they go to were affiliate links (I also made some suggestions on cameras that they might like to look at) and in the days after the post went live commissions spiked.

Readers also loved the challenge—we had hundreds of people come back and share what they’d buy with their hypothetical money! Update: I’ve just posted this year’s hypothetical post here.

Other great techniques for making money during the holidays with Amazon

There’s a lot more tips and techniques to read on making money with Amazons Affiliate program. I’ll link to some more extensive articles below but wanted to highlight these five techniques because I think they particularly relate to this time of year.

Here’s some further reading from a series of posts on the topic. The tips are not specifically holiday-related, but will give you a great overview of how to make money with Amazon. They also contain a lot of tips that would be relevant to other affiliate marketing efforts.