MotionMall Review

If you’re looking for a reasonably simple way to integrate the Amazon affiliate program into your blog you might like to check out MotionMall which is a service that is specifically for this purpose.

MotionMall leads you through a four part process of designing your ad unit selecting the topic of the ads you wish to show, selecting the category of Amazon you want ads to be drawn from, giving some contact information and then getting the code to paste into your blog.

The design of the ads is limited to two ad unit sizes (728 x 90 and 160 x 600) and 13 color themes (each has two options giving you 26 options). The designs will suit some blogs better than others.

The ads that it shows (there is one to the left) use flash to make them more interactive (ie on live ads if you click the arrows at the top and bottom of the product they will scroll to new ones and if you hover over the circles at the top it will give you options to view different categories of products from within Amazon.

Pros of MotionMall

You do not directly pay for these ads, but indirectly it does cost you as 15% of the ads shown have MotionMall’s Amazon affiliate code imbedded into them (the other 85% have your own). 15% is not too bad when you consider that some ad networks take 50% of the income earned from your site.

You don’t have to deal with MotionMall directly apart from generating the code. Payments still come from Amazon. You will need to have an Amazon Affiliate program membership (you can use this with either, Amazon UK or Amazon Canada).

Another thing in it’s favor is that these ads are non contextual and can therefor be used in conjunction with programs like AdSense and YPN. In fact it’s not difficult to set them up as alternative ads for these programs.

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SixApart Launch Affiliate Program

SixApart (the creators of Movable Type and TypePad) have just announced an affiliate program. You can earn 10% per licence if you recommend someone to Movable Type, $3 per trial subscriber for TypePad and 20% of paid subscription (up to $5) for LiveJournal referrals.

Product Placement for Consumer-Oriented Blogs

Today’s post in the b5media 12 Days of Christmas series is another post by Hsien-Hsien Lei. She previously posted about ethics for science and health bloggers but this time she’s showing her diversity of blogging interests by writing about Product Placement on Consumer Blogs.

Hi. I’m Hsien-Hsien Lei and I write not only Genetics and Health but also Play Library. The approaches to these two blogs are dramatically different. For Genetics and Health, I present science/health news and analysis with no specific intention of selling anything (aside from the occasional book). For Play Library, it’s a constant show-and-tell of toys, book and things for children.

Almost all of the affiliate links I use on Play Library are from the Amazon Associates Program. It’s the most straightforward and comprehensive products catalog online. Amazon also makes it incredibly easy to create product links. Initially, I inserted the pre-fab ad buttons and banners into every post. They were ugly, but functional, and I did get the occasional sale.

When Arieanna Foley’s Cooking Gadgets blog went live, though, I knew I had a lot to learn. She was making sales left and right without a single ad button or banner in sight. Learning from Arieanna‚s successful example requires a little more work and these are the steps I now take for Play Library posts featuring products:
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Amazon earnings up 100%

Just logged into my Amazon Affiliate program account (which I reviewed here to check the daily stats and it looks like December is going to be a bumper month with a lot of Christmas shopping going on. While it doesn’t come close to comparing to other income streams earnings on my account are up from around $10 per day to over $60 per day.

It looks like all the deep linking I did within posts (see point 4 here) a couple of months ago is paying off. It’s a time consuming thing but well worth the effort. Earnings are up by just under 100% for the same period last year.

Of course all it needs is for a $2000 camera to be sold and the daily earnings can be up as much as $150.

How are others going with their affiliate programs in the lead up to Christmas?

Amazon Beta Tests Product Previews

Amazon have started beta testing a new feature with their affiliates that is something between Chitika’s eMiniMalls and Vibrant Media’s Intellitxt. It’s called Amazon Product Previews.

The feature allows publishers to add some javascript code to the bottom of their pages that makes any text links to Amazon products that appear on the page open up little windows when readers put their cursor over the link. Here’s what the window looks like. It has a product picture, title, price and an option to ‘buy now’ and add the product to your shopping basket.

The window disappears when you take the cursor away.

During the beta test only 50% of readers to sites testing the feature will see the ads – it’s some kind of controlled test.

To participate in the program you just need to be an Amazon affiliate as far as I can see – log into the associate’s page and you should be invited to join the beta test.

Affiliate links Outranking Official Links on Google

I’ve noticed in the past month a number of times when affiliate links in Google rank higher than official sites. The most prominent of these at present in the ProBlogging community (I get an email about it every day or two) is illustrated by when you do a search for Chitika in Google at present (in fact it’s the same story when you search for ’eminimalls’ and ‘chitika eminimalls’).

Some Chitika affiliate with the id of ‘aglan’ is ranking first for the term so anyone who searches for Chitika hits their site and give this affiliate 10% of their earnings for 12 months not because he or she recommended it but because they have either been lucky or good at SEO.

Picture 1-3

I first noticed this phenomenon about a month ago when a search for ‘chitika’ resulted in my own affiliate link being number 1 – something I was both perplexed and if I’m honest, a little excited by.

This is not an isolated incident. On my digital camera blog I have noticed a similar thing with some of the affiliate programs that I promote where I rank first in Google as an affiliate in front of the official sites. I’ve spoken to a few of the affiliate program owners and to say that they are not happy about this would be an understatement – to not rank 1st for your own site’s title is a frustrating thing.

This is one of the down sides of running an affiliate program. Few people ever link to your site using it’s actual address so Google tends to rank which ever affiliate link that is most powerful as the highest one. Of course the product owner still gets sales but they have to pay the commission to affiliates.

The interesting thing is that once you’re in the top position as an affiliate you can actually have it reinforced by other people using your affiliate link to link up to the official site.

Take for instance a recent post by Robert Scoble who uses the aglan affiliate link to link to Chitika (at the time of writing this it’s still that way). I presume what has happened here is that Robert has looked up ‘Chitika’ on Google and has simply copied and pasted the link that Google serves (complete with affiliate link) into his own link – thus sending the lucky ‘aglan’ quite a few potential 10% commission possibilities (quite ironic considering the nature of Robert’s post). The other thing that Robert’s link does is reinforce the ‘aglan’ link at the number 1 position in Google for that term.

Are Adsense Getting into the Affiliate Marketing Game?

I’ve been pondering the Adsense decision to get into the referral business this morning since hearing the news. There are a number of questions and directions that my mind has taken with it. Bear with me as I think out loud for a few minutes:

Who is left to Refer? – My initial reaction to the announcement was that it’s a nice idea – but who would I refer? It’s probably the blogging circles that I hang around in – but I’m scratching my head to think of too many online publishers who are not already with Adsense. Some of them are inactive of course – but most seem involved already. Over the past few years Adsense has saturated the contextual advertising market brilliantly – to the point where a referral program at this point kind of seems somewhat pointless.

Response to Competition – Is this move more about a response to competition than anything else? YPN is rumored to be coming out of beta in the coming month or two and many believe that they’ll have a referral program of their own. Chitika’s referrer program has caused some real buzz (check out the latest graph for the word chitika at blogpulse) – While Adsense might not recruit too many more publishers at this stage – their competition stands a lot to gain from such programs (as do those who promote them). Is this an attempt at diffusing some of the attention of these new programs?

Sign of Things to Come? – As I pondered this morning and read over the Adsense policies around the referral program I found myself wondering if this might actually be something a little bigger than just a referral program for Adsense. Check out some of the wording in their reference to the referral program (emphases mine):

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Google Referral Program

It looks like Google are starting a referral program for AdWords. Check it out at the Join the Google Referral Program page:

‘The Google AdWords referral program (beta) is for web sites whose customers and visitors include small to medium-sized businesses, and who want to help those companies become more successful by running Google AdWords. The program works by giving approved sites unique links to Google, then compensating the referring site for passing on a new AdWords advertiser.

Joining is easy, and free

1. Apply.

2. Once you’re approved, place a Google AdWords referral program link on your site.

3. Earn $20 for each advertiser you refer.’

You can learn more about it here and apply here. It’s by invitation only at the moment but you can apply and be notified when they expand the program.

What’s it all mean? It seems Adsense are on a recruiting drive for new Advertisers and they’re willing to pay for them – the competition must be heating up.

Thanks to Mark for the notification of this.

Update – looks like Google are getting ready to roll all this out soon – as they’ve updated their policy page to accomodate it as Jen has just posted.

10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs on your Blog

We’ve now looked at a number of popular affiliate programs for bloggers and today I’d like to finish off this series by giving a few tips that should help bloggers get the best results out of any affiliate program that they choose to run with.

1. Consider your Audience

It almost goes without saying – but it’s worth putting yourself in your readers shoes and consider what they might be looking for as they surf by your blog. Are they shopping for specific products? Might they be looking for related products or accessories? What would trigger them to purchase? Start with your reader in mind rather than the product. If you take this approach you could end up doing your reader a favor as well as making a few dollars on the side.

2. Genuine Recommendations and personal endorsements always work best

There are literally hundreds of thousands of products and services for you to choose from to recommend to your blog’s readers but making money from them is not as simple as randomly adding links to them from your blog. Your blog’s readers come back to your blog day after day because something about you resonates with them – they have at least some level of trust and respect for you and perhaps the quickest way to destroy this is to recommend that they buy something that you don’t fully believe will benefit them.

The best results I’ve had from affiliate programs are where I give an open and honest appraisal of the product – including both it’s strengths and weaknesses. The most successful affiliate program I’m involved with here at ProBlogger is Joel Comm’s e-book which I reviewed here. If you read the review you’ll see that I not only tell readers who I believe the book is for but I also mention those it is NOT for. In a sense I critique it. On a surface level one might think that this wasn’t a wise move and that I should have given a glowing review – however the sales that I’ve had through the program have proven otherwise. People want to know what they are buying first and even if they know a product has limitations they will buy it if it meets their particular need.

3. Link to Quality Products

We all like to make sure we’re buying the best products money can buy – your readers are no different to this and are more likely to make a purchase if you’ve found them the best product for them. Choose products and companies with good reputations and quality sales pages. There is nothing worse than giving a glowing review of a product only to send your reader to a page that looks cheap and nasty.

4. Contextual Deep Links work Best

When I started using the Amazon Associate Program I naively thought that all I had to do was put an Amazon banner ad (that linked to Amazon’s front page) at the top of my blog. I thought that my readers would see it and surf over to Amazon and buy up big – thereby making me a rich man. Nothing could have been further from reality – I was deluding myself.

I always says to bloggers that I’m consulting with that they should learn something from contextual advertising when it comes to affiliate programs. The secret of contextual ads like Adsense is that a reader is reading a post on a particular topic on your blog and when they see an advertisement for that same product they are more likely to click it than if they saw an ad for something else. The same is true for affiliate programs. A banner to a general page on every page on your site won’t be anywhere near as effective as multiple links throughout your blog that advertiser products that are relevant for readers reading particular parts of your blog.

So if you’re writing a blog about MP3 players and have a review for a particular product – the most effectively affiliate program that you could link to from within the content of that page would be one that links directly to a page selling that specific model of MP3 player. This is how I use the Amazon program today. It is more work than contextual advertising because you’re not just putting one piece of code into a template but rather need to place individual links on many pages – but I find that it’s been worth the effort.

5. Consider positioning of links

One of the things I go on and on about with Adsense optimization is the positioning of ads. I tell bloggers to position their ads in the hotspots on pages (like the top of a left hand side bar – or inside content – or at the end of posts above comments etc). The same principles are true for affiliate advertising.

6. Traffic levels are Important

While it’s not the only factor – traffic levels are obviously key when it comes to making money from almost any online activity. The more people that see your well placed, relevant and well designed affiliate links the more likely it is that one of them will make a purchase. So don’t just work on your links – work on building a readership. Not only this, consider how you might direct traffic on your blog toward pages where they are more likely to see your affiliate links.

7. Diversify without Clutter

Don’t put all your affiliate efforts into one basket. There are plenty of products out there to link to so there is no need to just work on one. At the same time you shouldn’t clutter your blog up with too many affiliate program links. If you do so you run the risk of diluting the effectiveness of your links and could disillusion your readership.

8. Be Transparent

Don’t try to fool your readers into clicking links that could make you money. While it may not always feasible to label all affiliate links I think some attempt should be made to let people know what type of link they are clicking on. I also think consistency is important with this so readers of your blog know what to expect. For example here at ProBlogger usually put a note beside or under affiliate links to simply let readers know that that is what they are. On my Digital Camera Blog I don’t do this because of the large number of such links make it clear by the text around the link that clicking on it will take them to some sort of shop or information where a purchase is possible (ie a link my say ‘buy the XXX product’ or ‘get the latest product on XXX’.

9. Combine with other Revenue Streams

Affiliate programs and advertising programs are not mutually exclusive things. I’ve come across a few people recently who have said they don’t want to do affiliate linking because it will take the focus off their Adsense ads. While there is potential for one to take the focus off the other – there is also real potential for both to work hand in hand as different readers will respond to different approaches. You should consider the impact that your affiliate links have on other revenue streams – but don’t let one stop the other.

10. Track results

Most affiliate programs have at least some type of tracking or statistics package which will allow you to watch which links are effective. Some of these packages are better than others but most will at least allow you to see what is selling and what isn’t. Watching your results can help you plan future affiliate efforts. Keep track of what positions for links work well, which products sell, what wording around links works well etc and use the information that you collect as you work plan future affiliate strategies.

UPDATE – Check out my update to this post – 6 More Tips for Affiliate Marketing on Blogs.

What tips would you give someone getting into affiliate programs? What has worked well for you? What hasn’t? Share you experience and ideas on affiliate programs below.