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Do you Disclose Affiliate Links?

One of the most common questions I’m asked since the new FTC regulations regarding bloggers came in is around disclosing affiliate links.

As an Australian I’m not directly impacted by the FTC and its regulations so I’ve not really had to change my own approach to disclosure – but I’d be interested to hear a bit of discussion on the topic – particularly around these questions:

  1. Do you disclose affiliate links on your blog in some way?
  2. If so – how do you do it (every time you use one, in the bottom of posts, site wide disclosures…. something else)?
  3. if so – has the FTC regulations impacted what you do?

My personal approach for the last couple of years has been to have a sitewide disclosure rather than a per post one (although here on ProBlogger I have been noting affiliate links in posts more often lately).

What about you – do you disclose affiliate links?

Google and Amazon Partner Up to Integrate Amazon Associates Program into Blogger Blogs

In the last few minutes Blogger.com has flipped the switch on a new way for Blogger blogs to be monetized from within their system – an integration with Amazon Associates program. Expect an official announcement from Blogger/Google shortly on this new partnership (update: here it is) – but in the mean time, here’s the scoop.

Previously the ‘monetize’ tab on the back end of Blogger blogs only had options to set up AdSense – but today you can now do the same with Amazon.

If you’re a Blogger.com blogger log into your blog – click the monetize tab and choose Amazon Associates. Here’s what you’ll see:

Monetize Tab

You can either set up a new Amazon Associates account if you don’t have one or login with your existing one.

WIth it enabled you can enable a product finder in your blog editor which will enable you to add Amazon links and/or images as you’re posting blog posts.

Blogger Editor with Amazon Associates

I’ve only just tested it but it all seems pretty seamless and I’m sure for those wanting to make money from a Blogger blog it’ll be an appreciated new feature – particularly in the hottest buying season of the year.

It’s also an interesting story on the front that two major online players – Google and Amazon – are working together on this. It makes sense for it but as far as I know it’s the first time the two have done anything on this scale. It’ll be interesting to see if the partnership leads to any other areas of their empires.

The Parable of the Lemonade Stand: Is AdSense Costing you Money?

A guest post by Kevin from BeginnerBloggerTips.com (with some comments from me below too). Image by Shawnson.

My journey into affiliate marketing.

Before I start, I’d like to make two disclaimers:

  1. I don’t hate google or AdSense—this article isn’t a rant against either.
  2. I recognize that every blog is different—what I’m about to say may not apply to your blog. Regardless, I think you should ask yourself the question I’m presenting here.

Disclaimers finished; let’s get to the point:

The Parable of the Lemonade Stand

42549598_b0780fcbfe.jpgImagine a lemonade stand. The entrepreneurs get the ingredients, start up their business, and have dozens of customers per day. It earns twenty dollars a day. Not bad for a humble lemonade stand, right?

Now, let me throw in a twist: imagine the before-mentioned entrepreneurs are in their 30’s. They own the lot on which the lemonade stand is located. The lot is located along a major highway in a rapidly growing suburban area. All adjacent lots have businesses making thousands of dollars per day. Suddenly our lemonade stand seems rather silly.

This concept is called opportunity cost—the economic consequences of choosing one thing over another. I’m learning about this the hard way — I’ve been making pennies per click when I could have been making dollars per click.

Let me explain in a little more detail. As I’ve mentioned before, strongandfit.net is the first profitable blog I’ve ever had. As my traffic increased, so did my AdSense earnings. A few dollars a day ads up, so I was finally seeing checks come in at the end of every month (I’m new to making money online, so I’m easily amused).

But I started noticing something: a few products in particular kept showing up over and over on my blog (in the AdSense widget). “Wait a minute,” I thought to myself, “these products obviously convert well if someone is willing to spend money promoting them.” I realized I had inadvertently put myself at the bottom of the economic food chain: I was getting paid a few cents per click while someone else was earning commissions on sales produced by these clicks.

I did a little research and started directly advertising these products with affiliate marketing. So far it seems to be paying off—my blog is making more money.

But there’s another benefit: I have complete control over what gets advertised on my blog. It’s turning into a win-win situation: my readers are referred to high quality products, and I earn more in commissions.

I still use AdSense, but I’m devoting more of my prime “real estate” on my blog to affiliate marketing. Maybe you should also consider doing this.

A Note from Darren

Like Kevin says, I don’t have anything against AdSense either. In fact I find that it works quite well on some of my sites. For me the idea of ‘Opportunity Cost’ is a powerful one. For every decision you make to use ANY type ad unit on your blog (whether it is AdSense, some other ad network, an Affiliate product, an ad sold directly to an advertiser, an ad for a product of your own there is a potential opportunity cost of that decision.

The key is to test different options. Kevin has had success in substituting affiliate ads in the place of AdSense, for others affiliate products might not work, but an ad for your own product might. For others it might be about swapping ads to Chitika or another ad network. For others it could monetize better by selling ads directly. For others still it could be better to not have ads at all but to sell yourself on your blog as a consultant.

The key is to test and experiment with different models.

Amazon’s Black Friday Sale Starts – If You’re an Affiliate Today’s the Day to Promote

As a quick followup to my post a few days ago regarding how to make more money with the Amazon Affiliate Program this Christmas – today is a key day to be linking to Amazon as their Black Friday sale has just started.

This is on of the biggest days (if not THE biggest day) of shopping all year on Amazon so many of your readers will be heading into the store today anyway – you might as well as earn a commission for what they spend.

The cool thing about linking to the Black Friday Sale today is that next Monday when Amazon’s Cyber Monday sale starts the links you create today will automatically be forwarded to that sale also.

Good luck with the promotion!

3 Ways to Make More Money with Amazon’s Affiliate Program This Christmas

Earlier in the year posted here on ProBlogger 11 lessons that I’d learned on the way to making over $100,000 with the Amazon Associates program (I wrote a followup post with 10 more tips too).

In that post post I posted a version of the following chart of my Amazon Associates earnings:

amazon-associates-tm.jpg

In the previous version of the chart I didn’t highlight the holiday seasons but I did want to point it out explicitly now as we are currently in one of the key times of year if you’re an Amazon affiliate (or for many other affiliate programs).

As you’ll see in the chart – all but one of the 4th Quarters that I’ve been promoting Amazon have been record periods for me. From what I can see – while the economy is certainly down at the moment – this current quarter looks like being yet another record for me.

I post this chart for one reason and it is this….

If you’re going to promote Amazon this Christmas – you’ve got to start now. The buying season has started. Yesterday I saw a big day of sales on Amazon and the kinds of products being bought indicate to me that much of it is gift buying.

In the coming week we’re going to see Christmas shopping start in earnest with some of the post Thanksgiving sales that stores like Amazon put on. As a blogger – you need to be positioning yourself to capitalise on this buying.

Here’s three things that you should do:

  1. Get People in the Door – Amazon optimizes its site brilliantly to convert people into buyers who enter the site – so your goal is to get people in the door and let Amazon do its job of converting people. This doesn’t mean just linking to anything – you want to keep your links into the store relevant – but if you’re going to do some reviews or promotions of Amazon products – now’s the time
  2. Watch What Amazon is Promoting – at this time of year Amazon puts on a variety of sales and runs specials on many products. Keep an eye on products in your niche, watch for what they are promoting and when they promote something relevant to your industry – take advantage of that opportunity to point it out to your readers.
  3. Run Christmas Related Posts – this is a great time of the year to put together a few posts that highlight lists of products related to your readers. 10 Stocking Stuffers for Photographers will be a post on DPS in the coming week (based upon this question that I asked my readers). You don’t want to let this kind of thing over run your blog but a few fun posts like this both gets people in the door at Amazon but also gets them thinking about buying and in the buying mood.

There are plenty more tips in my previous post on making money with Amazon Associates Program (and the followup post) but those are three that I think are particularly relevant for this time of year.

Does Price Impact Which Affiliate Products You Promote?

When it comes to affiliate promotions do you tend to promote big ticket items or small ticket items (or both)?

I ask the question because while at lunch with a few bloggers recently the topic came up and I discovered that the answers to the question varied quite a lot.

  • On one hand some bloggers exclusively promoted big ticket items which could bring in large commissions for every sale. They didn’t get many sales but when they did it was certainly worth their while and they saw healthy commissions.
  • On the other hand where bloggers who did a lot of promotion of smaller ticket items. They tended to make more sales but the commissions were smaller.

My Approach

My approach is somewhere in between. I don’t base my choice on which products to promote on price – but rather the quality of the products I’m promoting and their relevancy to my audience.

  • For example last week I promoted a series of great photography e-books on DPS. Each e-book was only $5 and the resulting commission for each sale was only $1.50 – however the quality of the books was fantastic (I’ve had heaps of readers emailing me to thank me for recommending them) and the number of sales was great (we’ve sold over 2000 of them already). Some of my blogging buddies wouldn’t go near a product with that small a commission but the $3500+ won’t go astray.
  • On the other hand I’ve promoted a rang of other products lately including some one product that paid a $20 commission (I promoted it via email as outlined in last week’s post). This product has not sold as many copies (over 400 in a few months) but has brought in double the money (but over a longer period of time).
  • As a last example – when I promote bigger ticket items (like membership courses or training programs) for which the commissions can be several hundred dollars per sale the sales numbers tend to be quite a bit lower – but even a small number of them can earn several thousand dollars.

For me promoting a variety of quality products at different price points seems to work well. I find that in doing so I seem to be able to attract buyers at different price points and levels and the commissions tend to add up to collectively be a worthwhile exercise.

What about you? If you’re promoting affiliate products I’d be interested to hear whether price is one of the factors that you consider when choosing a product to promote?

10 Last Tips on Making Money from the Amazon Affiliates Program

Today I’d like to conclude my mini series of posts on how to make money with the Amazon Associates Program. In case you’ve missed them – the first two parts are at:

In this last post I’d like to share 10 more general and overarching tips and principles that I’ve found can help with making money with Amazon’s Affiliate program. I hope you find that together with the more practical tips from yesterday that you’ll find them helpful!

1. Time is a Major Factor

As I mentioned in my first post on the topic – the $119,000+ that I’ve earned from Amazon has only come over 6 years. While this last 12 months has seen me earn over $50,000 of this it took 5 years of building to get it to that level.

That was partly due to traffic but it was also partly due to my regular inclusion of affiliate links in my posts over time. I don’t promote Amazon in every post I write but in an average week I’d say that I’ve linked to Amazon in at least 5 posts. That adds up to 250 or so posts per year and around 1500 posts over 6 years.

These posts are each a doorway into the Amazon site and over time as their number have grown and as my blogs have begun to rank higher in Google and my loyal reader numbers have grown the number of people going through these ‘doorways’ into Amazon has grown – hence the escalation in earnings.

2. Start Early

As a result I do recommend that bloggers start to use Amazon’s Associate Program early. In doing so you’ll be populating your blog with links into the store that may not convert brilliantly early on before you have readers – 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.

In the early days of using it I knew so little and 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 mentioned in my previous posts that I largely rely upon Contextual links to promote Amazon. I find that these convert best – however I do know of a few bloggers who’ve successfully incorporated a variety of the widgets that Amazon gives their Associates to use into their sites.

amazon-widgets.png

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 a couple of times to use this and have had a little success with my photography one and my ProBlogger Bookstore 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 the topic of affiliate marketing comes up. Should you disclose that your links are affiliate links or should you not? Each blogger has their own stance on this and with a lot of talk about laws changing in some parts of the world it seems that some bloggers are now being forced to make such disclosures.

I personally don’t disclose every link on my blog in a direct way but do have disclaimer/disclosure pages on my blogs. I also have 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 but encouraged us to do it. 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).

5. Don’t Hype – Put Your Readers First

Whatever you do – always keep your readers best interests at heart when you engage in any affiliate marketing.

I’ve been critiqued for taking this stance lately by a group of bloggers who take a different stance and seem to put the priority on ‘making money at all costs’ – but while you certainly can make money without a focus upon quality content or building community on a blog 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 who trust me rather than simply making money at all costs. 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 Quality Products

This relates to the last point but is worth stating on its own. The success and failure of your Amazon Associates Program promotions hinges upon choosing good quality products.

When you promote quality it is much easier to be both genuine in your reviews and recommendations and get conversions that lead to commission.

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

7. Be Bold

It has been interesting to read the comments on the previous posts in this series and to see that one of the recurring themes from readers is that they worry about using Amazon links too much. Won’t readers push back?

I’ve 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 choose the products carefully or because I often promote these links in posts based upon reader feedback – but I can think of less than 5 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 do want to be at least a little subtle about it – 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 guess 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 has come up a number of times in previous posts on this topic 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 have previously had a blog with almost completely Australian traffic that did convert 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 items that didn’t ship outside the USA – this was part of the reason that I moved my efforts to starting Digital Photography School which has a more global audience.

Secondly – if your traffic is very localized to a country with its own Amazon store join the affiliate program for that store and promote it. I know of one UK photography site that 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

In one forum that I came across discussing my previous articles 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 a lot of it comes down to the fact that Amazon is a product related affiliate program – 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.

Keep an Eye on Amazon

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

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

Amazon have spent years perfecting the art of online selling – 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, see the way that they describe products. You’ll learn a lot about online marketing by observing how they do it and 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 – I mentioned earlier in this series that Amazon run a variety of promotions on their site that you can tap into. Some of these they promote directly to their Associates – for example they send out emails to associates semi-regularly promoting their latest promotions) and 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 that they don’t promote to us as affiliates but which you can still tap into. For example – today I was surfing on Amazon and this popped up at the top of the screen:

promotion.png

It’s an internal promotion that Amazon are currently running for a series of new cameras that Canon released this week. It seems to appear to anyone surfing through the camera section on Amazon. The promotion links to this page (I’m not sure how long it’ll be up so here’s a screenshot – click to enlarge).

amazon-pre-order.png

The page is a sales page specifically designed to hook in people looking to pre-order newly announced cameras. Amazon are heavily promoting this page – they wouldn’t do so if it didn’t convert – so I’m jumping on board created an affiliate link to the page (you can create an affiliate link to ANY page within Amazon including these kinds of pages, search results, category pages etc) and I’m promoting it to my readers.

They 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 Associate Program Tips

This brings to an end my mini series of posts on this topic. I’ve shared everything that I’ve tried – what about you? Got any tips to add?

10 More Amazon Associate Program Lessons I Learned on My Way to Six Figure Earnings

Yesterday I shared 11 of the lessons that I’ve learned in my journey to earning over six figures from the Amazon Associates program. Today I want to share 10 more. This time we’re going to drill down a little with a few more specific tips on some of the techniques I use within posts (many of yesterdays were quite ‘general’).

I hope you find them useful.

1. Multiple Links Per Post

Lets start with a simple yet powerful technique – linking to the product you’re promoting on Amazon more than once in a post.

When I used to write reviews of products with affiliate links I did so with one link. I’m not sure why but for some reason I thought a single link would be enough and I didn’t want to run the risk of annoying readers with more. However one day it struck me that the reviews I were writing were quite long and by the time people got to the end of them they’d scrolled down the page so that 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 post. I did some heat map tracking of which link proved to be 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 links got clicked quite a bit but the one under the article was clicked on slightly more than the top one (despite being under the fold)
  • the lower link converted better than the top one
  • those who clicked on the top link still made sales (although not as many) – but interestingly it wasn’t always the product I reviewed – often it seemed to be related products

I concluded that having read a review of a product that people were now better 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 use two links per review post. The first one is usually a link on the first time I use the product’s name – the second one usually has a stronger call to action (‘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 that also picks up my next point.

2. Link Images to Amazon

One of the things I learned when doing some heat map tracking of where people were clicking on my reviews is that there was quite a bit of ‘click activity’ on images of the products in the reviews – 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. Again I set up a tracking code to test whether they converted. While they didn’t convert as well as text links they still did convert in some instances and to this day I still use this technique most of the time.

3. Buy Now Buttons

buy-now-button-amazon.pngThis is a technique I need to experiment more with but which I’ve heard others having real success with.

It basically involves using a ‘buy now’ button in your post (I’d suggest below a review would be a good place to start using it). I’ve written more about the technique here but the blogger I first heard was doing this 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!

4. Multiple Promotions Per Campaign

I’ve talked above 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 post 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 a projector built into it 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 put together a compilation of quotes from other sites who review the product.
  • We might pull in and embed some videos from YouTube that show the products features

Again – I wouldn’t 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.

5. Focus Upon the Holidays

amazon-associates-christmas.pngIf you check out the chart that I shared of my earnings in yesterdays post (also pictured to the right – click to enlarge) you’ll notice that 4th Quarters of years usually were bigger than those proceeding them. The reason is simple – Christmas.

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

The upswing in sales around Christmas is partly natural as people are more in a ‘buying mood’ at that time of year – but I also create content at this time of year that is specific to the holiday season.

Such content includes 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.

6. Promote Related Products

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

As a result I often do more promotions on ‘related products’ than cameras themselves.

In my space 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 suggested related products to promote is to look at the stats/reports that Amazon gives you to see what 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. 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.

Lets look at an example of this. Following is a screen capture of a small part of the orders on my Amazon account for last quarter. I have arranged them in order of how many were sold.

Hot-Products-Amazon.png

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 there. 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 about these items that people buy without my prompting is GOLD! These are hot products that almost sell themselves for one reason or another.

The reason may be 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. Whatever the reason I’m sure to look into them further and see if they could be products I should be promoting somehow.

7. Promote Pre-Orders

I’ve mentioned this one above already – but one of the things that I do that I see some other bloggers don’t do is promote the ability to Pre-Order products on Amazon.

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

pre-order.png

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 last year 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!

8. Track Your Campaigns

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

I eventually decided that I needed to know more about what was working for me and decided to start 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 month or so back when I hit the maximum and 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 would suggest creating a few general tracking codes – one for each blog, perhaps one for each category on your blog – and 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 – however it’s a bit of a drawn out process. If you need more it’s worth a try (I know I’ll be trying).

9. Small Ticket Items Add Up

One of the most common criticisms that I hear of the Amazon Associates program is that it’s just too many small commissions. Getting a commission of a few % on a $15 book just doesn’t cut it for many. Some people use this to justify not using Amazon at all while others just promote big ticket items and ignore the smaller ticket products like books, DVDs, CDs etc.

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

Yesterday I earned $401.49 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 was not 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 went up on the blog recently.

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

amazon-tiers.png

As you can see from the above screen capture – when you go past 6 items referred you move from a 4% commission to a 6% commission. Keep referring more and 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’!

10. Big Ticket items are the cream on Top

While I strongly advise promoting small ticket items to help boost your sale numbers and for the commission that lots of such sales can generate – it’s also worth
doing 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). Here’s a few from the last week:

amazon-earnings.png

I hope that today and yesterday’s tips have been of help to you in growing your Amazon Associate program income. I’ve decided to wrap up this series tomorrow with a few last thoughts – 10 more slightly more general and over arching tips (update: you can read my 10 last tips for making money with Amazon here).

11 Lessons I Learned Earning $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program

I have earned $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program since I began using it as a way to make money online late in 2003. Around half of that amount was made within the last 12 months.

In this post I want to share what I’ve learned along the way on how to make money with Amazon.

amazon-associates-tips.pngWhile Amazon’s Associates program is not my largest income stream (I rank how I make money blogging here) it was actually the first experiment that I did with monetizing blogs. I began to experiment with it in the last quarter of 2003 (just before I started using AdSense).

I started using it on a personal blog that had been going for around 12 months and had around a thousand readers a day – the first quarter was not spectacular in terms of earnings – I made $31.80 (around 30 cents a day) and almost gave it away.

I’m glad I stuck with it – here’s a chart of the quarterly earnings since the last quarter of 2003 (note, it doesn’t include July or August of this year as that’s an incomplete quarter so the overall figures from this period is below the $119k figure mentioned above):

amazon-associates.png

As you can see there has been some ups and downs since the early days but the overall trajectory has been positive. It’s a little hard to see in the chart, as it is quarterly, but Decembers are always great months – last December is still the best month I’ve ever had despite last quarter being a record over a 3 month period.

So what have I learned on the way to earning six figures from Amazon?

Today I want to share 11 tips on what I’ve learned in making money blogging from the Amazon Associates Program. Tomorrow I’ll share another 10 (update: You can read Part 2 here).

1. Traffic Traffic Traffic

night_traffic.jpgLet’s start with the most obvious point – one of the biggest factors in the upward swing in my Amazon earnings has been a corresponding upward swing traffic.

As with most ways of making money from blogging the more eyeballs that see your affiliate promotions – the better chance you have of it converting (of course this is a generalization as not all kinds of traffic converts – but more of that in the next point).

While I do think it’s worth starting to experiment with affiliate promotions early on in your blog (even before you have a heap of traffic) your main focus in the early days needs to be upon creating great content and building traffic to your blog.

2. Loyalty and Trust Convert

trust.jpgOne of the other major factors that has come into play with the increase in earnings that I’ve had has been the type of readership I’ve managed to gather 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 are not converting with affiliate programs on my blogs – instead it is loyal and repeat readers.

The main reason for this is that those readers who connect with you on a daily basis over the long haul develop a trust with you (and your blog) and so when you make a recommendation or do a review they’re more likely to take that advice.

3. The Intent of Readers Matters

buyer.jpgAnother big factor in the equation of Amazon conversions is the intent that your readers have when they visit your blog. Why are they there and at what stage in the ‘buying cycle’ are they at?

I began to think about this just over a year ago as I looked at the growing traffic on my photography site but realized that my Amazon earnings didn’t seem to be keeping up with the traffic growth that I was experiencing. What I realized is that DPS was a blog that was largely writing about ‘tips on how to use a camera’ and that as a result it wasn’t really drawing readers to it who were in a ‘buying mood’. In fact a survey that I did found that many of my readers had recently purchased a camera and were on my site specifically because they wanted to learn how to use it.

As a result I added to the mix of new content on the site 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 while new section on the blog devoted to ‘gear’.

Slowly this has attracted new readers 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.

This is where search traffic can convert with affiliate programs – ie when you’re writing content that people in a ‘buying mood’ are searching for.

4. Relevancy Matters

Picture 4.pngThis is another common sense tip that many of us (yes I failed on this one in my early days) mess up. The more relevant to your audience the products are that you promote the better chance you’ll have of converting.

  • Promote iPods on your blog that largely talks about spirituality and you are unlikely to convert (believe me, I tried) – promote relevant books, CDs and DVDs instead.
  • Promote perfume on your travel blog and you’re unlikely to see many sales – travel books, luggage and other travel products will work better.

Sometimes it is hard to find a product that matches your topic (Amazon doesn’t work with every topic) but try different products related to your topic and track what converts best for your audience.

open-door1.jpg5. Get People in the Door and 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, that they trust and that is very good at converting people to be buyers. They have honed their site to present people with relevant products to them (based upon previous surfing and buying habits) and over many years have tweaked their site to convert well.

As a result I find that once you get people to visit Amazon (pretty much for any reason) that 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’ll earn a commission.

While I find specific promotions of particular products work best with Amazon – I also have had some success by getting people in the door for other reasons. For example I recently ran a post on DPS 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 and quite a few sales.

While a ‘get people in the door’ strategy might seem to grate a little with my ‘Relevancy’ tip in point #4 – the key is to get people in the door in a relevant way. Once they’re 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 that they’re not alone and if they know that others have and are buying with them. I’m sure there’s some insightful psychological reasons for this but from where I sit buying seems to somehow have become a communal activity.

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

The best example that I can give of this technique in action is my Popular Digital Cameras and Gear page on DPS. It’s a page that I update every three months, that I link to prominently on the blog and that converts really well. To construct it I simply go through the reports/stats that Amazon gives affiliates to look at what products are selling the best from within my community. I then pull it into different categories of products and ‘Waahlaaa’ – we have a best seller list.

It converts well because readers know that others in their community are buying these products too – there’s a Wisdom of the Crowd mentality going on I guess. Another quick example of this was a recent post – 23 Photography Book Reviews [Ranked] where I ranked the top selling photography books in order of sales but also linked to reviews we’d done of each of them on the blog.

Note: the key with these ‘best seller’ lists is to drive traffic to them. One way to do this is to link prominently to these pages from within your blog and to link to them from within other posts from time to time on your blog so that the post doesn’t just convert for a day or two while your post is the most recent one on your blog.

7. Social Proof Marketing 2 – Reader Reviews

Picture 6.pngI used to do all of the reviews of photography books on DPS. It was mainly because I couldn’t find anyone else to do them and probably partly a little because I’m a control freak.

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

The review not only converted as well as my normal reviews – but did even better than normal! This could have been for many reasons but one that I suspect came into play was the way that I introduced the reviewer as a ‘DPS reader’. I didn’t build them up to be an expert, I just presented them as a normal reader with no agenda wanting to share some thoughts on a book that had helped them.

I suspect that 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.

8. Genuine Recommendations and Reviews

bookrev_600.jpgThere are two main ways that I promote Amazon 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 look over and 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 that they review and encourage them to be as genuine and unbiased as possible so as 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 it’s positives 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 down to the buying mood/intent mentioned in point #3.

9. Informational Links

information.pngThe other type of link that I use to Amazon is when I’m mentioning a product in passing and/or a new product is announced that is relevant for my niche. For example when the Nikon D300s was announced recently by Nikon 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 about it (price, specs, pictures etc). Some readers 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 and can help a little with sales from time to time.

10. Contextual is King

contextual.pngOne of the biggest reasons my initial attempts with Amazon fell flat on their face and simply didn’t convert was that I thought it’d be enough to slap an image based button on my sidebar that featured a product or that was simply a banner ad to Amazon.

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

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

11. Promote Specials, Promotions and Discounts

sale2.gifThere’s hardly a product on Amazon that does not have a listed discount on it. Most books are as much as 30% off recommended retail prices and at different times during the year Amazon runs other special discounts and promotions on different single products or in different product categories.

Keep an eye out for these kinds of promotions because they can be well worthwhile promoting (if relevant to your readership). In fact last time Amazon had cameras on special I promoted it 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 review of a product and Amazon have a listed discount – include a note about the discount in the post (see yesterdays post about Chris Brogan’s new book for an example).

11 More Amazon Associates Tips Tomorrow

I’ve got another set of tips to share with you on how to make money with the Amazon Associates program tomorrow (update: You can read it here. I’ve also added a 3rd post to the series with 10 more tips for making money with Amazon Associates).

I’d love to hear how you’ve gone with promoting this program? Have you had any success? What tips would you give?