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How to Increase Affiliate Income by Hitting the Affiliate Marketing Sweet Spot

At a conference this year, I presented some tips on affiliate marketing in one of the sessions I ran on monetizing blogs.

One of the most powerful affiliate marketing concepts—one that can make or break an affiliate campaign—is summed up in this slide:

Screen shot 2010-11-05 at 1.23.05 PM.png

The key is to find the overlap between the intent and need of your reader, the product you’re promoting, and the message you use to promote it with.

To say it another way, the product, reader need, and your promotional message need to be related. The product needs to relate to your audience, and you need to promote it in a relevant way.

Let me give you an example of an affiliate promotion on a blog that I saw recently where there was no sweet spot.

Missing the mark

I won’t reveal the blog because I don’t want to embarrass the blogger but the blog’s topic was beauty and fashion.

  1. Reader Intent – The blog’s content focused on the topic of beauty and fashion, and the blog’s comments revealed that readers were there to explore that topic (so the reader intent was to learn and talk about beauty/fashion).
  2. Product – The product being promoted on the blog was my 31 Days to Build a Better Blog ebook. While I’m flattered that the blogger wanted to promote my book, there’s not a great deal of immediate overlap between the reader intent/need and the need that my product solved. My ebook helps people improve their blogs; the reader intent was to talk lipstick, skirts, and stilettos.
  3. Message – The promotion was a banner ad. There was no in-content promotion—the blogger had simply used one of our default banner ads in the sidebar. As a result there was no tie-in, or message that tried to close the gap between reader need and the product. Perhaps if the message had been a blog post written to highlight how the product could be helpful to other fashion/beauty bloggers, or a call to fashion/beauty bloggers to work through the ebook together (making things more relevant to the audience), the promotion might have been more successful. However, the banner ad alone provided no obvious tie in.

There was no sweet spot here. As a result, the promotion saw no conversions.

Take-home lessons:

  1. Know your reader intent and needs.
  2. Find affiliate products that solve those needs.
  3. Promote products in a way that’s relevant and that communicates how the product will solve reader needs.

Further reading on affiliate marketing

  1. 10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs on your Blog
  2. 6 More Tips for Affiliate Marketing on Blogs

How to Make Money on Every Holiday

Guest post written by @ChrisGuthrie from Make Money on the Internet

I made a little over $60,000 in the past 12 months using Amazon’s Affiliate program and it’s actually my primary income stream. Many people are turned off by Amazon primarily because of it’s short 24 hour cookie length, but I want to show an example on how I make money using Amazon by focusing on the holiday shopping season every holiday. The next holiday coming up is Father’s Day and will be your opportunity to make some money today. But before we get to that I highly suggest you read some of the tips Darren has written in the past on how to earn money with Amazon which can be found here, here, here and… here! I also shared my own Amazon tips to earn more, but in a twist I used Amazon tracking ID’s for every single strategy all through 2009 so that I could determine which specific tactics were the most effective in terms of how much revenue they generated. The results can be seen here and in doing this I found out which tactics should be avoided as well.

How to Make Money with Amazon Today:

Now that you’ve read the tips above you may be thinking to yourself, ‘Alright that sounds great but, I’m still not sure where to start.’ Well, if your blog is in any way loosely related to consumer goods (almost everyone) there is an easy way to get started today by promoting deals for Father’s Day. Most bloggers focus on just the big holidays and shopping periods like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas. These are all great, but you can take it one step further by promoting products on almost every holiday without annoying your readers (I would skip this holiday though unless you have a blog about Pirates). Early last week I received an email from Amazon’s Associates team that stated Amazon would be running Lightning Deals for Father’s Day for the first time from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM PST on Monday June 7th through Wednesday June 9th to celebrate Father’s day on June 20th. Amazon frequently creates landing pages like this for holidays so for every holiday worth promoting just search for the respective holiday landing page and replicate this strategy below on future holidays. Promoting products around the holidays is the best way to make money without looking like it’s your only focus. First I’ll show you a simple blog post I’d write for my cooking website and second I’ll break down the steps I incorporate into most of my posts designed to make money with Amazon:

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Great Deals for Dad on Amazon This Week

Amazon will be running lightning deals from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM PST on Monday June 7th through Wednesday June 9th to celebrate Father’s day on June 20th. For those that aren’t aware – lightning deals run for only a few hours and the very best deals tend to sell out quick so be sure to keep your eye on Amazon.com/fathersday so that you don’t miss anything. In addition to the lightning deals there are already great prices on Shun cutlery products like this 22 slot bamboo knife storage block:


(Information pulled from an Amazon plugin I use)

Again, the lightning deals only run from June 7th to June 9th so watch Amazon.com/fathersday and if there are any great lightning deals on cooking products I’ll be sure to let you know on the blog here and via our free newsletter. Sign up for our newsletter now and get your free guide to Summer Grilling Healthy Meals and to ensure you hear about all the great Father’s Day deals that will be shared this week.

See more Fathers’s Day Deals at Amazon.com

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How I write the Father’s Day Deal Post:

Step 1: Go to Amazon.com/fathersday to find potential products to promote

Step 2: Sort through to the appropriate section for your website and look for pre made “deal images” like the one above that can be used on your website (Amazon usually creates several of these for sales within each product category)

Step 3: Save the image and generate an affiliate link for the page it goes to. Use this in your blog post somewhere as people love to click images especially if they outline the specifics of a sale.

Step 4: Start writing the blog post and linking to Amazon products and the father’s day home page where appropriate (see above as an example)

Step 5: Optional I use an Amazon affiliate plugin like PHPzon, Review Azon etc. to quickly and easily toss product information into my blog posts but this can also be done manually instead
Important Note To Potential Shoppers: Yes, a knife holder would make a terrible gift for Father’s Day though lol so pick something different, remember that was just a joke example.

Step 6: Reinforce that you’ll keep the reader up to date on the best deals via your blog and then take the time to promote your newsletter so that they don’t miss out on any deals you will send to them over the next few days.

Step 7: Finish the post with another link to the Amazon.com Father’s Day page

Step 8: Over the next few days watch the Amazon’s Father’s Day page for Lightning Deals that are appropriate for your audience. When the deals crop up write a quick blog post about the product on sale and send an email to your newsletter. Remember to write the blog post and send the email quickly as the popular lightning deals really do go fast.
Step 9: Required Buy me lunch with your increased Amazon earnings next time you’re in Seattle, WA.

The important thing to remember is that you can make money and still provide value to your readers at the same time. People have either forgotten Father’s Day is coming up soon or they’re already starting the process to find a gift. If you’re the first person to tell your readers that Father’s Day is upon us AND there are some sweet deals on products he might like your readers will thank you for sharing this information. This is just one way I make extra money during the traditionally slow season.

Now that you’ve learned how I make money on every holiday with Amazon, I’d love to see people actually take the advice and use it. Share your father’s day posts in the comments below and let me know what you think of this strategy.

Chris Guthrie has been a full time internet entrepreneur since October 2009 and has been earning money online since 2005. When he’s not working or playing Xbox 360 he enjoys speaking in third person. If you learned something from this blog post you’ll probably learn more by subscribing to his blog.

Is eBay Partner Network a Good Affiliate Program for Your Blog?

A guest post by Dee Barizo

_wp-content_uploads_2010_03_epn-logo.jpgeBay’s affiliate program doesn’t get mentioned much in the problogger space, but it’s been the best monetization option for my collectible card game blog.

The program is called eBay Partner Network, or ePN for short. It’s been a great for my blog. AdSense was a flop because most of the ads being served were irrelevant. On the other hand, ePN earns over 10 times as much as AdSense. Also, I use simple text links to promote eBay so I don’t have to clutter my blog with big distracting ads.

I thought I’d write about ePN to give you another monetization option. It’s generally a good idea to have multiple income streams to diversify your earnings. I believe ePN can be a viable program for many bloggers.

In this post, I’ll give a quick overview of the affiliate program. Then I’ll share some questions for you to consider to evaluate if ePN is right for you. Hopefully, by the end of the post, you’ll have a good idea whether or not the program will work well on your blog.

ePN Overview

ePN is similar to AdSense because it pays per click (although AdSense also pays on a CPM basis depending upon what ads are served). However, ePN is an affiliate program rather than an ad network like AdSense. Therefore, your traffic must generate revenue for eBay or else you won’t get paid. If your traffic doesn’t convert, then your earnings per click can go down to zero and you risk being dropped from the program.

eBay originally paid affiliate marketers a percentage of the transaction fees. But just recenty, in October 2009, eBay switched to a payout system called Quality Click Pricing (QCP). In this system, affiliates are paid based on an algorithm that takes into account several factors including revenue from sales, the long term value of new users, eBay advertising revenue and PayPal revenue.

ePN offers several tools to promote eBay on your blog. These tools include banner generators, link generators, an RSS feed generator, product feeds, and an API.

Questions to Consider

Is there an active market for eBay products in your niche?

Check eBay to see if there are many listings for products in your niche. This page is a good place to start because it lists all the main categories on eBay. Also, you can use eBay’s search box for market research. Search for common products in your industry and see if many auctions show up. If there is an active market, then ePN may well be a solid income source for your blog.

Even if you’re in obscure niche, I would still check eBay. You may be surprised at the wide range of products on the site. eBay has an active market for many things including antiques, books, clothes, cameras, computers, DVDs, industrial equipment, musical instruments, pet supplies, sporting goods, tickets, and toys. You can even buy automobiles on eBay.

Are you an affiliate marketer or willing to become one?

You don’t have to be an affiliate marketer right now, but you need to be committed to the trade to fully realize the benefits of ePN. As an affiliate marketer, you’ll have to focus on selling products and converting your readers to buyers. These skills are different from generating traffic and producing content.

Still, if you understand your audience and have a relevant site, it won’t be too difficult to get your readers to spend money on eBay. But you may have to learn different skills to make ePN a viable income stream.

Do you have a quality site?

One of the reasons why I wanted to write this post for ProBlogger is because blogs that follow Darren’s advice are often great sites to run affiliate programs.

eBay is looking for relevant sites that have unique or value-added content. These types of sites tend to do well with ePN.

The eBay team published a white paper on Search Engine Marketing Journal titled The Coming Evolution in Affiliate Marketing: A Focus on Quality (pdf file). This paper was based on their advanced tracking and research of their affiliates.

In this paper, they write:

Affiliates who take the time to create high-quality sites with value-added content tend to perform better than those who simply slap together hundreds of sites that contain very little other than affiliate ads and AdSense. It probably doesn’t come as a shock that ads crammed five or ten to a page on ringtone sites don’t capture the same quality of users as well conceived ads thoughtfully integrated into product-oriented content.

They note that small and mid-sized affiliates often outperform larger ones because they add a lot of value to their sites.

If you’ve built trust with your audience and have relevant, quality content, then your blog could be a great place to promote eBay.

Do you have a plan for promoting eBay?

I applied to ePN a couple months ago, but my blog was rejected. I think one of the reasons why my blog was rejected is because I didn’t give a plan for promoting eBay.

I thought of a marketing strategy and then resubmitted my application. My plan was simple. I would tell my readers that eBay offers low prices on the cards I write about. Then, I would link to the relevant eBay search pages. My second application was accepted.

You want to have a plan before applying so that eBay knows you’re serious about promoting their offers.

Can you send a good amount of traffic to eBay?

Traffic is important because the more click data the ePN algorithm has, the more accurate your earnings will be. If you don’t send a lot of clicks to eBay, you will receive a default earnings per click (EPC) amount that is assigned to the smallest publishers. You could be missing out on the earnings you deserve.

eBay hasn’t given a benchmark on the number of clicks that will give you the default EPC amount, but based on my experience, I would aim for at least 50 clicks per day.

Apply to ePN

If your blog seems like a good fit, you should apply to eBay Partner Network. One quick tip for the application process: Give a lot of info about your blog (like traffic, RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, etc.) to increase your chances of getting accepted. Also, don’t forget to mention your plan for promoting eBay.

Along with running a gaming blog, Dee Barizo is a project manager for affiliate sites. His newest project is The Best Degrees, an online degree site currently in the alpha state.

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?