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How to Find Profitable Affiliate Products to Promote

“How do I find affiliate products to promote on my blog?”

Last week I spoke with a small group of bloggers here in Melbourne over a coffee. One of the topics that a number of them were interested in talking about was affiliate marketing. They were struggling with the advertising as a model to make money from their blogs and wanted to branch out and experiment with affiliate promotions on their blog.

However wanting to get into affiliate marketing and actually doing it are two different things. There are a number of challenges to overcome first.

One of these challenges is finding the right product to promoted.

Choosing the right products to promote in affiliate promotions is crucial for a number of reasons – the two main ones being:

1. Relevant Products are Key – if your blog draws an audience centered around a particular topic or demographic you’re unlikely to be able to sell products that have no relevancy to your blog’s topic.

2. The Quality of Products can Impact Your Long Term Brand – promote low quality products and you could be hurting your brand. Readers remember who they heard about products from and their trust of you and your blog will be increased or decreased by what you recommend to them.

So – choosing the right affiliate product is crucial. It not only impacts conversions and profitability but it impacts your brand and relationships with readers.

How to Find the Right Affiliate Product to Promote

A few tips and thoughts on finding affiliate programs to promote come to mind:

  1. Google It – this one isn’t rocket science but it does work. If you have a Beauty Product blog google “Beauty Products Affiliate Program”. Insert your main keywords into that search and you may just find products that are relevant to your niche.
  2. Look at Your Competition – what products are other people promoting in your niche. Quite often a quick glance down the sidebar of another successful blog in your niche to see what products and services they are promoting will reveal affiliate products you could promote to (and it could also point you to some relevant advertisers to promote).
  3. Check out AdSense Ads – many of the AdSense ads appearing besides Google search results, on other blogs and even on your own blog are likely to be products with affiliate programs attached. Don’t click the ads on your own blog but checking out what the ads promote can reveal all kinds of potential affiliate partners. The same thing is true with other types of advertising. For example I was recently surfing on Facebook and saw an ad relevant for my blog – on clicking it I found a new product with an affiliate program that I’d not heard of before.
  4. Approach Potential Affiliate Partners – this one might not work if you’re a new blog with small traffic but as your blog grows you might find yourself in a position to approach the makers of a product or service to see if they’d start some kind of affiliate program for you. I’ve done this a couple of times over the last year and it has been great. The best part of it is that you get a head start on your competition for the promotion as you’re likely to be the only person promoting it.
  5. Search Affiliate networks – lastly there are quite a few affiliate networks around that list many affiliate programs. Most of these have search functions to allow you to type in keywords and find promotions relevant to your niche. Check out MarketLeverage, Clickbank, Commission Junction, PepperJam Network (disclaimer, MarketLeverage sponsors ProBlogger) and many more.
  6. Search Online Stores for Products – many online stores like Amazon have affiliate programs attached to them. In general the comissions are not massive (for example Amazon’s range from as low as 4% up to 15% depending upon the type of product and how much you sell) – I guess they have narrower profit margins) – but stores like this have a massive range of products and can be a good place to start while you build traffic and find other programs.

How do you find affiliate products to promote on your blogs?

PS: this post builds upon yesterdays post – What is Affiliate Marketing?

What is Affiliate Marketing?

What is Affiliate Marketing?

It seems that more readers are asking this question than I previously thought.

In a recent poll here on ProBlogger I asked readers whether they’d done any affiliate marketing on their blogs. The results revealed that:

  • 29% of readers regularly do it
  • 24% occasionally do it
  • 27% have never done affiliate marketing on their blogs
  • 6% used to do it but don’t any more
  • 14% don’t know what affiliate marketing is

There’s some interesting results there but it was the last category (of bloggers not knowing what affiliate marketing is) that I wanted to write this post for with the hope of answering the question. It’s pretty basic and quite beginner focused but for the 14% of you who don’t know what affiliate marketing is – here’s a brief introduction.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Perhaps the simplest way to explain affiliate marketing is that it is a way of making money online whereby you as a publisher are rewarded for helping a business by promoting their product, service or site.

There are a number of forms of these types of promotions but in most cases they involve you as a publisher earning a commission when someone follows a link on your blog to another site where they then buy something.

Other variations on this are where you earn an amount for referring a visitor who takes some kind of action – for example when they sign up for something and give an email address, where they complete a survey, where they leave a name and address etc.

Commissions are often a percentage of a sale but can also be a fixed amount per conversion.

Conversions are generally tracked when the publisher (you) uses a link with a code only being used by you embedded into it that enables the advertiser to track where conversions come from (usually by cookies). Other times an advertiser might give a publisher a ‘coupon code’ for their readers to use that helps to track conversions.

For example:  when I recently released my 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook I also give people an opportunity to promote the workbook with an affiliate program whereby they could earn a 40% commission for each sale. When you sign up to become an affiliate you are given a special code unique to you that enables you to promote the workbook and make $7.98 per sale. The top affiliates earned over $2000 in the first few weeks after launch through these commissions.

  • Advertisers often prefer affiliate marketing as a way to promote their products because they know they’ll only need to pay for the advertising when there’s a conversion. I knew when I started this affiliate program that while I’d earn less for each sale that having a network of affiliates promoting it would almost certainly increase overall sales levels.
  • Publishers often prefer affiliate marketing because if they find a product that is relevant to their niche that earnings can go well in excess of any cost per click or cost per impression advertising campaign.

Why Affiliate Marketing Can Work Well on Blogs

Affiliate marketing isn’t the only way to make money from blogs and it won’t suit every blog/blogger (more on this below) but there are a few reasons why it can be profitable in our medium. Perhaps the biggest of these reasons is that affiliate marketing seems to work best when there’s a relationship with trust between the publisher and their readership.

I’ve found that as this trust deepens that readers are more likely to follow the recommendations that a blogger makes.

Of course this can also be a negative with affiliate marketing – promote the wrong product and trust can be broken (more on this below).

Affiliate Marketing – Easy Money?

While affiliate marketing can be incredibly lucrative it is important to know that affiliate marketing is not easy money. Most people who try it make very little as it relies upon numerous factors including:

  • traffic (high traffic helps a lot)
  • finding relevant products
  • finding quality products
  • building trust with your readers
  • having a readership who is in a ‘buying mood’
  • you being able to write good sales copy (and more)

There’s also some risk associated with affiliate marketing in that if you push too hard or promote products of a low quality you can actually burn readers and hurt your reputation and brand.

It’s also worth noting that affiliate marketing doesn’t work on all blogs. Some blogs are on topics where it is hard to find products to promote – other blogs attract audiences who are not in a buying frame of mind and for other blogs it just doesn’t fit with the blogger’s style or approach.

Tomorrow I want to continue the focus upon affiliate marketing with another post – this one on how to find affiliate products to promote.

Amazon Ends Affiliates Program for North Carolina

[Breaking news from Lara - Pardon the interruption!]

Just read over at FOX Business that Amazon has decided to close out their affiliates program to residents of North Carolina (USA) due to a proposed change in sales tax for affiliate sales.

“In an email, Amazon reportedly told marketing affiliates in the state that the move was a direct result of North Carolina’s push to levy a tax on purchases made through Amazon affiliates.” FOX Business

I remember there was a similar situation with New York, I wonder which US state is going to be next? There’s more details on Amazon’s calling NC lawmaker’s bluff here.

Interesting what politics and legalities can do to a blogger or affiliate marketer, in just a blink. How do you feel about these laws that are changing the way bloggers effectively handle their income options?

Update: Appears that they also closed off Hawaii, and may be considering California as well. [Thanks, 5starAffiliatePrograms for the tip off in the comments!]

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Do You Do Affiliate Marketing on Your Blog? [POLL]

Affiliate Marketing is one income stream that many bloggers experiment with – but how many are attempting to make money in this way?

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Do You Do Affiliate Marketing on Your Blog?
Total Votes: 1295 Started: 6/19/2009 Back to Vote Screen



Once you’ve voted – here’s a few posts on the topic for those wanting to explore it more.

Don’t know what Affiliate Marketing is? Check out What is Affiliate Marketing.

6 More Tips for Affiliate Marketing on Blogs

Almost four years ago I wrote a post here on ProBlogger with 10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs on Your Blog.

In that post I suggested the following tips:

  1. Consider your Audience – start with your reader when considering what to promote. Relevancy is key.
  2. Genuine Recommendations and personal endorsements always work best – recommendations of things you personally genuinely like are always best.
  3. Link to Quality Products – the better the products that you recommend the more your readers will thank you for suggesting it.
  4. Contextual Deep Links work Best – in general you’ll have more luck promoting a product from within a post than on a sidebar
  5. Consider positioning of links – links/banners that are in parts of your post/blog that where readers look work best (top of posts for example)
  6. Traffic levels are Important – the more eyeballs your promotion gets the better
  7. Diversify without Clutter – some products work better for some audiences than others – so promoting a variety of products can be good – promoting too many is of course not good.
  8. Be Transparent – don’t try to trick people into clicking your links. I’ve changed my stance slightly on this – I used to put (aff) next to any affiliate link but in the end found readers were just annoyed by it or didn’t understand what it meant. Now I use site-wide disclaimers to talk about it.
  9. Combine with other Revenue Streams – every blog is different, some will work better than others with affiliate marketing while others will work better with adveritising. However I find on many blogs advertising and affiliate marketing can work well in tandem.
  10. Track results – if you don’t have some way of working out how your promotions are converting you could be wasting your time.

As you can see – I’ve changed my opinion a little on the way that I express #8 but apart from that I still subscribe to all of the advice in that post. However I’ve also learned a lot more about affiliate marketing. In fact over the last four years the revenue that I make from affiliate marketing has continued to grow – to the point that it now probably makes up around a third of my online income (it varies from month to month).

So I thought it might be time to build upon the 10 tips above with some more lessons that I’ve learned.

11. Build Your Network Before You Need It

Perhaps the biggest thing that I’ve learned about affiliate marketing is that it works best the bigger and stronger your network is. I mentioned in my first list that ‘traffic levels are important’ – this is true, but connected to it is your ‘network’.

Whether it be loyal blog readers and subscribers, your email list, your Twitter connections, your Facebook friends or some other social network – the better your network the better you’ll do at driving affiliate sales.

It’s not just about size – the size of your network is only part of what I’m talking about here. Also important is the depth of relationship that you have with your network/readers and the amount of trust that they have in you. If you have consistently helped people and been useful to them over a long time they’re probably more likely to respond to your recommendations.

Relevancy/Focus counts – The other key part of your network is how relevant it is and how focused it is upon the topic that you’re doing promotions on. For example – I see some people on Twitter running competitions to build their follower numbers in a way that just brings in any follower that they can. The problem with this is that they end up with a large but unfocused network. I personally would rather have a smaller network who all shared the one interest than a large one who just signed up to get a prize.

Lastly, a network takes time to build – if you think you’ll be doing some affiliate marketing at some point in the future – start building your network now, before you need it. This gives you time to build the depth of relationships, trust and focus of your network before you begin promoting affiliate products.

12. Try different Mediums

I’ve alluded to this above already but one of the things that I’ve noticed over the last few years is promotions work differently on different mediums.

For example: some affiliate promotions seem to convert best in a blog post, others work best when you send an email to a list you’ve been building while others seem to take off on Twitter or other social media sites.

The key is to try different approaches, to have build up your network before you need it (see above) and to track the results for each promotion so you can check what is and isn’t converting.

13. Multiple Promotions of the same Product

I spoke about this at Blog World Expo last year in a session but don’t think I’ve written about it here at ProBlogger. Here’s what I’ve found:

If you write a single blog post promoting an affiliate product you’ll have a certain percentage of readers buy the product (the % varies a lot). If you are able to follow that up with a different type of post a few days later it can reinforce the promotion.

Here’s how I’ve done it on my photography blog:

  1. Blog Post 1 – a post announcing a new product, giving some benefits, sharing who the product is relevant for etc.
  2. Blog Post 2 – a post a few days later that is an interview with the person behind the product – exploring why they made it, expanding upon what it includes, who it’s for and giving the product context. I’d try to also include some tips or suggestions for readers who don’t buy the product in such an interview so it is a useful post for everyone.
  3. Email List – later in the week email out the subscriber list linking to the previous posts and reinforcing the promotion.
  4. Tweets/Followups – I would also include a few Tweets about the promotion through the week and would consider a 3rd blog post a week later – perhaps some reader reviews of the product.

The key is to not spam your network but to find interesting and useful ways to draw attention to the product multiple times over a week or two so as to reinforce it and give those who take a little longer to make a decision the opportunity to get the product.

14. Bonuses Work

There are many techniques that internet marketers use to increase sales of their products. I find some a little ‘cheap’ and ‘nasty’ but many do work. Two that I’ve found less offensive and/or manipulative are where you add value to the affiliate promotion by either adding a bonus of your own to the offer and/or getting the person behind the product to offer a bonus or discount just for your readers.

I’ve done this a number of times on my blogs and have found that conversions are significantly higher.

15. It takes Time

A theme that regular readers of ProBlogger will recognize is that making money from blogs (through any method) takes time. While an affiliate program does have the potential to make you a lot of money very quickly – it almost always comes after a lot of work and once you’ve spent a lot of time and effort building out your network.

The early days of building your network may see very little (if any) results. I personally earned very little from affiliate marketing in my first year or two of blogging but as I mentioned above in the last year or two it’s really begun to exponentially increase – partly as a result of getting smarter with my promotions but partly just as my network grew in size and quality.

16. Timing is Important

One of the things I’ve learned over the last week of launching my own product is just how much difference there can be in the rate of sales at different times of the day and week. It would vary depending upon the location of most of a blog’s readers but for me sales have been significantly up during business hours in the USA and on weekdays. No real surprises there.

The lesson translates to promoting products – unless the product has a real focus upon the type of people surfing the web on the weekends or late at night you’ll want to time your promotions to those times of the weeks that your audience is online. Similarly – avoid public holidays – this last week even though we launched the workbook 3 days after Memorial Day in the US I suspect we lost a few sales as some people took the week off.

What Would You Add?

I know that many readers of ProBlogger have experimented a lot with affiliate marketing. What advice would you add? What techniques have you used (or seen used) that work?

5 Ways to Make Money Blogging (Once You Have Traffic)

This is the last post in our series of tips for bloggers who have gone through their launch phase and want to grow their blog to the next level. In it we’re going to talk making money from your blog.

Making Money From a Blog – Moving Past AdSense

While it is possible to make some money with a blog of any size – your chances of earning income from a blog do generally increase as you increase your readership numbers.

Many bloggers start out monetizing their blogs using ad networks like AdSense. While ad networks like AdSense can still earn you a nice income as your blog grows (many large blogs use them) – an increased audience will also open new opportunities to you as a blogger.

1. Direct Ad Sales

One thing that becomes possible as your readership grows is that you can begin to attract your own direct advertisers. I’ve written on this topic numerous times before so rather than writing a long tutorial on the topic let me point you to some previous posts:

2. Ad Representation

Many bloggers struggle to sell advertising on their own blogs. Most bloggers are not experienced in the area of ad sales, don’t have contacts in the advertising industry, are unaware of how much to charge or even what technology to use to serve ads. Most of us also are passionate about writing content and building community – the admin of finding and interacting with advertisers can often be a distraction.

One alternative once you have a reasonable amount of traffic is to outsource your ad sales. Some blog networks and ad networks will handle this kind of thing for you once you have enough traffic. Generally you need a fair bit of traffic for them to look at you but in these tough economic times I suspect we’ll see more and more services to do this.

3. Start Your Own Ad Sales Network

One thing that I’ve been hearing more and more bloggers doing is joining together to sell advertising as a collective or network within a niche. You might not have enough traffic to attract a top tier advertiser alone – but what if you joined with 4-5 other medium sized blogs in your niche and approached advertisers together?

4. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing can work on blogs of all sizes but once a blog has an engaged and loyal readership it can really pay off. Readers that have tracked with you for a while are more likely to buy something that you recommend than a one off visitor – so this is a particularly useful strategy if you have built a ‘community’ rather than just a blog that has a lot of search traffic. The key is to find products to promote that are of a high quality that you can genuinely recommend and that have high relevance to your readership.

Further Reading: 5 Tips for Making Money with Affiliate Programs

5. Sell Your Own Product

Another monetization strategy to start thinking about once you start seeing growth in your readership is your own product to sell.

Whether that product be an e-book, a membership area, a real hard cover book, training (online or real life), consulting, merchandise…. once you’ve got a loyal readership who trusts you and sees you as an expert in your field you’ll find that they are increasingly likely to buy something that you sell.

You’ll also find it easier to get other blogs in your niche to promote your product once you’ve build a blog with profile. I’m seeing more and more bloggers doing this and suspect that as advertising budgets get smaller in the current economic climate that we’ll see more and more of this type of approach (I’ve previously called it ‘indirect income’) by smart bloggers.

Further Reading: Making Money BECAUSE of Your Blog – Indirect Methods.

Ninja Affiliate Plugin for WordPress – Special Price for ProBlogger Readers

ninja-affiliate.pngI’m about to head out the door for a 10 day vacation but before I do I want to pass on a special offer exclusive to ProBlogger readers (that I’ve just had offered to us) for a cool product that those of you who run affiliate programs on your blog might want to check out.

It is a WordPress plugin called Ninja Affiliate and you can have it for a third off the normal price.

I know some of you use this one already but I’ve only had the opportunity to check it out more recently and I have been quite impressed by it. In short it is a management tool that allows you to manage all of the affiliate links on your blog.

This product has a lot of features built in including:

  • Easy Affiliate Link Management – You can easily give each affiliate link an easy-to-remember name.
  • Flexible Link Management – Accepts every affiliate link format out there, so you don’t have to waste time with various affiliate marketing tools..
  • Create Professional Redirect Links – Use professional looking redirect links that let your prospects know you’re a pro marketer..
  • Manage Links by Groups – Too many affiliate links? Ninja Affiliate allows you to easily create different groups to manage your links..
  • Prevent “Affiliate Theft” – Cloak your affiliate links to prevent link theft and affiliate sabotage. No one will ever steal your hard-earned commissions again..
  • Insert Affiliate Links Directly – Add your affiliate links directly for your WordPress blog editor – you’ll never have to hunt for links again..
  • Transform Keywords to Links – Automatically turn keywords in your blog to affiliate links. You can set a limit too, so your posts don’t look like a spam blog!
  • Advanced Display Options – Ninja Affiliate allows you to display any text you want in your web browser’s status bar..
  • Use “No-Follow” Links – Control your link juice and escape punishment from Big Daddy Google with ninja precision. In fact, you can control your links any way you want to.

There is a lot more information on the sales page (the videos will show you how to use it and give you a good feel for whether it is for you) for the product and I’m not going to rehash it all here – except to say that I wish I’d had something like this when I started promoting affiliate products.

The special offer for ProBlogger readers…

is this – $30 off the plugin. It’s normally $97 and until midnight on 28th February it’s $67 – a third off. You can install it on as many WP blogs as you own.

You have 8 weeks to test it and see if it is right for you and then they offer a money back guarantee.

To get the discount you need to buy it from this special page that they’ve set up for ProBlogger readers.

PS: While I’m gone on my break….

ProBlogger will continue to have some great content. I have a few guest posts from some great bloggers already scheduled as well as a 10 part series of posts that I wrote over the last few weeks on ‘how to take your blog to the next level‘ – a series especially for bloggers who have moved past their launch phase and are wanting to step it up.

Increase Amazon Sales with Best Seller and Popular Product Lists

This week we’ve been looking at a variety of techniques to help you increase your blogs earnings in the lead up to Christmas.

Today I want to share 2 similar techniques that I’ve used in the last week that is a big part of tripling my Amazon earnings for the month of December – best seller and popular products lists.

These are two techniques that I’ve used semi regularly on my photography tips site – let me explain, with examples, how I do them.

Best Seller Lists

This technique is used in retail stores everywhere. Head into your local bookstore and you’re bound to find a ‘best seller’ list or even a full display showing what the best selling books of the month are.

Books that sell well and get on these lists often go to the next level – simply because they are on the list. People see that they’re popular and so when they are looking for a book – they’re more likely to go for them because obviously others like them. It’s partly about using the wisdom of the crowd to identify quality and make decisions but it is also partly about ‘social proof’.

Here’s an example of how I use this same concept to create my own best seller list on my blog.

You can see the list at my Popular Digital Cameras and Gear page. On this page you’ll see a number of lists of best selling photography books, DSLR cameras, lenses and point and shoot cameras. The lists were compiled simply through my Amazon Affiliate program statistics.

Amazon gives you quite detailed reports of what products have sold through your affiliate links. You can arrange them by the number of items sold and it isn’t hard to take that information and put it into a list of your own.

Of course this works best if you have an audience who has been making purchases – but if you don’t all is not lost. Go to any Amazon category page (for example this Small Business and Entrepreneurship Books page) and you can see the products there arranged in order of ‘best selling’.

There’s your best selling books on that topic. Simply find a category that relates to your topic and you can create a relevant post on your blog that taps into the social proof idea.

Popular Product Lists

Another similar technique that I’ve found to be very effective is to create ‘popular product lists’. This is similar in that it creates a list of products that are popular for your readers to interact with – but the difference is that you don’t use Amazon stats to put the list together – you use your readers own feedback to create the list.

Here’s how it worked for me recently:

The result was really good. The post didn’t generate a lot of comments – but it did generate quite good sales at Amazon over the coming week. Interestingly the post was also very very popular when I linked to it in the following week’s email newsletter – it was the most clicked upon link in that email with over 5000 people viewing the post.

This resulted in some good sales of the lenses mentioned in the post – but also considerably secondary sales of other products when people continued to surf around Amazon.

Again – this technique relies upon your blog having readers and readers who leave comments – but even with a small group of readers I’m sure it could be done.

Good luck creating your best seller and popular products lists!

PS: One more type of List that I’m experimenting with on DPS today is a compilation of reviews that I’ve published on the blog previously. You can see this in action in a post titled 12 Great Digital Photography Books for Your Christmas Stocking.

In short it is a list of books on the topic of photography, with links to Amazon and the reviews that I’ve previously written on the books plus short quotes from those reviews. I’ve not done this type of list before but suspect it’ll do well.

Increase Your Christmas Earnings with the Amazon Associates Program

We are right in the middle of the ‘silly season’ when it comes to shopping for Christmas and as a result as bloggers wanting to make a little extra money from our blogs at the moment we are presented with a unique time of the year – many of our readers are in the mood for buying.

Here’s a very simple way to put yourself in a position to capitalize upon this and to earn a few extra dollars via the Amazon Affiliate program.

Get your readers into the Amazon Store – just get them in the door.

If there’s a time of the year to earn some commissions via the Amazon affiliate program – it is now.

Let me illustrate why it is important to get people in the door at Amazon.

Two days ago I posted about the new Huffington Post Blogging Book that has just been released. In that post I linked to the book on Amazon using a tracking id that enables me to see what people buy as a result of visiting Amazon with that link (#’s indicate how many were purchased).

Apparel

Books

MP3 Downloads

Office Products

Video Games

Electronics

Toys

When you refer someone to Amazon (an online store with established trust and brand that most people are familiar with) you earn a commission on anything that they buy within a 24 hours period after visiting from your link.

You can see above that the greatest number of people bought the book I referred to – but the biggest items with larger commissions were on other items.

Of course you don’t want to just lace all your posts with random and irrelevant links to products on Amazon – relevancy and useful links for your readers is key – but once you get people in the door you never quite know what they might end up buying (and earning you).