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.


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.


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.


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:


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):


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?

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?

Do You Do Affiliate Marketing on Your Blog?
Total Votes: 1301 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.