Are Affiliate Programs with Small Payouts Worth It?

Today this question about affiliate programs landed in my inbox:

“Darren, could you answer a question for me? I notice that a couple of weeks ago you promoted Leo’s Zen to Done ebook with an affiliate link. I was surprised that you did this because the commission from it is just a few dollars – loose change really. Wouldn’t you be better off promoting high value products? Do you really need the few dollars that a sale brings? Doesn’t it all get too bitsy?”

Photo by Aytena

This is a good question and one that I’ve seen a number of bloggers arguing over the years when given the opportunity to go with income streams with small dollar values associated with them.

I could probably write a long answer to the question – however I think the best answer is to say that there’s a lot of businesses going around that make a lot of money out of lots of small payments (micro payments).

Micro payments add up over time.

Let me illustrate with some real analysis of part of my online income from the day after I promoted Zen to Done. Here’s some of the income that I earned that day from a few of the affiliate programs that I run:

So the total income from these affiliate programs for that day was $287.78 from 65 sales. That’s just $4.43 per sale.

$4.43 per sale doesn’t sound a lot to be earning – but when you have 65 of them in a day it makes a nice supplementary income for a blogger. I say supplementary because I also run advertising and other larger affiliate programs on my blogs (see below).

Of course to get the 65 sales you need a good volume of traffic and you need to find quality affiliate products that relate to your blog’s topic (read more on how to make money from affiliate programs on a blog) – it’s not just a matter of sticking an affiliate program on your blog with 17 readers and expecting the sales to roll in.

PS: I should point out that I only included in this list some of the smaller affiliate programs that I promote. Not all affiliate programs have small payouts. I work with a few affiliate partners with products that pay out more than the ones in the list above also (for example promoting AdSense through their referrals program can bring in $250 for a full conversion). Why wouldn’t I just promote these? It’s simple, these tend to be fewer in numbers in terms of conversions – but together with a higher number of small affiliate conversions they can add up to a nice income.

More on Amazon ‘Buy Now’ Buttons

Roman from Phone Area emailed me after seeing my recent post on adding Amazon ‘buy now’ buttons to posts with a similar suggestion that extends the principle:

“I’ve used this method for a couple months and took it a step further to get more impressions and revenue:

I don’t link directly to a product page but I link to Amazon search results.


For example, see this post. You can see in the post footer the button (pictured above) and when you click on the button it connects you to an Amazon search page and it shows related products to the post.

So what is the secret? It’s keywords.

I use a keywords plugin which adds keywords to the amazon search link

This is much better because customers get more offers – even ones which they haven’t looked for. I noticed in doing this that even when they don’t buy the device in the post that they buy accessories, cases, etc.

My Amazon Impressions were not increased by 50-100% but 500-1000%.”

I quite like this strategy too because it again gets people in the door at Amazon and looking at a variety of relevant results instead of just the one. I can see why it’d increase the impressions and it’d be worth experimenting with. I guess the key will be to track whether it also leads to increases in actual conversions.

Add a Buy Now Button to Your Affiliate Links and Increase Conversions

Self Made Minds had a short but brilliant post last week that I think is Gold for those using Amazon’s affiliate program to make money from their blog (in fact it can be adapted to any affiliate program).

Al writes that he hacked together a little ‘Buy Now’ in the style of Amazon’s buy buttons (pictured below) and added it to his posts (linking it to Amazon’s pages for the products that he was writing about).

Here’s the button Al used:


Conversions went up by 50-100% on the pages that the button was added to.

I’m not sure if that kind of increase will be seen across the board – but it makes a lot of sense.

Most web users are familiar with Amazon and their buttons and simply adding one to your page is sure to grab their attention but also get people in the door at Amazon (a very powerful thing).

I’ve just added the button to quite a few of my own pages and am interested to see what impact it will have in the next 24 hours to my own Amazon Affiliate commissions.

15 Things I’d Love to See Ad Networks and Affiliate Programs Do to Help Us Earn More Money Blogging

I write quite a lot about what works in the ad networks that I use to make money from my blogs – but sometimes there are some little niggling problems with ad networks and affiliate programs that can be quite annoying.

Today I thought I’d compile a short ‘ProBlogger Wishlist’ of things that I’d love to see specific ad networks and affiliate programs rolling out. I’m not doing this because I don’t like any of the programs mentioned here (in fact most feature in my top earners list) – just because I’d like to see them improve.

Feel free to add your own on these networks (and others) in comments. Hopefully some of them will lead to some positive changes:

1. Direct Deposits for Amazon Associates

AmazonI’d love to see publishers outside of the USA able to be paid via direct deposit. I not only have to wait an extra week or so to get my cheque each month, but because my monthly payments are over $2000 my bank then charges me over $60 to cash them – and they have to send the cheque back to the USA for authentication before they’ll clear the money. This authentication process takes an extra 6 weeks. So if I earn money on the first day of a month it can be around 3 months before I see any money from it. If direct deposits are out of the question payments via PayPal would be another alternative.

2. Direct Deposit Payments at Clickbank

Cb LogoWhile we’re on the subject of payment via cheque – the other group I’d like to see with a direct deposit system (or a PayPal payment) is Clickbank. Come on people – get with the 21st century!

3. Increase Minimum Payouts – Linkshare

Logo-4I don’t even know where I still earn money with Linkshare (I must have promoted something once of theirs and it still earns me a dollar or two a month). The problem is that they send me a cheque for that dollar or two every month or two. Do you know how embaressing it is to go into a bank and try to cash a $2.27 check (considering it’s in US dollars and I have to get it converted I don’t bother any more). It’s time for a minimum amount earned before sending cheques Linkshare.

4. More Customization with ID Tracking at Amazon Associates

AmazonI love the fact that Amazon added the ability to use ‘tracking IDs’ to allow their publishers to track which links are converting best (see how useful this can be in this post analyzing what people buy at Amazon from one post). The problem is that once you add a tracking ID there’s no way to remove it. I have a growing list of them and it’s getting pretty messy. It’s also be great to get more customized reports with tracking IDs that’d allow for more drilling down.

5. Better Reporting at AdSense

Logo Main-1Speaking of drilling down in reports – while I think AdSense has one of the best reporting systems, I think it’s time that they took things to the next level and gave us some more useful tools for analyzing our results. While channels can be handy – unless you use a different channel for each post it’s impossible to tell which pages are converting best unless you use a third party application to track clicks on a page by page basis. Another simple wish for AdSense reports is a cost per click figure (something other networks give). I know this is complicated by impression based ads – but it’d be handy to have more information on this. I’d also love to see more ability to combine data from Google Analytics and Google AdSense.

6. Split Testing at AdSense

Logo Main-1A built in mechanism for split testing might be nice too. It’s now possible to rotate different ads in the one ad unit, but there’s no way to track which combination converts best. Split testing tools might be useful (in fact they’d be good at all the ad networks – not just AdSense).

7. Better Referral Reports at WidgetBucks

Logo3-1Time to look at the newest ad network on the block, WidgetBucks. I’m getting good results with this network but I think there’s plenty of room for improvement. For starters I’d love to see more data on referrals. At this point there’s just a total referrals number and the promise of the total amount earned to be given at some point in the first week of next month. Most other networks give significantly more information on this including a daily breakdown (even if it is audited later). Not having these figures takes some of the incentive for promoting the program away from publishers and will slow the growth of the network.

8. Better Referral Reports at AuctionAds

Auctionads-1The other ad network that I’d like to see improve it’s referral reporting is AuctionAds. At the moment I have no idea what of my income comes from the ad units that I run and what comes from referrals. Again – it doesn’t really inspire me to actively promote it if I can’t see what the results of that promotion are.

9. Channel Names at WidgetBucks

Logo3-1Another pet peeve of WidgetBucks for me is that the name you give different widgets appears in both the reports page and on the widget. While I don’t mind being able to customize the widget in this way – it’s frustrating in the reports page as there’s no actual descriptive way of labeling widgets. For example I’d like to be able to have ‘popular digital cameras’ appear on my widget – but in the back end reports would like to be able to call my widget ‘Digital Photography School Footer’. It’s getting more and more confusing the more widgets I add. In fact the whole reports page probably needs to be reworked. Imagine having 100 different widgets across different sites – the page would be a mess.

10. Less US-centric Testing at AdSense

Logo Main-1Regular readers will know about this one already – but there’s nothing more frustrating for a publisher situated outside of the USA than seeing great new ad units released and not being able to test them. AdSense did this recently with their YouTube Video unit.

11. Open Up for International Publishers at YPN

Logo PnSpeaking of US exclusive deals – I’d love to see Yahoo’s Publisher Network (YPN) open up to international publishers with international traffic. The YPN beta launched in August 2005 and did so exclusively for US publishers with predominantly US traffic. It struck me this morning that it’s been over 2 years now (26 months to be exact) and there’s been no movement on that. In fact if anything they tightened things up about a year ago by booting out some publishers who had too much non US traffic.

12. Open up RSS Ads at AdSense

Logo Main-1While a 26 month beta test with no expansion seems pretty bad – AdSense have one of their own which has been going longer. In April 2005 they introduced their RSS Advertising system (AdSense for Feeds). The program is still in a beta test according to their help center page and the beta test is full and they don’t anticipate adding any more publishers too it. Still – publishers are encouraged to keep checking back to that page for updates – I wonder how many have been for the last 30 months.

13. Improved Reports at Chitika

Chitika LogoChitika have made some real improvements over the last year or so – but one area I’d like to see them take to the next level is their reports. One aspect of them that I find frustrating is the channels are and a simple improvement would be to make the channel names in reports live links that take publishers to a report for the last month of that channel alone. Also useful would be the ability to group channels together (like AdSense offer). For example to be able to put the multiple channels that you might have on a single blog into one report so you can get a combined report for the full blog. At present if I want to know a blog’s performance with Chitika (I might have as many as 10 channels on a blog) I need to get the calculator out and look at each channel individually to get their totals.

14. Open up to Smaller Publishers – Chitika

Chitika LogoAnother common complaint that I hear from many publishers about Chitika is that smaller publishers are not eligible to join. While I understand that this ads significantly to the workload of an ad network – most (if not all) other ad networks that I’ve mentioned in this post don’t have a minimum traffic limit for publishers. This frustrates many bloggers and could actually hurt Chitika in the long term because publishers that grow might have been put off by their early rejection from Chitika.

15. Better Conversion at AdSense Referrals

Logo Main-1I’ve asked ProBlogger readers a number of times if they’ve had any success with AdSense Referrals – the response was an overwhelming ‘NO’. The exception is those who promote the ‘Google product’s – but outside that I’ve only found a few that have had any luck with it. I’ve actually chatted with a couple of people at AdSense about it and know that they have challenges that they are working on – but I’d really love to see the Referrals program taken up to the next level in the coming 12 months. PS: Jen shares her AdSense Referrals wishlist here with some more good suggestions.

As I mentioned above – I’m certain that there are many other improvements that all of these ad networks and affiliate programs could make. I’d invite you to add your own points to the wish list.

My hope with this post is that it doesn’t become a ‘bitching session’ but a more constructive conversation that might help the ad networks concerned to improve what they have on offer.

Amazon Announce Amazon Widgets for Associates

Amazon-WidgetsThe Amazon Associates Program have entered the 21st Century by announcing Amazon Widgets.

They’ve gone fully into it with 16 widgets for your blog covering a range of functions (listed below).

Some of the widgets are open to everyone – others are exclusively for Amazon Associates (those enrolled in the affiliate program).

Update – exploring these a little deeper reveals that some of the 16 are actually just ‘classic link’ options (ie things we could already do. There are a few new options – but those options listed towards the bottom of the list below were already available.

The Widgets

Unbox Videos
Show studio previews for a huge range of recent and classic movies or tv shows available from the Unbox video download service.

Make elegant slideshow widgets out of images chosen from products across the entire Amazon catalog – CD cover art, DVD’s, books, anything!

Product Cloud
Take tag clouds one step further by showing Product Clouds – clusters of product titles relevant to your page

My Favorites
Express yourself by recommending and commenting on products from Let everyone know how you feel and what you like!

Wish List
Show your Amazon Wish List in a widget and let everyone know what you like. Or show your friend or relatives Wish List to help plan a special occasion.

Quick Linker
Quickly and easily link to relevant products as you write your blog posts or page content by including custom HTML tags as you type.

Let your readers find and explore interesting products from without them leaving your site.

aStore Widget
With aStore widgets, you can display products from your aStore. You can add aStore widgets to various pages of your website and drive traffic to your aStore.

Product Links
Link to specific products in our catalog. Also, power up your Product Links with Product Previews by Amazon!

Product Previews
Have you ever wondered how to give visitors to your site more information about the Amazon products you merchandise – without taking up more space? Or how to keep visitors on your site until they’re ready to buy? If so, Product Previews is the product for your site!

Text Links
Satisfy your inner wordsmith, and link to favorite destinations, search results, or any other page on Amazon.

Context Links
Automatically identify and link contextually relevant phrases within your content to Amazon products.

Leave it up to us! Automatically feature ideal products based on Amazon’s unique knowledge about what works for your site, for your users and for the content of your page.

Use an Easy Link to feature a variety of promotions or select a promotional banner to feature specific product categories.

Search Box
Enable your visitors to search the catalog by placing product search boxes on your webpage.

Recommended Product Links
Automatically feature products based on product categories or keywords.

Chitika Launch Facebook Application

Chitika have developed a Facebook Application called iBought that allows facebook users to show off their latest purchases to friends on Facebook for their friends to then rate.

Probably of more interest to ProBlogger readers is the $1 per download referral program that Chitika are willing to pay you for getting your friends to download iBought. $1 isn’t a lot – but if you have a few hundred friends it could be a worthwhile earner.

The first 10,000 downloads of the application get the referral fee – so if you’re going to do it you’ll need to do it fairly quickly as it could go viral pretty quickly.

Note: This post contains affiliate links

Amazon’s aStore Gets a Feature Upgrade

AstoreAmazon have emailed publishers in their Associates Program to let them know that their aStore shop tool has had an upgrade of features.

These upgrades include the following:

  • Access to every category and subcategory for automatically populating your product categories – If has created a group for it, such as Biographies of Frank Sinatra, you can create a category page to automatically pull in those products and organize these categories however you like.
  • Unlimited category/subcategory nesting – Create as many levels of product categories and subcategories as you like, and populate the products in each category by Amazon best-sellers, hand-picking them, or importing a Listmania list.
  • Build your own category navigation – Advanced users can take integration with their existing websites a step farther by hiding the aStore category navigation and building their own directly within the core site navigation.
  • CSS control – Advanced users can also now directly edit the stylesheets for their stores, and share those with others.
  • aStore Widgets – Advertise your store to your site visitors using these new banner links, and increase your aStore traffic.

With these upgrades aStore becomes more customizable and able to be integrated into an existing site.

Search for an Affiliate Program that fits your Blog

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Today your task in the 31 Day Project is to carry out a search for an Affiliate Program that fits your blog.

Those of you not interested in monetizing your blog might want to go back to one of the previous 12 days in this project to repeat one of the earlier tasks (you can’t do these sorts of things enough) – but for those of you who are making money from your blog (or wanting to) through affiliate programs – this is an exercise worth doing from time to time.

New products and services are constantly being released in all manner of areas and it’s highly likely that in the topic that you write about there are some undiscovered affiliate programs that you might not have found yet.

It’s easy as a blogger to become a little complacent about finding new income streams for your blog – but this can be a trap. For starters you could be missing out on some new affiliate program that could be making you nice money – but secondly one of the problems with affiliate programs on blogs is that because many blogs have a loyal readership, readers do tend to become blind to affiliate programs that they’ve seen you promoting before.

The simplest way to find new affiliate programs is simply via Google (type in ‘your topic affiliate program’) but it can also be worth spending a little time digging around in some of the larger affiliate networks like Clickbank, Linkshare, Commission Junction or to even look in Google AdSense’s Referral program (where there are new options being added all the time).

Another way to find them is to check out other websites and blogs in your niche to see what affiliate programs they are promoting.

This is an exercise that I’d recommend you do every month or so as you’ll be surprised what programs pop up.

Let us know how you go in your hunt for new affiliate programs in comments below. How do you find them? Which ones convert best for you?

The Power of Getting Readers in the Door at Amazon

Two weeks ago I started an experiment over at Digital Photography School which I think highlights the power of getting people in the door at Amazon using their affiliate program.

The experiment centered around a review that I wrote of a book – Complete Digital Photography.

The book is a brand new release (an updated version of an old book) which I ordered the day it came out so that I could be one of the first reviews on the web going around of it. Having owned a previous edition of the book I knew it was likely to be a good one – and it was.

In the review I linked back to Amazon where readers could get their own copy. The link that I used was my affiliate link and it contained a ‘tracking ID’ which enables me to track what those clicking on the link end up purchasing at Amazon. After two weeks the sales are continuing to come in but I think the initial results give some insights into what people do when following such links.

Here’s a summary of what people bought after clicking the link in this review post:

We’ll start with the books mentioned in the review:

OK – so no surprises so far – but what interested me most was in what else people bought – items NOT mentioned in the review: [Read more…]