Affiliate programs have been around for ever, indeed I can recall joining the Amazon affiliate program back in 95 or early 96, but for bloggers affiliate programs can be a bit of a mystery in the age of Google served contextual advertising and other similarly easy to use advertising options.
Why the mystery? well for starters there are more affiliate programs out there than you can poke a stick at. My wife called me this morning to tell me that I had received a check in our PO Box for $93 USD from Clickbank. It may sound strange but I actually couldn’t place what it was until I logged into Clickbank and remembered that I’d run a couple of spot ads on various blogs for products being offered on Clickbank. Sure, its the first time I’ve ever received a check from these guys (and I’m now going to have to pay $25 AUD and wait a month for it to clear) but it was nice none the less.
The key to making affiliate programs work: patience and time.
You see, as much as I’ve worked with affiliate programs in the past I’ve never made that much money from them. Sure, a couple of checks here or there, but nothing spectacular. And yet in the last month I’ve probably bought in around $300 USD from affiliate programs. Is it more than what I’ve made from direct advertising? no, but its still money I didn’t have and it all helps. And when I went back to analyse where the money came from it was nearly exclusively old stuff, posts and ad placements from a couple of months ago. I suppose its frustrating in some ways that you don’t always see an immediate result from affiliate programs, but time and patience means that you can get a decent return.
Goup vs Individual programs
There are two basic types of affiliate programs you can sign up to, group offerings (although there may be a better term for it) and individual offerings. With the group offerings you sign upto a service provider that acts as an agent for multiple offerings from various sites, where as individual programs are for one product or service only. If you’re new to affiliate programs, or your wanting to experiment, I’d recommend the group offerings straight away, because you get the variety and support you’ll need, where as individual programs often are a lot more limited in this regards.
These are some of the services I’m using at the moment that I’m happy to recommend:
Linkshare: Ive been with Linkshare for about 3 years now and used it with blogs and outside of blogs and they are still my favorite affiliate destination. When I was doing a lot more with affiliate programs a couple of years back I was getting regular checks from these guys and although I’ve only recently started using them a fair bit again I’m happy with the results. The key for my way of thinking with Linkshare is that they are happy to have you onboard, and so are the majority of their advertisers, irrelevant of where you live. Thats important for me because my experience elsewhere (particularly with Commission Junction) is that if you’re not in the US they don’t want to know about you, irrespective of where you traffic comes from. They’ve got an amazing variety of sites, many with great options in terms of banners, links, dynamic graphics and other ways of promoting the affilaite program, and many will also email you their latest offerings as well as providing a dedicated person for that company who is able to assist you with enquiries and helping you get up and running. Really, really top rate stuff.
Shareasale: I’ve only joined Shareasale a couple of months back and I’ve been impressed with their offerings. Not as many advertisers as Linkshare but still a lot of sites to choose from and easy to use links and information. Sometimes these sorts of sites can be intimidating, Shareasale doesn’t have the most flash looking layout but its easy to use and I know this might sound a little corny but I felt immediately comfortable working with them.
Clickbank: If Linkshare and Shareasale provide cutting edge affiliate management and tools, then Clickbank is the wild west of group affiliate sites. Its not particularly hard to use and some people will be intimidated by it, and probably rightfully so, but if you’ve looking for high commission products to sell this is the place to go. There’s a lot of crap on Clickbank as well but if you search enough you can find some really gems as well. One of the positives about Clickbank is that its also eminently affordable to utilise for any items you may want to sell yourself. Click here for more details on the Clickbank vendor program.
If you’re using web hosting at the moment for your blog the chances are your web host is going to have an affiliate program. Hosts like Dreamhost have a great affilaite program that offer a payout of $97 or 10% ongoing for every signup than can also be off-set against your hosting fees. Just look for the “affiliate” program button on your site.
Very few sites these days don’t offer an affiliate program, when your on your favorite ecommerce site next look for a link to it and go from there, the dollars and percentages will vary.
Promoting an affiliate program is easy. Banners, spot ads, text links….where ever you think they might work. As I always say though don’t be afriad to experiment with different ad placements.
At the end of the day affiliate programs provide a great variety of things you can promote on your site and make some money from, if you’ve never tried them before I’d recommend giving some of them a go. After all, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, and they are compatible on your site with Adsense ads (ie allowed under the TOS).
(disclaimer, this post includes a number of affiliate links, however the opinions therein are not influenced by them).