02 July 2009

Blogging tips : 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?

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