Before concentrating on blogging I spent quite a while creating websites purely for affiliate marketing purposes. While I was never particularly happy with sites that were all about pushing people towards merchants, I did learn some techniques that would work on good quality content sites and legitimate, clean blogs.
- Link – Links work better than banners. If you link from within the content and link often you will get more clicks than if you just put a banner into your “banner area” and forget about it. You need a link at the top, middle and bottom of your post. Make your links prominent and obvious, make sure your CSS shows underlines on your affiliate links. People will return to your post and will want to find the link quickly, you do not make money from people remembering the merchants domain name.
- Be honest – Honesty works better than empty promises. If you get a reputation as a reliable and honest source of product information then people will trust you and take your advice. This is a slow burn thing, not something you will get overnight but it is easily blown. Without mentioning names I bought a product based on an a-listers recommendation and it was rubbish. I should have listened to the little voice that said “If it seems too good to be true then it usually is”. In your own blog tell it all, warts and all. Do not hype or have your opinion swayed by a high commission structure. Keep your integrity.
- Research – Knowing the product intimately works better than reproducing the official specs. This in a way follows the point before. You are way more authoritative when you really know the product and that comes across in your writing. OK, you don’t need to be an expert in every minute detail but it definitely helps when it is obvious you have used the product and have put it through its paces and have intelligent things to say about it. The reader needs to know what it is good for and what it isn’t good for – a customer that thanks to your advice has avoided buying the wrong product will be very grateful. For example I nearly bought the wrong power supply for my Canon 350D camera because a blog recommended a universal power adapter, it was only through further research I found it there was no way it would have worked. Thanks to the honest blogger with the full details I was saved from wasting my cash on the unethical “put a million camera models into my keywords” sploggers advice.
- Repeat – It takes some customers many page views before they are convinced. This is why email newsletters work, they pop up in your inbox with a reminder. Sometimes it’s because the reader gets distracted and forgets, other times it is because they are not quite ready to make the purchase yet and they need more information or reassurance.
- Choose Long Cookies – There are affiliate schemes then there are affiliate schemes. My advice is to choose the ones with the longest cookies. There is often a balancing act between cookie length and payout, I choose cookie length. Don’t rely on the person making the purchase right away, by pushing them extra hard you end up in snake oil territory. You want a quality blog that just happens to have affiliate links, not a snake oil splog that is all about pushing sales. Let the reader make their own mind up in their own time, even if it means losing the sale. Don’t sacrifice your blogs quality for short term profits, your income will benefit in the long term.
- Traffic – There are two types of visitor who buy from affiliate links, loyal repeat visitors and here today, gone tomorrow search engine visitors. The former need to be loved and cultivated, they either buy based on your recommendation out of trust or they were going to buy anyway and thought they would credit you with the commission. This is why you should be honest about using affiliate links and not hide them, be up front and tell your readers why you use affiliate links. The search engine people are looking for a product and just need you to make the link and the main points obvious. Both are compatible if you do it correctly and follow the advice in these tips, particularly the honesty one. Either way you will need a lot of traffic before you will make much income so stick at it.
- Restraint – Affiliate products can be a distraction or an annoyance, keep it balanced. Once you start making sales it is easy to get carried away. Please hold back from plastering banners and links everywhere, all you will end up doing is ruining the good things that attracted your visitors in the first place. Your content should always be of value to the reader and the most prominent part of your blog, the affiliate links are there to worl for the content not the other way round.
- Test – Test and track performance all the time. Be ruthless with affiliate schemes, after a few hundred visits or page views if you don’t get even a sniff there is either something wrong with how you are presenting it or something wrong with the product/affiliate. Some affiliate schemes look good on paper but just don’t work for everyone. There needs to be a match between audience, product and merchant. For some products my best performer was Amazon, for others niche merchants. My belief is Amazon works best when trust of the merchant is a big issue, everyone trusts Amazon. Another reason is speed and convenience, everyone has an Amazon account already. I found my showing the Amazon link most appropriate to the readers country improves success (otherwise they look on Amazon.com but buy on Amazon.co.uk). Niche merchants work best in my view when Amazon don’t stock the item, the merchant shows a great deal of expertise or when the deal is so much better. It’s sometimes good to provide a choice of a couple of places to buy and leave it to the reader which they choose to go with but don’t offer so many it confuses them.
- Timing and Context – Just like if you were talking to someone face to face, you have to choose your moments. Don’t just come out and say “buy this product”, you have to provide context and time it just right. If the reader is likely thinking of all the reasons NOT to buy you need to cover counter reasons early on before even suggesting they go look at the merchant. Timing is also a big issue for seasonal reasons – it’s common sense that products are seasonal, but sometimes they are surprisingly so.
- Write Reviews – Reviews work better than announcements or press releases with an affiliate link at the end. Even bad reviews sometimes make more sales than a bland announcement. It makes sense, by offering the good and the bad the reader can make their own mind up and making their mind up is the critical thing, otherwise they are still in research mode and will make the decision on someone elses site using someone elses affiliate links! Also by providing a review you are adding value which makes for a better blog.
Do you use affiliate links? Have you had much success? Please share your experience and tips in the comments …