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 …
Author: Chris Garrett
Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.
Great tips. I’ve just started my Affiliate blog and these tips will come in usefull.
> Perhaps who buys that book provides law enforcement useful leads?
I suppose that is possible. The feds are doing that kind of thing these days. Although, quite a few major book chains took the book off their shelves after realizing what the book was about. Amazon was the only one I know of that continued to sell it.
What if Amazon was an offshoot of the FBI? That would be interesting. Wouldn’t that be a great way for the gov to track us. They could start up companies like MySpace, Google, eBay, Amazon… This has the makings of a bestselling conspiracy book
That never got put on the home page. Here it is.
Perhaps who buys that book provides law enforcement useful leads?
In regards to “Everyone trusts Amazon”.
I don’t trust Amazon. Haven’t used them in years. They lost my business years ago, when this news came out:
We wrote to them asking about this, because other major book chains pulled this book, but they didn’t. Last time I checked you could still buy this book through them. We contacted them and were not happy at all with the response. It was a bit abrasive. We haven’t purchased a thing from them ever since. So not everyone trusts Amazon, but I am sure that most people do. Those who didn’t boycot them over this or over the one click patent.
And yes, I know that all big businesses probably cross one or more ethical lines for most people. Sure, we can’t boycott everyone who does something we find to be unethical. This just went WAY beyond my personal ethical boundaries.
Loved the rest of the article, great advice for affiliate marketing.
Good idea Linda. I still think it is better coming from the blogger direct but that would work if it wasnt possible any other way
Great write-up Chris. As an affiliate management consultant and blogger on all things affiliate marketing – I am always looking for great articles and tips to share with my affiliates.
One of my favorite tips for increasing both credibility and affiliate conversion rates, which would work really well for bloggers, ties into #3 and #10 above.
If you don’t have time to do extensive research or don’t want to buy and try a product in order to write a review – customer testimonials work wonders. Many times you can find good testimonials on the merchant site, but you can sometimes even find better ones on BizRate, Epinions or Amazon.
For instance if you were blogging about buying a new guitar and added an affiliate link to zZounds(one of my 5 Star programs) – imagine how much more powerful the link would become if you said “One of the reasons I like zZounds is due to all the comments I read from customers like this one: Then include a part of a quote like this from BizRate.
Linked to the quote above, instead of posting here due to the length of the testimonial. Look at not only how much that would enhance the click through rate – but it also added lots of great on-target content and some good spiderfood too! 😉
Well done Chris!
I have had not much success with affiliate linking yet, but I also don’t have the 10k-visitors/day sites yet.
I think the two strongest points are ‘write reviews’ and ‘choose long cookies’. Reviews are pretty obviously adding competence to your site and pushing sales through ‘click and buy’ marketing doesn’t work with blogs (my opinion) because there are too many hard selling specialized sites out there.
To the ‘restraint’ point I just want to add that only a certain amount of articles should contain affiliate links. There should be enough ‘neutral’ articles to build up the reputation.
An added feature on a special page or in the sidebar could be to have the latest ‘affiliate articles’ listed. This can be i.e. reached through a special del.icio.us tag. Title might be ‘my recommendations’.
For the German market I will add myself to affili.net. They also offer UK programs. I just have to find the time …