Affiliate advertising is an online marketing channel in which an advertiser pays a blogger to promote products or services on the blogger’s site. If you’re eager to find revenue streams to help monetize your blog, affiliate advertising is an option once your blog is established and receiving some traffic.
The first step toward making money with your blog is by providing excellent content. Know your niche and who your audience is, and work to build good traffic.
What Is Affiliate Advertising?
There are three main types of affiliate ads: pay-per-click, pay-per-lead, and pay-per-sale. Each of these affiliate ad types has one thing in common: they are all performance-based. You don’t earn money until your readers perform an action, such as clicking on a link, or clicking on a link and then purchasing the product on the page to which the link takes them.
Seeking advertisers one at a time is time-consuming and discouraging work. Most bloggers go with one of the retail affiliates or an affiliate advertising network. These large and well-known companies offer affiliate programs that you can set up on your blog quickly, although some advertisers are reluctant to participate until your blog is established.
Amazon and eBay are two big players in affiliate advertising. Amazon Associates lets you pick the type of ad and even select Amazon products to feature on your blog. The eBay Partner Network lets you choose from eBay’s auctions and find the specific products you want to advertise on your site.
Affiliate Advertising Networks
Signing up to monetize your blog through an affiliate directory or network where many online merchants post their affiliate ad opportunities is usually the best approach for someone new to affiliate marketing. You review the ad opportunities and apply to host a specific ad on your blog.
Most advertisers on these sites have restrictions related to the blogs they work with. Typically those restrictions are related to how long the blog has been active and the amount of traffic the blog receives. For these reasons, an affiliate directory is most helpful if your blog is well established.
Take some time to research each affiliate directory to find the right one for you and your blog. Different affiliate programs offer different payments and credibility. Take your time and investigate your options before you jump into anything.
There are plenty of general affiliate advertising networks and some that focus only on specific markets. Among them are Commission Junction, Associate Programs, ShareASale, FlexOffers, Rakuten, and MoreNiche.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Program
When you’re choosing an affiliate advertising program, make sure to read all the details about the opportunity, including the pay and terms. Select affiliate program ads that are consistent with your blog’s content. Ads that don’t match your content will undoubtedly be clicked on less frequently (meaning less revenue for you) and can decrease the credibility of your blog. Fewer readers will return to your blog if it’s cluttered with irrelevant ads.
Don’t go overboard with affiliate ads. Too many ads can make your blog look suspiciously like spam to readers and search engines. Sites that are covered with affiliate ads and little additional original content are tagged as spam by Google and other search engines, which hurts your traffic and page rank overall.
Don’t expect big profits (at least not at first). While some bloggers generate a decent ancillary income from affiliate advertising, boosting your income through affiliate advertising takes time and practice. Don’t be afraid to test new ads, placement, and programs until you find the best mix to meet your goals for your blog.
The Early Days of Affiliate Marketing
It’s said that affiliate marketing began as a concept by William J. Tobin in the late 1980s when his company would drive traffic from consumers looking to send flowers to loved ones etc. In simple terms, he didn’t own a flower shop or distribution service, but he was able to put an arrangement and framework together which meant that he would be able to send interested consumers to other companies to buy flowers and he would earn a commission for the sale.
While affiliate marketing has gotten more advanced and complicated in terms of audience profiling and communications, its basic premise of it remains the same. Affiliates send consumers to other brand websites and if the consumer purchases the product, the affiliate gets a commission in return for generating the sale.
As the effectiveness of affiliate marketing grew for both advertisers and affiliates, larger companies started to get on board with the idea. The most notable early adopter was Amazon, which launched its Associate’s Program in 1996. This program allowed anyone to sign up and put links to Amazon products on their website, these links were tagged up with identifiers and if a sale occurred as a result of the affiliate sending traffic to Amazon, the affiliate got a commission (and Amazon got a sale).
The next major development in affiliate marketing happened in the late 1990s with the launch of two major affiliate networks, ClickBank and Commission Junction, which has since been rebranded as CJ Affiliate by Conversant. Networks allowed small businesses, who might not have the resources to launch their own affiliate program, to get access to affiliates and use them to generate additional sales.
Despite the fact that affiliate marketing has been around for some 30 years and has generated billions in revenue for some of the biggest brands, most people are still unsure what exactly it is. The next sections will look at the elements of an affiliate marketing program, and how they can be implemented and optimized, so you can consider using them as part of your marketing mix, or indeed becoming an affiliate yourself.
The Basic Elements of Affiliate Marketing
For most affiliate programs, there are four stakeholders:
- The advertiser: This is the brand or company that wants to sell a product or service.
- The affiliate or publisher*: The website that drives traffic to the advertiser’s website.
- The affiliate network: In simple terms, this is the software that tracks traffic and sales.
- The consumer: The person who visits the affiliate’s website, clicks a link or banner, and buys the product from the advertiser.
* It’s perfectly fine to say either affiliate or publisher when talking about the website that drives traffic to the advertiser’s website.