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Should You Try Affiliate Marketing?

It was interesting to see Yaro talk about Affiliate Marketing as I had also been having a discussion on the topic and wanted to share my own advice. Do check out Yaro’s post. The key point I want to repeat is this one:

Those early days taught me that patience is a virtue when it comes to building an affiliate marketing business based on a blog. I’ve learned a lot about what goes into effective affiliate marketing since then, yet in many ways, I still walk into most promotions completely blind and with little expectation. You never know how well something will sell and I’m constantly surprised by my results.

Many people go into each monetization technique thinking “this is the one where I make the fast, big bucks”. Yes, you can make money, good money, with affiliate offers, but do not be disappointed if you don’t buy that Ferrari right away.

Some people will know I started my online marketing career in the traditional way, building websites for companies, helping them sell everything from tomato ketchup to condoms. Having several successful campaigns under my belt I had to see if I could make money for myself as opposed to helping billion dollar companies make more billions. It turned out affiliate marketing on a shoe string was not quite the same as promoting the official site of a well known brand.

When you start out with affiliate deals there are three things that happen:

  1. You get lucky and make a lot of money without knowing exactly how
  2. You make a small amount of money, slowly
  3. You lose a lot of money in PPC fees

For me I experienced all three. My first experience convinced me that I was a master marketer and before long I would be taking early retirement. Unfortunately competition soon moved in and wiped me out. My next attempts had me in the second two categories.

You can make a great deal of money with Affiliate marketing. I would say for most people they can make more money with Aff than advertising and certainly more than adsense. Most niches have a product or ten you can promote this way. The only thing to beat aff is to have your own products, but I don’t believe for most people they would need to be mutually exclusive. Most of the internet marketing gurus make as much money promoting each other as they do their own stuff.

I would say the “GoogleCash” method, where you drive traffic to offers using Adwords ads, while probably being the fastest route, is the most risky in terms of your own money. Blogging and small web sites combined with SEO are the safest. Luckily any losses I made were more than compensated when I finally found offers I could promote, had mastered the techniques and had Google Adwords battle scars to prove it. Around the time I made my money back I decided the pure affiliate stuff wasn’t for me and moved into just blogging.

The key for bloggers, particularly Authority Bloggers, is to not abuse the trust of your audience. Only recommend things you personally believe in.

You will see on this blog while I do not display advertising and make most of my income through selling services, I do occasionally post an affiliate link. Those links haven’t made me a fortune by any means, but they have brought in additional money, and all were for products I would vouch for. That would be my recommendation for how to get started, sign up for Amazon associates and do some book reviews, or find a merchant in your niche with an affiliate program that you can honestly recommend.

While it is true the more traffic you have the more money you will make, it is also true that with Aff the right audience is more important than scale. A smaller but more motivated audience will always beat a massive but disinterested one. I made several hundred dollars from an extremely niche product, a “wireless flash slave unit” sold on eBay with my old DSLR Photography Blog because the audience and product was a 100% match.

Have you tried affiliate marketing? Think you will give it a go? Tried and didn’t like it? Share your thoughts in the comments …

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Comments

  1. I don’t do a lot of affiliate marketing, but when I do I sell products that I actually use and trust. That way I can talk about the product or service from my actual experience with it.

  2. I don’t do a lot of affiliate marketing, but when I do I sell products that I actually use and trust. That way I can talk about the product or service from my actual experience with it.

  3. Affiliate marketing can make good money for us compared to PPC ads when everything gets started which the starting time cannot be predicted.

    Apart from traffic and audience, the bloggers persuasion skills and authority in the field will have effect on whether the readers will proceed onto clicking the aff links.

  4. Affiliate marketing can make good money for us compared to PPC ads when everything gets started which the starting time cannot be predicted.

    Apart from traffic and audience, the bloggers persuasion skills and authority in the field will have effect on whether the readers will proceed onto clicking the aff links.

  5. I’ve been thinking a lot about affiliate marketing recently. I’ve been proceeding with caution, as I am quite worried about your number 3 “You lose a lot of money in PPC fees.”

    I have a friend who is all pumped about affiliate marketing. He keeps telling me about the “easy money” he is going to make. I keep telling him “There is no such thing as easy money.”

  6. I’ve been thinking a lot about affiliate marketing recently. I’ve been proceeding with caution, as I am quite worried about your number 3 “You lose a lot of money in PPC fees.”

    I have a friend who is all pumped about affiliate marketing. He keeps telling me about the “easy money” he is going to make. I keep telling him “There is no such thing as easy money.”

  7. I think you hit the nail right on the head with “the right audience is more important than scale.” The question, then, is how do you find the right programs once you have the traffic?

  8. I think you hit the nail right on the head with “the right audience is more important than scale.” The question, then, is how do you find the right programs once you have the traffic?

  9. I used to have it all over my site. It was purely content specific: all ads were about money products that I personally use (like ING DIRECT). I also placed them within a few posts.

    I no longer have them as they didn’t bring any revenue in. I’ve canned all ads till I have decent traffic. Then I may slowly introduce some affiliates. I don’t trust what Adsense is going to pop up there.

    The pro bloggers in my niche have started using affiliate ads more, so maybe it’s taking over.

  10. I used to have it all over my site. It was purely content specific: all ads were about money products that I personally use (like ING DIRECT). I also placed them within a few posts.

    I no longer have them as they didn’t bring any revenue in. I’ve canned all ads till I have decent traffic. Then I may slowly introduce some affiliates. I don’t trust what Adsense is going to pop up there.

    The pro bloggers in my niche have started using affiliate ads more, so maybe it’s taking over.

  11. I make a full time living as an affiliate/reseller/agent. Call it what you will, we make our living by selling someone else’s products. Here are a couple of the things that we did that I think contributed to our success. We found one company that has a product that we believe in instead of spreading ourselves out over a number of affiliate programs. This allows us to really focus our efforts on making the one work. Secondly, we created our own sites to sell the products instead of just linking to the affiliate sites. That way we have more control and can create sites that convert better than what is offered by the parent company. My advice for people wanting make money at affiliate marketing would be to do your research and find a company and product that you can get behind and target your audience. Like Chris said, knowing who your audience is and matching your product to them will make a big difference in your success.

  12. I make a full time living as an affiliate/reseller/agent. Call it what you will, we make our living by selling someone else’s products. Here are a couple of the things that we did that I think contributed to our success. We found one company that has a product that we believe in instead of spreading ourselves out over a number of affiliate programs. This allows us to really focus our efforts on making the one work. Secondly, we created our own sites to sell the products instead of just linking to the affiliate sites. That way we have more control and can create sites that convert better than what is offered by the parent company. My advice for people wanting make money at affiliate marketing would be to do your research and find a company and product that you can get behind and target your audience. Like Chris said, knowing who your audience is and matching your product to them will make a big difference in your success.

  13. The problem of trust I think is more with people that promote internet marketing products. It ends up being a kind of MLM with rehashed products that are not really useful. All touting the best secret way to make money online. If it was so good you would keep it for yourself and make money not sell it.

    On the other hand people selling physical products in a field in which they have passion usually recommend products they use and are therefore honest in their recommendation.

  14. The problem of trust I think is more with people that promote internet marketing products. It ends up being a kind of MLM with rehashed products that are not really useful. All touting the best secret way to make money online. If it was so good you would keep it for yourself and make money not sell it.

    On the other hand people selling physical products in a field in which they have passion usually recommend products they use and are therefore honest in their recommendation.

  15. Andy Beard is an ENORMOUSLY popular blogger who recently shared his disappointment with the “affiliate marketing as a main source of income” model in a blog post.

    I recommend that clients view affiliate marketing as a source of ADDED income and not their MAIN source of income.

    By the way, by choosing products that “make sense”, affiliate marketing can provide a NICE side stream of income. (I’ve had what many would consider to be success on that front.) However, I will always view those checks as “extra” and not “income”. My lack of responsibility for delivery of the products and services means I shouldn’t rely on it.

  16. Andy Beard is an ENORMOUSLY popular blogger who recently shared his disappointment with the “affiliate marketing as a main source of income” model in a blog post.

    I recommend that clients view affiliate marketing as a source of ADDED income and not their MAIN source of income.

    By the way, by choosing products that “make sense”, affiliate marketing can provide a NICE side stream of income. (I’ve had what many would consider to be success on that front.) However, I will always view those checks as “extra” and not “income”. My lack of responsibility for delivery of the products and services means I shouldn’t rely on it.

  17. @Lee – That’s usually the best approach, and makes it more interesting for the reader too

    @Wayne – Yes definitely, it really helps to brush up on copywriting and usability

    @Alex – Unfortunately some people really buy into the easy money thing too much. There is money to be made but it ain’t that easy 🙂

    @TEIA – It’s far easier when you are part of the audience you are addressing. If I like a product then I know a lot of my audience will. After that it is about finding the right vendor, for example everyone has an Amazon account pretty much and they are well respected. This gives them an edge for me even though others might pay more.

    @PT – I think you will see many more bloggers going this route!

    @Brandi – Control is a massive thing but also you need flexibility. I know several people who have made a great deal by focusing but were glad they had plan B in place when the primary vendor changed the rules mid stream or refused to pay.

    @David – Yes there is a taint of spam/MLM a lot of time and there is little that can be done. The problem is it is true that spammers promote aff more than honest folks.

    @Kathy – It could be just a side income, you are right. The key is to try things for ourselves. You will notice even if he is disappointed, he still does it 🙂 Each blogger will find things that suit them and other things that will not. For every blogger who does not like aff you can find another who loves it.

  18. @Lee – That’s usually the best approach, and makes it more interesting for the reader too

    @Wayne – Yes definitely, it really helps to brush up on copywriting and usability

    @Alex – Unfortunately some people really buy into the easy money thing too much. There is money to be made but it ain’t that easy 🙂

    @TEIA – It’s far easier when you are part of the audience you are addressing. If I like a product then I know a lot of my audience will. After that it is about finding the right vendor, for example everyone has an Amazon account pretty much and they are well respected. This gives them an edge for me even though others might pay more.

    @PT – I think you will see many more bloggers going this route!

    @Brandi – Control is a massive thing but also you need flexibility. I know several people who have made a great deal by focusing but were glad they had plan B in place when the primary vendor changed the rules mid stream or refused to pay.

    @David – Yes there is a taint of spam/MLM a lot of time and there is little that can be done. The problem is it is true that spammers promote aff more than honest folks.

    @Kathy – It could be just a side income, you are right. The key is to try things for ourselves. You will notice even if he is disappointed, he still does it 🙂 Each blogger will find things that suit them and other things that will not. For every blogger who does not like aff you can find another who loves it.

  19. I have only recently – in the last 6 months – started to have success with affiiiate marketing because I’ve concentrated on
    proven step by step methods… taught and discussed in a membership
    site I belong to.

    I agree with you Chris and some of the commenters that it’s better to concentrate efforts on a limited number of products and for me it’s actually not a matter of luck to become successful, it’s a
    lot of work because I haven’t used adwords yet…

    Fran

  20. I have only recently – in the last 6 months – started to have success with affiiiate marketing because I’ve concentrated on
    proven step by step methods… taught and discussed in a membership
    site I belong to.

    I agree with you Chris and some of the commenters that it’s better to concentrate efforts on a limited number of products and for me it’s actually not a matter of luck to become successful, it’s a
    lot of work because I haven’t used adwords yet…

    Fran

  21. I had option 1 “happening”, money coming in through affiliate programms without really knowing how I had done it, and once it stopped I couldn´t repeat the moves. So, at the moment I have left that option to the side untill maybe I encounter a product I would really want to promote 🙂

  22. I had option 1 “happening”, money coming in through affiliate programms without really knowing how I had done it, and once it stopped I couldn´t repeat the moves. So, at the moment I have left that option to the side untill maybe I encounter a product I would really want to promote 🙂

  23. I’ve experienced just about everything you’ve mentioned. Affiliate marketing can be good if done effectively. I’ve made some decent amount of money promoting other people’s products, but now I’m working on creating my own.

    I highly recommend people stick with programs that they know well and like. It’s easier to sell a product or program when you’ve used it yourself.

  24. I’ve experienced just about everything you’ve mentioned. Affiliate marketing can be good if done effectively. I’ve made some decent amount of money promoting other people’s products, but now I’m working on creating my own.

    I highly recommend people stick with programs that they know well and like. It’s easier to sell a product or program when you’ve used it yourself.