Subtle ways to make money with affiliate marketing on your blog

For a lot of people, blogging is a full-time profession – it takes up all our waking hours, and the limited time we have left is spent in marketing the blog, and networking with fellow bloggers. If you’re wondering how all the famous blogs in your niche make enough money to sustain themselves, there really is no easy answer. All bloggers rely on different money making methods, but for those who are still exploring the world of blogging, affiliate marketing is a great place to start.

Before we talk about how you can make money with affiliate marketing, it’s important to understand what affiliate marketing is and why you shouldn’t overdo it. An affiliate marketing system pays you a commission whenever someone purchases the product you’re promoting. For example, if you have a food blog, you can promote a brand of flour or butter with an affiliate program. When a reader purchases this product, you receive a small commission, usually between 3% and 9% for most affiliate programs.

While affiliate marketing may look like a good way to make money, overdoing it will cause more harm than good. Don’t stuff your blog with ads, instead focus on creating relevant content, and use no more than one affiliate link in one blog post. If you want to use banner ads as well, avoid pop up ads.

Here are some interesting ways to use affiliate marketing successfully:

Have a niche – A niche helps you identify with a certain type of audience. A blog about photography tips will attract amateur photographers or photography enthusiasts. These people will be interested in improving their skills, getting suggestions on cameras, and even photo editing software. When writing posts about cameras, photo software, and camera accessories, you can use affiliate links to the product(s) you want to promote.

Give unbiased reviews and suggestions – While it’s understandable that your primary reason for using an affiliate program is because you want more people to purchase a product, so you earn more money, giving an unbiased review of a product will not only help people make an informed decision about purchasing it, but it will also give you extra points for the good karma! If a reader is happy with the product you endorsed, they’ll also be happy recommending your blog to their friends.

Generate a buzz around it – When you’re done writing a blog post, make sure you spend time marketing it. This is relatively easy if you use social media for promoting your blog. Introduce affiliate links in your tweets and Facebook updates, and also include a link to your post.

Depending on your audience, geographic location, and niche, you may have to experiment with different marketing methods to understand how your audience reacts to affiliate links in your posts, and what profit you’re making through it.

Joe Linford writes on behalf of Broadband Genie, a social shopping and consumer advice website for broadband, smartphones and tablets.

Has Pinterest Found the Ideal Income Engine?

Josh, over at LLSocial has an interesting post on how the social sharing site Pinterest, that’s all the rage online, is quietly generating revenue by changing the links that it’s users are “pinning” to include Pinterests affiliate links.  There’s quite a bit of conversation in the comments over there as to whether doing so is really even legal, and if it is, whether it is really all that ethical.

Briefly, it is legal, or would appear to be, since the FCC rules that many of us worry about really only cover disclosure on things that the site is pushing directly.  Because the links are user published, the site gets around the disclosure with the extra degree of separation.  Parts of me want to say that it isn’t ethical, but I’m having a hard time validating that urge.  The service is free.  They’ve got to have some sort of revenue model, and ads would be the first obvious choice.  By changing links to include their affiliate link, they’ve found a way around including ads that would likely be a detriment to the service.  Reports (mostly from the comments of that article at LLSocial) indicate that they aren’t changing the links that are already using an affiliate link, so they aren’t outright stealing the income of people who were smart enough to include their affiliate links.  (Although, there could be some argument over whether those users should have to disclose)

In the end, Pinterest might have found the ideal income (revenue) engine for a site of their like.  The content is almost entirely user generated, and a large majority of it is product oriented.  (read: affiliate linkable.)  The fact that they are doing this is relatively recent news, so it still remains to be seen if they’ll see any backlash from users, but even if they do, I doubt it will mean much in the grand scheme.

If you’re familiar with affiliate programs at all, you’re probably already thinking what I was.  If affiliate links on the site are a good revenue stream for the company hosting the site, perhaps they could be a good revenue stream for an affiliate marketer.  I have yet to test any of that, and, actually, don’t even have a Pinterest account yet, but it might be interesting to test out and see what kind of results can be gotten.

Does anyone have any experience using affiliate links in Pinterest and care to share how it performs?

Kontera Invite a Friend

I got an email today announcing the new Kontera “Invite a Friend” feature. The text of the email:

Kontera recently launched an “Invite a Friend” program that offers their publishers a $25 bonus for recommending Kontera’s contextual advertising to friends.

Spreading the word about Kontera has never been easier or more rewarding. Here’s how to do it:

1. Log into Kontera’s Publisher Center using your user name and password.

2. Select “My Account” tab and click on “Invite a Friend”.

3. Type in your friends’ names and send away.

4. Your friends sign up through the link on your email.

5. You will get a $25 bonus from Kontera for every active Kontera publisher you bring. By active publisher they mean reaching 50,000 page views within 60 days of sign up (that’s about 833 page views a day)

See “Invite a Friend” Terms & Conditions

Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, not really. Let’s take a little closer look. Anyone that you refer must reach 50,000 views within 60 days of sign up. What?!? I went back and looked. I run three sites through Kontera. Two are the main sites in my portfolio. I didn’t even hit 50,000 in 90 days. Strike 1.

It’s not an affiliate program? Why not? Everyone else has one. For each referral that you refer (that also gets 50k views in 60 days) you get $25. Once. No more. Why wouldn’t you just do some sort of tiered affiliate program? Something like 5% for 60 days for the first 5 referrals, then 10% for all of them after that? That way, I refer anyone and everyone. As it is now, I’m not going to waste my time. What percent of the referrals that I make will hit 50k in 60 days? I’m guessing that it’s something like 10% or less.

Finally, I referred someone and then asked them to send me the email so I could see the link that it sends. The link:

Notice how there is no customization of that link. So what do they do to credit my account? I’m guessing that they compare the list of emails that you sent the invite to with a list of new publishers. If they find a match, you get the credit. But what happens if you and I both refer the same person? Who gets the credit? First come basis? Also, what happens if I send the invite to one address and the person signs up with another? Do I get credit there?

Overall, I don’t think this was very thought out. (have you seen Meet the Robinsons?) “But Master, I have a big body and short arms. I don’t think this plan was very well thought out.”)  There are holes all through it and I really think they’ll get more complaints on it than they get compliments.

I do like Kontera and have had some decent returns with it.  I’d love to push it.  I would really like it if I got something back from that as well.  And not only if they turn out to be the next big star or a big enough current site that isn’t already running Kontera.

What do you think?

How to Get Where You’re Going

How are you going to get where you are going?  It’s a fairly simple question.  If you’re taking a trip, you find a map and plot your course.  Even that has been extremely simplified in recent years.  Instead of a Sextant, you only need an internet connection and a browser pointed to mapquest or google maps.

There are some that have the innate ability to get where they are going without a map.  They just get in the car and drive and manage, somehow, to get where they’re going.  Those people amaze me.

Enough with the analogy.  Those very same people exist in every walk of life.  There are those that can just as easily pick up a pc and make the pieces work together.  No manual needed.  There are also those that seem to get the knack for making money online just as easily.  Some will claim that they work hard for their money and even harder to get to where they are.  Most are telling the truth.  Some are lying.

The point of all of this is to make the statement that I am not one of those people.  While I do make money online, it isn’t anywhere near the amount that I would like it to be nor does it increase in leaps and bounds.  Instead, my income has been steady for several months.  All because I don’t have a map.

Unlike travel, there isn’t a one-stop place to get your map for making money online.  You’ll need to make several stops along the way to get your bearings and direction.  Maybe you’ll start off at Darren Rowse Boulevard headed in a Problogger sort of direction.  Then you stop off at the Aaron Wall SEO Stop looking for a little bit of a map for making the great Googely Moogely happy.   Somewhere along the way, you get distracted by the bright lights of John Chow Avenue.  Weeks or Months later, you find yourself still marveling at the pretty lights and have expanded your wonder to encompass the John Cow Court and the SuperAffiliate Alley (sorry, I like alliteration).  And lets not forget the wonder that is ShoeMoney Marketplace.

Sound familiar?  It does to me.  Mostly because I just told you what my path has been so far.  I started all this off with some inspiration from Darren.  I learned a little SEO on the way from Aaron.  Then I stumbled upon John Chow.  And he’s great for looking at in amazement because he’s a true success story for money bloggers.  But he isn’t so great for learning much from.  Heck, John only posts about 2 or so posts a week that he actually penned.  The rest are paid reviews and guest posts.  Good for him.  If I was making 30k a month on my one site, I don’t think I’d want to be writing many posts either.

Then come on down to John Cow’s pasture.  What began as a full fledged mimic of John Chow has become an icon in it’s own right.  But, again, great story and little direct helpful direction.  Although a great read, it’s not going to get you anywhere.

Then there’s Zac Johnson and Jeremy Schoemaker.  These guys truly put out some great content. It’s amazing in it’s helpfulness.  They are leaders in their fields and they take the time to try and share what they can.  I enjoy reading both.  But it won’t do you any good if all you do is stare in amazement.

You’ve got to make your map and get in your car and drive.  At that I’ve failed.  I tried to be one of those people that can get in the car and drive, sans map.  I’m not one of those people.  I got lost along the way and have been driving in circles trying to find my way.  Each month I end up at the same intersection and even though it seems like I take a new turn, I still end up right back where I started.

From now on, I’m making a map.  I’m going to set goals for myself to meet each month.  It’s not something that I’ve ever been particularly good at, so I’ll probably miss a few here and there, but I’ll still have them.  And if I have them, I truly do try and hold myself to them.  Especially if I make them public here.

You can do the same.  If you find yourself driving aimlessly through the super blogger/affiliate neighborhood, get yourself a map.  Stop trying to drive without a map.  Decide what you want to accomplish in the next month and write it down.  Hold yourself to it.  Share it if you want. But do make a map.