Monetize Your Blog, part 9: Affiliate advertising
If you want to learn how to monetize your blog, start here:
- Don’t do it for the money
- Take your time
- Get your own domain
- 13 Great ways to build your traffic
- Getting the goods
- Make it sticky
- Keep an eye on traffic
If all is going well, you're probably ready to start considering some advertising. Adsense may be easy to install, but ease isn't everything. Most bloggers who have tried Adsense have earned just pennies they'll never receive, with no hope of reaching the minimum payout level . The plain truth is Adsense just isn't the best choice - or even a good choice - for personal blogs.
Don't let that discourage you, though. There are plenty of other choices out there. If you manage your blog well, most will help you make a little money. The right choice might help you make more than a little.
For most personal blogs, affiliate advertising is the best choice. If your readers visit your blog because they like you, they trust you, and they appreciate your opinions, then affiliate advertising is probably right for you.
Affiliate advertising is commission based: you recommend a product or service, and you receive a kickback on any sales you generate for the seller. Affiliate programs are widespread on the internet among both large and small businesses. Most are commission based, and commissions vary wildly.
Since affiliate advertising relies upon your readers' trust, be careful about what you recommend. To maintain your credibility, it's usually a good idea to only recommend products you are familiar with. Many vendors will provide a free item for review so you don't have to go out of pocket. No matter how you acquire it, it's a good idea to stick with products you actually use and own.
Expect to fill out a w-9 tax form for most affiliate programs now; if you make enough, your income will be reported.
- Amazon is omnipresent and carries everything under the sun. Commissions are stingy, topping out around 4%, but some bloggers find that it's still worthwhile. Amazon makes it very easy for affiliates to promote their favorite items, and you can also create your own virtual store on your blog full of your favorite Amazon products.
- For Christian books and homeschooling materials, Christian Book Distributors is a huge resource with deeply discounted prices and very generous commissions to affiliates. The high-paying commissions are partially offset by the fact that they don't pay out on orders placed with coupons and promo codes, but it's still a good program with lots of potential for a Christian blogger.
- The affiliate program that has been far and away the most profitable for me is Vision Forum. That's not just because of the generous commission levels, though it certainly helps. We also know and love the products and can recommend them enthusiastically to our readers. They are relevant to our core audience, so our readers enjoy hearing about them and often make purchases on our recommendation.
- Clickbank, Commission Junction and Share-a-Sale each bring together affiliate programs for hundreds or thousands of smaller vendors, making it easy for you to promote a wide variety of products. Commissions vary wildly, and can be very high on digital products like ebooks. Take time to browse for items relevant to your blog and to your readers, and find some products you can really stand behind if you choose to go this route.
- Smaller companies like Paperback Swap and Swagbucks don't pay cash, but can still help you benefit from your blog in very tangible ways.
Tip: think of services and websites you already love, and check to see if they have an affiliate program you can join to help promote their product.
We've used Covenant Eyes internet accountability software for years, and were thrilled to learn that we could earn some money by telling others about a service we already believe in.
We have also referred many Christian friends and readers to Samaritan Ministries, which has been our alternate to traditional health insurance for 3 births and 5 or 6 years. Interested? See my posts about Samaritan here.
Here are my own favorite affiliate programs. Disclosure: some of the links above are affiliate links. Some programs will also pay me a commission if you become an affiliate, and you can benefit by encouraging others to join as well.
Don't expect sales to magically flow in once you join an affiliate program and toss a few links into your sidebar. You need to convince your readers that this is a worthwhile purchase for them (isn't it?). This is another opportunity to add some useful content to your site.
Don't turn your blog into a sales blog, but also don't be shy about recommending something you truly love. Remember to follow FCC rules about disclosure of financial interest: tell your readers you'll get a kickback if they buy. If your readers like you, they won't mind.
If you join several different affiliate programs, this article has some very useful info about managing your affiliate links.
What products could you enthusiastically recommend to your readers? Have you already joined any affiliate programs?