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I’ve been affiliate marketer for almost as long as I have been a blogger and it’s amazing how much you learn as you go along.
I was very frustrated by nearly all of the affiliate promotions run on my blog during the first two years or so. Each time I published a blog post that focused on an affiliate offer I had such a poor response, on several occasions I thought about giving up blogging altogether. Yet, over time, things would prove worthwhile, as sales began to trickle in.
I expected a rush of sales after posting a blog post affiliate promotion, like all the Internet marketers talk about, and was disappointed when it didn’t happen to me. Instead my sales “dripped” in, one every now and then over the days and weeks that followed, which was certainly not as exciting as $1,000+ in 24 hours just from writing one email, as others claim happened to them.
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 of my affiliate promotions during the early years of this blog focused on low cost items, things like ebooks for under $50 or subscription sites that were under $30 a month. The commissions on these items were hardly massive, but I figured my audience was like me at the time – not in a position to buy items that cost over $100.
My first affiliate promotion blog posts focused specifically on a product. These were items I used or I knew were a must-have if you were serious about Internet business.
I started with Perry Marshall’s Definitive Guide To Google AdWords ($49) and Renaissance Club ($29.95), which was the beginning of a love affair with promoting Perry’s products. I also promoted Andy and Darren’s Six Figure Blogging course, which cost over $200 at the time, so I wasn’t sure if I would sell any (I think I eventually sold two or three copies).
Not every promotion was specifically focused on the product itself. Sometimes I would drop a mention of a product or service into an article, with affiliate link of course, because it relates to the topic I was writing about, but the focus was not the product itself.
Affiliate links to Skype and Paypal were included in some of my posts now and then and this post you are reading now is another example of including affiliate links to products without focusing on the product itself. I actually made an affiliate referral into Paypal recently, which surprised me – you would think everybody has a Paypal account already!
You should test different types of blog posts when promoting affiliate products. You can write posts focused specifically on a product or service, highlighting a particular special offer that is time sensitive, or just drop links into content posts that are not focused on selling something.
You may find that doing an entire post that “sells” the product works better because you can use more words to promote, however that style of blog post is often read less because some of your readers will have no interest in reading what they deem as a “sales pitch blog post”. You want to be careful not to drown your blog in nothing but sales pitch after sales pitch.
If affiliate links are merely embedded into a content post that provides value, then more of your readers read the post from start to finish, potentially resulting in more sales.
In my case, I use both formats.
After doing okay with Perry’s low priced entry items an opportunity arose to promote a conference he was running. The ticket cost was around $2,000 and the commission was $800 – a massive amount of money to me at the time. I did a blog post promoting the event and for the first few days nothing came through, then I received one of those wonderful emails telling you that a sale was made. I scrolled down my email client window and saw the product and commission amount and literally jumped for joy – $800 USD from one blog post!
I went on to sell another ticket to the event bringing my affiliate income for that month close to $2,000, which was great, but it also taught me a key lesson about price. Just selling one high ticket item can net you much more than selling many smaller priced items as an affiliate marketer. Of course some people do great with low cost items and some markets don’t have high cost items to promote, but in my case with my blog, I was liking the big sales a lot more.
During the months that followed I promoted more big ticket items and low cost products as well, and the only consistency was the lack of consistency – I never knew what would happen with each affiliate promotion I did. In most cases I sold nothing during the first 24 hours and even first few days, then I might make one or two sales, and then months later, after forgetting about the blog post, a sale would come through. Today I receive checks in the mail from many products I promoted years ago – I don’t even know what I sold sometimes!
As my blog grew I expected to make more affiliate sales, however I still managed zero sales for some promotions, which bugged me. Each time that happened I began to think I had made a mistake, perhaps attracting the wrong audience, or promoting the wrong products or even phrasing the offer in a less than appealing way (was I not using enough hype sales copy or too much?).
I have learned that affiliate selling, while simple in principle, is actually quite an intricate marketing process. Sending out emails and writing blog posts to promote affiliate products is a great way to make money, but oftentimes you don’t make anything if you attract the wrong type of audience, pitch the wrong product or present the offer and benefits of the product in a less than appealing way.
It all comes down to what you know about your audience and your relationship with them, and not the number of people you have contact with.
As is well documented in recent posts to this blog like – How To Build A Profitable Email List – I now look to my email newsletter as a primary affiliate marketing tool and my blog, while still vital for success, is secondary as a direct marketing tool. Simply put – email makes more affiliate sales than a blog, though they work best in tandem.
With my online presence growing I’ve been able to turn over four and five figure affiliate promotions, yet despite all my experience, I’m still largely walking in blind to every promotion I do even today. I might sell one copy of a product, or I might sell twenty, it really depends what is on offer, how the product creator is marketing their item and what I do to promote it.
I also have to be careful to balance how many promotions I do because I don’t want my list to be just about affiliate marketing, it should deliver valuable content above all else otherwise I can kiss goodbye the good relationships I have built up with my readers.
Here’s something that needs to be said – affiliate marketing is not sustainable as a business model.
Well that’s not entirely true. Some marketers, the very top of pyramid, can make big money and do so year after year. However what makes them the best is not affiliate marketing, it’s their skill at driving targeted traffic – and that is THE skill to have on the Internet. If you can drive targeted traffic you can make money online using any format you like, it doesn’t have to be affiliate marketing.
The (above?) average professional blogger makes a few hundred dollars a month from affiliate sales, but if you ask them whether they believe that money will remain stable month after month, not many will say yes. I certainly would not have for the two years of blogging and even today I don’t want to be in a situation where affiliate income is my bread and butter.
Affiliate income should be a major income source for a blogger, but as always diversification wins. You must aim to make money from your blog using as many different methods as you can. Your ultimate goal though, is improving the core values that make up a successful blog – traffic, subscribers and relationships. Your blog (and email list) should be the dependable asset, not affiliate marketing.
You can make affiliate marketing income more stable by focusing on recursive programs and large ticket items, so you make so much money from just a few sales that you can take the entire month off if you like, or you know that each month you have some money coming in from membership subscription fees you have referred as an affiliate. I won’t go into detail about this here, I’ve covered it already in posts like – My Top 7 Blog Monetization Methods and of course, the Blog Profits Blueprint.
As you can tell just by the range of topics covered in this post, making money from affiliate programs and blogging is not something you can learn quickly. If you are new to the game, focus on the first sale and once you make it, celebrate, that first sale is the hardest part – at least mentally. Once you know it can be done, you just have to go to work to make it happen over and over again.
At all times your focus must be your readers and your relationship with them. You need to understand your audience and work to isolate the right mix of products and posts that result in affiliate sales. Write blog posts, build a readership, try a product promotion and see what happens. From there, do it all over again and build an understanding of the environment you blog in and adjust all the elements to achieve the results you desire.
For those bloggers out there currently struggling, the most applicable advice I can offer you is – be patient. If you have ample patience and a good work ethic, you have all you need. Don’t struggle forever – there is a time to make major shifts and drop a clearly dead project – but in most situations, success is just over the next hill.
As some of you know, I’ve got an email list building of people interested in making money with affiliate marketing and blogs. I’ve got plans to produce more information on this topic because I love it and it’s not something bloggers do well naturally.
If you are interested in learning to become a better affiliate blogger and make money with affiliate programs and your blog, please fill out the form below.