If you’ve been following my monthly income reports, you know that I’ve been working on developing my affiliate advertising income. Last month was my best month ever for affiliate advertising income, and this month is going to beat that. However, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve only been doing this for a little while, and only recently have I started to gain a little traction. I remember when I started blogging several years ago, and earning over $700 in affiliate income, like I did last month, would have been amazing!
As such, I wanted to briefly share with you how I’m developing my affiliate advertising, and what I’ve learned by failing at it for over 2 years.
Finding the Right Affiliate Network
The first key to developing solid affiliate income is finding the right affiliate network. As you can see from my comprehensive affiliate network list, there are a ton of different affiliate networks. However, not all of them are created equal. I tried to highlight the most popular networks in red, but that doesn’t mean those will even fit your needs.
Each affiliate network has unique specialties that can help bloggers or website owners develop their affiliate advertising income. For me, my main affiliate network is Commission Junction, and my backup is FlexOffers. The reason I went with Commission Junction is that they offer affiliate programs that match my website needs. I use FlexOffers because they offer 1-2 programs that Commission Junction doesn’t, but provide value to my readers.
For both of these networks, a key aspect is getting an account manager or resource that can help you get into the programs that you want to get into. Many advertisers have their approvals set to “Automatically Decline New Applications” or something similar. As such, the only way you’re getting into these programs is if you have an account manager help you get in.
At Commission Junction, this is actually a program called Finance Publisher Group. This is a group that helps bloggers and website owners in the finance space connect with advertisers. It also highlights new programs and offers that may benefit publishers. By working with this group, I’ve been able to get into many programs that I was previously denied for.
At FlexOffers, they use an account manager program. Once you sign up, you’ll typically receive a welcome email from an account manager. This person is your resource to get into programs that you want to be in. If you apply and don’t get a response or get denied, contact your account manager, and they can usually get you into the program you want.
Using Affiliate Programs That Actually Work
The next part of developing my affiliate income is to use affiliate programs that actually work. This may sound odd, but what I’m really talking about is not just putting up any type of affiliate advertising, but advertising that is actually targeted to your readers.
This is where affiliate advertising excels compared to pay-per-click advertising like Google AdSense. When you use Google AdSense, you have no control over the ads shown to readers. Google uses their search history to target ads for you. However, they are on your website, and you have a specific value proposition for your readers. With affiliate advertising, you can find programs that meet your reader’s specific needs – usually because they were your needs too.
Everything I’ve said so far is well and good, but the truth is that none of it matters if you don’t convert affiliate sales. This is the hard part for most websites – you have ads that fit your niche, but nobody is buying. You may be wondering why, especially when you look at sites like Pat Flynn’s income reports, where he makes $1,000s per month on affiliate sales (I can only hope to make that much someday). Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way, and while they may seem generic, they do work well.
Create a Resource That Solves a Problem
The biggest advice that I have is to create a resource that solves a problem that nobody has done so far. It is how I’ve made the bulk of my affiliate income to date, and it has worked for countless other bloggers and website owners as well. In your niche, you need to find a problem, and put together a list of solutions. Some of those solutions may have affiliate links, and some may not. Either way, be the problem solver for your readers.
If you look at Pat Flynn’s income reports, you’ll see that he earns a ton of money from Aweber and BlueHost. The reason is that he has created several resources on setting up email lists (using Aweber) and building niche websites (using BlueHost). People then use his tutorials, and naturally flow to his affiliate products.
The same has worked for me in putting together a resource for small businesses, which more and more people are searching for. When I put the resource together, it was to solve a problem for me, and most of the solutions I highlighted didn’t even have affiliate programs when I wrote the post.
So, I reached out to several of them, and they created affiliate programs. In fact, one that I reached out to and never heard back initially actually reached out to me when they had put the program together. They said “We’ve noticed that you’re sending us a lot of referral traffic and think you would benefit from our new affiliate program”. And they were right – they are now my biggest source of affiliate income.
Tell Your Story
The other way to develop your affiliate income is to tell your story. Similar to putting together a resource for people, tell your readers how you had a problem and what the solution was. If that solution has an affiliate program, I guarantee that you’ll get sales.
For example, at The College Investor, I highlighted My Favorite Discount Brokerages. And I shared my story about these brokerages. And they truly are my favorite places to invest. This post yielded me several signups and a few hundred dollars in affiliate sales last month.
Another good example of telling your story is what Sam at Financial Samurai is doing around Prosper Lending. He is clearly walking readers through what he is doing investing in loans in a multi-part series on using Prosper Lending. Even if you don’t sign-up, you can clearly see he is being transparent in his thoughts and telling his own story about his experience.
Things To Avoid
While developing my affiliate advertising income, there are a few things that I’ve learned to avoid.
One of my biggest initial failures in developing my affiliate income was my own lack of being genuine in talking about the products I discussed. Here is a great example of a failure of mine when I first started blogging: Why You Should Choose Scottrade. This post is an awesome failure for a ton of reasons, and I’m happy to share them:
- I maybe had 20 readers at this point in my blog, so why would they care or trust me to choose Scottrade
- There is NO content – I literally copied the generic ad code into my site
- It doesn’t even answer my own statement: why you should choose Scottrade. I still don’t know!
Credit Card Offers
There is nothing wrong with offering credit cards on your site. However, I’ve found that these are incredibly hard to get to convert. I’ve done a few credit card promotions here and there, and I’ve found that, along with being genuine, they don’t really touch my reader base well enough. While every site is different, I think this will be the case for most personal finance sites.
The trouble is that credit card offers are some of the most lucrative affiliate advertising programs out there. That gives a lot of websites incentives to try them out. As such, there are none that are really genuine that I can share with my readers that they probably don’t already know about.
Random Affiliate Programs
Finally, avoid the random affiliate programs that you’ve never used. I get pitched on joining different affiliate programs almost everyday. But unless I know and use the product, I’m not going to offer it to my readers. Going back to the lesson I learned above, mentioning a product with the intent of encouraging other readers to buy it is tough if you’ve never used it or don’t have “heart” in mentioning the product. Readers can tell – they can tell by the language you use and the feeling of your post. Just don’t do it!
Hopefully utilizing these strategies I’ll continue to develop my affiliate advertising income. It is so great to wake up each morning and log into Commission Junction and see another $5-10 in sales added to my account for doing nothing. It’s also great to read comments on my resource posts saying that the solutions mentioned really helped someone.
You can write win-win affiliate income posts, just be genuine and provide a real solution to your readers!
How do you plan to leverage affiliate advertising on your website?