Affiliate marketing can be a double-edged sword for bloggers. Handled correctly, it can create enormous revenue for both you and your affiliate partner, and even increase traffic numbers for your blog for great marketing success. In the wrong hands, an affiliate marketing campaign can destroy your blog’s credibility, aggravate your partners and drive down your blog’s ranking in search engine results.
For the uninitiated, a quick definition: essentially, affiliate marketing is the process of driving “leads,” or traffic, from your blog to the site of your affiliate partner. You’ll get paid when your visitors either click your affiliate links (known as PPC – pay-per-click), or when they click your affiliate links before taking some kind of action (known as PPA – pay-per-action) at your partner’s site. This action may be anything from signing up for an email newsletter to actually purchasing a product.
Regardless of the payment system your chosen affiliate program decides to use, you’ll need to be creative if you hope to make money while preserving your blog’s feel, flavor and integrity. Here are seven things to keep in mind for affiliate marketing success:
1. Don’t Pick Just Any Niche
If you’re reading this article, odds are good that you already have a blog of your own, and you’re hoping to add some monetization through an affiliate marketing campaign. As you’re browsing through affiliate marketing programs, it may be tempting to choose whatever you think will be most profitable, or whatever seems like it will attract the most traffic. While these are important factors to keep in mind, your top priority should be choosing a niche that’s closely related to your existing subject matter.
Let’s say your blog focuses on emerging portable technologies, such as smart phones and tablet PCs. Selecting affiliate marketing programs offered by wireless internet providers would make an excellent fit, since you’ll easily be able to work affiliate-related keywords and anchor text into your existing content, as well as the content you’ll naturally develop in the future.
2. Focus on Keywords that People Actually Search For
SEO is a big part of any affiliate marketing campaign, and the necessity of choosing targeted, search-friendly keywords is no exception. Let’s say your niche is streaming media services. People love lists, reviews and comparisons, so keyword phases like “Top 5 Online Video Services,” “Netflix vs. Hulu Plus” and “Pros and Cons of VuDu Online Movie Service” would all be excellent options. As with the rest of your content, it’s important to vary your keyword phrases and avoid stuffing them too heavily in your posts.
3. Research Affiliate Programs Carefully
As mentioned earlier, affiliate programs from various companies differ in how they pay their partners (you), and obviously how they conduct their own businesses. The first step is to find an affiliate program paying competitive rates. If the affiliate program lowballs their offer, you’re better off turning to a program that actually values your services. However, whether the program uses a PPA or PPC payment arrangement is also crucial.
With PPC, the onus is on you to drive traffic to the site. This is where high existing traffic volume really comes in handy. If the arrangement is PPA, you’ll need to rely on your traffic to actually take a predetermined action when they get to your affiliate partner’s site. If this action is purchasing a product, you’d better verify that the company actually has a decent sales record.
4. Move That Traffic!
Even if your site does have plenty of traffic, it doesn’t mean they’ll automatically click your affiliate links. And even if you’re utilizing a PPA payment arrangement, you should still be shooting for the highest conversion rate possible. This means placing some emphasis on your affiliate links without making it too obvious that you’re doing so in exchange for a payment.
Your traffic should be able to find your affiliate links without too much scrolling. It’s also important that you vary the style of your links, with some being in-line anchor text and others taking the form of buttons or even banners. Adding some interesting photos and keeping articles short and punchy should help as well.
5. Be Honest with Your Audience
Some novice affiliate bloggers make the mistake of thinking that they have to start running their sites like advertising portals, just because they signed up with an affiliate program. Although pushing a hard sell is an effective tactic in some industries, it won’t go over well with your traffic.
Many affiliate bloggers take the strategy of writing reviews about the products sold by their partners. While this strategy certainly works (remember, internet readers love reviews), it needs to be handled carefully and honestly. It will look very fishy to your audience if all of your reviews are glowingly positive, never finding fault in a single product or service you review. Try to be as fair and unbiased as possible when discussing the items sold by your affiliate partner. People are very comfortable with buying imperfect products, so long as they still seem like a good overall value. Playing this angle will encourage your readers to click your affiliate links rather than assuming that you sold out.
6. Make Your Content Worth Reading
Along these same lines, it’s important that your content – all of it, not just your reviews – is written for the purpose of informing the reader and delivering a solid user experience worth their time, not just for the sake of advertising.. You could have partnerships with the most lucrative affiliate programs and a gorgeous, perfectly organized blog, but you simply won’t make a profit if your content isn’t worth reading.
Tell your readers specific information about the products or services offered by your affiliate partners, not just the fact that you enjoy them. Again, one of your best angles is to explain why the products/services are a good value, not that they’re completely without fault. Discuss your own experiences with the product, if possible.
7. Assess Your Results Frequently
After a month or two of running your affiliate marketing campaign, you’ll want to assess your results. How much time did you spend researching, contacting, and arranging deals with affiliate programs? How much time did you spend developing or modifying your blog to accomodate those programs? How did it affect your traffic, if at all? And most importantly, how much money did you make?
By considering these and other factors, you’ll be able to decide where to take your affiliate marketing campaign next. You may find that it’s worthwhile to expand and sign on with additional affiliate programs, or you may decide to abandon your efforts and monetize some other way.
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