Practical Ecommerce

Blogs and Affiliate Marketing

Blogs have typically not been thought of as direct response sales tools. In their brief history, blogs have morphed from being “personal online journals and diaries” to vital tools for business, but the focus has been more on using them for relational marketing or purely informational purposes. That is beginning to change. Take, for example, the Australian blogger Darren Rowse, who is known as the “Six-Figure Blogger”.

Through a network of highly trafficked blogs, like his popular Digital Photography Blog, Rowse made over $100,000 last year in referral and affiliate commissions using blogs as the sales mechanism. What started as a hobby in 2002 has developed into his full-time profession. Simply, Rowse blogs for a living!

Though much of Rowse’s revenue comes from Google Adsense ads, a healthy part of it comes from affiliate marketing programs to which he has subscribed. One of the most popular and long-standing such programs is the Amazon Associates program, which was one of the first of its kind on the Internet.

If your blog topic is, say, photography, you could list books that related to photography on your blog, and link those listings to Amazon. When your blog readers, who are interested in photography, click on that click and purchase the book from Amazon, you’ve just earned a commission!

For example, if your blog platform is Typepad, you probably know how to use the TypeLists feature, one of which is the “reading” list. For members of Amazon Associates, it is very easy to tie the ID issued by Amazon Associates to your Typepad reading list and begin to generate a revenue stream from your blogging efforts. Typepad helps with this. Titles of books or music that appear in your TypeLists can be easily linked to the Amazon information pages for those items, and your Amazon Associates code is appended on to the end of the link URL. Typepad makes it easy to set this to your own Amazon Associates ID by completing the following steps:

  • Click on the Control Panel tab in TypePad.
  • Click on the Profile sub-tab.
  • In the Amazon Associates ID field, enter your Associates ID.
  • Press the Update Author Profile button at the bottom of the page.
  • Typepad will automatically update the links to the book and music items with your Associates ID. If you do not already have an Amazon Associates ID, you can learn more about the program and join by visiting associates.amazon.com. How do you turn your blog into a profit-making machine using affiliate marketing programs like Amazon’s? Let me outline some specific steps.

Keep Your Blog Tightly Focused Around A Given Topic.

Blogs, by their very nature, are niche-oriented. They thrive on deeply penetrating a given topic and getting specific with it. It is best not to spread yourself too thin in terms of the topical reach. If you wish to talk about more than one topic on your blog, consider starting another one instead.

Consider Creating A Blog Network.

If you have more than one blog, you may want to create your own blog network, like Rowse and others have done. Here are examples of some of the more popular networks: – Weblogs Inc. – B5 Media – Creative Weblogging Creating a blog network requires a massive amount of time and resources if you plan to do it in a big way. However, you can move incrementally by starting one blog then gradually build your network one blog at a time. If you want to move things along more quickly, consider hiring bloggers to write on other topics paying them per-post or on a revenue-share basis.

Update With Frequency.

Blogs are used for many purposes, but if you use yours to make money through affiliate commissions, frequent updates are essential. This is because search engines, such as Google, love blogs and will index their content routinely because of fresh blog postings. This frequent indexing will result in your blog receiving a higher listing in the search results, which will drive more traffic to your blog, which will get more readers clicking on your affiliate links. You get the point. For example, I used to blog for Weblogs Inc. and updated each blog with at least three new posts each day and often more. What do you write about? That depends on the topic covered. I would encourage you to start out writing about those things with which you have great familiarity and passion. Blogging can be hard work when you are doing it as a way to make money through affiliate clicks, and you will need those extra inner resources to keep the flame alive. As an example, if it is a product-oriented blog like Rowse’s Digital Photography Blog, you could write reviews, talk about your own experiences with the products, research what others have said and report on it, and so forth.

Know What Internet Users Are Searching For.

Using tools like Google’s Zeitgeist, Technorati top searches (technorati.com), or Blogpulse trends (blogpulse. com) you can keep up-to-date on what has captured the attention of Internet users. That will help you determine the topics of your daily postings, or even in making the determination of what topic a particular blog should cover. To quote an old adage (at least I think it is an old adage), you have to “sell what people are buying.”

Subscribe To Topically-Relevant Affiliate Marketing Programs.

I trust you already have at least some familiarity with affiliate marketing. If not, other articles in this edition of Practical eCommerce will fill you in on the basics. Once you have your blog setup and running, you need to find affiliate programs that are contextually relevant. You can locate these affiliate programs most readily through third-party affiliate networks, which are explained and listed elsewhere in this magazine. From my own experience there are affiliate programs that cover just about everything under the sun, from Texas Hold ‘em poker to online florists. You name it and there is an affiliate program for it. There should be no shortage of affiliate programs no matter the topic covered in your blog. What do you do with these affiliate programs once you have subscribed? Here are a couple of ways to integrate them into your blog.

  • Use display and text ads in the blog sidebar, header and footer. You may prefer not to mix editorial content with advertising. If so, surround that editorial with ads. That is Weblogs Inc’s philosophy. Weblogs does not allow any type of advertising to be contained within blog posts themselves. Instead, they surround that copy with ads in the header, sidebars, and even between posts.
  • Incorporate affiliate links in body copy. This approach is somewhat antithetical to the one above, but there is nothing that says you should not do it. If you are referring to a product or service for which you have an affiliate relationship, link to it using your affiliate URL.

I suggest that somewhere on your blog you include a disclaimer explaining your use of affiliate marketing links. Authenticity and transparency are blogging cornerstones, so it’s important that readers know what they are getting into when they click a link. A simple disclaimer in the sidebar will serve to keep the “transparency police” from criticizing you for lack of full-disclosure.

Don’t Stop With Affiliate Marketing Programs. While contextually-relevant affiliate programs are perfect for blogs, there are other ways to monetize blogs, from the ever-popular Google Adsense program to the less well-known Chitika Minimall concept (chitika.com).

There was a time not long ago when you would be criticized for including ads on your blog, but those days are largely gone. Blogs are beginning to prove themselves to be valuable revenue-generating mechanisms. If you don’t believe me, just ask Darren Rowse. You may not become the next “six-figure blogger” but you do have the potential to create an additional revenue stream through the use of blogs with affiliate marketing programs.

Paul Chaney

Paul Chaney

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Legacy User March 27, 2007 Reply

    Great article! I'm forward this to a blog nut. She does a lot of biz this way.

    — *The Rag Lady*