9 Quick Tips to Increase Affiliate Income on Your Blog
So you've got a blog, and you're doing affiliate marketing – with either no success, little success or great success (high five!) – but hey, you're always looking for ways to make more. Below are nine things I've done over the years – with success – to earn more revenue from my blogs.
Nine Ways to Increase Your Affiliate Revenue
#9 – Stop relying solely on the sidebar
This mistake is typically the most common “symptom” I see in under-monetized blogs. There are those lovely 125×125 ads in the sidebar, or maybe you went bold with a 300×250. But, the sales didn't start pouring in.
In my experience, sidebar ads drive the least amount of sales of any other affiliate advertising method on my blogs. Take Sugarrae for instance – less than 10% of the site's overall affiliate earnings come from my sidebar ads (but hey, it does bring in some sales).
If that's the only method of affiliate marketing your blog is utilizing, you need to change that – NOW (we'll get to how a little further below).
#8 – Start micro-tracking which affiliate links bring in sales
The only reason I know the above is because I track all of my affiliate links based on their placement. You can easily do this by using SID codes.
SID codes are an extra parameter attached to your affiliate link that track a specific links performance (vs. only using one affiliate link for a program no matter when or where you link to it). A display ad in your sidebar may be tracked using “sidebar” as your SID code while affiliate links within your reviews may use “review” for the SID code.
How does this make you more money? Because it tells you which ads and links are working and which ones aren't. You might be making great earnings with program A, but do those earnings come from your graphical ads, in content ads, review posts… knowing what kind of affiliate recommendations are converting helps you create more of them.
It also allows you to do split (A/B) testing to find out which display ads on your site work best for your specific audience.
#7 – Utilize split testing on any display ads
If you're using display ads to advertise your affiliate links, you should be testing which ads work and which ads don't. You can easily do this by rotating ads using the Ad Injection plugin (free).
By assigning each display creative with a SID code, you can figure out which ads convert at better rates. You're presented with a lot of display ad options by most merchants. A/B testing will allow you to figure out which ones work best with your audience. You may find that changing a display creative ups your affiliate conversions – sometimes in a big way.
Additionally, be sure to keep those creatives up to date. One blog I owned had been running sidebar creatives that amounted to about 10% of our overall affiliate sales. We hadn't updated them in almost two years. When we did, affiliate earnings from that SID code jumped – and the sidebar began accounting for 20% of the overall sales from the site.
#6 – Build a mailing list
I fully admit (and have several times in the past) being late to hop on this bandwagon. You do a lot of work to ensure people find your blog via various channels – once you've got them on the site, you need to do your best to get their email (I use and recommend Aweber).
First, it's an easy way to remind people you exist after they've come, read and left a particular blog post of yours – without having to “find” them again in the vast world wide web. It also gives you another channel to use in making affiliate recommendations (more about starting an email newsletter here).
Jane may show up on my blog because she has WordPress and found a post of mine about how to use a specific plugin she was researching. If I can capture her email, I can later let Jane know about Genesis – why I think it's awesome and why I think bloggers should use it. Jane may not have even been in the market for a new theme. But she was in the market to get more awesome tips and information from me when she signed up for my email list a month earlier.
#5 – Choose products to recommend that fit your audience
I somehow ended up on a cooking blog the other day that had a display creative in their sidebar for a hosting company. #headdesk
As a blogger herself, I guess that product was relevant to her, but it wasn't relevant to her general audience. Cooking blogs should recommend cooking products, cookbooks, utensils, appliances, etc.
They don't need to have EXACT relevance to your blog topic, but they do need to be relevant to your blog readership. Meaning if your blog were a cooking blog and you knew your readership was mostly women and that most of them had children – then an advertisement for Amazon Mom wouldn't be “off the mark” so to speak.
#4 – Write in-depth product or service reviews
I've gone over in-depth how I craft an affiliate product review before. I said in that post, and I will say again that reviews are my favorite way to drive affiliate income on a blog. But to sum up the main points of that post:
- Recommend products you use and love (BS reviews by people who have never actually touched said products or used said services are easy to spot)
- Offer up proof that you own and use said product or service (photos work well for this)
- Always be honest (never, ever sell out the trust your readers have in you to make an affiliate commission)
- Be extremely detailed in your review – offering up both the pros AND cons (there is always at least one)
- Be sure to show them how the product solved a specific problem for you or fulfilled a specific need
#3 – Don't make every post into an attempt to grab a sale
Don't be greedy – or desperate. Turning your blog into one long and repeated sales pitch for every product you can find is going to alienate your readership. And without a readership, you have no sales.
I try to make sure I post at LEAST three or four genuinely helpful posts without a review focus in between those that do have a review focus. Being helpful increases your readership – which in turn helps increase your sales.
There is a difference between recommending products to your audience and selling to your audience. It's a crucial difference to learn.
#2 – Don't overlook the power of SEO
I'm not saying you need to be an uber aggressive search engine optimization maven. But, you should ensure your blog has the basics of “best practices” regarding SEO. Joost has a great (and free) guide you can follow here.
As you work to increase your readership, you'll acquire social signals, links, and authority – and ensuring your on page SEO is at its best will help you capitalize off that to the fullest extent possible.
#1 – Deliver solutions for people's problems
While I'm all for coming up with awesome, new post ideas (it's what will make you stand out from the crowd), when it comes to affiliate income – identifying the existing problems of your audience and solving those problems has always been one of my top sources of revenue.
Ubersuggest is a great (free) tool to find out what the questions (answer them), needs (fulfill them) and problems (solve them) are of your specific audience.
If you go to ubersuggest and enter “how to [your topic]” (without quotes), it will spit out a listing of all the Google suggest results for those four words (not necessarily in that order and with words in between).
For instance, let's say you have a gardening blog. If you go to ubersuggest and type in “how to raised garden” one of the suggestions it spits out is “how to build raised garden on a slope.” That's a pretty specific problem.
If you can solve it – and link out with affiliate links to the product and supplies necessary to do it, you've struck affiliate gold.
Have any tips of your own to share? Feel free to do so in the comments below!
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Please note – I use affiliate links on this site. This means I might earn a commission if you click on a link and sign up for something.
Ten useful tips there thanks. I’ll be certain to try some of them out on my blog.
You’re welcome :)
Have you done any tests on whether a site makes more money with or without obvious affiliate ads on the side? Are people more likely to click and/or trust a website it there are no brazen ads on the sidebar but only within the content?
No, I haven’t tested that myself. BUT, if you’re using affiliate links, you have to have a disclaimer stating as such – so there’s really no way to “hide” that you’re being an affiliate. For me, I think trust is the most important factor, not necessarily whether or not you’re obviously monetizing. :)
Hmmm, I think I’ll have to test that then.
I do have the required disclaimer. I also wonder how many people actually read the footer disclaimers? ;-)
From what I understand, there’s arguments on whether or not a footer disclaimer actually fulfills the requirement. My new site overhaul will be launching with an on page disclaimer to get me a little more towards middle ground re that argument. :)
Apparently I need to read up on the placement of a disclaimer. Thanks for the info and the chat!
Tim – Tricia does a pretty good job covering them here. :) And anytime!
Great advice Rae. As a noob I appreciate everything you post. I’m still learning on a daily basis and realize I have a lot to figure out. Just because I’m a designer doesn’t mean it’ll be easier for me.
Glad you found it helpful Richard!
I learn so much from your site that sometimes I genuinely think that I should send you a chunk of my commission Rae! Thank you so much for being informative, knowledgeable and entertaining.
And to show you how grateful I am I’ll remove my head from up your ass right now so you can sit down more comfortably!
Hahahahaha! Glad you enjoyed it Mel!
Quick question: What exactly is a sidebar when it comes to blogging? I blog on Blogger by the way. Does Blogger have sidebars?
Ahahahahaaaa… that was hilarious! As always, I have a pen and paper taking my notes. I am going to check out creating reviews for my affiliates because I simply just kept them in my resources area.
Hey Rhea – I did a more in depth post on how I put together reviews here. Hope it helps!
Thanks so much for these tips. As a starting affiliate marketer, these tips should help plenty especially the affiliate link tracking. Thanks.
The link tracking is definitely an important aspect to increasing revenue! good luck in your efforts. :)
Great Post Rae! I especially agree with providing solutions to people’s problems. This is truly what needs to be done to be successful in marketing.
Thanks Oliver – that’s true for all marketing, for sure and not even just for affiliate marketing. Most of the times I buy things from stumbling upon blogs, etc it’s related to me having a need to fulfill or a problem to solve. :)
Great article. Point 8 is very good (#8 – Start micro-tracking which affiliate links bring in sales)… I feel a little bit stupid, as I could have done that much earlier. It’s a very smart tip from you. :)
Thanks – it’s extremely helpful to do. :)
Nice. Along with affiliate products and advertising, I also prefer using CPA offers since they can also be very profitable I guess. I sometimes use Ubersuggest if I’m having trouble finding keywords. Its a nice little piece of software :) As far as product reviews are concerned, it can be a bit difficult to provide 100% correct reviews of all products you’re promoting cuz for that to happen, you would need to buy all those products :O But of course, you can do research online to find out whether the product you’re promoting is good or not.
Personally, I would review a product I’d never actually used – especially not on a blog like this one where my name is the brand. It might not be the cheapest option, but it is an effective one and one that doesn’t alienate readers.
Many thanks for those tips Rae. Never knew that about the sidebar, that’s what happens when you’re not testing and tracking properly :-)
On the disclaimer subject what I do is create a post with my disclaimer, and call it “Affiliate”. Using the Hide Post plugin I then make sure that the “Affiliate” post doesn’t appear on my main index page. I then put a link to the “Affiliate” post at the bottom of my sidebar. That keeps Google happy, and should someone find the link they can click on it and view my disclaimer.
Robert – actually, depending on your interpretation of the guidelines that may not actually be enough to appease the FCC. Annoying at best. Sigh.
I’m new to affiliate marketing. I have a question.
If the sidebar represents 10% of your income, where would you suggest focusing on first?
Eric P. Martin
Hey Eric – Building an email list and finding great products that solve your audience’s problems – and reviewing the product that solved it would be my top 2 to focus on. :)
Product reviews have worked out great for me but never tried building and utilizing an email list.
Also the thing that has worked out greatly in my favor is building small micro niche sites around a certain topic and promoting related products through it.
Hey Arbaz – thanks for stopping by. I’d highly recommend you get started on building that email list!
Good tips here. Especially the one about not selling expensive items. Many visitors may find the cost to be prohibitive or too risky. Best to stay in the middle and pimp what you know and can recommend with confidence.