I Want to Talk About Affiliate Marketing
Mostly, I want to talk to you about affiliate marketing for your own benefit, because I think it can be helpful to you, especially in this down economy.
Affiliate marketing. It gets such a bad rap from some. Just the other day, someone likened it to “getting kickbacks,” as if it weren’t an overt and obvious transaction. I’m not even 100% sure I like the Wikipedia definition. Essentially, I see affiliate marketing as this: promoting a product or service that someone else has created to your community with the hope of providing benefit to that community, and to be compensated for that promotion. (I could probably come up with something less wordy, but that’s a decent description).
This is an industry that was a reported $13 Billion industry in 2009. Most every major brand you know has an affiliate program already. It’s just part of the marketing mix for many companies, including several of our New Marketing Labs client partners (though we don’t manage affiliate marketing projects). If you want to learn more about the industry overall, I’d recommend attending Affiliate Summit, put on by Shawn Collins and Missy Ward. I’ve gone twice and had a blast both times.
Why I Want to Talk About This
My motivation in talking about affiliate marketing with you is, as I said above, that I think with these tough economic times on us, many of us could use a few extra bucks. When done ethically, and with full disclosure, I feel that affiliate marketing is a great way to make some additional income.
The methods I describe below are how I do it as a blogger/content maker. They’re not perfect at all. In fact, the best post where I learned a lot about how I might do it better in the future comes from SugarRae’s site (note: she tells it like it is). But hey, this is what I did and how I did it, as a starting reference.
The first affiliate programs I started with were Amazon. The reason is simple: they make it really easy to link to books (and other products) and I like that I could share things with people easily. It’s not exactly the best money-making tool out there, but that didn’t dissuade me. If you want some good tips on getting more out of it, here are some Amazon Associates tips from Darren Rowse of Problogger.net.
When I got my first check from Amazon, I actually thought it was just a refund from some returned merchandise or something. It was for around $117 or so.
Now, it’s not a TON more, but it’s around $400- $500, and if you think about it, that’s enough to make a car payment and/or maybe take someone out to dinner once or twice a month.
My point in sharing this is to say that I’m certainly not getting rich off Amazon, but every little bit adds up. Will your mileage vary? Yes. I get over 200,000 unique visitors a month, so I have more traffic to work with. But just like you, I started somewhere.
Oh, and I added Google Adsense to my RSS feeds, down at the bottom. That makes me a couple hundred bucks a month, which again, is nothing to scoff at, as it adds up.
Then I Start Figuring It Out
And by “I,” I mean that Brian Clark worked with Chris Pearson to release the Thesis WordPress theme (affiliate link). This was where it started to really make sense. Here’s why:
I loved Chris Pearson’s work. Had for years. Now, he was selling a theme that not only looked good, but that had strong SEO benefits, and several other design benefits. It wasn’t an easy “out of the box” theme to use, but instead a great template/starting point for designers to work from.
Selling this theme was a no-brainer to me. I love the theme, love what it does for my site, and stand behind it. So, the references to Thesis all over my site encourage people to buy it for their own WordPress projects.
That one program is my worry-reduction-button. Know why? It pays my mortgage. Yep. That one affiliate program is worth the price of knowing I’ll have a roof over my head month to month.
That’s Why This Is So Worth Thinking About
Affiliate marketing isn’t for everyone. Not every program is for everyone. But when there’s an opportunity to bring something of value to your community and make some money for your efforts, then you’re looking at what I think of as a great opportunity.
What does the community get from this? (I was asked this before, and have been thinking about my answer.) First off, in a sea of clutter, you hear a testimonial about something that I find of value, and you get the opportunity to evaluate it for yourself. Second, you get the chance to equip yourself with some of the same tools I use for my own efforts. Thus, I’m trying to share what I value, and give value with what I share.
This all only works, in my estimation, if I’ve shown you enough trustworthy behavior, and if the things I promote are vaguely of interest to my community. I’m not the right affiliate marketer for weight loss pills or whatever. It’s not what we talk about here. But blogging tools, hosting, ebooks, courses, SEO tools? Yeah. That stuff makes sense.
If the idea of making a few hundred extra dollars a month appeals to you, then this is one way to start making that happen. I wrote about escape velocity before, and this is part of what I was talking about. You need support and backing to make moves some time. This is one tool to accomplish that.
You might not get the same results immediately. You might not have the same volume. But if you’re working on improving your content, if you’re working on building audience and turning it into community, then you might as well evaluate whether there are any related and worthwhile programs that would appeal to your community.
Caution: it’s important to keep heaping value upon value into what you’re creating on your site. Don’t become a salesperson only, as the appeal of your site will quickly diminish. We talk about how human business works here, and part of that is to respect and value the people spending time with your material.
Not for Everyone
Not everyone will want to share any affiliate marketing programs. Not all of your community will like your posts about such programs. It’s okay. We get all antsy about this online. We think that blogs can ONLY be one thing or another. After 11 years of blogging, I’ll tell you this: it’s not one size fits all. Work with the people you have. Work on the goals that you have. Work towards making it all worthwhile for everyone at the table. And beyond that, do your best.
Signing Up for Programs
There are plenty of places to find affiliate programs to sign up for: Commission Junction, Share-a-Sale, LinkShare, and many more similar sites exist. You can find from those sites any advertisers that might appeal to your tastes in selling. There are also many programs that run straight from the company in question’s site. Oh, and don’t forget that Google launched their own Affiliate Network, too.
It can be overwhelming. Take it slow, if you want.
I honestly don’t know TONS about affiliate marketing. There are much better teachers out there than me. But I’m learning, and as I do, I’ll share what I know with you. In the interim, we talk about affiliate marketing as one of many channels of marketing over at Third Tribe, so feel free to pop your head in there and ask, too.