8 Principles for Effective Affiliate Marketing on a Blog

principles-marketingIn a little over a year, this blog alone has earned me $6,931.97.

Compared to my other online businesses, that’s not very much at all – but considering I don’t sell anything on this blog and have only 4 125×125 ads (below the fold) in the sidebar, I’d say that’s pretty darn good. My point here is that you don’t have to aggressively sell or advertise to your audience in order to earn some decent cash on your blog. You can do it by being honest and smart with your affiliate links.

Some critics might say that I probably could have earned more. Maybe if I placed Google adsense within my posts. Maybe if I had more advertisements in the sidebar. Maybe if I had text link ads. Maybe if I did product review posts.

I disagree.

All of those things take away from the main focus of this blog (which is the main focus that ALL blogs should have) – the content. If you write excellent content – things that get people excited, things that people haven’t seen before, things that make people want more – you’ll have the potential (and more importantly, the foundation) to make money online.

Pat’s Principles for Effective Affiliate Marketing on a Blog

Per a number of email requests, here are the rules that I apply when it comes to affiliate marketing on this blog. You may have a different way, but this is what works for me.

1. Affiliate Marketing Starts With the First Impression

First impressions are huge because they set the tone for a visitor’s entire experience through your website, including any possible transactions that may take place now, or in the future.

What is the first impression that you get when you go to a site and it’s splattered with advertisements, for example? What does a site like that say to a first time visitor?

“Hi, nice to meet you – click here so I can earn a buck?”

It’s like if you met someone for the first time and the first thing they ask you is if you’re interested in buying something from them. It reminds me of those guys who sell jewelry from inside their trench coats. Maybe you’d buy a “folex” (fake-rolex) from them once, but you’d never do any kind of business with that person beyond that.

I’d much rather get to know somebody first, trust them, and then have them tell me what they might have to offer. Or better yet, be genuinely interested in what they’re doing, and ask them about it myself. This is the kind of philosophy that I use when promoting other people’s products.

What do you see when you land on my homepage?

2. Only Promote Products That You Have Used.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the way I earn money with affiliate links in ALL of my online businesses is by promoting only products that I have used, and only what I would recommend to my friends who want to achieve similar results. I feel that anyone with an audience has a responsibility to do the same thing.

There’s something fishy about someone promoting Apple Computers who only uses a PC.

3. Always Describe The Product That You’re Promoting.

If you have an affiliate link that’s just a banner ad, or a link at the bottom of a post with no real description – it’s a waste. If you’re actively promoting a product (that you’ve used), you obviously know something about it. Share your knowledge with your audience, and they’ll be intrigued and more likely to click through to learn more.

4. Content First, Affiliate Link Second.

Although I just said you should always describe the products you promote, the content that you write should drive the affiliate links that you offer, not the other way around. Don’t write posts just for the sake of placing an affiliate link within.

5. Share Your Experience With the Product.

When describing whatever it is your promoting, share your experience! If you can throw in some data or graphs to go along with it, even better. Back when I was more actively writing about eHow, I promoted an eBook that I read which helped quadruple my earnings per article. I created a graph that showed how much I earned before I read the book versus how much I earned after. To this date, that eBook has been one of the most successful affiliate promotions I’ve done on this blog.

6. Only Promote One or Two of the Same Type of Products.

There are a number of reasons why you should never promote more than two of the same type of products:

  • The more products you promote, the less believable each of them becomes. If today I recommended Company X, and tomorrow I recommended Company Y and Company Z, each of their “stock” immediately goes down.
  • The more products you promote, the more difficult the decision to choose between them becomes. I’ve been to a number of personal finance websites that offer sign-up bonuses for 4 to 5 different banks (sometimes within the same post!). It hurts my brain.
  • If you keep promoting the same products time and time again, your audience will begin to realize that there must be something special about the specific ones you keep bringing up.

7. Starve the Horses and Feed the Stallions

This is a fancy way of saying that you should only promote the products that you know make you the most money, and forget about the ones that don’t. You will only know this after trial and error, so see what works, and get rid of the rest.

For a while, I had a number of banner ads on this blog that were not generating any type of income for me. There’s no point in wasting valuable ad space with banners that don’t pay out.

Test, test, test.

8. Utilize a Resources or Tools Page

A resource or tools page is a page that consists of helpful links to websites, products and services related to your niche. This is a perfect spot for affiliate links, so take advantage of this if you haven’t already.

It takes the “books I’m reading” area you often see in blogs (within Amazon affiliate links) to a whole new level. not only is this great for you, but it’s extremely helpful for your readers who may be looking for additional resources related to your niche. Plus, they may come across products or services they weren’t originally looking for while on your resources page.

Everybody wins.

Is Affiliate Marketing a Form of Passive Income?

In the pay-per-click sense of the term – I don’t believe so. There’s too much upkeep and constant checking of data each and every day for it to be even a little passive.

But, affiliate marketing with a blog with these principles in mind – absolutely. The blog posts that you write today will be on the web for a long, long time. Any affiliate links embedded in your posts will be included as well.

Cheers!

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  • http://livingyourbalance.blogspot.com Tammy

    Hey Pat
    Great info, as always, I am working on the affiliates part for my blog and other sites and you have just answered a few of the questions I had.
    Awesum!
    Cheers
    Tammy

    • Pat

      Sweet, glad I could read your mind and answer some of your questions! Let me know if you have any more. Thanks!

  • http://experimentsinpassiveincome.com/ Moon Hussain

    Hi Pat,

    I’m back from SD! What a fab place. Loved it. Good points here, and I’m surprised to learn that you earned ~6k from the blog, “passively”.

    Never congratulated you on your son’s birth due to being away on vacation, hope that’s been going great. Enjoy fatherhood :)

    • Pat

      Awesome, I’m glad you liked it. I don’t think I could ever leave this place. Thanks again, and I wish you all the best!

  • Howie

    Unfortunately, you see this ALL to often, Pat…

    “There’s something fishy about someone promoting Apple Computers who only uses a PC.”

    …..establishing and maintaining long term relationships is DEFINITELY the key to success :)

    P.s. I have quite the story to tell you Pat….lol…. (it might get a little long…so, I’ll add it as another “Reply” here…)

  • Howie

    So….I had to take a trip down to Philadelphia yesterday with a fellow Army officer, in order to do some inspections at a unit down there. We spent the first 45 minutes of our drive discussing his experience with engineering (and quite a few things that went over my head because, well, I just had no idea…)….

    ….one thing led to the next, and the LEED exam came up…..your name popped up, and he said “hey, I know that guy….think I ran across him on some forum (can’t remember the name of the forum he said….)….”

    he said he’d be interested in the info for the updated LEED exam, so, whenever that happens, and you release an updated product, i’ll be sure to pass it on to him :)

    …it sure is a small world…lol

    • Pat

      Hah, that’s cool Howie. Actually, the updated stuff is already on my site, so pass it on as you wish. Thanks man!

  • Stuart

    Hey Pat,

    thanks for the post, for someone like me who is just starting out this info is invaluable. I particularly love your trench coat sellsman analogy.

    My model will focus on content and value over any affiliation.

    • Pat

      Awesome Stuart. Can wait to see what you’re up to. Good luck!

  • http://www.freetoliveyourdreams.com Emily

    Pat, you’re missing one crucial element: TRAFFIC. I’ve checked your Alexa rating for this blog, and became green with envy. The fact is, if you don’t have enough people visiting your blog, you won’t make any money.

    Quality content and being real, of course, are a great way to keep people coming back. But traffic is king if you want your website to be profitable.

    • Pat

      Emily, you’re absolutely right – traffic is important, however this post is about the strategies behind effective affiliate marketing, which involves ethical ways to earn an income from the traffic that you do have. And like you said, the content itself should be a means of traffic generation. Thanks for your insight Emily!

  • Howie

    Not sure what kind of “reach” her “magazine” has, but I dropped a little plug for you over on Warrior Forum, Pat…

    http://www.warriorforum.com/main-internet-marketing-discussion-forum/165270-needing-success-story-asap.html#post1605909

  • http://www.betterlearningbetterearning.com Steve Churchill

    Pat,

    Since you are so selective about what affiliates you promote on your site, it makes us more trusting of what you DO promote. Look at all the other A-list bloggers who only have a badge for the Thesis WordPress theme, for example.

    I’ve been pretty darn careful on my own site to not only place ads for products I’ve used and believe in, but for items which are relevant to the crowd (soon to be crowd, anyway) that would visit the site.

    As always. Thanks for the insight and inspiration.

    • Pat

      Steve, it sounds like you’re on the right track with what you’re trying to do. Keep at it, and the crowds will eventually come. Good luck!

  • Omar

    Great info Pat! I believe I have to do a better job with sharing more about the products I use. Show more pics and data that show improvement, something like you do. Basically, show any progress that the product has helped me with.

    Have a good one!

    • Pat

      Yep, you’re absolutely right! Thanks Omar, and have a good one too!

  • http://www.realestatecareermentor.com Marty Green

    Another great post Pat,

    I really like the part about the first impression. Getting slapped in the face with an offer right off the bat is a big turnoff for me as well. This is not just for blogs but podcasts as well. I’ve heard a number of podcasts lately asking me to buy something as soon as I press play.

    I think earning the trust and then asking them to buy is the proper way to do business.

    Marty

    • Pat

      Hey Marty – you’re right, I’ve actually noticed that on some podcasts too, and it totally makes me just turn it off right away. Booo!

  • http://ducedo.com/ Stefan

    According to several studies, personal stories is actually one of the best methods to convince people into buying products.

    • Pat

      Yep, you’re right Stefan – that’s why I included the part about talking about your experiences (and results) with the product that you’re promoting. Cheers!

  • http://www.blogincomelife.com Valentina

    Hi Pat,

    This year I will be focusing on affiliate marketing. Your advice is priceless. I will keep all 8 principles in mind and will add the resources page to my site.

    Best…………valentina

    • Pat

      Hey Valentina! Awesome – let me know if you need any help with anything. Thanks!

  • http://www.freemanlegacyllc.com Ms. Freeman

    Good points I have several rotating 250×300 banners of products I have used over the last 6 months for my Concierge business and the header says they are products I have used and recommend, but I haven’t really written too much about them.

    I guess I should and I need to practice at it to minimize the “cheesy” factor. Writing sales copy and reviews are not that easy, for me, and to me they sound cheesy and contrived. But with practice, practice, practice I’m sure I’ll get there.

    • Pat

      You bring up a good point about “cheesiness” in sales copy. It makes me wonder sometimes how that stuff really works, especially when I watch infomercials and things like that. The best way, however, to obviously know what works best is to test. I tested two sales pages on my LEED site, and the less lengthy, non-cheesy version outperformed the other by a lot.

      You’ll get there soon enough Ms. Freeman! Keep at it! Thanks!

  • http://www.practical-self-help.com/blog/ Colin

    Great article Pat!

    I totally agree with you that the relationship with the reader should come before trying to make a buck. It’s good to be reminded of that again.

    If we could all put into practice the principle of doing what’s best for others before ourselves, I think we would all end up making more money, and more friends in this world.

    Thanks again!

    • Pat

      Dude – I totally agree. If only everyone worried about building relationships and trust first, the internet marketing world (and the world in general) would be such a happier place!

      Thanks for the comment Colin!

  • Natasha

    Interesting article. I have mimicked the way you present ads on your front page and I have only included things I have used but I may need to add a resource page for some of the other items I will be promoting in the future that have to do with my niche. Thanks for the great information Pat.

    • Pat

      Thanks Natasha. Definitely make use of a resource page if you can. Most of my affiliate earnings come directly from it. Cheers, and best of luck to you!

  • http://www.EngagedMarriage.com Dustin | Engaged Marriage

    Nice post, Pat! I always love the extra insight you are willing to provide to us readers. I have a “Products I Love” tab on my site, and I agree that it is a great place for affiliate links. I also love the Amazon carousels and have several of those to highlight books that I think are fantastic resources in my niche.

    • Pat

      Hey Dustin – do you find your affiliate earnings from Amazon are really minuscule? I mean, like – it seems as if someone buys a book I recommend, I only get 1 or 2 dollars. I’m not that familiar with the amazon associates program, I just promote some of the books that I read, so I don’t know what typical earnings look like. Any insight from your end?

  • http://www.guyknowledgy.com/screw-resolutions Jason @ guyknowledgy.com

    I really think these tips are spot on. I have just launched a new blog focused at delivering really cool content mixed with affiliate advertising. The most important thing to me is to keep it real and not come across as a big sales pitch.

    I have promised myself to only promote advertising I have personally used and I truly believe in. I absolutely think the points in this post are critical for making money today.

    Thanks Pat for an AWESOME post

    • Pat

      Hey Jason! As always, thanks for your awesome comments! I think if you keep it real, you’ll get real results in return. Any spammers out there, I hope you’re reading this!

  • http://www.internetmarketingformommies.com Jackie | Beginner’s Internet Marketing Strategy

    Hey Pat,
    Your advice is spot on. It really is so much more about providing value for your readers and creating a relationship with them. Once you do that they trust you. You have to respect that trust. If you do they will continue to buy from you over and over again. In fact, I’ve found they will come to you and ask for your affiliate link for something you may not have promoted on your blog. It comes from giving so much away for free, they want to then give back to you. It’s a great model and not only does it make money you always get to keep your integrity. :)

    • Pat

      Thanks Jackie! I’ve gotten to the point where some of my readers ask me for an affiliate link to, when they know they are going to purchase a product that I use. It’s totally awesome! It’s a direct result, as you said, from providing value to the readers and creating a relationship with them first.

      Good stuff, thanks Jackie!

  • chris

    this is one of the main reasons i read your blog. there are so many make money blogs and how to market on the internet, but at the same time these people have no proof what they say actually works. with your in depth posts and monthly income reports, i feel like your advice is some of the only advice i can trust.

    • http://www.freetoliveyourdreams.com Emily

      You took the words right out of my mouth, Chris!

    • Pat

      Hey Chris – thanks so much for your comment. It definitely puts a smile on my face to know that my readers know I’m real and not just “another guy online talking about making money online”.

      If there’s anything you ever need from me, please don’t hesitate to ask. Cheers!

  • http://www.reachourdreams.com Jen

    Great advice Pat – I haven’t got to the stage of selling any thing yet, but I will use this when I do and it’s great to start thinking about the best way to do it when the time comes. I love your focus on providing value and human-ness. :)

    • Pat

      Hey Jen! Thanks for your comment. It’s funny how you talk about my human-ness, because aren’t we all human? It makes me wonder why other websites and blogs may not even seem “human” at all. Hehe!

      Thanks again Jen, as always!

  • http://www.personal-success-factors.com Steve-Success Factors

    Pat, I am taking to heart what you stated about a) sparingly promoting affiliates, and sticking with the winners by testing out the losers, and b) making sure that you yourself have checked out the affiliates thoroughly and have written about them for your readers.

    • Pat

      Thanks Steve! And by the way, I loved your post about MLK – just read it. Good stuff!

  • http://www.tlmarketing.net Tom – marketing tips

    Good points! Personally, when I visit a blog that looks like a supermarket, filled with blinking banners and adsense ads, I´m gone.Blogging is about sharing information, I like to go by the rule of “give and you will get”.

    I have lots of useful information on my blog, but only 2 banners.Less is more, and it does work.

    • Pat

      Love that rule, Tom. It’s definitely Karma at it’s best. Less is indeed more.

      By the way, I like your Gravatar. Although I always say we should use our faces, it definitely stands out. Cheers Tom!

  • http://bloogle-adsense.blogspot.com Briesauce

    Hey Pat, I really like the blog here, and what a great post. This is my first time visiting your blog. I had clicked on your profile link after you started following me on Twitter. (By-the-way thanks for following) You have a lot of great information that will help all different kinds of people, no matter what niche their working in. I will definitely be visiting again. Thanks, keep in touch.

    • Pat

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and I’m glad you’ve resonated with the content so far. I hope to hear from you again soon, both here on the blog and on Twitter! Thanks again!

  • http://platogo.com Robert

    Hm, your Blog looks like this from Peer, but this is the english variante. :-)
    Thx for this great Article. It is not so easy to know, how marketing works.
    Peace ^^

    • Pat

      Not sure what you mean by “this from Peer”, but thanks for the comment anyways! Peace!

  • shysoho

    Become your facebook fan couple days ago. Start from there, I glance through your blog. Very transparent and I personally impress with your income report. Hopefully, one day, I can make it as you did.

    • Pat

      Hi Shysoho! Thanks for becoming a fan, and also for all of the comments you’ve left on the blog so far. It’s much appreciated. If you keep working hard, there’s nothing stopping you from seeing the same (or even better) results than I have.

  • http://bookmarkingdemon24.com Marc

    Dear Pat,

    I enjoy your blog very much. You have really great content.
    I do share you’re thoughts on affiliate marketing. I m still new to this business but what I experienced so far confirms your points.

    Great work, Marc!

    • Pat

      Hey Marc – thanks a lot. Keep up the good work, and let me know if you have any additional questions. All the best to you!

  • http://invisibleshieldsg.info Invisible shield singapore

    Hi Pat,
    Thanks for the information shared. May affiliates overlooked quality content and a sincere attitude. I totally endorse this . Great post!

    • Pat

      Thanks! I appreciate it! Looking forward to hearing more from you soon. Cheers!

  • http://www.vintagedancer.com Debbie

    Great tips. I followed you over from Pro Blogger and I am so glad I did. All of your advice and examples are exactly what all internet marketing newbies need to here.
    This and another post on affiliate marketing reminded me of a tip I heard earlier this week: If you put up a banner for an affiliate don’t let it go directly to the affiliate site. Instead direct it to a page on your own site that reviews a product and then provide your affiliate link at the bottom. It’s another way of pre-selling with higher conversions then a banner alone.
    I agree with you in that I don’t like banners cluttering up webpages-however since most of my affiliate content appears as a “mall style” shop with product feeds, I have to use banners for sites that don’t have product feeds. Being able to review the sites first will give me better conversions (or so I hope, I haven’t put this in practice yet.)

    Thanks again.

  • http://www.freemanlegacyllc.com Ms. Freeman

    Well tomorrow I am publishing another effort at an affiliate post. Can you take a look at it tomorrow and if you have time either comment on it or even better email me with what I could have done better. Thanks in advance. :)

    • Pat

      Sure, I’ll have a crack at it. Shoot me an email as a reminder in case I forget! Good luck!

      • http://www.freemanlegacyllc.com Ms. Freeman

        Thanks for your help. I made some updates to the post…clearly I was a little heavy handed with the affiliate links. Lesson learned :)

  • Will

    Thanks Pat. I’ve just started looking into how I could create an online business. I’m just finalizing my niche and always look forward to your posts and email! Thanks again

  • http://mkakan.com mk akan

    very helpful tips Pat,i love the resource page …a subtle and bold way to promote affiliate products and services..

  • http://www.realbloggingadvice.com Real Blogging Advice

    Very impressive tips. You are absolutely right. I also do promoting affiliate products using my blog because I don’t have an email list building software. But from your ideas that we must promote those products that we used is a good idea to earn more income.

    But in the other hand, I also earn from my previous affiliate products I promote because I understand how the product works even though I don’t purchase their service.

    Thanks for sharing this great information of yours PAT,

    Sincerely,
    Felix Albutra – Real Blogging Advice dot com

  • http://www.lets-go-fishing.org Brian

    hi Pat,
    Good advice, I have been putting links into my site with no rhyme or reason to them, the main thinking being get them up and iron them out when they are up. The only thing is does this drive away traffic?
    I only have links at the minute to Amazon and adsence but I can’t tell if they are a good thing or a bad thing.

    I will have to spend the weekend reviewing it and doing a lot of thinking.

    Regards

    Brian

  • Jean

    Hey Pat~Great post…Actually, I’m quite far from monetizing ~with affiliate marketing~for my blog…just in the initial stages of setting it up!

    Any new (or tried and true!) in your mind kinds of suggestions you would make to get a blog up and running quickly??

  • http://bloggonaut.net/ Simon

    Hi Pat,

    great post as usual. Great and plausible tips for effective affiliate marketing.
    i think affiliate marketing is no passive income, to run a good affiliate marketing is really hard work.

  • Ben

    Some great tips there Pat, thanks! :)

  • http://www.certifiedphotographer.net Jaime Rowe

    Awesome post! I am so glad you mentioned this in your newsletter ;-)

  • Pingback: 16 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Affiliate Programs — BlogWorld & New Media Expo Blog

  • http://www.BarChefs.com Andy Lakatos

    Thanks for posting this information!

  • http://www.mingjongtey.com Ming Jong Tey

    Hey Pat,

    I can’t agree more on “Only promote the product You have Used”. I would like to add a point that provided I am highly satisfied with the product :) Unless I am extremely with the product, I don’t think we should recommend to other people. This is actually related to our own credibility issue!

    Thanks for this 8 tips. I will beef up on my resources page.

    Cheers,
    Ming

  • Elfinn Orvarodd

    Finally I found a site that accually make sence. I have bought some programs on how to deal with affiliate marketing, but this article gives me more in 5 min than all the other stuff I bought and it takes hours going trough their material LOL. Thanks for a great article.

  • http://plrprofitexplosion.com/specialoffer/ Amitav Borah

    Hi Pat,

    Always love your articles and contents. You are few of those honest and genuine marketers who actually do care. I do not think there is any other than you who is so transparent in their business. I do not anyone else who gives a detailed report about their monthly income.
    We should always give value first and then think of getting something back. Until and unless we are able to deliver something that others want, how can we expect that they will give you want we want. Also the point that we should only promote those that we really believe in and have personally used. Its much more easier and convincing to be true than to lie and try to fake something up. We all are here for a long run rather than a 100 meter race.
    Keep up with the good work and keep us enlightened! :)

    Thanks and Regards

  • http://www.moneylinkonline.com rowland

    hi pat, you are such a great mentor. via your articles, am getting a push to move ahead despite some odds. thank you.

  • http://aoifitness.com Darryl Elvina

    Hey Pat, I was wondering how to set up affiliate links on wordpress blogs without being blocked by wordpress?

  • http://www.kidsclothingstoresonline.net Sue

    Thank for your generousity in sharing your tips on affiliate marketing. I am new in this field and will definitely come back for more information.

  • http://www.kidsclothingstoresonline.net Sue

    Hi Pat,
    All those information resources in the Resource Page are outbound links. When we the Resource Page, do we need to add ‘no follow’ to those website. I have been taught that we will lose page rank for outbound links.

  • http://Mikewanner.com Mike

    Pat- killer content. Thanks for asking in an email what we are looking for. Pat you probably could sell 250k yr. by building us an affiliate marketing course ursine g blogs. Please!

  • http://necessityofchange.com Mary Stephenson

    Hi Pat
    Great post. Made me think, so I went back to my sites and removed a few things. Patience, content and connecting seems to be the way to go. Being aware of what isn’t working if something else seems to work even on a small scale. Thanks for sharing.

    Mary

  • http://www.infoshopmonster.com/ Affiliate Marketing

    All you wrote in your article is right you need to have a good content that is relevant to your products.

  • Chrsitein

    Hi, I just wanted to say thanks for the info. I have wanted to start a blog for a long time, and I finally have the time. Also I think it’s awesome that you are so active and reply to everyone’s comments!

  • http://www.buraq-technologies.com website design

    It good post. Thanks for sharing it. Create a good subject of your respective website pages. It is significant part of your site not simply regarding people but in addition for search engines like google. Usually do not above search this.Your current subject really should not be filled with keywords and commas. Merely record 1-2keywords with your subject.

  • http://www.kevinhq.com Kevin

    Man, this post really intrigue my mind.
    So far, I always think to prioritize ads first, but this post makes me realize to switch its priority with my blog content.

    Thanks Pat, really helpful and blow my mind

  • http://www.fivestead.com Don

    Thank you for sharing these tips and suggestions. I am glad that you pointed out that content should be the primary focus of the writer. Good content is always key.

  • http://www.shifulalam.blogspot.com/ Shiful Alam

    Great tips to be a successful affiliate marketer. I would give it a try. Thanks for sharing your personal experience.

  • S Charansingh

    Great tips……Agree…….Trust is the key……..

  • http://kevinhq.com/ Kevin

    Pat, that test link is broken

  • http://mightyearningspower.com/ Thiha Min

    This is super awesome. Thanks so much Pat.

  • http://xperteria.com Hamza Ghani

    Awesome Pat!! I love reading your posts :)