I often get questions from new bloggers surrounding the issue of ads and affiliate marketing. Most of the time, they want to know how many visitors they need before they should accept advertising or become an affiliate. Well, that is really a loaded question, because every blog is different. Some people seem to become profitable with very little following. While, others struggle even after they reach high numbers.
Figuring out the right time and formula for ads and affiliate marketing for bloggers can sometimes be tricky. I can provide you with a few formulas; however, there are a few other issues that you really ought to take into consideration when making your decision.
Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers – Formulas…
There is a lot of debate out there about what constitutes a good conversion rate. I won’t get into that today, because as I said before, all blogs are different. So, what might be a good conversion rate for one niche may be unacceptable for another.
I will tell you, though, that the average conversion rate is somewhere around 2%. So, for every 100 people who read a post with an affiliate link in it, you should get 2 people to make a purchase. (100 x .02)
As I said before, this number is debated and dependent on several factors. An analysis by Wordstream showed that 25% of all accounts will have less than a 1% conversion rate and about 75% of all accounts will fall at or below 2.35%.
But again, there are a lot of factors to be considered — location of the ad, context, content quality, etc. There is more to it than just slapping a banner in the sidebar and waiting for money to roll in. That rarely works out well, and can actually be a big mistake. (more on that below).
In the meantime, you probably want to first determine if your blog can support ads. Typically, the first places that bloggers go for income are Google Adsense (which is paid advertising) and Amazon. So, you might want to start by applying this formula to determine if you should attempt one or both of these types of ads.
I personally did not open my blog up to ads/affiliates until I reached a minimum of 8k monthly visitors. Based on the formula above, I would have averaged 160 sales per month. But not so fast!
The problem with this scenario is that one must assume that either all 8,000 people are coming to a post that has a contextual link, or that conversion rates are the same for banner ads and/or native ads. And, I can tell you that they are woefully lacking.
As you can see from my latest Amazon report (at the time of this writing), although I have higher than average percentages, for me native ads convert at a much lower rate. By the way – my conversions rates at Amazon have not fluctuated much since I started.
The native ads (ads automatically created by Amazon) have always had low conversion rates. That is because, generic ads simply do not have the power that a meaningful link does. (FYI – You can see native ads at the bottom of this, or any, post)
What I mean by that is that the best conversions come from posts that are viewer focused, provide a solution to a problem, and come with high quality content. In other words, viewers are more likely to buy an item when you have demonstrated some authority on a topic.
Banners and native ads are what I think of as generic fillers. They may relate to your niche, but they are not specific to a topic and provide no demonstrated solution.
If you look closely at my latest months report from Amazon, you will see that I actually have an extremely high conversion from my articles. I average around 30% for any given month, and almost all of those come from contextual ads. In fact, even posts that have terrible images perform better with contextual ads than banners/native ads.
You can see the comparison between product links in my posts and those from all other areas. FYI – I should disclose that I had just discontinued all banners ads from Amazon at the start of this report. But you can still get an idea of how they performed (or didn’t perform) for me from the few numbers included.
When you compare the different Amazon ads on my blog, you can see that Native ads have a click-through rate way below 1%, but a conversion of just over 9%. Even with impressions above 100k, the earnings are still quite low. While the product links (in text links located in a post) make the most.
This is even more impressive if you notice that the impressions for product links is only 510. That’s because I only have a few posts with links in them, yet they perform quite well. (FYI- I do not “stuff” my articles with irrelevant links).
So, I would suggest that you ask yourself if you have posts where an affiliate link will offer a demonstrated solution to your viewers. Then, determine if that post receives enough views to actually result in sales. The more unique and the more helpful that the post is the better your conversion will be.
If you plan to just rely on banners and/or native ads, consider that they will likely not perform as well. If you are okay with that, and believe it to be worth the effort, then go for it. But before you decide, you should keep reading the rest of this post.
Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers – Choosing Wisely…
Besides determining if you have the numbers to support ads, you also want to consider which companies you want to do business with. I only promote companies that I use myself.
I feel that there is a lot to be said for truth in advertising. Maybe you can promote products that you don’t have a clue about, but I strongly believe that your viewers will see right through that, and it will affect their experience.
Choosing which companies to do business with is a very big deal. I can’t express enough how important this is. Besides being affiliated with companies that you can honestly get behind, I highly recommend that you take these into consideration:
You want to read through the contract very carefully. Go through it with a fine-tooth comb. You need to know how you will get paid, when you will get paid, and what percentage you will be paid.
I recently dropped an advertising market because they switched their payment plans away from direct deposits and/or PayPal to a system that I am uncomfortable using. I simply will not give out my information to middle men companies, other than PayPal.
But that is just me, you may feel comfortable with doing so. This is something that you want to be aware of when choosing advertising marketers.
You may also want to consider getting an EIN (employer identification number) from the IRS if you don’t already have one. This will help to protect you to a certain extent by keeping your social security number secure.
These may be included in the contract or as a subset. Regardless, you need to know these like the back of your hand. It should tell you what is not acceptable – such as placing affiliate links in emails or on Pinterest and other social media sites. They also cover things like Trademark guidelines, what constitutes a sale and how long cookies last.
These are all important, because if you inadvertently violate one of their policies, they can cancel your account. In which case, you typically forfeit any earnings accumulated up to that point.
Time Limits for Sales:
I intentionally saved this topic for last, because it is of extreme importance to any new blogger thinking about starting affiliate ads. You really need to know what time limits, if any, are placed on acquiring sales.
For example: many companies have a time limit of 180 days. If you fail to make a qualifying sale within that time frame, they will close down your account. This is where the ability of your blog to actually support an affiliate comes into play.
You certainly don’t want to sign up too soon with a company only to have your account canceled with them later on. You also don’t want to get caught up in having your account charged a fee for falling into decline. Yes, there are a few companies out there that do this.
The point is that you want to consider whether or not you can promote and create sales through your blog, not only for yourself but also for the business that you represent.
Affiliate marketing for bloggers is one of the best ways to monetize a blog. Once you reach a point where you are ready to start monetizing your blog, you should start out adding in a few at a time, working your way up until you reach the level that you want.
You will notice that I only mentioned Google Adsense (which is actual paid advertising) and Amazon in this article. However, there are so many other options out there from which you can choose. I simple focused on these two because they are good options for beginners. They also offer platforms that are easy to maneuver.