Sunday, March 08, 2009

WTF is 'Affiliate Marketing'?

It must be one of the new buzz words going around.

I was asked by a client the other day "Do you do affiliate marketing?". I said yes, it was something I could sort for them on blogs etc. to get a token gesture ROI back on their campaign, then I was asked "Er, great, what is affiliate marketing?". Despite the familiarity of the phrase, it's still true that a lot of folks are just not aware of what it is and what this 'type of marketing' is all about.

The term 'affiliate marketing' was one of these cross-linking terms used in the late 90's, it was up there with old ideas like 'link-farms', and it basically meant "flogging stuff your writing about by linking to it and banging a bit of tricksy code in there to make sure you got paid". In short, this was writing film reviews to sell DVDs, compiling vegan recipes to flog Jamie Oliver books (who probably should be flogged) or cutting a deal with some sci-fi shop to stick banners all over your site while you froth on about comics (a-hem). In short: "You big me up or link to me and I'll give you a cut of any sales". Opportunities for this, back then, were rare.

It never really dawned on me that the door swung both ways. It does. Both sides are getting something from this arrangement, and it pays to play both sides. "Endorse me and I'll give you a cut, but if I don't sell what they want then I'll do the same for you". While search engines, e-mail, and website syndication capture much of the attention of online retailers, affiliate marketing carries a much lower profile. Still, affiliates continue to play a significant role in e-retailers' marketing strategies.

For me, in my halsian SEO days, it was also a bit of grey-hat cheeky spamdexing too. A way to get your site ranked for selflessly (textually) linking out to related topics. All good stuff, but incredibly time consuming. Things, thank heavens, have changed.

A lot of people are enticed with affiliate marketing. It looks easy money and business can be run from the convenience of the laptop. There are, in fact are a number of programs and information that can help you get started should you be tempted.

Here’s a few I’ve tried at different times:

Google AdSense


The PPC everyone wants. I’ve done my time in the trenches on this one. I ran the 2nd biggest campaign in the UK for a year (shudders).



Get paid to blog reviews of products.

Text Link Ads


Links are sold ‘in an area of your site’.



Textual linking from your articles, a personal favourite I’ve included on some BIG clients sites. Not usable with Blogger, alas.



Ad banners, links, etc for your site.



Integrate ads into your pictures. Can be fiddly.



Sell items from ebay.



Sell items from Amazon. Good click-through rates in my experience.



Show ads on your site based on direct bids.

Anyone can add this kinda thing to their blog or site, and I recommend you do. If you have good content that brings in traffic, this is a perfect small revenue stream that soon accumulates. It’s not something I really do any more, but it’s certainly something you should consider to make a few pennies back. Writing good content should be rewarded, and if no one else is going to do it you may as well do it for yourself. If you have a niche topic, so mush the better for targeting.

Put it this way, this blog is about nothing. Jack, nada, bupkiss. Zero except my momentary rantings, and it's made between £15 and £65 a month on AdWords for the last 4 yrs. That's a lot of long-term Scooby Snacks for sweet FA.

Optimising this stuff to get max coverage is a hardcore dark art, and alas I’m a different kind of wizard (the 1d4 hit points kind) even though the merchant side of AdSence (AdWords) is probably still second nature. All the optimization of a big campaign isn't really your problem though, and not really needed where your just directing traffic and not paying for click-throughs (we're not The Daily Mail lets face it). The only tactic you need to consider is getting genuine visitor value in your keyword rich content and keep on trucking your SEO etc. Anyone can use affiliate marketing nowdays, and in moderation how's it gonna hurt?

So, WTF is affiliate marketing?
It's money in the bank and easyer than you think ;-)