Whether you are building an affiliate store or simply want to include affiliate products in a post, one of the first decisions that has to be made is how to actually add the affiliate product links.
There are three basic methods:
- Manually add product links (which can be extremely time consuming)
- Create your own script (which requires some technical knowledge)
- Use an established tool (which is rarely free)
Many people that are just getting their feet wet with affiliate marketing are trying to keep their costs down, so naturally they lean towards manually adding products or creating their own custom script to add products.
So which method is right for you?
The answer to that question will depend on a number of factors, including your goals, how much time you have to spend, and your budget. The first step though is to gain a better understanding of each method and look at the pros and cons of each method.
Manually Add Affiliate Product Links
This is the most basic approach to adding affiliate product links to our website, and is the one that most blog publishers have at least some level of experience using.
One of the more common means of adding manual links is with the use of the Amazon affiliate program (be sure to understand the real power of the Amazon affiliate program if you use this method). This method can also include the process of logging into the various affiliate networks and manually selecting product links from the merchants.
Pros Of Manually Adding Links
- Cost :: Free! It doesn’t get much better than that for someone beginning to dabble with affiliate marketing. The only cost of the manual method is our time, as there are no fees associated with accessing the variety of affiliate networks and browsing for relevant affiliate product links.
- Targeted Product Links :: One of the key advantages of using the manual method is that we can target the exact product links that are relevant to the content of the post. For instance, when writing a book review, you can easily add a product link directly to that book.
Cons Of Manually Adding Links
- Time :: While there may not be a true monetary cost with the manual method, we will spend a considerable amount of time. When using this method for one-off posts, the time will most likely not be a problem. When attempting to build an entire affiliate driven storefront, the manual method will require far too much time.
- Product Knowledge :: Using the manual method requires an expansive knowledge of products, as we cannot manually add an affiliate product link to our site unless there is the knowledge that the product exists.
Creating A Custom Script
As you begin to dig deeper into the affiliate networks, you will begin to see the term “data feed” mentioned. The data feed is essentially a master list of affiliate product information that a merchant provides to their affiliates. This data feed is typically provided as either a flat file for the affiliate to download or the affiliate is given access to an FTP site to download the information.
But how do we work with this data feed?
While it is possible to manually extract data from the file provided by the merchant, what we really want to do with the data feed is automate the processing of this data. There are a variety of options on how this can be done and each will require some form of a custom script.
Pros Of Using Custom Scripts
- Time :: Rather than searching for and adding affiliate products manually, we can add an entire category of links to a post or site in seconds. We can even use the script to create an entire storefront in the time it takes to manually find a handful of links.
- Volume :: Having a custom script will allow us to add many more affiliate product links to our site, some of which we may not have otherwise ever known about.
- Maintenance :: When a merchant updates their product information in their data feed, our site will automatically display the updated information without having to edit each of the links.
Cons Of Using Custom Scripts
- Technical Knowledge :: Creating a custom script will typically require some degree of technical knowledge, which a lot of people don’t have and don’t want to learn. As part of this case study I will share the scripts that I have created at no cost to you – aren’t I just the best?
- Quality of Data Feed :: Unfortunately, not all data feeds are created equally. Some merchants provide clean data feeds without any data errors, while others provide a jumbled mess of data that is nearly impossible to manage.
- Configuration :: Depending on how much time and energy we spend on creating the custom script, there will be some things that just cannot be done very easily (if at all).
- Support :: With a home-grown custom script, there isn’t anyone to turn to when there is a problem. Depending on the level of technical knowledge we possess, this could be a significant problem.
Using An Established 3rd Party Tool
There are a variety of 3rd party tools available that will help automate the process of adding and managing affiliate links on our site. Some of these tools, such as datafeedr, provide seamless integration with WordPress as well, making the process even easier.
With the use of a 3rd party tool, we will be able to focus more of our time on creating unique content and promoting the site as opposed to developing a custom script or manually searching for product links.
As of right now, I have only had experience with datafeedr and have based the following pros and cons on that experience.
Pros Of Using 3rd Party Tools
- Robustness :: Every single product that is offered by the merchant is literally a click of the mouse away. Simply search for a keyword and instantly have pages of affiliate products to use on the site.
- Support :: With a commercial product, there will be some degree of support offered (or at least there better be). When there is an error, simply contact support and get help resolving the issue.
- Speed :: It is possible to build an entire affiliate store in less time than it takes to draft a post. When I built the first pass of No Bogies, I had over 1,500 products integrated into the site within an hour.
- Configurable :: Using datafeedr, there is the option to create a traditional storefront type design or have each product periodically “dripped” to the blog as new content. With a commercial tool, there should be much more configuration available.
Cons Of Using 3rd Party Tools
- Cost :: The 3rd party tools are typically commercial products, meaning there is an upfront cost.
- Learning Curve :: There will certainly be some amount of time that it will take to learn how to use the tool properly. Depending on the tool, this may be hours, days, or months.
Making The Right Choice
Now that we have taken a quick look at the pros and cons of each method, how do we know which one is right for our site?
In my opinion, it will really depend on our goals.
If we’re creating a simple blog that we want to periodically include relevant affiliate product links, we’ll probably be fine sticking with the manual method. If we want to create a more robust variety of affiliate product links, we might be best served by looking at the available 3rd party tools.
Regardless of which method is selected, one important thing to remember is that none of them are going to provide a situation where we can simply “set it and forget it” and expect to make any amount of money. There is still a need to promote the site, as without traffic it really won’t matter how the affiliate links were added – there won’t be anyone to click on them!