Affiliate Marketing :: What Not To Do

by derek on December 12, 2008 · 36 comments

In the recent Thursday Tidbits, I mentioned the topic of affiliate sales and how my recent efforts have been less than encouraging.
One of the primary problems with my initial efforts regarding affiliate marketing is that I have attempted to simply add affiliate banners (typically of the 125×125 banner variety) to my blogs in the hopes of people clicking through and making a purchase.
Unfortunately, that is not the recommended way to make money via affiliate programs – which I will prove to you in a moment.
Rather than simply slapping banners on your blog, many experts and guides on affiliate marketing recommend one of two approaches when it comes to getting conversions:

  • Write personal product/service reviews
  • Build landing pages that are then promoted with PPC advertising

Right now I am working on experimenting with these two approaches as I continue to try and crack the proverbial affiliate egg with the DIYThemes and Syte Black affiliate programs.
However, this is not intended to be a guide on what you should do but rather a display of what you should not do. As I mentioned earlier, strictly relying on affiliate banners is a quick way to ensure that you remain penniless when it comes to affiliate earnings. It should come as no surprise that the little bit of success that I am about to show you has come as a result of affiliate links that are integrated within the content of posts on my blogs.

Affiliate Earnings

The above snapshot is a look at my earnings from the Amazon Affiliate Program, which has by far been my most successful affiliate program. Much of this success is a result of integrating product links into relevant posts, such as when I recently shared my current reading list. The one thing that is somewhat discouraging is to see that while I have generated nearly $1700.00 in sales, my commission has only totaled a meager $75.00.

Affiliate Earnings

The above screen shot is a clear indication that affiliate banners just don’t work. While there have been clicks on some of the ads, none of those clicks have converted to sales. The clicks themselves offer a glimmer of hope, however converting them into an actual sale has been nearly impossible.

Affiliate Earnings

Here you see an example where there have been a couple of leads generated from the small sampling of clicks. While this is also an example of affiliate banners, there is one key difference – the affiliate banners are integrated into a post that is highly relevant to the topic of the post.

Affiliate Earnings

While much of the information in the above example happens to be from affiliate banners as well, it should come as no surprise that the one sale has been generated from a page that is displaying a data feed of affiliate products within the content of a post.

Affiliate Earnings

This last example is just further reinforcement that displaying affiliate banners on your page is a sure fire way to not make any money. However, one would think that after more than 1200 actual clicks on the affiliate link that someone would have actually purchased a product.

Education Required

As you have seen in the examples above, I have had little success with affiliate marketing. Actually, I probably shouldn’t even refer to it as affiliate marketing – maybe affiliate banner displays would be more appropriate.
The one thing that does concern me though is that there have been a fair amount of clicks that just have not translated into actual sales. Is that an indication that the products being promoted are not worth purchasing? One would think so, although the product was clearly enticing enough to warrant that initial click.
Through all of this, I have realized that the approach that I have been taking is clearly not working. Or at least not working well. That means that I need to adjust my approach and educate myself on the methods that will provide me with the best opportunity to actually convert those clicks into sales.
For me to continue improving on my ability to generate a sustainable income from the Interweb, I have to learn how to effectively implement both of these methods on a consistent basis.
While much of this education will have to be of the “self-taught” variety, I would welcome the opportunity to partner with a mentor.
Anyone interested?

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Ling@Uptake December 12, 2008 at 11:20 pm

One thing I’ve learnt the hard way is that its very important you gotta find which of your ad links/banners, etc. are working, ramp up their use, and discard those which are not working. It works nicely if you use some kind of ad serving management system which keeps track of which ads are generating clicks and sales.
Its best not to get too involved in why ads work, or don’t work. Just find out which ones work, and keep using them.

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derek December 15, 2008 at 11:48 pm

That explains much of my success with the Amazon affiliate program. The majority of sales through Amazon all originate from one single post and I continue to test a few different ads to see what will generate the most revenue.

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Kelvin Kao December 12, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Yeah, I would like to be your mentor! I don’t know anything about it though, so you’ll have to teach me.
What’s the deal with that -1?
Anyway, I guess people need a little push. Even if they clicked on a link, maybe they don’t do anything unless you tell them that the product is legit.
Kelvin Kaos last blog post..Buddy Holly music video – awesome editing!

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derek December 15, 2008 at 11:50 pm

Lol, usually one would prefer a mentor that is capable of teaching – although there is something to be said for the learning process that comes about as a result of teaching others too.
The “-1” was a product that was returned to Amazon, which means I have to return my commission as well.

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Internet Strategist @GrowMap November 8, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Knowing what doesn’t work is often just as important as knowing what does – maybe even more if you’re spending money on it.
If the banners are getting clicks I recommend you land them on a post you write specifically about that product. People are far more likely to buy based on a personal recommendation that includes why you use it.
There are several studies proving that adding a reason greatly increases conversions and especially using the word “because” followed by a reason. Even weak reasons convert better than no reason but the better the reason the higher the conversion rate.
.-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog …Best of GrowMap: Our Pillar Foundation Content =-.

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Neil@PS3 December 13, 2008 at 5:22 am

This is a great article and it points out some of my failings with the affiliate scene.
I am getting click throughs but not getting any sales so no money.
Thanks for the insight derek and keep up the good work and keep the money rolling in.

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derek December 15, 2008 at 11:52 pm

Thanks Neil, as my screen shots indicate, I too get a fair amount of click-through that one would think there would be a few more sales.
Working on improving that as we speak.

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Nicole Price December 13, 2008 at 8:25 am

I am afraid that I cannot be of help Derek, but I admire your attitude of willing to learn. Had I been in your shoes, I would have simply given up and stayed content with what little I made.
Nicole Prices last blog post..Festive Discounts

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derek December 15, 2008 at 11:53 pm

Thanks, I’m always interested in learning more and refining my skills/knowledge – at least when it comes to all things related to the Interweb, lol.

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Neil@PS3 December 13, 2008 at 8:42 am

Thanks for the insight into your afilliate success. I have tried a few afilliate programs including LinkShare, Amazon and Google Adsense.
I have not had much luck but will soon be making a new site based solely on new gadgets and gizmos that are going to be released and am hoping to use the amazon afilliate program to include links to the products within the site.
I have bought a domain for it and hope to have it up and running soon. I will let you know when it is done so you can have a look.
thanks again

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derek December 15, 2008 at 11:54 pm

Hmm, seems one of your comments had been caught in my spam filter. Not sure if you meant to comment twice or had added the second comment after not seeing the first comment.
Either way, look forward to hearing about that new domain once you have it up and running.

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Harvey@PC Hardware Reviews December 14, 2008 at 10:45 am

My experience with my Amazon monetized blog has been that Amazon converts one in every 10 clicks into a sale. But I would consider the traffic to be highly targeted.
Harveys last blog post..How to Clean Laptop Screen

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derek December 15, 2008 at 11:57 pm

My numbers are actually pretty close to that, although it seems the product clicks result in more purchases of alternate items – which means I may need to refine the product links that I am using.
Thanks for sharing!

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Steve@Trade Show Guru December 14, 2008 at 3:48 pm

hey Derek,
It makes sense to me that showing relevant ads to targeted traffic is probably more work (requires targeted content) but should be much more successful than show irrelevant ads to the general public…
as to the specifics of the numbers and your post, I can’t quite get my head around them.
~ Steve, the slightly confused trade show guru
Steves last blog post..Trade Show Secrets

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derek December 15, 2008 at 11:58 pm

Yeah, it does require more work to include highly targeted affiliate links than just slapping up a few banners. There are a few plugins and tools that help make that a little easier though.

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Gabe G.H. December 14, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Well, I am beginning to realize that this Affiliate Marketing can be very difficult.

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derek December 16, 2008 at 12:00 am

Difficult but also extremely rewarding. When I was at BlogWorld, many of the top bloggers indicated that affiliate sales is quickly becoming their largest source of revenue.
There is still plenty of money to be made in AM, and I want a slice of that pie.

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Tom Smith December 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm

I’ve never gotten into PPC marketing due to the cost. I prefer organic search engine results to promote my site.
Tom Smiths last blog post..Toto Washlet S400 Bidet

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derek December 16, 2008 at 12:01 am

This experiment with Syte Black is the first PPC campaign that I have run myself. To this point it still has not resulted in a sale but I am learning more about managing a PPC campaign so that will help in the long run.

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Franklin December 15, 2008 at 5:28 pm

I couldn’t agree more. 125X125 sidebar’s generally don’t cut it and are typically hit or miss. I stick with affiliate promotions inside of blog posts as well, they allow for the best possible results as when people are reading about the subject they can be compelled to take action immediately. Great factual post! I love seeing people back up their claims with facts. Well done.

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derek December 16, 2008 at 12:01 am

Thanks for the feedback!

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Watch Secret life of American teenager Season 2 December 16, 2008 at 3:48 am

I am an amateur. But as far as I can tell you, banners are pretty useless. I have had absolutely no luck with banners till now. My whole affiliate earnings are very meagre. But one thing is for sure. You should really be an expert with affiliate marketing to make money with banners. Keep posting about affiliate marketing. I’d like to know more.

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peter@Peter Answers December 16, 2008 at 1:49 pm

Good post Derek – it would be nice if it was as easy as putting up a banner but of course it isn’t – it requires building a community of people who trust you, and then providing them interesting and useful services. Then you can make some money.
peters last blog post..Peter Please Answer My Question

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Nick@romandock dot com December 16, 2008 at 9:44 pm

I haven’t had much success in affiliate marketing either so wouldn’t make much of a mentor, however, I will be thoroughly reading any information that you share…
Nicks last blog post..Sunday Snapshots – 010

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Cashmere Lashkari @ Book Reviews December 17, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Hi,
I have been an on and off visitor to your blog and have truly learnt a lot from you. Recently I thought I should get into affiliate marketing, and hey presto, you write a post about it!
AM still in the infant learning stage and don’t understand a lot of what you and the others are talking about, but I did do one thing concrete this week. Book my domain name.
Thanks for all your inspiring posts. In fact I chose to go with my own name for the domain rather than anything fancy because I had seen your name in yours!
Cashmere Lashkaris last blog post..Boys Will Be Boys

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Justin@Airsoft Guns December 18, 2008 at 12:48 pm

I’m recently getting in to affiliate marketing, as my friend who is making insane money convinced me to. He has made over $5000 just this month! It’s amazing! I can confirm that your tips are correct; you need to promote individual products.
Justins last blog post..CA M15A4 RIS

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derek December 18, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Will your friend be my mentor? 🙂

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Internet Strategist @GrowMap November 8, 2009 at 5:56 pm

I agree with Derek. Is your friend teaching you what he is doing that has generated $5000 in one month?
I know that in ecommerce stores the highest conversion rates come from targeting specific products and I am now applying what I learned in ecommerce to what I am doing with affiliate marketing.
I encourage anyone interested in making more money with affiliate programs to read the CommentLuv featured post in this comment and collaborate with me.
Gifts are relevant to any niche and I know this store’s inventory well enough that I can suggest specific products and send you a spreadsheet in order of which are the top sellers. I’ll even write posts you can reblog. More details in that post.
.-= Internet Strategist @GrowMap´s last blog …How to Evaluate a Merchant Gift Affiliate Program =-.

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BigMick@Domain Names January 12, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Most internet users these days have banner blindness.
Banner blindness is when a user can get the information they want off of a page without acknoleding any banners or adverts. They essentially look at what they want whilst ignoring any banners.
From what I’ve seen text links within blog posts are the way to go.

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Nick@romandock dot com January 12, 2009 at 6:37 pm

I certainly agree about banner-blindness to a degree. Can you honestly say you remember even 1 banner from the last 3 or 4 sites you visited? Sometimes they can be a bit of an eye-catcher or get a click, but the regular readers will get quite used to a site and begin to ignore banners on sites they visit frequently. However, by someone who is new to a site or a casual user (rather than a blogger) the banners will be much more likely to be noticed and get clicked.
As far as links and promoting within posts/content, I agree that this is often the best way to go, however, can appear spammy if done to often or not properly.
Nicks last blog post..I will be beta testing Windows 7

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Chris April 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I use both images (with a call to action that catch the eye) and affiliate links that flow with the content. Having good information will make your visitors more likely to click a link with some interest in making a purchase.

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