How To Add Affiliate Products To Your Site

by derek on January 21, 2009 · 49 comments

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!

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

olly@cheap computer parts January 22, 2009 at 3:05 am

I think in a blog the manual approach is better, after all you really only need one or two affiliate links per post otherwise it will ruin the user experience and put people off clicking.
On a larger scale though, if you can get to grips with coding it will benefit you in the longer term though this can be years worth of work to achieve. I have been working with PHP for 2 years now and still struggle with datafeeds!

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derek January 24, 2009 at 10:55 am

True, for most people that are just using a traditional blog, using the manual approach is going to be fine.
As you mention, trying to code it on your own can be rather time consuming and difficult. Not only do you have the code to deal with but not all merchants take the same interest in providing quality data feeds. That is an area that I have been really happy with a tool like datafeedr as I have a GUI display into all of the feeds and simply select the products that I want.

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Neil@PS3 January 22, 2009 at 3:23 am

I am currently using the manual approach as I am only adding a couple of specific links to my posts. They are basically new or upcoming ps3 games and so it is easy to finde the amazon links for them

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derek January 24, 2009 at 10:57 am

It helps when you have a niche that is well represented with one affiliate program. I just wish Amazon would step it up a bit and offer a more competitive commission, as many merchants pay closer to the 8-12% range right off the bat.

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Internet Strategist February 4, 2009 at 12:40 am

When using Amazon try targeting high dollar items to make up for the small commissions. If you can find audio or video tapes related to your niche you could also offer CD or DVD players and other electronics.
Internet Strategists last blog post..Have a Blog? You Win By Reading This Blog Review Contest Entry on Best Blog Design!

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khaled January 22, 2009 at 7:29 am

Hi Derek
Is there a guideline for the maximum number of affiliate links to be included on any one page or doesn’t it really matter.

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derek January 24, 2009 at 11:01 am

Here are my thoughts on how many links you should use…
If you’re writing a blog (such as this one) and you are interested in long-term relationships with your readers, don’t bombard them with affiliate links. Something I usually try to do is include one at the beginning of the post and then one at the end as a call to action if people are interested. Listen to your readers though, as they will guide you with how many is an appropriate number.
If you’re putting together an affiliate site where all you want to do is get the reader to the site and then see them leave with an affiliate link, you might use more affiliate links on a page.

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Ling@Uptake January 22, 2009 at 8:00 am

One thing I’ve been thinking about. When you have a sidebar full of affiliate links, how do you make users click in there somewhere? Most people simply ignore the ads. Is there any specific spot on a page where users click on more? I know this is a bit off-topic, but since we’re talking about adding the links, I figure we should know which part of the page works best.

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derek January 24, 2009 at 11:35 am

It will likely vary for each site, so it is important to examine the “hot spots” for your own site to determine the best placement.
That reminds me, I really should utilize things like Crazy Egg and the Google Analytics overlay more to determine where those spots are on my sites.

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Nicole Price January 22, 2009 at 8:31 am

Your last paragraph says more than what is apparent. All the tips given by you will be good only when you get visitors to your blog.
Nicole Prices last blog post..Furniture Discounts

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derek January 24, 2009 at 11:37 am

Absolutely, I think that is something that a lot of people lose sight of when trying these things. This is an area that I need to improve myself.

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Nick@romandock dot com January 22, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Good second post in the series! The only way I’ve ever done it was manually, but also only in specific posts that reference a certain item or product. As of yet, I haven’t had a need for a more automated method, but I’ll find a use for it once this series is completed ๐Ÿ™‚
Nicks last blog post..Free Cosmetics From Many Retailers

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derek January 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

Thanks Nick. I hope you enjoy this series, now I just have to finish writing it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Ricardo Bueno January 22, 2009 at 8:01 pm

I have a few affiliate products that I market through my site. I manually added the product links. In terms of promotion, I write a review of the product if I think it’s any good (I wouldn’t market them if they weren’t) and also market via the newsletter.
It’s only been about 3-4 months but so far, so good.
Ricardo Buenos last blog post..Greater E-mail Productivity with AwayFind

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derek January 24, 2009 at 11:40 am

Ricardo, that is a sound approach with using affiliate links on your blog. That is how I approached the Thesis theme here, as I have really been enjoying that theme and think it is fantastic.

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Geri a local SEO January 22, 2009 at 11:57 pm

I have not been a big fan of AM sites in the past. However, with the economy being what it is, I am reconsidering this position. I have 6 sites with lousy ROI that could use some help… Nice blog… I am bookmarking you now!
Geri a local SEOs last blog post..The 109 Day Link Building Explosion – Day 22

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derek January 24, 2009 at 11:41 am

Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation! What type of sites do you have right now?

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Patrick@pays to live green January 26, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Great post. I as most of the other commentors have only done manual affiliate linking, but it’s good to see other methods on adding them to your blog. Also, great last point.
Patricks last blog post..Wood Toys: Safe for Kids and Eco Friendly

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Jesse@SoLinkable January 28, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I fall into the “just getting my feet wet” category. I recently started my first real blog, and am still adding the odd affiliate link manually. I actually never even knew that there were automatic possibilities… Also, like my new avatar? ๐Ÿ˜‰ No more crappy “SL”
Jesses last blog post..FTC slaps Do Not Call Violators with $1.2 Million in penalties

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My Poker Fantasy January 30, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Very good blog about this. learned something today!

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cotton poly shirts February 3, 2009 at 2:59 am

Great info I had quite a few questions on affiliate products and adding them to your site. You helped answer most of them. But one last one, what are some good places to get affiliate products from? I have been wondering where people are getting their affiliate products from other than Amazon.
Thanks for the info ahead of time!

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Melaleuca Frank VanderSloot February 4, 2009 at 11:04 pm

I was thinking to do something like that to my blog. thanks for the information.

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Neil@Free Wii February 5, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Great post derek. I will definitely use this on my new site

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Justin@Airsoft Guns February 9, 2009 at 5:35 am

I like adding in my affiliate links manually. I don’t mind taking the time to do so and it seems to pay off well.
Justins last blog post..JLS 2010 Airsoft Beretta 92 Style Auto Electric Pistol

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China Travel Blog February 13, 2009 at 12:22 pm

I think the main issue is not how to adding affiliate but how to finding or selecting good affiliate which sells and pays well.
China Travel Blogs last blog post..Foshan Trains

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lorraine February 24, 2009 at 8:10 am

I am currently using a 3rd party affiliate and although it is not free, it saves me a lot of hassles and headaches. Works great for me. Thanks for sharing these info. ๐Ÿ™‚
lorraines last blog post..A Guide for Choosing the Right Affiliate Programs Merchants Online

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Airsoft AK 47 Gun March 1, 2009 at 11:33 pm

lorraine,your getting yuor money’s worth.
Airsoft AK 47 Guns last blog post..Airsoft AK 47 Gun

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ForexBrokers May 6, 2009 at 11:14 pm

I’ve been doing affiliate stuff for 12 years so I know what you are talking about.
I like the “periodically drippedรขโ‚ฌย method of introducing products. I rarely ever buy tools and software for my sites, but I will have to give datafeedr a serious look!
Thanks for the tip!
ForexBrokerss last blog post..Dashboard FX – Forex Trading Account Software and Training

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Rob@Online Poker Rakeback May 14, 2009 at 10:26 am

You hit the nail on the head with the cons of manual adding. It is very time consuming and you’ve got to not only have alot of product knowledge, but specifically what is working for you. Despite the cons, I still use the manual approach.
Robs last blog post..SNG Strategy Pt. 2 – Make money playing Sit and Go poker tournaments

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Brewster July 2, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Here is a good way to get some decent earnings from an affiliate program.
1. Write some software that makes life easier for them.
2. Give the software away for free.
3. Tie the software into an affiliate program that adds value to the free software.
My own example is here: http://www.brewsterware.com/archives/optimising-your-ebay-affiliate-profits.html
Joe
.-= Brewster´s last blog ..Domains for sale =-.

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Mark Testa@san clemente home loan September 4, 2009 at 9:38 am

I agree with you, I am going to start my blog and thinking of going with Clickbank, I’ve checked out and they’ve got some help articles but still I think I will need more articles like this to get to know more about it, I think I will opt for a manual entries for the moment. Thanks.

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Dennis @learn electric guitar October 9, 2009 at 7:27 pm

I have a site where I’m promoting clickbank products using affiliate links. It’s quite easy to get an account and affiliate link, but it is imperative that any affiliate link be cloaked or your site will likely not rank well in google.
.-= Dennis @learn electric guitar´s last blog ..Jamorama Review =-.

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Canada flower shops July 24, 2010 at 5:14 am

I really liked your article. Keep up the good work.

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dom July 27, 2011 at 9:38 am

hi derek
interesting subject an done I will be getting to grips with soon – a few questions for you:
1 – how would you compare for example datafeedr with easycontentunits?
2 – can you outsource scriptwriting and how much would yo ulook to pay?
3 -What do you use to write scripts?
4 – I assume these then go off and scrape the sites?

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derek July 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Dom, here is my opinion on your questions…
1 – Unfortunately I’ve never used easycontentunits so I cannot offer a comparison. I can say that I’ve used datafeedr for awhile now and it has been extremely easy to use and setup a full store of products or drip feed of posts.
2 – Outsourcing is a commonly used practice; however, I’ve not done it personally as I’ve been a developer professionally for many years. Often times you do get what you pay for, unless you find that true gem of an outsource developer. Minimum, you’re probably going to pay by the hour at a rate of somewhere around $20-30 on the low end.
3 – Not sure if you are asking about languages or tools, but I’ve always been a nuts-and-bolts kind of developer and use Textpad for most of my development, particularly when writing PHP code. The times I have used an IDE, I’ve gone with NetBeans.
4 – Typically you would be working with a datafeed, which is really just a huge comma separated file (or other delimiter) of data pertaining to affiliate products. You’re not scraping any sites but instead retrieving the datafeed, parsing it or saving to a database, and then finally displaying the data on your site.
Hope that helps some!

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Veronica Cervera@Downtown Miami Condominiums August 3, 2011 at 11:49 pm

The use of 3rd Party Tools I think is the most sensible method to use. The investment you put in should pay off as you go along. The efficiency you get from this is just tremendous. This way you’ll be able to concentrate more on marketing strategies.

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Steve@Electric Cig October 2, 2011 at 8:44 am

I agree with Veronica. Using 3rd Party tools is more reasonable so that you would have enough time to pay attention to your marketing strategy.

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Ray@liverrepair.org September 3, 2011 at 9:39 am

Typically I add in my affiliate links manually up to positions (start, midway and at the end) of my post depending on the length of it. Enjoyed your psot and the info provided…thanks for sharing.

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Lisa Plant September 8, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Derek,
I would say I prefer the manual method for now. You post is so helpful and I learned so much from your tips! Keep it up!

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Adam@Product Configurator March 13, 2012 at 5:27 am

Thanks for posting this up, its really given me some great tips. Keep up the good work.

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