Ninety percent of the links on this blog and my other website are affiliate links. You know, you go on a blog, read about a service or product, click the link to check it out, buy it or sign up for a subscription and the person who referred you gets a cut (usually 4-12%). Sounds great right? Well, it kinda is. And you should be doing this too, especially if you have a website of any description.
Stop doing things ‘for free’
This is one of basic tenants that changed the way I think about ‘work‘. If you’re going to build something just to learn how to build something (do it with a money making goal in mind). If you’re going to share something that will benefit others (then do it and make a little something for your research time).
Case in point my friend Graham wanted to learn how to import product feeds into a centralized location and has been teaching himself to do stuff like that for years but never with a money-making goal in mind. So the knowledge, while he retained it, didn’t get used nearly as frequently because he didn’t have a sustainable purpose for it.
So after ramming the ‘don’t do anything for free’ mantra down his throat he came up with an idea to wrap around his learning desire just in time for Xmas – a website call That Gift that makes buying gifts easy. Seriously, everybody can find some use from his idea and he doesn’t even have to stock any products. Plus because all his links are affiliated, he’s getting back-paid for his time learning how to pull in feeds and building the website, while you get your time cut down trying to find gifts for those impossible-to-buy-for people.
I know all this can all sound seriously money-grubbing but if you think about all the time you’re spending on the internet anyway, then you’re definitely out of pocket whether you like it or not. The internet isn’t free; you have a monthly bill for the privilege to be on this thing, plus if you have a website you’re paying for that plus you potentially look at over 600 ads per day. So start rationalizing affiliate marketing by trying to break even with that £12 a month Virgin Bill or that £2.95 a month DreamHost website hosting bill or just because shops make you look at so much utter rubbish (see how I slipped in a link there?). Now we’re on the same page right?
Where to start with affiliate marketing
If you’re serious about making ‘money from home’ you’ll want to get yourself a blog and blog blog blog. Yeah, it takes time and you’ll probably only find your niche after about a year but you’ll learn the meaning of dedication and how not to annoy people by the end of it. I promise.
You can set up a blog on the cheap if you’re interested (I’m not going to go into how here, but if you want a step by step let me know and I’ll get on it) because none of these affiliate networks will accept you unless you have one, which is kind of a bummer because if they accepted just anyone you and a friend could always use eachother’s affiliate codes when purchasing goods online, thereby always getting a discount.
Only recommend stuff you like and use
Main rule of thumb with affiliate marketing; if it doesn’t make you squeal, don’t push it on others. I’m pretty sure the internet would be a better place if everyone followed that rule. Plus, nobody is going to buy your spiel about how great this new lawnmower is if they know you don’t care about your lawn… or they don’t care about lawns period.
The three main affiliate networks
Right, now we’ve got all that out of the way, there’s three main contenders for my affections when it comes to referring branded products. Those are Affiliate Window, VigLink and SkimLinks. All three have hundreds / thousands of brands that they represent (VigLink claims to have more coverage than both) but each have their own upsides and downs sides. It completely depends on the brands that you want to push to your readers.
Affiliate Window covers retail, telecoms, travel and finance but their dashboard is confusing and their publisher tools aren’t up to scratch. I started with these guys and I’d only recommend them if you really love a brand and want to write about their products and only Affiliate Window represent them.
VigLink has some great tools and over 30,000 merchant links that earn you revenue no matter where the link ends up. Clicks from Twitter, Facebook, emails, RSS feeds, or even the Tumblr dashboard are all clicks that could earn you a commission. While I like them, they do have a habit of turning random words on your website into clickable links. For instance, if you look at the contributor page on my other website (see below) you’ll see that under my bio the word ‘bulldogs’ is highlighted and clickable.
That link takes you out to a super annoying website that tries to sell you bulldog books and iPhone cases (I’d be fine with it if it sold me an actual bulldog…). The VigLink WordPress link did that, and while they do have a certain set of parameters you can change up…
So we’re really left with SkimLinks who have a diverse range of brands they represent, a WordPress plugin which automatcially adds your affiliate code onto any link and a Chrome Browser extension which notifies you when a website you’re on has possible affiliate potential.
While Amazon isn’t considered an Affiliate ‘network’ they do sell everything from replica fat to canned Unicorn meat (you know you want to click on those affiliate links). And so signing up for Amazon Associates is a no brainier. And speaking of massive repositories of goods, iTunes have an affiliate program which is great for anyone who knows someone with an iPhone (unlikely, I know).
The big problem with both of those websites though is that if you have an international audience, and you shorten a product code for an item in the UK store and someone clicks on it in say, Germany you won’t recieve your commission.
International affiliates rejoice
To save time, you want a service that builds you global links and redirects your visitors automatically depending on where they are in the world. This way you don’t miss any commissions because your fan base is in Paraguay. Smartly, this is exactly what GeoRiot does.
Simply add your different Amazon and iTunes accounts (you have to sign up to several and while I say ‘simply’ it does take some doing). Once that’s all done, copy your product link, shorten it with GeoRiots and publish it wherever. A friend asked me the other day what app I was showing her and I shortened the link and sent her that via Instagram (it was actually easier than directing her to the app itself). Everybody wins.
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