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There’s two times when, as a blogger, you’ll be offered a spot in someone’s affiliate program: If you are a reviewer of their products, or, if they’re just trying to get free advertising from you.
I’m betting a number of you are going to think that the second reason sounds pretty harsh, right? I’ll share my opinion on this and ask other experienced review bloggers to chime in with comments.
Yes, I do belong to a few affiliate programs but only for places that I review for (or once reviewed for). The only one that makes me any amount of money worth mentioning is from EdenFantasys, and that’s primarily because I review the most often for them (plus, personal feelings from anyone aside, you have to admit that they walk the line between overstocking worthless crap like Sextoy . com and not carrying many options like VibeReview . com, all while offering pretty decent prices. Options + prices + lack of total sleaze = most like to be bought from). By actively reviewing for a company I am an affiliate of, I’m putting my affiliate links “out there” in numerous posts. I might make the occasional (VERY occasional) sale with places I reviewed for years ago but kept my affiliate account (VibeReview, Babeland) but it’s rare.
I once belonged to an affiliate program that I was NOT a reviewer for and I only did it because I already genuinely liked the site – Kink.com. I had a rotating banner widget to show their various sites to appeal to various readers, I occasionally wrote about them (ok, twice) but never once did I make an affiliate sale.
So try to imagine the star-aligning moment that would have to occur for you to make any sales on an affiliate program that merely resides as a banner in your sidebar. A reader would have to notice it, and then click on it, and then purchase something from the click from your site. I touched on this topic briefly when I wrote up the Basics of Paid Advertising on the Sex Blogger Education section of e[lust], but given the deluge of affiliate program offers that I (and undoubtedly many other bloggers like me) have received in the last month I just had to write more about this.
Their numbers might sound dazzling. 10-20% of every sale? A percentage of those affiliates who sign up under me?? Free to join??? (wait, this smells a little like an MLM scheme, or is that just me?) But trust me on this: They’re going to get a lot more from this largely-one-sided relationship than you are just in free advertising alone. They want their name out there in Google land, that’s what it boils down to, and they don’t want to pay for it.
You’re worth more than a one-sided relationship that just uses your good heart and lies to you, aren’t you?
Added 7-11-11: A special caution regarding International companies:
I’m prompted to add this because of an email I received today from a retailer and a follow-up question from another blogger who received a email from the same retailer. I strongly caution against joining an affiliate program when they are based in another country than you, unless you know that most of your readers are from that other country. If you’re a US-based blogger, most of your traffic is also probably US visitors. If I look at my primary stat counter site, it tells me that 52% of my visitors are from the US, 24% are “unknown”, and only 5% are from the UK. My secondary stat site (which doesn’t log as many visitors as the first, 5000 vs 500, respectively) says that 60% of my visitors are from the US and 16% are from the UK. The second site tends to do a little better capturing IP-location data than the first.
So unless you are actively reviewing for a company that is not in your own country, odds are that you won’t ever make much by just being in their affiliate program. And even if you did review for them, you’d have to be really good at SEO tactics to get in UK dwellers to read your review and purchase from your affiliate links.
So yet again…..it’s free advertising for them.