Exploring Affiliate Marketing

$100 Bills

Image copyright 401K – Flickr.com

One of my secondary goals for this blog is to learn how to make some money from it, not “quit your day job” money, but at least enough to pay for expenses and still have some extra pocket change left.

To that end, I recently joined the Affiliate Program for StudioPress, creators of the Genesis Theme Framework for WordPress.

This post kicks off a five-part series about setting your blog up for affiliate marketing based on my trials and tribulations. The rest of the series will talk about: creating disclosure and privacy policies; whether to use the nofollow attribute in your affiliate links; and the merits of cloaking your links.

Today, I’ll summarize how affiliate programs work, what prompted me to become an affiliate, and why I chose StudioPress as my first program.

How does an affiliate program work?

An affiliate program pays you a commission whenever someone purchases a product through a text link or banner on your blog. Each merchant assigns you a unique code (usually a text string of letters and numbers) that identifies your account when someone navigates to their site or product page through your links.

For example, if you click on a text link like this one, or the StudioPress banner in my sidebar, a cookie is left in your browser telling StudioPress that you clicked on one of my affiliate links/banners. If you purchase a Genesis theme anytime during that sixty-day window, I get a thirty-five percent commission.

Some merchants, like StudioPress, use an affiliate network (ShareASale) to manage their affiliate program. Others, like HostGator, go it alone and manage the affiliate program using their own internal staff. The benefits of affiliate networks include reporting tools (metrics) and payment aggregation.

Either the merchant or its affiliate network will provide you with the HTML code for your text links and banners which you can place anywhere on your blog.

An opportunity presents itself

I hadn’t planned on monetizing The Hobby Blogger so soon. I was trying to follow the oft-recommended advice to build a significant audience first.

However, early this year I received an email from a reader who was considering Genesis for his blog, and wanted to know if it was difficult to set up my theme. I crafted an honest reply about how simple it was to set up the Prose theme while also describing why I choose it over the other Genesis child themes, but I didn’t send the email right away.

I thought this was an excellent opportunity to get a possible commission as a StudioPress affiliate, so I immediately signed up for an account with their affiliate network, ShareASale. After I was approved, I then applied to StudioPress’s affiliate program.

Now that I knew I’d be a StudioPress affiliate within a couple of days I was ready to send my email response. I added one more paragraph to the end of the email saying that I’d be an affiliate in a couple days. I said that if he did decide to go with Genesis, I’d appreciate if he would return to The Hobby Blogger and click on the affiliate banner before making his purchase.

StudioPress approved me the next morning, so I was able to get their banner on my sidebar less than two days after receiving and responding to that reader’s email.

Why StudioPress?

I partnered with StudioPress simply because, so far, I’m very happy with the Prose child theme that powers this blog. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Easy design changes. You can tweak most of your blog’s design elements (fonts, background colors, spacing, borders, etc.) using widgets in the WordPress Dashboard. This feature is huge because other themes usually require editing CSS files to make similar changes.
  • Free plugins. StudioPress also offers plugins to extend the ease and functionality of their themes. Simple URLs is one that I use to make my affiliate links user-friendly and track which ones are clicked. While there are other plugins that offer the same functionality, I’m assured that the StudioPress plugins will integrate well with their themes and always be kept up to date.
  • Good support. Whenever I’ve had questions, I’ve been able to find answers in their support forum. Questions receive quick responses (usually less than twenty-four hours).

Check out B2Web for another, more in-depth review of the Prose Theme, which also points out an important limitation regarding the inability to use content widgets on static homepages.

But what about the reader who emailed me?

I never heard back from him, but I hope my email was still helpful.

So maybe I went through all that trouble of quickly becoming an affiliate for nothing, and it’s possible the ads might stunt my blog’s growth by turning off new visitors. I guess I could just take down the banners until my traffic has grown more significant.

Meh. At this point, learning the ins and outs of blogging is more important to me than making a buck. If nothing else, it’s a good challenge to elevate my content to help make up for any traffic lost because of the ads.

But if you are looking for a theme for your blog, I’d appreciate it if you clicked here or on the StudioPress banner in my sidebar first.

How about you? Did you monetize right away or wait until you built a solid following?

This series continues with:
Earning Money From Your Blog? Better Post a Disclosure Policy
Win Your Readers’ Trust with a Custom Privacy Policy for Your Blog
NoFollow Affiliate Links? What Blogger’s Need to Know to Save PageRank
7 Convincing Reasons Why You Should Cloak Your Blog’s Affiliate Links

Article by Bryan Kerr

I love breaking down the techie side of blogging into easy-to-understand tutorials. That's mostly what you'll find here on The Hobby Blogger.

Comments

  1. Hi Bryan,

    I start my first Affiliate Program with Woothemes. That is a great Affiliate Program, StudioPress is too. I always consider affiliate marketing is the best way for those who want to make money online, just join and promote it yourself, once day you will see the result (with a plan)

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      Yeah, becoming an affiliate of your theme maker seems like the easiest way to start, as it’s natural to endorse something you’ve paid money to use. Plus, the high commission rates are very enticing.

  2. I love my amazon affiliate account. I don’t really make much money off of it but it allows me to link books that I talk about (or equipment that I write about on my husbands site) to give the readers information and a way to get it if they want it too. I would link to it anyways as a favor to the reader, with the affiliate, I can get cut for it if they do buy it.

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      Thanks for commenting, Lorilee. Your blog is perfect for Amazon because it touches on a wide array of issues for which Amazon almost always has a related product. As your traffic grows, I’ll bet it becomes more lucrative for you.

  3. Hi Bryan, I thought you only discuss on technical things on wordpress.

    You have great insight on make money from blog too. I have the same interest here about affiliate marketing. I think I have overlooked something here about “build and audiences first”. I have done it in parallel, and it seems the result grow slowly.

    Furthermore I have learn something about do affiliate for first time bloggers. Pick a product that most people going to need it. And you have it with your StudioPress Bryan, that was great.

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      One advantage of monetizing early is that you don’t have to worry about turning off readers that were used to visiting your blog without ads. And I think/hope that monetizing slowly as we go along will ease our audiences into the advertising instead of just shocking them sometime down the road by suddenly adding a bunch of ads all at once.

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