Some good tips. I fully agree that it’s all about trust and it is always good to recommend an affiliate product that you have actually used. Why risk your reputation on a product you don’t know if it’s any good or not? If people buy one dodgy product from your site, they will probably never make that mistake again. That it why my blog strongly advocates ethical affiliate marketing. It’s the best long term stragey for affiliate marketing success.
If you would like to take a more subtle approach, include a product or service from your company that relates into your blog post. For example, let’s say that you are a wine connoisseur and that is what your blog is based around. In any post that is enticing your readers to open up a good bottle of Merlot or what have you, it would be wise to embed an ad for a quality, easy-to-use wine opener, wine glasses or stoppers that keep the wine fresh.
Many affiliate programs will often run promotions with good discounts or giveaways that might be attractive to your audience. For example, if you're an Amazon Associate and the site have a big Holiday Sale, it would be the perfect opportunity for you to promote discounts to your website visitors. This is a great way to promote your offers while also providing good value to your audience.
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Outbrain is not necessarily the network of choice, it was just an example. As for tracking the ROI usually you'll want to track campaigns in Google analytics and track clicks on affiliate links as event and average value/email or you'll want to duplicate the post and run paid traffic to the duplicate so you know exactly what the conversions are as you can put them in separate email lists etc too.
Will my target audience realistically spend this amount for the product? Again, your reputation is on the line here. Is the product you are thinking of promoting priced reasonably for your audience? When I was writing my ebook, I was stuck on pricing. I asked around for opinions. A number of people suggested I price my ebook at $47! Their idea was to price according to value, not size. In my mind that was crazy. My network was composed of a lot of stay-at-home bloggers, and my collective audience was comprised mostly of people without a whole lot of disposable income. There was no way anyone was going to pay $47 for my 30-page ebook.
Take advantage of affiliate program freebies when available. Many affiliate programs provide free printables, guides, webinars or other lead magnets designed to get potential customers in their sales funnel. As an affiliate, you can share these freebies with your audience using your affiliate link so if they eventually make a purchase, you’ll earn a commission, but if they don’t they still get value upfront.
Always fill out the comment box to “sell” your platform. If you are given the opportunity to explain why you are interested in a program, do it! Use the space to highlight why you would be an asset to the program. Talk about how your audience is their audience. Talk about the size of your mailing list (if it’s significant). Talk about your success with similar programs. Talk about where and how you will promote (hopefully you’ve done a bit of research so you know what they’re hoping for). Don’t sound desperate and certainly don’t lie about anything, but be upfront and honest about how this will be a win for them.
Websites consisting mostly of affiliate links have previously held a negative reputation for underdelivering quality content. In 2005 there were active changes made by Google, where certain websites were labeled as "thin affiliates". Such websites were either removed from Google's index or were relocated within the results page (i.e., moved from the top-most results to a lower position). To avoid this categorization, affiliate marketer webmasters must create quality content on their websites that distinguishes their work from the work of spammers or banner farms, which only contain links leading to merchant sites.