It is natural for bloggers who start to gather a following to consider revenue opportunities to reward their time and effort.
Google AdSense is a popular option for its plug and play nature. Sadly, it tends to be a disappointing source of income for most bloggers. The average RPM (revenue per thousand impressions of an ad) is fairly low in most niches, so you won’t get much side income from AdSense unless you have a very large audience. For example, if you average $3 RPM, you need a thousand visitors per day to pay for your daily latte (or more if you frequent Starbucks).
Bloggers who look around and explore their options a little more in-depth, may find the lucrative world of affiliate marketing. It’s a simple idea really. Imagine that I create a product and then want you to help me sell as many of it as possible. You, the affiliate, will promote the product for me through your blog. When a sale is made thanks to you (we’ll track that through a special link and browser cookies), I’ll give a portion of that sale to you. The percentage varies but it can be very high, with 50% being the norm for digital products.
If you are unscrupulous you could promote all sort of junk to make a buck, whether you honestly think it’s worth recommending or not. You could even promote products that you down right know suck, and still get your cut. And it turns out people actually do just this. As a result, affiliate marketers have a very bad reputation, despite there being nothing inherently wrong with receiving money for providing a marketing service.
Amazon Associates was one of the earliest and, currently, largest affiliate programs around. The operating margins are much smaller for Amazon, so the percentage that you get for each sale is rather small compared to that of most products online. We’re talking about 4-8.50% for most items, instead of the 50-75% you’d get from other digital products you could be promoting. Furthermore, with Amazon you don’t generally receive recurring referral revenue like you do with other digital products that charge a monthly fee and not a one-off fee.
Amazon’s operating agreement also requires you to be above-board when it comes to the way you go about promoting their products. Other affiliate programs online may gladly close one eye on your techniques if you are moving sales and making them money.
To further make Amazon less appealing to some affiliates, the referral cookie only lasts 24 hours, versus 30 or 60 days, which is common for online sales of digital products. This means that if you refer someone to Amazon.com today, and they were to buy a product three days from now, you won’t be getting anything at all. With more common affiliate relationships, you’d be getting a cut even if the user were to make a purchasing decision a month and a half after the first visit you generated (assuming that they didn’t clear their cookies, that is).
As a result, Amazon Associates is often ignored or berated by large affiliates. In fact it’s even a much underrated revenue option among bloggers. Amazon, and not AdSense, should be the first go-to option for bloggers looking to earn some money from their blogs. Amazon Associates is, and has been for years now, my number one source of blogging income.
To make this case, below I list a series of reasons why I recommend giving Amazon Associates a serious shot, despite its shortcomings.
Reason #1: Amazon Associates is straightforward and dependable
Once you sign up and provide the details of how you’d like to be paid (cheque, direct deposit, or gift certificate) you’ll receive your payments once you’ve reached or crossed the pre-established threshold limit (e.g., $100, with a two month delay for the payment). If you move enough sales, after two months, you’ll be receiving a steady monthly paycheck from them.
Other affiliate programs can make you jump through hoops to sign up and get approved, or may require certain conditions to be met before issuing payments (e.g., ClickBank’s requirement for five different credit card purchases before releasing the funds, which progressively reduces the amount that you’re owed over time until you get those five separate credit card payments).
Reason #2: Amazon’s cookie has site-wide coverage, and is not just limited to a specific product
Yes, you only get a 24-hour window, but in that timeframe you’ll get a cut of anything a referred visitor buys, not just the product you pointed out to them. I’ve had visitors buy all sorts of expensive and odd items when they left my site to check out a $10 book on Amazon. And trust me, pink vibrators can add up quickly. 🙂
Reason #3: Amazon has a humongous inventory of extremely reputable products
You don’t have to promote “belly fat secrets” on your blog to make a buck. Their huge selection of high-quality books and other products, means that you can be selective and only recommend or point out items you truly believe are worth your readers’ time and investment. You can select books that are entirely relevant to your topic of expertise, and review products you have actually read/tried/consumed.
Reason #4: People trust Amazon
Being such a well established household name implies that most of your visitors won’t think twice about putting a purchase through on Amazon. Many will have accounts already, and perhaps even have their credit card stored on the site for quick checkouts. This in turn means that more people will buy instead of second guessing whether it’s safe to use the shopping cart.
Reason #5: Amazon is a master at converting visitors into customers
Amazon spends millions of dollars in research to optimize the amount of sales they squeeze out of new and existing customers. All you really need to do is send people to Amazon and they’ll do a good job themselves for the most part. Of course, if you are considered a trustworthy expert in your field and you send people to Amazon to check out a specific item, your conversion rate will be even higher.
Reason #6: The percentage of your cut raises in a given month, as you sell more items
The more products you sell, the greater the percentage of your total sales will be awarded to you. You start at a very low 4%, but can reach the 8% range in a relatively short amount of time (if your sales are good).
I strongly encourage you to give Amazon Associates a go.
Update: Several people wrote me asking for further details on how to make money with the Amazon Associates program. I’ll repeat here what I suggested privately via email:
- In my book on technical blogging, I go in-depth about techniques that can help ensure that you get most out of this program (including statistics about my income, if you need further guidance to maximize your own earnings).
- The Easy Azon plugin is super-handy and a time saver if you plan to feature Amazon links in your WordPress-based blog or site.