Monetizing Your Blog with Affiliate Ads

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If you’ve built a blog and are beginning to get some traffic, launching some affiliate ad programs may be a good way to bring in some extra income. However, affiliate advertising differs from traditional advertising in that you’ll generally only receive a paycheck if your ad results in a purchase from the affiliated site. In some cases, you may give tens of thousands of ad impressions for just a few dollars; in others, you might make hundreds or thousands on a single campaign.

I’ve periodically run affiliate ads on, the site dedicated to positive news that my husband Jeff and I have owned and operated since 2009, and the affiliate programs have brought in anywhere up to several hundred dollars a month in supplemental income. Here’s what we’ve learned about making it work.

Research affiliate programs carefully. You can sign up for as many affiliate programs as you like, but it’s more difficult to collect your earnings, since many have minimum payout amounts. Look into signing with two or three larger programs, and base your decision on the affiliate commission and the number of products you’ll be able to link to: We use Amazon’s affiliate service for just about everything, since you can link to any book, CD, toy, game, or just about anything else you can think of directly on the site. (However, some states have banned site owners from collecting Amazon affiliate income due to tax reasons, so make sure you’re in compliance before joining the program.) If you’re interested in promoting individual e-books and other online services, an affiliate program like CommissionJunction will have many options available.

Choose the right products for the audience. It may seem like common sense, but don’t run affiliate ads for hearing aids on a website aimed at teens, or promote candy bars on a healthy eating site. In our case, the ads that typically perform the best are those that fit our “good news” theme, such as books and movies featuring inspiring, heartwarming stories. Because our audience is heavily female, we also have been successful with promotions for women’s shoes and other femme-friendly products.

Pay attention to timing. Generally, people will be looking to purchase products connected to specific events at least several weeks in advance of the event. Wait until the week of Halloween to post your round-up of the best kids’ costumes with affiliate links, and you’ve probably missed your sales window. We’ve found that the month leading up to Christmas is our prime time for affiliate sales, and we’ve capitalized on this by publishing gift recommendations starting around the end of November.

Don’t forget to disclose. In December 2009, the FTC determined that bloggers and content writers must disclose when they have a financial relationship to a company they’re promoting in a post, even if they haven’t earned any money from it yet. If you frequently publish content with affiliate links, consider adding a disclosure page to your website, such as this example from the Affiliate Marketing Blog. Failing to disclose could cause problems: Witness the recent controversy over Pinterest profiting from user-added content as a cautionary case study.