Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Blog as Income Stream

One of the big challenges of doing “the affiliate thang” is that it’s often difficult to get people to “do the deed”. By that I mean, you might get them to click from your site to your affiliate site, but getting them to actually BUY something can be a bit of a challenge.

Glossary Item, for those that have been hiding under a rock for many years, or just barely got on the ‘net: An Affiliate Program is a way for a smaller website to refer people to a bigger retailer website, in exchange for commissions.

Here’s how it works. Site A is a small website, maybe an informational site without products or even a merchant account. Site B is a big retailer, like Amazon.com (who put affiliates on the internet map, so to speak). Site owner A signs up with Site B’s affiliate program, and gets some HTML code. That gets pasted into Site A. Visitor C comes to site A, and, their interest piqued, clicks to Site B. Visitor C buys something at Site B. Site B’s affiliate tracking system notes that Visitor C came from Site A (usually that’s encoded in the URL of the link from Site A to Site B). Finally, the accountants from Site B, pays a commission/finder’s fee to Site owner A (usually 5 to 15% of the purchase).

It’s a very easy way for a site owner to add more products to their site. It’s also a very easy way to make some cash. It can be done very profitably. It can also be done wrong.

One of the worst ways to do affiliates is to put a general affiliate link to an irrelevant “Site B” on your main page. Say, I have a website where I sell sports car accessories. If I were to put up on my main page an affiliate link to, say, a toy store, that wouldn’t be too relevant, now, would it? My visitors would not be likely to think, “Oh, my gosh, how convenient. I’d forgotten to buy Johnny that Ninja Turtle figure for his birthday, and now I’ve got the chance at this sports car site to go do that!”

How much better would it be if my site were about children, to then have the link to the toy store.

And how much better would it be if I’ve got a content article on the site about the history of the Ninja Turtles, and, presto, there’s a link someone can click on to jump to the page in the toy store where they can buy that very Ninja Turtle figure. I write about it, I recommend it, and I send people there to buy it. Doesn’t that sound much stronger?

Well, people are discovering that and taking advantage of that. Take, for example, Manolo’s Shoe Blog. He writes about pop culture and fashion, yes, but especially about shoes. And each time he writes about a shoe, there’s a link for the reader to go buy it.

He writes with a certain credibility, and also with a lot of flair. He’s flat out fun to read.

So, why not have a product blog? Or a review blog? The fact that you’ve created a website with a focus gives you an audience. Tap into that audience. Here’s how:

1. Establish a blog

Use the Clicksite Builder to create a blank page, and establish your blog on that page. Use Blogger.com or Xanga.com to create an externally hosted blog.

2. Choose your focus

This should be something that relates to the audience of your site.

3. Find products in that focus

Decide on some specific products that you can comment on. These could be externally sold, through an affiliate program, or even sold through your own website.

4. Find affiliates that sell those products

There are lots and lots of websites out there that have affiliate programs, and products are available in almost all areas. Look in refer-it.com or just Google “Affiliate Directory”, and begin visiting the sites that come up on the list. Look for the products you’ve chosen. Sign up with those sites and get your link codes. Try, most of all, to find affiliate programs that, like amazon.com, allow you to link directly to individual products instead of just their main page.

5. Write reviews and commentaries on the products

The more clever and insightful your comments and reviews, the more your audience will grow, and the more they’ll respect your opinions.

6. Include the affiliate links.

Make sure, above all, to remember the link to the product. You want your readers to be able to link right in and buy it.

There are a lot of really good reasons to explore affiliate product blogging. You can grow the audience for your website and your products. You can establish yourself, over time, as a credible and valuable guru or guide to your audience. And, you can generate some cash flow. That’s always a good thing, isn’t it?

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