Most bloggers I know are part of at least one affiliate program. You can be an affiliate for a specific event (like BlogWorld), you can be an affiliate for a friend’s product, or you can join a large multi-product affiliate program, such as Amazon. For each product your readers buy, you’ll get a percentage of the sales, so you can make a tidy sum if you’re promoting a product that’s popular among your readers.
But if you’re selling your own products as well, could affiliate promotion be hurting your bottom line?
I’m of the opinion that competition is a good thing in the blogging world. Readers are always looking for new, interesting opinions or advice on the same topic, and just because someone visits your competition doesn’t mean that they won’t also visit your website.
When you’re talking about dollars, though, you have to be careful that your affiliate programs aren’t stealing your readers’ money from you. Say you’re selling a product called “How to Grow Tomatoes Organically.” If you’re also promoting and affiliate product called “Organic Tomatoes 101,” your readers may not have enough money to buy both. If you’re heavily promoting your affiliate products, they might not even realize that you’ve actually written one of the items that’s for sale via your website. They’ll just pick the one that sounds most relevant, and you’ll end up with a percentage of the sales instead of the entire profit from your own product.
In other words, when you’re promoting your own product, promote affiliate programs that are complementary, but that aren’t so like your own product that readers feel like they should only buy one or the other.
When I was seven years old, I had two best friends. The problem? I was only allowed to have one person come over for a birthday sleepover. The entire week, my friends were pulling me in either direction, trying to convince me that they were really my best friend, better than the other girl. It was tiring to have my attention split like that, and in the end, I didn’t invite either girl and instead had my cousin over for pie and ice cream.
The point of my story? When you split your readers’ attentions between multiple products, they’re more likely to freeze and not buy anything at all. That’s why you see people launch products on their own sales page, not on a page within a blog. You want your readers to be paying attention to your product. Mentioning affiliates is fine, but keep in mind that during your product launch, you need to avoid heavy promotion of other products. If you don’t, no one buys anything and everyone loses.
To go along with the above point, if you’re promoting too many products, your readers are going to start to tune you out. Essentially, you become white noise, even when you’re promoting your own product, rather than affiliate products. Pick and choose what you want to promote to your email list or on your website. Too many sales pitches and people will be overstimulated, which leads, once again, to not buying anything. Worse, they might get annoyed with all the sales-y emails they get from you, causing them to unsubscribe or stop reading your website.
Not every product out there is a winner, unfortunately. I’ve purchased products or signed up for memberships to programs that sounded awesome but, in the end, weren’t right for me. I’ve never come across something that was complete crap, though I’m sure they exist, but when I’m convinced to purchase a product that isn’t right for me, it makes me trust the person who recommended it a little less. How much do they *really* know me?
This goes beyond only promoting products that you actually like. That’s a no-brainer. If you’re promoting products you don’t like just because there’s a good affiliate percentage, you’re a pile of poo, which is blogging ethics 101.
Remember, though, that not every product is right for every reader. Don’t just tell your readers to buy – give them a review and tell them when not to buy. For example, I recently purchased a membership to something that was more of a 101 course than I thought, and I felt like I wasted my money and time on it. The website that recommended it to me never mentioned how simplified it is, so now I’m less likely to buy other products they recommend, even their own products.
You get people to trust you by giving really advice, and if you’re just promoting tons of affiliate programs to your audience, you’re going to miss the mark a lot. Unfortunately, that hurts your bottom line in the end.
A Final Word
I hope this post hasn’t inspired you to stop promoting affiliate programs completely. I’m a fan of affiliate programs and use quite a few myself on After Graduation and Binge Gamer. You just have to be smart what you promote and how you promote it. Otherwise, you’re not only going to lose readers, but you’re going to lose sales.
Allison Boyer is a writer for BWE’s blog and the owner/manager of After Graduation. Yes, she always had birthday pie instead of birthday cake as a child. And it was glorious.
Image credit: sxc.hu