While each blog is different, many bloggers have found success with affiliate advertising. I have used a variety of affiliate ads and links on my blog, below I will share the ones I have used and my experiences with them:
AdSense – Google AdSense is an incredibly easy way to generate revenue for your blog, especially if you are using Blogger as your platform. Blogger keeps it simple – offering AdSense as a widget you can place most anywhere on your blog in a variety of styles; it also offers AdSense in your Blog Post setup.
AdSense gets a bad rap for many reasons – you never know exactly what will be advertised on your site, Google can ban you if they even think you’re clicking your own links, and few find it to be profitable. I am one of the few who likes AdSense and finds it worth the space on my blog.
In the AdSense backend, you can choose what types of ads you allow on your blog – I have chosen to blog sensitive topics like religion, politics, and get rich quick schemes; I have also chosen to blog entire categories like Real Estate which don’t fit with the topic of my blog. The longer you have AdSense, the better quality and the more appropriate the ads become. When I started, I would get text links in a box, now I am advertising popular apparel brands. Also the longer you have AdSense, the more money you make from it. I can recall years where I hardly made $30 from my ads, now I make enough to make it very worthwhile.
AdSense states you need to reach the “payment threshold” to get paid; the site doesn’t seem to currently state what that threshold is, but for me it has always been $100, and payment is received via direct deposit into my account around the 26th of the month.
BlogHer – BlogHer is a site, a community, an annual conference, and an advertising program. You must apply to be part of BlogHer’s publishing program, and they don’t accept every type of blog. BlogHer also has many pros and cons, you need to know how you envision the future of your blog before considering it.
When you have BlogHer ads on your site, you are committing to their editorial guildelines, which means a blog that has integrity, and a blog that does NOT, “Contain editorial content that has been commissioned and paid for by a third party, and/or contain paid advertising links and/or spam. Every opinion expressed must be the true opinion of the author.” Essentially, this means you can’t do sponsored posts. They also restrict giveaways and reviews of gifted items (I have created a second URL where I write about such posts, with a teaser and link on my main blog). If you plan on becoming a professional blogger, you may find BlogHer’s guidelines too restrictive to be profitable.
However, BlogHer provides me with more revenue than any other avenue. They require you to have at least one of their ads on your blog above the fold, and that ad offer links to other blogs’ articles – these links change almost daily and once a week or so you will see your blog in those links. This little feature brings quite a lot of traffic back to your site. BlogHer also has many giveaway and review programs with quality brands like Olay and Nordstrom; when you are chosen to participate in such a program you not only get the free product, but are paid a substantial amount and BlogHer advertises your post on their main site. BlogHer also has many other programs where you can increase your ad earning for a month, get paid for Tweeting about BlogHer promotions, and they will occasionally ask to syndicate one of your posts and pay you for doing so.
BlogHer pays per impression, not per click of the ad, so the more visited your site, the more money you make as a blogger. You can also have more than one ad unit on your site – I have the main one in my sidebar, but I also have a second one above my blog header. They offer several different popular sizes of ads to work with most any blog layout.
Burst Media – Burst Media is an ad network that I can most closely compare to GoogleAdSense – when approved, you can have ads of varying sizes on your site, but don’t pick the specific content of the ad. It is just for advertising boxes and banners, not for affiliate links. Like GoogleAdSense you can choose to NOT allow certain types of ads (audio, pop-overs, etc.) or certain types of advertisers. Burst Media creates a custom fit for your specific blog, so it’s hard to really discuss revenue, style, etc. However for me, I had to have a “TV” page on my blog (see here) with videos from Burst to be able to place ads, but then can do as I wish with size and placement of ads.
Commission Junction – Commission Junction is one of the oldest affiliate ad programs out there, and the site really shows it. However, Commission Junction is associated with many of the popular online retailers (Zappos, Piperlime, Bluefly, Old Navy) and many of the web-popular brands (eShakti, Shabby Apple, Ruche, Gilt). You need to be accepted by each retailer to use them on your blog – some retailers have automatic acceptance, others will review and notify you later by email.
The Commission Junction site is slow, dated, and confusing. The best way to handle it is to apply to all the retailers you feel are appropriate to your blog, and then when you actually wish for a link or ad, click on “Get Links” and then “By Relationship.” This way, you bypass all the brands you don’t have a partnership with and can quickly find appropriate links.
RewardStyle – RewardStyle is one of the newer affiliate programs on the block, and has become quite popular. Like Commission Junction, RewardStyle is a commission-based program – you get paid when your reader shops (and if your reader returns her purchase, you lose your commission). Unlike Commission Junction, RewardStyle’s site is very easy to navigate – you can search by retailer and find a variety of attractive button and banner ads for your sidebar, or search product for text links. They also offer popular designer brands, hot online retailers, and a variety of fashion, beauty, and home products. RewardStyle also offers a “Recently Sold” feature which can help inspire you to write a post about items that are selling well in the blogosphere.
RewardStyle also has a social part called CurrentlyObsessed – this is a site where your readers can see what items on the web you are currently obsessed with. Within RewardStyle you can “heart” any item you love, and it will display on your CurrentlyObsessed page – if a reader purchases from that page you will receive a commission. CurrentlyObsessed offers a variety of banner ads that you can place on your blog to not only direct readers to your page, but to also increase sales.
RewardStyle pays via PayPal, and you need a minimum of $100.00 to receive a payment. Different sites take a different amount of time for sales to “close” (usually 90 days) – this gives readers a chance to return or exchange their purchase. RewardStyle also has a referral program – if RewardStyle approves your friend’s blog you can receive commission on all her sales for a year.
One of the best parts of RewardStyle is their customer service – they are quick to answer emails, check up on new members, and offer advice to have a better experience with their tool. Quite refreshing in this day and age!
ShopSense – ShopSense is associated with ShopStyle and Sugar Inc., and is a site that offers ad units (though they are a bit unusual looking), product widgets, text links, product photos, and even a Polyvore-esque collage/layout editor. Like RewardStyle, ShopSense partners with some of the most popular online retailers.
ShopSense pays per click, and what that price is no one exactly knows. Per the ShopSense site, “You shall receive payments based on the number of Qualified Clicks generated from your ShopSense site (and the associated revenue generated from our Merchant Partners as a result of those Qualified Clicks), the amount determined solely by Company at its complete discretion.” ShopSense also pays via PayPal, and requires a minimum of $100 to receive payment.
While this all may sound really unappealing, ShopSense is my favorite site for product links and photos. Their “Multi-Product Widget” tool is a great add-on to the bottom of posts; if I discuss cashmere sweaters I can add a widget of cashmere sweaters to the post for readers to peruse and possibly click a link they like. Finding a link is super easy, type a description in the Individual Product Widget’s Search feature and you will find images and descriptions for tons of relevant products. Once you find the item you wish to feature on your blog, you can choose to share an image (which links to the actual product), or a link (so you can hyperlink existing text in your post). Since the site is connected to ShopStyle, there’s some fabulous tools where you can blog straight from ShopSense or share a product directly to Facebook.
ShopSense is pretty slow with replying to emails, I have found the best success with Tweeting them when I have a question or problem.
Individual Affiliate Programs (Shabby Apple, Karen Kane, Apothica, etc.) – Often a brand will contact you directly offering an affiliate program. Usually the deal is if you put an ad in your sidebar with a custom URL, you receive a percentage of the sales made from your readers clicking to their site from the ad. I did this in the past… and made very little money. With one popular brand, I had the ad up for a year and only made $5, and they didn’t do payouts until $50. With another brand, they notified me when a sale had been made, but never replied back to emails on how to get my payment or what the actual total would be. I have heard of companies not paying bloggers, changing the terms and trying to pay in merchandise, and never hearing from the brands after putting up the ad.
For such programs, really consider your readers – do you really think they will click on those ads and make purchases? Will they purchase enough to justify so much sidebar real estate for the ad? Contact other bloggers who have such ads on their site – how has communication been with the brand, how are they with payments? Only choose to partner with a company with a good reputation and that fits your personal blog’s style.
It is extremely appealing to make money off of a hobby or passion, but it is more important to stay true to your personal brand. Don’t litter your blog with any old way of making money – choose ads and brands that speak to your readers, choose a blog layout that makes ads visible yet doesn’t have ads take away from your content. Watch the stats with each ad program – are you making enough to justify having it on your site? Sometimes certain sizes of ads are more appealing to an audience or on a blog than another – tinker with sizes and styles to find what is most effective and attractive for your specific blog. And if you have questions, your fellow CAPFABBers are here to help!
Alison Gary is the author behind Wardrobe Oxygen, a Washington DC-based fashion advice and personal style blog. Alison has been blogging for six years, and over time has learned the right ad combination to support her leopard-print shoe addiction.