Ads Under the Radar: Linking to Affiliates.
One way to get a good income stream without doing anything that looks very much like advertising is to add affiliate links to your content. They're just links, they don't annoy anyone, and you can choose where you do and don't want to put them. Sounds ideal, doesn't it? Read on...
How Does Affiliate Linking Work?
Step by step, it works like this:
1. You become an affiliate. This works by you going to various online stores, looking at their product range and what benefits they offer to affiliates, and then signing up as an affiliate with the store that makes the most sense.
2. You write about products the affiliate carries. This might take the form of a review, or just a casual mention in a related article.
3. You link to the product at the store, using your affiliate code in the link. This affiliate code lets the store track that the customer came from your link.
4. For each customer you send their way who actually goes through with it and buys the product, they pay you a percentage of the product's price.
You can see the power that this model could have for a lot of sites – if you have a hundred thousand visitors, it doesn't take a very large percentage of your visitors to buy that product before it starts to add up to quite a lot of money for you.
Amazon: the Web's Biggest Affiliate Store.
The most popular affiliate store at the moment is Amazon.com, without a doubt. Why? Because it has such a huge range of products, from books to DVDs to truly obscure things. In terms of books especially, Amazon prides itself in having a listing for everything that exists, and selling as much of it as it can. That means that whatever you want to review, the chances are that Amazon sells it – you're not as limited as you are with other online stores, where you can only make affiliate links to things they happen to be selling this week, and maybe they'll stop selling them sometime after that.
What does this mean to you? Well, imagine you run a book review site. Without being blatant about it, at the end of each article you can put a link that says something like "read more reviews of this book at Amazon". This link then goes to the product's page on Amazon, where there are indeed customer reviews – not to mention the option to buy the book. If it's a good book, this approach means that many people will click the link to see the reviews, and then buy it when they're favourable. I've split-tested this, and "read more reviews" produced almost twice as many conversions as "buy this book", making it a very good strategy.
Hang on a sec, though. What about those of us who don't run book review sites? Well, whatever your site covers, I'm sure someone, somewhere writes books about it. Just introduce a regular 'book review' feature, where you review the latest books in your area of expertise, and then have the 'more reviews' affiliate link at the end. Give books bad reviews occasionally, despite the lack of affiliate income this produces, as it gives your reviews more long-term credibility than if you seem to love everything.
Done right, a book review every week or so can be a good supplementary source of income for your website. After a while, entirely random search engine visitors will start finding your book reviews in searches, and clicking through to Amazon from your site. I have year-old reviews that regularly make a few dollars per week – it might not seem like much, but over time it can add up to a pretty significant amount.
Note: If you're worried about paying more for books than you make back, remember that you don't even have to buy the books yourself to review them – get them from a library!