Are You Giving Away Free Advertising with Affiliate Links/Buttons?

This is a blog post by Anita Campbell, the Founder and Editor of Small Business Trends.

After you’ve had a website or blog a while and it starts to get some traction, you’re bound to be contacted by companies wanting you to join their affiliate program. They ask you to put affiliate links, banners and graphics on your site.

At first you may be flattered, thinking, “I’ve finally made it. Somebody thinks my website or blog is important enough to become an affiliate.”

But try it a few times. Soon you will start to wonder if it is a good idea to give in to flattery and join all such affiliate programs so willingly.

My own experience with affiliate programs is mixed. I’ve had one that I consider a success (free business magazines at I’ve tried a dozen others that were duds — big zeros. And I’ve had a couple that I would call merely OK – steady but pretty small numbers (such as Associates).

I believe in affiliate programs. But I also think you must work hard to assess an affiliate program’s chances for success before jumping in. Every readership is different. Know your audience! What appeals to one audience may be a complete waste on another.

In each case when I tried an affiliate program that failed, mainly it was because the offering did not suit my audience. For instance, my audience are heavy seekers of information. They tend to like credible information products, like trade magazines. I have also had luck with carefully selected products such as a small business newsletter and signups for webinars.

However, I have never had much luck pitching gadgets, such as smart phones or digital cameras or printers. It’s just not that kind of audience.

I even once tried an affiliate program where you send in your old mobile phone and get paid – you don’t have to spend a dime and actually get money back! ( I thought for sure that would be a big hit. Sadly I was mistaken. My audience just doesn’t try out new phones that often.

On a different kind of site, such as a cell-phone discussion forum or mobile gadget blog, that turn-in-your-phone program might have been wildly popular. But not on my general business site!

What’s the downside of picking the wrong affiliate program? Besides wasting time and not making your asset (your site) work for you to earn money, another big issue is that you are actually giving away free advertising space. Those affiliate-vendors are having their ads displayed on your site, but not paying you CPM rates for the privilege. It’s a good deal for them. Free advertising and all they had to do was send an email and create an affiliate program and offer a couple of banners. Can you blame them for wanting as many affiliates as possible? More affiliates = more free advertising across the Web.

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