Advertising vs Affiliate Programs

The difference between advertising and affiliate programs explored in detail to provide some insight into what a website should use to make money

There are no short amount of people new to web entrepreneurial activities who are wondering just what the difference is between these two ways of making money, or possibly unaware of what affiliate programs are. Herein I will discuss the two by first writing about the difference between them and then by discussing the results of pursuing one or the other.

The basic manner in which they both function is similar, they both appear on your page and are meant to get the attention of people reading it, more often than not intending to get them to click the links. The difference is simple, though. When a website makes money by using advertisements they are paid to advertise a product, hence are paid based on either how many people click the advertisement or how many people view the page. When a website makes money based on affiliate programs, they are paid based on how many people buy the product in question after linking from their page. This brings up a number of potential issues from a money making approach and from a moral perspective.

The results of using affiliate programs on the whole tends to be better, from my observations, than using advertisements. The affiliate companies tend to pay quite a bit, ranging from $1 per person for signing up with a free account up to figures such as $1000 per person signing up for some paid club, such as a travel club. Clearly when compared to advertising, which would be pushing it to pay $1 for a click, affiliate programs offer the most but there is a cost involved. Morally, affiliate programs are troubling. This applies especially if your website is attempting at all to have some kind of neutrality. After-all, if I review a product and pan it, then have a link under the review selling the same product with an affiliate link, less people are likely to buy it. Thus, it is in my benefit to positively review it, creating a clear bias. Most sites I have seen with affiliate links go out of their way to try and distort this bias, but it is always there.

Anyway, that is the essentially difference between the two. Affiliate links offer more money, but you have to sell yourself more to get it. The only exception I can see to this whole matter is if you like a product and deliberately seek to get an affiliate link to that very specific product. An example of this is an affiliate link to amazon, advertising a book you like and have reviewed. Still creaties a bit of bias, but perhaps more justifiable.

Making Money With Affiliate Programs

Making money with affiliate programs is generally harder than using advertising as it often requires people to make a direct purchase after having linked from whatever page your affiliate advertisement was on. As a result there are two basic tricks for affiliate programs:

  1.  Advertise a product directly related to your page.
  2. Target audiences likely to buy.

The first one of these is pretty simple. If you write a review of a product, add a link to said product on Amazon and such. This is the approach taken by sites such as the Escapist magazine. If you ever happen to watch one of Yahtzee’s game reviews you will notice affiliate links beneath it. This is highly targeted traffic somewhat likely to buy the product he reviews, even though he generally tends to completely destroy the product. The fact that the Escapist Magazine continues to employ him suggests that he makes some profit or that simply the large amount of traffic to his reviews is enough to make money

Targeting audiences likely to buy is a little more difficult. What this basically means is targeting people who will actually spend money online, which is becoming more and more common. Its hard to really tell who will buy online, but as a general rule the technology crowd are often very tight with their online spending. Think people with regular jobs likely to make an impulse purchase if they see something they want for a low price, and base your affiliate campaign around that prospect. The other option is to find very targeted traffic of people already looking to buy something. This is where reviews are great, review a product and offer directly next to the review the product to buy. This can be very powerful.

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