Why Affiliate Programs Don’t Work Well for Mom Bloggers

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The Making-Money-on-the-Internet Gurus will tell you that the key to making money off your website or blog is selling things via affiliate programs. Some of the more popular affiliate programs are:

Since I like to experiment and try different ways to monetize my blogs, I quickly signed up for several of these, and put ads in my sidebars for everything from VistaPrint to meal planning programs. I did everything I was supposed to including posting about the products or programs and running sidebar affiliate ads.

So, how much did I earn? Well, with the exception of Amazon Affiliates, where I usually get $10-50 per month, I made $0, nada, NOTHING. Now why is that? And why don’t most Mom bloggers make anything with affiliate programs?

  1. Not enough traffic. If you read Problogger Darren Rowse’s post, 11 Lessons I Learned Earning $119,725.45 from Amazon Associates Program, you’ll notice that when he had 1000 visits per day he was making around $30 with Amazon. When his traffic shot up, so did his earnings. He has amazing traffic, so he makes good money with Amazon, ‘nuf said.
  2. Mom blogs aren’t product specific. Yes, many of us write product reviews along with stories about our families. But unless our blogs are devoted to one product-specific aspect of parenting (Adventures in Babywearing is a good example) we’re all over the place with our product recommendations and discuss everything from Wii games to minivans.
  3. Mom blogs are too general. While the category “Mom blogs” is a niche, most Mom bloggers are generalists. So, unless you run a niche blog that covers expensive products that people repeatedly buy and upgrade – golf clubs are a good example – affiliate programs won’t work. Another example of this is Darren Rowse’s photography blog, which he covers in 10 More Amazon Associate Program Lessons I Learned on My Way to Six Figure Earnings. Professional photographers and serious amateurs own several cameras and are always lusting after new accessories or models. Photography is a pricey hobby and Darren’s blog takes advantage of that.

So are affiliate programs a waste of time for most Mom bloggers? Probably so with one exception, Amazon Affiliates. Sign up with Amazon Affiliates and use an affiliate link whenever you are discussing a product. It’s an easy program to use, and they don’t kick you out if you have no sales unlike Commission Junction. (Been kicked out three times, yay me.)

Amazon provides product photos that you can use in your posts, and you can also use them to create an online shop for your blog filled with products you recommend and love. They’ve also developed several sidebar ads and widgets that fit most bloggers’ needs. However, don’t let affiliate ads take up too much of your sidebar real estate. Instead, save that room for ad networks that pay out based on page views or ads that you’ve sold directly to companies.

Passion and trust
Why does Amazon Affiliates work for Mom bloggers? Most online shoppers – your readers – use Amazon and trust it because it’s a great source for product reviews and bargains. It’s trustworthy. And that’s what you should be, too, when discussing products and using Amazon Affiliate links.

Yes, it’s tempting to post about that $14,784 Kalamazoo 900HS Hybrid Free-Standing Natural Gas Grill with Side Burner in the hopes that someone will click on it and buy it. But do you think that your readers really would? And do you normally write about gas grills? Didn’t think so. People will buy products you recommend if you are passionate about them and give them an honest review, so don’t try to fake it to gain a sale. All you’ll gain is angry readers.

Disclosure and transparency
In Darren Rowse’s post, 10 more tips for making money with Amazon Associates, he asks:

Should you disclose that your links are affiliate links or should you not? Each blogger has their own stance on this and with a lot of talk about laws changing in some parts of the world [Darren lives in Australia] it seems that some bloggers are now being forced to make such disclosures.

As a consumer I assume that most websites use affiliate codes, and even the e-newsletters I receive use them. Still, many consumers are unfamiliar with affiliate programs, so you may want to note that you’re using affiliate links on your policy/disclosure page or at the bottom of your posts.

A few final notes
You may have noticed that I referenced several of Darren Rowse’s posts on Amazon Affiliate’s program. Funny thing, I was set to write up a post about how to use Amazon last week. Then I noticed that Darren had written a brilliant series on it and did a much better job than I ever could. No point in reinventing the wheel, eh?

I urge you to read Darren’s posts and keep his advice in mind when using Amazon Affiliate links. Then when you get discouraged that you’re not making the money he is, come back here and read why that is. It’s not your fault, it’s just the nature of affiliate marketing and mom blogging.

Finally, encourage your children’s school to sign up and use the Amazon Affiliate program as a fundraising program on their website. By clicking on their link every time you shop at Amazon, you’ll be earning money for your school. My children’s school made several hundred dollars a year and I always felt good shopping at Amazon knowing that I was helping to raise money for them.

Anne-Marie Nichols is the Social Media Manager at Mom Central Consulting. You can also find her blogging up some healthy recipes at This Mama Cooks!

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Anne-Marie Nichols
Anne-Marie Nichols
Anne-Marie Nichols