Affiliate and Advertising Programs: The Good, the Bad and the Waste

July 7th, 2010

Like anyone else who owns, runs and maintains a site or ten or a hundred, one of the prime motivators of doing so in the first place is to make money. When it comes to finding a way to make a consistent, steady buck from a site, the formula for making the almighty dollar is still as elusive as the recipe for McDonald’s secret sauce.

Over the years, I have used several different types of advertising programs. From Pay-Per-Click (PPC) programs like AdSense and Infolinks to commission based programs like Linkshare, Commission Junction and Amazon to impression based programs like Value Click Media. As I own several personal sites and maintain many others for clients, all with a different message and niche, each program has met with varying degrees of success and failure.

With that in mind, I shall do a quick, thumbnail overview of these various ways of adveritising:

PPC (Pay Per Click) Advertising:

If there is one thing that had stood out over the years, it is that in spite of all of the choices you have for advertising, PPC is still the most consistent money-maker. The reasoning behind this is quite simple. It costs neither you or the site visitor a penny to display or click on the ads. Most PPC companies offer many types of ad sizes that will fit into just about space you have set aside for advertising on you site. And if the PPC program is a robust one that offers a wide range of products and services, it can generally fill those ad spaces with relevant ads, even for a highly niched site.

Everything has a downside, and the main one when it comes to PPC is that you have little to no control over what ads will be displayed on the site. Now programs like AdSense and Infolinks will allow you to select from what ad category/catgories you can display and just as importantly, not display. But you cannot select the actual ads that will be shown. Also, you need to keep an eye out in case a competitior’s ad or something non-relevant shown up out of nowhere. The other downside is that such PPC companies do not allow you to see the rates of the ads themselves.

CPM (Pay Per Impression) Advertising:

For sites that generate a very high rate of traffic (e.g. 500,000+ visits per month), CPM advertising can a great way to make money. A high yield company like Value Click Media can easily generate $300+ in revenue per month for site that generates those 500K monthly visitors. Many of these programs can also let you tailor your campaigns so that you can set the level of payout per impression vs. another network (e.g. AdSense) to give you the maximum value per impression. You can also set the monthly payout rate per month (e.g. $25-$100 per month) so as not to be forced to make a set amount before the company will pay you.

Depending on the ad network, there can be a fair amount of ad maintanence. Some networks use a large perentage of third-party advertisters to generate their stable of ads and a lot of those can either pay a very low low rate (under 10 cents per 1,000 impressions), contain either worthless or objectionable content or in rare cases, malware. Also, some of these companies are either fly-by-night or have a poor record of sending out payments. So, do your homework and stick with reputable companies like Value Click Media.

CPA (Affiliate Based) Advertising:

The main advantage of affiliate-based advertising is the ability to target the afilliate’s products and content directly to the niche and subject matter of your site,. For example, if you are running a site that focuses on clothing and fashion, a CPA network can allow you to advertise such content directly to your site. Since you have total control of what ads will be displayed, you can truly integrate ads that feature the same content as your site. You also can display things such as product sales, coupons, best-sellers and the like to provide a seamless marriage between the site and the ad.

Needless to say, the biggest con is that site visitors must not only click on the affiliate ad, but also acutally purchase a product for you to make a commission. And that is generally trickier then it might sound at first. Also, CPA campaigns require the most maintainence of all, since you will have to control every aspect of what ads will displayed on the site. Putting together compaigns that feature a lot of products that are on special, offer coupons and the like can be quite a bit of work to both setup and maintain.

Of course, there are other ways that sites advertise, but these three are the bread and butter of most sites you will see and all have their advantages and disadvantages.

My recommendations for what to use and when:

PPC – All sites should use PPC in some form or another, since there is little effort to be put in and even low-traffic sites can make a few dollars with it.

CPM – Best suited for high-traffic sites (500,000+ visits per month). The payoff is well worth a little tweaking here and there.

CPA – Best suited to high-traffic sites that are also more niched based.

Filed Under: Advertising

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