AdWords, Amazon Associates, and Affiliate Marketing
One of the good old fashioned ways to make money online is to sell other people’s stuff and be paid a small commission for each sale. This is called Affiliate Marketing and it seems that just about everyone with an online presence has some kind affiliate program in place. Over the years I have made a bit of pocket change being an affiliate for Amazon.com, The London Pass, and one or two other odds and ends here and there. I have read a few ebooks, watched a few videos, and had a bit of fun trying to make some money.
Making a living doing this kind of stuff has always been beyond my realm of expertise. Super Affiliates claim to make 100K a year or more selling other people’s stuff online. I think they make their real money selling How I Made 100K a Year as a Super Affiliate books.
The Big Players in this game are Google AdWords, Amazon Associates, and places like Commission Junction and ClickBank where there are hundreds of companies looking for people to hawk their wares. The interesting thing is that most of these companies do everything they can to make it difficult, if not impossible, to use their services at the same time.
AdWords is how Google makes it’s billions, so the system is working well for someone. Go to Google and type in the name of any product or service and you will see a row of little ads along the right hand side of the search results. These ads pop up because of the words entered into the search bar, the amount of money the advertiser is paying per click, the amount of their daily budget, the quality score of their landing page, the weather conditions in Sri Lanka, and what mood Google happens to be in at the moment. Like all online businesses Google has a near infinite list of Policies and Procedures, the violation of any of these can get you kicked out of AdWords.
Amazon.com started out selling books, but now sells just about anything that be stuffed into a container and delivered to your door. This makes their Associates program especially appealing as you are free to promote everything available on the site. Amazon.com also has a very long Operating Agreement with the many ways in which you can be booted out of the Amazon Associate program.
The hundreds of companies using Commission Junction and ClickBank each have their own sets of rules and guidelines, though the companies on ClickBank seem to have a much more anything goes feel to them. The Big Name Companies always have long lists of terms and often require that these terms be updated from time to time so they can add new restrictions.
The point of AdWords is to use ads to drive traffic to a site which is there to sell something. Only Google doesn’t really like sites that are just trying to sell something-and they outright hate sites that are trying to sell things with Affiliate Links. They like companies that are using their own websites to sell their own products. AdWords is still the best way to drive traffic-if you have an unlimited budget and a site that meets their Quality Score test.
The Amazon Associate program, like all affiliate programs, is designed to sell more stuff. They provide banners, text links, widgets, and discussion boards. Among the cool dodads are flash widgets with moving parts and the ability to set up your own aStore. The problem is that you are not allowed to direct link to Amazon through AdWords. This tends to make the stand alone aStore pretty useless as there is no way for anyone to know it’s there. What Amazon wants is someone who has a site with it’s own traffic that will drive some of their readers to Amazon.
What most companies looking for Affiliates want is Yahoo, Road Runner, or Alexa to run their ads. A site that has tens of thousands of hits a day might get someone to click on an ad. What they don’t want is traffic from AdWords. Which is usually fine as AdWords often doesn’t want to send them traffic anyway. I tend to find this whole circle a bit baffling. I am paying AdWords to run ads, but they will only run ads they approve of, to site they approve of, for products they approve of. Ok, Google AdWords has Standards. Which makes me even more baffled when I see the countless companies that forbids the use of Google AdWords by their Affiliates. What gives? An Affiliate’s job is to drive traffic to a company’s site in the hopes that they will buy whatever the company is selling-except the Affiliate is not allowed to use the most power tool to drive traffic.
I also don’t understand why so many people are now offended by affiliate links. I understand ad blindness and I tend to ignore most ads myself. I even understand not wanting to see any more ads. I remember when Iwon.com came out and they said you could make money by using their search engine. I remember being at a friend’s house and using Iwon and telling him about using it to make points. He was outraged at the idea that he would use something that I might get points for. And that was just for make believe points. I didn’t understand why he was pissed off then, and I don’t understand why people hate affiliate links now.