As a user and blog reader, I regard ads as something distracting. But the only reason is that publishers have gone way too far in terms of the number, size, and type of ads they are using. Take a look at the following screenshot of a page at About.com (the green area is the actual content, the red areas are ads):
This is getting out of hand—the content at About.com is generally quite shallow, but filling it up with huge ad units full of completely unrelated ads is the last straw.
Compare the picture to what you see here. There’s just a little text box above the article and one short paragraph below the article. This isn’t at all that annoying, is it?
Amazon Affiliate links
The bold links you see in the paragraphs below and above the content are affiliate links to Amazon. This means that if you click on the link and then buy anything on Amazon within 24 hours, I’ll get a small percentage of what you pay (your price will stay the same, of course; it’s just that Amazon will give me small “advertising fees”).
The “ads” here are not well targeted, because I’ve written a book and, naturally, I want to give it as much exposure as possible. However, I have done some testing (I also used to experiment with AdSense), and let me tell you—if you link to really good and relevant products on Amazon, and your text is appealing, you can earn as much just from the “advertising fees” as with a page full of AdSense units (which tend not to pay as much as one may have hoped, see my article about using AdSense on educational blogs).
Ideally, you should link to products you yourself find good. Then your paragraphs may read something like this (an actual example from this website; ideally, the paragraph should be shorter, but I just felt the need to express why I find the book useful):
It’s a win-win situation. Not only won’t your readers be annoyed by a little paragraph below the content; the “ads” can even add valuable information to it. The French with Ease method mentioned above genuinely was some of the best invested money for me. If you write about French, it is likely your readers will enjoy the book as well.
Of course, the odds are that French is not the topic of your blog. The point is to find good products relevant to your readers. If you write, say, about learning to play the piano, guitar, bass, and drums, you can find one good book on Amazon about each of the topics, write four appealing texts, and include the text based on the topic in your articles.
You may be asking why Amazon and not another affiliate program. It doesn’t seem that good at first sight. Most affiliate programs offer you 15–50% commission which applies if the visitor buys the product within one or two months after clicking on your link, while Amazon offers you only about 4–8% with the cookie lasting only 24 hours.
First of all, if you write about several topics (like I do), it may be hard to find affiliate programs for each of these topics, whereas there’s just about everything on Amazon. But, more importantly, Amazon is the #1 shopping platform in a lot of countries. The odds are that if you link to some product somewhere else and your readers like it, they will go to Amazon and buy it there (which won’t earn you anything).
Secondly, everything you “sell” counts—even though I link only to my book(s) now (and the majority of my Amazon affiliate sales have been my books), I’ve received commission for sales ranging from a Self Inking Rubber Stamp to a Garden Gargoyle Sculpture, simply because someone bought these after clicking on my link.
Thirdly, Amazon is international. If you write for an international audience (like I do), you can sign up for other affiliate programs by Amazon as well (there’s amazon.de, .fr, .co.uk, .ca, .it and more). There’s a WordPress plugin, Amazon Affiliate Link Localizer, that automatically converts all your links to links to the respective local Amazon store based on your visitor’s location.
Affiliate programs are immune to AdBlock
One last thing that’s good about affiliate programs is that affiliate links aren’t blocked by AdBlock-type browser extensions. Naturally, why would they? Affiliate links are just ordinary links.
Popularity of extensions like AdBlock is increasing. If you use an advertizing network like AdSense, people who have AdBlock installed will never ever see the ads and generate any profit for you. And I am glad that AdBlock’s popularity is increasing, as it helps to weed out low quality websites like About.com.
Lots of webmasters grumble about AdBlock as something that makes their website unprofitable. However, it doesn’t matter if you are a large publisher or if you just want to be able to pay your web hosting bill; there are alternatives to AdSense which will not only help you maintain your website profitable, but which will also benefit your readers.