This guest post is by Rae Hoffman-Dolan, aka “Sugarrae” of Sugarrae.com.
A few months ago I did a guest post here at The Mogul Mom that explained how to make money with your blog by doing product reviews and linking out to affiliate programs.
But I also know that finding and being accepted by affiliate programs can sometimes be a daunting task – especially for newer affiliates.
Maybe you barely have the time to blog, much less scour the web to find the affiliate program associated with every product you ever discuss on your blog.
Maybe you have applied to a few, but because you have a newer blog or a smaller amount of traffic, you’ve been getting denied from programs (this can especially be true when it comes to big brands, as work at home mom and successful affiliate marketer Tricia Meyer reminded me of in my recent interview with her).
Using affiliate programs as a revenue stream just isn’t going to work for you, right?
That’s where you can partner with a master affiliate network. You focus on being a publisher. They focus on the monetization. And for smaller publishers with time (or knowledge) crunches when it comes to affiliate programs, this can be a win-win partnership.
What is a master affiliate network?
Master affiliate networks work much in the same way as when small businesses partner together through their local Chamber of Commerce to be able to get group discount rates on health insurance. The master affiliate signs up with every affiliate program they can possibly find (most are partnered with over 10,000 merchants) and then recruits sub affiliates to use their master affiliate network links.
Because of the volume of sales produced by of all their sub affiliates combined, they are able to get higher commissions and can pretty much pay their sub affiliates the same rates they would get as an individual affiliate (in most cases). Except that they do “all the work” involved in joining the programs, receiving approval, dealing with payments and maintaining the correct affiliate links for their sub affiliates.
Once you insert their code into the header of your blog, you’re done. You simply blog normally and they look for and monetize any potential affiliate links.
Need an example?
Let’s say that you mentioned the new tablet PC from BlackBerry (drool) in one of your posts and you linked the mention of it to the sales page for it on Best Buy. If Best Buy is one of the merchants in the master affiliate network’s database, then the code you inserted on your page would allow the master affiliate network to automatically make that link an affiliate link with your sub affiliate ID – earning you commission if someone buys it as a result of clicking on your link.
Do you link to books on Amazon but find it too much of a hassle to go in and create an affiliate link for it every time you do? Just link directly to the book and the master affiliate network’s code will make it an affiliate link for you.
Every merchant or product you ever link to will be turned into an affiliate link whenever possible, with no work or effort on your part once you’ve signed up and inserted the code. You get to focus solely on creating awesome content and getting visitors to your site.
Master affiliate networks aren’t for everyone
If you have time to dedicate to monetizing your site and large traffic volume, you’d probably be best served to directly apply for any affiliate programs you want to be associated with. If you can refer a high volume in sales, you’ll be able to argue with the merchants directly to receive higher commissions much like the master affiliate network does – only you won’t have a master affiliate network taking a cut of those higher commissions.
I’m one of those exceptions, however, I do use master affiliate networks as “backfill” because we focus on monetizing the merchants and/or products we have large traffic volume for and there are a ton of smaller programs we don’t have direct relationships with because our revenue with each individual merchant in those cases isn’t significant enough to spend the time creating that direct relationship. But when we use a master affiliate network for those cases, those smaller merchants we previously ignored can add up to more significant revenue.
Finding master affiliate networks
I was first turned onto VigLink back in April after they’d raised an impressive amount of funding and I interviewed their CEO as a result. Viglink boasts relationships with 12,500 merchants and is backed in part by Google Ventures.
I was intrigued by the concept of a master network and later was turned onto Skimlinks, which is a UK based operation with over 17,000 merchant partnerships – and an interesting additional program called Skimwords (which essentially will create affiliate links for specific words in addition to links).
Both networks are free to sign up for, both pay, both take a 25% cut of your commissions as a standard, both have detailed backend dashboards and both are considered reputable within the industry. In my opinion, which one will work the best for you will vary on a case by case basis.
Don’t forget the disclosure
As I mentioned in the post I did here on making money with product reviews, due to recent FTC guidelines, if you’re monetizing your blog with affiliate links – either directly OR through a master affiliate network – then you need to add a disclosure to your site stating as such. Skimlinks and VigLink both offer badges that you can add to your sidebar that will serve as that disclosure for you.
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