Micro ISV Blogging: Gold Rush?

This week I’m going to look at affiliate programs. It’s highly unlikely that you’re starting a Micro ISV blog to make money from affiliate programs, your blog will be about communicating a message or trying to engage with prospective customers. You want visitors to stay on your site and look at your products, so you don’t really want to give them an easy way out; even if you will make a few cents from the clicks.

But, affiliate programs can be tempting, fun or even profitable. In the rest of this post, I’m going to take a quick look at some of the most common options, and then try to start a conversation on whether affiliate programs are a good idea at all for Micro ISV blogs.

Amazon Associates Program

Use of the Amazon.com referral program is so widespread that I’ve hardly ever been referred to a book or product on Amazon that didn’t go via an affiliate link. It’s quick and easy to sign up, and you can earn up to 10% commission on referred sales.

Associates Home Page

Google Adsense

Adsense adds little blocks of Google ads to your pages. You will earn a percentage of whatever the advertiser is paying Google for the click. Making money from Adsense seems to be a numbers/positioning game; you need to have a lot of traffic, and you need to give the block of ads a prominent position on your blog.

Adsense Homepage

When you first sign up, Adsense might show non-paying ads. You can replace these with paying ads by using an additional service such as AlternateURL.

Chitika eMiniMalls

Chitika’s eMiniMalls add a small tabbed section to your page, showcasing a product from the categories you’ve chosen. Again, they’re easy to sign up for, and they can be context sensitive as long as you aren’t already using Adsense.

Chitika Homepage

Other Options

You can find affiliate programs everywhere. Your web hosting provider probably has one, or maybe you can link to complementary products from other companies. You can even sign-up for the iTunes affiliate program and link to your favorite music.

Earning Potential

I don’t make any money from the affiliate links on my blog, so I’m probably not the best person to give advice... but there are a lot of sites out there (like ProBlogger) full of great advice for maximizing revenue.

The thing is, we’re trying to build Micro ISV blogs here, so the primary goal is supporting our software business. Most of the advice for maximizing blog affiliate revenue relates to the prominent placement of ads. It’s difficult to give priority to a block of adverts that will take your hard earned traffic away.

Why Bother?

With the conflicting goals, I’m starting to wonder if it’s worthwhile or appropriate. I think I managed to marginalize my ad blocks to such an extent in my blog template that they don’t interfere with the content. So I have to wonder why? If I don’t want anyone to notice them, why are they there?

It was fun when I started the blog, and for one thing it gave me another set of statistics to obsess over. I also found it interesting to see what the context sensitive blocks would pick up on from my post titles.

But, low key affiliate sections on a cosy little ISV blog are unlikely to generate any significant income, and I’m not interested in giving them a higher profile than they already have. I guess the biggest consolation is that no-one is clicking on them, meaning I’m not losing any visitors via affiliate links!

Summary

I fully intended to write more about how to make use of affiliate programs, but I was sidetracked by this question of whether a Micro ISV blog should really have affiliate sections at all.

What do you think? Have you chosen not to use affiliate schemes on your blog? Or, does the presence of ad blocks on a blog influence your opinion?

CodeSnipers & CaseySoftware

While both blogs do get significant traffic, I attempt to keep the ads very low key and non-intrusive. My only goal has been to cover the annual domain name costs, then potentially the monthly hosting costs, and then finally hosting upgrades.

So far the first goal has *barely* been met.

Thanks

Thanks for the feedback, guys.

Now, if I could just find something interesting or useful to fill that space...