More Bang for your Fashion Blogging Buck: Affiliate Programs vs. Affiliate Networks


post by image by jenn_jenn



If one of your goals for blogging, other than sharing your passion with the blogosphere, is to make money…

You’re not alone. It’s easy to witness the success of other bloggers, and not crave a piece of the pie.

You might want to earn enough to make a full time living, or perhaps just enough to buy a new pair of designer shoes. After all, it’s a lot easier to make money doing something you love. But, where to begin?

First of all, let’s dispel any affiliate marketing rumors that making money online, is simple and enjoyable. Nothing can be further from the truth. When we’re dealing with affiliate marketing, it’s definitely a lot of trial and error. Some programs will work for some people and not for others. If you want to get into affiliate marketing, please understand that it’s going to take a lot of work. You’re also going to have to keep a watchful eye on your analytics.

Affiliate programs versus affiliate networks

Second, there are a lot of affiliate programs out there: Shopzilla, Amazon, and Google Adsense are a few. But, what about affiliate networks? What’s the difference?

An affiliate program is a specialized program through a specific website that caters toward a niche market. Through these programs, you’re dealing directly with the advertiser and you can choose to place affiliate links or affiliate banners on your site. Typically, when people click, you make money. The con of affiliate programs? Although you may have a vested interest in the links or banners you have chosen, with affiliate programs, you’re usually on your own. Better check the FAQ’s or Help sections.

An affiliate network acts as a liaison between advertisers and you, the blogger. When you sign up for an affiliate network like Pepperjam or Hydra Network, for instance, you’re signing up with an affiliate manager who is going to help you find the best advertisements for your site. The con with affiliate networks? Some of the advertisements you can choose are low-quality, irrelevant to fashion bloggers, and some are downright SPAM.

As a side note, Commission Junction is possibly the largest affiliate network out there, linking arms with the top advertisers in the Web 2.0 space. This is perhaps my favorite route because, as a fashion and beauty blogger, I can apply to relevant to different merchants like Pink Mascara and Smashbox, to place ads on my site. However, because of the size of this network, it functions similarly to an affiliate program where you independently choose your advertisements, and you must apply to programs individually.

OK, so I want to sign up for an affiliate program or affiliate network? How do I get paid?

If you want to cash a paycheck, you’re going to have to know the lingo. Hopefully, you’re tracking your website stats through a program like Google Analytics. Often, affiliate programs and networks have their own tracking, so it’s good to be able to compare an contrast.

The first thing to understand are the different models of payment. Different programs pay differently.

Two of the most common are Cost Per Click (CPC) and Cost Per Action (CPA).

CPC usually ensures that you’ll get paid for each click to an ad, like Google AdWords. CPA, on the other hand, means that you’ll get paid once a customer has completed an action, such as placing an order. Many affiliate networks follow the CPA model. For other Affiliate Marketing related terms, click here!

So, which you decide to use is entirely up to you. If you’re new to affiliate marketing, it wouldn’t hurt to start with an affiliate program, and maybe link up with an affiliate network down the road. Either way, good luck earning that blogging cash!

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26 Responses

  1. Ashe Mischief

    I’d have loved to see a bit more of the pros and cons on the CPA vs. CPC– but I do love that you broke down the differences between the programs and networks!

    This was a really great introductory post– even though I use both, I found that i didn’t know some of the lingo used– thank you, Beka!

  2. Ondo Lady

    This is a great piece on affiliate marketing; a term that I have found quite confusing. I really like the way you have explained it in lay man’s terms. Thanks for sharing.

  3. lisa

    Great post with a lot of useful information. I just signed up for my first affiliate program with Couture Candy via Commission Junction, and the only thing I can recommend is to read the fine print carefully. One clause stipulated that if my ad didn’t generate revenues within 5 months my account would be considered inactive and penalties would start to appear on my CJ account.


    Hey Lisa, thanks for mentioning that! I didn’t realize that penalties would accur. I also have Couture Candy and am linked to another affiliate company and will look into their penalty info now.

    Thanks again 😉

  5. Stylish Thought

    So useful!!! Love it. I’ve been trying to get into the whole affiliate program, but have only used Google so far, which is so-so. Thanks for the great information, I’m definitely going to look more into it.

  6. Jennine

    oh my goodness…thank you for pointing that out… i’m going to have to look into that…. it’s very strange that they would do that.

  7. grechen

    @lisa – that is very strange! after you mentioned the penalties, etc., i checked my terms and conditions and didn’t find anything in there about that. is it just for new affiliates? or was it sent only to you? the fact is, if you don’t earn them any revenues, you don’t get paid. they can consider your account inactive if you don’t produce any sales and cancel you but they absolutely cannot “penalize” you in a monetary way. you don’t have an obligation to sell for them!

    if this is indeed in your T&C, i would sever your relationship with CC immediately. anyway, they don’t perform very well…

  8. lisa

    Grechen, I just checked the service agreements by trying to sign up as a new affiliate for Couture Candy. This section comes from the Commission Junction Publisher Service Agreement:

    (f) Dormant Accounts. If Publisher’s Account has not been credited with a valid, compensable Transaction that has not been Charged-back during any rolling, six consecutive calendar month period (“Dormant Account”), a dormant account fee at CJ’s then-current rate shall be applied to Publisher’s Account each calendar month that Publisher’s Account remains an open yet Dormant Account or until Your Account balance reaches a zero balance, at which time the Account shall become deactivated. Transactions will not be counted if the Transaction subsequently becomes a Charge-back.
    (g) Negative Accounts. You may have a negative balance if Your Account is debited amounts equivalent to previous Payouts for Charge-backs and You do not have an adequate Account balance to cover the Charge-back amounts. When You have a negative balance, You must immediately remit payment to CJ in an amount sufficient to bring Your Account to a zero balance, or Your Account is subject to 1.5% interest per month, compounded monthly.

    It sounds like instead of demanding payment from you they’d just pull the plug on your account, and it’s not Couture Candy, it’s Commission Junction’s service agreement. Nonetheless, they reserve the right to applie penalties in the form of debits on your account, and they can apply interest if you don’t pay up.

  9. Anthony

    Hi everyone,

    Just want to comment as someone who has been on both sides of this issue (publisher and advertiser). I would make a further distinction and call things like Google’s AdSense, the Yahoo! Publisher Network, etc. “Advertising” and not “Affiliate” networks. In these cases you are giving your screen real estate up for CPC (cost per click) advertising. Some ad networks are CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions served) and in the case of IFB members the most important one of note at the moment seems to be the Glam network.

    (Not sure if it is okay to post links here but this is the Glam publishers page: )

    I am not a member of Glam and not exactly sure how they pay, but as someone who is consulting in the fashion world and always looking for new sites to work with I am seeing many fashion blogs, sites, and forums being sucked up by Glam. They appear to be (at the least) displaying CPM based ads, and they (probably) stipulate that their ads are placed “above the fold” (meaning you don’t have to scroll down your site to see them). It does also appear however that you can continue to sell your own ad/affiliate space as well.

    So those are advertising networks – as compared to affiliate networks like CJ (Commission Junction) which was mentioned and LinkShare, etc. There is also Zanox which is centered more on the European market.

    Usually with affiliate networks you are going to get paid CPA – Cost Per Action – which in the fashion world usually means when someone goes to an online shop and makes a purchase. Some people may still be paying for “leads” but this is becoming more rare. With the affiliate networks you first get into them, and then apply to the “programs” that you are interested in as outlined in the article above.

    One last note as also mentioned: this is hard work. Unless you have huge site traffic, converting as an affiliate can be very sporadic. You shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations. If you have 100 or 200 visitors a day and show a banner for a store, you may not make any sales at all (I know this first hand – I have a couple of high traffic sites and sometimes go months without affiliate sales). However – if you are very focussed on your topic and present items in the right way, you may be pleasantly surprised.

    For bloggers, we have seen the most success when mentioning specific items directly in your posts with your coded affiliate links. You also have to be very careful not to over stuff your site/blog with ads and affiliate programs. Cluttering up your left or right hand columns with tons of ads, links, etc. just puts the blinders on your user and leads to diminishing returns.

    A healthy mix is probably a leader board, and then an ad unit or two in the right or left column, with one sprinkled in the main content area from time to time. So maybe 3 to 4 permanent units, and then mix in posts directly linking to products from your affiliates. For more insight into popular and standard ad unit sizes and lingo the site to go to is the IAB:

    If you want to get even more sophisticated about it and maybe you have a lot of traffic, you can look into third party services (some of them free) which will actually rotate your banners and ads etc. for you. So perhaps you have many programs you are signed up to, but want to rotate the ads in the same spot as each page loads. Google offers this as a free service through the Google Ad Manager (warning – this is technical and it will take some time if you plan to implement it!).

    Anyway – the good thing about all of this for fashion bloggers is that people do buy clothes online and that segment of online sales is still growing. Good luck!

    Full disclosure – I am currently working as a consultant for an online retailer, but they were not mentioned above.

  10. Mad Fashionista

    Thanks, Anthony, and everyone else, for all of the information. I applied to Glam but was turned down, even though my blog has a lot of traffic. When I inquired why, the affiliate person said they were looking for more male-skewed blogs. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

    I use Google Adsense and for a long time was an Amazon affiliate, but the latter made me no money whatsoever.

  11. grechen

    @lisa – thanks for clarifying! so that goes for every publisher in the CJ network, not just couture candy…i guess you just need to pay attention and pull your own account if you’re not making money by 5 months into it.

  12. Ondo Lady

    This is all very interesting. I signed up with Glam almost a year ago after they approached me and to be honest they leave a lot to be desired. I have made next to nothing with them and find it hard to get hold of my so-called rep. Hence that I will be ditching them very soon. I am also with Amazon Affiliates but as you only get paid when someone purchaes something it is a but hard going. Mad Fashionista: I am baffled that they turned you down but to be honest I do not get a good vibe from them – seems like the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. Does anybody make any money out of Google Adsense?

  13. Anthony

    “Does anybody make any money out of Google Adsense?”

    We have made a lot of money with them over the years, but mostly dealing with travel and destination sites. I don’t know how they pay for fashion sites, but a lot of making AdSense work for you is where you actually put it on your site. It has to be in the right spot to induce a click – and usually blend in well with its surroundings – not stick out like any other ad. Also as I mentioned above less is usually more – maybe one or two units in very strategic spots for a blog. Again – a good place for those ads is in the middle of your content column, maybe after the first post. A lot of blogging platforms (Moveable Type, WordPress, blogger, etc.) have tips on how to do this if you search on Google.

    Also – you should experiment with their link units, and the custom search engine they provide. Both of those can pay very well. It is a lot of trial and error and really has to dealt with site by site, but if you have 1,000 page views a day you should be able to make a few dollars from that with AdSense.

    MAD FASHIONISTA when you say “a lot of traffic” can you give us an idea? 100 visits a day, 1,000 – 5,000 – etc.? Very surprised to hear that they turned anyone down – unless it was very recently and they are facing the sudden issue of too much ad space and not enough ad buyers.

  14. Beka

    Sorry for my late response…I just got my Internet reconnected after moving!

    Ashe – Basically, CPC means you get paid every time someone clicks on an ad you posted. This usually results in a lower pay rate per click, because it requires very little of your readers. CPA means that you only get paid when the advertiser gets a desired result such as filling out a short form or making a purchase. Since this requires more of your readers, CPA advertisers might pay a bit more. If you have more questions, shoot me an email, doll!

    Johanne – You’re very welcome!

    The Doll – I’ll see what I can do about that!

    Ondo Lady – Glad I could help!

    Stylish Thought – I would definitely recommend exploring your affiliate options. Good luck!

    Lisa – Yes, I read about that. I guess it can either motivate you to make some moolah, or frustrate you because it just seems silly.

    Anthony – Very useful info! I’ll definitely look into that.

    Everyone else, love you very much! Thanks for the feedback! Good luck with your affiliate efforts!

  15. Ms. Lyssa

    WOW!! Thanks so much. I am working on this topic RIGHT NOW with my blog. It is nice to have access to such information.

    Thanks Anthony and IFB

  16. Jwp

    I personally have done pay per click and alot of the rest ,and have found that the ones that pay the best for me are per sale. I also look for programs that have limited number of affiliate spots then that way the markets are not flooded with to many affilites selling the same thing and im able to create conversions for a longer period i m not sure if it is ok to post links on here but if you would like to get an access to some of the programs i am invloved with
    you can visit make150dollarsaday dot com and view more information there and exactly how i put affiliate programs to work for me

  17. murielle

    Great, I hope we will have those kind of info in france soon.

  18. Nickie Frye

    This is waaaaaaaay premature for me. I just started my blog a few days ago. Anyway, I appreciate having a place to go to learn about all of this stuff. It’s a lot more complicated than it appears.
    .-= Nickie Frye´s last blog ..Shoes in the Cue =-.