Are Affiliate Ads Worthwhile?

by Fashion by He


I think its time that someone offers the blogging world, and those looking to enter it, a reality check about affiliate ads.  For the uninitiated, here's a brief background on the process:


For instance, part of Googles Affiliate Network site states, ” As an advertiser using Google Affiliate Network, you'll discover pre-screened publishers who can refer consumer traffic to you. As a publisher, you can market your site to advertisers in the network; if selected to participate in an advertiser's program, you'll earn a percent of sales or a referral bounty.” Most other Networks have similar phrasing.


Translation by He

Ads are posted on your blog for free, and if a reader clicks on that ad and purchases a product from that store, you (the blogger) earn a percentage of that sale.


The Allure

As a new or upcoming blogger, this probably sounds like a win-win: legitimate advertising companies want to use your blog as a platform to expand their brands.  If the ads entice readers to click through and purchase, you make money.  If the ads don't work, you lose some blog space and maybe some independent credibility, but it doesn't cost you anything.


The Reality

The situation is much better for the advertisers than it is for you, and you're highly unlikely to make any material royalties from affiliate ads regardless of how many you can cram onto your blog.  We all understand this – affiliate and banner ads are ugly, annoying and often unrelated to you or your interests – which is why hardly anyone clicks on them and even fewer purchases anything from the advertising site in that same session.  The advertisers don't care because they get to put ads everywhere on the web for free whether they work or not, so even if they don't lead to tons of click-through sales their names/brands/faces/taglines are plastered all over the web and they get the extra exposure. Here's what your fellow bloggers have to say:



The Better Way

If you build and network a decent blog that actually has something to say, people will find it.  More people means more referrals, likes, followers, and overall attention – often in the form of advertisers who are willing to pay for ad space up front.  This is key – if they want ad space on your blog, make them pay you for it.  You worked hard to create and cultivate the blog, so if you decide to use ads for legitimacy, money, exposure or all of the above – don't do it for free.  You won't retire from paid ads… but two or three are likely to make you more than 2 years' worth of crossing your fingers for affiliate click-through sales. To prove my point even further, check out my stats from April:


The Bottom Line

If you're a smaller blog and decide to use ads, you can use affiliate ads and wait for the pennies to roll in, or you can make the smarter decision and seek out advertisers who value your space enough to pay for it (having a better blog helps).  If your blog blows up, and you start getting a lot of traffic, you're more likely to make money from affiliate ads, but also more likely to get more offers for paid space – so it's your call.  If you become the next “Big Blogger” you'll be able to do whatever the hell you want with your ad space, still make good money and when that happens don't forget that your old friend Fashion by He who showed you the way.


image by Jennine Jacob/ The Coveted instagram



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15 Responses

  1. Madeleine Gallay

    Spomsorship is nice .. the little ads don’t make sense until your readership numbers move the advertisers. Some get interested at 100,000 views, some more.

  2. Bree @ The Blog Stylist

    From experience affiliate links convert far better than affiliate ads. I think when you take a moment to actually discuss a product you love and link to it, people are more engaged and interested than clicking an ad.

    Loving your translation, He 🙂

  3. Lorenzo

    First time reader, first time poster!

    I’m a successful full time affiliate marketer. I have been for the past 4 years.

    My girlfriend runs a fashion blog that has recently been mention on your site, so I thought I would drop my 2 cents.

    1. Small blogs (100 visits or less/daily)

    There is no point of putting affiliate ads up.

    They will distract your small community, that you are wanting to grow. You also wont have enough data (clicks or sales) to know which kind of affiliates ads are worth running.

    You might make a couple of sales a month, but your time is massively better spent increasing your traffic and brand.

    2. Medium sized blogs (200-500 visits/daily)

    So you have established yourself. You’ve built a brand. You know the ropes and have managed to keep up posting content.

    You might be a little bit small for advertisers to contact you and buy an ad spot from you directly. So this is the time to start playing with affiliate ads.

    Most people people think of affiliate ads as the big ugly squares you plaster in the sidebar. They are affiliate ads but they are not the ones that make the money.

    Your best bet is to integrate affiliate links into your posts.

    E.g lets say you did an outfit post, and you had a photo of shoes you purchased from or a jacket from These are the ads that make the money. You don’t even need to use an image. Just a subtle text link saying “btw I got these shoes from X shop”.

    If your readers click that link then go onto buy those shoes, or any item for that matter you get paid.

    If you are all about the ca$h monie$ and want to push more affiliate ads. Then you have to customize your affiliate ads. Don’t bother with 300×200 ads. Make a list on your sidebar (just like your blogroll) of your “Top 5 Shopping Sites”. Just use your affiliate links. Something like this is your best shot to make money from affiliate ads outside your posts.

    3. Big Blogs

    Well I’m sure you already have it sorted.

    You should be selling all your ad space to advertisers, and working with shops directly.

    No affiliate ads required.

    Wow I didn’t expect my comment to be this long…

    • Chatkath

      Thank you for some great information, I have been writing on HubPages for about 9 months, made $0 and just now started my own blog and what you are saying makes complete sense, the adsense, affiliate ads do tend to distract potential followers and readers and until you get substantial content, it is a waste of time. I appreciate the heads up!

  4. Lorenzo

    By the way my blog is incase you would like to read more about affiliate stuff. I’m not trying to sell you anything!

    Good luck with your fashion blogs, it’s definitely one of the toughest niches to break into, but once your in I’m sure its friking awesome!

  5. Linda

    I’ve had ok luck with affiliate links in posts, but I’ve never tried a banner than had anywhere even close to an acceptable CPM. I agree that bloggers should not give away their ad impressions for free. It’s better to have a cleaner and less ad-filled blog than to get such little money.

  6. Allie

    Am i the only person who doesn’t hate Google Adsense? I have been blogging for 5 years, I am not a ginormous blogger, but I find their ads to not be offensive looking, fit with my blog’s theme/topic, and without any work I make a nice bit of money each month sent straight to my checking account.

    I also like ShopSense and Amazon for affiliate text links. Again, you won’t become a millionaire from either, but they make tools SO easy to use and add to your posts – Blogger has a gadget right in their platform for Amazon links, ShopSense’s site is so easy to use.

    I actually make more per month from these three than all my sponsors combined. One shouldn’t discount them immediately, especially if you are a smaller blog. Just don’t litter your entire blog with ginormous affiliate ads – you’ll lose fans and won’t make enough $ to justify it.

  7. ntm76

    I personally have not had much luck with google affiliate network but then again I do not use them much because I do not think they have the best advertisers on there. I mainly use commission junction amazon and link share as well as google adsense and make a very fair amount of money from them. I have had advertisers approach me for buying adspace but I much prefer the way I do not now.

  8. Lauren Nicolef

    I couldn’t agree with this post more. I hate crammed blogs and I will never read anything on a blog that has more ads then content.

    Being a journalism major, I have to stand by the fact that a clean blog is always more compelling than one with clutter. Besides, aren’t we blogging for the art and admiration for blogs and fashion?

    Perhaps everything in life has to involve $$$? (Sad.)

    I blog because it’s my creative outlet. Sure, if I was approached with an opportunity to get paid, I don’t believe I would turn it down. But, there’s so many blogs that go to every estore they know of and collect banners to post on their sites, get real.

  9. The Fashionable ESQ

    I am a new IFB member and new to blogging. I wanted to start a fashion blog/personal style blog (how novel, I know). I think my blog is pretty great, but I am struggling a lot to gain site traffic.

    My overall goal was to generate a small amount of revenue from the blog & of course, I have no idea how to do this.

    Reading posts like these discourage me a little bit b/c my numbers are still small but overall, I appreciate the info.

    Any help with setting up Google Adsense or any other tips would really be appreciated.
    Please drop me an e-mail, I would love you forever!!!

    🙂 Thanks.

  10. Sophie

    The answer is it depends, I really like how Lorenzo broke it down. In the beginning when you have very little traffic don’t every worry too much about monetizing so much as building an audience and coming up with good content.

    Affiliate programs are great, I mean if you can convert an ad into a sale you can get as little as 2% or as MUCH as 20-25% from some merchants. The key is to not depend on banners to make the sales for you (very low conversion rate, meaning a small percentage of clicks convert into sales) but rather create text links that blend in well into your copy (article) that people will click on. Text is more natural and flows better within the post and thus is more likely to be clicked and of course is less “ad-ish”.

    Food for thought – imagine having a blog where you talk about shoes. Let’s say you post once or twice a day about your favorite shoes and as time goes on you start to monetize those shoes by joining programs like CJ, GAN (Google Affiliate Network), Linkshare and even using other tools like Shopsense from Sugar Inc. Let’s say you did that for 6 months straight and started to get more traffic via search engines, Twitter…etc. Let’s say you start averaging about 10 to 15 sales a month, that now translates into more than chump change or coffee money as I often hear it referred to as.

    One suggestion I have for bloggers is to test, test and test some more. What I mean by that is try adsense and try using different ad units in different locations on your site. Don’t exclude the text ads by the way as those tend to have better CTR and on average will make you more money than just the image ads alone. Try out Shopsense from Shopstyle. What Shopsense gives you is great tools and a quicker way to monetize products and links on your blog. Don’t forget you can also make text links using Shopsense as well so take advantage of that and mix it in to your posts. There are many options/widgets in Shopsense so try them all out and see if some perform better than others over the course of a few days or a week.

    You really have to be willing to give it time and continue monetizing in a multitude of different ways. It’s like having a stock or 401k portfolio in that you want to diversify so that you are not putting all your eggs in one basket and you are giving yourself a broader mix of revenue streams.

    If anyone has specific questions about certain programs/tools I would be happy to answer them. If your goal is to have your blog become a business it is very possible but will take hard work and it will take quite a long time, but it can be done.


  11. Jordan McDowell

    Affiliates isn’t just about banner adverts. embedded deep linking is where the money is made. By linking direct to product you’re blogging about, readers can buy into your recommendations.

    Buy allowing key affiliate merchants space on your blog, and thus playing ball, you can also bump up the commission percentages. Don’t ask, don’t get.

  12. Sharon

    I have been having this debate with myself for quite some time. I use Adsense to fill in under posts and one affiliate banner.
    I really haven’t been about the business of trying to make money through ads (yet), I have been concentrating on gaining a following and building content. This article and the comments left have given me good information to consider.

  13. Malanb

    I totally agree with Lorenzo and Fashion by He. I was using Cj but I did see much profit from it. I was using all my time switching up ads and less on promoting my brand. I decided that it would be better for my brand to target indie designers and local fashion store to advertise on my blog. Now my blog looks less crowded and visually pleasing.

    Thanks guys!