When deciding how to monetize your blog content, two of the key options are affiliate links vs. accepting sponsored posts, and there are pros and cons to each.
As a blogger, or other kind of content creator, revenue generation is an important part of the mix. After all, you need to have some way to fund your passion.
And there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with the desire to generate revenue from your hard work.
When looking at potential revenue streams, a blogger has several options. Display ads through ad networks is a very popular option. Google Adsense, Mediavine, Adthrive, and a host of other platforms offer a quick and easy solution to generating advertising revenue from your website.
However, these platforms don’t offer a lot of control over what ads are being displayed, as it is all done through a back-end algorithm that supports their goals more than it does yours (even if they claim otherwise).
Two of the other big revenue generators for content creators are Sponsored Posts and Affiliate Links.
What are Sponsored Posts?
Sponsored posts allow brands to place content on your site for a fee. These can either be posts written by them, most often for SEO purposes, or content written by you based on a product or service they offer.
Sponsored posts written by you most often include a sample of the product that you write about receiving, opening, using, etc. Although there is no guarantee a positive review with sponsored posts, the assumption is – usually – that a blogger will work with the brand to overcome any negative impressions before the post is written and published.
What are Affiliate Links?
Affiliate links are tracking links that you add withing your own content to the merchant of your choice. When a visitor to your site uses that link to visit the merchant’s site and purchases, you earn a small referral fee commission on anything they purchase.
Affiliate links can be direct and blatant, e.g. “You can buy this product HERE!” or they can be subtle such as linking a key word within an otherwise informative sentence to a supplier of that product or service.
For example, as I am writing a blog post, I keep noting that I need a new area rug for my office. See what I did there? Area rug is linked to a retailer of area rugs. If that was an affiliate link (which it is not) if anyone followed that link and bought an area rug from that site, I would earn a commission.
Or let’s say your write a blog about how to grow a small business (Gee, that sounds familiar for some reason!!). You could join a B2B affiliate marketing program like the affiliate program at Deluxe, where you can promote a bunch of products and services that a small business would need and make a decent little commission by doing so.
Not that I would know from experience or anything.
Sponsored Posts vs Affiliate Links
There are key areas that you need to look at when comparing sponsored links vs affiliate links to decide which is right for your website.
- One Time vs. Recurring Revenue – Sponsored posts are paid out once, usually upon publication. The payment can range based on your site’s traffic, domain authority, and if you are writing the post yourself or having it provided by the brand. Affiliate links generate revenue every time someone purchases using that link for as long as the affiliate program is active.
- Follow vs. Nofollow links – Although you should never, ever “sell” links, the assumption that most brands have with sponsored posts is that any links to their site will not include a “nofollow” attribute. However, it is an SEO best practice to “nofollow” all affiliate links on your site.
- Advertising Disclaimers – Both sponsored posts and affiliate links require a disclosure of your relationship with the sponsor. However, an affiliate disclaimer such as “This post may contain affiliate links…” is much less intrusive than “This post has been created in partnership with…”
- New vs. Established Bloggers – If you are a new blogger, you may have a hard time getting brands to consider publishing a sponsored post on your site until you have developed a solid following and domain authority. However, affiliate links can be added to your site on Day 1 of publication.
- Level of Effort – Sponsored posts most often require a unique and dedicated post to that brand. Affiliate links can be added to content that you are already working on.
- Approvals – Brands usually want to review and approve sponsored posts, and may ask you to make edits to the content to better reflect the brand. Merchants very, very, very rarely ask for changes to your content that contains affiliate links unless you’ve made factually inaccurate statements (which you’d want to correct anyway).
- Range of Offers – Depending on your niche, it may be harder to find a company willing to run a sponsored post. However, there is an exceptionally wide range of affiliate programs on the market today. You can find practically anything, from handmade soaps to B2B affiliate programs, available for you to choose from.
Which Should You Choose?
Although many people believe that your blog monetization choices are one or the other, that isn’t always the case. It’s not like a fork in the road, as both will get you to a very similar destination — revenue.
If you want my honest opinion – and I’m guessing by the fact that you’ve made it all the way through this article that you do – I would recommend that you do both.
Affiliate links are a quick and easy way to add revenue opportunities to your existing content.
Sponsored posts are a good way to infuse a larger chunk of cash into your blog business up front. And, in the best case scenario, if you find yourself in a situation where you can add affiliate links TO a sponsored post, you get to win on both ends.
In fact, I would recommend a carefully considered mix of all three revenue generating programs.
So, to recap….
What Are the Three Best Ways to Generate Blog Income?
- Ad Placement – Either through a network or by offering direct placement for selected ad spots on your website
- Affiliate Links – Including links to vetted merchants on your site that offer products or services that are relevant to your content
- Sponsored Posts – Allow brands to purchase content placement on your site to promote their product or service
In the end, it is your blog / website, therefore it is absolutely your choice how you want to generate revenue from it.