Affiliate Marketing vs. Google AdSense

Affiliate marketing and Google AdSense are two of the most common ways to monetize a website. Both have benefits and drawbacks, and it’s worth considering which one fits your site best. It is very hard to say for certain which one is better for you and your site, but if you learn about them you should have a good sense of which makes sense for you.

What’s Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is essentially where you, the blogger or webmaster, act as a salesperson for another company, and you are paid solely on commission. Usually it works like this: you can sign up for a company’s affiliate program to access unique links for your site which will give you credit if someone makes a purchase by clicking through the link. You’re then paid a fixed percentage of the sale, anywhere from 3% up to 70% or more, depending on the company and the product.

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Companies like affiliate marketing because it is zero work and zero risk for them. They only pay you if you make a sale, so as long as the commission is less than their margin, they’re secure in knowing that the ROI will be non-negative.

Bloggers and website owners like affiliate marketing because it is easy to get started with and doesn’t take any logistical work (since you don’t control the supply chain of the things you’re selling, you don’t have to worry about getting the product from creation to the customer). It’s also technically very easy, usually just copy-pasting a link or possibly a bit of html code.

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Of course, in order for your affiliate marketing scheme to make any money at all, people have to visit your site, click through your links and then make a purchase. This is easier said than done and not all sites will have high enough conversion rates to make affiliate marketing profitable. Affiliate schemes are ideal when you:

* Target a highly specific niche
* Target people who are actively looking to purchase something
* Are selling relatively expensive goods

This is why many “review” style sites use affiliate marketing. For example, a site reviewing blenders is targeting a specific niche; its readers are likely looking to buy a blender; and it’s selling relatively expensive goods (blenders are generally $20 and up). A site like this could have a 1% conversion rate (extremely reasonable), have 100 visitors/day, and sell blenders that cost an average of $50 with a 6% commission. This would be $3/day, or $90/month, with very conservative numbers (100 visitors/day is not very many at all) and probably not too much work; maybe 10 blender reviews would suffice.

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One thing to keep in mind with affiliate marketing is that the line between advertising and native content is very blurry. In order to maintain your readers’ trust and to make money in an ethical way, you need to be explicit when you are using an affiliate link.

Google AdSense

AdSense is very easy to get started with. You don’t have to think too much about what products you’re selling; Google does that for you, and they have so much data at their disposal that they do a very good job of it. You also don’t have to spend time searching for a profitable affiliate program. Google is a one-stop shop. AdSense is an easy thing to “set and forget.”

However, there are drawbacks as well.

For starters, AdSense doesn’t pay out as quickly. You’ll have to wait for your money, whereas you can find affiliate programs that will pay you almost immediately.

If you are willing to put the effort into writing quality content and building a list of high-converting followers, you’ll almost always be able to make more money from affiliate schemes than from AdSense.

In addition, if you monetize solely with AdSense, you’re completely at the mercy of Google. If they choose to change their platform (and yes, they have every right to, they don’t owe you anything), or if they ban you for whatever reason (for example, a competitor might “click-bomb” your site), you could see all of your work and income evaporate overnight. It’s a lot more risk than affiliate marketing is, where you’re less dependent on any single player.

For some more interesting perspectives on this topic, check out this question on Quora:

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-Google-AdSense-and-affiliate-marketing.