I must admit that each affiliate marketing initiative that I have taken over the years with Vagabond Journey Travel has resulted in me giving a company a lot of advertising and traffic for very little return. In waves I have added affiliate adverts to this site just to quickly remove them when it became apparent that massive amounts of users were exiting my site through the links and very little money coming back in. Then it became apparent to me that affiliate marketing may need a different strategy than other advertising methods:
With affiliate marketing I need to be the marketer.
With affiliate marketing, if I want to make money I need to be the salesman.
The banner adverts that you see in the sidebar and in the header of this site are mostly for affiliate programs — I receive a certain percent of each sale I generate. The flight search box that is on the homepage and the travel deals page is a CPC program, where I receive around 10 to 15 cents for each search a visitor conducts.
All of the affiliate programs that VJT participates in are for well known, top of the niche companies. There are currently banners up for Vayama flight booking services, Hostelworld, STA Travel, Priceline, and the flight search widget has the option of using Kayak.com (my flight search engine of choice).
With the exception of the hotel and hostel booking services, I have used all of these sites along with recommending them. In a disclaimer of honesty I must proclaim that I, personally, do not book hotel rooms online — never have and, hopefully, never will. But I must admit that my parameters for choosing accommodation are different than most travelers, as I am looking for places to live rather than just crash for a couple of nights. I know that my travel methods are not typical in this regard and most travelers today DO book their rooms online as a rule. From working in hostels in Europe it is clear to me that Hostelworld is the booking engine of choice — 85% of our clients would come to us through this site, and I have not heard many of these users complain about the service they were receiving.
Vagabond Journey Travel’s Partner Sites
Maybe this time affiliate marketing will work?
I need to generate more income off of this site — this is essential. Though I will not let my drive to make money usurp my reputation. The value of a recommendation on VJT derives solely from the fact that I am not afraid to give a bad review of a product or service and I will not sell something I know to be a rip off. In point, I will not stamp my smiley face on a product or service I feel is substandard to make a buck. As you see, there are no travel insurance or Eurorail recommendations on this site (amongst many other unnecessary travel services).
I have always been structurally oppose to affiliate programs. As a webmaster, it is my job to drive traffic to advertiser’s sites, but it is their job to turn this traffic into sales. By only rewarding me for sales — by only paying commissions — I essentially only get paid if someone else successfully does their job.
This is like a car dealer telling a newspaper that they will only pay for their ads based on a percentage of the sales that can be confirmed to have been generated by the newspaper. This would be ridiculous, as everyone knows that it is not the newspaper’s job to sell cars, it is their job to put the car dealership in front of the public eye. As a webmaster, it is my job to put an advertiser’s brand in front of the public, it is my job to generate traffic. What this traffic does once leaving my site is not something that I have any control over.
Or is it?
My previous method of running static affiliate marketing campaigns has always only earned me nuts, berries, and a few handfuls of pocket lint. I need to take a more proactive approach and try to generate sales, not just refer traffic. As a professional blogger, a portion of my marketing value is based on how well I serve as a bridge between the public and products: the more elaborate I can build this bridge the more valuable I will be.
I will post honest reports on this new venture into affiliate marking periodically in the comments below.
If you want to support VJT but do not have the cash to make a donation or the time to volunteer, I suggest connecting with the travel services that you use through this site. If anyone regularly uses a travel website that they would recommend VJT to partner with, please let us know. Likewise, if you have ever had a negative experience with any of the sites that we have already partnered with, please inform me of the situation and I will evaluate the grounds for our removal from their program.
New affiliate marketing strategy