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New Affiliate Program Strategy for Travel Blogs

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 [...]

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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.

Travel Gear Store

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.

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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


Filed under: Blogging, Make Money for Travel, Traveling Webmaster, Work

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support VBJ’s writing on this blog:

VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

5 comments… add one

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  • Dyanne @TravelnLass March 26, 2011, 4:53 pm

    Just curious but…

    “As you see, there are no travel insurance or Eurorail recommendations on this site (amongst many other unnecessary travel services).”

    Why do you say that travel insurance is “unnecessary”?

    While I’m surely not one to be unnecessarily “over-insured” (and g-knows every penny saved is a blessing), as a 60+ backpacker planning to move to Vietnam soon, I rather thought it would be only prudent to have at least SOME sort of medical insurance, no?

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 26, 2011, 9:07 pm

      Hello Dyanne,

      Haha, I have this debate on here a couple of times before. Here are some links. Look in the comments of Don’t buy drinking water for travel as there is a discussion with a rep from World Nomads on it and also read Travel Insurance for Long Term Travel. This is pretty much my position on travel insurance. The rates for insurance have also gone up, so double the amount that I said that I would have paid for coverage in the second page.

      Chances are, for almost everything but something severely major, you are not going to go over the detuctible for medical care in Vietnam (unless you go to a rip off foreigner clinic). I have been in foreign hospitals more times that I care to recollect, but in 11 years of travel I have only to had one bill that topped the amount of a typical travel insurance deductible, and I would have only been able to claim $3. The medical system in the USA and a small handful of other countries where medical care is expensive are oddities in the world. Typically, if you need to go to the doctor almost anywhere the cost is going to be free or under $20.

      But at 60, you may be in a different boat than younger travelers. The condition of your health is something that only you know, and getting insurance or not is a personal choice. There are no hard guidelines here. But, I assume, if someone did have a major and expensive medical problem abroad they would be on the first flight home — making travel insurance a moot point. Though I suppose medical insurance is for the big problems where you can’t get home. Though, keep in mind, that travel insurance only works on reimbursement. So you would need to pay a large bill in cash first and then hope to be reimbursed later.

      It is interesting how sensitive many people are about medical insurance. If I say something off about a culture or a place, nobody really says too much, but as soon as I say something about negative about food or travel insurance I find that many people become offended. Though, as Chirs from World Nomads pointed out in one of the discussions linked to above, some major claims do come in.

      Perhaps evacuation insurance is recommended.

      Link Reply
  • Sage March 27, 2011, 7:00 am

    You may want to check out what this girl is doing, she posts her monthly earnings at the end of every month and she’s raking in at least a couple of thousand each month. She has previously explained on her blog how she’s generating this level of income and allegedly companies seek her out to advertise on her blog.


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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 27, 2011, 9:30 am

      Thanks for this advice, but I am aware of this site and I know that it primarily generates income from selling text links, which is a direct violation of Google’s policy and could face drastic penalties — such as being dropped by Google completely. If I wanted to make money this way, I could bring in over $2,000 per month, but this site is a long term investment for me, so a fast cash in is not worth it. Thanks though for the reference, your help is much appreciated.

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  • Majka March 31, 2011, 5:49 am

    If you would like to find some affiliate programs, at http://1affil.com/ are 3500+ entries. It is new affiliate directory with detail informations about sites.

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