I’ve used affiliate programs on my websites for many years. I saw only meager earnings until we signed up with the eBay program and started displaying “dynamic” content. Eventually I started working with product datafeeds, and that’s when it all became worthwhile. We now manage about a dozen datafeeds from various merchants (most through Commission Junction) and earn a decent amount each month.
Banners and buttons are not very effective. If you have the opportunity to earn from displaying banner ads then do so. But don’t expect to earn from pay-per-sale programs using banners. We tried it for years with pretty lame results. I still display banner ads but it’s more for their “aesthetic value” than revenue. Here’s my quick tips for increasing your earnings:
Link Deep send the user right to the page they need- not the front door or a nearby page. How many times have you been frustrated by “Click here for yada yada” only to find that yada yada is still three more clicks away? I usually leave.
Relevant Content generic content or “pretty close” content isn’t good enough. If a visitor was searching for “chrome plated bolts” when they found your page you need to show them exactly that- just “bolts” won’t do.
Use Text Links ad graphics are virtually invisible to the average web surfer nowadays. The common 468 x 60 banner at the top of a page is not even noticed. Look at Google Ad Sense- the most successful campaigns are usually boxes in the middle of the page or lists embedded in the navigation menu.
Learn a Script dynamic content requires some sort of scripting language. No matter whether it’s ASP, PHP, Perl or whatever- learn some basics or find a tool that that coughs it up for you.