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The Affiliate Marketing Great Debate: In-Text Links or Banner Ads?

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Some affiliate marketing pros swear by in-text links, and think anyone using banner ads is ignorant. Other webmasters enjoy great success with banner ads, and laugh off that criticism all the way to the bank.

Which type of affiliate marketing referral should you use, in-text links or banner ads?

In-Text Links Work Wonderfully When People Actually Care What You Think

If you're a smart writer with a loyal audience that really trusts you, concentrate your affiliate marketing efforts in the direction of in-text links. Why? Because using in-text links puts the words in your mouth, and what comes out of your mouth is powerful.

Like the recommendation of a trusted friend, a well-done in-text link carries extra weight.

Ken Evoy, the creator of SiteBuildIt and a renowned expert on affiliate marketing, claims that in-text links boast conversion rates 20 times better than banner ads. While this statistic is highly unscientific, there can be no doubt that in-text links convert extremely well for a certain kind of website. Namely, the kind of site Evoy teaches: a content-rich site with a strong perspective.

However, not every site contains--or needs to contain--175 articles about a certain topic. Some sites are community forums with no editor in chief, or "pointers" that aggregate links from other sites rather than presenting original content, or journalistic efforts that strive for objectivity.

Those are three examples where banner ads may trump in-text links. There are more.

Also, extensive use of in-text links is a double-edged sword because you, as a webmaster, are vouching for your affiliate partner. This can backfire if customers don't like what they bought based on your recommendation and decide to take it up with you, rather than the company they bought from. Banner ads are obviously ads, so you don't have to worry about that hassle.

Banner Ads Must Be Compelling Attention-Getters

Internet surfers have become "banner blind." Or so the proponents of in-text links only would have you believe. Of course, like any gross generalization, this is a half-truth.

Internet surfers, especially when they come to your site by way of the search engines, are definitely searching for something and that something is not your flashy banner ad. A site full of banner ads is a turn-off to the vast majority of Internet surfers, without a doubt.

However, there is a right way to do banner ads: choose the right banner ads.

When banner ads are compelling, banner ads work. Compelling affiliate marketing banner ads often have a clearly articulated price-based sell, e.g. "Web Hosting, $1.99 Per Month, Forever."

Using banner ads that move, dance, sing, or any combination thereof is another idea. According to a March 2009 report by Eyeblaster, an Internet marketing firm, rich media banner ad click-through rates are more than twice those of static banners: 0.50 percent to 0.2 percent.

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