Advertise on your websiteYou can indeed make money through affiliate marketing without a website. Methods that do not require a website are email marketing, paid search, and even offline marketing (print, radio, TV, etc). However, there’s something every paid search marketer must know prior to launching a PPC affiliate marketing campaign without a website.

On February 26, 2010 Entrepreneur.com published an article entitled “How to Make Money Online Without a Website”. In it, author Allen Moon stated that with proper keyword research and good PPC advertising skills anyone can make money off affiliate programs through paid search marketing. True. But very seldom “without a website.” The problem is not with Google deciding to “only display one ad per search
query for advertisers sharing the same top-level domain in the display
URL” (more
here
), but with the very idea of PPC affiliate marketing without a website. The article reads:

“Direct linking means that you can join affiliate programs, create ads for their products, and send click-throughs directly to the merchant’s site. There’s no need to build an intermediary site or use your own site to direct traffic. When your click-throughs convert, you get a commission.”

Sounds easy, and attractive, but the fact of the matter is that multiple advertisers prohibit DTM (direct-to-merchant) affiliate linking altogether.

I just analyzed paid search affiliate policies from the top 10 merchants on the Internet Retailer’s Top 500 List. Here’s what I read:

1) Amazon.com Inc.

“After careful review of how we are investing our
advertising resources, we have made the decision to no longer
pay advertising fees to Associates who send users to
www.amazon.com, www.amazon.ca, or www.endless.com through keyword
bidding and other paid search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search
engines.” [source]

2) Staples Inc.

“Affiliates must use their own landing page
prior to linking to Staples.com” [from Staples’ “Special Instructions for
Search Marketing Publishers” on Commission Junction]

3) Dell Inc.

Again on CJ: “Search Campaigns – Direct Linking
section:
Are publishers allowed to link directly to my Web site from search
marketing campaigns? —No

4) Apple Inc.

same as above

5) Office Depot Inc

“Office depot does not” allow DTM linking [reply I’ve just received from LinkShare]

6) Walmart.com

awaiting clarification from LinkShare, will post an update later

7) OfficeMax Inc

awaiting clarification from Google Affiliate Network

8) Sears Holdings Corp.

awaiting clarification from Google Affiliate Network

9) CDW Corp.

No
affiliate program

10) Best Buy Co

“Search Campaigns – Direct Linking” section of
their CJ program rules:
Are publishers allowed to link directly to my Web site from search
marketing campaigns? —No

Apparently, direct-to-merchant linking, or the very idea behind PPC affiliate marketing “without a webiste” will not work with most of the above-quoted merchants, and the situation will be the same with hundreds of other affiliate programs too. As written elsewhere, DTM linking from affiliate PPC campaigns has been historically associated with lower quality traffic, often coupled with trademark poaching, or even copying merchant’s own ads. Add Google’s policy to allow only one unique display URL per ad copy, and it is obviously why merchants frequently decide to disallow it in their affiliate programs’ TOS.

As stated at the very outset, I’m not saying that there is no such thing as affiliate marketing without a website; only that most merchants will have a problem with direct linking. Do check with the merchant prior to investing your time and money into DTM PPC campaigns.