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Time and time again, I hear bloggers complaining that they add affiliate links for hotels but nothing happens. No sales. Nada. Crickets. The Booking affiliate programme, in particular, seems to get a bad rep.
I get it. I thought the same. I was about to give up and switch to a different hotel booking affiliate programme when I started to see a few conversions. I analyzed that little trickle and started testing a few things out, putting together a strategy. A few months later and the trickle of hotel bookings has turned into a steady stream.
Whilst it is by no means my highest earning affiliate programme yet, I do earn a decent commission every month ($500 in August) and now that I know what strategy works, you can be sure that I am replicating that strategy with new articles and applying it to all my top-performing posts, planning to grow my steady stream into a gushing waterfall!
It may not come as a surprise to you that there may be affiliate links in this post. Obvs…
Firstly, who is the Booking.com Affiliate Programme for?
Well, the obvious niche the booking affiliate programme would suit is travel. But there are other niches which may have success with this programme.
Perhaps you are a mummy blogger talking about child-friendly hotels you enjoyed on holiday?
Perhaps you’re a food blogger writing a post about a food festival abroad, maybe you’d like to offer your readers some options for where to stay that’s close to the venue.
Are you a disability blogger? Your audience may appreciate knowing about hotels which take accessibility seriously in popular cities.
The programme is easy to use so is also suitable for beginner affiliate marketers.
Why choose the Booking Affiliate Programme?
For me, running a travel blog meant that joining a hotel affiliate programme was a no-brainer. It was an obvious way of easily earning passive income. But what made me choose the Booking.com affiliate programme over any other?!
Well, the main reason is that it is what I use personally for booking hotels. It is much easier to sell a product when you personally believe in it and understand how to use it inside and out.
Not only do I use it personally but so do many many MANY other people. Booking.com sees between 500 and 700 million views EVERY MONTH. Most people are creatures of habit and will use the booking website they are most familiar with, even if you link to an alternative. This was the main reason I chose to join the Booking affiliate programme.
What are the current terms of the booking.com affiliate programme?
The not-so-good news is that booking has a short cookie period and only honours bookings made the same day as the link is followed.
But it makes up for it with a decent commission scale.
The programme starts with a 25% commission. That is 1/4 of the commission Booking earns from the hotel for handling the booking. However, if you make enough bookings, they will raise the commission percentage for you.
Current as of September 2019;
- < 50 bookings/month = 25%
- 51-100 = 30%
- 151-500 = 35%
- 501+ = 40%
Wrong user intent
The most common reason for failing to convert bookings is misunderstanding user intent. Here’s an example;
Say you write an article about road trips in Europe. The people who read this are likely to be in the very early stages of booking a trip. They clearly haven’t even decided on a destination yet. It’s unlikely this sort of article is going to convert hotel bookings.
However, if you write an itinerary, you know your reader is a little close to booking – they are looking at specifics now. They are probably ready to part with some cash. The risk is, they may already have booked accommodation before searching for an itinerary.
Ideally, you’ll find a way to reach them some time in between when they are ready to book.
Are your links too subtle? Maybe you use text links but the colour isn’t obvious enough to make it obvious that they are clickable links? It may even be worth trying out an even more obvious way of using links by directing your readers to ‘ click here to check out this hotel.’
You could also try using buttons. I use big bright yellow buttons which are hard to miss. They scream ‘CLICK ME!!!’ They usually have clear directions on them such as ‘click here to check out up-to-date prices for this hotel.’ I often use a combination of text links and buttons in every post.
Also, are your links high up in the text or at the bottom of your posts? Not everyone will get to the bottom and many will scan-read the post for the answer they are looking for. It’s therefore worth trying to get some affiliate links in early in the post as they get more eyes on them! Also, make sure you sprinkle them throughout for the benefit of your scan-readers.
There’s no incentive to book
Make sure you give your reader a reason to book rather than just dropping a list of hotel names. Tell your audience if it has any particularly appealing features. Maybe the decor is really beautiful, it has a great rooftop pool or it’s really close to popular tourist attractions?
You are being impatient
If you expect to write a post and a few days later see the affiliate sales role in, you are a long way off being right!
Firstly, it can take several months for your post to rank and start gaining the RIGHT traffic. (Social traffic will never convert as well as search engine traffic as the user intent is not as well aligned.)
Secondly, many people book holidays many months in advance. Just because you have no earnt commissions, doesn’t mean you don’t have bookings. Make sure you check ‘Individual bookings’ under ‘performance’ to know how well you are converting sales.
Thirdly, it can take up to 2 months after the person completes their hotel stay before the commission is awarded to you.
I am guilty of presuming it wasn’t working because there were no paychecks. When I delved in deeper I realised that there were bookings and a few months later, I started to reap the financial rewards.
So have patience, my friends!
The way I approach converting sales with booking.com is to start with the place I stayed personally. I write a paragraph about the pros and cons as well as reasons to book.
If there are any problems with the place I stayed, I will look for a solution. For example, if it was too pricey or too far away, I’ll scour the website to find somewhere which is better value for money or closer to attractions.
I then offer the reader some alternatives in different price brackets which solve the problems with the first accommodation. I make it very clear that I have not stayed in these places personally. I’m essentially doing the research for my readers, making their life easier.
Here’s an example of what I may write;
‘ I stayed at X hotel and loved the beautiful decor and views from my balcony across the ocean. The onsite restaurant also served delicious food and it was easy to find parking for my hire car. That said, it wasn’t the cheapest hotel in the region and it was a little too far away from many of the tourist attractions in this city (though great if you want a quieter stay!)
Here are some other alternatives I have found for places to stay which would suit any budget;
Shoestring: X hostel looks like a brilliant budget accommodation and for a hostel, the decor actually looks pretty nice.
Budget: Not only is this hotel affordable but it is also in the prime location and so close to some of my favourite restaurants in this city.
Luxury: If I could afford it, I would have loved to have booked this hotel. I mean, just take a look at that rooftop pool with swim-up bar…
For other accommodation options, click here...‘
I find these accommodations by filtering the search by ticking ‘excellent location’ and ‘9/10 reviews.’ I then order them by price and then click into different hotels and read the reviews and check out the photos in detail. If I’m happy I’ll link to the hotel but always making it clear whether or not I have stayed there personally. Remember it’s important your readers learn to trust you, being open and transparent will help to gain their trust.
Types of posts which convert booking sales
- Best region or area to stay in X
- Best places to stay in X
- City guide for X
- City itineraries
- Roadtrip itineraries
- Guides for specific festivals and events
The 80:20 rule
If you don’t have any articles that may convert sales, then write some new ones! I often write an article with an affiliate product in mind. It would be lovely to just write about whatever inspired us but at the end of the day, we are trying to run our own businesses. I personally follow the 80:20 rule.
80% of my content is designed with SEO and affiliates in mind. I already know what I want to promote and how I’m going to reach my audience before I start writing.
20% of my articles are written about anything that inspires me, regardless if it’s likely to reach a large audience or convert sales. These are the articles which make my site unique. I even won an award for one of these articles so they are worth writing!
Alternatives to the booking.com affiliate programme
Of course, Booking.com is not the only hotel booking site which offers an affiliate programme. TripAdvisor, Hotels combined and Hotels.com, Agoda and TravelPayouts.com all offer affiliate programmes. I’ve heard mixed reviews for all of the above so it may be worth beta testing each programme on your site and seeing which works for you.
If you prefer staying in Airbnbs, you could consider installing Skimlinks on your blog. Whilst Airbnb has no direct affiliate programme, Skimlinks will turn any Airbnb links into affiliate links through their programme earning you around $0.06 per click. It may not sound like a lot but it amounts to around $60 for 1000 click-throughs.
Hopefully, now, you feel more confident with approaching using affiliate links to convert hotel sales in your articles. Please let me know how you get on in the comments section below!
Read Next :
- What is passive income and how can I make some with my blog?
- The beginners guide to affiliate marketing
- how to make BIG money with a SMALL blog
- Take the 5-day affiliate marketing challenge
- How I made over $5000 in 1 month with just 40k page views with my travel blog