Are you leaving affiliate money on the table?

Last week, Morgan Brown and I hosted a presentation at RE BarCamp LA on affiliate marketing… The premise of the conversation being: are you leaving money on the table by *not* accepting affiliate links on your site?

I asked Morgan to join me because I’ve been impressed with how he monetizes his DIY loan modification post and he didn’t disappoint during the conversation. You’d have to ask others to give a less-biased account, but I thought he rocked at describing how he manages to monetize traffic that comes to his site in a way that doesn’t conflict with any of his values and actually compliments the services he is able to offer his readers.

My interest in talking about affiliate programs, however, wasn’t just to learn from Morgan. I recently helped design an affiliate program for one of my clients that I think would be of interest to real estate professionals and I wanted to bounce the idea off some people at the conference. The feedback I got was great, so now I’m hoping to get a few more readers into the program…

With the team, I made a two key requests for the widget:

  • It needed to provide a complementary service that would complement a REALTORS website and
  • It needed to pay realtors for leads (none of the usual “drive us leads and will give you a pretty map” that most real estate widgets deliver)

widget-on-rcgI’m super pleased to say that the team implemented things flawlessly… I’ve had the widget up on EVERY blog post of RCG for a few weeks now (check out the right-panel of this post for example) and have enjoyed getting the emails every time a new user requests a moving quote!

Back to the two key points… I’d argue that the widget offers an extremely complementary tool and I know for a fact that it pays. The reality is that for most consumers (and even realtors), finding a quality mover is often a crapshoot. Who to recommend and why??? When you tap into the database of movers for your clients, you get a few benefits: 1) they thoroughly vet each mover in their program, 2) they insist each mover in their program agree to abide by their Consumer Bill of Rights, and 3) they remove movers when they get complaints. I’ve spent a decent amount of time with the team and I feel very comfortable saying they take their reputation for recommending quality movers seriously.

So what does it pay? Well that depends on the type of lead that you send them and they’ve documented it pretty well on their sign up page.

The moving widget is available in two forms… You can either get it as a WordPress plugin that easily integrates into your sidepanel or they can give you the javascript that will let you put it in individual posts (or on non-worpress blogs!) like this:
Moving Companies

If you’d like any more information on this widget, just let me know! And if/when you’re ready to get yourself signed up for the affiliate program, head over to their sign-up page where you can register for the program!

17 responses

  1. Was just working on this as well but it’s obviously pretty niche and will only add value to mortgage broker centric sites…..sig has link…. still working on pricing before launch, but its pretty close to being finished….

  2. Hi Dustin,
    Your presentation at REBarCamp LA was great and this post provides more information. Thank you for sharing this with the rest of us.

  3. Trace: Thanks for stopping by. I gave a quick glance at your program and can’t wait to follow up some more! I’m thinking it might be time to push some real estate agents to look a bit deeper into how they monetize the traffic on their sites!

    Mana: So glad you appreciated the talk at REBarCamp LA. Some stuff happened at that event I completely didn’t expect. Lots of fun all around!

  4. Was there any discussion about how the program reconciles with RESPA. My thought is that it would depend on the amount of payment for the referral/lead. I’m not sure what those type of leads would typically sell for – but they have to be a market price. If the widget directed traffic to just a single mover or small group of movers and they paid above market prices for those leads, I think you would be drifting into murky waters. Nonetheless, I can’t wait to learn more about how to expand this opportunity.

  5. @Dustin: so when you say “some stuff happened at that event I completely didn’t expect…” I’m curious…what do you mean? 🙂

  6. Nice timing. I have an opportunity to join an affiliate program and don’t really know what I am doing. It isn’t my business blog but my photo blog. I might do it just to learn more.

  7. Marc: I’ve not had any discussions regarding RESPA violations… but you’ve definitely got me curious. My gut tells me that RESPA doesn’t apply in this case because there are hundreds of movers in the system and the set-up recommends a variety of movers for each person… not one specific mover. Nonetheless, if I was a realtor worried about legal ramifications, I certainly wouldn’t trust my gut. 😉

  8. Ricardo: My unexpected stuff was the meetings I had… I was approached with some opportunities that had not been on my radar, so it surprised me a bit. Great stuff!

  9. Teresa: If you do join the affiliate program, let me know your results. I’ve been playing with a bunch of them, and while none of them are big money-makers by themselves, in aggregate, the dollars start to add up.

  10. @Teresa: I say that you go for it!

  11. I think Marc poses an excellent question here! I see red flags all over the matter of licensed real estate agents generating affiliate income. There are very serious RESPA issues with this. I discuss this at some length in a new course I developed for CE credit in AZ – Social Media: Tips to Avoid a Risk Management Nightmare.

    There is discussion in some quarters that calls blogs and web sites “media sites” and not marketing tools. State regulators and HUD are not inclined to take this view of licensee’s Web forays.

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  13. Frances: Please elaborate… because I’m not seeing anything convincing in your comment besides the nice plug for your course.

    What are the the potential RESPA violations with an affiliate program?

    Are the issues only with mortgage, title, etc. type affiliate programs or all affiliate programs? If a REALTOR made $25 by getting another REALTOR to sign up for an invoicing tool, would that be a RESPA violation? How about if they plug another service or tool. Let’s take the Trulia widget, for example, that sends free leads from REALTORS every day to your employer. Is that a RESPA violation? Or is it only a violation if the REALTOR accepts money for the lead?

  14. I think this is a bad idea in so many ways I cannot count them all.
    Let me begin by going back to the movement towards localism.
    Why did that have to be?
    Because many of the posts had nothing to do with the real estate in that agents town.
    I remember seeing ( and still do at times) agents writing about SEO or Online Marketing. As a marketer and SEO vendor I find those posts interesting. However, it diminishes that authors brand. What are you an SEO or a Realtor? In the case of affiliate marketing it is very tempting to slap a moving company up on ones blog.,, are some places that would make easy fits.
    For a few sheckles you just diminished your message.
    You would be much better served to offer this stuff on the back end of sequencing or an email campaign. And in fact even better off to partner with local vendors to offer tips and strategies and commissions(textual, video, etc) as content for your front end and backend lead marketing.(I let you deal with the legalities one way or another as I have no idea how that would work)
    In the end, why would you dilute your brand and message with other brands, stronger than yours stealing screen real estate?

    Tim O’Keefe
    Real Estate Marketing/SEO

  15. Dustin,

    I was moved to respond to this because there was a similar opportunity for this type of income several years ago. When I was licensed in PA there was an opportunity to work with a similar company that offered three moving estimates to consumers. The company offered a $100 referral fee payable for each consumer who hired one of the companies after signing up and receiving three estimates. I thought it sounded like a good idea and I was anxious to participate.

    We spoke with legal counsel about the appropriateness of that type of business arrangement and we were advised not to proceed.

    That said, a questionnaire at would bear out the likelihood that this affilaite arrangement is permissible. Check Question 1 here:

    “… Services that are provided after closing typically are not covered by RESPA and are not considered settlement services..”

    Interesting! What if these services are provided prior to closing? Does that change anything? I am anxious to hear qualified legal input on this. Perhaps you can find a good real estate attorney to weigh in.

    Regarding your other questions:

    Q. If a REALTOR made $25 by getting another REALTOR to sign up for an invoicing tool, would that be a RESPA violation?

    A. I doubt it. However, there may be a provision in the brokerage policy and procedure manual restricting an agent’s ability to create revenue streams on a real estate web site. (Real estate web sites are marketing vehicles and fall under “broker supervision.”) I’ve seen policy and procedure manuals that prohibit this type of rev share model.

    Q. How about if they plug another service or tool. Let’s take the Trulia widget, for example, that sends free leads from REALTORS every day to your employer. Is that a RESPA violation? Or is it only a violation if the REALTOR accepts money for the lead?

    A. The Trulia widget ( ) is fine and does not create a RESPA problem. Only BROKERS can accept referral fees. Real estate agents who are not brokers are not allowed to accept monies for real estate leads … this is a matter of state law, not RESPA. Brokers pay agents referral fees to agents based on a formula specified in the independent contractor agreement.

  16. Dustin-
    The blog post I made was elaborating on my comment. Which I often do.
    Seeing that the comment never made it (at least in my mind at the time) I put forth the idea that intelligent commentary despite disagreement can be useful in stirring up the pot.
    I am thankful to you for not deleting my comment. And some day we will have to reprimand that jerk Mr. Akismet. He usually is so diligent.
    I still do not think mixing affiliate and brand is a good idea 😛

  17. Joel Owen Avatar
    Joel Owen

    i signed up with the Amazon Omakaze affiliate program. i am not yet earning from this affiliate program because my blog is still very new.;~`

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