PopShops makes it easy to market products related to your blog content.

You can make money by selling products or services on the Web. But what if you have no products of your own to offer?

If you run a popular informational website - perhaps a blog - there are several ways to capitalise on the value of your web visitors and develop a new source of business income. One of the most popular methods is affiliate marketing, which lets you earn money by marketing other businesses' products and services on your website.

A new service from PopShops.com lets you create virtual storefronts to advertise affiliate products on your website or blog. PopShops doesn't work easily with every type of blog, but it can make quick work of designing and setting up a storefront. The basic service is free; editions with more capabilities cost up to $30 per month.

How affiliate marketing works

Some businesses let you sign up directly with them to sell their products, but many have joined affiliate networks. An affiliate network eases the administrative burden for both the business with something to sell and the information publisher who wants to earn money by marketing third-party products.

As a publisher, when you join an affiliate network, you gain access to dozens or even hundreds of potential advertisers at one fell swoop. Advertisers benefit since they don't need to cut thousands of little checks each month to pay each of the publishers selling their products. They pay the network, which makes one monthly payment to the publishers, accumulating earnings from all advertisers on the network. Generally these networks set a minimum amount that you must earn before they send you payment - for example, if you earn £20 per month and the minimum is £50, you won't get paid until the end of the third month, when you'll get a cheque for £60.

Typically, publisher earnings are based upon visitor purchases or some other desired action. In other words, the publisher makes money only when someone clicks an ad link on their site and makes a purchase from the advertiser. The publisher's earnings might be either a percentage of that sale or a flat fee.

Some affiliate network advertising merchants are well-known and established businesses, such as Kodak and Panasonic. Others you may have never heard of.

How PopShops helps publishers

There are many affiliate networks: LinkShare and Commission Junction are two established ones. Each network has its own conditions for accepting publishers and its own methods for how you must add advertiser links to your site.

The ad-linking requirements can read like so much technobabble to new publishers. That's where PopShops can help. The service integrates with several popular affiliate networks to ease the burden of designing a virtual storefront, selecting suitable products for it, and creating the ad-linking code for your online store.

Once you sign up with PopShops, you can use its Shopbuilder tool to view a list of all advertising merchants it supports. Clicking on an advertiser lets you drill down and view its products. Then you can click on a product to add its image and link to your virtual store.

The ad-linking code for the store is created by PopShops. When you're done, you publish your store by inserting the PopShops code into your web page.

The beauty of PopShops is how easy it makes creating a store that mixes and matches products from different merchants from several affiliate networks. Currently, PopShops supports five affiliate networks (Commission Junction, LinkShare, Performics, Red Galoshes, ShareASale) with data feeds from over 1,000 merchants offering more than 22 million products.

PopShops limitations

You can set up a PopShops account in five minutes, but you're on your own when it comes to creating accounts with the affiliate networks that the service supports.

To join an affiliate network you'll need to do your homework and gather some information. Most networks want details on the number of your monthly site visitors, the content that your site contains, targeted visitor demographics, and so on. Count on spending at least 20 minutes to complete each affiliate network publisher application.

Once your application is approved by an affiliate network, you can enter your affiliate account name into your PopShops account.

Not all advertisers on affiliate networks offer data feeds; PopShops limits you to those that do.

PopShops has a widget that you can plug into a Blogger or TypePad blog. Support for WordPress is weaker, though a plug-in is planned. For now, WordPress bloggers will need to play with JavaScript or PHP settings to use PopShops. Frankly, if you have the technical savvy to do this, you probably don't need the stabilisers that PopShops offers.