I usually do an opening paragraph, add a picture, then move to the next paragraph. This time I’m not only starting with a video, but a video that I didn’t create. This sets the tone for the topic; check it out:
Back in 2009, months after I started this blog, I decided to give affiliate marketing a try. I signed up with multiple sites because each one offered something different. Some offered products; some offered affiliate links to business with products I could promote. I even signed up for links to other sites whose content didn’t match mine, which was apparent because there were few sites that had content that “could” match mine. 🙂 Continue reading Is The Making Money Online Dream A Fraud?→
I’m going to tell a truth up front; I want to make money off my blogging efforts. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make money, especially if you put a lot of time into it. I may not be blogging 24/7/365 because, after all, I do have a life and responsibilities, but I put enough time into it that it wouldn’t be depressing if I started making money off it (by the way, did you ever notice that little blurb just underneath the commenting policy before you leave a comment? lol).
With that said, I decided long ago that the first thing I wanted to establish with anyone who ever visited any of my websites or blogs or even my videos is that I could be trusted, and that I had ethics that would preclude me from doing anything I didn’t believe in or that gave me the impression that I couldn’t trust the people who might want to work with me. To that end, let’s start with a video:
What Helps You Trust Others https://youtu.be/SIW8wPqCcNA
As you can see, I’m not overly trusting of a lot of people. Of course I trust most of you who comment here (okay, no I don’t lol), but in general I like to make people earn my trust, just as I work at getting people to trust me.
In the early days of this blog, I used to add a product at the end of every blog post. That’s when I used to be with Commission Junction and I was new to affiliate marketing. I was probably familiar with 50% of the items I shared, but I definitely wasn’t familiar with the rest of it.
I was trying to appeal to the people who were coming to the blog, which means that sometimes I had things like shoes, dresses and baby items… none of which I’d ever use. It took me a couple of years to realize that wasn’t the way to go and I stopped doing that, only posting things I actually used or knew about (which is why I link to a lot of books). I also never made any money from any of those things, and I didn’t deserve to (the only thing I ever made money off was that Mailwasher Pro ad over there on the left; I still use that and yeah, you should too. BTW, this isn’t an affiliate link, but a link to the original article I wrote about the product).
Don’t I look ethical?
Over the years I’ve come up with my own ethics as it pertains to affiliate marketing and accepting sponsored posts (which I don’t do on this blog or my main business blog). I used to apply these standards to guest posting on my finance blog when I accepted them and, because so many people didn’t follow through on their agreements, became one of the reasons I stopped accepting them. It was way too much time upfront and on the back end that it just wasn’t worth all the effort anymore.
A phrase I hear all the time these days is “side hustle”, which basically means finding ways to make money off your blog via ads and such. Many of these folk are doing it the right way, but I also know there are folks who are doing things that they really don’t believe in because, to them, it’s all about the money; money trumps everything.
Man… if y’all knew how much money I’ve let slip by me over the years because there were things I just wasn’t going to do you might want to slap me across the face and say “get real”. Hey, if it violates my own ethics or standards I couldn’t live with myself. This isn’t a religious thing either, since I’m a non-believer in anything like that. It’s just my belief that there are way too many people willing to do literally anything for money, and I refuse to be one of those people.
Anyway, that’s me. I’m not going to ask anyone if they believe in being ethical for money or if they’re being ethical in making money because I don’t want to put anyone on blast. Instead, I decided I’m going to share some of my positions regarding my ethics, or “rules” if you will, that help me determine what’s good and not good to do.
1. If you really don’t believe in a product or service, don’t write about it.
It’s rare that I’ve written about products on this blog other than when I’ve talked about books. I did write on that Mailwasher Pro item and since I’m still using it all these years later I think I’ve proven that I really believe in it. The last product review I wrote about was concerning the Fitbit Flex, and I was as detailed as I could be about how I use it.
My friend Pete sometimes writes product reviews on his main blog, but one of the best he ever wrote was when he talked about buying solar panels for his home and all the research he put into it before deciding on who to go with. Check out this post and notice the quality of the information he give about solar panels in general and why he selected the people he did. This is the kind of quality one can give you if they’ve actually used a product or service, and he’s not even making any money off it.
If you want people to trust you, your words will come across better if you’ve actually seen what you recommend personally, rather than many of the researched reviews about products that, if you’re actually paying attention to the articles, you realize folks have never used.
2. If you accept guest or sponsored posts, have a policy and make sure people read it before you work with them.
Some of you know I’m not big on guest posting, and I don’t accept it on any of my blogs unless I ask someone to write one based on their expertise. With that said, I do accept sponsored posts on 3 of my blogs (although only one actually gets requests), but I have one rule that I stick with.
That rule is… people need to use my name in the email. It might sound petty but I’ll tell you why I have it.
I learned that my finance blog is on a lot of lists of sites that accept guest posts. I learned about it 4 or 5 years ago. This meant that, though I have an advertising policy on that blog that most people aren’t even seeing it.
I know this because most of the email I get is something like this:
My name is XXXXXX and I recently found your blog and wanted to reach out on behalf of some of my clients.
Specifically, we are interested in guest posts and sponsored posts. Is this something you offer?
If so, could you please send over more information.
My gripe is that the advertising policy is right on the main page of the blog, with the link just under the About link. It’s nice and bold, very easy to spot. That I’m always asked about guest posting or sponsored posts and what it entails when everything is written in the policy is irksome.
The advertising policy also tells people to write to Mitch at the blog’s email address. I do that because it’s a test. See, I’m big on responding to comments (along with 29 other things as it regards blogging), and if I accept a comment on this blog I’m going to respond to it (because unfortunately we know that some comments won’t pass muster).
Thus, I expect anyone who wants to have a sponsored post on my blog to respond to any comments those articles get. A good test to see if people will pay attention to the rules is to see if they’ve even made an effort to see if there’s an advertising policy (or guest posting policy) on a site before reaching out to the person. If they don’t, it’s easy for me to tell. After all, the rules are in the policy; it’s not like I’ve made it hard to follow.
3. If you accept banner ads, at least check out the advertisers first.
I not only accept banner ads, but I’ll accept sponsored links on posts that are more than 6 months old. That comes with two caveats though. The first is that the link has to have something to do with the article. The second is that I get to check out all links before I approve them.
I check out all links and websites. There are topics I won’t accept, so if they have blogs I check those out as well just to make sure we’re on the same page. If I’m going to link to it I want to make sure it’s trustworthy because my name is going to be associated with it. We also know the Big G is always looking at everything we do online, and even though I won’t go out of my way to please them or any other search engine, it’s stupid to intentionally antagonize anyone right?
4. Have established policies or procedures that you want others to follow and that you yourself follow.
I shared my advertising policy for my finance blog above. I haven’t added it to either of the other blogs that I would accept advertising for because I’ve yet to be asked. I have comment policies on 4 of my blogs where they’re easily seen (if not always paid attention to) just above the comment area.
I also have a way to show people when I’m linking to an affiliate product (a light blue line under the link) and this year I’ve started adding a disclaimer at the end of any article that has a link in it (I used to put a note pretty much anywhere in the post). That’s actually requested by search engines, although I’m not sure how they’d know there was a notice or not.
5. Let people know whether or not you’re providing the service
You might be trying to make money by providing services instead of products. In that case, I’m going to assume that you’re including it in your articles when you write on certain subjects or in your About page.
However, I’ve also known people who say they’re providing services, then turn around and give it to someone else to do. If you have employees that’s fair, but if you’re giving it to someone you don’t know via Fiverr or some other service, that’s disingenuous and sneaky, especially if you’re not telling people that’s what you’re going to do.
I see that often with people who contract with someone to provide articles, then pass it off to someone else and pay them way less than what they’ll be getting. That’s when quality starts to fall, and you’re going to be the one who takes the blame and gets the criticism.
Your ethics don’t have to be my ethics when it comes to making money. All I’m suggesting is that you think about your ethics when you’re ready to start trying to make money online. In person people are pretty forgiving; online, not so much. Be honest and real; that’s all I’m asking for.
That’s an ominous title, so let me first say that I’m not ending this blog, not leaving my relationship, and nothing else bad has happened to me. Not that any new readers will care, but some of the consistent readers might be wondering what I’m talking about; all is good with me. 🙂
What’s not good is one of my websites, one that I’ve had since 2006. It’s called Services and Stuff, and I’m not going to link to it. The reason I’m not going to link to it is because when it expires in March I’m not going to renew it, and I’d rather not have to try to remember to remove the link from this particular article, especially since I have to try to remember to go back and remove it from any other articles I’ve added those links to over the years. Continue reading Figuring Out When It’s Time To Let Go→
I should have known this day was coming. I initially talked about it in 2011 when I wondered why I have so many problems with Commission Junction, an affiliate program I’d signed up with a few years earlier and actually loved to use for a long period at the time…until I started having problems getting paid. I then waited another almost 3 years before I asked is it time to get rid of Commission Junction, after a few more incidents that were, frankly, starting to get on my last nerve, once again not getting paid and having affiliates dropping me for, of all things, not making sales for them even while I was promoting them.
The final straw for me has been two separate incidents that have happened within the last month or so, and frankly, it’s making me wonder about affiliate marketing across the board. I don’t know anything about Amazon as an affiliate program, but it seems like it might be the only one that can be trusted since they’re running their own system. We’ll see about that later on; for now, let me tell my tales. Continue reading My End With Commission Junction – B&N And Franklin Covey’s Fault→
Let’s look at this thing from the big picture perspective. How many ways are there to make money online? A bunch of ways truthfully, as I shared in this post years ago talking about how Lynn Terry does it and then talking about how one can legitimately make money blogging, saying it wasn’t how you were thinking.
I’ve said that over the years the one thing that’s made me any real money has been Adsense, and not on this blog but most of it on one of my other websites. I’ve made very little money via affiliate marketing, no matter who it is, and I did a six part series in 2011 talking about all the affiliate programs I’m connected with and how much (little) money I made from them all over the years if you want to check that out.
Frankly, the effort isn’t really worth it anymore, but I’m wondering if it’s ever been worth it. True, there are some people who make a lot of money online via their blogs and affiliate programs, but let’s think about a couple of things here.
One, how many of those affiliate programs are the same types of things we have?
Two, how many of those folks are getting paid a much higher rate than most people will get, mainly because of their associations?
Three, for that matter, how many of these folks make a lot of money by promoting each other’s programs and products as opposed to going the route that the overwhelming majority of us go?
Before I go on, let me state this for the record. I never begrudge anyone for making money or for figuring out how to make money. Unless they do it in an unethical way, I figure people are entitled to whatever money they make or whatever money someone is willing to pay them, even if I may not like them (for who they are, not for making money). Can we learn lessons from these folks? Absolutely, as long as we look at the right thing.
In this instance I’m going to use one of my buddy Brian’s favorite people, a guy named Pat Flynn, who publishes his monthly income report each month. This guy’s raking it in; there’s no disputing that. He’s working it like a pro; great for him. But let’s look at only his affiliate programs for a moment.
He shows that he made more than $38,000 in November for his affiliate programs; that’s fantastic. He made around $23,000 of that via BlueHost, and he made it via his YouTube channel talking about how to create a blog using them. YouTube is the way a lot more people are making money these days, and he’s a charismatic guy, so talking about it in a video and getting lots of visitors to it would sell a lot of product.
He made more than $3,600 via a program called Long Tail Pro, something I’ve never heard of, but it’s an independent program that he helps promote. Another $2,700 via LeadPages, $2,100 for the Thesis theme, $2,000 for Market Samurai and $1,400 for Aweber, and then lesser amounts for a lot of other things; I’m only talking affiliate programs here.
What isn’t he doing? He’s not using things like Commission Junction, Clickbank, LinkShare, Bidvertiser, on and on and on. As a matter of fact, most of the things he’s marketing other than BlueHost aren’t the types of things most of us probably think about when we’re thinking affiliate marketing.
I thought about pulling someone else’s monthly income report, decided I didn’t want to embarrass anyone, and instead decided to share one of my old income report from September 2010, before I stopped doing them, as a point of comparison. This was the most money I ever made in one month, $562, and that was because I sold one of my websites. Without that it would have been $262, and though I made more money than that later on, it was always Adsense, not because of affiliate marketing. I’m betting that many of you would love to make $200 a month, and that’s not all bad, but can any of us live off it?
I ask the question “is affiliate marketing dead” not because no one makes money off it, but after so many years and so many more people who have tried it and not made a livable income off it, which outnumbers those who do make a living off it 99.8% to .2% (and I think that’s generous), if it worth the effort to continue trying to make money off a model that, for most of us, is not only inefficient and cumbersome but we can’t even trust that they’re giving us the real stats, let alone will pay us? I add this as I just received my one and only payment from Amazon a couple of weeks ago for… 50 cents! Had them for 4 years and I made 50 cents; that’s a darn shame! lol
What’s your thought on this? I know some will think (even if you don’t say it here) that you’re going to be the one who breaks the mold & makes all the money. Oh really? By blogging? By lots of squeeze pages of products that everyone else is already marketing? I’m doubting it but I could be wrong; y’all let me know.