Richard writes in with a question: “When can a person tell a blog is just about making money with affiliate sales vs. truly helping a person or business? Sometimes they sound really alike.”
This is a great question. Many bloggers–myself included–run promotions for both our own and other products on a regular basis. Some blogs are heavily promotional, with an affiliate link in nearly every post, whereas other bloggers make their money mostly through advertising and only rarely include affiliate links in their posts.
First, let’s look at things from a blogger’s perspective. Then, I’ll give you a few metrics to help you decide which marketers to follow online.
From a blogger’s perspective, affiliate revenue is often the only way to make a full-time income from a blog. My blog, as ranked by Alexa, is in the top 0.1% of all websites by traffic. Yet, as you’ve seen from my revenue numbers, I only make about $83/month from placing Google ads on my site.
So, for 99.99% of bloggers and website owners, ad revenue isn’t enough to even cover expenses, let alone provide a full-time income.
Enter affiliate marketing.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
With affiliate marketing, you get paid when you refer someone who buys something. With ads, you get paid every time someone clicks on the ad. Referring someone who buys something is often a better deal all around: the affiliate gets paid more; the product owner only has to pay when a sale is made; and the customer gets a product that he or she will hopefully love.
There are all kinds of affiliate programs: big ones like Amazon pay 4-8% for any product purchased through their site, and thousands of other ones pay out for anything from web hosting to ebooks to coaching programs. Pretty much anything you can think of that is sold online has some sort of affiliate program.
The reason affiliate programs are so popular on blogs is that the commissions on big products can add up fast. Often, information products that sell from anywhere from $200 to $2,000 or more pay out a whopping 50%–and that doesn’t include bonuses. If you’ve seen Internet marketing websites promoting big $2,000 products from well-known names like Jeff Walker or Eben Pagan, they’re getting paid more than $1,000 per sale!
There isn’t anything inherently bad about affiliate marketing. It allows website owners and bloggers to make a full-time income online without having to drive millions of visitors to their websites every month. And it drives a whole lot of sales for publishers, manufacturers, and service companies.
But affiliate marketing does have its dark side. Take my most recent income numbers, for example. I made a list of the top affiliates for Profit Instruments, and immediately my email inbox got pounded by other marketers looking for me to promote their “make money online” products.
The Big Problem with Affiliate Marketing
Right on the heels of a successful promotion, you suddenly become aware of how much money there is to be made. This is where most marketers lose their integrity. I’ve seen it time and time again. Someone gets a nice list going of thousands of people who really listen to his or her advice. The list owner promotes a good product. All of a sudden, 5 figures of income rolls in.
Unfortunately, that income is mostly one-time income. Next month, the list owner starts back over at 0. So what does he or she do? Promote again, of course! And since he’s been inundated with new offers, it’s easy to promote something in the same niche. Rinse and repeat.
The problem with constant promotion is it “burns your list.” People who were used to receiving good content suddenly get hammered with sales pitches. So they stop opening your emails. And now you, as the affiliate marketer/list owner, are in a race. You have to constantly find more people to join your list so you can continue your sales pitches and make more money.
Internet Marketing’s Dirty Secret
Here is the Internet marketing world’s dirty secret: Replicable success is hard. A one-time success–selling something and making 5 or 6 figures–is easier than doing it repeatedly. Most marketers only see dollar signs and don’t have any clue how to build a relationship with their list. And building a relationship with your list–delivering good content again and again, without constantly asking for the sale–is difficult.
The relationship you have with your list is the cornerstone of building a successful business. As a blogger, it’s about learning to say “no” 99 times out of 100 to people who ask you to promote a product. It’s about giving up some money now in order to build the relationship down the road. And if you want to know why most Internet marketers, over time, don’t make it, this is why: They go for the quick buck over the relationship.
Finding the Genuine Marketers
So, to go back to Richard’s question: How do you tell when someone is all about making money vs. truly helping someone? You have to look at the persona they project. When you opt in to their email list, what sort of emails do you get from them on a regular basis? What percentage of the emails that you receive from them contain nothing but a sales pitch? If it’s 80% or more, I suggest unsubscribing from that list.
Yes, what I just said may annoy some Internet marketers. But if the list owner doesn’t take the time to write real content, deliver free teleseminars or webinars to help you, and if every email is a sales pitch, where is the value? You might as well be subscribed to an email list of the latest Google ads. Unsubscribe from those lists. Let’s collectively raise the bar on who we allow to sell products to us.
A good marketer acts as a filter between his or her audience and the product pushers. He turns down most products people ask him to promote. She promotes only the best products–those she truly believes will help her audience. And his emails to you are mostly good, thoughtful content.
There are thousands of bloggers and marketers who fit this profile. A majority of their content is helpful. Some of their content has sales pitches, but the sales pitches show a true interest in the product, not a copy-and-paste “XYZ made 20 zillion dollars and you can too…by tomorrow!” sort of pitch. They don’t promote every “big” launch. In general, they put relationships over sales–without forgetting that sales is what puts food on the table.
These are the people I encourage you to do business with.
Your Challenge for Today
Your challenge for today: If you’re subscribed to any email lists where you haven’t received any real content in months–just sales pitches–I encourage you to unsubscribe. Yes, even if you like the product or person. Raise the bar on who you do business with. Your credit card will thank you.
And if you’re a marketer: Today is the day you should write some real content, or shoot a video, that has NO sales pitch whatsoever. Maybe you can take the time to publicly answer a reader’s question, or share a quick tip you’ve learned that you know will help your list. Tell your list “Thank you” and let your readers know that you honor them. Your readers will appreciate you that much more.
- Rosalind Gardner’s Super Affiliate Handbook. Looking to get started with affiliate marketing? Rosalind’s book is the definitive guide. (I’ll be doing a full review soon.) Check it out now!
- How Do All Those “Idiots” Make So Much Money? Does it drive you nuts that some idiot with a terrible product seems to be constantly making sales, when you know your product is better? What’s the difference between you and that “idiot”?
- 20 Scam-Free Ways to Make Money Online Fast. My huge list of real ways to make money online.