Let’s have a little blog talk, shall we? This post is probably something only a blogger will follow.
There are three ways a blogger can make money: advertising, sponsored posts, and affiliate marketing. I am going to focus on two of these topics: sponsored posts and affiliate marketing.
Since I started this blog, it’s been an experiment. I’ve used it as a springboard to test out social media platforms, learned how to write so Google likes it, figured out WordPress, and learned content marketing in general. I read a lot of blogs, try to keep it up to date, and between fluctuating between trying to document our lives (because I like to go back & read it) to writing for an audience, I’ve learned a LOT.
One of my little projects has been to create a niche affiliate marketing website – so last year, I launched Cute Christmas Pajamas and made a little bit of money with it. I’m about to get nerdy here, so I fully understand if you want to abandon this post and browse gifts for wine lovers (because that, in my opinion, is a good post! and also contains affiliate links, so you can see what in the world I’m writing about if you don’t know what affiliate marketing is!)
So, you still here? You must be a blogger. If so, I would love for you to chime in with thoughts and tips about affiliate marketing. I am obviously not an expert, these are just some observations I’ve made after launching the site. I created another one – The Preppy Baby – which I’m in the process of redesigning. It was doing really well, and then I lost interest, and now I’m updating it again.
What is affiliate marketing?
Basically, stores will offer a blogger or website owner a percentage of any sales made after someone clicks on a link from their site. For example, if you click on the Slate Wine Tags link in the post gifts for wine lovers, it will take you to Pottery Barn’s website. If you make a purchase, I’ll make a tiny commission from Pottery Barn. My favorite affiliate networks are CJ, Share A Sale, Linkshare, and Amazon.
Building a niche affiliate website
Both of these affiliate projects (The Preppy Baby and Cute Christmas Pajamas) were built with the Woocommerce plugin for WordPress so they are like a store featuring products, but instead of a shopping cart, they link to the websites to purchase. So, I add one product at a time, optimize it, and post it. Then I’ll create a blog post like Striped Christmas Pajamas and link out to the individual product posts. This tactic has worked really well – I’ve found that I’m able to add a lot more content by posting each product individually in addition to having the blog posts. In some instances, I’m sort of duplicating content but that’s OK – people land on the page to find something specific and then start browsing. My search traffic is very surprising: the product posts are sending a lot of traffic because people are searching for something specific, like elf pajamas, and finding my product post. I thought I’d get more generic search traffic for “cute christmas pajamas” but all of the content collectively drive traffic to the site. I know I could do a lot better but since I’m still in the learning stage, I’m pleased with the traffic and conversion rate. I’ve made a lot of sales!
Tips for Building a Niche Website with Affiliate Links
Now… these are just based on my experience, which is by no means runaway wild success. I’m not quitting my day job or anything drastic like that. Also, I don’t have that much time that I can put into these projects.
- Have a theme and stick to it, and be a good resource. For example, I like Best Kids Apps to discover new iPad apps for my child. It is one thing – kids apps – and delivers the content I’m searching for in an organized way. I chose Cute Christmas Pajamas after writing a popular post on this blog, and decided that would be a good niche site to try.
- Add products individually. Again, this has really boosted traffic because people search for one particular item and land on the product post – not only do you have a lot of content this way, you can use the individual products to build different blog posts and themes, and link it all together. The Woocommerce plugin or a WooTheme for WordPress make this very easy.
- Make sure the navigation is simple. I have simple links at the top like baby, boy, and adults, making it simple to navigate the site. I love Woocommerce because it has the cross product marketing built into the system and shows “related products” on the product posts.
- Make sure the shop links are obvious. Obviously. Again, Woocommerce lets you add the affiliate link on the product post page and generates a button. So easy! Example: Elf Pajamas
- Add pretty pictures and graphics. I’m still working on the graphics (perhaps I should have worked on this in the summer instead of November when people are already searching…) but well-placed graphics can guide a shopper around your site, leading them to something they may want to buy.
- Optimize your posts. I like the All in One SEO by Yoast plugin for this, which gives you suggestions for your keyword, and has a checklist to follow. Basically, your headline, content, and meta things should all contain the same phrase.
Sponsored posts on personal blogs
Now, let’s switch to a different topic: personal blogs. I do make some money from affiliate sites on this blog, but the majority of the income I’ve made comes from sponsored posts. An example of a sponsored post: Swiff the Night Away: Tricking Kids to Do the Housework is a post in partnership with Swiffer.
My traffic is decent and my content is personal, which brands like. So the goal with a personal blog is to build a loyal audience by posting interesting content (but it’s hard to figure out what will be interesting to someone, right!?) and drive traffic to the site via social networks. I’m building more lists with affiliate links which I think also work well, so I’m in the process of creating some new types of content and rearranging my navigation and sidebar links. For example, the toy lists are all affiliate link lists — like Toys for 4 Year Olds — that are an experiment.
But I have to wonder, and I don’t know if there will ever be a concrete answer: if you’re coming to a site looking for something specific and all of the content is generally the same (like Cute Christmas Pajamas), you’re more likely to have a conversion for sales on a niche site as opposed to a blog that has personal content mixed in with shopping lists. So, is this something that works for others? Or if you’re a blogger, do you make most of your money with sponsored posts? Not sure what my direction will be here. Also, I’m toying with the idea of another niche site that will be wine focused. So, I wonder, is it better to have a section of wine on this blog, or spin off to a dedicated niche site? WOULD LOVE YOUR THOUGHTS. My sweet husband is patient, understanding and extremely tolerant of my neurotic pursuits in blogging, and does not have a definitive opinion on this topic. Side note: would writing about wine while I can’t drink wine (pregnant!) drive me bonkers? Perhaps.
Sponsored posts on personal blogs, affiliate links on niche shopping sites?
My conclusion is this: a niche shopping site with affiliate links, if done properly, is probably the best way to make money from a site using affiliates as opposed to a personal blog. A personal blog should focus on writing shareable and interesting content to build an audience, and build relationships with sponsors to generate income. Not that it’s solely about making money – for me, it’s absolutely not – it’s more about the challenge and the education and of course, documenting memories, that keeps me blogging – and through this blog, I’ve also discovered I want to pursue being a better writer and photographer (and I think I’ve made improvements on both.) These skills have translated to my real job, which requires a lot of writing (magazine articles and a corporate blog) and photography ( resort photos!), so in a way, all of the time I’ve invested in this blog has translated indirectly into income.
Tell me – if you followed this at all! – what you think about blogging & generating income. What has worked for you?