I see nothing wrong with affiliate links.
One, they’re blatantly obvious to anyone with eyeballs. As soon as you click on the site, you can see clearly that whoever’s running the site is trying to sell you something. That doesn’t mean that the “something” is bad, or that whoever’s running the site is shady. It just means that they’re trying to sell something. Welcome to America. Or the internet, I guess.
Two, I don’t have to buy it. As I’ve said before, I read a lot of Financial Samurai. I haven’t bought “Personal Capital” or any of his books. The trick is to pack enough content into your posts so people know you’re not just writing sales fluff.
Three, if it’s a good product, then buying it is a win-win.
If you don’t like affiliate links — if you feel like the bloggers who use them are too pushy, then you don’t have to include them in your website. But you might have to resign yourself to making less money than you possibly could.
Since this website will primarily be about personal finance and giving back, maybe I could go full-Melania and copy Sam’s website word-for-word (i.e. maybe I should just put a link to Personal Capital at the bottom of every one of my posts).
I don’t want to do that for a lot of reasons. The primary: As I just said, I don’t use Personal Capital. Unless you have a lot of accounts to manage, I don’t see why you should, either. This type of brainstorming, though, does allow me to develop a rule regarding how *you,* the reader, can find a reputable product to push:
Rule 1) Copy Someone Else.
Find another website within your niche and find out what they’re trying to sell. Then, if it’s something that you think will benefit both you and the reader, use it.
This is exactly what Wall Street Playboys (one of my favorite sites) did with Financial Samurai. And I’m sure it worked.
From perusing the site, it looks like Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar makes some money on the side selling his books.
I guess I could try to press my product, as well: disposable shaker cups. The problem is, of course, that the crossover between the target demographic for Quick Cup (hard-working, busy gym rats who drink protein shakes) and the demographic that I’m targeting with this blog (intelligent, generous businesspeople) isn’t exactly perfect. If I were to draw a Venn Diagram, the overlap might contain 20% of the area of both circles. If I can get a whopping ten percent conversion rate — which would be excellent for a well-targeted sales page, let alone a blog post — I’d still only be converting 2% of my audience.
Basic math rules that out. I will, however, be talking about how you, the intelligent businessperson, can easily start a small business similar to mine. And I’ll advertise Quick Cup plenty of times in that series of posts, so that maybe I can convert a few people.
Rule 2) Use Your Own Product
If you already have a product that’s relevant to your target audience, use that. If the target audience differs but there’s a possibility of a little bit of crossover, try to think of some way you can incorporate it anyway.
What I’m going to do differs from both of those rules. Instead of selling anything in particular, I’m going to sell myself. In fact, at the bottom of this Financial Samurai post, “finding consulting opportunities” and “finding new work opportunities” are the two top ways to make money online.
Lindsay at The Notorious D.E.B.T. charges $350/blog post to other sites.
I’m simply going to add an author info box to the bottom of every one of my posts.
I’m probably not going to start an email list, unless there’s interest. If I do, I won’t be annoying about it. Nothing pisses me off more than being disrupted from reading an article by an opt-in pop-up. I have literally blacklisted websites with great content just because they keep bombarding me to join their email list.
I will, however, include my contact info for anyone who’s interested in talking to me. Feel free to email me with any questions or consulting opportunities. I’ll be glad to get back to you. You can also hire me through Upwork, but I’d rather you didn’t. I’ll write a post about my experience freelancing through Upwork sometime. I like to call it “Uber for Writers.” The site takes 20% of your pay and, because you’re an independent contractor, you pay taxes on the remainder.
Rule 3) Sell Yourself
Everyone has some sort of marketable skill. Even if you don’t, “marketing” is technically a marketable skill, making your credentials self-perpetuating. If you can establish an audience for your blog, or if you can show someone how to make more money, they will hire you to help them.
This is something that I’ll figure out as I go. Establishing some sort of audience is, obviously, of paramount importance. Without readers, I might as well not have content. With readers, I’ll be able to come up with all sorts of ways to increase my income. The same thing is true for all bloggers, and arguably anyone in any industry. Increase demand, adjust supply. Sure thing.
Above all, though, I want to be as helpful as I can be for anyone who’s interested in creating their own content. If I were to come up with a rule that trumps all the others, it would be this: Get started.
As long as you’re regularly posting content, your position in the search engines will keep going up.
Plus I don’t expect to make a whole lot of money from this until I’ve been going at it for a few years.
EDIT: Turns out it’s really easy to get signed up for the Amazon affiliates program. I’ll do another post on it soon, but it’s a great way to advertise books I like. You really can’t go wrong buying a book that has quality content. You’ll keep it around for life.