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DPP036: Blog Monetization Strategies (Part 3): Affiliate Marketing and Membership Sites

August 15, 2013

In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I conclude talking about blog monetization strategies that I’ve personally had experiences with in my 10+ years of blogging.

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You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 14 minutes long.


DPP036: Blog Monetization Strategies (Part 3): Affiliate Marketing and Membership Sites

Hey, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this podcast is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, including blogging, ebook and video creation, podcasting, and other things relating to internet business and online marketing. You can find a full transcript of each episode of this show at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.

I’d really appreciate it if you rated this show in iTunes. Just go to itunes.digitalpublishingpodcast.com and then click the blue “View in iTunes” button in the sidebar to rate and review the podcast in iTunes.

This episode might sound a bit more echoey than usual, and that’s because I usually record inside of a blanket to help block any echo, but right now it’s just too hot to be surrounded by blankets. Hopefully it’s not too distracting.

This is the third and final installment in the blog monetization methods series. (You can find the first here and the second here.) So far we’ve talked about Google AdSense, Amazon Associates, ebooks, and sponsored content. The next monetization method I’m going to talk about is…

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate MarketingAffiliate marketing is where you sell someone else’s product on your blog and get a commission on the sale. This commission can be anything from a few percentage points to even 100%. It just depends on the product and where people are buying from. I’ve already talked about being an Amazon affiliate, but affiliate marketing in general goes far beyond just Amazon. You can be an affiliate for digital products like ebooks, software, courses, and membership sites. It’s not uncommon for commissions on digital products to be in the 30-60% range. A lot of online stores other than Amazon have affiliate programs, and you can sign up for those, too. The commission on those is a lot lower, usually well below 10%.

Affiliate marketing can have kind of a seedy reputation, and I think it’s well deserved. There are so many crappy websites out there promoting crappy products just to try to get some money out of people. You search for legitimate reviews of something online and all you end up seeing are “reviews” by people saying how incredible the product is and then, all too conveniently, there are buy buttons all over the place.

I’m personally not a huge fan of affiliate marketing. This is mainly for two reasons. The first is because of that seedy reputation and used car salesman vibe that you get all too often. The second is because I find it uninteresting. I’d much rather create and sell my own products.

I guess I should clarify my stance here a bit. The affiliate marketing that I don’t like is the kind that’s generally geared toward high-priced infoproducts and courses—overpriced infoproducts and courses, I’d say. They’re just a ripoff. But affiliate marketing can be great for everyone involved. I have been an affiliate for several more reasonably priced PDF ebooks and software in the past and had good experiences and made good money. The golden rule of affiliate marketing—what I think you really need to keep in mind—is to not recommend things unless you have used them and really do recommend them. Don’t link to that $397 coaching course just to try to make a nice commission.

The upside to affiliate marketing is that you can make real money without having to create your own product. If the person who created the product you’re promoting has an established brand or reputation, you might not have to work too hard to convince your readers to buy it. That reputation or brand would speak for itself, and all you’d have to do is point your readers in the right direction. And there’s really no limit to the amount of money you can make through affiliate marketing. There are individuals that make hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars a year through affiliate marketing, so it’s definitely possible to make a couple thousand dollars a month doing it if you’ve got enough traffic and influence on your blog.

The trick is finding good products to be an affilate for. A lot of people say to go to ClickBank and search for relevant keywords there, but I think that all of ClickBank is garbage. To borrow a phrase from Star Wars, it’s a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” I’m not saying that every product on ClickBank sucks, but I just have no interest in associating myself with something like ClickBank that is known for scammy infoproducts by sleazy internet marketers. The best advice I can give is to think of products and services that you have used and had good experiences with in the past, and then see if there are affiliate programs for that product.

And then the final blog monetization method is…

Online courses and membership sites

Online courses and membership sites

I’m using these two terms—online course and membership site—to describe what are essentially the same thing. They’re both websites or parts of websites that people pay to access. The only difference is that online courses tend to be a one-time payment, whereas membership sites are a recurring monthly, quarterly, or yearly payment. Someone buys the course or pays the membership fee and is given a password, and they can log in with the password and view the contents of your site or course.

Online courses and membership sites are generally multimedia products. They often have video or audio components. And they may have a forum area where you can connect with the other members of the community. Because this kind of multimedia content is generally valued more than an ebook by itself, online courses and memberships generally command a higher price. You can charge more for them and obviously make more money. The flip side is that they’re also trickier to set up and maintain from your end. It’s not as simple as putting together an ebook, for example.

I’ve created several online courses, and I think they’re a great way to make money online. If you have an idea for a nonfiction ebook, you might be able to create a course from the same material by adding videos, audio, interviews, worksheets, and/or whatever else you can think of that would add value. With a membership site, you get recurring revenue, which is obviously great, but you also are on the hook to provide additional value on a recurring basis. And I’ve never run a membership site, so I can’t really say too much else about it.

Now let’s move on to some…

Other monetization methods

What I’ve talked about so far are the main ways that I personally have made money through blogging, but there are others that I have no or minimal experience with.

If you talk about processes of some kind that need to be done, you could offer those processes as services. For example, if your blog is about writing, you could offer your services as a copywriter or ghostwriter. If your blog is about rock climbing, you could offer guiding services. If your blog is about knitting, you could knit things for people who don’t want to knit them themselves. If your blog is about Pokemon… I have no idea what kinds of services you could offer.

One-on-one coaching or teaching is another way to make money, and this could be done in person or over Skype, phone, or email.

You could sell ads on your blog. This is one of the oldest forms of making money online, if not the oldest. You could contact potential advertisers directly, or you could enroll your site in an ad marketplace like buyads.com or buysellads.com. I’ve used both of those to buy ads before, but I’ve never used them to run ads on my sites.

And of course you could have a donate button. These usually don’t bring in a whole lot of money, but they can bring in some. I’m actually going to be adding a PayPal donate button to one of my blogs pretty soon, so stay tuned for that.

And that now brings us to my pick of the week…

Pick of the week

This is where I pick one useful thing to share, and it can be an app, a website, a podcast, or anything else I find valuable. I actually have two picks of the week this week.

The first is a blog called The Daily Post. It’s at dailypost.wordpress.com. It’s run by folks from WordPress.com, and it’s a great place to go if you want or need writing prompts. There’s a new one every day, and also once a day they post some other kind of writing-related tidbit. There’s really not much more to say about it beyond that, so… just go check it out.

The Brain Scoop on YouTube

That brings us to my second pick of the week, which is a wonderful YouTube channel called The Brain Scoop [link]. I have to say that this is probably the most delightful thing I’ve seen online. It’s the YouTube channel of Emily Graslie, and she makes videos mostly about animals. She used to volunteer at a natural history museum in Montana (where she lived), and in her videos she’d do things like talk about strange animals the museum had in its collection, or she’d skin and disembowel a dead wolf that had been hit by a car. And yes, the information in the videos is interesting if you’re into nature or animals, but what really makes these videos is Emily’s enthusiasm about what she’s talking about. You can tell that this girl would love to do nothing more than what she is doing right then and there. Her love for animals and science oozes out of her, and the result, like I said, is delightful to watch. That’s the best word I can come up with to describe the videos. Delightful. These videos were so successful that she actually got a job at the Field Museum in Chicago, and her title there is Chief Curiosity Coordinator. Her job now is to make more videos and do other public outreach stuff in behalf of the museum. How cool is that? So if you want to see what really good YouTube videos look like and learn some interesting and sciency or animaly stuff while you’re at it, go to youtube.com/thebrainscoop and start watching videos. I recommend starting with some older videos. The new ones are great, too, but they’re kind of filler between seasons of the Brain Scoop show.

Final words

And that’s all for episode 36 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Today’s episode was a bit shorter than usual, but I didn’t have anything else to say about blog monetization, so we’re done! Next week we’ll return to the usual format of the show, which is me talking about a handful of non-related but still hopefully interesting things that I’ve noticed in the world of digital publishing. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog.

Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. If you do follow me there, be sure to say hi. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.

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