I spent the last year working with bloggers with high pageviews (80,000/month and above). I've interviewed and coached bloggers and all of this has given me insight into what why some make money and others don't. Unfortunately, a lot of us suck at making money online.
I love seeing bloggers succeed. I celebrate and I'm motivated by success. I cheer for Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad and others who've reached incredible heights (she was projected to make $9 million last year). I cheer for the small successes too. I feel a part of the blogging community and want to contribute to its overall success.
Here are my insights about why a lot of bloggers don't make money blogging, including with affiliate marketing. Maybe this will help you too.
Here's Why You're Not A Successful Blogger:
You Only Focus on Pageviews
Most bloggers are stuck trying to get higher pageviews so they can make more money blogging. Yet many are not willing to do the work to get those pageviews. Or they're blogging about something not enough people care about. Honestly, I gave up trying to get the most pageviews. I don't really care. What I care about is my reputation and since I'm a business, making money (which doesn't require high pageviews). I also care about fulfillment and making an impact.
You're Lazy (Don't Worry, I've Been Lazy Too)
I've put on several conferences about affiliate marketing. I've invested years in learning about it and trying to be successful at it. The number one complaint I hear from bloggers is that affiliate marketing doesn't work for them. I'm convinced that affiliate marketing will work for every single blogger.
You might have to improve your writing. It might take some time to see results. However, my mistake and others that I see is that more often we're not putting relevant affiliate links in our content. I went back through my posts and I see very little opportunities to authentically use affiliate links. That means I need to add more content that works with them.
You may have to change the direction of your blog or start a new one. Jon Morrow, who makes at least $100k/month blogging, says:
After working with thousands of students, I can confidently say there are only a few hundred topics where blogging really works.
Another issue I see is bloggers not doing the research or testing to see what works. You can boost a post on Facebook or pay for some ads to get people to your blog post. If no one buys then you learned. Try another approach or try something else.
Last of all, you might not be lazy, it might just be timing. There were times my life was too intense and I wasn't ready to focus on making money. I just wanted to share and document what I was learning. I was making money from a job and consulting. That's ok too.
You Have the Wrong Mindset
I hear bloggers say they'll start making money when they reach a certain number of pageviews. That's when they can get sponsored posts. That's when they'll make more from ads. It's true that if you're relying on ads or an ad network you do need to have a lot of traffic. That's why I love affiliate marketing though. You don't have to wait. You can start now. Plus you set the rules. Is it a risk? Yes, but it's pay for performance so if your blog post doesn't sell, well then you are out the time.
But I still hear from bloggers that Facebook ads don't work. I hear that blogging is dying or that bloggers can't sell. I see the opposite. I'm seeing incredible results.
While I'm seeing more of a hybrid model where brands will pay bloggers for a post and let them use an affiliate link, I still think bloggers are smart to invest in affiliate marketing. Investments take some risk. You might have to buy products and end up not blogging about them because you didn't like them (although you can always ask the brand for product). You might spend money and not make a cent. It might take months to see any traction, like this post that I spent more time and money on than any other post. Still, you learned to get good at sponsored post or getting traffic. That took time, right? I encourage you to invest as much time in getting good at affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is it's own thing and you need to invest in learning it. I think the potential is much bigger than sponsored posts which a lot of bloggers rely on. If your mindset is to wait then you're missing out.
You're Not Willing to Invest Money
I hope that you're not using a free version of WordPress or have a domain like newspapergrl.blogspot.com. If you're serious about making money on your blog you've got to invest in hosting (I recommend SiteGround for smaller blogs and WP Engine for larger ones). Web hosts have support lines and can walk you through setting up a new blog. There are many reasons you should pay for hosting but the top two are: people take you more seriously and you have less risk of your blog being deleted. My free WordPress blog got deleted in 2007. I don't ever want it to happen again.
I've read income reports (like this one from Digital Nomad Wannabe who is living that lifestyle) and shared results of studies. I buy their ebooks (this is my favorite one about how a blogger earned $40k her first year blogging) and learn from them.
I invest in a Facebook ad tool, SEO tool, graphic design, domain names, and many other things. Business need cash flow, not dams. If you're not willing to spend anything but time it really limits your results.
The Affiliate Program You Picked Doesn't Convert
Sometimes it's not you, it's the affiliate program. You know I wrote a book about press releases for SEO and marketing. In my book I talked a lot about PRWeb. Some people accused me of advertising for them. I wasn't. The funny thing is, even though they are the service I always used and tested, I didn't do well on their affiliate program. I'm not sure I ever sold a single press release. I knew the product better than most people at PRWeb. I saw results from it – in other words people increased their sales. I didn't see results as an affiliate of PRWeb though.
Maybe I didn't market them enough or do enough case studies. I just know if something doesn't work I stop putting effort into it and look for something that does. I'm not sure why some things resonate and some don't, but your audience is unique and you've got to find what works for yours.
You Tell – Instead of Sell
I have a saying that is famous and it's SELL don't TELL. There's a difference. If you just tell people then it's unlikely to sell them. You've got to add your enthusiasm and unique perspective. I have to take my own advice sometimes. If I can't be excited about something then I probably can't sell it. So that's my test. If I don't feel any excitement about the product or service then I shouldn't promote it. I need to believe in it in some way. Otherwise I lose trust and feel like a cheap car salesperson.
I've seen a blogger add affiliate links on a personal blog to something that they've never tried that doesn't fit their audience at all. If you're a deal blogger you can link to almost anything and don't need to try it first. But if you have a personal blog, it needs to fit your personality. Most often your readers are a lot like you. If it's not something you'd buy then why would they buy it? Another blogger is stressed about money and is probably careful about every purchase. I told her one reason she isn't selling is because her readers probably get the vibe that she's stressed about money and that makes them on some level feel stressed about theirs (and not want to spend it). Money is like a river, it has to move and flow. It has to go out and come in.
What surprises me is how well my posts about products have done. I expected people to get annoyed or unfollow me if I sold something. However, I'm a business. I have to make money. If I don't I've got to go get a job. You're the same. You're in business to make money. If your pitches are annoying and people leave in droves then find a better approach. I genuinely share from a desire to be helpful. My sales posts are some of my most popular.
I read an ebook recently that said many people like the idea of affiliate marketing but forget the marketing part. Instead they simply put affiliate links in their posts. As this post frompoints out:
“At the present time there is (on average) over 2 million new blog posts published every day.”
That's a lot of blog posts. What does that mean to you? That means if you want to have any chance of being found online, you have to market your content.
You're Just Not Smart Enough
I worked with a million dollar affiliate and I wanted to be like him and make the money he made. I wanted that success so bad. However, after seeing what he did to make that kind of money I changed my mind. I didn't want to do the work required to make that kind of money. Or I couldn't see myself doing it the way he was. I realized I wasn't smart in the same ways he was. I'm not a PPC affiliate and never want to be. He invested in learning to write copy, learning to code, graphic design and constantly put a ton of money in to get a lot more out. I wasn't willing to take that risk. I didn't have that kind of capital. I don't have the technical ability he did and frankly I had no desire to learn it.
The number one response I get when I tell bloggers how much money I make is how they would spend that money if they had it. This response frustrates me. They focus on what they want without realizing the work it took to get there. If it were me I'd ask, how did you do it! They want me to tell them exactly what ads I used and what I exactly did. I'm not willing to do that. I learned from my mistakes and kept trying. Sometimes it's a roller coaster, but after some time I start seeing patterns and hone in more on what's working and what isn't so I can improve. You have to go through that process too. I spent hours trying to help another blogger and in the end they didn't make anything. I just wasted so much time and neither one of us benefited. Lesson learned.
My Affiliate Marketing and Blogging Goals
This year I want to:
- Get better at Facebook ads that convert to sales.
- Rank for more keywords that lead to sales for long term.
- Find writers for a new blog I'm building
- Outsource of the work I'm not good at or don't enjoy.
I'm going full in on affiliate marketing. Of course this post contains affiliate links.