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.
I think Emily Hill of Is This Really My Life is very good at selling and not just telling. So is Melea of Freebies2Deals.
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.
I agree with basically everything you are saying above especially about bloggers chasing page views. It frustrates me so much the amount of bloggers that say they are serious about blogging, they want it to be a business etc, etc but then all their plans are around chasing page views like success will magically happen at some point. And they write off my success as being because I have a decent number of page views rather than I know what I am doing with affiliate marketing.
I also get frustrated by the attitude that affiliate marketing doesn’t work because they have added a couple of affiliate links to a post and they didn’t convert. Like I said at a presentation at a blogging conference actually is that you have to remember the MARKETING in affiliate MARKETING. Hell, if it was all that easy, everyone would be a blogger!
I think you make many very valid points. I also think that many people suffer from the “I am not as good as someone else’ syndrome.. or the imposter syndrome. Perhaps that someone else has more page views, more social media likes or whatever, but I do think many people are intimidated to put themselves out there. You make some great points 🙂
Thanks Paula, I realize it’s a lot more blunt than a lot of my posts. I think if you’re serious about making blogging a business, you have look for ways to overcome blocks. This year I’ve really tried to work on beliefs that limit my success. I hope this helps other bloggers do the same, including the belief that they’re not good enough or a fake/fraud.
Yep! You said it. Putting some affiliate links in some of your posts doesn’t make you an affiliate marketer. It makes you a blogger with affiliate links. That’s a start but you’ve got to do more than that if you want to see significant income from it. I’m all for hobby blogging if that’s what you want, but once you apply for sponsored posts, put up ads or get products to review, it’s a business. You’re one of my inspirations Sharon – thanks for your comment and shares!
I love the bluntness! Keep it coming! I agree with everything you said.
Thanks Sarah! I know that you crush it and don’t need this advice. You could probably dish it out!
Great article! I used to be one of those that chased after page views because my ads and sponsored posts made way more than affiliate links, and I didn’t see the value of spending more time there. Recently I decided to give affiliate marketing my time and attention, and have had my eyes opened to so much potential. It was such a great day to see my affiliate income rise above my ad/sponsored income. It only gets better from here!
I’d love to interview you about this Kristina. It would help a lot of bloggers to see it from your perspective and experience.
You nailed! Agree 100% with your article.
Took us a while to understand that Affiliate Marketing is not just randomly place links.
Also is not about the quantity , you can have 100k page-views and make 10 bucks. Or make USD 1k from your 20k page-views. The quality of your audience does matter.
We are playing around on FB ads and getting good results. The key is, testing, testing and more testing. Analyse the results and repeat what works.
I feel like there is sooo much in here that I need to know more about. What’s hard for my is that I spend all of my time (which is very limited) blogging which is what I love to do. It’s very hard for me to find the time, or put aside blogging for a day to invest in learning more about this stuff. I suppose I need to. Shifting there will be hard.
This is a great post! I agree with most of what you’ve said too. Nobody said blogging is easy. You have to find out what works for you. I’m finally getting some results with affiliate links after trying different things for the last few months.
Just take a step at a time. Start by going back to your most popular blog posts and thinking what products or services you could link to with an affiliate link. I pulled up this post: http://nurturehernature.com/2016/01/awesome-apps-for-moms/ and then Googled, “Cozi affiliate program” and there is one. Join and link away. Add a line with a call to action, go check out Cozi now. Later add a link to your review of Cozi and how you use it. If apps are popular on your blog, look into games or educational apps for kids you could recommend and include ones that have an affiliate program. I’m thinking ABC Mouse, etc. Hope this helps! Making money is the best motivation to find energy and time. Even then there are weeks like this one where I’m speaking and have deadlines so I’m not promoting my posts as much as I want to be.
Jann, any tips to share with those who are just getting started? What’s working? What didn’t work?
Great post! I have had a rethink of the affiliate and advertising I do this year any not making me money I’ve ditched. I think I tried to do read myself too thin joining everything instead of concentrating on just one.
I always recommend going to your most popular posts, thinking about what products could tie in (if they can, otherwise look for a different post). Then add affiliate links and images to those posts. Whatever works best, expand on and promote more. That’s a start!
You said – “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.”
What lesson did you learn?
I learned it wasn’t worth it to try and help bloggers because I could’ve spent my time making more and she could’ve figured out her own way (btw, it wasn’t you ;)).