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Survey: How Bloggers Monetize Blog Content

A recent survey asked small business owners — who are also bloggers — how they use affiliate marketing and performance marketing networks to monetize blog content.

In the introductory part of this series I shared some general observations of the survey responses that provided a snapshot of thinking and experiences from bloggers’ perspectives about the overall state of the performance marketing industry. Surprisingly, a high percentage of the bloggers who took the time to answer this survey are also small business owners with wide ranging experience across different industries.

They are social media savvy, early adopters of emerging technologies, and influential across all segments of the blogosphere. While the sampling was small, this audience was international, spanning at least four of our seven continents. With the exception of a very few, none would call themselves “affiliate marketers.”

Survey Responses

Now let’s take a closer look at the two important questions asked in the survey and the bloggers’ responses about how they use affiliate and performance marketing to monetize blog content.

  1. Best thing about performance marketing networks, PPC, and CPA networks?
  2. Worst thing about performance marketing networks, PPC, and CPA networks?

 

Best Features

Best ~ Worst ~ Further Reading ~ Thanks

The best thing [about performance marketing networks, PPC networks, CPA networks] is the opportunity to make money without having to have a product. — “Mitch” Mitchell, T.T. Mitchell Consulting

Quicker Than Creating A Product

The general consensus is that affiliate marketing and performance-based marketing provides an easy way to make money without having to spend your own time and money to create a product. Overwhelmingly, the bloggers participating in the survey used the larger affiliate networks from which to select products that complemented their niches and appealed to their readership.

The main appeal to bloggers for this type of monetization strategy was getting paid for every sale.

Getting Paid For Every Action

For those preferring CPA (click-per-action) or PPC (pay-per-click) networks, the “sale” is the culmination of “the action” at the end of which is a commission. Using these networks, bloggers agree you can quickly and easily generate an income. In theory, there are no ceilings or caps. In their own words:

  • The best thing about PPC networks is that you get paid for every click.
  • As for CPA, the best thing is that you can get paid quite well for referring people who complete a sale.
  • The traffic [can] make at least two hundred a month from AdSense alone.
  • PPC marketing is excellent for start-up businesses that need to have income generated fast and have not yet established themselves in the free search engines.
  • Some PPC and CPA networks also have dedicated affiliate managers to help with any promotions.

Control and Choices

Supplemental to the allure of easily earning an income is the attraction of having choices. Those choices include having control of the advertisers you work with and deciding for yourself who gets what space on your blog. Of course, that control can be somewhat erroded by the insistence of some CPA networks that their ads sit in the choicest spaces, above the fold. But, for the most part, these choices remain in the hands of the blog owners.

Small business, especially an online business blogger with global reach, can earn revenue in a variety of ways according — no matter what his niche. Networks with a worldwide presence give bloggers in remote, obscure locales the same opportunity as those operating in major cities. Thus, if they desire to use any of these blog monetizing strategies, they too have choices.

Worst Features

Best ~ Worst ~ Further Reading ~ Thanks

Heck, is it my fault they can’t produce a page that converts prospects into sales? — Peter Pelliccia, WassUp Blog

Whenever there is a “best dressed list” not far behind is a “worst dressed list.” The same holds true for our subject at hand. While the good things about the industry give them a means to monetize blog content, business bloggers also had much to say about the worst performing aspects of affiliate and performance-based marketing networks. They spoke about payments, creatives (banners and ads), niche relevance, ethics, and customer service.

Further down you will see some suggestions for improvements in a much longer checklist; for now, these are the absolute worst offenders.

Payment Levels and Threshholds

  • The worst thing about PPC is the amount you get paid is pitiful. The worst thing about CPA is getting nothing at all for sending all those people to their landing pages. Heck is it my fault they can’t produce a page that converts prospects into sales?
  • Sometimes the weasels don’t pay you, then won’t respond to your email.
  • My personal gripe is Google’s $100 payout minimum. I never collected. I’m stuck at $74.00.

Customer Service

The top pet peeve of a disproportionate number of bloggers was either the total lack of customer service or the glaring disregard for the customer. Respondents cited instances in which advertising networks don’t have contact phone numbers, pass the buck, give them the run-around, and blatantly treat them badly.

Such obvious inattentiveness to basic tenets of responsive customer service was considered almost unforgiveable.

Creative Control

The worst thing about these networks is the three-way tension between network, publisher and vendor. — Mitchell Allen

Creatives are advertisments, banners created by the advertisers for your use on your sites. They come in a variety of sizes and oftentimes you get text versions, too. Using some magical formula and a bit of conversion wizardry, advertisers have decided that the sizes that convert best have nothing to do with my sidebar, or your’s either.

While you might have a choice of where you will place them, Mitchell Allen of Morpho Designs points out how you, as a publisher, “have no control over the creatives.” I understand what he means. As an example, I prefer 250×250 size banners because they fit perfectly in the space allotted by my WordPress theme for the sidebar. Unfortunately, if I want that size banner for most of the advertiser programs I work with, I’ll have to create it myself.

Niche Relevance

Either the super-networks are niche-challenged or they are so large small business owners and bloggers cannot find the products and services they want to promote to their website audiences. The search engines on these networks could use some algorhythm changes to make results more relevant.

Networks like ClickBank and Share-A-Sale mainly focus on ebooks, software, themes, and services. To ClickBank’s credit, it offers thousands of information products covering a broad market, so if you need information products, you’re covered. Or, if your audience includes business owners seeking software solutions or SaaS services, Share-A-Sale represents a large volume of advertisers who might have what they need.

As challenging as it can be to find quality products relevant to your customers, readers, and target market, affiliate marketer Ron Cripps highlights a hurdle that is specific to CPA marketing:

CPA Networks can encourage you to promote products and services that are not related to your niche as each month you receive a list of products to promote from your affiliate manager. — Ron Cripps, Affiliate X Files

What’s next in the worst dressed category?

Ethics, Standards, Corruption

Almost unanimously, those survey respondents who spoke on the issue agreed that ethics and standards were at issue. Bloggers like Gera (@sweetsfoods) are certain that a lack of “filters to sort out real proposals and scams” is the first place many networks fall short. Along the same lines, another business consultant alluded to the proliferation of offers that “mislead unsuspecting consumers.”

While the actual misdeeds are not so much the fault of the advertising networks and agencies that provide the means for bloggers to present these offers to their readers, the oversight certainly falls squarely upon their shoulders. (I’ve never seen a mechanism that asks for any feedback from a consumer who purchases or particpates in an offer managed by an advertising network.)

Many of the networks are riddled with crooks on both sides of the fence. — Gail Gardner, GrowMap.com

Strong opinions were expressed about the ethics, standards, and levels of corruption perceived to be in operation within the performance marketing industry. Listen in . . .

  • Many of the networks are riddled with crooks on both sides of the fence. There are affiliate marketers who use cookie-stuffing and toolbars to generate commissions for sales they did nothing to generate who steal from both the sellers and other affiliates.
  • There are offers being made that mislead unsuspecting consumers.
  • Networks without any type of filters to sort out real proposals and scams.
  • The corruption with the adware, theft and ripping off legit Affiliates and websites. Some of the network’s parent companies have begun buying Affiliate sites, including ones with adware. Not only are they competing with us, but certain applications have the ability to overwrite our cookies and steal our commissions.
  • You also sometimes don’t get paid if the merchant decides not to pay; there is no control if you will be kept in a program or removed. If you are removed you may end up having to change out thousands of links.

I mentioned in the first article of the series how one of my accounts was closed because the network decided my level of sales — on their behalf — was not up to snuff. That annoyed me to no end, but it was hardly as grievous as some of the situations reported by bloggers like Mitchell who had accounts closed and were never paid their earnings. This situation prompted him to blog about it, in Finish Line Steals My Money Then Cancels My Account.

Final Thoughts

The best and the worst, from bloggers’ perspectives, give us some food for thought. The good things are very good indeed. The not-so-good? It would be fair to say that every issue highlighted today can be satisfactorily addressed. Coming up in Part 3 are some suggestions for improvements in the affiliate marketing and performance marketing industry. And,we’ll see what bloggers had to say about which types of programs work best to monetize blog content.

If you missed Part 1: Established Methods to Monetize Blogs, you still have time to catch up before the next article!

Take the Survey

Are you a small business owner or blogger? Take the survey (it’s anonymous). Our collective voices could be the catalyst that effects a change for everyone’s betterment – especially the ability to earn a decent income from our blog content.

Please share your thoughts in the comment area below. Thanks for reading.

Further Reading

Special Thanks

Special thanks go out to the many bloggers who participated in the survey.

Peter Pelliccia, Small Business Owner “Blogging for fame and fortune”
Twitter: @AussieSire

Mitch Mitchell, Business Management Consultant, Writer
Twitter: @Mitch_M

Gera, Blogging Strategies
Twitter: @sweetsfoods

Mitchell Allen, Software Developer, Writer,
Twitter: @AnkleBuster

Gail Gardner, Small Business Social Media Marketing Advisor
Twitter: @GrowMap

Adam Riemer, Affiliate Management company, Washington DC Marketing Firm
Twitter: @RollerBlader

Alicia Jay, Transcription, Proofreading, Typing Services
Twitter: @TranscripESvcs

Ron Cripps, Affiliate Marketing
Twitter: @affiliatexfiles

Adrienne Smith, Achieve Success Online
Twitter: @AdrienneSmith40

And many, many thanks to all of our other small business blogging friends!

Take the Survey. Are you a small business owner or blogger? Take the survey (it’s anonymous). Our collective voices could be the catalyst that effects a change for everyone’s betterment.

Other Articles in this Series

Read Part 1, Established Methods to Monetize Blogs.

Read Part 3: Improvements Pave the Way to Monetize Blogs.

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Vernessa Taylor | CoachNotes Blog

As a Technology Consultant, Vernessa Taylor works with both online and offline business owners. She writes about small business systems such as project management and customer referral systems at CoachNotes Blog.

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