When Good Blogs Go Bad

I was just reading through my RSS feed and I came across a blog that I used to read on a daily basis for it’s interesting and helpful content. The blogger had a good grasp of the topic and provided a wonderful blend of the latest news in their field as well as helpful ‘how to’ type articles blended in with some opinion pieces and the occasional rant.

Today as I saw their latest post and clicked through to read it on their blog I realized that two things had changed about the blog.

  1. the posting frequency had dropped significantly from 2-3 posts per day to 1-2 posts per week.
  2. the nature of the posts had changed from a blend of mainly ‘news’, ‘opinion’ and ‘tips’ posts to almost 100% posts about affiliate products.

As I reflected upon these changes I realized that as a reader of this blog I was now feeling two emotions quite deeply (one emotion for each of the above changes). In fact the feelings I had surprised me as to their depth.

The first emotion, regarding the change in posting frequency, was disappointment. I used to genuinely enjoy reading the blog and looked forward to hearing the latest thoughts of the blogger. Losing that daily contact with someone else interested in what I was into was sad. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d come to appreciate what they had to say until it was gone.

The second emotion, connected to the change in the nature of posts, was anger. I’d not really noticed the change to posts that were almost 100% linking to affiliate programs but as I looked back over the last couple of months of sporadic posts I realized that the change had definitely taken place. Previously they had written the occasional post with affiliate links in it but they were sporadic and always relevant to the topic. I’d even bought products that they’d recommended in the past because I respected their opinion.

I was surprised by my anger towards this blog. I felt that I’d almost been manipulated or that something underhanded had happened without me actually realizing it. Here was a blogger who had once been known as a thought leader and as someone who had built a reputation by providing useful content who had seemingly sold out and cashed in on his influence.

Perhaps my emotions were overreactions but it reinforced a couple of points to me:

  • Blog Readers (like me) buy into the blogs that they read to a point where they almost feel some ownership of the blog. As a result when you make changes (announced or unannounced) people can react very strongly.
  • Blogs need to offer something of value to their readers. A blog that simply produces posts that are an obvious grab for cash will end up disillusioning their readers – no matter how much trust or respect the blogger has previously established.

I realize that the blogger concerned probably has legitimate reasons for changing their blogging frequency. Perhaps they got sick, perhaps they changed jobs or perhaps they just got bored with the topic – but as I looked back over the last couple of months I saw no explanation of the change. Perhaps if they’d communicated some reasons I’d have reacted differently – but in the end my assumption was that the blogger just didn’t care about the topic and/or got greedy.

My reaction was to unsubscribe.

New AdSense referrals for Google Pack and Picasa

AdSense have continued to release new items on their ‘referral’s program today with two new things for their publishers to earn commissions on. You can now refer to:

  • Google Pack – when users install it from your referral you get $2
  • Picasa – when users download it from your referral you get $1

Picasa is available in multiple languages but Google Pack is only in US English at this point (I don’t see an option for it here in Australia).

I know I’ll be trying out the Picasa one on my photo blogs:

Source: Inside AdSense

PS: Looks like Google ARE getting into the affiliate marketing game after-all – this makes their referral options 5.

Four Figure Blogging

Ben at College Startup is writing a useful series of posts on ‘How to Become a four figure blogger’.

So far he’s put together 2 parts (read them at part 1 and part 2). Here are a couple of key quotes from the series so far with a few of my own comments on each:

“If you have any hope of earning $1,000 a year from your blog you’re going to need traffic. You don’t need much, I am on track to earn over $1,000 a year and I am averaging well below 500 unique visits a day.”

This is stating the obvious but is a key point. Traffic is essential if you want to develop a blog that makes money (unless you’re going to get into some click fraud scheme). A blog doesn’t just make money – it needs people viewing it, interacting with it and participating in it. As traffic grows the potential it has to earn an income also rises.

“People don’t want to click on advertisements in your sidebar. Strategically placing affiliate links within posts gets a much better conversion rate. I’m not the only person who has discovered this – any professional blogger will tell you the same thing. People are much more likely to click on a link within a post than they are to click an obvious advertisement on your sidebar.”

Ben is talking about ‘affiliate programs’ here and not ‘advertising’. A common misconception that many new bloggers have is that once they have traffic all they have to do is put affiliate program buttons in their sidebar and the money will start rolling in. While it is possible to earn some money from such an approach Ben is correct in saying that links within content to affiliate programs are much more effective than sidebars.

This technique is often referred to as ‘deep linking’ and it works best when the links in your posts are genuine, relevant, transparent and helpful to your readers.

I’m looking forward to the rest of Ben’s four figure blogging series.

Making Money While Others Do the Work

Over the weekend I made close to $1000 more than my normal level of earnings without doing anything different at all.

In fact I didn’t intend to make the money and for 24 hours or so I didn’t even know anything abnormal was happening.

How can this be so? Let me explain….

12 or so months ago I discovered an e-book that related to one of the niches that I blog in (I’m not going to name it as I don’t have the author’s permission to talk about their strategy). The e-book was a quality product and was quite relevant to my blog’s topic and so after buying it myself and reading it I began to promote it on my blog. I used a variety of strategies including a review of the book, linking to it prominently from my blog and by working with the author of the e-book to promote it with some articles that they wrote for me.

The results of this were that over time I referred significant traffic to the sales page of this e-book.

Some of those who I referred purchased the e-book (and earned me a commission each time) while others (the majority) just signed up for free taster products and free email newsletters that the author provided. The key was that the author of the e-book captured (with permission through an opt-in program) the email details of many of my referrals.

In the early days I didn’t earn a lot from this program (probably around $25 per week) but it was a nice little bonus.

Over the last 12 months the author of the e-book has produced a number of other e-products ranging from free tasters through to more expensive membership programs. He’s really grown in reputation in the niche and instead of branching out into numerous different topics he’s going deep into the one he started with – producing an array of products that all relate to one another.

The great thing for me as one of his affiliates is that each person I’ve referred to him over the last 12 months earns me an income on any purchase that they make not only the first time they purchase something but ANYtime they purchase something for as long as he continues to produce products.

[Read more…]

Diversify Your Blogging Income with Secondary Money Earners

One of the lessons that I learned after a a year of blogging for an income was the danger of relying upon a single income source for your blog.

To that point I’d heavily focussed upon AdSense as a revenue stream on my blogs and was making what I thought was a reasonable level of income (enough to justify cutting back on other work a couple of days a week). I was incredibly optimistic about the growth of my blogs and was making all kinds of forecasts to my wife of the money that we’d be earning in a year’s time if the blogs continued to grow as they were.

The flaw in my ‘business’ (and I don’t think what I had back then truly was a business – but that’s a whole other debate) was that while things were on the up and up, it all hung largely on one company – Google.

Google was crucial to my income on two fronts:

  • They sent me traffic – I was lucky enough to have decent ranking in Google.
  • They gave me a way to earn money from the traffic with AdSense.

While I knew this at the time I was naively optimistic and made no real contingency plans for what I’d do if one or both of these elements was taken from me.

Of course in the lead up to Christmas 2004 when my AdSense earnings were approaching a level where I could go full time as a blogger the worst thing imaginable happened to me – I almost completely disappeared from the rankings at Google for each of my three (or was it four?) blogs.

My traffic dropped by two thirds and my income similarly disappeared. I learnt at that point the lesson that I talk about regularly here – diversification. I made a decision at that time to attempt to diversify in a number of ways.

  1. Firstly I’d attempt to build other types of traffic (largely through RSS, newsletters and building reader loyalty).
  2. Secondly I’d build new blogs on different domains (up to that point each blog was on the one domain) so that if one was hit by Google the others might stay strong
  3. Thirdly I’d find new income streams to supplement AdSense.

It’s this third point that I’d like to expand upon a little in this post.

[Read more…]

Amazon Change Referral Rates – Consumer Electronics Publishers Hit Hardest

Amazon Affiliate program members have received an email today announcing the new referral fee rates for the second quarter of 2006. There are a few significant changes.

The first is a ‘simplified’ structure for link premiums. As you’ll see from the following image the commission earned has increased in each number of items shipped except for 1-20 items when it goes down by 1%.

Q2 06 Us Chart 2

This covers all products EXCEPT consumer electronics which will now earn a flat 4% fee regardless of units volume.

It also means the loss of the ‘direct link premium’ which was confusing but it was also quite lucrative for some publishers who now how to use it. This means that instead of getting 7.5% commission on CE products if you use direct links to specific products you’ll be getting 4% – quite a hit!

This is disappointing for me as someone who makes most of his money in the Amazon program by referring business to Amazon in the form of gadgets. I understand that the margin on electronics is not high but this will lead to significant downturns in income for some publishers.

I’m not sure that this is really a good move from Amazon – while the percentages are very small they do have an impact, especially when you’re selling products that are worth thousands of dollars. For example I had one sale today that earned me $30 (it was at 7.5% commission from a direct link premium) – if the same sale went through in a few days time it would be almost halved.

My own Amazon earnings are not massive (I stand to loose an estimated $400+ a quarter) but I do know some CE publishers who look carefully at these tiers and work very hard to climb them and I can imagine the feedback Amazon will get as a result of this announcement as a result of their income being slashed.

Update – the Amazon publisher discussion boards are going crazy. The main compaints:

  • Not enough notice – on the second last day of the quarter they tell of the changes
  • No acknowledgement that the changes will impact some people hard – the email notification presents it as if it was the publishers who asked for the changes. They may have asked for a simpler structure but no one asked for a cut on earnings of up to 50%.
  • The only people who seem to benefit from this are those who send untargetted traffic to Amazon. The ones who go to the effort of directly linking to specific products will lose out.
  • Amazon has previously promised no more major changes to their commission structure.
  • Other CE affiliates offer 5% with 30 day cookies – Amazon is now down to 4% with 1 day cookies – many are suggesting other alternatives and are talking about moving on from Amazon.

To say that there is real anger among Amazon publishers would be an understatement and there are lots of people calling for people to let Amazon know what they think of the changes.

Contact Details:

Amazon Associates: 701-787-9740 (US number)
Email: [email protected]

Using Free BlogAds to Promote Affiliate Products

Here’s a tip that I shared with ProBlogger Newsletter subscribers a couple of weeks back (slightly adapted).

Those of you who use ads on your blogs will probably notice that the service allows you to offer free ads using a promotional code.

This enables you to offer free ads to advertisers or to run some of your own ads on your blog.

The idea of running your own ads on your own blog might seem a little odd at first, but it has a number of benefits.

Firstly it gives the perception that your blog is in demand for advertisers – this could well entice other advertisers to sign up.

Secondly it gives you an easy way to highlight products that you might want to highlight. Particularly you might like to highlight an affiliate program that has relevance to your blog.

I’ve been doing this a bit lately on one of my blogs with some success. Here’s all you have to do:

[Read more…]

ClickBank adds Search to Marketplace

There was some good news for Clickbank Affiliates on their ClickBank Web Log a couple of days ago. They’ve added search capabilities to their Marketplace area (where affiliates go to find products to promote). This has been a much needed feature and something many will be very happy to see.

If you’re unfamiliar with them you might be interested in reading my review of the ClickBank program.

Clickbank Login Problems

Some Clickbank affiliates (including me) have been having problems logging into their admin area over the past day or two.

On reporting difficulties logging in publishers get the following message from Clickbank:

“Due to an attempted denial-of-service attack that started Sunday, we have been filtering suspect traffic. It is possible that if you are sharing an IP (such as AOL web proxies) with a zombie computer on the same network, you may be temporarily blocked from reaching our site. This will not affect the ability of customers on “clean” IP’s from reaching our site.”

No news on when we’ll be back online at this point.

update: They look like they are back up and running again.