Is Making Money From Your Blog Still a Thing?

Is Making Money From Your Blog Still a Thing?

by Kerry Scott on 14 June 2013

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I’m in an arm-wrestling match with Amazon.com.

The whole thing is stupid. They apparently have my affiliate account set up wrong, and they’ve suspended my account until it’s fixed…but they refuse to fix it. They want me to start a whole new account, to save them the trouble of changing the account from “individual” to “business” (which was how it was supposed to be set up from the beginning). That would mean changing all of the links on my blog. That’s five years worth of stuff. I’m about as delighted as you might expect.

We’ve gone back and forth for weeks on this, but since they only have robots who respond to emails about this sort of thing, you can’t have a real conversation. I miss the days when companies had humans who responded to customers. I’m not sure a real conversation would really help, though, because they’re a whole lot bigger than I am. Even though they’re wrong and this is stupid, I’m wondering whether this is worth the effort. I’m increasingly finding that the trouble it takes to maintain affiliate accounts is greater than the return. Genealogy people tend to read your recommendations and then buy the item without clicking your link anyway, so you don’t even get paid for the effort and expense.

So I’m curious. If you have a genealogy blog, do you still use affiliate links? Do you feel they’re worth the effort? If you’re a non-blogging reader, do you click on people’s affiliate links? Why or why not?

Photo by Selena N. B. H. 

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret June 14, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I usually forget to click on the link to Amazon which makes me feel ashamed, because I want to support the sites/blogs I like. I use Amazon a lot so I’m used to going there on my own. I’m a newbie blogger so I might as well be a “non-blogger.” I don’t have an affiliate link yet. I’m making myself be consistent so I can develop a following larger than 2.5 people (my mom, my brother and my cousin, sometimes). My blog does not cause side-splitting laughs and chuckles as yours does, so I only get weird sites showing up in my statistics. Sites I was warned NOT to click on. Please continue posting when you can.

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Kerry Scott June 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Hang in there…we all started with 2.5 readers!

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Nick June 15, 2013 at 7:20 pm

You now have 3.5, Margaret… I started following you :)

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Susan Partlan June 15, 2013 at 10:02 am

Ridiculous. If I were you, I would not set up a new account. When I blogged about personal finance I had affiliate links but found them more trouble than they were worth, which, as it turns out, was $0.00. As a non-blogging reader of other blogs, I click on the blogger’s link if it is an item I want.

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Michelle June 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

It’s weird, but I generally don’t even notice people’s affiliate links—I wonder if I’ve just become immune to them? I follow a lot of blogs so I essentially read their content, comment sometimes and then move onto the next blog that I follow.

I feel bad now because the intent has never been to not support people and in fact I would like to support people, but I guess I try to get in as much blog reading in the little time I have.

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Kerry Scott June 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm

This is only an issue if you’re actually planning to buy the thing they’re talking about. There’s no value to the blogger in clicking on an ad or affiliate link if you’re not actually buying the product…in fact, it screws up their stats (and in the case of some ad networks, it can get them kicked out of the program).

So if you’re just going through and reading without buying stuff, you’re not hurting anyone. It’s only an issue when you’re buying something they’ve recommended.

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Denise Morgan June 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm

What trouble and expense are you not getting paid for? Writing a blog post is not that hard and it’s free.

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Kerry Scott June 16, 2013 at 8:05 am

Blogging isn’t entirely free. I pay around $190/year for hosting, domain registration, analysis tools and stock images. There are free platforms out there, but you have no control over them, so if (for example) Google decides to shut down Blogger, your work may disappear. I agree, though, it’s not terribly expensive, and I consider this part of the cost of doing business.

For posts with affiliate links, though, there’s the expense incurred in buying the item being discussed. For example, before this whole Amazon mess, I bought two new scanners with the intention of reviewing them for my blog (I already had two scanners, so I didn’t really need them). The cost for both was about $250. I tried them both, and I hated the $100 one, but I really liked the $150 one. I was going to do a blog post about it when I got the notice from Amazon.

Reviewing products is expensive, and the idea is that the cost of the products you buy will be at least partly offset by people buying them through the link. If that doesn’t happen, there’s little incentive for a blogger to spend chunks of her own money to try out products for readers.

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James June 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Denise, I follow some blogs where the authors largely link to posts on other blogs or to articles in the news, and certainly those are not terribly difficult blog posts to write. Writing a twitter tweet or a Facebook message is not that hard, either. But to write significant, original content, even for a gifted writer, is hardly “not that hard”.

Whether or not I am a gifted writer, I won’t hazard to guess. But I post to my own blog rarely not only because I have a tiny handful of readers, but because it takes real effort to write meaningful content. In my opinion, Kerry is a truly gifted writer. I would doubt she typically posts her first draft even on short columns, but likely reworks what she has written to improve it and to give added value to those who read it.

Ultimately, the market will determine what is commercially viable, and that will no doubt include some blogs that largely repackage existing content as well as others that are highly original. But whether it’s “not that hard” is probably too broad a judgment for you to make on behalf of others, regardless of your own personal experience, whatever that may be.

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Paul July 5, 2013 at 3:00 am

I agree with Kerry about cost. I spent $100 last week to get a WordPress blog account. I have a computer that would work as a server option, but I will be choosing one of the hosting companies as soon as I figure out which one works best for my needs. That’s easily another $90+. I haven’t gone live yet, but should shortly. If you get successful enough, the costs are much higher. Eastman’s blog costs him $8,000/year just in e-mail costs.

I also agree with James, it’s not that easy to write a good blog article. Once I pick a hosting service, I will add guest blogging as an option so people can get a feel for what it takes to blog.

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Sassy Jane August 13, 2013 at 9:05 am

Denise, I’d like to think that Kerry’s time is worth something. And the expertise she’s sharing on her blog probably cost some money as well.

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Rondina June 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Kerry, I don’t have a blog, so I can’t address your question. I would like to say that I never buy anything from the links on genealogy blogs (except for Michael Hait’s blog which links to his own publications).

So you get these robotic replies and no way to talk to a human. When this kind of thing happens to me, I write a letter. I go to the corporate website and research who is in charge of whatever and start at the top. It usually brings positive results.

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Kerry Scott June 16, 2013 at 8:07 am

I’ve also found letter-writing effective…but only when I’m a customer. In this case, I’m a vendor. I wrote a letter last week, but I haven’t received a reply.

It’s worth noting that I’ve been a *customer* of Amazon for years, and have always received excellent service. It’s only on the vendor/affilate side that the experience has been less than fantastic.

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Jacqi Stevens June 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Tweet about it. I’m sure there’s more than just a bot behind @Amazon and @AmazonHelp–that is, if they know what they are doing!

I’ve also read…somewhere…that there is a phone number that leads to a real live person at Amazon…but as I didn’t need it, I never took note of it. Perhaps Googling it might come up with something? I saw it on a blog for bloggers.

Kerry, while I don’t run any ads or affiliate links on my blog (yet), I sympathize with you. Contrary to Denise’s comment, writing a great blog post does indeed take time, and it is not easy. It takes thought, effort, research, experience, know-how, and the nuances of several other qualities that allow you to stand apart from the crowd.

And believe me, Kerry, you do stand apart from the crowd!

For those of my blogging friends who do participate in income-producing efforts, I try to help them out–particularly at gift-buying times–by clicking through their sites (if I intend to make a purchase at the destination site). I’ve seen some bloggers actually remind readers of how these click-throughs help their cause (especially non-profit groups such as local genealogical societies). I believe I saw something like that on Cyndi’s List last Christmas, too.

Sometimes, it takes educating each other on how systems work, and how we can all help each other out. I’ve written a post about this (over a year ago) in an effort to help spread the word. Perhaps this is a good time for a re-run in that category.

I used to never click through on online ads. In the earlier days of the Internet, I wasn’t confident about security issues. Now, though, once I understood how the purchase I was going to make anyhow can also benefit a writer I appreciate, I’ve tried to match my online shopping to their links.

All this to say: while it certainly is something that is up to each individual blogger and his or her situation, at some point, we all will become better informed and realize the power each of us wields online–no matter how miniscule–to help those we appreciate achieve the success they require.

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Missy June 16, 2013 at 5:58 am

I’m not a blogger…just a reader. I have never even clicked on ANY affiliate links unless it is a link to another blogging subject that I might be interested in reading. If someone recommends a book to look at or read, I first go to google books to see if it’s out of copyright and free, then I will just go on Amazon.com to see how cheap I can get it. I just do that on my own, never clicking on links within the blog. Funny! I never even noticed they were there. I don’t even “glance” at the ads or links.

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Kathleen O'Hara Naylor June 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I do, currently, have Amazon affiliate links on my blog. Not being a big blogger, and not having much of a readership, I never expected it to amount to much, and it hasn’t – currently, I have $.99 sitting in my account, and it’s the only money I’ve ever earned.

I do make a point of going through other bloggers’ links, either when they recommend something and I want to try it, or for things I was planning to buy from Amazon anyway. (The latter never occurred to me until you mentioned it here.)

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Paul July 5, 2013 at 3:15 am

Kerry,

I am starting a new blog. I do plan on having some ads or banners. When possible, I will do my best to tailor them to the topic at hand. I plan to cover a variety of topics ranging from genealogy to mental illness.

One blog discussion I noticed was how some were against “monetizing” their blogs. These individuals tended to be occasional bloggers who blog in their spare time and use the free blogs. A few of them acted like it was sacrilege to have any kind of ad or banner on a blog. Expect they will change their tune if they ever go the paid route.

The ones who went with the paid blogs or spent a lot of time blogging usually favored having a way of generating money to help offset the costs.

I am looking at choosing a hosting company, but not sure which one. Did the math and several of them were cheaper, or about the same price, as if I did it myself. Plus, they get to deal with the headaches.

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Sassy Jane August 13, 2013 at 9:07 am

My Amazon affiliate account is just not worth it anymore. Amazon booted everybody in California out of the program in a pique over having to collect sales tax, and then they let everybody back in when they got over themselves. Ever since, it’s been wonky and hard to use, in my account at least.

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