One of my secondary goals for this blog is to learn how to make some money from it, not “quit your day job” money, but at least enough to pay for expenses and still have some extra pocket change left.
To that end, I recently joined the Affiliate Program for StudioPress, creators of the Genesis Theme Framework for WordPress.
This post kicks off a five-part series about setting your blog up for affiliate marketing based on my trials and tribulations. The rest of the series will talk about: creating disclosure and privacy policies; whether to use the
nofollow attribute in your affiliate links; and the merits of cloaking your links.
Today, I’ll summarize how affiliate programs work, what prompted me to become an affiliate, and why I chose StudioPress as my first program.
How does an affiliate program work?
An affiliate program pays you a commission whenever someone purchases a product through a text link or banner on your blog. Each merchant assigns you a unique code (usually a text string of letters and numbers) that identifies your account when someone navigates to their site or product page through your links.
For example, if you click on a text link like this one, or the StudioPress banner in my sidebar, a cookie is left in your browser telling StudioPress that you clicked on one of my affiliate links/banners. If you purchase a Genesis theme anytime during that sixty-day window, I get a thirty-five percent commission.
Some merchants, like StudioPress, use an affiliate network (ShareASale) to manage their affiliate program. Others, like HostGator, go it alone and manage the affiliate program using their own internal staff. The benefits of affiliate networks include reporting tools (metrics) and payment aggregation.
Either the merchant or its affiliate network will provide you with the HTML code for your text links and banners which you can place anywhere on your blog.
An opportunity presents itself
I hadn’t planned on monetizing The Hobby Blogger so soon. I was trying to follow the oft-recommended advice to build a significant audience first.
However, early this year I received an email from a reader who was considering Genesis for his blog, and wanted to know if it was difficult to set up my theme. I crafted an honest reply about how simple it was to set up the Prose theme while also describing why I choose it over the other Genesis child themes, but I didn’t send the email right away.
I thought this was an excellent opportunity to get a possible commission as a StudioPress affiliate, so I immediately signed up for an account with their affiliate network, ShareASale. After I was approved, I then applied to StudioPress’s affiliate program.
Now that I knew I’d be a StudioPress affiliate within a couple of days I was ready to send my email response. I added one more paragraph to the end of the email saying that I’d be an affiliate in a couple days. I said that if he did decide to go with Genesis, I’d appreciate if he would return to The Hobby Blogger and click on the affiliate banner before making his purchase.
StudioPress approved me the next morning, so I was able to get their banner on my sidebar less than two days after receiving and responding to that reader’s email.
I partnered with StudioPress simply because, so far, I’m very happy with the Prose child theme that powers this blog. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Easy design changes. You can tweak most of your blog’s design elements (fonts, background colors, spacing, borders, etc.) using widgets in the WordPress Dashboard. This feature is huge because other themes usually require editing CSS files to make similar changes.
- Free plugins. StudioPress also offers plugins to extend the ease and functionality of their themes. Simple URLs is one that I use to make my affiliate links user-friendly and track which ones are clicked. While there are other plugins that offer the same functionality, I’m assured that the StudioPress plugins will integrate well with their themes and always be kept up to date.
- Good support. Whenever I’ve had questions, I’ve been able to find answers in their support forum. Questions receive quick responses (usually less than twenty-four hours).
Check out B2Web for another, more in-depth review of the Prose Theme, which also points out an important limitation regarding the inability to use content widgets on static homepages.
But what about the reader who emailed me?
I never heard back from him, but I hope my email was still helpful.
So maybe I went through all that trouble of quickly becoming an affiliate for nothing, and it’s possible the ads might stunt my blog’s growth by turning off new visitors. I guess I could just take down the banners until my traffic has grown more significant.
Meh. At this point, learning the ins and outs of blogging is more important to me than making a buck. If nothing else, it’s a good challenge to elevate my content to help make up for any traffic lost because of the ads.
But if you are looking for a theme for your blog, I’d appreciate it if you clicked here or on the StudioPress banner in my sidebar first.
How about you? Did you monetize right away or wait until you built a solid following?
This series continues with:
Earning Money From Your Blog? Better Post a Disclosure Policy
NoFollow Affiliate Links? What Blogger’s Need to Know to Save PageRank
7 Convincing Reasons Why You Should Cloak Your Blog’s Affiliate Links