As of right now, at this writing, I'm about a year and a half deep into doing blogging and affiliate marketing full-time.
It's been a wild up and down ride, with major peaks and some serious setbacks as well.
Right now, I'm making about $7-8,000 per month from two blogs or niche sites.
That's pretty awesome when I look back at how far I've come!
Of course, I have much loftier goals than that, and I thought I'd be farther ahead in my journey by now.
I was pretty close to this same number 6 months ago. And then this happened.
Nonetheless, there's nothing to do except keep pushing forward with more ferocity than ever.
So here's what I'm working on in my blogging business to finally crack $10k per month in 2020.
1. New affiliate programs & custom deals
I'm sick of Amazon.
Don't get me wrong, it's still a major earner for me (tied with ad revenue for my biggest source of income).
But it's a serious pain in the ass.
With such horrendous commissions (that seem to be dropping all the time), it takes a TON of volume to make serious money with Amazon.
You can certainly still do it, but I think the days of people making 10-15k per month with just one or two sites using only Amazon are wearing thin.
It's a great way to get started, but at some point you have to move on to bigger and better things.
For me, that time is nowish.
For the past several months, I've been joining and working on content to promote tons of new affiliate offers.
I'm particularly interested in digital products like membership sites or apps; anything where the margins can be high for the brand and their affiliates.
When I discover a brand with a cool product or service offering, I try to find them on the big affiliate networks like CJ, ShareASale, Impact, PepperJam, etc.
But if I can't, I'll reach out and introduce myself and try to negotiate a custom agreement.
(This has worked for me once so far, with a few discussions ongoing.)
Working out custom affiliate deals directly with a brand is pretty much a best case scenario.
Without a publicly available affiliate program, that brand likely won't attract a whole lot of marketers and competition.
Usually, though not always, you'll be able to much more easily rank your review and keep that spot for the long haul. Why would anyone bother trying to oust you without a monetary reason to do so?
This kind of high-effort, high-touch approach is a big focus of mine heading into 2020.
2. Monetizing Informational Content
I have a ton of content that does nothing but give great information and bring in traffic (and earn ad revenue).
It's one of my favorite models! You can make great money this way using top-tier ad networks like Mediavine and AdThrive.
But lately I'm trying to ratchet things up a notch and double-dip on those posts, finding good affiliate offers to present to those information-seeking audiences.
This is not easy to do.
It's not as simple as just tossing an affiliate link into the content that might appeal to the reader.
You can't take an article about "how to get toddlers to listen" and then say "Oh, by the way, here's my favorite car seat for toddlers!"
You might as well be throwing darts at the wall. Yes, there's some audience overlap, but the conversion rate on that link will be laughably low. It's not even going to be worth your time to make the edit.
But even if it's a better fit, say the article is "how to install a carseat" and you drop in an affiliate link for a car seat, it's still a stretch to think you'll see sales.
Those people simply aren't looking to buy something, and it's almost impossible to sell to someone when they're not looking to buy, even if they fit the demographic of people who'd be interested in the product.
To make affiliate links in informational content work, you have to find the PERFECT offer.
It has to solve the exact problem the person came to the post looking to solve, and most likely in a unique way they haven't thought about before.
Maybe for "how to install a car seat," there's a service that will come out and do it for you, and you can get paid for referring customers to them. Or maybe there's a simple tool or accessory available that makes it a lot easier, and you can promote it via Amazon or elsewhere.
You'll have to rotate in new links and offers and try out a few things (always keeping tabs on results) to see what resonates with that audience.
3. Supporting Content & Relevancy / Internal Linking
The dudes at Authority Hacker did a really interesting study of SERPs recently, and one key point stood out:
For a competitive search like "best coffee maker", some small to medium coffee-focused blogs were outranking massive authorities like The Wirecutter and others.
(I can't remember if this is in the blog post or if they discussed the example on the podcast, so forgive me for that!)
It really drove the point home that in 2019/2020 and beyond, relevancy is just as big of a factor, if not moreso, than authority.
So to keep a long story short, I've been trying to create lots of short and hyper-relevant content to prop up the money posts I really want to rank.
For example, maybe I write a big roundup post like "The 10 Best Clothing Delivery Services" going after a really competitive keyword, and loaded with profitable affiliate offers.
Instead of just leaving it, maybe I'll try creating 5-10 satellite posts targeting smaller related topics and link to the money post like crazy.
(Individual reviews of each of the 10, maybe, or even something smaller and simpler like customer-service type of questions, if I think I can rank for them... "How many items do you get with StitchFix?" etc.)
This content isn't really designed to bring in a ton of traffic or sales (though that'd be great), but hopefully it can rank and drive relevancy to the bigger piece.
External links will always be more powerufl than internal links, but the discrepancy is smaller than you thnk.
Going forward, I'm making sure my biggest and most important money posts have tons of super-relevant content and internal links pointing to them.
4. Updating Old Content
I'm not reinventing the wheel here.
Once you get past a certain minimum level of content (and a lot of it is ranking and pulling in traffic and revenue)...
... you'll often get a better and faster return on your time by updating and improving the old stuff vs writing something new.
I have lots of "money posts" I wrote last summer (2018) that need a bit of a refresh and have been slipping down the SERPs, even if it's just a minor once over to make sure all the products are still in stock, fixing grammar mistakes, etc.
I'm also experimenting with adding a dynamic year to the meta title of many of my reviews and product roundups (you can do this easily using Yoast SEO -- just put %%currentyear%% in the meta title section, NOT the blog post title on Wordpress), and early results seem positive for rakings and clickthrough.
(See what else I work on in a given day: A day in the life of a blogger.}
5. Conversion Rate Optimization
Similarly, I've been going down the list of ways to squeeze more revenue out of my existing traffic vs continually publishing new content.
One of the best ways? Optimize clickthroughs and conversion rates on my existing affiliate posts.
I recently realized a lot of my product comparison tables are completely broken on mobile (you can't see the whole table).
This is a relatively catastrophic problem when 60%+ of your traffic comes from iPhones or Android devices!
It's been a pretty easy win to just go through and plop in better, responsive tables.
Here are the Amazon earnings from one of my sites where I've been doing the most work. You can see clickthrough and revenue going steadily up since about mid-July when I started making these simple updates. (I haven't added any new Amazon Affiliate content in this time)
I'm also toying with and tracking different kinds of calls to action.
What really motivates people? Is it curiosity to see the price? Temptation of a discount? Assurance of having a money-back guarantee?
These are all CTA variations I'm experimenting with.
(Early results say that promo codes and discounts aren't as motivating as you would think, since they're so easy to find for most products)
6. Data Tracking & Analytics
And speaking of, what good is experimenting if you can't track the results?
I'm embarrassed it's taken me this long, but I've finally began implementing Google Tag Manager to set up custom Events in Google Analytics.
(For example, an Event can fire every time someone clicks a link to Amazon, or joins your email list, or visits more than one page).
It's critical to know which pages and posts are actually driving your results.
(If you use Amazon OneLink, you can see a breakdown of revenue performance by page but I've found it's INCREDIBLY incomplete and missing a ton of data.)
If you can tell exactly how many clicks to Amazon each money post is driving, and you have a rough idea of how much one click to Amazon is worth for you (divide your total sales over a long period of time by the total clicks), you'll get a good picture of what your most important posts are.
(They may not necessarily be the ones you expect!)
You'll also begin to see which pages get a lot of traffic but don't drive the clickthrough they should, and you can work on fixing it.
7. Authority vs Niche
My long term goal is to turn my sites into more than a series of one-off, transactional articles.
Yes, I have a site about "dogs" where I write about everything related to dogs, just filling in gaps in the market with good content, and just doing that has gotten me pretty far.
But I never really stopped to think about the bigger purpose of my site. Who is it designed to help, and how?
Would I be proud if a top expert in my niche stumbled across my site, or I got the chance to show it to them in an elevator or something?
Or is it just a collection of reviews and round-ups?
It's a lot of work and involves a lot of new content to build this out the way I want, and it will take some time without having an immediate ROI, but in the long run I think it makes my sites a lot stronger and more resilient.
So that's what I've been up to!
Any questions about blogging or marketing you'd like help with? Hit me up in the comments and I'll do my best to assist.
And if you're just getting started, check out my list of blogging tools I can't live without.