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The intention of this post is to equip the reader with a better understanding of what ads and sponsored content are all about, and how they compare with affiliate links in terms of making money from your blog.

This post is written with disability in mind: it’s by a deaf blogger and for other bloggers with disabilities.

Types of Direct Ads

You would think that ads are simple, right? And maybe they are – money in exchange for indirectly promoting something on your site. What I suspect that a lot of bloggers don’t quite know though, is how many types of ads there are, exactly:

Pay Per Click: this is where the company will give you a fraction of money for each click on their link from your site.

Pay Per-Action: where the company will pay you (the blogger) each time a reader clicks on the ad and then makes a purchase.

Pay Per-Impression: where the blogger is paid by how many readers saw the ad.

Set Rate: this is when a company pays you a set amount of money each month to host their ads on your blog, regardless of number of impressions or conversions.

Text Link and Contextual Ads: These are ads that are placed in the context of your post. Google ads work like this, when placed in text-form within a blog post.

Direct Ads: When you (the blogger) enter into a private relationship to place ads on your blog.

Pros and Cons of Direct Ads

There are two pros to direct ads as I see it:
  1. When they work, they WORK and you make consistent money. Yay!
  2. Well placed and with the right brands, they can lend credibility.
The cons of direct ads are many:
  1. You can end up plastering your blog for less than a pittance.
  2. Because, really: a pittance: most often you make next to no money off of them.
  3. They can look skanky and make you look skanky, too.
  4. They are distracting, which is a big deal when you want your readers to be focused on your content.
  5. It takes a lot of work to set them up.

Sponsored Posts:

When a blogger is hired to produce content that is similar to what they usually produce (“native advertising”), it’s called a sponsored post.

I’ve written many sponsored posts, the most recent being the post that I wrote on ABLEnow – which is actually a perfect example of how a sponsored post works.

I normally write about disability and everything that I write about is within the framework of disability. So, ABLEnow was looking for bloggers who write about disability – boom! It’s a match!

In making money through sponsored content, companies looks at traffic, social media, and overall reach. .

Sponsored posts are a two-way street. Bloggers can be approached by companies, can approach companies directly, and can also join networks that promote sponsored post opportunities.

Pros and Cons to Sponsored Posts:

Pros: 
  1. They are called “native advertising” for a reason: the sponsored content fits in easily with your niche.
  2. It’s usually really easy to integrate.
Cons:
  1. There can be a lot of competition for sponsored posts.
  2. Many companies shortchange bloggers, so be wary.
  3. If the content isn’t a real fit with your niche, you can feel like you are selling out. Don’t do it if it feels that way; it’s not worth it.

Reviews

Blog reviews are for compensation and/or product.

This is where the company gives the blogger either the product itself in exchange for the review, or the product AND money in exchange for the review (and they can also offer more, like a discount code or a giveaway for the blog  readers).  If you ar paid to write the review, then it’s an indirect form of advertising.

Pros and Cons of Reviews

Pros

  1. Reviews are a great way to get paid through product, especially when you are just starting out as a blogger.
  2. Reviews only get better: product plus money plus something for your readers, so it’s often a great thing to participate in.

Cons

  1. You have to be careful to only review things you care about and keep your integrity as a blogger.

In Summary:

Ads, reviews and sponsored posts, along with affiliate links, are how you make money from a blog. I mean, that’s it.  You don’t start a blog and then suddenly get cash dumped in your lap – you have to reach out for it, and the way you reach out for it is always through affiliate links, ads, reviews and sponsored posts.

(note: I’m saying “reaching out” because I see making money through external sources as reaching out, and making money from course development as reaching in; as it’s an internal source of revenue).

Our subject next week will be about making money on your blog through developing courses, so make sure you sign up below so you don’t miss it!

This is a post about how to make money off of your blog through affiliate links. There are affiliate links in this post.

The intention of this post is to equip the reader with a better understanding of what affiliate links are all about, and how to use them to your advantage (without being a scheming, lying asshole of a blogger).

This post is written with disability in mind: it’s by a deaf blogger and for other bloggers with disabilities.

What is an affiliate?

An “affiliate” is, by definition, in this context,  “to connect or associate oneself.”

An affiliate of any company/organization is a person who has connected with that company/organization, or is associating with them.

So, in terms of blogging and making money online, an “affiliate” is someone who has a relationship with a company that is connected with money somehow.

What is an Affiliate Link?

Every single item for sale online has a production price (the cost of what it was to produce the item) and a sale price. The profit margin is the difference between the production price and the sale price, minus any relevant costs.

So, for example, say I make a t-shirt.

I have the cost of everything it took to make the shirt (the press, ink, shirts, and so forth). I also have the cost of marketing the shirt, of shipping and handling, and then I have the price that it’s sold for.  In between the two – the cost of producing the shirt and the price I’m selling it for – I have a profit margin.

Now let’s say that I have a friend who can help me sell the shirt. I say, “hey! If you help me sell the shirt by putting a link for it on your blog, I’ll give you 2% of my profit!

My friend says, “sure!” and she sets up a link for my shirt on her blog. The backend tracks all the shirts that were sold on her blog, and I pay her a percentage of the sales accordingly.

WHO benefits from affiliate links?

Actually, everyone does.

How to Make Money from Your Blog Using Affiliate LinksThe reader/buyer benefits, because they get what they want.

The seller benefits, because they sell what they wanted to sell, and make a profit to boot.

The affiliate also benefits, because they make a percentage of the profit.

In the case of the shirt, the readers of my friend’s blog didn’t pay more by buying the t-shirt off of her blog.

I lost a little bit of profit by having to pay my friend, but it wasn’t losing anything when she helped me sell, right?

My friend also gained some income, which was great for her!

Affiliate relationships can be very positive

The only time anyone does not benefit is if the affiliate is just spamming readers to buy stuff because they will make a commission off of a purchase.

That’s just gross and I think we all agree that’s a slimy practice.

Most of the time though, affiliate practices are great, and they are a fantastic way for readers to indirectly support their favorite bloggers and help keep independent media floating.

Given the amount of work most bloggers do for no compensation at all, this is a big win.

I Make Money from Affiliate Links

I took a course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing . It was super helpful in opening my eyes to the absolutely endless possibilities of affiliate marketing and for creating a plan with it. It’s not a free course, and yes, that’s an affiliate link, and yes, it’s worth it. It’s connected to a Facebook group and I am often there, so if you take the course, you’ll most likely see me in the group (say hi!).

The course does a thorough job of explaining exactly how to sign up for a million types of affiliate links, and how to get the whole ball rolling.

Affiliate Links Should Integrate with What You Write About Naturally

I had a real quandary when I started using affiliate links. The thing was, I wanted to continue blogging but I NEEDED to make money.

I also didn’t want to be a sell-out and hawk stuff I didn’t personally like or use for the sake of a dime… I’d like to think I have more integrity than that.

It took me a while to really see affiliate linkage opportunities in virtually everything that I wrote about. I’m not kidding. For example, I’d be writing a post about Signing Time and I wondered if there was an affiliate program with them. I looked it up, found out they did, applied, was accepted, then voila! I made money from them.

Where and When to Use Affiliate Links?

I’m a niche blogger. I blog about disability first and foremost, then moving into career and website development from a disability standpoint.

Because I’m a niche blogger, I tend to go directly to the sites that I have in mind.

I went straight to Signing Time, for example, because they made sense for me (I am deaf, I have a child with Down syndrome and I love Signing Time). I went directly to Tea Collection – I really like their stuff and they are so inclusive.

I think about things that I want to write about – like continuing with this blogging/website development tutorial series – and find the relevant affiliate links (start a blog? I use Bluehost – here’s my affiliate link which will get you started on your hosting!).

I use affiliate links from anyone and everyone it makes sense to link to. The idea in utilizing affiliate links is that you develop a wide range of relationships with different companies and you draw income slowly but surely from all.

Where to Find Affiliate Programs?

  1. Directly on a company website – look around the bottom part of the site – it’s usually there in small lettering “Affiliate Program” or “Partner”. If you don’t see it, contact the company and ask them if they have an affiliate program you can apply to.
  2. Big programs: Commission Junction, Rakuten, Shareasale – I wandered into all of these programs because the companies I liked and wanted to affiliate with handled their affiliate relationships within these frameworks. There are even more (take Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing for the whole ball of wax).

In Summary

Are affiliate links worth the work? Because make no mistake about it; it’s work. You need to find the companies, develop the relationships, get the links, create content that integrates with it in a way that feels natural to you and hope to get some financial return. It’s work.

I think affiliate links are a great option for some people but makes no sense at all for others. I know some people with niche audiences and low readerships who make good money on affiliate links and others (even despite large readerships) who don’t.

Making money with affiliate links is partly luck of the draw, partly timing, largely content, social media, and meeting someone online when you are giving them exactly what they are looking for in that particular moment.

Personally, I think it’s worth it, because once you have created your posts and set up the accompanying links, anything that you earn from that particular piece is passive income. For example, I make about $20 a month from Amazon just for links to books that I posted in book reviews 5 years ago! $20 is not a lot of money, but it’s something, and since it’s passive, it feels great.

For all of us with disabilities, making money through affiliate links can be great because of the time factor. Remember how it usually takes time for the affiliate links to catch on and start producing any money? But then, once they produce, they usually just keep ON producing as long as your site is up? Well, if you are on SSI/SSDI and have a cap to how much money you can make, affiliate links provide a little boost to your set income. Like a set dribble.

The other thing that is great about this type of income production is, again, the passivity. Once it’s set, it’s SET. So if you have flare up and can’t work or any type of a set back it does not matter: the money just keeps coming from that particular piece.

For us deaf, it’s great because it involves no hearing whatsoever.

The only piece that you need to be careful about is handling and tracking your earnings so that it comes under your SSI/SSDI cap amount. If you go over your cap amount, you could get cut off or face repercussions, so this is clearly something you want to be careful with.

There are unquestionable advantages to affiliate links for those of us with disabilities, so it’s a great thing to keep in mind as we decide how we want our blogs/websites to come together and how they will support us (if at all).

Why start a blog in 2018?! A lot of people think that blogging is a ship that has sailed. This post gets into reasons why it actually makes complete sense to start a blog right here and now.

Start a Blog?!

We all see the ads to “start a blog!“and the claims to “make money now by starting a blog!“around online, and well, 6 years ago, everyone had a blog.

Especially a mom-blog, right?!

They were as common as geckos are in Hawaii, absolutely everywhere.

But they have dried up. Perhaps it was just because the kids were growing up and life was just getting a hell of a lot busier.

A lot of people stopped blogging. Most everyone I knew who blogged has stopped.

So, WHY start a blog in 2018?

Why start a blog at this point in time? What would be the point? Blogging often costs money and definitely takes time. Why do that in this here and now; hasn’t that ship sailed already?

Well, I think that blogging, like anything else, is relevant for certain people, and certainly not for everyone.

Blogging is a great fit for people who:

  • have something to say
  • have something to sell
  • want to grow, creatively
  • have something to teach
  • want to make money in a non-traditional way
  • enjoy building community

Let’s talk about each of these in a little more detail, and why they makes sense in terms of blogging in 2018.

  1. You Have Something to Say

Some people are burning up inside with everything they need to must express.

Be it their vision of the world, their thoughts on the current social and economic realities in Sierra Leone, or what it’s like to go through the IEP process, they have this drive to communicate what is in their heart and mind.

They want to reach others, advocate. They want to push forward new thought constructs and have conversations about thing that matter to them.

A blog, being a platform, is the perfect place to craft out those pieces that must be expressed.

2. You Have Something to Sell

Blogs can also be stores.

You can integrate shops into your blog and sell directly to people.

Anything can be sold from a blog, really. You can sell your crafts, photography, ceramics; you could connect your blog to your e-bay or etsy stores and write about what you make – and include the direct links to actually sell it.

3. You Want to Grow, Creatively

Blogging is a never-ending learning experience and personally, that’s part of the reason why (after 10 years) I still blog. I love the learning; it keeps me hooked.

I love being able to explore the limits of what a site can do, how to expand what I see in my mind’s eye. The learning is ongoing in every avenue – digital tool use, graphics, marketing, social media – and it keeps it from getting stale.

4. You Have Something to Teach

If you are a teacher and would like to make income online, blogging is a great way to do it.

You can set up courses through plugins that you can integrate with your WordPress site. You can create password (and pay) protected areas on your blog whereby you can teach and actually earn money through it.

But maybe you don’t care about making dollars through it – you just love teaching and love connecting with people. Blogging is a great way to do it, as it’s a completely flexible tool.

You can integrate forums, chat areas, you can set up tutoring/mentoring spaces on your blog, or just create content that teaches people something in and of itself (kind of like what I’m doing in this post!).

5. You Want to Make Money

I hesitate to say this because I am so sick of reading blogging income reports like, “I made $100,000 last month blogging!” This might be true, but it takes time, SEO know-how, affiliate links and/or ads to make that kind of money.

You don’t just start writing on blogspot and BOOM, you make money!

No way, far from that. It’s unquestionably an investment in time, energy and your own money until you’ve gone through your learning curves and understand how to harness digital tools to actually make an income through your blog.

But it’s also true that you can make money blogging, and it’s worth it to do it.

Blogging income is often passive. It takes time to set it all up and it takes time to get it rolling – but once it’s rolling, it’s virtually unstoppable. It will continue to generate money for you through the affiliate links, through ads and traffic that you bring with your well-crafted and SEO-friendly posts.

If you build your blog into a solid business, you can also sell it, so everything that you do on your blog you can consider an investment.

6. You Enjoy Building Community

Blogging builds relationships.

Some of the people I like best in the world, I met through my blog.

What you put out there through your blog will attract like-minded people and community is the natural next step.

You can nurture that community and promote it if that’s something that you are attracted to.

_______________

Blogging is a Platform

In summary, a blog is a platform.

Now, you can have a platform with or without a blog, but a blog in and of itself helps to build a platform. Does that makes sense?

It’s kind of hard to have a blog and not have a platform.

Think about the definition of “platform“:

a (1) : a usually raised horizontal flat surface; especially : a raised flooring
b : a place or opportunity for public discussion

A blog is literally a place and opportunity for public discussion; it’s a digital surface upon which you can do anything. You can sell, teach, create, talk, expound, hang out, make friends, you name it, you can do it there.

2018 is actually a better time than ever to start a blog. 

start a blog in 2018There are a myriad of options out there for starting any kind of blog. You can choose free or self-hosted wordpress, you can choose from a huge variety of plugins to employ the tools you want to create the kind of blog or site that you desire.

As a person with a disability, it’s definitely a means of empowerment, as your blog can help you generate income, advocate, reach others, create community.

If any of this speaks to you, go for it!

This post is about MailChimp vs ConvertKit – it compares and contrasts the two email services and fleshes out some of the differences between them. There are affiliate links in the post.

An email subscription service is really important for your website. Not just your blog, but for any site: your online art gallery, poetry blog, whatever it is that you are doing online, your own subscription piece is really important.

It’s important because it’s your own list of people who are interested in what YOU do. Used well, it can set up the chains of interaction with your audience that will strengthen your connection to each other.

No-one can take your email list from you: it’s not owned by Facebook (like your pages and groups are), it’s not owned by Google (like plus or your email). This list, once you cultivate it and build it up, is yours alone. It’s something to treasure.

Having said, that, there are a plethora of services out there and it can be tough to choose.

This article is going to focus on two of the most popular services for bloggers, comparing and contrasting them to give the reader a clearer sense of what a good option for them might be.

MailChimp

About:

MailChimp is a popular email service for websites. It’s used by bloggers and small businesses, and is readily integrated with website plugins.

Pros:

  • MailChimp is free for a long time.
  • It’s fun, quirky with the fun monkey and thumbs up feedback.
  • Drag-and-drop visuals and newsletter set ups make creating really good-looking newsletters and emails easy.
  • Fantastic visual options for the newsletters
  • Support is swift, friendly and polite

Cons

  • It is complicated to set up and understand the sequence options (- like, when a reader clicks X link, they can get sent Z email, etc)
  • The language is not intuitive (“campaigns”, “lists”, “forms” – ugh)
  • It has funky pricing – it counts your readers by the list, not the email address, so you can get charged more than once for the same reader

Check Them Out

Click to check out MailChimp

MailChimp

About:

MailChimp is a popular email service for websites. It’s used by bloggers and small businesses, and is readily integrated with website plugins.

Pros:

  • MailChimp is free for a long time.
  • It’s fun, quirky with the fun monkey and thumbs up feedback.
  • Drag-and-drop visuals and newsletter set ups make creating really good-looking newsletters and emails easy.
  • Fantastic visual options for the newsletters
  • Support is swift, friendly and polite

Cons

  • It is complicated to set up and understand the sequence options (- like, when a reader clicks X link, they can get sent Z email, etc)
  • The language is not intuitive (“campaigns”, “lists”, “forms” – ugh)
  • It has funky pricing – it counts your readers by the list, not the email address, so you can get charged more than once for the same reader

Check Them Out

Click to check out MailChimp

A Personal Note: MailChimp vs. ConvertKit

I’ve done both.

I used ConvertKit for a while and loved them for their amazing support and easy integrations. I’m deaf though, and super-visual: I ended up missing the visual component of MailChimp terribly.

I found out about Paul Jarvis’ course, Chimp Essentials. The course taught me how to save money using MailChimp, how to integrate it properly with google analytics and set up all the sequences. This course is why I’m back with MailChimp – I just learned how to make it do all the things that ConvertKit does, but still have access to the visuals and great layouts.

If visuals were not such a big deal for me though, I’d go back to ConvertKit in a heartbeat.

Which is Best for YOU?

MailChimp vs. ConvertKit

 PriceEast of Use:
Intuitiveness
SupportDesignMail
Integrations
MailChimpCheap before you have over 2,000 subscribers or want to do more with your list Not so easy to set up email chains or more intricate listsGood support, really nice people. Gorgeous design; fun, popping gifs, easy drag-and-drop form buildersYes: Easy to set up the integrations from sites through plugins
ConvertKitExpensive before you have 2,000 or more subscribers. From then on, it's cheaperIntuitive, easy to set upExcellent support. Lots of patient and friendly hand holdingText only. No drag and drop email builders. Just plain text.Yes: Easy to set up the integrations from sites through plugins
A table comparing the two email services

MailChimp vs. ConvertKit

I really hope this post makes it easier for anyone reading to figure out what service might be best for them and their uses. Feedback is appreciated.

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This is custom heading element

WordPress is a framework.

Think of WordPress as a foundation, like the foundation upon which your house sits. WordPress is not your house itself. Your website is like your house, and your website host is like the land that your house is built on.

So:

  • Website = house
  • WordPress = house foundation
  • Website host = land the house is built on

(obviously, but I’m going to point it out anyway, this is an analogy and it’s not a perfect one, but I’m putting it out there to make this a bit more understandable for those of you who are REALLY new to this!)

WordPress itself is a framework or system upon through which you design your site.

The system is free, and comes through WordPress.org.

What happens with WordPress.com is they provide you with free hosting and site security while you use the free WordPress system (which is put out to the world through WordPress.org). The catch in this is that you don’t have complete control over your site, nor can you run the gamut of options that you can with WordPress.org.

If you are into building a site for fun, NOT profit, and if you are not bothered by not being able to have full control over your own site, then this is a great option. It’s free, it’s maintained by someone else, it gives you a nice assortment of plugins which will change aspects of your site.

There is nothing at all wrong with this option, and I strongly encourage people who know they don’t want to make money from their site or do lots of out-of-the-box creative things or linkages, etc, to do this.

But if you do want to make money from your site, or have lots of options through plugins and if you do want to have full control of your content, then self-hosting using WordPress.org is the way to go.

WordPress.com

  • free
  • hosted and managed by someone else
  • has some plugins available
  • is a great option for people who just want a basic site

WordPress.org

  • free
  • you need to find the hosting – and that is not free
  • because you host and manage your site, it is YOURS – no one can take it from you
  • extreme flexibility in plugins and options – you can make your site do anything you want
  • is the preferred option for people that want full control of their site

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

Because the systems are the same, the actual navigation from within the site is the same. The learning curves to use them are the same. What’s really different about the two is cost and ownership. I pay for my site here through self-hosted WordPress.org and that means that I can download my site, move it anywhere, upload anything and make my site do whatever I want. The sky is the limit, really. I’m not confined to anything.

But this wouldn’t make sense for me to pay for if I wanted to share stories about my service dog. Why? Because wp.com would be free and completely capable of hosting photos of my awesome dog with integrated social media sharing capacity and so forth. Why pay for that?

Consider what you want to use your site for. Be honest with yourself and think about the time that you want to commit to your ongoing learning. If you just want to get a message/photo/recipe OUT THERE, then wp.com would be my suggestion to you, but if you want to do something more complex, then think about wp.org

Either way, if you have a disability, you are welcome to join community over on Facebook to talk more about this – click here.

A good post to read more on this is WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, by WPExplorer

This is a wordpress dashboard tutorial. This wordpress dashboard tutorial is meant to be followed along by you – it is a captioned screencast covering the basics of your wordpress dashboard, which means that I have a recording below in which I walk you through understanding your WordPress dashboard.

Questions like, “what’s on my dashboard?” “where are my blog posts?” “what do those numbers on the side mean?” and more will be covered in the video below.

You need to have your WordPress installed and your site open to make the most of this – to do, just log in to your wordpress dashboard.

How to log in to your wordpress dashboard:

– go to:

www.YOURSITENAME.COM/wp-admin

In the case of the site we are using for this tutorial, it’s www.danainourhearts.com/wp-admin

Once you are there, your screen should look something like this:

1.

www.yoursitename/wp-admin will take you to the login page.

2.

do not login through the jetpack option. login through your username and password

I’m saying to not login through jetpack because I think that leads you around confusing rabbit holes in the beginning.

Sticking with your username and password keeps it simple.

Now that you have login in to your site, let’s start the tutorial!

The Tutorial:

I hope that made sense! Remember to ask questions, write, let me know what’s working.

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