This is a post based on the wisdom shared by Sharon Gourlay at my recent Great Melbourne Blog-in V3.
Guest speaker at #TGMBI: Sharon Gourlay
Sharon Gourlay is well known in the travel blogging scene. Some might say just a tiny bit faaaymous. Her travel blog Where’s Sharon? gets around half a million visits per month and is frequently listed in the top ten best travel websites in the world. How amazing is that!?! But Sharon isn’t just ‘another travel blogger’ – she is a savvy digital marketer with a portfolio of digital real estate properties that use affiliate marketing to generate more than a tidy income.
Sharon also runs the brilliant Digital Nomad Wannabe site where she shares everything she’s learned about making money online. If you’re looking to get into affiliate marketing and other ways to make money from your blog, you can’t go past Sharon and her authenticity, experience, generosity and straight-forward way of making the often complex world of digital marketing into something where you think, “Yeah, I could do that.”
A great place to start is to buy her book How to Make Money From Blogging. It’s a fantastic intro into the world of digital marketing. I’m not an affiliate of her book or products – I am genuinely grateful for all the information she generously shares for free on her website and in her Facebook group, DNW – Marking Money From Blogging. I also bought and read her book when she released it last year as a way to say thank you for everything she’s provided for free. She has learnt so much from trial and experience and refinement. So many of us do the trial and error stuff, but often don’t put in the extra hard work to refine refine refine – and that’s where Sharon’s success come from.
Well, that was quite an intro, eh? Onto her talk at the recent Great Melbourne Blog-in about making money from blogging.
Sharon believes you don’t need a huge audience, just the right audience, and I agree with her. Her Digital Nomad Wannabe site shows her journey of how she makes money through affiliate marketing with a small audience.
Affiliate marketing is a different way to earn an income – rather than trading your time for dollars, you invest time to create something that will continue to make money long after you’ve published it. It’s a type of ‘passive income’, though we know there’s nothing passive about running a blog or building a website for profit. But ‘niche websites‘, those that target a niche audience who are close to buying a particular type of product, can be largely passive once you’ve set them up. It takes time and testing to get them to work the way you want them to work. It’s having patience and being prepared to put in the hard work and time to refine.
Sharon reminded us that, “It’s not called affiliate linking. Don’t forget the marketing part!” She’s absolutely right.
To find companies that offer a commission for referrals to their products or services, you can sign up to become an affiliate through companies like:
For travel blogs, you can directly join:
You can find plenty of Australian retailers in Commission Factory. And we’re all just a little bit excited about Amazon coming to Australia.
If the company you want to be an affiliate for isn’t with any of these companies, do a search for the <company name> + affiliate program and see what comes up.
It’s also important to give your website visitors a good user experience (aka UX).
Sharon says the most important thing when presenting affiliate links is to include a call to action such as ‘Click here to check the latest prices’. Rather than placing affiliate links in text on hotel or product names, she placed the affiliate links on these sorts of calls to action and watched her conversions skyrocket. Track and measure everything – figure out what works and repeat.
Think of affiliate marketing as adding value with your links. It’s not about how you can make money out of a reader of your page – it’s about how your page can help that reader. It’s a completely different mindset and one I’ve adopted. Her benchmark is: ‘Is this a helpful link?’ If it is, include it. If it’s not, ditch it because it’s probably only there to serve you and not your reader. If someone comes to your article ready to buy, then you’re doing them a favour by leading them to the products or services they want to buy.
It’s good practice to include disclaimers on your posts where you have affiliate links. I think it’s now law in Australia that you must disclose any sort of paid advertising, including sponsored posts or affiliate ads. Just because your competitors aren’t doing it, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either.
Once you’ve written and published your posts, you have to market them. Content is important, but if no one is reading it, it doesn’t matter. Have a marketing plan and know how to reach your buyer. Follow it each time you publish new content, but also take a look at old articles. How can you add value for your readers? Continue to refine and improve your marketing strategy, always.
And finally, just because it doesn’t work first try, don’t give up. Keep trying and refining refining refining until you find what works for your blog and your niche. Try placing your call to action somewhere else. Test links on images. Try different affiliate programs. Add a review table a the top of your post. Look at Google Analytics data and analyse how readers are consuming your content.
If you’re interested in learning more about building niche websites using affiliate marketing but need support to get up and running, sign up for the next round of Sharon’s Niche Site Freedom course where she’ll guide you step-by-step through the process of setting up and running your first successful niche website.
I’m not an affiliate, I simply admire what Sharon’s done. She’s been a big inspiration for my digital plonking adventures in Vietnam and Korea and I hope to replicate even a modest amount of her success.