ER&L 2016 notes

I finally posted my notes for the ER&L 2016 conference. I’ll get to the NASIG 2016 conference notes soon, I promise.

One of my goals in the next year is to make better use of this platform for sharing my thoughts. Social media in general, and Twitter in specific, have become places where I post the hot takes in 140 characters or less. Sometimes, I should really take a breath and flesh out the thought into something more substantial.

food blogging & making things so labor intensive I don’t do them

derby pie
derby pie

I started a food blog on Tumblr last January. Here’s the about statement:

I started this project because after a year of taking photos of myself every day, I wanted to document something else. Over the summer and fall, I had developed a routine of trying new recipes on the weekends and some weeknights. This blog is where I share photos of the results, talk about what went right or wrong, and link to the recipes.

And sometime in May/June, I stopped. I got busy. I remembered to take some pictures, but they sat on my desktop waiting to be blogged for so long that I felt guilty and overwhelmed, so I eventually deleted them.

It wasn’t like it would take all that much time to write up something. And add a link. And format it the same as the previous posts. But it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Also, I stopped cooking/baking as much in the summer.

I have this tendency to make things that should be simple and routine into complex, detailed processes that become burdensome. Is this just some freak aspect of my desire for control and order, or is it simply human nature?

WordCamp Richmond: Blogging for Business

moderator: Kate Hall
panelists: Dr. Arnold Kim, John Petersik, and Jason Guard

All started blogging because they had a passion for the topic, and were subsequently surprised by the popularity of their blogs. Both Kim & Petersik now blog fulltime, but Guard doesn’t expect to make a significant income from his blog. Kim noted that there are many other blogs like his now, so what sets his apart is the community that has developed around it.

Many bloggers have commented that since they started tweeting, their blog writing has decreased. Hall is disappointed in herself by this, but also enjoys the interactivity with readers. Kim notes that if your job is to be a blogger, then anything else that takes time away from your blog should be approached with caution; however, it can be a great tool for building a personal brand. For Petersik, it’s just another forum for connecting with their audience, much like Facebook.

How do you deal with the public sucker punches? People have opinions and sometimes they can be expressed strongly. It helps to have a comments policy to keep the conversation civil and not distracted by trolls. Guard tries to be provocative and push buttons, so he expects the sucker punches. Generally he lets the trolls fly their troll flags. Hall commented that some people are out there just to be haters.

WordCamp Richmond: Exploiting Your Niche – Making Money with Affiliate Marketing

presenter: Robert Sterling

Affiliate marketing is a practice of rewarding an affiliate for directing customers to the brand/seller that then results in a sale.

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” If you have a blog that’s interesting and people are coming to you, you’re doing something wrong if you’re not making money off of it.

Shawn Casey came up with a list of hot niches for affiliate marketing, but that’s not how you find what will work for you. Successful niches tend to be what you already have a passion for and where it intersects with affiliate markets. Enthusiasm provokes a positive response. Enthusiasm sells. People who are phoning it in don’t come across the same and won’t develop a loyal following.

Direct traffic, don’t distract from it. Minimize the number of IAB format ads – people don’t see them anymore. Maximize your message in the hot spots – remember the Google heat map. Use forceful anchor text like “click here” to direct users to the affiliate merchant’s site. Clicks on images should move the user towards a sale.

Every third or fourth blog post should be revenue-generating. If you do it with every post, people will assume it’s a splog. Instapundit is a good example of how to do a link post that directs users to relevant content from affiliate merchants. Affiliate datafeeds can be pulled in using several WP plugins. If your IAB format ads aren’t performing from day one, they never will.

Plugins (premium): PopShops works with a number of vendors. phpBay/phpZon works with eBay and Amazon, respectively. They’re not big revenue sources, but okay for side money.

Use magazine themes that let you prioritize revenue-generating content. Always have a left-sidebar and search box, because people are more comfortable with that navigation.

Plugins (free): W3 Total Cache (complicated, buggy, but results in fast sites, which Google loves), Regenerate Thumbnails, Ad-minister, WordPress Mobile, and others mentioned in previous sessions. Note: if you change themes, make sure you go back and check old posts. You want them to look good for the people who find them via search engines.

Forum marketing can be effective. Be a genuine participant, make yourself useful, and link back to your site only occasionally. Make sure you optimize your profile and use the FeedBurner headline animator.

Mashups are where you can find underserved niches (i.e. garden tools used as interior decorations). Use Google’s keyword tools to see if there is a demand and who may be your competition. Check for potential affiliates on several networks (ClickBank, ShareASale, Pepperjam, Commission Junction, and other niche-appropriate networks). Look for low conversion rates, and if the commission rate is less than 20%, don’t bother.

Pay for performance (PPP) advertising is likely to replace traditional retail sales. Don’t get comfortable – it’s easy for people to copy what works well for you, and likewise you can steal from your competition.

Questions:

What’s a good percentage to shoot for? 50% is great, but not many do that. Above 25% is a good payout. Unless the payout is higher, avoid the high conversion rate affiliate programs. Look for steady affiliate marketing campaigns from companies that look like they’re going to be sticking around.

What about Google or Technorati ads? The payouts have gone down. People don’t see them, and they (Google) aren’t transparent enough.

How do you do this not anonymously and maintain integrity in the eyes of your readers? One way to do it is a comparison post. Look at two comparable products, list their features against each other.