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Monetization Posts

About this category:

Some people start sites to connect with fans. Others start them to make money. If you want to make money off your blog, the articles in this category will help you turn your business into a financial success.


How Should You Disclose Affiliate Links?

Credit: @jbtaylor

Credit: @jbtaylor

I remember the first time I put an affiliate link on Bargaineering.

I was writing an article about online photo printing sites and I was going to use affiliate links for Snapfish and Shutterfly.

They were the two biggest online photo printers at the time (2004) and, fortunately, they had affiliate links.

The post included a lot of other options, like Costco and Wal-Mart, and I linked them all but the Snapfish and Shutterfly links were the only affiliate links.

As I copy and pasted the link, a little piece of me wondered if I was doing the “right thing.” If a reader clicked the link and made a purchase, I’d earn a small commission on the sale. Should I tell the reader I was going to get paid?

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How Amazon Publisher Studio Can Help You Earn More Money Faster

amazon-catAmazon Publisher Studio helps you sell products through the images on your site by adding a small Shop now icon to the lower right corner of every image. It also makes it easy for you to link up text as well, popping up a search box (in both cases) that facilitates linking.

It’s a tool for Amazon Associates that’s slowly been rolling out and I haven’t had a chance to see it until last week.

First my overall thoughts and then a deeper dive into the tools.

Overall, I think it’ll help people link up images and text far faster than before. I consider myself pretty savvy and it would take me maybe 30 seconds to link up an image or text. With this tool, after set up, you can do it within a few seconds if the search functionality picks something you like. The tool does have limitations, which I note at the end, but overall I think it’s a good development. I’m interested to see the next version, hopefully with some additional functionality.

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What is AdSense Direct?


If you logged into your Google AdSense account recently, you probably saw the above message pop up. It’s an alert telling you that you can start using Google AdSense Direct.

Should you? Eh, why not right? You only live once. 🙂

So I clicked Start now.

I expected something big to happen but… they just dropped me to My ads and added a new menu option in the left, Direct campaigns.

So… what did I “start,” if anything at all?

What I did was something a little subtle, I only turned on AdSense Direct (I actually don’t know if I turned it on or if it was always on and it’s too late now to see!).

AdSense Direct doesn’t do anything, it simply enables you to sell existing Adsense ad blocks using Google’s processing infrastructure.
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How to Sell Big Brand Advertising Like a Pro

Credit: 401(K) 2013</a

Credit: 401(K) 2013

When it comes to big traffic personal blogs, I challenge you to find one as big as Wise Bread. At nearly 2 million unique visitors a month, they are easily one of the largest personal finance blogs around and it’s amazing, but not at all surprising, what Will, Greg, and Lynn have built over the last few years.

There’s a lot you can do with 2 million unique visitors a month and the Wise Bread team has figured out how to unlock the value of a rabid fan base without selling them out.

Will gave a presentation for FINCON12 titled “How to Land Big Corporate Campaigns and Keep Them Coming Back” that was filled, from start to finish, with incredible knowledge you can only learn by building a huge site and interacting with household brand names.

These are lessons he learned, on the job, from working with enormous brands like Microsoft, American Express, Chase, Intel, Skype, TurboTax, and Equifax (and who knows how many more since 2012). If you look on the site today, you’ll see partnerships with even more companies on their Tweetchats, giveaways, and display advertising.

I can’t think of anyone else more qualified to give a presentation on this subject so get out your notebook and get ready to take some notes. A lot of notes.

Take it away Will!

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Can you be punished for selling paid posts?

Credit: ErnestDuffoo

Credit: ErnestDuffoo

While at Fincon, I remember talking with a few people about the dangers of posting sponsored posts. I’ve long believed that selling sponsored posts, labeled or otherwise, is not something that can hurt your site. At worst, your links may not pass any more link juice but your search results won’t be adversely affected. When we were talking, that’s exactly what I told them.

Sell posts if you want, get the money, and don’t let fears of Google and other external factors influence you. It’s your business, don’t let someone else tell you what to do.

Personally, I think paid posts are a short term way to make money with your blog. I think you’re better off pursuing other avenues but sometimes you need to do what you need to do. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and these particular birds are unlikely to hurt you.

You might be penalized for paid posts

That said, in doing more research, I discovered that there is a small probability you would get hurt for selling posts. There is a set of “manual actions” that Google can take if it believes you’re doing something against its guidelines and the one that may apply here is “unnatural links from your site.”

To find out if you’re affected, you need to log into Google Webmaster Tools. Go to your site, then look in the left sidebar. Click on Search Traffic and then Manual Actions. If Google has taken a manual action against your site, you’ll see something here. If not, you’ll see “No manual webspam actions found” and you’re in the clear.

How likely is this manual action? I’ve never talked to anyone who has told me they were penalized for linking out. I’ve talked to people who have been penalized for incoming unnatural links, but never penalized for outgoing links. (what’s funny is that in most of the cases of unnatural incoming links, almost none of them were “paid” in the traditional sense) If you’ve heard of someone who has been penalized for outgoing links, I’d love to hear about it.

I suspect the sites that they want to take down are blog networks and sites that only publish paid content. We’ve all seen those kinds of sites where every post is a Guest Contributor and the template is an ugly theme made in like 2001. They stick out like a sore thumb and it doesn’t take a genius intern sitting in Mountain View to figure out the site deserves a manual action.

How can you sell links safely? The only safe way is to nofollow your links — good luck finding an advertiser willing to do that (not impossible, but rare).

As for hiding it from Google, there’s no answer to this but I work off the principle that if I look at the post and it looks paid, someone else will think it’s paid. It looks paid when the article is written by a guest author with no Authorship, on a subject that isn’t related to the blog, linking to a page on another site for a commercial term (this is especially true if you link to the homepage with a commercial term that isn’t the brand name).

That said, guest posts that don’t have authorship, are on a subject unrelated to the blog, and link to another site for a commercial term are almost as dangerous because they look like a paid post (except you don’t get paid!).

How to respond to an unnatural link action

Google has decided you have unnatural links out so start with any paid guest posts and remove them or add rel=”nofollow” to the links inside. Next, do this for any other guest posts you’ve taken. Then, do it to any link exchanges or other artificial linking schemes you participated in. Then ask for forgiveness.

Google has always said that selling links that pass PageRank is against their guidelines and this is all because it messes with the algorithm. They are growing increasingly sophisticated in being able to detect paid links, usually starting on the advertisers’ side (rather than publisher), but they’re still not 100% sure, that’s why you see more mentions of “unnatural links” instead of paid links. In the end, it’s all the same. Do something Google doesn’t like and you get penalized.

Unnatural linking might get you in deep trouble but it’s not the exchange of money that makes it unnatural.

Will this knowledge change what you’re doing right now?