Affiliate links can have an ever pulling force that steers the direction of your website.
If you spend any time online perusing websites, you will notice the internet has become a fun house full of mirrors. You land on a website looking for good, relevant content, and you don’t know where to look.
There is deception and distortion at every turn. Advertisements and content look the same. Comparison charts are littered with “Buy on Amazon” buttons and sales fluff. Pop-ups are slapping you in the face before you can read the first paragraph.
You get through the article to find clickbait headlines at the bottom featuring revealing photos of your favorite celebrity or maybe a tip on the latest speed trap in your local area.
What has the internet become?
A Mad Max wasteland where anything goes?
I Decided to Change the Way I Write
I have been writing online for over ten years. Furthermore, I started on WordPress, then moved to Squarespace, and now I am back on WordPress. At one point I had 10-20 websites.
Yes, I am ashamed to admit, I was part of the Keyword Academy. I have learned more than I could have ever imagine creating websites and content online.
I decided to make a major change in 2021 on how I was going to approach writing articles. It all started with being banned from the Amazon Affiliate program which ended up being the best thing that ever happened. It was an eye-opening experience.
Will I ever have ads or affiliate links on my websites? Yes, but it will be very different.
My new approach is simple. Help others by sharing my truth in whatever topic I am discussing. That’s it. Whatever happens after that I have no control over.
If you’re like me, you’re sick and tired of what the internet has become. Maybe we can change the conversation one website at a time.
Do You Write “Only” to Link to Something?
Being able to write with an unbiased opinion is the most freeing experience. It’s similar to walking outside and screaming at the top of your lungs.
Many content creators start out this way, but over time they start to lean one way depending on where the money is coming from.
In conversation with another human being, it’s un-natural to only talk about stuff YOU make money on. Instead, you naturally you talk about life. What’s going on in each other’s lives.
You learn and grow together through the problems and successes each of you have had in life. That is a natural, organic conversation.
If your website reads like a sales page and all you do is regurgitate manufacturer specs and marketing slogans, your website is part of the problem. I know, it used to be me.
Not Linking Out to Affiliates is Liberating
Thanks to affiliate programs everywhere, the internet has become one big cheesy late night infomercial. It’s hard to do a Google search today and find true unbiased reviews on anything. If a website is linking out to a product and earning a commission, there will always be some bias in the article.
There is tons of money to be made referring products with affiliate links. Especially when it comes to web hosting and financial related companies.
You may not like the product, but you refer it because you make a large commission.
No longer do I have to spend my time researching affiliate products only because they offer a ten percent commission rate.
No longer am I having to go backwards and repair affiliate links in previous articles I have published.
No longer do I have to write in generalizations versus being brutally honest about something I like or dislike.
So many affiliate websites are untruthful. They may not be lying about the features of a product or service, but they could be holding back on why they stopped using it.
When you only write for the affiliate link, it limits what you can write about, and eventually, you get tunnel vision and don’t even know it. You create your own reality and convince yourself what you are doing is the right thing.
When you stop this madness, you are free to speak your mind and write about anything.
You Are Not Doing Your Best Work
Affiliate links can make the author a salesman versus an advocate for the truth. Speaking the truth about your experience with something means never having to look back.
If there is too much to lose discussing the real negatives, they might be left out.
What’s the harm in that? It’s a decent product.
But, is it the product you use? Or does that company not offer an affiliate program?
Put your best work forward by respecting your readers time and give them exactly what you would want to read. They will thank you for years to come.
Solve Problems and Write For Humans
Are you writing about problems right in front of you or are you going out looking for problems?
The problems right in front of you are your truth. When you write about those, it is genuine and real. That comes through in the writing because the conversation is not forced.
It also makes your writing so much more enjoyable because the content is organic and real. Find issues in your life you have overcome and talk about them.
Some of the best websites ever created started by solving problems.
What can you solve today?
All Your Blog Posts Begin With “The Best”
Everything you write starts with the words “The Best”.
The reason for this is because that is how people search and affiliate marketers know articles like that get ranked. If your article naturally starts out with the word “best”, great.
But, I would not make every article start out with that word. Your website starts to look spammy and unnatural. Write the title that first comes to mind. You can change it while writing the article, but that is usually the one that sticks.
If all you’re doing is writing articles with titles that start with “The Best”, you are most likely not doing your best work.
Your website is probably littered with affiliate links and without even knowing it, the link heavily influences you’re writing.
Meaning, you are subconsciously showing favoritism to something, so people will click the link and make a purchase.
This will sneak up on you very slowly over time. You will start to blur the lines between what is ethical when it comes to recommending a product or service.
We humans are great at creating our own realities in that wonderful little universe that resides between our ears. Don’t become that website. Don’t become that writer.
Write the honest truth for humans and your content will live forever.
I Am Not Saying Affiliate Websites are Evil
I have affiliate links on this website. And always will. But, when you get banned from the Amazon Affiliate program it gives you time to really reflect on what matters in writing.
You begin to ask yourself:
“Am I writing the content I would want to read?”
“Who am I writing this article for?”
“Does this article provide any REAL value?”
“Or is it spun junk like 99% of all articles on the web?”
“Am I writing this article for the sole purpose of affiliate link commissions?”
If so, you are doing it for the wrong reasons, and eventually, you will burn out. You might not think so now, but you will. The longer you go on with this format, the more you will carve out your soul until you are hollow on the inside.
You will eventually be like one of those disappointing hollow chocolate bunnies. The person opening the package is praying to god the bunny is solid chocolate, only to be let down when their finger goes right through its chest. Don’t be a hollow bunny. 🐰
Newspaper Writers and Advertising Departments Are Separate
Or, at least they should be.
When a writer starts a story, they don’t research and write their story based on a particular product or advertiser. They just write using the facts. Or, at least that is what they are supposed to do.
The team in charge of advertising for the newspaper handles all advertising placement and negotiations. The advertiser should want to advertise in a particular newspaper because of its demographic, exposure, and journalistic integrity. Not because all their writers slant toward that particular company. But, this seems to be our reality today.
Start your website as a side project to your day job. Write content that matters and see where it goes. It may go nowhere, or it may get tons of traffic. The market will determine that.
Tell the Truth
The next time you write an article, try starting the article from a different point of view. Write the article as if you are sharing the experience the way you would in a journal. This transparency and honesty will shine bright with your audience and therefore make a stronger connection.
Once you connect with your audience and build website traffic, never do anything to lose the trust of your reader. No matter how much you can make. Always keep your readers best interest in mind, and they will beat a path down to your door.
People today are starving for the truth. Once they find it, many will latch on for dear life and follow you through the ups and downs. Keep it real by telling the truth, and you will never have to look back in your writing, only forward which is the only direction you want to be moving.
If you don’t, you will have to live with the fact you didn’t tell the truth, and you’re recommending a product only because you get a hefty commission.
You will live with that filth all over you. Yes, in the short term you will make some money, but in the long term you will die on the inside from being a sleaze bag.
You see this a lot with blogs that recommend and review hosting companies. Website hosting companies have some of the most lucrative affiliate programs on planet earth. Some are so lucrative that they pay a reoccurring monthly commission to the affiliate that signed someone up.
Advice for Product Reviewer’s and Affiliates
If you are reviewing a product, get to the point already.
If you are writing an article about “The Best This” or “The Best That”, then tell the person in the beginning what is the best for most people. And, choose only one.
When you present too many options, many times your readers will leave. The Wirecutter website was one of the first to get this right. They would recommend “The Best for Most People”. This was easy to understand.
Get to the point. Let your reader know which product you recommend and why. Give honest, truthful answers from real-world experience with the product or service.
If you don’t have any experience, don’t write a review article about it. It’s as simple as that.
You are Not Wirecutter.com
It seems as if everyone who writes online want’s to be the next wirecutter.com. Let me break something to you. That is most likely not going to happen. You need to set smaller goals first. Like, hitting the “publish” button.
How many draft articles have you started and not finished? You need to publish good now over perfect later. Which means, don’t wait for your article to be perfect before publishing.
The reason for this is that your article will never be perfect. There will be mistakes. But, that shouldn’t stop you from writing and hitting the publish button.
Ask your readers to point out mistakes they find, and you can fix them as you go.
What Did I Learn From the Amazon Affiliate Program?
- It converts like crazy. Like nothing else on the internet.
- Products are frequently unavailable.
- Managing affiliate links is a full-time job. That’s why I used the Lasso WordPress Plugin
- You never know when you might get banned from Amazon Associates. The rug could be pulled right from underneath you at any moment or commissions could get slashed again.
- The new Amazon Affiliate commission rates suck (WARNING: explicit title). My earnings were cut by 60%.
I see the future of websites being simple and clean. Minimalistic. An honest, information first approach versus a money first approach. Something that makes a difference.
Sprinkle in some affiliate links, ads, or other forms of monetization to help offset the cost of running your website. That’s fine.
It will be slow in the beginning, but stay the course. Your writing will only get better over time as you build your community on the foundation of truth and transparency.