Best Affiliate Plugins For Your WordPress Website

Affiliates are a great way to drive traffic to your website, increase sales, and exposure. Having multiple affiliates can help a business grow faster, but is also difficult to manage and track. Each new affiliate means new links, traffic, and sales from your website, all of which need to be accounted for and can be time consuming to track manually.

That’s why we recommend using an affiliate plugin to help manage all of the data and transactions. Adding an affiliate plugin to your WordPress website can create an automated system for managing, paying, and collecting data for multiple affiliates and products. Another bonus for adding a plugin versus using a third party affiliate program is that your website and affiliate information is all in one place, making quality control a bit easier and more affordable.

As with any WordPress plugin, there’s a variety of plugins to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. Read on to explore the different pros and cons and discover the best affiliate plugin for your WordPress website.

AffiliateWP

The AffiliateWP plugin was made to compliment WooCommerce for a seamless affiliate management and ecommerce integration. Together, both plugins work hand in hand to make the purchase and affiliate process smooth for businesses. Pricing ranges from a $49 monthly membership all of the way up to $449 one-time payment.

Pros:

  • Have a lot of affiliates to manage? With AffiliateWP you can add an unlimited number of affiliates to the plugin.
  • The reporting feature calculates how much an affiliate has sold, made, and over a specific timeline.
  • If you began with the Affiliates Pro plugin, you can quickly and easily migrate all of your affiliate information to AffiliateWP with one-click.
  • Matches coupon codes to specific affiliates. This is a great way to track what kinds of coupons are performing best, and for which affiliates.
  • Integration is simple with all major WordPress ecommerce and membership plugins.

Cons:

  • Although data is automatically tracked, you still need to log into WordPress and check the plugin frequently for any updates and to double-check the tracking process.
  • You have to add on several features that would normally be expected with an affiliate plugin for WordPress. Although this isn’t 100% a con since most of the add-ons are free, it is still an extra step in the setup and management process.

ThirstyAffiliates

The ThirstyAffiliates plugin has a primary focus on the linking portion of affiliate tracking. This plugin helps track link sources, as well as which affiliates are tied to which links to help increase new visitors and purchases. ThirstyAffiliates is a free download for WordPress with plenty of add-on options.

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Pros

  • It’s free! Most affiliate plugins have a monthly or initial price attached to them, but ThirstyAffiliates offers free downloads for WordPress.
  • Create custom affiliate links with shortening and link cloaking ability: (yourwebsite.com/recommends/your-affiliate-link).
  • Offers DoFollow and NoFollow options for affiliate links.
  • Unlike other plugins that redirect affiliate URLs, ThirstyAffiliates gives you the control to create a link once, and reference it as much as you’d like.
  • Sort the different links into categories to help make managing an affiliate network easier.

Cons

  • There’s been a few errors associated with broken links using ThirstyAffiliates, but luckily their support team is responsive and has been able to resolve a majority of the broken link issues.

WP Affiliate Manager

With WP Affiliate Manager you get a full-featured plugin, technical support through user’s forum and upgrades for free. A great benefit of WP Affiliate Manager versus other affiliate plugins is that you can choose how much data you want to track with affiliates. This plugin has a free version, as well as a Single Site $39 download and the $97 Developer Option.

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Pros

  • Integrates with WooCommerce, WP eCommerce, Jigoshop, Easy Digital Downloads, S2Member, and more.
  • Affiliate login option so affiliates can log in on their own to get an ad code and information about products and services to promote.
  • Emails are automatically delivered to affiliates when an action has been made or payment processed.
  • The emails are also customizable so you can restrict the information that is released to affiliates.
  • Two payment options: You can either pay affiliates a percentage per sale or a flat rate.
  • Unlimited amount of affiliate space for storing multiple affiliate data.

Cons

  • People have reported issues with the PayPal Mass Pay feature which is supposed to allow you to pay a large group of affiliates at once through PayPal.

LeadDyno

This affiliate plugin shines with its easy installation and setup. Using a 14-day trial or signing up for a monthly subscription, LeadDyno is both a WordPress plugin and third party software for affiliate management. To begin with LeadDyno, you must choose from their monthly $49, $59, or $79 memberships and then install the plugin.

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Pros

  • Provides a thorough lead tracking software so you can diagnose exactly where a lead came from, not just which affiliate the lead came from.
  • Integrates with WooCommerce immediately, as well as Shopify, PayPal, and other e-commerce affiliate programs.
  • Ability to set a specific domain to track if you have multiple sub-domains.
  • Quick and simple installation process for WordPress.

Cons

  • Since LeadDyno wasn’t originally created as a WordPress plugin, the plugin version of the affiliate tool can have more issues than the actual software itself.

Affiliate Royale

Track how many clicks each affiliate drives to your website, along with sales and how much to pay each affiliate with the Affiliate Royale plugin. Affiliates can also access their own information by logging into the Affiliate Dashboard. There are two pricing tiers for Affiliate Royale, the $85 Merchant Edition and the $165 Developer Edition.

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Pros

  • Great plugin for membership types of WordPress websites.
  • Easily monitor affiliates’ clicks, sales and payments.
  • You have the ability to create your own banner and links for tracking.
  • Affiliates can easily work with the plugin by signing up, logging in, and managing their own dashboard.

Cons

  • Since Affiliate Royale isn’t a free plugin, you cannot select the plugin from inside of WordPress. You must purchase the plugin and manually upload it into WordPress.

Are you an affiliate marketer? Comment below with plugins you’ve had the most success with.

Landing Page 101: How to Make Your Best Landing Page, Yet

Whether you’ve created a hundred landing pages or don’t know how to create your first, there is always room for improvement (and conversions) with landing pages. Especially since only 2​2% of businesses​ are actually satisfied with their conversion rates.​ More often than not, businesses are missing out on potential conversions because of poorly thought out layouts or misleading headlines. Pay-­per­-click money goes to waste and marketing dollars are spent endlessly trying to create the highest converting landing page, without ever evaluating the landing page itself.

Follow the steps below to be one step closer to creating a high performing landing page that actually generates results.

Define the Purpose of the Landing Page

Before the design can be sketched and the content drafted, the purpose for the landing page must be defined. There are several reasons for needing a landing page, such as gathering new leads, promoting a webinar or e-book, creating a central place for sign ups, etc. When trying to define the reason for your company’s newest landing page, ask yourself the following:

  • What is the benefit of the landing page for the business?
  • What is the benefit of the landing page for visitors?
  • Who is the landing page for?
  • How often should it be updated?
  • What is the offer?

Once you’ve clearly defined the purpose of creating a new landing page, it’s time to begin the design process.

Create the Landing Page

Minimization is Your Friend
Keep the landing page design as minimal as possible. Let the offer speak for itself without cluttering the page with over designed features. Eye flow plays a big role in conversion rate and can misguide a visitor when there is too much design and not enough clarity. Create a clear map of where a visitor’s eye should follow to avoid confusion and help keep the design minimal.

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Make Your Point Above the Fold
Users don’t want to have to scroll to get to your point. It’s exhausting and takes too long for any demographic. That’s why you need to put your most compelling headline, call to action, and image above the fold to get to the point immediately. Include additional information past the fold to give the visitor more in-depth points about the product or offer.

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Bullet the Most Important Information
Along with scrolling, having to read is exhausting for users. Compliment the layout design by bulleting the most important information. You can do this above the fold, as well as below to include additional points of interest.

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Include a Video
Adding videos to a landing page can i​ncrease conversions by 86%.​ We have already seen videos improve engagement on social media, as well as help page ranking. Adding a video to a landing page can help decrease the amount of text content needed and provide a more simplified, easier to understand layout. Video is also an easier way to digest information for visitors.

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The Landing Page Better Be Mobile­-Friendly

For those who still aren’t with the times and struggling to get with the mobile game, here is your friendly reminder. Everything we create online must be mobile­-friendly, including landing pages.

Create Exciting Content

What is Your Call-­To-­Action?
If you can’t tell what the call to action is from your landing page, a new visitor definitely won’t be able to. Think back to the idea of minimal design when defining the call to action and make it as simple as possible. Try to avoid the typical call to actions, “Act Now!”, “Sign Up Today!” and get creative when drafting the headline.

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What’s the Benefit?
Give me a good reason why I should give you my email address, knowing that you are most likely going to add me to a subscription service or sell the information to someone else. The benefit to fill out a form needs to be clear and inline with your demographic. If you’re offering men 50 years and older who live in Nevada passes to Seaworld after they fill out the form, you’re marketing the wrong offer.

Connect All of the Content Together
If you’re advertising a Website Clicks ad on Facebook that links to the landing page, the content on the Facebook ad needs to match the content on the ad. The call to actions should be similar, if not the same, and the offer must connect. There are very few things in cyber life that are more frustrating than clicking on an ad and being redirected to an irrelevant landing page.

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Add Testimonials to the Page
Include testimonials on the landing page that directly relate to the offer and are inline with the call to action. Having two to three testimonials can help increase the amount of conversions received by making a visitor feel more comfortable about contributing their personal information or signing up for a new service.

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A/B Test the Landing Page

After the design and content has been created, you’ll want to duplicate the landing page and add minimal changes to test which page results in the most conversions. This is called A/B testing and is used to optimize conversions. Only​ 52% of companies and agencies ​that use landing pages also test them. President Obama used A​/B testing​ during his campaign to raise an extra $60 million. Testing different variations of the same landing page will inform you of what visitors respond best to, and ultimately help you design the “perfect” landing page for your audience.

Make slight changes to the design using a second landing page to A/B test with. The point of the A/B test is to make small changes to certain areas of the landing page to see what and if changes affects results. Try changing the main image or using a different primary color as a design change. A content change can be a headline or call to action variant, leaving the offer the same.

Whichever change you make to your “B” landing page needs to be a small change so you can properly measure results. Landing page B can’t be judged fairly with landing page A if you changed the offer for both. It has then become two different landing pages with two different objectives and will not give an accurate reflection of results.

Have a few landing tips of your own? Comment below with some of your most successful landing page edits.

10 Ways to Truly Make Money Online

Making money online is a lot like learning to cook.  I was craving Korean BBQ, but the restaurant I loved was closed. Instead of just sitting there wanting the delicious Bibimbap rice bowl they make; I went online and found a recipe that seemed doable.

I eventually learned how to make almost the exact recipe as the restaurant (after failing miserably a few times), and once I built my confidence about cooking up, I also learned to make a Korean BBQ shortrib, lemon, shrimp and parmesan risotto; and incredible flavors of cookies and buttercream frostings.

When you realize you can do something, and then get your first results, you will begin to build confidence and can learn new things. The you can apply it to learn more while scaling your abilities. You just need to get over the “want mode” and go into “do mode”.  Making money online is the same.

If you want to do it, you have to quit wishing and hoping for it and actually do something about it.  This means hard work, lots of learning, experimenting and being prepared to get food poisoning (I know first hand) and having some really bad meals until you perfect your art.  Once you’re ready to commit to this, that’s when you are ready to start making money online.

10 strategies for making money online

This post will take you through ten actual ways to start creating revenue (not just blank statements like “use affiliate links” or “create an AdSense account”).  It is meant to provide you with the building blocks and tools to get started, but it’s up to you to do the work.  I’ll also include shots of some of the food I’ve made that I never thought could be possible, until I tried.

The starting point for making money is having somewhere to bring your audience to.  Ideally you’ll buy a domain name that is brandable, repeatable and has a good history (no spammy links pointing in from a churn and burn affiliate or past thin content site).  If you’re serious about making money, you’ll avoid the freebie subdomains and websites and go with something where you own the URL and the content on it.

To check the history, use Archive.org and tools like MajesticSEO or SEMRush to look and see if the domain has been penalized or what existed on it if it had a previous owner.

Second you need to capture this audience so you can remarket to them.  Email service providers (ESP) like Aweber, MailChimp or even a free tool are great so that you can gather and collect information and use it to re-market back to your fans.

A few ways to do this include uploading the lists to Google, Facebook and other networks.  You can cross promote with other sites/brands and also open more monetization options which we’ll get into in the post.

Now that you have a destination and a way to capture as well as re-market to your fans and visitors, it’s time to monetize this traffic and make some money.

1. Affiliate Links

Affiliate links are awesome tools to help you earn a passive income stream.  The trick with being successful at affiliate marketing is to pre-sell the product or service you’re promoting.

By incorporating affiliate links naturally into your content (and using FTC compliant disclosures)  they provide a solution to a problem (supplies to make a craft, the right replacement part for XY machine, the right software to do ABC, etc…) you’re able to have them as something the reader needs to use in order to complete the solution for themselves.

This preselling can result in more click throughs as well as revenue since many affiliate programs only pay on a sales conversion. If you’re posts are long, you may want to provide a roundup or reminder of where to buy the tools and supplies at the bottom of the page with your links again
You also need to avoid making common mistakes.

Placing banners in a sidebar of a blog, the header or outside of the content of a post rarely works since there is no reason to click and no reinforcement to buy.  You also need to know where and how people are engaging with your links and ads.  That is where heatmaps that offer click maps come in handy.  I use MouseFlow for this with my sites. An important thing to remember is that you’re probably not only limited to using links on your website.

If the program allows it, use them (with disclosures) on YouTube, social media sites and in your newsletters.  By incorporating them into your video and social content, as your content optimizes and builds traffic, the links can now gain exposure and help to drive passive income.  If you already have an active following, then you may be able to get some instant gratification to help keep you motivated.

Here is a quick checklist to finding a good affiliate program before you join a million and make some rookie errors:

  1. Do the programs you’re joining work with sites ranking for their brand name or URL + coupons.  This could replace your tracking cookie and you may not get credit for the sales you refer.
  2. Is there a good cookie life? If the person isn’t ready to shop, or gets distracted, you want a cookie life that will give them time to come back and finish a purchase.
  3. Are there options or solutions for cross device tracking?  If your audience is mobile, but the merchant has a bad mobile experience, once the referral changes devices your tracking may be gone and you lose the commission. Unless they have a cross device tracking solution in place, you need to test all experiences.  This is especially important for social media marketers where mobile may be a majority of the traffic but the sales occur from a desktop computer.
  4. Do they have a responsive affiliate manager that can actually answer questions.  If you don’t get responses within 1 business day, and they aren’t giving you good or helpful advice, move on.  You need to work with companies that are serious, dedicated to the channel and have someone knowledgeable who can help you.
how to make money online

2. AdSense

If you have ad space that is getting clicks (you can measure this by using network stats as well as URL shorteners like Bit.ly and Pretty Link Pro), but no sales through affiliate links during certain hours or days, you may want to try using Google AdSense or another cost per click (CPC) solution during these times.

Start by pulling transaction detail reports from the affiliate networks you’re on.  Now place them in a spreadsheet and look at the days and times where sales close.  You may find that you don’t convert on certain days or at specific hours. Instead of giving traffic to a merchant that doesn’t convert into revenue, see if you can replace those ads with plugins like AdRotate or AdSanity that will show AdSense instead of affiliate links so you can continue to make money. (Side note: I have not used these for a long time but other friends have and like them a lot).

One Quick Warning…

One quick warning about AdSense is that you cannot control what will show up like you can with affiliate links.  You can block certain sites from showing up on yours, but you cannot prevent everything you do not want.

For example, if there’s a presidential candidate you dislike, there’s nothing stopping them or one of their PACs from running ads that says I support XY candidate and having those ads show up on your site.  Now you and your website are aligned with that candidate and you aren’t there to defend yourself to your visitor whose opinion could be changed.   The same goes with brands.

If you’re an LGBT blog, there’s nothing stopping an anti-gay company’s ads from showing.  If you run something for a specific race or gender, you could end up with offensive ads.  Do a Google search for funny adsense ads showing up on sites.  My favorite is the Aflac Duck showing up.  You always run the risk of ads you wouldn’t want showing up when you allow ad display networks on your site.

AdSense is a great way to monetize generic content without having to find individual affiliate links, grab product images and worry about changing out links if a program closes.  However, you have to have engagement to be able to make money with AdSense and with affiliate links.  Without engagement, you won’t make anything which is where CPM ads come into play.

3. CPM Ad Space

If you have traffic (not bots and spiders), but for some reason nobody is engaging with your ads, you can always sell ad space.  This can be done through networks like BuySellAds on an impression, weekly or monthly spot.  If you have enough traffic, you can use larger ad networks.

Depending on the quality of your traffic, you’ll be able to negotiate higher CPMs as well as custom deals if you can increase exposure or give a specific merchant priority placements. You can also try the Amazon CPM network. I haven’t used this yet myself, but did launch my first ad space with them today on a smaller blog I manage. You can access this through their affiliate portal.
A basic way to think about your CPM space is:

  1. How much do you make on average from the site via affiliate or CPC?  Check the averages inside Google’s interface for AdSense.  Now sell the space at similar CPMs as a starting point.
  2. Because you cannot make money from ads that need engagement, can you trade this space for “branding” to companies, other sites or services that have a matching demographic?
  3. If you use the tools above that have click maps, attention maps and scroll maps, you can begin to determine the price points for each.  If you have footer space, it probably isn’t getting many views even though it has impressions.  This is because not everyone is going to go to the bottom of your page. You can see this on scroll maps and where the fall off happens. This is not very valuable as opposed to the header which might have engagement, but it is at least visible to each user. Price your CPMs by space and actual impressions.  This keeps your advertisers happy and you giving proper representations of your site’s worth. The header would be worth more because people are really seeing it where the footer is worth less because not as many people make it down (even though it has the same amount of impressions).

Knowing what to start charging and which space will give you solid price points.  If you do make money via CPC and affiliate, make sure to include an ROAS estimate that you can backup with sales data or conversion data.  This will help you attract more advertisers since most sites are too lazy or don’t know how to collect this.

how to test ad spaces and know which to use and where

4. E-books

E-books are great for multiple reasons. You can show off your knowledge on a subject, get the person’s email so you can market back to them and also make monetize them.  The trick is to think about why the person wants your ebook and how you can make it even better by creating follow up versions or a community of peers where they can come together and support other topic related needs.

If you mention products or services, include affiliate links to where they can buy the products instead of just saying what it’s called or where the person can buy it.  Reference your own website when you have resources so that you can bring someone who bought your e-book on Amazon or another site to find you.  You can also use it as a cross promotional tool by referencing other authors who you like and trust and ask them to reference you as well.

If you have a topic that gets updated regularly or has new versions or options, create a community from your ebook customers and bring them back when you have updates.  This keeps you as an authority in their mind and you can continue to monetize the work you did with each future edition based on the original e-book.

5. Newsletter Space

Newsletters are ATM machines for many marketers, bloggers and social media influencers.  You can incorporate sign up pages onto Facebook FanPages as a tab, use lightboxes from ESPs or services like OptinMonster (I love this one and am a customer) and you can test multiple placements for optimizing how to get subscribers.  What’s even better is if you have real people subscribing (not contest entrants who only want free junk), you also have loyal people who like your opinions or want to know more about your niche.

You can incentivize them to sign up with a free e-book, by giving custom tips or access to content not publicly available. Other times letting them know you’ll alert them once you have new content or something to say is enough.  Now you can get to monetizing your list.

The trick is to remember that it isn’t only the actual email itself that you can monetize, it’s the entire process.  You can use affiliate links, sell space on a cost per hundred/thousand subscribers and even use adsense.

Here are a few places to monetize your newsletters: (aff = affiliate link, ads = adsense, cpm = cost per subscriber/thousand)

  • The redirect after someone opts in (aff, ads, cpm)
  • Autoresponders on the double optin (aff, cpm)
  • Thank you for subscribing emails (aff, cpm)
  • Your “View this email on the web” page (aff, ads, cpm)
  • And anywhere else you have the attention of the subscriber during the process.
monetizing your newsletter list

6. In AutoResponders (Social Media and Emails)

I already mentioned the types of ads you can use in autoresponders, but think about where else you have these.  You can set up a thank you for following DMs on twitter.  This lets you engage with the new follower.

You can recommend they get your e-book, visit your site or join your newsletter so they don’t miss your newest content.  You can ask why they followed you, what they want you to write about and really get a better understanding of who they are.  The trick here is to open access for them to respond by including your email or a link to a contact page.

If you’re not following them back, they cannot DM you back so they need a way to be able to reach you.  This is one way you can start to get their email address and also get them into one of your monetization flows.

7. Buying a Domain That has a Boost

Sometimes it can be daunting to start from scratch.  You don’t need to spend thousands to get an established domain, you just have to do your homework.  Start by searching for “Best XY niche sites/blogs” in “XY year” and find some lists from sites with authoritative links.  By incorporating a year into the query, you can find a domain with age.  This could be the Huffington post, Forbes, etc…

You can also use a crawling tool to dig through large and authoritative niche sites looking for broken external links.

Click through the lists and broken links to find the domains they’re linking to and now create a list of your top choices from the abandoned ones. Do your due diligence on them and if one turns out to be good, you have a head start with the age of the domain and a few solid backlinks from high authority sites.

You might need to disavow some bad ones, recreate URLs for the pages where the backlinks point to and also build a brand off of it, but this can also sometimes give you a head start to building traffic and an audience.  You’ll be amazed at how many sites are high quality but got abandoned because of nexus laws, the person retired or simply got tired of maintaining it because they didn’t have a good CMS.  I come across them all of the time when running reactivation campaigns for the affiliate programs I manage.

8. Photography (Hobbies)

selling photos online for money

Photography is an awesome way to turn your hobbies into revenue. The trick is learning how to shoot something the way you see it. Think about why you’re shooting what you are looking at (sports/action, landscapes, portraits, etc…) and then try to picture why you love this.

If you do street shots because you see the world differently than most, capture that with your camera.  If it’s food, what makes the food shot worthy for you to spend time with a camera instead of eating and then bring the camera to different angles so everyone can see why you want to shoot it instead of eating it.

I don’t actually have a camera, so I use my iPhone. I also don’t have any photo editing software so I use Instagram. I didn’t think I was a good photographer (I still don’t), but chefs have invited me to their restaurants and used my shots on their social media channels. It helped me realize that you can still get good shots without a professional camera.

shot for sale on smugmug

If you have a reason you are shooting something, find the angle that lets you share this moment the way that you see it and that’s how you create a photo that can be sold, monetized and bring you an audience. Here’s a few ways to do this.

  • You can sell the shot as stock photography on numerous sites.
  • Try using it and allowing people to source it back to your site (you can get backlinks that are awesome if they’re content relevant)
  • Listing in marketplaces like FineArtAmerica, Etsy or CafePress can bring in new fans and revenue
  • Uploading to accounts with photo services like SmugMug give you an awesome way to display shots in high res and a full e-commerce solution for anyone almost anywhere in the world. (They have printing partners in multiple countries which means the shots are printed closer to the customer which may reduce international shipping fees).
  • If you travel blog, you can keep track of sales, engagement (Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook likes) and trade room, board and fun for shooting the event and giving them the rights to the shots.  Using Woocommerce and a printing solution can be great if you’re focused on the US, but solutions like the one above are better if you want to help people who live in the UK and overseas by able to shop as well.

There are tons of ways to make money with photography. The best part is you’re making money by doing things that you love.  The trick is finding a way to display why you love the thing you’re shooting visually.

9. Sponsorships

Sponsorships are another great way to get temporary boosts of revenue.  The trick in getting repeat sponsorships and being able to charge more is by collecting data.  Saying you give branding is a lame excuse that will not work much longer.  You also cannot claim and back up that you have a huge reach on social media if you have no engagement.

Brands and sponsors are getting smarter so you need to have the data to backup why they should work with you.

Try adding the following into your media kit:

  • Unique and total visits by new post/share after 1 day, week, month, year. Total sitewide is only relevant if they are getting sitewide ads.  Showing per post gives the real exposure they’ll get if you write about them or share them. If your per post/share is next to nothing, then you don’t have a loyal following on that channel and won’t be able to offer branding, exposure or value. This will also cause them to not want to work with you in the future if you are able to build a following or readership.
  • Track revenue by niche.  You can do this with affiliate links or by having the sponsor install a pixel or by asking for a report on how many sales you sent.
  • How much traffic you drive by niche per post/share.  You can do this by looking at stats in analytics if you’re using a URL builder, PrettyLinks or a shortener like Bit.ly.

Having real and measurable stats helps you stand out against people who just say they have XY,000 followers.  By breaking it down by niche you can show additional value to advertisers and give more accurate or custom pricing.

If you know you get more engagement on blue widgets than red, you can charge more for blue and less for red because of the value of your audience to the sponsor.  Instead of a flat $5, you can do $3 for red and $8 for blue because you have data to prove why your audience is a better match for the advertiser.

10.  Test Everything!

The real trick to making money online is to test, test and test some more.  Sitting back and reading a million how to make money online sites will leave you going to bed with no real work being done.  You’ll have a ton of ideas, but no time or actual implementation.

Here are a few tips to break this bad habit:

  • Schedule your day and limit the amount you research.
  • Research when you get stuck (How do I code this, why won’t XY plugin work, how do I get my site to do XYZ, etc…)
  • If you get lazy or make an excuse like you don’t know how, you don’t have the time, etc… smack yourself (I literally do this to myself) and realize that those excuses are what will stop you from being successful.
  • You will fail and you will not make money instantly.  The sooner you realize this and learn that everything takes time and there is no such thing as an easy or quick way to make money online, the faster you’ll be on your way to actually making money online.

With a ton of hard work, long hours and lots of studying/learning, you can make money online.  You’ll need a bit of luck (especially if you don’t have a budget), but there are no barriers to entry except the ones you convince yourself exist.

And to help you motivate to get started, here’s some pie. Something I was really scared to try and make my first time.

making money online is easy as pie

How Is Machine Learning Shaping the Future of SEO?

Machine-Learning

SEO has always been an area of constant change. From its inception in the early 2000s when webmasters started figuring out they could manipulate results to today’s era of content and user experience prioritization, it’s commonly accepted that a new update or new technology could force a major change to your strategy—at virtually any time.

But a new paradigm in search has opened up, beginning with the introduction of Google’s RankBrain and, in my estimation, expanding radically over the course of the next few years. We’re entering the machine learning generation of online search, and we need to be prepared for how it’s about to shape our understanding of SEO.

RankBrain: The Toe in the Water

Machine learning isn’t entirely new; in fact, rudimentary machine learning algorithms started emerging and flourishing in the 1990s (and their ancestors have been around as long as computers themselves). But until recently, these algorithms have had limited applicable use, and haven’t been integrated into a consumer product as widespread or popular as Google Search.

Up until this point, all Google updates were manual pushes; Google developers would engineer some new piece of code, then push it to the core algorithm (or keep it as a separate branch). This is why we saw massive volatility when major updates like Panda and Penguin hit. RankBrain, on the other hand, is designed to figure out what new features are needed, all on its own, and integrate them on a recurring basis.

In terms of scope, RankBrain isn’t that big. It’s a modifier working in conjunction with Hummingbird, the branch of Google’s algorithm responsible for identifying and interpreting natural language and query intent (semantic search). Specifically, it’s designed to help Google interpret the intent of ambiguously worded or otherwise complex queries. So far, it’s doing a great job—but you probably haven’t noticed anything dramatic. That’s because this was intentionally planned as a small-scope update, with potentially bigger machine learning advances to come.

Why Machine Learning Updates Are Different

You might be saying to yourself, “so what? It’s another Google update. We’ve survived tons of them before, and we’ll survive more in the future.” And to a degree, you’re right. On the surface, this update isn’t much different from any other. But take a look at the ways a conceptual machine learning algorithm could differ from a manual one:

  • It’s unpredictable. It’s easy to guess what a human might determine to be “good” or “relevant,” but because of our natural Anthropic bias, it’s hard to guess what a machine might determine. That makes machine learning updates unpredictable, a scary notion for a search marketer.
  • It’s fast. When a machine learning algorithm comes up with an idea for how to improve a swath of code, it pushes it. No questions asked. Currently, there’s a supervisory system in place for RankBrain (and presumably will be one for any update), but the speed at which is works is unlike the world we’re used to, where it’s a year or two between major pushes. As a result, it will be harder to keep up with the changes than it was with human modifiers.
  • It’s always on. Machines don’t need breaks, and they don’t stop until you tell them to. Accordingly, RankBrain (and future algorithms) are constantly searching for new ways to improve, which has a compounding effect on the number of changes that are eventually pushed.

Collectively, these qualities make it likely that a major machine learning algorithm will quickly and constantly reassemble the traditional search structures, far outpacing human marketers, and in ways that are somewhat unpredictable. This might seem silly, given RankBrain’s current limitations, but keep in mind it’s a small portion of a small branch of the algorithm—what would happen if a similar, larger algorithm took over the core?

Reasons for Apathy

My intention isn’t to sound the alarm. In fact, there are some good reasons to support the fact that we should be indifferent to machine learning algorithms. The most important, in my mind, is the fact that even though they evolve on their own, they’re still created by people with specific purposes in mind. Accordingly, it’s highly unlikely they’ll radically depart from structures that have already been established.

Second, because these algorithms are so fast and so constant, their updates are naturally harder to detect. That means we might have already seen the last of major game-changers like Panda—instead, they’d roll out so gradually we’d hardly even notice.

Finally, even though Google has more faith in AI than most other corporations (or individuals, I might add), it seems unlikely they would turn their entire basis for profit over to a machine they couldn’t control. For the next several years, maybe even decades, there will likely be a firm human hand over any machine learning algorithms Google develops, which means their possible negative effects might be mitigated.

Looking Forward

It’s hard to say exactly when the next machine learning component might come to Google, or what exactly that component might look like, but I can almost guarantee machine learning algorithms will gradually replace what we’ve come to know as the “typical” means of search engine updating. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do in the meantime except pay attention to how Google develops RankBrain and future products, and hedge your bets by keeping your SEO strategies as future-focused and malleable as possible.

Social Media Best Practices Part 2: Rules to Live By

In Part 1 of Social Media Best Practices, we reviewed different tactics and tips to improve business accounts for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Part 2 of this series covers rules everyone and anyone who manages social media accounts should live by. Long gone are the days of publishing unorganized content and hoping for the best on social media accounts.  Find success for your business on social media while increasing engagement, conversions, and creating real connections with these rules to follow below.

Post Timely On Each Social Media Network

Unfortunately, there is no best time for posting on all social media networks. Scheduling a post to publish at noon on Facebook can receive different engagement than scheduling the same post at 3:45 p.m. on Twitter. There are plenty of recommendations and studies out there on “best times” to post on each individual network, but those predictions don’t always correlate to your specific demographic and their most engaged times.

The best way to discover a good posting time of a day, and day, to post is through checking analytics. Facebook Insights will tell you exactly what day and time your Business Page posts are receiving the most engagement and when fans are most active. Although not every social network offers detailed time of day analytics like Facebook does, you can still use tools and A/B testing to discover the perfect time zone for your demographic.

Ask Questions, Listen, and Respond

Need feedback on a new product? Head to your company’s social media accounts and start asking away. People are comfortable expressing their opinions online, especially on social media, so be prepared to get a variety of opinions when posting questions on social media. There are several different types of questions that are appropriate for businesses to ask on social media, such as:

  • How did we do?
  • How can we improve?
  • What can make your day better?
  • What should we think of next?

Gather several different ideas from asking questions on social media to inspire engagement, as well as insight for future business ventures.

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Think of Hashtags As Your Friend

Hashtags are a great way to join the viral stream in social media. Twitter and Instagram are two of the best social media networks to utilize hashtags with. People have seen a 100 percent increase in engagement when using hashtags on Twitter, with brands receiving a 50 percent increase. Other networks like Google+ and Facebook still use hashtags and the idea of streaming hashtags together, but aren’t as popular nor used as much as Twitter and Instagram. When hashtagging properly, and minimally, it can benefit a brand’s exposure and increase engagement from new fans on social media.

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But, Avoid Using Too Many Hashtags

A post with too many hashtags shows inexperience from a business, and it’s hard to digest. To make sure your business’ hashtag use isn’t reflected poorly, follow this basic hashtag etiquette:

  • Join hashtags that make sense for your brand. #PrayForKanye won’t make sense for a financial institution unless they tweet, “We’d love to help you open a new loan, @Kanye! #PrayForKanye”. Find a way to make the trending hashtag relate to your business or avoid using it altogether.
  • Be careful getting your hopes up with new hashtags. Don’t expect a brand new hashtag to explode overnight. Unless you have the right exposure, and advertising budget, a new hashtag that you just created for the business might not generate a 1,000 posts on Instagram until it’s received the right amount of exposure. Try using new hashtags when created contests and giveaways to increase the chance of visibility.
  • #AvoidLongHashtagStreamsThatAreHardtoRead. Don’t hashtag too many words together. It’s hard to read and can be misunderstood by followers.
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Don’t Be Afraid To Be Funny

Too often we take things too seriously. Lighten up the mood  on your social media profiles and shine light on the business by adding humor to posts. Businesses like Buzzfeed rely on their humorous posts on social media to generate shares, viral posting, and to drive traffic. A more serious industry such as insurance or medical shouldn’t be afraid to be funny on social media either, as long as it’s balanced with informative and call to action posts. For example, an insurance company shouldn’t try to compete with Buzzfeed on their amount of humor posts published on Facebook, but should add 1-2 posts a week to brighten up the industry.

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Include Real Personality in Posts

Similar to the idea of being funny, it’s important to add a specific personality to each post. The personality of a post is the way content is worded and images are taken. Does the business have an ironic tone with it’s branding materials? Match that same tone when posting content on social media. If multiple people are managing each social media account make sure each post includes the same type of voice and personality for fluidity.

Post on Multiple Social Media Networks

Has the business only been posting new content on Facebook? If so, try switching it up and posting on LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or new and trendy channels like Snapchat. In doing so, you may find that efforts are better spent on Twitter or Instagram, versus all of the content being shared on just one channel. Plus, Facebook may not be the perfect fit for every business demographic. Spend time and allot part of the marketing budget to posting new content and advertising on other social media channels.

Create a Social Media Posting Calendar

A social media calendar is a lifesaver for those who manage business accounts, especially multiple accounts. Use the calendar to break up the type of content shared on social media, which content is shared on which days, and what type of content is shared on different social media networks. Divide the content into specific days for specific topics so each social media network is fluid and it’s followers have an expectation of content.

Here’s a social media schedule for Facebook that any business can follow:

  1. Monday – New blog post.
  2. Tuesday – Share a photo or video of the business. Give users a behind-the-scenes glimpse of employees, products being made, the building, etc.
  3. Wednesday – Offer or promotional post.
  4. Thursday – Old blog post.
  5. Friday – Happy Friday, humor, or quote post. People are usually happier on Friday than the other days of the work week so it’s a good day to post your funny or lighter content.
  6. Saturday/Sunday – These are more relaxed days for posting that can include a soft hint for an offer or event details. Post behind-the-scenes posts or how the company spends its weekends for a more personal feel.

Don’t Forgot How to Be Human

It can be pretty easy to fall into the “robot tone” of voice when posting on social media on a daily basis. As a rule of thumb, if something you are about to post isn’t exciting or doesn’t interest you, it most likely won’t interest your followers either. Publish content as a human representing a business, and not the other way around. Have a colleague, friend, or spouse read your social media calendar from time to time to see if the content makes sense and offers opportunity for engagement.

Does your social media team follow specific guidelines? Comment below with your rules to live by for managing a company’s social media accounts.

Social Media Best Practices Part 1: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn

Social media has become a staple for branding and growing businesses. With 3 billion internet users, and 2.1 of those billion users using social media accounts, businesses have the capability to reach their demographic, and more, with a simple Tweet. Once upon a time, social networking was something smaller and was conducted between friends, family, and strangers. Though they’re all still using it, social media has now evolved into a marketing tool all business can and must utilize to keep up with the competition.

As with any marketing tool, best practices must be put into place. Keep your business’ social media accounts in tip top shape using these best practices for four of the most popular social networks for businesses.

Twitter Best Practices

  1. ​Create Twitter Lists. Twitter Lists are a great way to organize the people you follow and their feeds based on specific topics, as well as different conversations to chime in on. Create lists and add users based on the types of Tweets they normally post. Scan through the variety of lists to chime in on different types of topics, while engaging with customers and fans.
  2. M​ake the Business Bio Impressive. You have 160 characters to inform and excite new customers on Twitter. Do so by including basic information, but in a catchy way that represents the brand. Inform lookie-loos of what the business does and what they can expect from the company.
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  3. Use a Business Icon as the Profile Picture. Don’t try and fit a whole logo in Twitter’s 400×400 profile picture. Separate the business icon from the logo and use that as the profile picture. If you are a person representing a brand profile you’ll want the profile picture to be a professionally taken photo of yourself, with the logo and business graphics as the background image.
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  4. Try Twitter’s 80/20 principle. Twitter’s 80/20 rule is a way to break up the type of content shared. Twitter suggests 80% of Tweets should focus on driving interactions with followers, such as Retweets, replies, and likes. After a solid fan base and regular engagement has been established, you can then mix in direct offers or promotions that get followers to take actions, such as clicking on a link or making a purchase from a website.
  5. Act Fast. Twitter is known for its immediacy in social media. Did an earthquake just happen? Check Twitter. Did Kanye just ask Mark Zuckerbeg for money? Check Twitter. With 53 percent of users who tweet at a brand expecting a response within the hour, you not only have to check Twitter but act fast to engage. If you haven’t already, download the Twitter app on your phone to manage the business account and respond immediately to engagement.Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 8.39.11 PM

Facebook Best Practices

  1. ​Consistency is Everything. You don’t need to post as often on Facebook as you do on other social networks like Twitter, but you do need to stick to a schedule. ​Facebook posts on business pages don’t have a strong organic reach on their own, so posting must be consistent and frequent, such as 1-2 posts a day. If you have a large audience of 10,000 fans or more and the resources available, you can post more frequently such as 3-4 times a day to increase the chances of posts being seen by a larger majority of fans.
  2. Share Different Types of Content. In the beginning of time, for Facebook, text-based posts did well for businesses, then came image posting. Now, video is stepping up and taking over Facebook posts. Videos represent the highest organic reach at 8.7% and growing. Add video posts to your social media content calendar and incorporate them with blog posts, behind-the-scene posts, and how-to’s.
  3. Use Facebook’s Multiple Images for Link Posts. Every Time you paste a link in a post on Facebook a small preview box appears below. Facebook now lets users share multiple images in the preview box to scroll across. Use this to your advantage and get strategic about the order and flow of the images as users scroll across the preview of your latest blog post, product, or event.
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  4. Run Multiple Facebook Ads​. If you haven’t run at least one Facebook Ad campaign by now, it’s time to catch up. And by catching up, I mean try Facebook’s different advertising options. Depending upon your advertising goals, it’s important to run multiple objectives at a time, which Facebook advertising lets you to do. If the Business Page needs to increase it’s engagement, while increase online sales, run a Page Likes campaign with a Website Conversion or Offer Ad promoting a specific product page or sale. ​Here’s a few different ads worth trying:
    1. Offer Claim Advertisements take an ordinary promotion and puts it front and center of your target demographic. Personally, my clients have seen the most success with Offer Ads because they are local businesses that all have a unique promotion or ongoing offer for to attract new customers with.
    2. Local Awareness. One of Facebook’s newest ad objectives is Local Awareness. This is great for local storefronts or local businesses who need to target a specific geography and radius. The ad is measured by the amount of impressions received, which is defined as the number of times a post from your Page is displayed, whether the post is clicked or not. People may see multiple impressions of the same post. For example, someone might see a Page update in News Feed once, and then a second time if their friend shares it.
    3. Website Conversion Ads. If you want to advertise on a larger scale, try Website Conversion Ads. Install a tracking pixel based on the conversion you’re trying to achieve (checkouts, new emails, registrations, sign-ups, etc.) and link the pixel with a new Website Conversion Ad. Increase exposure to a specific page on the website to an audience you wouldn’t have reached before, let alone a very targeted audience using Facebook’s Fan data.

All of the above advertisements are great ads to run on Facebook, but running more than one ad at a time will optimize your advertising budget and test what type of ad delivers the best results.

Instagram Best Practices

    1. Use Photo Editing Apps. An expensive camera isn’t the answer to producing highly-engaged  Instagram photos. A photo taken from a smartphone using a complementary filter and the right editing can receive just as much of a response on Instagram as a professionally taken photo. There are several different photo editing apps to choose from like Pic Stitch, VSCO, and Squaready. Download a few different ones until you’ve found the right photo editing app for your business.
    2. Host Contests and Giveaways on Instagram. This social network is a great place to host a contest or giveaway and has the capability to receive a lot of exposure. Utilizing hashtags, create a simple rule system that any Instagram user can follow. Make sure using a specific hashtag and reposting is one of the steps required to enter and you’ll quickly see entries and exposure rise.
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    3. Follow Hashtags. Hashtags are a quick and easy way to connect with and find your demographic. Visit the “Trending” section on Instagram to explore each day’s newest and most popular hashtags, as well as who’s posting with those hashtags. This is a great way to find new content by using ideas and topics that are already trending on Instagram. Join in on the conversation by sharing a relevant photo using the same hashtag and engage with users who have posted with the same hashtag.
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    4. Give Instagram Ads a Try. Instagram ads are a great way for both large and small businesses to share updates and drive engagement with a community of over 400 million users. The advertisements can be made through Facebook, which you’re hopefully already advertising on. Mercedes-Benz saw a 580% increase in site visits when they used both Facebook and Instagram ads together. Some of the best industries to try Instagram ads with are travel agencies, self improvement (health, fitness, makeup, etc.), fashion, tech, and food.
    5. Network With Similar Accounts. Build relationships with other Instagram users and businesses that are in a similar field and have users that can benefit from what you have to post. Begin by engaging with the profiles you’d like to make connections with. After you’ve made a presence known, direct message the business and explain the benefit their users would have by following your profile, as well as how you can benefit their profile by sharing their posts, as well.
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      Avoid spamming your audience by reposting too many times with too many accounts and limit the sharing to 1-2 posts a month. This will provide a benefit to followers of similar accounts they wouldn’t have been aware of before, as well as build new relationships for the business.

LinkedIn Best Practices

  1. P​ost Content That Makes Sense For LinkedIn Users. LinkedIn is made up of over 400 million professionals, either looking to build new relationships with like-minded individuals​, searching for work, or recruiting the next best employee. Depending upon your industry, LinkedIn isn’t the best place to share a post-work party update and is more likely the social media network you’ll choose to share the latest company update. Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 8.29.05 PM
  2. ​Ask questions. Don’t ever be afraid to ask your demographic for opinions about products, polls on future business ventures, and questions about the industry. LinkedIn is a professional environment where intellectual conversations happen and questions from businesses can be answered by customers and other company pages.
  3. Have an Impressive Company Page. Upload the logo as the profile picture and have an impressive cover photo that represents the business. Make sure each aspect of the Company Page is completely filled out, providing as much information as possible to LinkedIn users.
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  4. Bring Employees Together. Encourage each employee to not only have a LinkedIn profile, but to properly list your business as their current employer. This will increase the company page exposure as employees build relationships with other users.
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  5. Share Regularly. Post blog posts, company updates, employee awards and other information LinkedIn users would find useful using the Company Page on LinkedIn.

What are your favorite tips for social media marketing for businesses? Comment below with some of your best practices.