This weekend Affiliate Summit will be held in Las Vegas. I can’t remember how many Affiliate Summits this is for me…maybe 17? I’ve written so much about Affiliate Summit that it has its own category on my blog! Each time I try to set specific goals for what I want to get out of it (see What’s Your Plan for Affiliate Summit).

Early on I focused on getting as much as I could from Affiliate Summit as fast as I could, including education and networking. As the years went on I focused more on using my time there to build my own brand and credibility. My days were planned down to the minute including meetings with both new and old partners. There was little time allotted to just absorbing what was around me.

This year I want to take a step back from all of that. I’m going to approach Affiliate Summit like I haven’t already been there 15+ times (with the benefit of knowing some of the things that I know!). Here are some of the things I am planning:

  • Attend sessions. That seems like a no-brainer, right? Nope. Every year I end up saying that I can skip the sessions and watch them on video. But then I never get around to it. This year I am going to prioritize some of the sessions I want to attend, block them on my calendar, and make the most of them. There are some INCREDIBLE speakers that I know will help me make my business better.
  • Leave open meeting spaces. I have a tendency to say “yes” to everyone who wants to meet with me, even if I think there is no potential for us to work together. I end up doing a whole slew of meetings basically just because other people want me to. When I meet someone new at the conference and they want to chat for a bit, I have no time because I have prescheduled it all. This time, I am intentionally blocking out spaces in the schedule to give me time to talk to new people.
  • Visit booths. Again, this is something you would think I regularly do. In reality, I have gotten into the habit of quickly running in and out of the Meet Market and Exhibit Hall and only visiting friends or current business partners. I forget that the people I met in the Exhibit Hall at my first Affiliate Summit in Orlando helped me triple my business in one month.
  • Introduce myself to new people. It’s easy to get into a rut of only talking to my friends. Or even sitting at a table and waiting to see if anyone new is looking for someone to talk to. I’m going to be sure to go out of my way to introduce myself to people I haven’t met.

Those all seem so basic and yet I feel like I have not done nearly enough of them the last few years.

While I have your attention, there’s just one more thing I want to throw out there.

On Sunday I will be giving a presentation with Todd Farmer and Eric Nagel about our Wine Club Group site (Case Study: Drinking Wine and Making Money(The Full Monty)). It’s unlike any that I have ever given before in a few ways:

  • We’ll be sharing secret tricks and giving actual numbers of how we went from an idea at Affiliate Summit to a site that profited over $10,000 just last month.
  • The presentation itself is almost all images showing search terms, analytics, merchant research, etc.
  • At the end we will be sharing a Resource Guide that lists all of the tools and services that we have used to build the site and make it successful.

I’m really looking forward to sharing it all because I think a lot of people can learn from what we did right AND what we did wrong. And there’s no hype. We’re not saying everyone can make $10K a month doing exactly what we did. But we’re showing how to build a legitimate content-based website that can make you residual income over time.

So that’s it…time for me to get packing! I’m drinking my Emergen-C every day, counting my business cards, and loading up blog posts to go out while I am gone.

Will I see you at Affiliate Summit? How is your plan the same or different than mine?

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When people ask how many blogs I have, I never remember. It really doesn’t matter to me. Some sites sit untouched 90% of the time and generate a tiny bit of passive income. Some sites gets touched every day, sometimes every other hour. The more important question people ask is how I manage to generate and share so much content across so many different sites. I’m going to show you a little glimpse of how I use Shareist to keep some of it under control.

Curating Content for Posts

When I first learned about Shareist, I basically saw it as a way to curate posts for my Hunger Games fan site. Given how much is written on OTHER sites about Hunger Games, I knew I couldn’t compete and I might as well let that other content work to my advantage. So I only used Shareist to help me keep track of what other sites were writing and periodically pop them all into a “weekly news” compilation post like this.

That was great. I used Google Alerts to tell me what stories to include and the Shareist bookmarklet to compile them. Exported to HMTL and created a quick blog post including links and images. I did that for probably a year.

Using Shareist for Actual Sharing

After attending a webinar with Ashley Coombe, Head of Marketing for Shareist, I decided that I needed to do more with it. First I added some RSS feeds and search terms for Shareist to watch for me to find Hunger Games news. On August 27, I started using Shareist to schedule Tweets and Facebook posts of that content. I set it up so that I would have 2 Tweets a day and 2 Facebook messages.

I combined the content from the RSS feeds with my own blog post links as well as some Hunger Games images and memes that I found using the built-in Bing image search.

You can see from the chart below what my Facebook Post Reach was before and after I started using Shareist on August 27. It’s not even a comparison. Yes, I am putting in more time than I was before, but not more than an hour or so per week. I dropped down from 2 Facebook posts a day to 1 but sometimes throw in an extra if it is a big news day.

So more people are seeing my posts, but are they actually interacting with them? The next chart shows Likes, Comments, and Shares. Before I started using Shareist when I was only posting my own blog posts and not supplementing with other curated content, I had virtually no social activity. Now I can usually count on hundreds per day.

Great…so I have more people reading and interacting with my posts. But am I actually getting anything out of it?

According to Google Analytics, here is what my traffic from social looks like. Although the extent to which I was sharing my own posts in addition to the curated content varied from week to week, you can see that the potential for getting traffic to my own site greatly increased.

Using Shareist In Other Ways

Now that I have gotten the hang of Shareist, I am finding that I am using it in so many more ways. The Performance Marketing Association uses it collaboratively so that everyone on the Board can add content to our social channels and newsletters. I’ve started using it on my Wine Club Group and new Beer Club Reviews sites to add relevant news and memes to our social media.

I’ve also used it to help me create memes for my other sites. Using a simple image search and their text functionality, I made this image that became popular fast on my Helping Moms Connect Facebook page:

I think one of the ways that I am benefiting most is that Shareist encourages consistency. By setting up my calendar with daily “spots” to share things in, I find myself queuing things up in advance so that I have consistent posting on my social media accounts. When I run out of queue, Shareist notifies me that I need to get back in there and add more. And we have all heard that consistency is one of the biggest keys to keeping an engaged audience.

What’s Next with Shareist?

I have a feeling that even though I am using so much of the Shareist functionality already, there is still more that I could be using. I’m not currently using it to generate whole blog posts or newsletters but probably should be. I don’t use any of the built-in product capabilities from Prosperent or Amazon. And Scott is adding more and more to it with every passing week!

Are you using Shareist? Show me some examples of how you are using it. If you aren’t, you should definitely check it out for free and then decide how it might fit into your business.

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My business journey with Todd Farmer and Eric Nagel started 4 years ago. After being in a Mastermind Group together for about a year, we presented at Affiliate Summit, Mastermind Groups Exposed:Success in Affiliate Marketing. What came of that presentation was Our First Joint Venture, Wine Club Group.

Our wine club review site has been so successful and educational that people asked us to follow up that Affiliate Summit presentation with one showing where we are now and how we got here. We’ll be presenting that in January at Affiliate SummitCase Study: Drinking Wine and Making Money (The Full Monty).

But that wasn’t enough for us. Over the course of the last two years we had a new idea brewing…literally—brew.

Beer Club Reviews

This week we are launching a completely new review site, Beer Club Reviews. We took the same concept as our wine club site (reviewing clubs, taking pictures, making videos, etc) and applied it to beer. In part we were just a little tired of wine and in part we wanted to try some new things.

I should say *they* were tired of wine. I don’t even like beer, which makes this even more of a challenge for me. It’s the first time I have launched a niche site I wasn’t passionate about. However, I *am* passionate about the concept. And Todd and Eric are happy to be the taste testers while I do the research and education pieces.

In addition to that major difference, there is one even bigger difference. We decided to try out a crazy new gTLD. That’s Generic Top Level Domain. Instead of holding out for a “.com” or even a “.net,” we have decided to go with a “.reviews.” So our new site will simply be BeerClub.Reviews (that’s Beer Club dot Reviews). Easy to brand and even easier to remember.

I’ve been quietly building up our Facebook and Twitter content using Shareist while Eric and Todd have been reviewing a few beer clubs and writing blog posts. It’s a nice way for all of us to be able to contribute while focusing on our individual strengths.

We’re anxious to see how quickly we can get a .Reviews domain ranking. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t. But we’ll have fun trying.

Rebranding the Wine Club

In addition to our big beer club news, we have some minor wine club news. Everyone hated our www.wineclubreviewsandratings.com domain, and the days of keyword-laden domains are over. We had always had on the backburner a plan to rebrand completely as our “parent company” name Wine Club Group. Toward that end, we are moving the entire site to the wineclubgroup.com domain. No more tongue twister of a domain name (you’re welcome, Lisa Picarille). And more importantly, it’s a change to build the brand itself.

Eric did an AMAZING job of moving our entire site in less in faster time than I was even able to write this blog post. It will be interesting to see the impact it has on or traffic and conversions.

There are a lot of pros and cons to moving the domain, especially right before our peak shopping season. If you want to find out whether or not the gamble worked for us, you’ll have to attend our Affiliate Summit presentation!

I’m so excited about all of this because I am a total affiliate marketing geek and I love trying new things. By this time next year I hope to be singing the praises of drinking AND selling beer!

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A lot has been argued and written lately about bloggers being paid per blog post when they are also using affiliate links. Greg Hoffman wrote a great post (Affiliate Education for Bloggers) on the heels of ShareASale Think Tank. Roger Snow also wrote about how bloggers should consider affiliate links for long-term revenue as opposed to paid posts (Bloggers CAN Make Money in Affiliate Marketing). Joe Sousa wrote about “What Makes a Motivated Blogger.” Clearly it is a hot topic amongst affiliate managers. But what do AFFILIATES think?

This post is specifically about bloggers who are using affiliate links…not bloggers who are being paid only on a per post basis. That’s a completely different pot.

I don’t generally charge for any of my blog posts because I tend to use affiliate marketing links in them. I don’t expect merchants to pay me for placement on any of my sites with the exception of increased commissions for added exposure or things that take more work than standard reviews (like video reviews).

That said, I do love when merchants offer bonus opportunities either to get you active (or re-active) in a program or if they have specific things that they are trying to get out to the public.

Today I had two very different experience with this.

Merchant 1: Offered me $1 to write a blog post about a particular product that they want promoted. I could also get 50 cents for Tweeting about it. That’s not a typo. ONE DOLLAR.

Merchant 2: Offered me $10 to post about a new deal the merchant was running.

My responses

Merchant 1: I was so completely floored that they would think my time was only worth $1. I tried to politely respond without saying “I’m worth more than your stupid dollar.” But I was actually offended by it. I couldn’t believe that they would think that $1 would in any way motivate it.

Merchant 2: I knew it was a perfect fit for my audience anyway so the $10 was like a little icing on the cake to do something I should have been doing anyway. I wrote the post. And I plan on submitting it to get my $10!

Why did I respond so differently over $9? Neither bonus was going to make or break my day–or even my hour. But one was offensive to me and the other was kind of fun.

Merchants offer these types of bonuses all the time from $1 up to over $100 a post. They may be for initial placement, preferential placement, or promoting something with a known low conversion rate. As long as everyone comes out a little ahead, I don’t see a harm to it. I just don’t think it should be EXPECTED either that 1) blogger affiliates always get paid for posting on top of the affiliate commission, or 2) that blogger affiliates are willing to work for $1.

What do you think? I’ve started a little poll below. What is the lowest amount that is acceptable to even offer an affiliate to write a blog post on top of their commission rate? Weigh in in the comments section as well and be sure to mention if you are 1) a merchant, 2) an affiliate manager, 3) a blogger who doesn’t use affiliate links, or 4) a blogger affiliate. I am anxious to see if it makes a difference.

What is the Minimum Payment Acceptible?

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Sometimes I get in a rut of talking to the same people all the time and doing the same things over and over. Last month I was given the opportunity to get out of that run by traveling to Philadelphia for the first ASCEND Summit, sponsored by Aweber.

I use Aweber for a number of my newsletters, and I was asked to moderate a panel about Affiliate Marketing. I viewed the conference as an opportunity to get a little more speaking experience and participate in a panel of really smart people in my industry. I didn’t expect to actually get a lot out of the conference because only a small part of my business is email.

I was absolutely, completely dead wrong. I got more out of the conference than I have in a long time. There were various reasons for that.

First, I was out of my element. The conference wasn’t about affiliate marketing. Everything I was learning was something new. Second, there was only one track of presentations and I didn’t feel comfortable skipping things. So I attended sessions I would not otherwise have attended (almost out of guilt!). Third, I was with a whole bunch of new people I had never been around before–never learned from or shared ideas with.

What I Learned About My Business

As much as I think I know, I still have a lot to learn. Ann Handley gave me ideas about generating better content. Wil Reynolds helped me understand the importance of branding on SEO. Andy Crestodina taught me that I am not using Google Analytics enough. Justine Jordan made me completely rethink the way that my emails appear on mobile devices. Oli Gardner and Brian Massey showed me that my landing pages are pretty much crap.

That’s all just the tip of the iceberg, but you can see how all of those things would greatly impact my affiliate marketing business. Did you know about 50% of people open their emails on mobile and 30% of people who unsubscribe do it because they just don’t like the LOOK of the email? Did you know that having social icons on your website just leads your customers AWAY from your website to a point that they will probably not come back? Or that telling people you will not SPAM them just makes you think about spamming them?

I also learned about some really cool stuff that Aweber is doing that I should have been paying attention to. If you have a mailing list and are serious about growing it and making it convert, you need to check out their tools.

What I Learned About Myself

I need to get back to the basics that got me where I am. I need to attend more sessions at Affiliate Summit instead of looking at it only as a networking event. And I need to go back and watch videos of sessions I didn’t get to. I need to attend more small conferences as well so that I can grow my network and learn from new people.

I consider my affiliate sites a business. I don’t just blog for fun (although I usually have fun doing it!). Yet I have really been missing some huge opportunities to learn and grow my business the last couple of years. I always think that I don’t have the time to spend listening to speakers or attending more conferences. But what if I were learning things that would 1) help me save time in my work, and 2) grow my business more so that I can hire more employees? Wouldn’t it be worth that time investment?

Two Challenges for You

I have two challenges for you.

Challenge One: Check out the ASCENDSummit2014 hashtag and either follow a couple of the speakers or click on some of the resources they provided. I guarantee you can learn something.

Challenge Two: Go learn something new this week. Either attend a webinar, watch an Affiliate Summit video, or find a local meetup. Spend just an hour learning something new that might help your business–even if it means one less hour you have to get work done!

Did you attend the conference and learn something that will change the way that you do business? When was the last time that you DID learn something like that?

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