I’ve been doing a lot of research on various internet marketing products and services that have recently been released. Unfortunately, in the internet marketing world you need to approach a lot of these products and reviews with a healthy dose of cynicism, as there’s so much hype out there that every second product is promoted as the next best thing.
It’s made me think a lot about how I approach my product reviews and recommendations, and I wanted to share my ideas here so you understand my philosophies, and why I recommend some products and not others.
Firstly, I see it as my job to let you know about products and tools that could make your blogging life better. I’m a bit like a friend who has discovered a new band and he wants to tell everyone about it. You don’t have to buy the album, but it’s ok for me to let you know about them.
When it comes to products on the internet, there are three types of recommendations that I’ll provide:
New Product Promotion
Sometimes a new product will be released and I think it’s worthwhile promoting it. If the product isn’t on the market yet, it puts me in a dilemma. If I can’t use it and review it, I’m careful what I’ll write about it.
Sometimes in these cases, if you sign up to a pre-launch list, you can receive discounts when the product launches. So on one hand, I want you to get the discount if the product interests you, but on the other hand I need to stop short of fully endorsing the product until I can see it myself.
In these instances, I’ll usually stick to Twitter and send out a few tweets about the product. I’ll generally only do this for products that are produced by reputable people who have a good track record.
If I can buy a product and it’s relevant to my audience, I’ll usually review it. I’ll always be honest in my reviews and try and point out the good and bad points.
If someone gives me a free copy of a product to review, I’ll let you know that I’m using a review copy. However, I won’t put myself in the situation where I give a favourable review in exchange for a free copy. If the product sucks, I’ll tell you.
In some cases I’ll review a product, but not use it myself after the review. This doesn’t mean it’s not a good product, it just means it’s one that I’ve decided isn’t suitable for me. I’ll still review it and promote it, because it’s a good product and may be useful to my readers.
Products I Use
There are a bunch of products that I use regularly to help with my blogging life. You’ll find a lot of these on my Resources page. These are products that I’ve got experience with and that I’m happy with. Things like the Headway Theme and Aweber. I’m very happy to promote these products as I’m using them every day.
A lot of the products I discuss here have affiliate programs, where the person who introduces the customer to the vendor can receive a percentage of the sale.
Here’s my opinion on affiliate links and receiving commissions.
Firstly, I believe it’s ok to make money on the internet. A lot of bloggers have a poverty mentality and believe they should give everything away for free. I don’t subscribe to that way of thinking.
Secondly, you don’t pay more to buy a product through my links. If there was a higher price to pay by buying through an affiliate link instead of going direct to the product manufacturer, then that would give me a dilemma. But that’s not the case. It doesn’t cost you any more to buy the product by using my link.
Thirdly, I don’t mind getting a commission from a product I don’t use myself. I mentioned this earlier. There will be some products that I look at and review, but then choose not to use. I may even give some poor reviews. But if someone wants to click on my link, go look at that product and then decide to buy it, that’s fine by me. I don’t have a problem receiving a commission from those sales.
Finally – do no harm! I’m building up my online reputation and I have no desire to do things that will affect it. I’ll pass on a lot of high profile product launches if I don’t believe the people involved have a similar set of values to me. I also don’t want to recommend products where the vendor has trouble delivering what has been promised.
And I promise not to spam you with product offers! If you sign up to my newsletter, I’ll make sure you get great content delivered to your inbox, with the occasional product promotion thrown in. But my hope is that these promotions will be relevant and valuable to you, not junk.
Conflicts of Interest
I believe the biggest issue when it comes to affiliate products is the potential for conflicts of interest to exist. I’ve seen a lot of this in the financial planning world and I see it in the internet marketing world.
When the majority of your income comes from recommending products to people on your email list, there will come a time where you may be tempted to recommend lesser quality products simply because you need to make money.
In this instance your business model could be wrong.
If your business model relies on you selling a range of products, and you can’t source enough quality products, then there’s only two outcomes – you either earn less, or you start to recommend lower quality products. This is the same whether you’re in the internet marketing world, or run an offline business.
And what if two similar products exist, and one has an affiliate program but the other one doesn’t? Which do you recommend.
I try to avoid conflicts of interest as much as possible. I’m fortunate in that my blog only provides a portion of my annual income. This means I’m able to only sell things I believe in and feel are valuable to you.
My plan for the future is to have a large percentage of my online income coming from my own products. I’m happy to allow affiliates to distribute those products for me, but I want to control the product creation. This way, I know that what I’m selling is a quality product.
Where a product exists that’s useful to my readers, I’ll suggest it regardless of whether there’s an affiliate program or not. This is a way to build up trust and show my readers that I’m truly interested in their needs.
This has become a rather lengthy, but necessary post. Whilst it’s possible to make a lot of money online, I question some of the methods that people are using. I don’t have a problem with receiving a commission from a product recommendation, as long as the recommendation is truthful and the product is useful to my readers.
What do you think?
Is it ok to promote affiliate products or not?
What conflicts of interest have you seen? Do they bother you?
What can we do to make a living online, but in an ethical manner?
Image from TheeErin
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