218: Monetization: Display Ad Strategy, Finding Your Sponsored Content Rate, and Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers

An image of money and the title of the 218 episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Monetization.'

Welcome to episode 218 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, we’re focusing on monetization and chatting through display ads, sponsored content, and affiliate marketing.

Last week on the podcast, we covered how we store large video files, produce the podcast, and manage Pinch of Yum’s sponsored content. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Monetization 

It’s time to tackle one of the most popular topics we get asked about: monetization! We focus on three different ways that you can be monetizing your blog in this episode.

First, you’ll hear from Bjork as he talks about display ads and how to evaluate their success. He also talks about why it’s important to consider your user experience when it comes to ad placement.

Then, Danielle! She’s here to talk all about sponsored content. She focuses on how to find your rate, how to work with brands, and how to approach brands for future deals.

Last, Alexa and Bjork talk about affiliate marketing. While we’re in the process of removing affiliate links from Food Blogger Pro, affiliate marketing can still be an effective way to generate income as a blogger.

It’s a great episode, and we can’t wait for you to dive in. Enjoy!

A quote from Bjork Ostrom’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'We create things to have an impact. We create things to have a voice. We create things to introduce new ideas.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How ads work
  • When you should consider adding ads to your site
  • What RPM is
  • Why it’s important to consider user experience when it comes to ads
  • How to find your sponsored content rate
  • How to understand what a brand wants
  • Why a sponsored content report is important
  • How to approach brands for the upcoming year
  • Why we’re removing affiliate links from Food Blogger Pro
  • How to be an effective affiliate
  • How to think strategically about monetization

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on Google Play Music, or Spotify:

Resources:

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.

Transcript:

Bjork Ostrom: Well, hello, hello, you’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. My name is Bjork Ostrom. Excited to be here with you today talking about something that a lot of people are interested in, which is monetization. Monetization simply put is creating an income from the thing that you are creating. So, for all of us, we are creators in some way. We have a blog, we maybe have some type of business, but most everybody that listens to this podcast is doing that online.

Bjork Ostrom: So, we are looking to create an income, to build a career, to build a business online. And we’re going to be talking today about different ways that you can do that, different strategies. We’re going to be sharing a lot about numbers. And hopefully, what you’ll find at the end is that you’ll be inspired to take action, to build your business and to have an idea of the exact way that you want to do that because there are hundreds loads of different options, different combinations, different formulas that you can use to create a business online, and we’re going to be talking about a few of those today.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to be discussing ads, I’m going to be talking about high level ideas around ads. We’re going to be using some examples around how much you could make, including some rough numbers and sharing some insights as it relates to decisions that you’ll need to make about ads.

Bjork Ostrom: Danielle, the expert on Food Blogger Pro around sponsored content and sponsored content relationships, who has a lot of experience in this realm is going to be talking about sponsored content. And then at the end, Alexa and I are actually going to be talking about affiliate marketing and affiliate marketing as it relates to Food Blogger Pro, and actually, kind of a decision that might surprise you a little bit as it relates to a shift that we are making with Food Blogger Pro as it relates to Food Blogger Pro affiliate marketing. And we’re going to be talking about a way that we’re going to continue to do it and a way that we’re going to stop doing it on Food Blogger Pro.

Bjork Ostrom: So we have a time I’m packed into this episode, and it’s a topic that I know a lot of people are interested in so we are pumped to share it with you. And our first guest on today’s episode is actually me. It’s just me talking a little bit about ads, something that we have a lot of experience with on Pinch of Yum because we’ve been doing it for a long time, we’ve made a lot of adjustments, we’ve made a lot of changes. And we’ve seen the industry shift over time. So I’m going to be talking about what you can, the decisions you need to make, the considerations you need to make as it relates to ads with your site. And then we’ll talk to Danielle and wrap up with a conversation with Alexa. So excited to share this episode with you. Let’s jump in to talking about ads a little bit.

Bjork Ostrom: This podcast episode is all about monetization, and it is always a popular episode, it’s always a popular podcast episode whenever we are talking about money. And that’s one of the things that we’re talking about today. It’s an important part of businessing, right? If you have a business, if you have a blog that you’re building as a business, money, creating an income from that is really, really important, not just for the sake of getting money, but for the sake of the things that that can do. It can buy you freedom, it can buy you flexibility. In a lot of ways, it’s the way that we track the success of the thing that we’re doing.

Bjork Ostrom: Now, I want to make sure to point out that it’s not the only way to track success. There’s lots of different ways and lots of different reasons why people create things online. We create things to have an impact, we create things to have a voice. We create things to introduce new ideas. All of these different things are really important reasons to create, to publish, to have a platform. And none of those are more important or less important than the other.

Bjork Ostrom: One of those important things is creating an income, it’s creating money, creating revenue from the thing that you are building. And I think it’s possible to do all of those different things, it’s possible to have an impact, it’s possible to have influence, and it is possible to create an income. And in a lot of ways, creating an income helps you over time to do a better job of doing some of those other things because you have more time and energy and space to build your platform and to create the content that does allow you to influence people. So, it’s one of the reasons that I love building businesses is because that also allows you to have an impact. And an important part of that is the monetization and the revenue that comes from it, which then allows you to do other things.

Bjork Ostrom: So, little bit of a side tangent, a little bit of a rabbit trail there. But I wanted to make sure to talk about that because I think it’s an important piece of the monetization puzzle.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the other important pieces for a blog, for a content creator, for somebody who is building and publishing content for free, a really important piece to consider is ads and monetizing the ads. Now, when I’m talking about ads, I’m talking really specifically about display advertising. And there’s different qualifications or different categories you could put ads into. Technically, you could say, hey, sponsored content is an ad or affiliate marketing is a version of an ad. But the ads that I’m talking about are really specific to ads that show up as display ads on a blog.

Bjork Ostrom: So, what does that look like? I think we’re all familiar with that. You load a site, and there’s maybe a 300 by 250 ad that loads and that will show you some type of advertising. It will maybe be a product that you’ve previously visited on Amazon and it’s remarketing that product to you. It’s maybe an ad for something that you say, hey, this is actually, this is actually something I’m really interested in, ow do they know? Or this is really specific to me, maybe you’re a new grandparent and they’re showing you toys to buy for your grandkids.

Bjork Ostrom: How do they know that? Well, that’s how advertising works. Advertising works in a way where they’re able to, based on the sites that you visit, and the cookies that you have on your website or on your IP address, you’ll start to see different ads based on your browsing behavior. And those ads are being displayed from companies who say this is the type of person that I want to market towards. They visited these sites, we think they live in this area, we think that they are maybe in this general age category. You’re building up this profile of who you are based on your browsing behavior, and then inserting that ad on the sites that you visit.

Bjork Ostrom: So, it’s kind of a high level overview of how those ads work. It’s either based on your profile of who you are as you browse, or literally remarketing something that you visited, maybe you go to a page or you visited an Instagram profile, and then they are able to retarget towards you across different platforms.

Bjork Ostrom: So, why do ads? Why is it an important piece of the puzzle or at least something important to consider? Well, ads are a great way to relatively passively create an income from free content that you are publishing. I say free content because for the vast majority of people who are using advertising in an effective and impactful way, they’re creating things where a substantial amount of people are coming to that thing and then they are monetizing those visits by displaying ads.

Bjork Ostrom: I can tell you for certain if we displayed ads on Food Blogger Pro or within Food Blogger Pro Membership site, like in the forums, it wouldn’t be an effective way for us to create an income because the numbers that we would need in order for that to have an impact just aren’t there. It’s not high traffic enough for us to implement an ad strategy on a site like Food Blogger Pro or WP Tasty or Nutrifox at this point because we don’t have enough people visiting. And the way that we are creating an income from those is a little bit different than say Pinch of Yum. But for food blogs, for people who are publishing free content, especially if it’s a recipe site, there is enough traffic where you can start to think hey, maybe it would make sense to introduce ads to my site.

Bjork Ostrom: Now, a lot of people will ask, when do I start including ads? What’s the magic number to start displaying ads? And I think it really depends on a few different things. Number one, one of the considerations that I always have people think through is, do you love the process of tinkering and exploring the ad structure on a site. If you are somebody who loves that idea, and you would get motivated by making a small amount, even in the early stages, then it might be worth considering starting to do that. A huge part of the way that you need to process your content creation and your energy as it relates to building your thing is where you get that energy from, and if you get motivated by even if it’s making 50 cents a day, you can say hey, if I make 50 cents, I can make $1. And if I made $1, I can make two. That’s motivating to you, there might be some strategy around implementing ads.

Bjork Ostrom: But, it’s important to also consider that in the early stages, ads will have a really big impact. They’ll have an impact on your site speed, they’ll have an impact on the user interface. And you might come to the consideration that, or you might come to the point where when considering ads, you say, I know that the negative impact it’s going to have isn’t going to outweigh the positive motivation that would come from seeing a little bit of money start to come in. And that’s a really personal decision.

Bjork Ostrom: If it were me, if I were starting out, if I was in the early stages of creating a content site that I was going to monetize with ads, I wouldn’t try and hold off on implementing ads as long as possible because it’s my belief that when you are building something, you’re going to be able to build it quicker if there’s less friction in the experience that you have with your site, which means the site loads faster, you don’t have ads that are competing for attention. And it’s my belief that you your site will grow faster in the early stages if you don’t have ads.

Bjork Ostrom: Now, you might be one of those people who say, I just am really motivated, if I can start to create a little bit of income from it even if it’s just coffee shop income or tea income, or brewery income, whatever your preference would be, that’s motivating for me, and the most important thing is motivation and that’s the way that I’m going to get that motivation, then well, that might be something for you to consider. But in the early stages, I think it makes sense to hold off and to grow as much as you can. And then, at the point where you have a substantial amount of traffic, you can introduce as in some way.

Bjork Ostrom: What is substantial amount? I think it really depends but you can use some general RPM numbers to get an idea of where you would land and kind of play the numbers game with your site. And RPM for those who aren’t familiar is, in a very rough sense, essentially, what it represents is how much do you make for every 1000 loads of your site, page views of your site that come through. So, a number could be, you know, that for every 1000 people that come to your site, you get $10. That would be a pretty doable RPM if you’re using one of the major ad networks, AdThrive, Mediavine, Sortable, any of these sites, any of these companies that are acting as your ad network, they kind of sit in the middle and they create a little window on your site and they use that window to display ads.

Bjork Ostrom: A $10 RPM would be a reasonable expectation for you in the early stages. And that shifts that changes, it depends on the type of content you’re publishing, it depends on the season, it depends on the month within that season. So for example, November, December, those are great and those are really good months because people and businesses are spending a lot on ads, people are spending a lot on buying things. And so, kind of all the revenue metrics align in order for November, December to be a good time for people who are publishing or using ads on their site. So maybe that will go up. It really depends on a lot of different numbers.

Bjork Ostrom: But I would use maybe anything in the $10 to $15 RPM range is a good place to start. And that allows you to play the numbers game and say like, okay, say if I have a $10 RPM and I want to get to the point where I’m making, let’s say $1,000 a month, that’s going to be the point where I know that I can move forward with putting ads on my site, and I can justify the negative impact that that has. Maybe you use that as your starting point and then you can say, okay, well, let’s do the numbers on this. Let’s use 50,000 page views as an example and let’s say 50,000, and we’re going to divide that by 1000 because that is the RPM, and then we get 50. Not too difficult of a division problem there to do. And then we take that and we multiply it by the RPM that we’re using, let’s say that is 10, in this case, we’re being very conservative, and we get $500.

Bjork Ostrom: So we can say, okay, if I get to 50,000 pages, it’s going to be about halfway to my goal of $1,000 a month from my site. So, what would it take to get to that $1,000 mark? Well, it would either take you earning more on the RPM side. So, you know, if you used $15, those numbers would look a little bit different. Or it would just take you doubling traffic. So it’d take you getting to 100,000 page use earning $10 RPM to say, okay, I’m going to make $1,000 a month from my site once I get to the 100,000 pages mark.

Bjork Ostrom: Now, again, $10 is probably a little bit conservative. If you’re using one of these ad networks, you’re probably going to get $10 RPM plus, again, it depends on a lot of different factors, including the type of content you’re publishing, the season, the quality of the content, a lot of those things. But that isn’t unreasonable to think about. So, for you, you might want to set it up as a goal. I want to get to this point and that’s the point when I’m going to reach out to ad networks and I’m going to start using one to implement ads on my site.

Bjork Ostrom: Another consideration you’re going to have to make when you get to that point is how aggressive do I want to be in the ads that I’m showing? Meaning if you show, this isn’t always true, but in general, there’s a correlation between less ads earning less and more ads earning more. So, the more aggressive you are in your advertising tactics, the more that you will earn from it. But it’s important to think not just about how much am I earning per visit, but what does it look like from a user experience perspective, and if you are less aggressive, does that mean people are more inclined to come back to your site, to share your content to spend more time there, to revisit it later on.

Bjork Ostrom: You can think of an extreme example where there’s a site that you go to and we probably all have an example of this, where it’s almost unusable because there’s so many ads that are part of it. That makes it really unlikely for people to share that, that makes it really unlikely for people to come back, that makes it really unlikely for Google to display it higher within search results because all of those factors go into the user experience, shareability, the search results. If you have a really unusable site, people aren’t going to want to go back and search engines won’t want to display it because people aren’t engaging with it or sharing it.

Bjork Ostrom: So, there is a little bit of short term long term strategy that you want to think about as it relates to ads. We’ve kind of just sat in the middle with Pinch of Yum. So we’re not afraid to show ads, we have ads on the site. And we even have ads that would be considered, not necessarily aggressive, but they would be ads that would be more interactive. So, an example would be, if you can think on mobile when you’re scrolling through a site, sometimes you’ll have ads that kind of look like they’re literally opening up a little window into the ad and they kind of interact with you as you scroll. That would be an example of a type of ad that we occasionally we’ll show or we’ve opted into on Pinch of Yum.

Bjork Ostrom: We’ll have ads that will overlay the content so you can think about at the bottom of a site, when you load it, there’ll be kind of, it’s almost like a footer type ad, a lower, it’s not a third of the page, but it looks like kind of a lower third type video overlay that would show. So it’s a high earning ad because it gets a lot of visibility and it’s a very viewable ad. But it’s also a little bit more intrusive for the user experience. So, these are all things that you’ll need to consider as you get into ads.

Bjork Ostrom: But one of the things that we have said is we don’t want to be crazy aggressive. So, you know, it’s not like we’re showing an ad every other paragraph for instance as you scroll through the content. One of the things that we’ve stayed away from is, for the most part on desktop, you won’t see a lot of ads within the content itself. Now, there are ads that’ll show up for Pinch of Yum when you look at the recipe itself. There’ll be ads that will occasionally load depending on a few different things.

Bjork Ostrom: But for the most part, the ads that we are showing on desktop at least will be in the sidebar. So, there’s a lot of considerations that you will need to make. One of the things that I would encourage you to do is look at other sites, see what feels right. As you spend time with other sites, as you get a feel for where you want to land, you’ll start to develop a little bit of a gut feeling with the user experience of your site. And also, what’s normal, what would be expected from other sites as people look around at other examples.

Bjork Ostrom: So, a lot of things to consider as it relates to ads, there is no magic formula, there’s no really specific strategy with it. It ties into branding, it ties into some of the business elements, it ties into your preferences. And what you’ll learn is that as you experiment with it, as you get into it, you’ll start to develop your own opinion of where you want to land as it relates to ads. And you’ll be able to use other sites to kind of compare and contrast where other people are at. And maybe what some of the expected norms are.

Bjork Ostrom: So, it’s an important piece of the puzzle, especially for sites that want to go after higher traffic revenue, which means you know that, maybe you’re not creating a product, you’re not creating software, you’re not creating a membership site. You’re just trying to get as many people to your site as possible. It’s a great way for ads to fit into the puzzle. But also know that there there is a downside with ads, and that is the user experience, that is a slow loading site. And so, if you are somebody who has other ways to create an income, maybe it’s sponsored content, maybe it’s affiliate marketing, maybe you forego the advertising revenue that you could potentially make in order to really lean into those other areas of revenue creation for your business.

Bjork Ostrom: Next up, we’re going to be talking to Danielle. Danielle is actually going to be talking about one of those strategies, which is sponsored content. And there’s a lot of questions that people have around sponsored content. So it’s going to be helpful to hear Danielle, both her experience and her opinion around sponsored content, finding the right rate, finding out how much you can charge, and all those things that come along with sponsored content. So let’s go ahead and jump into the interview with Danielle.

Bjork Ostrom: Danielle, welcome back to the podcast.

Danielle Liss: Thank you so much for having me.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so we are going to be chatting a little bit in this section about sponsored content. And we joked before pressing record on this that it’s going to be really hard to cover this in a podcast episode in general, let alone a section within a podcast episode. We’re going to do our best to hit some of the high level important things for people to know around monetization as it relates to sponsored content. So, the first thing that always comes up when people talk about sponsored content, especially as they get into it, but even for people who have been doing it for a while, is figuring out your sponsored content right. How much do you charge? How do you know? What is your advice for people that are just getting started to come up with some type of base level rate that they can charge for their sponsored content?

Danielle Liss: That is such a loaded question. I think that that is something that it’s impossible to give you a secret formula. It just doesn’t exist. So I think that what you have to do in terms of determining sponsored content, is that you need to first of all, and I think this is a step that many people don’t take, you need to find out how the brand is going to measure success. So get their key performance indicators, which you can abbreviate as KPIs, and that often makes you look very good in the negotiation phase, if you throw out the jargon that they like to say.

Danielle Liss: So, find out how they are going to measure success, and then you can start to determine what you would need to do in order to be successful. So if what they’re looking for is they want to see clicks over to their company website, then you need to build out a post that has enough opportunities to click that will likely drive traffic for them. But if they’re saying we have a video and we want to get as many eyes on that as possible, you know that you’re looking more for reach. So you you can start to determine your pricing based upon the things that you know the brand is looking for.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So, do you have an example of, you had mentioned clicks, but what would some other examples be of KPIs and how would that then inform the rate that you are going to charge and maybe flesh out what that conversation would look like with the brand?

Danielle Liss: The first thing that I would do is when they come to you and they ask you for your pricing, say certainly, I would love to work with you, can you tell me how you’ll be measuring success? Because I know that having those conversations is probably a little out of the norm for most people who are on the creative side. So, that’s how you set that conversation up. We’ll see different things but I think most common requests are, we want to see, we want to have eyes on it so they want to know what kind of reach you can provide. They may want to then specifically have reach that is of a certain demographics. So if they say, we want to have eyes on this but we really want to know that we getting in front of people who want gluten free content. So if that’s all you do on your blog, perfect, you’re ready to go.

Danielle Liss: Other things that they may come to you with depending on what your credentials are. So let’s say you are RD who creates recipes and puts them on a blog. If you have that credential, you know that they are looking just to have content created that is essentially an RD seal of approval. You can look at that in terms of okay, they want me for my professional credentials. Other things that we hear very frequently are they want engagement. And engagement is like what I said in terms of clicks, how does your audience take action on that content.

Danielle Liss: So on Instagram, it may be something as simple as likes, or depending on if it’s a story and there’s a swipe up, it might be the swipe up. You can only start to determine what you will need to do once you know what that brand is looking for because you don’t want to quote pricing and say, oh my gosh, now I know that I might have to boost this with a Facebook ad, I didn’t budget for that. So, it’s really important to have that conversation initially so that you can then put all the pieces together.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So, it’s interesting to think about that and I think really strategic because a lot of times we’ll go into it thinking that we know what is most important but even if we think that is important, that might not be what the brand thinks is important. And I can think back to the different relationships we’ve had with sponsored content that we’ve done on Pinch of Yum. For some brands, like you’ve said, they really want people to click and use a coupon to buy something. Whereas other brands, it’s like, hey, we just view sponsored content as general PR, impressions, awareness for our brand and for maybe this certain category within our brand.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the tools that we’ve started to use in a podcast interview we’ve done in the past is InfluenceKit. And it’s a great tool for being able to wrap up a lot of those numbers and to pass those off to people in a little report. And one of the things that I was going to ask you was, when you are, so in the front end, you want to understand what it is that the brand wants. On the back end, you are then telling the story of how you were successful in achieving that, which I think also ties into your ability to then charge for that because you have communicated on the back end that you delivered on that, the thing that they want.

Bjork Ostrom: So, do you have any advice for people in terms of how they tell the story of the success of a campaign or what to do if it’s not successful?

Danielle Liss: I think that campaign reporting and case studies are absolutely critical on sponsored content because it truly is you going to the brand and saying here is how this worked. You are creating a document for them that they can very easily give to their boss, and it talks about here’s what my objectives were, here’s how you were measuring success and here is how you did that, essentially.

Danielle Liss: And if something doesn’t go well, like let’s say you’ve got a brand who still thinks Twitter is how you’re going to drive traffic and they are insistent that all of these clickthroughs are going to come from Twitter, and you’re looking at it saying that’s not going to happen, you can use that as an opportunity and say, look, I nailed all of your other metrics. However, the Twitter piece didn’t go as well. Here is why I think that didn’t happen. Because remember, no one is a bigger expert on your audience than you. You need to say my audience doesn’t click to that, here’s what I would recommend in the future.

Danielle Liss: You can also use that to segue into your next pitch to them to say, I really think that we can achieve the following if we make these tweaks to it. And you can make a lot of, it’s an easy way to have the conversation. Let’s just put it that way. You want to look at what any of those natural opportunities are when you would be able to continue the relationship. And so, those are great ways that you can do that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And that’s one of the things that we found as we’ve done more sponsored content is, the best way for us to do sponsored content is with companies we know, like and trust, and we’re familiar with and that are good brand match. And so for us, we want to do as much as we can to deliver on the back end of the campaign to say, here’s where we were successful, here’s the things that worked well. Here’s some ideas that we have if you ever do sponsored content again. And part of that is the numbers, and then part of it is these kind of micro stories.

Bjork Ostrom: So one of the things that we’ll do is we’ll pull comments that people have on the posts around social media that highlight the success of the campaign, not in a KPI way, which we also do but in a storytelling way. So, we can take a screenshot of a comment that says somebody says, hey, I found this flower at the grocery store and I love it, I never would have thought to use it unless I read your post, right? Like it’s the ultimate example of the success of sponsored content campaign. A lot of that has come through our conversations with you and understanding case studies and the importance of case studies and then wrapping that up up into this deliverable at the end of a campaign. So, thank you for that, I appreciate it.

Danielle Liss: Of course. I think it’s key to remember that other brands want to see themselves as just as successful as a past partner. So, if you can allow them to see themselves there with the data that you can provide to them and the examples that you give, that is really helpful for you to be able to get that top rate.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So, let’s walk through two different scenarios. And these are going to be scenarios that I think would be applicable to people that listen to the podcast. And you can kind of off the cuff talk through or maybe coach me as if I were somebody that’s coming to you and is in this scenario. So first scenario, I have started a blog, I have a decent following, I’m starting to get some momentum. Let’s say I have 100,000 page views a month. So people are coming, they’re visiting my content, they’re consuming my content, and I have a decent social media following. I want to start doing sponsored content. What do I do? How do I start? What would your advice be for getting into that?

Danielle Liss: My advice there is find brands that you already, as you said, know, like and trust. They are going to be the most natural fit for you. Is there a brand that you’ve used in the past? Then what you want to do is start to put together the kind of results that you can achieve. Now if you haven’t done sponsored content in the past, it’s okay. What you can do is take a post that you think did well, and would be similar to how you would set up a sponsored piece of content. Like, let’s say you’re talking about a recipe that uses a Greek yogurt. So, that would be a perfect place for you to say, okay, now I’m going to go to Chobani, or whomever that brand might be, and talk to them about how I can work this in. How I would feature a product and make something very product centric.

Danielle Liss: Then measure that, measure the content and measure the performance on that and track it, and say, here’s the kind of reach that this post received. Here’s who my audience is. Because knowing a lot about your demographics is going to be really important. So, if you know that a brand is really trying to push millennial moms, if you can show that you have a lot of millennial moms in your audience, that is going to be extremely appealing because you can get them that reach in front of their desired audience.

Danielle Liss: And then show them the kind of actions that your audience took. You can say here is how many times it was shared, here is, if it’s something that did really well on Pinterest, you can talk about the fact that it would likely have a good long tail, which is something really important for most companies. They want to see that it’s not just few days where they’re going to have attention, they love to see the idea that the marketing is long tail, meaning that people are going to keep coming back to it from Pinterest. So, if you can show them what the average type of content, how it would look for them to then put themselves into that and you tell them that story. This is content that I know would resonate with my audience, here’s the type of performance that I typically see on my posts, here’s what I think I can do for you, here’s why we should partner together.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup. And then this comes back to that original question, do you pick a number and just say this is what it looks like to work with for me? Like, what is that first number? You don’t have to give specifics, but even like one of the things that I’ve said before is just don’t worry so much about what that number is when you are in those early stages but just be sure to gradually increase that over time as you become more effective. So, would you have a number that you just say, hey, we’re just going to start with this, knowing that the first go around with sponsored content, the first person that I work with, first brand that I work with probably not going to be optimized in terms of maximizing the potential revenue that I get from this, but kind of viewing it as a practice round. Would there be any advice you have putting together your first official offer?

Danielle Liss: Sure. I think that it all depends on what you are being asked to do. I don’t think you necessarily have to include pricing on that initial pitch. The pitch is going to lead to those conversations and I think that you offer a very different price on a blog post with a ton of edited images versus an Instagram story message. So, it’s potentially going to depend on what resonates the most with the brand. If you do need to include some pricing on that, give them the options that you want them to have.

Danielle Liss: And I always think that it’s a great idea to have three different things that people can pick from. So you’ve got your lower end item, you’ve got the one that’s a pretty high price. Oftentimes, people are going to land in the middle, right? So make that middle price something that is appealing to them. Let’s say it’s a blog post with a share on Instagram leading people back. If that’s what you’re doing, then I don’t think it’s a bad thing depending on where you’re starting, you can look at it, and I often say to start with what your cost per engagement is, but that’s going to be hard for you to know if you haven’t done sponsored content in the past.

Danielle Liss: So, I would say look at what kind of engagement you’ve had on past posts if you think that’s what they’re going to measure it on. And then from there, you can start to say, okay, I think that the cost per engagement for this, if I charge $500, I think that will be roughly 50 cents for each engagement that they would pay for. Then you can go from there and start to pull out a more generic price. And if they respond really, really well to that, great, you can possibly increase it depending upon what the results are.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. So, second scenario, let’s say that I’m a blogger who’s been creating content for three or four years, I’ve had successful sponsored content relationships in the past, what are the ways that you, and because you have seen multiple scenarios like this from past work that you’ve done, past positions you’ve had, a lot of interaction with bloggers, content creators doing sponsored content, you kind of have an interesting view into lots of different areas, so you can see the different areas where people could improve.

Bjork Ostrom: So let’s say somebody’s been blogging for four years, they’ve done sponsored content but they’ve never really intentionally thought about, hey, how can I juice this? I’ve been using this analogy a lot, food analogy, doing that as much as possible. So how do you juice this for all the juice that’s in it? And a lot of times, I think we have these really juicy oranges and we’re only squeezing them a little bit. There’s other ways that we could be really leveraging the sponsored content relationships we have or strategically packaging that.

Bjork Ostrom: So, when you work with bloggers or you’ve seen bloggers or had conversations with them that are doing sponsored content, what are some of the ways that they are missing additional revenue or not fully optimizing the contracts or the the proposals that they are putting together? Would you have any advice for people who are doing sponsored content, but could be doing it a little bit better?

Danielle Liss: There’s a couple of things that come to mind. Thing number one, I don’t think most bloggers are thinking far enough in the future. I think that, for example, right now, I would be pitching Thanksgiving, Christmas recipes, things along those lines. You need to be pretty far ahead of it. So, one thing that I think people need to do is really go after the content that you want in the pitching period far earlier than you may have in the past. And really, I think the best idea here is if you’ve got a brand that you have worked with and you know you can nail it, put together a pitch that has a multi component to it. So, multi-post, give them, and I think it’s a great idea to go for the year.

Danielle Liss: If you think that they’re going to be planning for next year right now, or maybe in August Q3, go to them and say, I want to be on your calendar for 2020, here’s what I can do for you, put it together. And put it together in a way that I don’t think most bloggers do, which is give yourself a pitch deck and talk about what your results have been. Make it very personal to them because if you really want to, as you said, juice it, you can say here are all the things that I can do for you and give them a number of options, see what resonates the best for them and really put the time and effort into it. Those bigger engagements often do not come from an email to a contact that you have. It’s going to take more from you to do that. So have those materials ready.

Danielle Liss: The other thing that I think is a really strong thing that many food bloggers can do is really look at the rights that you are assigning in your contracts. If a brand comes to you and they say I want the full rights, I want to own this content at the end of the day, you can charge more for that. Include those pieces within your negotiation to say this, if you’ve got a standard integrate that you use, say this rate does not include ownership. If you want to be able to own it, here’s what that additional cost is and you can charge more for that.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Yeah, it’s one of the things that was really influential in shifting how we did sponsored content with Pinch of Yum was essentially viewing our brand relationships, sponsored content agreements as a menu and saying here are the different things you can order off of the menu and working with brands to help build what their order is essentially.

Bjork Ostrom: So we have these little al a carte items kind of like you would sides if you’re ordering a meal, and one of those is full ownership. And that comes with a cost. There’s also different levels of social shares, and different places that content can appear, if it has a video or not.

Bjork Ostrom: And so, there’s these different pieces that when you, if it was all just one and it was sold as one thing, maybe it wouldn’t be viewed as valuable as when you break it apart and say like, hey, there’s all of these different things. There’s a blog post, there’s a video, there’s social shares, there’s social shares on these different platforms. There’s emails, there’s ownership, all of those different elements can really add up and it was one of the most important things that we started to shift was how we viewed sponsored content, not as one general thing, like we’re going to do a post and here’s how much it costs, but the posts just kind of as the foundation or the video just as the foundation, and then all the al the carte things on top of that.

Danielle Liss: So that makes it so much easier to negotiate because if they come to you, let’s say you’re saying their package is going to be $1,000 and they come back to you and say, we only have 750, can you do it? What I unfortunately would see is people say, yeah, you know what, I’ll just do it, I really want to work with you. You just give them a 25% discount and you’re giving them the same stuff, if you will, the same deliverables at the end of the day. So if you can go to them and say, you know what, if you have 250 less, you’re going to chop off some of your social shares but I absolutely can still do the post, your decrease in pricing should be reflected within those deliverables. So I love the idea that you can start to in terms of your pricing, unbundle things and let them build the meal, see.

Bjork Ostrom: Love it.

Danielle Liss: So you can build the meal that they are best going to be served by.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. So example being, hey, we only have 750 in our budget for this, and you can say, okay, yeah, that makes sense. What we’ll do then is we’ll shift this and we won’t do a social share on Instagram or whatever it might be that would be in kind of one of those al a carte items that you could remove. That would also then create less work for you. I think that’s important to also think back to is not only, what does it look like to negotiate, but also what does it look like to strategically approach that from a business perspective and say, hey, if I’m going to be getting paid less, that means that either I’m going to be doing less sponsored content sharing on a certain platform. So, doing less kind of chipping away at certain platforms kind of original content schedule, or less work, like maybe it’s not doing as many photos or not including a video or whatever it would be and appropriately changing that contract.

Bjork Ostrom: So, pricing, we talked about this at the beginning, a really hard thing to come to a certain number on, but basic idea being start the conversation with a brand that you want to work with and you’ll get to the point where you can start to understand what’s important to them and using that as the base to start to have some of that dollar amount conversation. But we also know that you have a course on businessesse about this. And we had chatted a little bit about that and said there’s even potentially that there might be a sale coming up on that. So can you talk a little bit about that for people that want to take the next step with their sponsored content?

Danielle Liss: Of course. We have a course called Get Your Price. And it’s really based on what are the different areas that you should be looking at in order to get the kind of pricing that you want, and where should you be starting those out. So the price framework is something that we go into in depth, but the one thing I’m going to tell you is the course was created in 2016. While the framework is still excellent and the other pieces are, I have to update the videos in terms of how to gather the analytics. So because of that, I’m going to be taking the course down for a little while so that I can make those updates. But, until then you can get it for a very heavily discounted price through the end of September.

Danielle Liss: So, if you want that, and the other piece of it is I am, and Bjork, you know this from our many conversations, I am a big believer in really getting in and getting to know all of your analytics so that you can have the best possible conversations. And the course does include all of the spreadsheets that I have created to help you track that, how to use those spreadsheets and how to make it easier for you.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. And we’ll include a link to that in the show notes. Also want to call out previous podcast episode we did, longer format interview, Episode 99, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/99 to check that out. And then for any Food Blogger Pro members, we also have some of the boot camps we’ve done in the past with Danielle around sponsored content and check those out as well.

Bjork Ostrom: So Danielle, thanks so much for coming on and sharing a little bit about sponsored content. I know that people have a lot of questions about it, and it was super helpful.

Danielle Liss: Thank you so much.

Bjork Ostrom: Next up, we’re going to talk to Alexa about some really interesting changes that we’re making regarding affiliate marketing on Food Blogger Pro, and how that can apply to some of the ways that you think about what you’re doing with your site or your blog.

Bjork Ostrom: Alexa, I usually give a welcome to the podcast message, but it is kind of like we are already here. If you’re in the living room, it’s not welcoming somebody in, it’s just saying, turning to each other and saying, let’s have a conversation. So, good to have you on the podcast, having a conversation, less of a welcome, just glad you’re here.

Alexa Peduzzi: You as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, thanks. So, we’re talking a lot about different monetization strategies and different angles of looking at monetization as it relates to websites or online businesses. And we actually have kind of an interesting discussion as it relates to Food Blogger Pro and monetization, and less about something we’re doing and more about something that we’re not doing. Something that we were doing before and not going to be doing moving forward. So, at a high level, can you talk a little bit about the strategy change that we’re going to be implementing over the next few months with Food Blogger Pro, and we can get into some of the why behind that?

Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, this is actually really interesting because it’s brand new. Like we haven’t really implemented this yet but we have recently discussed it and have slowly started kind of making moves towards going in this direction. But we’re actually removing affiliate links from Food Blogger Pro, and I want to make it super clear that we’re not removing the affiliate program, Food Blogger Pro, but the fact that Food Blogger Pro is an affiliate for other brands, we’re removing all of those links. And that’s for a couple different reasons.

Alexa Peduzzi: But something we were talking about before we hopped on this interview is that just, you know, different sites operate in different ways and affiliate income for Food Blogger Pro wasn’t making up a ton of end of the year income, if that makes sense. So, we have kind of decided that we want our recommendations, so whether that be on our deals page for members or on blog posts, we want to make sure that we operate with the trust of our members and our readers in mind as much as possible. So, while we like these products, and most importantly, we think that our members will like and appreciate these products, we don’t want our recommendations to kind of be tied to a monetary gain.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One thing that I love about it is it creates a great case study for stepping back and looking at the ways that you can create an income online and maybe some of the decisions that go into that, and the main kind of content that you’re producing and what happens with that content.

Bjork Ostrom: So like you said, number one, most importantly, Food Blogger Pro, it’s not like we’re saying we don’t think, we don’t stand behind affiliate marketing. We just have stepped back and said, we think Food Blogger Pro in its best version doesn’t have links where we are paid to have those links, much like in a similar way, we don’t do sponsored content and we don’t have sponsors on the podcast. And what that allows us to do then moving forward is anytime that we make a recommendation, any of the members that we have, anybody that listens to the podcast, they know that there’s no type of exchange that happens with that.

Bjork Ostrom: I think an important disclaimer that is the reason why we’re able to do that is because we do have a thing that is able to power kind of the business engine, and that is people signing up to be members of Food Blogger Pro, and really like the idea of that being super clean, not having the affiliate side of it or us acting as an affiliate for other products. And like you said though, it’s important to know, we still really believe in affiliate marketing as a super smart strategy moving forward. It just kind of gotten away a little bit for Food Blogger Pro as a membership site.

Bjork Ostrom: So an example would be, Pinch of Yum, we still have affiliate links, we’re still going to use affiliate links. And that’s because we’re publishing content for free. And the way that we monetize that is affiliate sponsored content and ads. But for Food Blogger Pro, the way we’re monetizing that as a business is with membership sites, and the value of those membership sites, it’s my belief and our belief as we’ve had conversations that the value of that will go up if we remove some of the affiliate links and just make it a little bit of an easier switch.

Bjork Ostrom: So, you had talked about this but can you explain kind of the two different sides of the affiliate coin, and even, you can use Food Blogger Pro as an example because we’re not moving forward, we’re going to be starting to remove affiliate links. But people can still be an affiliate for Food Blogger Pro. So, I think it’s important to look at this from lots of different angles. Can you talk about how we will continue to still use affiliate marketing as a part of our strategy, but not for us recommending our products but giving other people the option to recommend Food Blogger Pro through the affiliate program?

Alexa Peduzzi: For sure, yeah. So we have an affiliate program, the Food Blogger Pro affiliate program, and it is run by our wonderful affiliate manager, Jasmine. So, if you are a Food Blogger Pro affiliate, you might have already talked to her, she’s fantastic and she is in contact with you guys quite a bit, kind of talking through some strategies that you can use to promote Food Blogger Pro in order to get your income from affiliate marketing. So, kind of how this works is that you apply to the Food Blogger Pro affiliate program, and then you’re approved. And then you can promote Food Blogger Pro, on your blog, on social media, etc, and use an affiliate link. And then if somebody signs up for Food Blogger Pro, and that’s actually a really great time to be an affiliate because enrollment is open right now and it’s staying open for the future.

Bjork Ostrom: Indefinitely.

Alexa Peduzzi: Yes, thank you. And you can promote Food Blogger Pro in any of those ways using your affiliate link. And it’s just like a very, very natural sell. If you’ve had a good experience with Food Blogger Pro, if you really liked the podcast, if you love being a Food Blogger Pro member, if you found our blog posts helpful or if you learn stuff from our courses, it’s just like a really natural sell. And I feel like when you are an affiliate, that natural selling really makes an impact.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally. One of the things that I’ve learned as it relates to the affiliate space is I think the easiest way to do it and to do it well is to have the recommendation that you’re making for a thing not be about the thing itself but to be about a next step. And I think oftentimes people jump right to, we could use Food Blogger Pro as an example but it could really be for anything, jump right to like, hey, you should sign up and here’s how to sign up. But one of the things that people don’t think about as often is that it’s possible to do deep linking or to link to a resource. That would be kind of the first step for people.

Bjork Ostrom: So, instead of saying, hey, you should sign up for membership, you can say something like, hey, you should listen to this podcast or we have lots of resources that people could download and consume. And so, the interaction that you’re having isn’t saying, like, hey, sign up for this thing and then they get a commission. It’s saying, here’s something that’s super helpful and awesome if you end up down the line signing up and becoming a member. But the first step, the thing that you’re doing is actually offering something that’s helpful, that’s a resource.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s an important takeaway just across the board, affiliate marketing or not, like, as much as possible as a creator, how can you be thinking about not yourself but what you can be doing for the people that are following you. And kind of thinking about that first and then the tag along is like ooh, and awesome if there is some something that happens that I benefit from on the backside, but thinking first and foremost about what is the thing that I can be doing that is most helpful for the people that that are following along and are interested in what I’m doing.

Bjork Ostrom: So whether that be Food Blogger Pro, or any of the other products as a creator and promoter and affiliate that you’re thinking promoting. And I would encourage you to think about not just trying to get somebody to transact, but trying to think about who are the people that are following along with what you’re doing and what is the thing that you can do that would be most helpful for that person, and awesome then if you can layer in some type of affiliate link with that. A couple of disclaimers with that or a couple, not disclaimers, but a couple important things to note, number one is just including some type of messaging so people know that it’s an affiliate link. And we try and do that close to the link itself.

Bjork Ostrom: But any other thoughts that you have Alexa as you think about this or even maybe some examples for Food Blogger Pro in regards to the resources? I talked about linking to podcast, but we also have …

Alexa Peduzzi: Ebooks.

Bjork Ostrom: Ebooks and things like that that people could look through. We have one called Top 10 Mistakes that Bloggers Make and How to Fix Them. And that’s just me saying like, okay, after us doing this for 10 years, here’s the things that I see as most common that come up and issues that we see for members and people that we interact with, whether it be actual technical issues or mindset issues. But other recommendations or thoughts that you’d have kind of in that category?

Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah. So, events are another good one. We don’t have any planned for the immediate future but when we do have free events, that’s a really great way to be like, hey, go to this free thing, you can learn a ton. And if you want a little bit more, there is a Food Blogger Pro membership that you can check out as well. So, I think that’s one of my favorite ways that affiliates or to get affiliates involved I think. Just because it’s so natural, it’s something free, it’s something super valuable, and then they can take it to the next step with a membership.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup, totally. And that’s as an aside, I would say, for people who are thinking strategically about marketing, this is a little bit of a shift outside of just affiliate, but observe what other businesses they’re doing, and there’s probably a reason that they are doing those things. And for us, we’ve noticed events is a great way to build awareness, to build excitement. And it’s a great way to engage with affiliates, but also a great way for us to talk with our audience. And if you are thinking of creating something that you’d sell or thinking about strategically building your audience or your email list, look at how other people are doing events because that’s something that we’ve found to be super beneficial for the business.

Bjork Ostrom: So, just a little bit of a side note there but I think it’s important to be strategic about not only how you’re creating content, but then observing how other people are doing it and seeing if there are ways that you can do something similar for what you’re pursuing and what you’re doing.

Bjork Ostrom: Alexa, when you think about making this change, when you think about the shift, what are the ways that, so, let’s say you have a blog, you have a business that you’re building, what are some of the considerations that that you think creators should should give if they’re going to include affiliate links or not include affiliate links? And for WP Tasty as a business, we don’t use affiliate links. For Food Blogger Pro, we don’t use affiliate links. For Pinch of Yum, we do use affiliate links, and it is part of our strategy. So, as people are contemplating whether this is going to be a strategy that they implement or not, what would your recommendation be or what would some of the questions that you think people should ask as they make some of these considerations moving forward?

Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. So, immediately, what comes to mind is Food Blogger Pro podcast episode number 97. And you can find that by going to foodbloggerpro.com/97. And it’s all about filling your egg carton. So if there are other ways that you are monetizing your blog or your business, maybe you don’t need affiliate links or maybe you don’t need ads. But if you want to try to diversify your income a little bit and see what income streams really are working for you and which are beneficial for you and your readers, then affiliate income might be part of your strategy.

Alexa Peduzzi: So I think it’s like a, it’s an experiment I think, where you can experiment with them and then kind of back off if it’s not working. That’s actually what I did with ads on my site. I didn’t like how they looked, I didn’t like how they slow down my site and I just eventually was just fed up and was like, okay, I’m not going to monetize with ads and that’s okay because I am an Amazon affiliate and I am doing sponsored content. So, there are other ways that I’m making that income.

Bjork Ostrom: Yup, that’s awesome. And I think the current method, which we’ve talked about a few different times on the podcast, is a great way to think about that. It doesn’t have to be yes or no and that’s it. There’s experimentation, there’s stepping back and analyzing, saying like, okay, maybe for a time, I’m not going to do this and a little bit later on, I will. But saying, what are the different ways that I could be doing this, let’s experiment with that, see how it goes, see if I like it, see if it feels right and continually revisit that. And overtime, what you notice is not only will you fill up those different egg carton spots, but you’ll also start to understand what you are uniquely skilled at and double down on that.

Bjork Ostrom: So maybe you have a site that’s a little bit higher traffic and you can say, okay, I don’t mind ads as much, I’m going to lean into that a little bit more. That’s going to be a strategy there to implement. Maybe you, like you said, don’t like the way that ads look, it slows down your site. But you’re really good at promoting products. You have some connections with sponsored content, you can layer in some affiliate. And that becomes part of the strategy. So you have a super clean really fast site that’s a great user experience. Maybe you’re in a specific niche and that really lends itself to not ads but sponsored content and affiliate marketing. So, it’s important to think strategically about that.

Bjork Ostrom: That was one of the things we did with Food Blogger Pro, we stepped back, we said, what are the egg cartons? How do we want to be filling the spots in the egg carton for Food Blogger Pro. And we kind of said we’re going to double down on the membership side of things and we’re going to really focus in on that. And we’re actually going to remove an egg from the carton in order to try and find a bigger egg and that egg being membership site component. So getting members to sign up and the value of the membership site being greater if we remove some of the affiliate links from the site.

Bjork Ostrom: So, lots to consider, but the point, the takeaway is that even if you are able to create income in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best way for you to do it. Even if other people are doing it, doesn’t mean that you have to do it. So, think strategically about what that is. And we have done that and decided to include it in some sites and not in others. So, I would encourage you listeners to do the same and really step back and think strategically about that.

Bjork Ostrom: Anything else that you’d add here as we wrap up today’s episode, Alexa?

Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, one thing for members. If you are a member of Food Blogger Pro, we actually have a past live Q&A, so I guess it’s not live anymore. It’s just like a Q&A from last year, October of last year that I actually did with Justine, our affiliate expert on Food Blogger Pro. So if you want to check that out, if you have more questions about how affiliate marketing works, how you should disclose your links, what affiliate programs are best for food bloggers, all of that fun stuff, you can check that out by going to foodbloggerpro.com/live-affiliate. And I would just definitely suggest checking it out because it’s a really, really good conversation.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Thanks, Alexa, for chatting a little bit. We can just go into the, we can do a live outro right now. Usually I record the outro after but we can do it now. Should we do it? Our first our outro and podcast segment combination, does that sound right?

Alexa Peduzzi: 100% yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, cool. That is officially a wrap. We covered a lot on today’s episode. We talked to, a lot of the people we talked to, well, we did a little bit of a one on one here on ads and I talked through the ads. Danielle talked about sponsored content, why that’s important and then we talked about affiliate stuff here. So, a lot of important things that we covered in today’s podcast episode all about monetization.

Bjork Ostrom: If you want to subscribe, we would love that. Whatever podcast app you use, all you have to do is search food blogger Pro and there should be an option to subscribe, would encourage you to do that. Would love to have you as a member if you’re interested in becoming a part of this community and would love to hear if you have any ideas for future podcasts, we are always trying to experiment and improve. You can send us an email podcast at foodbloggerpro.com and be sure to check out the show notes today as well. Foodbloggerpro.com/218. Alexa, anything I missed? That’s the nice thing about doing it live is that I can ask you.

Alexa Peduzzi: If you want to sign up for the Food Blogger Pro affiliate program, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/affiliate. You can kind of check out how long our cookie is and how you get paid and all that fun stuff and just apply right there. And then I think that’s it.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That is a wrap. Make it a great week and thanks for listening. We can say it at the same time. Three, two, one. Make it a great week.

Alexa Peduzzi: Make it a great week.

Bjork Ostrom: Way too slow. But we’ll keep that in and that will be the official first and last time we have ever attempted to say something at the same time on a podcast.

Alexa Peduzzi: Oh yeah, never again.

Bjork Ostrom: All right, see you.

Alexa Peduzzi: All right, bye.

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