When Affiliate Marketers Shove Promo Links In A Blog Post Like They’re Stuffing A Turkey

Link stuffing can backfire on your blogging and marketing

Blogging and overzealous affiliate marketers can be an annoying combo.

I’ve seen them. You’ve seen them. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen them. The commission-driven, unattractive, undesirable blog posts stuffed and plump with affiliate links.

Talk about a prime time to put your cringe on and your cursor on the “x” to click away!

I get it, affiliate marketers. I really do.

You’re blogging to create sales from all the lovely items you’re peddling and promoting in partnership with the rightful owners.

Like the rest of us, you want to make some dough and cash in on your marketing efforts.

There’s not a blinking thing wrong with that goal EXCEPT

Do you think maybe, just maybe, it’s a better idea (a gentler and more digestible approach) to promote one, possibly two, items per post instead of a hefty bowl full?

Affiliate link after affiliate link after affiliate link is, well, not cool. You’re coming across as sales-y, pushy, and quite honestly, desperate.

Maybe you think we don’t notice what’s going on.

Here’s a newsflash:

You’re making it blatantly obvious. So please stop it. You’re giving blogging and affiliate marketing a bad name.

Some of the biggest offenders are affiliates for kitchen gadgets, workout videos and exercise equipment, books, electronics, cosmetics, and everything on earth related to infants and pets.

Most of us have been around the blogging block more than twice and we can smell a promotional link a mile away. Yes, we’re that good.

We welcome the pleasant aroma of one or two affiliate links but twenty-two really stink.

Instead of shoving affiliate links in till your posts burst at the seams, blow up, and spew debris over the rest of us:

1.) Share a case study.

Write about someone who’s put a product or service you’re promoting to the test. Be honest and thorough. Talk about the positives, negatives, and the end result. Include a testimonial. And please make sure it’s one that can be verified. Having your brother write a testimonial is … uh … not going to be convincing.

2.) Pick a product or service and share “why” you chose to promote it.

What’s the reason you wanted to partner with the owner/creator? What attracted you to this particular offering? For crying out loud, make certain you can speak with integrity and claim YOU actually spent money on this product or service and took it for a test drive yourself.

3.) Tell a story.

Everyone leans in on a good story and storytelling for business will never go out of style. Truth is, storytelling pays. Be creative in developing a storyline. What character from a Disney movie or sci-fi adventure can you use as the villain in your story? What fairytale or fantasy comes to mind in relationship to an item you’re promoting? How can you make your customer the hero of your story? Build on that.

4.) Interview a product creator or service provider.

Craft a short list of questions and have your interviewee answer those questions in a blog post. Share a product demonstration video. Record an audio interview and upload it to your blog. Design an infographic depicting little-known aspects, all the moving parts, or behind-the-scenes development phases of a product or service. Post interviews as SlideShare presentations or Haiku Decks. Interviews boost your credibility and increase the familiarity factor.

5.) Showcase happy buyers and/or ideal customers.

Ask your buyers to send you photos or short video clips using the physical products they’ve purchased. Selling books? Have fun and ask people to find an interesting or unusual locale to take a photo holding the book. Make it a contest to see who comes up with the zaniest or most unique photo. Selling kitchen gadgets? (I’ll let you fill in the blanks) Take the photos or videos and turn them into Pinterest graphics. Create a board devoted to satisfied buyers and/or your ideal customers and share your board on your blog and on social media. Make customers, not sales, your main focus.

Blogging and affiliate marketing can be complementary ingredients in your cookbook for success.

So affiliate marketers, stop stuffing turkeys and start crafting link-lean blog posts worth savoring. You’ll earn more commissions and we’ll put our cringe back on the shelf.

Next stop? Mission: Storytelling.

The New Year is bright with all sorts of new ideas, but in certain circles there’s still plenty of shady tricks and underhanded practices that we think should be called out. This month’s word carnival: Dirty Deeds and Due Diligence – what to watch out for in 2015!


Three Business Bloggers Go Into a Bar: The Punch Line on Copy Editing

Good grammar makes good business sense

Let me introduce three biz blogging buddies who meet up at a posh bar for a night on the town:

  • One just hired a professional copy editor.
  • One shoots from the hip – proofreads and edits every bit of her own copy.
  • And one is in the fuzzy zone – not sure which approach is right for her.

All three order a Midori Sour and share a platter of hors d’oeuvres. (I could have said “appetizers” but this bar is upscale, baby! After all, we business bloggers deserve the very finest in décor and cuisine.)

Remarks about people who point out grammatical errors in their posts, e-books, email marketing messages, and sales pages ramp up the evening’s conversation.

Seems there’s no shortage of stories on grammar gone bad.

If you’re waiting for the rest of the joke and a zinger punch line, I’m sorry.

There’s just nothing funny about copy editing. {Tweet Me}

Call it a quirk, call it a curse, or call it an asset. You decide.

But every misspelled word, misused word, slice of sloppy syntax, and sentence minus proper punctuation jumps off the page at me – every single time.

I’d bet my two dogs AND my piano I’m not the only person on the web with discerning eyes (and a seventh grade language arts teacher who cracked the whip).

Other people notice these boo-boos, too – like your email subscribers, fans and followers, prospects, and blog readers. You know, the folks you’re trying to build vibrant relationships with and hoping to secure business with some day.

Always presume a chunk of that population stands proud on the Grammar Police force … and graduated with honors.

From your audience’s perspective:

A lack of editing skills can mean the difference between pulling out their credit cards and pulling the plug on working with you. {Tweet Me}

Ew. Ouch. That second option really bites. And it bites hard.

The kingdom of content marketing is rife with writing errors – mistakes that make you look like you don’t know shit from Shinola.


This past week I received an email newsletter that contained the word, “annunciate”, which means “to announce something”. What the sender meant to write was “enunciate”, which means “to say or pronounce clearly”.

Using the wrong word totally botched the point she was trying to make. Worse yet, the needle dropped on her credibility meter … instantly. I mean, c’mon. Like she doesn’t have access to a dictionary?

No big deal, you say? Who really gives a hoot about spelling and punctuation and the slippery slope of sentence structure??

Well, if you want someone to book a consultation, subscribe to your list (or stay on your list!), attend your workshops, devour and share your posts, buy a ticket to your biz retreat, join your online community, or refer you to others, hopefully YOU give a hoot.

Caring enough to communicate clearly, concisely, and competently gives you a leg up with your “right people”. It helps your relationship with them blossom, beautifully, by boosting the trust factor and cementing respect.

Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, the largest online repair community, has this to say:

“Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in emails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.”

In his article on Harvard Business Review, Kyle went on to say “Good grammar makes good business sense.”

It’s pretty tough to argue that point.

So let me ask you this:

Are you shooting from the [proofreading and editing] hip? Or are you at least getting a second pair of eyes on your copy before hitting the publish button?

If you’re thinking about hiring a copy editor, what’s your biggest deal breaker?

Next stop:

Jekyll & Hyde scenarios are the main attraction for this month’s Mission: Storytelling, a word carnival for small business owners. Virtual admission and amusement rides are free!

Your Hangover Was Not Epic. Not Epic At All.

misuse and overuse of epicThat pizza was epic!

The after-prom party was epic.

Epic sex.


I would love to get on my soapbox and tell people as a matter of fact the word doesn’t mean what they think it means – mostly due to my personal annoyance with its overuse, but I doubt I have a leg (or a soapbox) to stand on.

Let me know if you agree with this:

Overuse = Meaningless

(Think: That song you hear on the radio that’s played into the ground)

Any effort on my part to clear this matter up would be an epic fail. (See what I did there?) Put the two words together and you have a meaningless catch phrase.

Fail is a verb. Failure is a noun. Fail cannot be epic.

Did you know that “epic” made Dictionary [dot] com’s list of “The Worst Words of 2012”? (Made the same list the three prior years) It was also voted one of “7 Annoying Words That Should Die A Horrible Death” by 101books [dot] net.

Yet “epic” refuses to be banished. {Click to Tweet}

Fizzle published a post earlier this year entitled, “Write Epic Shit”. I’d like to tell the author/s of Fizzle I don’t write “shit”, let alone epic shit.

Pinterest is a breeding ground for “epic”. You can pin any number of artful versions of “Do Epic Shit”.

Misuse and overuse of epic

Like what?!

Discover the fountain of youth? Take a vacation in a parallel universe? Find the cure for the common cold? Put a stop to all the wars?

Want some examples of what’s EPIC?

Oceans.The Cosmos. Beowulf (Takes most people a few days to read the oldest surviving epic poem of Old English, consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines). Ernest Shackleton and his crew surviving their Antarctic voyage.

I’m sure you get my drift. I mean, really. Let’s be honest.

Have you ever met another human being who’s done anything truly epic? I haven’t. And I hang out with some exceptionally smart cookies whose brilliance and creativity is unsurpassed.

And while we’re on the subject of misused and overused words:

Ditto for at the end of the day and the grand champion, awesome. Oy!

I don’t generally encourage readers to leave my blog but today is an exception. If you’re a small biz builder or word nerd, like me, sprint over to Mission: Storytelling. This month’s word carnival is exploring jibber-jabber nonsense words that have come to be a nuisance for legitimate business people and the elixir of life for the more unscrupulous snake oil salesmen in our midst.

Deepen Your Online Relationships: Send a Smile in a Box

Mission Storytelling collage

Just for fun, click the image above. (For the biggest impact and to see everyone’s mug up close, open in full screen)

It’s a collage I created in under ten minutes on Smilebox. I chose a design, uploaded some photos, added text and background music and — Voila! My creation was ready to be shared.

No kidding. It really is that simple.

In case you’re wondering, there’s a free version and a premium version. An annual premium membership equates to about $4/month.

Smilebox LogoInstead of elaborating on all the spiffy features of Smilebox (because I know all you wise owls and smarty pants can do that for yourselves), I want to go a different route.

Let’s Talk Relationship Building Online

It’s not easy, is it?

The number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers you have may be in the thousands by now. Maybe you’ve been added to hundreds of circles on Google Plus and you’ve joined a mountain of business groups on LinkedIn.

And chances are great these days you’re pinning like crazy on Pinterest or adding installments to Instagram like there’s no tomorrow.

Splendid … but superfluous.

What am I getting at here?

The FB “Likes” don’t matter. A gazillion peeps don’t matter. Link-up parties don’t matter. Endless noisy chatter on Twitter doesn’t matter. Blogging seven days a week doesn’t matter.

An ensemble of cat memes doesn’t matter – for sure!

The numbers don’t matter. People matter. {Tweet This}

Tried a little tenderness lately? It works.

We Don’t Need To Start A Revolution

We just need to do our part to stop the madness.

We need to find better ways to develop and nurture online relationships. {Tweet This}

Before enrolling in the Annenberg School of Communications at USC, I asked my oldest daughter “why” she chose to pursue this field. She indignantly and vehemently replied, “Mom! Communications is EVERYTHING in life!!”

Wow. That was an unforgettable (and fervently animated!) moment – a moment and message that’s stuck with me ever since. She made her point. What’s more, I agree.

Consistent, clear, caring, and compassionate communication needs to be the focus in building relationships online. I joined a free 30-day challenge, aptly named, “Bloom Your Online Relationships”, to do my part to stop the incessant madness. Take a minute and check it out.

We need to have “real” encounters online … not countless numbers of shallow exchanges. {Tweet This}

Starting today, forget about spending precious time amassing a larger following. Explore the network you’ve already created and work to deepen those relationships.

I bet a Smilebox would brighten someone’s day!

Go ahead. Create a quick greeting, a note of thanks, a simple “Hello, I’m thinking of you”, an invitation to virtual coffee, a slideshow, a poem, a video, a collage of inspirational quotes – whatever floats your boat.

And then see what happens. That’s the fun part.

There’s Plenty More Where This Came From

Dash over to Mission: Storytelling, a monthly word carnival for small biz owners, to discover more tools (for UNDER $10/month) that you can put into action right away. No panaceas, just great tools that work well.

Random Acts of Serendipitous Marketing: A Trip in the Time Machine

time machine

You know those folks you cross paths with online whom you instantly “feel” a connection? Like in a heartbeat?!

The people you can’t wait to network with, can’t wait to read their next blog post, can’t wait to find out more about, can’t wait to receive their newsletter, and can’t wait to meet in person?

Yeah, those people.

The truly priceless connections, kindred spirits, and solid bonds you form online; the email lists you actually want to be on!

Bet you’ve stumbled on more than a dozen of these fabulous keepers, serendipitously, along the internet highway.

You haven’t spoken one word to them (yet) but your intuition assures you they’re going to become long time cherished connections – forever friends and colleagues. You can feel it in your bones, from your head to your toes.

Stick with me and I’ll tell you what all this has to do with marketing.

Boarding the Time Machine to Travel Back a Decade

I’m a people person … period.

I love to exchange ideas, engage in lively conversations, lend inspiration and encouragement, share remarkable stories, problem solve, walk my talk, and nurture meaningful relationships.

So when I came online and started blogging (back in the dinosaur days), I had NO idea sharing other bloggers’ posts, virtual events, social media updates, book releases, dynamite freebies, product launches, etc., was a form of “marketing”.

Who knew?!

Yep. I was marketing my little heart out by showcasing the lovely gems I uncovered while mining the mighty blogosphere. I didn’t grasp it at the time, but I was hard and heavy into honing my online visibility skills.

One goal was clear: Bringing the little known and unknown bloggers (those magnificent hidden diamonds in the rough) to the forefront.

Singing praises is my ‘thing’.

Need a biz cheer leader? Looking for a trusty blog ambassador? Want to get the word out about your upcoming event? Count on me. I’m a whiz at tooting horns.

When I see good work, good writing, good branding, and good deeds, I can’t help but shift into sharing mode. It makes me giddy to put deserving, hard-working solopreneurs in the spotlight.

And you know what usually happens? They reciprocate. (Read that again and you’ll sense the magnitude and the ripple effect of sharing.)

I recommended and promoted people, products, events, and services for a long time before I realized I was, in fact, helping small business owners with their marketing efforts.

Let’s just call it “Serendipitous Marketing”.

I didn’t seek out anyone in particular during those early years or any specific type of business or blog. Where I landed was a pure and simple case of sheer happenstance and serendipity at play.

The Almighty Universe can take full credit for being my guide.

Today I’m in the company of a beautiful network of some of the coolest and most creative solopreneurs and biz bloggers on the net.

Ooh! I’m blessed.

Nothing Has Changed: Still Promoting the Underdogs

The trip in the time machine was a fun nostalgic adventure but let’s fast forward to the present time.

I’m still doing it – marketing serendipitously.

Oh, I have my “regulars” whose online visibility I won’t hesitate to boost. I’ll never leave them in the dust. They’re on my hit parade for keeps. Whatever they’re writing or marketing goes right to the top of my priority list for sharing.

However (and thank goodness), my sacred guide is still working to direct me to new connections all the time.

Throughout my uncanny (I-didn’t-know-I-was-marketing) journey, I gleaned a much tighter grip on what marketing is all about along with the added perk of understanding the kinds of people my soul is attracted to.

I like quirky people.

The black sheep. The wallflowers. The outcasts. The loners. The rejects. The eccentric. The broken. The lost and forgotten. The odd ducks.

And why not?!

I’ve got a few quirks of my own. <grin>

But I’m not too quirky or too proud to admit I was flexing and strengthening my marketing muscles long before I could even define marketing.

It’s Your Turn

Do you have a [marketing-before-you-knew-the-meaning-of-the-word] story to share? Plunk that tale in the comment box! Make my day. I would love to hear it.

Next step: Don’t let the party end. Head over to this month’s Mission: Storytelling word carnival to read more on “How I marketed before I even knew what marketing was”. (A.K.A. “Marketing without marketing”)

Image credit: Pixabay

Value Tastes Better Than Price: A Tale of Eating Out and Eating In

Greek saladYour colleague, Michelle, places great worth in dining at an upscale restaurant every Saturday night while your best friend, Nick, prefers home-cooked meals, exclusively, and finds no value in eating out.

The value prospects find in a product or service can vary, enormously, from one person to the next.

The magic happens when you market your value to your “right” people.

It’s most likely costing Michelle a lot more for her Saturday night meals than Nick but she values every detail that encompasses the experience of enjoying a meal fit for royalty. She treasures the ambiance, entertainment, fine wine, variety of gourmet selections, exquisite table settings, personal service, and decadent desserts.

Getting dressed up on the weekend and heading out for some fine dining and great entertainment is very much a part of Michelle’s lifestyle.

Upscale pricing isn’t a concern.

She’s forking out the big bucks for what she desires – the experience.

Enter the Small Business Owner (You)

What can you learn from Michelle’s and Nick’s preferences that will help you market your value and not your price?

No doubt, how you price your products or services is important. I’m not suggesting you discount or ignore the dollars and cents of profit and loss.

However …

If you focus on pricing as the only deal breaker, you’ll be traveling the quickest route to breaking your business. {Tweet this}

Prospects always want to know, “What’s in it for me?” “Why should I buy from you?” “In what ways is your offer valuable to me?”

The kinds of dining experiences Michelle and Nick value are very different.

Michelle is checking online to see if the hottest band is in town this weekend and performing at one of her favorite restaurants. Nick, on the other hand, is perusing ads in search of local farmers’ markets happening on Saturday. He’s hoping to land some fresh organic produce for his weekend meals.

Value: The Main Ingredient in Your Marketing Dish

The best place to begin to understand “how” to market your value (in lieu of your price) is to create an Ideal Customer Persona. Get into the heads of your target audience and get specific knowledge about them.

Dig really deep.

Michelle is a consumer who:

1.)  Is in her mid 20’s

2.)  Enjoys being in social settings

3.)  Loves music and other forms of entertainment

4.)  Appreciates the finer things in life

5.)  Works in a corporate setting and eats all her lunches out

6.)  Has discretionary income and loves to buy special occasion gifts for everyone in her circle of friends and family

7.)  Is vivacious and fun-loving; the life of the party

8.)  Is single and dating

9.)  Frequents local upscale venues for dates and outings with her friends

Nick occupies a different spot on the spectrum. He’s a consumer who is:

1.)  In his early 30’s

2.)  Happily married

3.)  Enamored with fantasy, science fiction, and all things geeky

4.)  The father of triplets

5.)  Budget-conscious and a good saver

6.)  A self-employed small business owner

7.)  A trainer and public speaking ace

8.)  A creative and quick thinker who appreciates people with a good sense of humor and sharp wit

9.)  Health conscious, prefers organic foods, and loves to cook

Michelle is a big spender who has the means to support her out-on-the-town lifestyle while Nick is a family man who needs to watch his pennies. They both enjoy tasty well-prepared meals but one is eating out and the other is eating in.

As a single woman, Michelle is not financially responsible for anyone but herself. Nick is saving up to put triplets through college some day. (Yikes!)

This is just the beginning of creating ideal customer personas for Michelle and Nick.

To dig even deeper, we could explore areas such as pets, favorite sports teams, hobbies, locale, favorite movies or books, special interests, and causes or charities they support.

Please Show Me the Way

You may be thinking, “This is all well and good, Melanie, but how do I uncover what’s valuable to prospective buyers? If price won’t seal the deal, what will it take to show my value?”

So glad you asked.

Now go and ask them!!

I’m serious. That’s the only way you’re going to find out exactly what your target audience values (Unless, of course, you’re a mind reader.)

  • Post questions on social media channels.
  • Encourage feedback on your blog.
  • Send a survey to your email subscribers. Be specific and keep it short. Offer a small perk for completing your survey.
  • Follow up with your current customers or clients and ask them to share what they value most about doing business with you. Then post those testimonials on your web pages.
  • Invite your target audience (and/or your colleagues; others in your niche) to brainstorming sessions. Rely on Skype or G+ Hangouts or explore online brainstorming and collaboration tools.
  • Use reverse thinking. Ask people why they “wouldn’t” buy from you? What’s the missing ingredient for them? Why do they not find value in your offerings? And what would it take to convert them into buyers?
  • Include the features (cold hard facts) of what you’re marketing, for sure, but REALLY HONE IN on the benefits (e.g. easier access; no appointment needed; faster turnaround; simpler process; quicker results; proven strategies; open all night; backed by research; stress-free assembly; 24-hour customer service; makes your skin look radiant, etc.). Ask people which benefits they value most and why. Use that feedback to improve your sales pages, blog posts, and landing pages.

Become a value-laden marketer, not a price-pitching salesperson. {Tweet this}

The bottom line: Gathering as many details as possible about your target audience will help you market your value and give your customers or clients precisely what they desire.

Lay some feedback on me

Do you have a tip for small business owners to help them market their value?

My fellow small biz blogging buddies have some fab tales to share with you in the month’s Mission: Storytelling. Grab a cuppa and head over to “Value and Price: What’s Your Work Worth?”