UPDATE: At the time of the podcast recording, Cassie’s blog was called Back to Her Roots. Since this recording, she has rebranded to Wholefully.
Cassie Johnston is one of our clients and runs the popular blog, Wholefully. Cassie lives on a small hobby farm in southern Indiana, and she blogs about cooking healthy food, playing in the garden, wrangling chickens, and enjoying the not-always-simple country life.
She’s a genius when it comes to Amazon affiliate marketing and she gets a ton of Pinterest traffic. So I wanted to to dig into how she is monetizing her site using Amazon affiliate sales. Many bloggers aren’t tapping into the income potential from affiliate links built naturally into their blog posts. My hope is that you’ll take away a practical piece of information that you can put into action helping you get started on the monetization journey.
How to Maintain Consistency in Your Brand
Cassie began blogging in August of 2010 as a health and wellness blogger, and after a while, she realized that she was very passionate about food! She enjoyed all aspects of food blogging; from growing the food, to recipe development, to cooking, to photographing the final results.
After a childhood filled with playing in the garden, growing their own food, and cooking wholesome meals with her parents- having her own space to grow foods, develop recipes that use that food, and writing about it all, has helped her to get back to that healthier version of herself from childhood.
Keeping her overall theme of healthy living the same, while still narrowing down into a tighter niche as a dedicated food blogger, means that Cassie did not need to re-brand. She was also smart enough to capture her original brand in all the social media platforms from the beginning.
While Cassie was an early adopter of Pinterest, it was all for fun. But a couple of years in, she realized that it was going to be huge for her blog. 2016 had been a year of explosive growth for her site, and it all began when she asked herself one question:
How can I be supremely helpful?
When she first started blogging, Cassie only wanted to write about topics that were of interest to her. Changing that mindset has brought tremendous growth.
Readers appreciate quality, helpful content. They share that content, they engage with it, and they are more than willing to use affiliate links within that content. Quality posts that help readers solve problems go viral naturally, because people are happy to share things that have helped them.
It’s not just a cliche’ that content is king; if you aren’t publishing great content, your blog will die.
Blogging in this way has not been easy, and it has not been quick. Cassie spends several hours writing each post; from content creation to recipe development, to preparing the food and then photographing it. Only when she is certain that a post is as “supremely helpful” as it can be, does she hit “Publish.”
Attention Grabbing Photos
Cassie is known for creating very specific, branded images. Her skill in photography, along with her use of text overlays and typography, make for an extremely recognizable type of photo. One of her photos, this strawberry mint water, has been “borrowed” so many times that Cassie has lost count.
Another of her posts, “8 Staple Smoothies You Should Know How to Make”, was picked up by Pinterest for their Top 100 of 2016 list. Take a look at this gorgeous photo
For even more examples of Cassie’s gorgeous photos, check out her Instagram account!
Turning A Post into A Series
That smoothie post was the first one where Cassie really put into place her new strategy of being supremely helpful. After polling her audience to find out their specific needs, she decided to address the novice foodies. Realizing that not everyone automatically knows how to make a simple smoothie, or even knows what kind of ingredients to purchase, she wanted to write a post that would give some very straight-to-the-point help.
She was very strategic in her timing of this post as well. She published it mid-December, when “Christmas cookie burn-out” is a real thing, and folks are looking for some healthier options. That post went viral pretty quickly, and led to a series of “8 Easy…” posts.
Cassie is adamant about the need to invest the hours necessary to craft a post that will truly be supremely helpful. Her “8 Easy…” posts are the result of many hours of work. She typically blocks out an entire day just for the photography, an entire day for the writing, ideation, etc. The response from her audience has been huge, because people are simply thankful to have someone sharing real, doable ideas for healthier living.
Monetizing Your Pinterest Traffic
For the first few years that she blogged, Cassie thought you had to be a “big name blogger” to make any kind of real money from blogging. She was just having fun, and bringing home around $400 a month. But when her husband was laid off from work right after their baby was born, she knew it was time to figure out how to make a real go of it.
When her baby was about 3 months old, Cassie wrote a post on the 9 most helpful things to have for a newborn. As an afterthought, she threw some Amazon links in there; she was shocked after a month to check her Amazon account and see that she had earned $150 in affiliate sales!
There is a way to include affiliate links, in an authentic way, that is still being supremely helpful to your readers.
At this point, she knew she needed to come up with a system. And her system was simple – Ask the reader. She began to take notice of the questions her readers asked her, what they wanted recommendations for, and how they responded to previous posts she had published. For example, if she had a previous post on a slow-cooker soup recipe, and she had a few requests for which slow-cooker she used, that was a natural place for an Amazon affiliate link.
Because she had gained the trust of her readers, they wanted her advice and recommendations, and were very willing to use her affiliate links.
Cassie also had a plug-in created to make linking to your Amazon affiliate page easier. It is called Amazon Simple Admin, and it supplies you with everything you need to include your affiliate information for specific products right into your blog posts. It takes the fuss out of using your affiliate links; and let’s face it, the easier it is, the more you’re likely to do it!
If you’re thinking that you don’t have enough products in your posts to link to, don’t worry. If someone clicks on one of your affiliate links to Amazon, anything they purchase through that link for the next 24 hours is credited to your account! 4-6% might not sound like much, but if a person purchases a $2000 treadmill, it really adds up. And yes, that actually happened to Cassie!!
Your whole goal is to get someone into Amazon through your link.
Cassie went back through all of her previously published posts and added a minimum of three Amazon affiliate links to her content, as long as they fit naturally. When looking back on those posts, she noticed so many places that she could have placed links, but just didn’t. Keep in mind that people forget things, so don’t be afraid to link to a product every single time you post about it. Not only do people forget, but if you are getting new traffic on a regular basis, those new readers don’t know which products you love and have linked to in the past.
Tips for Affiliate Newbies
- Disclose and explain. You need to be very transparent with your readers; always disclose when you are using affiliate links.
- Give personal recommendations. Your readers trust you and they want your recommendations. Embrace that. Use your influence for your readers’ good.
- Be authentic. Your readers are real people spending their own real hard-earned money. Only recommend what you love and actually use.
- Blanket your blog with links. Add affiliate links everywhere it makes sense to do so.
Cast the widest net possible…if people are going to buy something from Amazon, you want them to buy it through your affiliate link.
*If you live in a state that prohibits the use of Amazon affiliate sales, then you need to figure out which companies or products you truly want to promote, and just go with those.
Some advice on how to protect your income. Don’t rely on any one source of income. Businesses change, fail, or make new rules every day. Don’t let your entire income be dependent on one company; even a company as large and successful as Amazon. Diversify your income.
Update your content on a regular basis; make every post on your blog as great as it can be.
Make sure you follow Cassie on:
Now it’s your turn to take action.
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