In the Spirit of Giving

Advertising is everywhere these days as we all frantically get into the Christmas spirit, and many RV and sailing blogs are posting wonderful Christmas shopping lists of fun goodies to buy for a beloved RVer or sailor. (See the bottom of this post for a few terrific shopping ideas from fellow bloggers).

In the spirit of giving, if you discover your favorite blogger has turned you on to the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for person, a wonderful way to give them a nod and say “thanks” for all the entertainment and info they have provided during the year is to buy the item right then and there online rather than running out to a store to get it later.

Why? Let me explain…

No not another blog post selling me stuff!

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What is Affiliate Marketing? It is a method for websites and blogs to review or suggest products the authors find useful and to make a commission from selling them. The most popular program is with Amazon. You can sign up to be an Amazon Affiliate here. Once Amazon approves your site, they’ll give you tools for creating things like the Amazon search box below to put on your site.

Amazon Search Box

Amazon Search Box

The way affiliate marketing works is that when someone clicks on an affiliate link on a blog, they enter the affiliate website with a “cookie” from that blog. If the reader buys something, then the blog is credited with that purchase, and depending on the affiliate, the blogger may receive a commission. Amazon explains the details of their fee schedule here. There are strict guidelines that bloggers must follow, and each affiliate marketer has a different contract.

Amazon’s Operations Agreement for Affiliates is here.

Of course, the reports the blogger sees from various affiliates vary, and for privacy purposes, the information about the person making the purchase is never revealed. Only the products and services purchased go into the reports.  With that in mind, whenever I discover a cool product on a blog and buy it through their site, I drop the blogger a line to let them know I love their blog and that they inspired me to make a purchase.

As a blogger, it is a true thrill to find out that someone actually bought something, even if it is a 99 cent item! 

The first time we made a purchase through a website’s affilate links was in 2007 when we dropped some money on our Nikon D40 cameras before we started traveling (today’s equivalent camera, although far superior, is the Nikon D3300). Ken Rockwell had the best photography gear website at the time, and it helped us immensely in choosing what to buy. We were thrilled to correspond with Ken and, of course, he was very receptive to our many questions about how to operate the darn things when he knew we’d followed his product recommendations and bought our cameras through his site.

Is an RV or sailing blog a good way to make money? Heavens no! You can make FAR more money per hour by picking up any kind of minimum wage part-time job on the road or by work camping. Even if you volunteer your time in exchange for a free site at an RV park or campground, you will make more per hour of effort than by blogging.

So why do bloggers do this? Most bloggers become Amazon affiliates to help defray their blogging costs and hopefully earn a beer or two every now and then.

Everyone creates their blog for different reasons and with a different audience in mind. Rather than setting out to make money, most bloggers do what they do because they are excited to teach people what they’ve learned and to share their experiences. From offering tips about RV parks and campgrounds, to giving pointers for how to tackle certain repairs or upgrades, to venting and laughing about mishaps on the road, to simply sharing photos and travel guides for beautiful places, most bloggers do it out of a passion for their subject and to keep family and friends abreast of their travels.

I write my blog for those who dream of traveling but aren’t in a position to do it at the moment and for those who are planning their future escape. My intent is to inspire, to motivate and to offer a ray of hope that a fun life of adventure is achievable, once you are ready to go.

For years, I was stuck in a windowless cubicle in an office. I sat in miserable rush hour traffic, and I dreamed of a different life. The stories written by other travelers helped me keep my travel dreams alive. When I was finally within striking distance of running away, the handful of websites that shared details of how to do it (there weren’t very many back in 2005-06) were invaluable.

I blog now to pass on that gift. It also helps me process and crystallize my precious memories of all the incredible experiences we’ve had in this wonderful lifestyle.

How do you start a blog? The easiest way is to use either WordPress.com or Blogger, as they are designed for beginners and there is technical help available. Many of the most popular RV and sailing blogs were started on these platforms and had huge followings before they migrated to a self-hosted site using WordPress.org, which is technically more challenging but is much more flexible.

So where are those cool Christmas shopping lists I mentioned? Here you go:

Happy Christmas shopping, everyone, and enjoy these upcoming weeks of holiday preparations!

 

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2 thoughts on “In the Spirit of Giving

  1. Emily, As always you talk so much sense. As bloggers we try and write good stories or keep people informed or amused and it does cost us. We have no links on our site and have never made a penny from it but on sites with Amazon on them clicking through gives the site a very small income with no cost to the reader. As you say it is a way of saying thanks which means so much.

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