Thinking About Starting Your OWN Blog? If YOU'D like to learn how to make money blogging with affiliate marketing like I do, feel free to read my Free Blogging 101 E-Course here.
Help For Bloggers | Get Daily Pinterest Tips
Get Free Training, TWO Free Blogs, and Free Tools
This post just might turn out to be a little “mini rant” because it’s a topic that gets me all fired up – and it has for YEARS.
But I promise, I have a point and a very important message for you to take away from this post.
Here’s the statement/advice/words of “wisdom” I have seen shared by others for years and years now when it comes to building an online business…
If you don’t own it, they can take it all away from you!!!”
And then the murmurs start from those with a good bit of online internet marketing years under their belt….
“Yep… remember what happened with Squidoo… awful… folks lost everything… you gotta own your own site…”
Oh dear goodness gracious bless my heart give me strength….
Every time I turn around these days as I travel the internet, people ARE building their online businesses on FREE resources and platforms.
But they don’t even realize it.
Now, I’m not being mean about the past Squidoo situation, ok? I also lost my pages there as well.
While I didn’t lose anything near “everything” as far as my online business goes, I had loss, too.
It was just darn sad. It was a fun, free site to work on and it worked REALLY well while it worked.
And wow, at the amazing people I met from my time on Squidoo.
And oh my, the LESSONS learned – priceless.
What I DO want to talk about is this whole misconception that “free is bad”
It all started way back in about 2007 – 2008 or so in the good ol’ Warrior Forum.
Now, I’m the kind of online marketer that “pops the hood” on every tool, website, resource, etc that I use so I can learn to use it in the best way possible for my business.
As that time, I was doing a lot on Squidoo (a now offline free-to-use site where anyone could make free web pages with their affiliate links included – that was MAGICAL back then).
I was also doing very well with Squidoo pages.
Back then, if someone asked a question about doing better with Squidoo in the Warrior Forum, I would do my best to answer and help.
Each and EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. someone would say in the thread:
“Oh my gosh! Don’t use Squidoo! It’s FREE – you don’t own it or control it!”
translation: only losers use free resources for their online business. Color me Loser, lol!
There is this whole misconception that if you OWN your domain name and pay for your website hosting, that you’re covered – you’re safe from loss.
But THEN, one goes out and monetizes with Amazon’s affiliate program…. and with Google’s Adsense ads… and gets all their traffic from Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon etc etc etc.
What do ALL those things have in common?
Yep, they’re all FREE to use.
As I’ve been doing even MORE deep research into Pinterest, I have noticed SO many bloggers that are virtually 100% dependent on their FREE traffic from Pinterest to earn money from their Ad Networks (also free to use) and from their various affiliate programs (also FREE).
Is that NOT “building a business on FREE”??!?!!?
To me, that is terrifying.
One little tweak by Pinterest and BAM, it’s all gone.
Heck, just yesterday the Pinterest site was down for awhile.
Yep, totally OFFLINE.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such PANIC from other online marketers.
But heck, if you’re getting 50,000 page views a DAY from Pinterest, and there are 1,440 minutes in a day, that could certainly hurt if Pinterest is down and not sending traffic to your site for just an hour, right?
That’s an hours worth of no ad clicks, no affiliate link clicks/sales, no email list sign ups… nothing.
But the bigger panic was – what if Pinterest was gone for GOOD?
If tomorrow, the Pinterest powers-that-be said:
“Hey, we sold the Pinterest site and they’re closing it down! Sorry! But thanks for your time!”
Do you think that would cause serious issue for a good many bloggers?
Yes, sadly it would.
I can already smell the bitterness, the anger… the loss.
Thankfully, I see a LOT of them building their email lists.
(btw, that’s the only traffic you really have any control over – unless you’re paying for traffic, your free traffic sources can be gone, or taken from you, in the blink of an eye.)
Or, another all-too-common and horrifying story of BIG earners getting kicked out of the (free) Amazon affiliate program when that is ALL they focus on.
Just like that, POOF, it’s all gone.
Nothing about “OWNING” your own website makes a darn bit of difference there, does it?
Have I Terrified You Yet?
If so, I’m sorry, I’m not trying to TERRIFY you… I want your attention.
I want you to think… and plan…and be mindful of what’s best for YOU –
and most of all:
I want you to DIVERSIFY.
Do I think other online marketers should “own” at least one website?
Yes, I absolutely do – we bloggers all need a home base where we make the rules.
But it does NOT stop there.
If there is a free-to-use platform that works well, you bet your bippy I’m going to use it.
I’ll use any free-to-use platform that works for me.
My online business is not built on any ONE thing – free or not.
I have always diversified my places to build web pages – I’ll take all the exposure, engagement, search engine rankings, and sales I can get – won’t you?
My mantra has always been:
Be everywhere – and use everything that works.
Same for My Online Revenue Streams
I adore the Amazon affiliate program – it’s the easiest program of all because Amazon is the undisputed King of converting site visitors to sales.
But that is NOT the only stream of income my online business has.
The Amazon affiliate program is free to use… in other words, it’s FREE MONEY.
If that’s all you focus on, you’re building your business on FREE.
(note: if you’re NEW to all this, you have to start somewhere good to learn and Amazon is a great program to start earning with while you learn how to make great money online. Once you have that rolling, THEN diversify and grow.)
And What About FREE Traffic Sources? Do You Use Those?
I’m having a BLAST with Pinterest – the traffic I’ve learned how to get from Pinterest is mind-blowing.
Easiest FREE traffic EVER!
I can absolutely understand why some would build their entire business based on that free platform.
And not just for traffic!
Heck, we’ve got Pinterest tools, and Pinterest consultants, and Pinterest Management Services, and Pinterest courses (guilty on that one…lol! I teach my Pinterest strategy here.) – all risking EVERYTHING on that one free-to-use website.
I just don’t have the you-know-whats to do that.
I LOVE me some Pinterest…. BUT – that is NOT the only source of traffic I work on for my sites and web pages.
I like lots of web pages on lots of sites with lots of streams of income from lots of sources with traffic coming from multiple sources.
Whether anything is “free” or not, does not even cross my mind.
Whether it WORKS or not – now, THAT crosses my mind =)
Free is GOOD – but I also know “free” does NOT last forever.
Rules change, sites go down, sites get sold, algorithms change – that’s how it rolls online.
Your online business is better off, and YOU are better off, if you accept that free won’t work forever and always work with that in mind.
If Pinterest goes offline forever tomorrow – will you be ok?
If Amazon kicks you out of their affiliate program, will your online business be ok?
If Google tanks your site and you no longer rank for anything, will your business be ok?
If Facebook deletes your Page or Group – will you be ok with your other resources?
When it comes to free platforms and free resources, it’s not a matter of whether it’s “fair” or not if you lose that resource.
They can do whatever they want – whenever they want.
They OWE you nothing – they owe ME nothing.
It’s THEIR business. their site, THEIR rules – you paid nothing for the traffic/sales/etc you’ve been getting from them, right?
But now, they’re done with you – or done with that site – whatever, but you’re out.
Thanks for playing.
This is a breaking point for many in our business – you get those moments of choice:
Do I get Bitter – or BETTER?
Be Sure To Look at the Big Picture
At the end of the day, EVERY free-to-use resource or income stream we use is NOT letting us get traffic/make money from them out of the kindness of their heart or because we’re entitled to it.
They allow us to do that because…
When it’s all said and done… We are building THEIR business.
Think about it.
Pinterest needed users to add pictures to their site to build their site out.
In exchange, they let the pictures be clickable to go to the web page the picture is found on.
What happens when they don’t need any more pictures?
Heck even Google…. they use OUR web pages to build out THEIR products.
Where do you think they get the info in their search results?
Where do you think they get the info in their instant answers? Or when Google tells you what the football game score is or what the definition of a word is or any of those Instant Answers Google provides THEIR customers?
They get it from website content that others, like YOU, have created.
In exchange, we webmasters are offered the chance to rank well and get free traffic based on THEIR rules.
That’s right, the deal from Google is:
“Hey website owner, if you let us scrape your content and use it for our business to earn money, you MIGHT get some FREE traffic from our site… IF you figure out the rules.”
There are many other search engines – all free to be listed in as well – so why don’t you work so hard to rank in those other search engines?
Why don’t you beg other sites to scrape your content and use it for their own benefit? lol!
No need to reply – I know the answer to that 😉
This all applies even if you’re an affiliate for another program or person…
Yes, you are making FREE money… but ultimately, you are building THEIR business and THEIR email list.
If they close their affiliate program or kick you out of it – you’re out that free money, but their business is fine.
They’ve got an email list full of paying customers YOU sent them.
(oh, and another thing: don’t let anyone EVER tell you NOT to build an email list or that you don’t need one. You do need one.)
Seriously, think about the big picture.
Anyway, thank for letting me get all that off my chest.
The next time you ask if you should use XYZ Free Site or Free Service, and you are told:
“OMG, Nooooooo! Don’t build your business on FREE!!!!!!!!!!”
I want you to really think and make the right decision for YOU and for YOUR business.
No, you don’t build your entire online business on any single platform or resource… free or not.
The bottom line: Your monthly income “lake”, better have a LOT of streams flowing into it.
If someone deters you from trying ANYTHING new for your business, free or not, ask yourself WHY.
Perhaps because you are using (paying for) THEIR service to build THEIR business and they don’t want you going anywhere?
Maybe. Maybe not.
It’s YOUR business and YOUR learning experience – try it all.
That’s the ONLY way you know what works for YOU.
How CAN You Protect Your Online Business?
Ideally, we each should have:
– An email list (ie, our own controllable traffic resource)
– At least one of our own products (ie, our own controllable income resource), and
– Our own website where we control the rules, the content, and the flow.
Then, you use any and all resources you can to build and GROW those 3 things.
If it’s FREE and it WORKS – heck YES, use it!
But always keep growing – keep learning – keep diversifying.
Please, don’t ever get too comfortable with ONE traffic source bringing you good income from ONE revenue source.
It sure is fun while it lasts, but…. well, I think you get the picture.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions?
The comment area below is open for the next 7 days.
Thanks for reading!!
If you’re wanting to learn how someone makes 6 figures a year from ONE blog as an Amazon affiliate, you really need to read this. It’s VERY impressive!
I Need To...
- Learn How To SEO My Blog Posts
- Learn How To FIX My Pinterest Results
- Learn How To Track My Blog Posts for Better Results
- Learn How To Earn MORE From My Blog Posts
- Learn What Works NOW for Bloggers
- Learn How To START Blogging for Money
- Join PotPieGirl's Affiliate Program
- See What Tools PotPieGirl Uses
Great post Jenn,
For me the bottom line is diversity. I want mutltiole income streams using different methods and sources.
I would be so nervous with one model based on one thing!
Totally agree, Nick!!!!
This was an absolutely brilliant article!! I could not agree more! I loved how you talked about diversifying traffic! That is key to any successful online business and I could not agree more with the importance of an email list and your own product! This is a valuable article!
Thanks, Paul! It’s been on my mind for a long LONG time….
Thank YOU for stopping by and for leaving a comment =)
Great post and something front of brain for me at present.
I am SO aware of the fact that I own and control virtually nothing online…. it’s all at the mercy of someone or something else.
I have been consolidating my resources and in March/ April the kiddies are away so the plan is to produce a giveaway info prod , not in the IM niche, that will start my email list and build a relationship with my audience from there.
Started interacting on FB and forums where my target market hang out.
Love the internet, but everything must be based on sound business judgement and not wishful thinking 😉
“Sound business judgement and not wishful thinking”
Great food for thought! I get a lot of flack for using blogger blogs which I love because it is so easy to edit them. I have wordpress sites too so I get what others are saying but my blogger blogs absolutely make $ for me so why would I take them down? Multiple streams of income rocks.
Hiya Heather =)
You won’t get any flack from me for using blogger…lol!
If it works, and you enjoy it, DO IT!
Yes yes yes! Most of my sales come from a “free” site. And if I have learned anything in life and on line, I have learned that things change constantly. That’s life. I am also thinking of different things to do/learn on line to make money — write a book, create products at sites like zazzle and cafe press, or even teaching a bit. Online working is just beginning — even for those of us who have been doing it for years already! we are still in the early stages of something new!
super post! thank you!
Hiya my Joan =)
YES! Change, change, CHANGE is the name of the game in our business AND in life.
While some might find that intimidating, I think you and I are of the same mindset: It’s EXCITING! So much opportunity and so many options =)
I’d LOVE to see you start teaching – you so much to share!
There are 2 concepts that are important in what you’ve written here:
1) Don’t build your business totally on someone else’s property – have some of your own as a cornerstone
2) Use all the free programs and tools you can to bring business to your cornerstone but be aware that any of them may disappear at any time
Great advice Jenn!
“Use all the free programs and tools you can to BRING BUSINESS TO YOUR CORNERSTONE….”
Well said… wish I would have thought of that wording!
Well said Jennifer.
I know I make a lot on Amazon but I have other things going on, my own products, other affiliates, and a head full of ideas that don’t revolve around that merchant at all.
It’s free, so I’m using it, but I’m constantly working my wheels to build something else because I know from Squidoo, it can all be gone way too fast.
YOU are a shining example of the “Bitter or Better” choice after the Squidoo Incident!!!!
You are rockin’ it, that’s for sure!
And girl, you don’t just make “a lot on Amazon”….
your Amazon earnings screenshots are MIND BLOWING
I’m in awe of you!
I’ve just been thinking along these lines, but you took it a lot further and that was very helpful for me. I’m in the process of evaluating various income streams I have used in the past plus some new ones I’ve never used. From the past: Clickbank and Cafepress mainly. Thanks for this post.
Hiya Rosana =)
Good for you! Grow and diversify!!!
I have to admit that most of my traffic comes from Facebook. I do worry about what would happen if I suddenly didn’t have that.
I do have an email list but have never been very good at making money from it so haven’t focused much at building it out.
How do you find time to be on so many free platforms? I have a hard enough time with just Facebook and Pinterest.
Hiya Cathy =)
An email list doesn’t have to be JUST about making money DIRECTLY from your emails – it’s also a very powerful resource to direct traffic where you would like it go.
For example, you say Facebook is working well for you… so, you can share and link them to posts on your Facebook Page… or conversations inside your Facebook Group (whichever Facebook platform your using).
How do I find time? LOL! Well, it’s important to me and my results so I MAKE time (and I make LOTS of coffee haha!)
I also really, really enjoy finding a new platform or tool and “popping the hood” to see how it really works so then I don’t HAVE to spend so much time on that platform.
Thanks for stopping by!
Very interesting post , thanks for sharing!
One thing I think you should know, I don’t really appreciate so many email lately promoting stuff from you … I got the same email 4 times in the last 3 days. 2 times one after the other on the same day.
Hiya Lisa =)
Oh no… that should NOT be happening. I have my settings so that any single email address should only get ONE of an email going out.
The most any one single email address should receive of an email from me is possibly 2 because I have 2 aWeber autoresponder accounts and it’s possible that people are on a list from each account.
Are these multiple emails from me coming to different email addresses you use that end up in the same inbox?
Please let me know so we can get this straightened out for you. I definitely do NOT want to annoy people like that =)
I’m reminded of the guy who bought coffee dot org. He made a choice between two online businesses. One was worth $3,000,000 at the time, but it’s sole source of traffic was “free” as it came from the SERPs. In the end he chose coffee dot org even though it wasn’t bringing in as much at the time. The reason: because that site had a proven business model of paid advertising turning traffic into buyers. Basically, he had financial proof that buying ads could turn a profit for that one site but no evidence that it would work on the other, and he could turn on the traffic whenever he wanted. So free is good but learning about this in one of Perry Marshall’s books turned my whole mindset around about doing business online. I now think buying traffic should feature heavily into anybody’s online ventures if they’re going for long term viability. Ain’t nobody can take that away from you – unless you’re doing shady stuff of course, but that doesn’t really count for the purposes of this discussion.
That’s really interesting, Leigh! I’ve never read the story about coffee dot org – I’ll have to read up on that. Thanks for sharing.
But YES, do what WORKS (free or not) – and the only way to learn what works for YOU is to learn, try and test any option you can find.
You really bring up some really valid points about how we benefit from using free sites, free affiliate programs and free social networking companies. I have often thought of the same thing when it comes to getting “free” traffic it usually comes at a cost which could be in the time we spend building other peoples businesses or in the effort we make in trying to promote, create and sell our services online. I appreciate your examples and advice on building an email list to capture those free views and then turn them into repeat traffic that we can control. I like Pinterest but it has been through some changes and the site seems to be more focused on advertisers, just like Facebook, and Twitter. I really like your RAM method because it introduced me to a variety of curation sites that are just as popular as some of the mainstream free sites. Have a wonderful day.
Thanks, Missy! I love the whole concept of RAM – it really sums up my whole “be everywhere, use everything” mentality =)
As for the ads on Pinterest (and Twitter and Facebook etc etc) – if those free-to-use sites don’t make money, well – they cease to exist, ya know?
Great post I agree with you a website needs more than 1 resource of traffic coming in. Pinterest is wonderful but everyone shouldn’t put all of their eggs in basket.
I have been on many free content sites (as Burntchestnut) and most of them have gone out of business or been sold. But I was smart enough to keep copies of all my content so I could use it on other sites. But the best thing was how much I learned over the years using these sites. I still use two free sites and now have my own blog and am working on an ebook on Vintage Cooking. I love writing online and will definitely keep diversifying.
You’re right! Free-to-use sites are WONDERFUL to learn on, aren’t they? And good for you – that’s smart to keep copies of your content =)