I haven't done a Successful Work at Home Mom interview in a bit, so it's time. 🙂
I've chatted with Mary Ann several times, as she's an affiliate for a few of my clients. She's definitely rocking as an affiliate marketer (I see her stats and KNOW she knows her stuff) — so I wanted to showcase her and let her teach us all a thing or two.
Here you go…
Welcome, Mary Ann!
Tell us about you.
I am now a work-at-home mom who started a basic homeschool website, www.TheHomeSchoolMom.com , 7 years ago when I started homeschooling my children.
Over time I learned more about good website code and design and was blessed to move up in the search engine rankings. I joined an active online community of homeschool webmasters and thanks to their shared knowledge I have been able to continually improve my site and earn a good income. My sites now include the homeschool website, a menu planning website, and a local parenting website that is still in the development stage. I love what I do and often find myself reflecting on what a blessing it is in this world where so many are dissatisfied with their jobs that I am able earn a good living doing something that I love to do (and still stay home with my children).
Why do you do affiliate marketing?
Although contextual pay-per-click ads (like adsense) do very well on my sites and represent the bulk of my income, I have found that targeted affiliate products are very successful and help me balance my income sources so that I am not too dependent on any one company for my livelihood. Because all of my websites target women, and moms in particular, I have found that menu planning affiliate programs are highly successful. Even though one of my websites – www.Menus4Moms.com – actually is a source of free menu plans, I like to offer my visitors other options. By highlighting affiliate links to other menu plans that are more specialized than mine (Kid-Approved Meals and Healthy Menu Mailer are good examples), I am able to provide my visitors with what they need while creating an additional source of income for myself.
What's the #1 mistake you've made and overcome with your online business?
Because I started with no training in online businesses and basically through trial and error, I made more than my fair share of mistakes. I think the biggest thing that I learned is that there is no free ride. I took it for granted that because I considered my site valuable that others would be excited to hear about it too, and would love to hear all about it. I made myself a pest telling people about it online and didn't realize that what I was doing was poor netiquette at best and extremely annoying at worst.
I learned quickly that *if you want traffic for your website, you have to earn it with time and effort.* I backed off the self-promotion and really tried to create something that promoted itself. It took at least 3 years before I had enough traffic to make any significant income, but the site has grown steadily since its inception. The one thing that helped more than anything was to create something valuable to give away on the website and publicize it (in a more kind and gentle way). That is when my traffic really started to build. For my homeschool site, that was a free downloadable homeschool planner. Asking for people to link to your site when it only benefits you is not nearly as easy as getting people to link to a free resource that will benefit their visitors. And once a few sites start linking to yours, the search engines start to take notice, and it's all downhill from there.
Do you have any recent news, products, a new launch, freebies, etc.
I just launched my first digital cookbook this month, Bulk Cooking for the Freezer: Ground Beef , and look forward to adding more Bulk Cooking ebooks to the store soon. I also have a free planner download including a menu planner found here: http://www.menus4moms.com/homeorganization/planner.php
This year I launched a new section of the Home Organization area of Menus4Moms called the Daily Reminder. It is a 15 minute task that is emailed each weekday to help moms declutter and organize the home. This is new within the past few months and has taken off like crazy, going from launch to 6600+ subscribers in 6 months.
What are your absolute favorite products or resources you can’t live without in your business?
This year I made the leap from desktop to laptop. In the past I carried a laptop when traveling but worked on a desktop at home and had to go through the hassle of synching files and dealing with network problems. This spring I purchased a workhorse laptop so now I don't have to switch back and forth between two computers. I absolutely love working this way and it has really freed me to travel and work outside the home when necessary without synching files and dealing with emails on both computers.
My other two favorites are PayPal and Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver was an expensive investment about 3 years ago that has been worth every penny. It has allowed me to accomplish tasks in minutes that used to take hours (particularly updating snippets of code on pages throughout my websites). I wish that I had made this investment sooner! Paypal has allowed me to take payments from advertisers and ebook customers without any hassle or complication.
What's the #1 tip you'd give for your success?
Know your audience and appeal to their specific needs with high quality affiliate ads. Just throwing affiliate links out there willy-nilly is likely to be unproductive and may even lower your site's credibility. When you frame each promotion around the needs of your site's visitors, they begin to look at your ads as a valuable part of your whole site. What bride doesn't consider the ads in Bride magazine just as valuable as the articles? But if the ads are unrelated, poor quality, or badly worded, the whole magazine suffers. The same is true for websites. Site owners that know their audiences and combine high quality relevant ads with excellent site design increase both their income and the perceived value of their site.
Thanks so much, Mary Ann, for your time!