If I have any regrets about how I’ve grown this site over the years, it would be that I haven’t shared enough of my mistakes (and downright failures) with you all.
It’s not that I haven’t done it on here before, but I haven’t done it as much as I’d like. Of course, I had my reasons. (Everyone has their reasons.) For one thing, I wanted to keep this site a purely inspiring, uplifting place. What I had overlooked (and have since embraced more and more) is that inspiration, and indeed joy and laughter, can also come from sharing our mistakes. Especially publicly.
So it is with a strange mixture of embarrassment and delight that I share with you a huge mistake that I’ve made here regarding growing this website as a business. A mistake that has been downright chronic.
About 95% of all of the links to products I’ve recommended were formatted wrong. This has huge ramifications.
If you’re not already aware, often when writers recommend a product they like, they use an “affiliate link” when they recommend it. This is a win/win/win situation, because if the reader ends up buying something, the affiliate link tells the commerce site who referred them. The commerce site will often then give the writer a little slice of the profits.
This does some cool things.
- It gives readers an easy way to support blogs they love by using an affiliate link. (The price is the same with or without the link. And if it’s a blog they love, it’s likely they were going to buy the product eventually, anyway.)
- It gives writers an incentive to create lists of products that have positively affected them, thereby driving traffic to the site selling the product. This also encourages writers to make easy links to buy the products instead of being afraid that off-site links will drive too many eyeballs away from their site.
- On a decent-sized blog, it can provided much-needed supplemental income for writers who might not even have health insurance. (Just sayin’.)
The practical upshot to all of this is that I am a Capital-G goon.
There, I said it. I’m a Goon, or at least I was for not double-checking my research. I won’t bore you with hyperlink semantics, but let’s just say that, when linking to an Amazon product, do not just throw /yourname-20/ into any old place in the link. (You’ve gotta add ?tag=yourname-20 to the link.) But noooo; I thought I was smart. I thought I’d make a short, pretty link. Pretty useless, more like.
I’ll stop. I said I wasn’t going to bore you with semantics.
Here’s the short version: because I went ahead and trusted some frakking inaccurate site roughly four years ago, about 95% of the affiliate links on Byteful Travel were half-broken and haven’t given me credit at all for recommending products that have truly changed my life, such as the book Getting Things Done, The Master Cleanse, Personal Development for Smart People, or even my own book.
Because I didn’t double-check my research, I missed out on a sizable amount of revenue from this site over the last four years. Revenue that goes to support future journeys and better equipment (not to mention little things like food).
To be completely clear, I’m not complaining about this. I really have no idea how much revenue I missed out on, and I’m honestly not attached to the notional idea of the past. I’ve corrected all of the links now, and I’m simply offering this as a cautionary tale.
“It all makes sense now!” I thought. “No wonder the statistics have been so bad. My links just don’t give me any credit!”
Always double-check your research, and for the love of ‘zon make sure you format your affiliate links correctly. If I’m doing this, I can’t imagine how many other people may be formatting theirs wrong. Who knows how much extra revenue this small correction might bring in!