You probably already know that the six weeks between Black Friday and Christmas are the most important weeks of the year to most retailers.
You might not know that it’s also a crux time for many outdoor blogs: the one you are reading now, Adventure Alan, PMags, Section Hiker, plus many more of my favorite backpacking blogs.
If the season is fruitful, we can keep our lights on and continue to produce content that readers want, like gear reviews and gear lists, skill tutorials, and trail guides. If not, we might decide to blog less and to shift our attention to more promising opportunities.
The outdoor blog business model
But a substantial amount of time is required to regularly develop high quality content. For example, I spent about a full workday writing, laying out, and editing each of the posts in my recent series on backpacking shelter systems. If this website did not generate income for me, that kind of effort would simply be impractical. I suspect this is why Dave and Blake only publish occasionally, even though many readers would like them to write more.
Online content can be monetized in multiple ways, including banner ads, paywalls, and product downloads. But the most important revenue generator for most outdoor blogs is affiliate marketing.
A primer: Affiliate marketing
To incentivize referral traffic, select vendors pay me and other bloggers a commission on any resulting sales. For example, in a post I might write, “The Sierra Designs High Route Tent 1FL is a one-quiver shelter that is storm-worthy, versatile, and acceptably lightweight.”
If you click on this link, which I have shortened with Google’s URL Shortener, you will be taken to the product page at SierraDesigns.com. You’ll see that portions of the web address are specific to my site, which is an indication that Sierra Designs knows I sent you.
If within 30 days (or a different time period specified by the vendor) you purchase the High Route Tent or any other Sierra Designs product, like the Long-Sleeve Pack Polo (long-term review), Sierra Designs pays me a commission. There is no additional charge to the customer.
How to support your favorite outdoor blogs
At this point you probably have already made the connection: When you are shopping this holiday season, you have the ability to indirectly compensate your favorite websites. Before checking out, you simply need to click on a vendor link provided by your website of choice.
I make it easy, with links to my most critical vendors in the right sidebar of my blog, screenshot below. With other websites, you might need to click around for a while.
If your purchases were informed by a specific website, I’d ask that you support it. If there were multiple websites involved, support the website that you thought had the most meaningful content. Commissions are awarded to the last-click website; they are not divided.
If no blogs played a role in your shopping, we don’t deserve anything. But if you are feeling generous and want to support us anyway, well, by all means.
Finally, I would encourage you to be wary of value-less affiliate links, including but not limited to:
- Notifications about current sales,
- Holiday gift guides that regurgitate press releases or avoid any honest criticism, and
- Directories of gear with no meaningful context besides (at best) product specs.
I considered listing specific examples of poor form, but decided not to. If you visit some of the same websites that I do, you have probably seen them.
Also, don’t give your business to websites that are not transparent. Per FCC guidelines, affiliate links should be disclosed so that readers are aware of potential content bias. That’s good business.
Questions or thoughts about affiliate marketing? Leave a comment.
Disclosure. This website is supported mostly through affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors, at no cost to the reader. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support.