Consulting for Web Publishers (Affiliates) – Not.

By , July 23, 2009

I am often asked by web publishers to advise them (as a paid consultant) on how to monetize their sites, including earning from a variety of advertising strategies and affiliate programs.

But I’ve always said “no” to publisher-side consulting. I sure don’t want to pretend that I’m a “guru” or that I have all the answers, or a secret to success.

A long, long time ago (in 1998 and again in 1999), I hosted “brainstorming sessions” for web publishers seeking revenue. (For those who question my claim that I’ve always considered myself a “web publisher, I note that in 1998, I called it “Mark Welch’s Web Advertising Forum and Web Publishers’ Brainstorm Session,” and in 1999 it was just called “Web Publishers’ Advertising Brainstorm Session.”)On the second day in 1998, and on the only day of the 1999 session, I allocated the entire time to a loosely-guided round-table discussion in which everybody shared their ideas and questions, and everybody tried to answer and offer advice. When I say “everybody,” I mean it: there were no designated “experts” or “speakers,” just everyone talking. During the 1999 session in San Francisco (with about 50 attendees) I also had “breakout” sessions in which participants were separated into three separate groups (merchants, service providers, and web publishers), to encourage a more frank exchange of feedback.

I enjoyed these sessions, and most of the participants said they enjoyed them. But after I sold the web site later in 1999, I never revisited the idea.

Quite frankly, is a much, much better resource than my “Brainstorming Sessions” ever were. In part, that’s because there are more voices with more experience, including many folks who are willing to spend ten minutes (or an hour) per day reading and responding here, but who would never fly here to attend a full-day session. Of course, most participants on ABestWeb “censor themselves” (trying to avoid unnecessary controversy, and striving to maintain trade secrets).

Update: In 2011, changes at ABestWeb resulted in a huge decline in activity, as many web publishers (affiliates) stopped participating on the forum. ABestWeb still provides an excellent archive of past discussions, but it’s not very useful for folks asking questions today.

I’ve done “affiliate program consulting” for merchants since 1997, and “PPC search consulting” since 2000, and I’ve both enjoyed and profited from the work.

But I turn away clients if I don’t believe that they will be able to profit enough to justify my fees. That has meant turning away far more prospective clients than I’ve accepted — and it’s also the reason I refuse to do “publisher-side consulting.”

Some consultants (whose goal is simply to earn fees) will gladly accept assignments and do work even though they know that the client isn’t going to profit. I won’t do that.

But there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who are trying or considering “web publishing” or “affiliate marketing” as careers, and who are seeking the same kind of advice as Steve. That’s why so many self-proclaimed “gurus” use a PhotoShopped AdSense check to appear successful, and then sell ebooks and seminars — because there’s a big market. As somebody once said, there’s one born every minute.

I sure don’t want to pretend that I’m a “guru” or that I have all the answers, or a secret to success.

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