This morning, I opened myself up to share where this blog is going for Fall and my goal to improve transparency on this blog. To that end, this post is dedicated to explaining Effortlessly with Roxy’s relationships to affiliate networks and programs; sponsorship and gifting. This article also discusses my commenting policy.
Let’s begin with the more official disclosures and then move on to a more conversational tone about the relevant topics.
Please note that Effortlessly with Roxy has financial relationships with some of the merchants mentioned on this blog. Effortlessly with Roxy may be compensated if consumers choose to utilize the links located throughout the content on this site and generate sales for the said merchant. Effortlessly with Roxy is compensated for certain paid links and advertisements on this blog. You are not obligated to click on any link or buy any products that are advertised.
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Effortlessly with Roxy is a participant in several affiliate advertising programs including but not limited to Shopstyle Collective, RewardStyle, Rakuten LinkShare, Pepperjam, Commission Junction, FlexOffers and Amazon Associates.
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Moving forward, I will be linking to this post on all sponsored posts and posts with affiliate links. So almost every post.
How Affiliate Links Work on This Blog — An Unofficial Description
An affiliate link is a link in a post from this blog or its social media channels to a retailer, advertiser or services firm. Affiliate links all lead to third party websites. Nearly every post on this blog has at least one affiliate link in it, and most have many (20+). For any blog posts that end with photo collages (which I usually refer to as boutiques), those photos are all affiliate links. Nearly all blog posts start with a photo, and if you click on that photo it is nearly always an affiliate link.
Here on this blog, I am a participant in several different affiliate programs. The affiliate links in the content here and on my social channels mostly work one of two ways.
1 – You click on an affiliate link. I earn a small commission for your click. If you make a purchase from the retailer during the same visit, I make a bit more in commission. If you make a return or get a price adjustment, I lose the entire commission.
2 – You click on an affiliate link. The affiliate network deposits a cookie (what’s a cookie?) for that specific retailer that remains on your laptop/computer/mobile device for up to 30 days. I do not earn anything for the click. If you purchase anything from that retailer while the cookie is active, I earn a small commission. Your purchase does not have to be the product you originally linked to from my blog. If you make a return or get a price adjustment, I lose the entire commission.
Additionally, for some affiliate networks, if you have clicked on my affiliate link in this second method, even if you make a purchase using a different blogger’s affiliate link for the same retailer, I still earn a small commission so long as the cookie from my link is still active on your device. If you make a return or get a price adjustment, I lose that entire commission.
Note: These cookies do not work in apps, only on websites. So for instance let’s say that you click on an affiliate link on my blog that’s part of Method 2, and it takes you to a product on XYZ store’s website. Later on you use store XYZ’s app to make the purchase instead of their website. In that case, I do not make commission.
Some networks use both methods 1 & 2 above depending on the advertiser.
It has also been my experience that some of these networks may have technical problems that cause their tracking to fail, resulting in me getting zero commissions for a certain time period. Sometimes a brand or retailer updates their sites and forgets to tie in commission-tracking coding so I lose commissions for that too. When these ‘technical issues’ happen it seems to always be a big sale day…curious…but unfortunately as the end user it’s nearly impossible for bloggers to go after the lost commissions. I mostly accept it as a cost of doing business, however in some cases I have pursued action against networks or retailers when I can show actual lost commission. Most times they work with me to make it right.
By the way, Method 2 is how many businesses and industries work. For a very brief point in my career I worked in sales, and I received a commission on every new client I signed — but I also shared that commission with the lead sales guys and our sales director, even if they had no direct hand in the sale. Another example — if you go to a fast food joint that sells fries and burgers, the burger and the fries company may pay the fast food joint a small commission even if a customer orders just a burger simply for getting the customer in the door. This kind of commission is called active-passive commission.
Sponsored Posts — An Unofficial Description
A sponsored post is a post that I have been compensated to write and publish on this blog. In addition to money my compensation may include a gift card, products that I get to keep or borrow (such as clothing, accessories, shoes or beauty), services (such as haircuts or makeup), logistics (such as car rides, hotel stays or excursions), and/or meals.
Nearly all of the sponsored posts on this blog are done with brands that I already know and enjoy. On rare occasions a brand (usually a small business) that I’m not familiar with is so compelling that I will learn as much as I can about them in a short time to do a sponsored post.
I do not do sponsored posts:
Sponsored posts will be denoted by the tag “Sponsored.” Sponsored social media posts will have “Ad” or “Sponsored” in the content or prefacing the post according to the rules of each social network.
When considering sponsored ads I usually think about whether a brand fits into what I talk about here and whether the community would be interested in it, even if I don’t talk about it much. For example I get facials done regularly at the Red Door Spa in Union Square (NYC) and if they came to me wanting to a sponsored posts about their facials or massage services, I’d happily collaborate with them even though beauty is a less-talked about topic here.
One more area of sponsorship is banner advertisements. I’ve gotten rid of ads on the blog homepage, but my post pages have a sidebar that runs display ads. Many of these are served through Google, whose advertising network I am a member of, or buy brands that have purchased ad space on the blog.
Let’s talk about outfit posts (OOTD posts specifically) a bit now. When working with clothing brands for sponsored posts, in addition to paying me and covering my photography costs, brands will often allow me to keep some or all of the clothes I use in the post(s). Sometimes the clothing is offered to me at a discount, sometimes it’s gifted to me entirely, sometimes I pay full price for it.
Personally I try to avoid scenarios where brands gift me clothing. I would rather pay to buy it or borrow it. In cases where I am gifted clothing, I never re-sell gifted items, only items that I’ve purchased. You may have seen posts on this blog where I give away clothing I was gifted that I no longer wear. Occasionally I win contests or gift cards through my affiliate programs or a specific retailer contest and this is one scenario where I can’t get around being “gifted” clothing, accessories, etc.
Another scenario is that retailers may lend me the clothing specifically for the shoot, and then I return it with all tags still attached in new condition. Before you say “ewwwwww” you should know that most retailers allow their employees to borrow outfits for their shifts, and then at the end of their shifts that clothing goes right back out on the floor for sale! I do my best in these cases to keep the clothing in perfect condition. I’d be responsible for buying any damaged clothing. Some brands have me purchase the clothing for the shoot and then return it, which I find incredibly awkward but haven’t found a better solution for yet.
Borrowing clothing allows me to showcase more items than my closet could ever fit. It’s a true joy for me to get to play dress up sometimes and illustrate outfit combinations that I’d love to own if budget and space allowed. I do not pick items I don’t like, and I don’t work with brands that want me to use a specific item unless I like that specific item.
The point of this blog is not for you to purchase everything you see. I do want to unveil more than any person can reasonably own or wear to show all the possibilities. It’s about inspiration, not instigation. As I’ve mentioned many times here I love shopping and hunting, and for me making huge wishlists of outfit possibilities is just as much fun as buying and owning the stuff I talk about and admire.
Also as a blogger I’m sure I do many more closet purges than most non-bloggers do. It would be fair to say that each season I get rid of 10-25% of my closet to make room for new items. However, I would probably do this even if I wasn’t a blogger, because I find the power of new clothing and the way it makes me feel to be quite pleasant. It’s part of my shopping hobby (and fodder for a different post).
Gifting Policy — An Unofficial Description
I am often approached by brands looking to send me free items in exchange for posts on the blog or my social media channels, or getting mentioned in posts. No additional compensation is offered.
In general, I say no to these offers. Often they are brands I’ve never heard of or I’ve heard of and don’t think the quality is all that great. It’s a bad deal for the community here, a bad deal for the brand and an awful deal for me. Brands that know their value buy sponsored posts, and bloggers that know their value don’t trade gifts for coverage.
Exceptions to this policy include situations mentioned in the Sponsored Posts section above, when in addition to compensation I am offered clothing, accessories, etc. for an outfit post. Another exception is when small businesses approach me I am more likely to say yes if I try and love the product and can help them grow their business by giving their brand positive exposure. Even with small businesses though I’m more likely to ask to buy something from them than accept gifts.
Note: Brands often pitch these gifts to me as “free” but they really aren’t, because I have to pay taxes on the full value of the item(s) I’m gifted.
Commenting Policies — An Unofficial Description
We live in a very strange world, this Internet Age. One of the top factors brands consider when choosing bloggers to collaborate with is a statistic called Engagement.
For blogging purposes, Engagement is the proportion of commenters to visitors. The larger your proportion of Engagement, the more appealing you are to brands. You can have a smaller audience than the big-time bloggers, but if your Engagement is high you are just as or even more appealing than that big-time blogger is to brands. (More appealing because you probably charge less and have a more dedicated following.)
To that end, for the last year I have been experimenting with ways to grow the Engagement here on Effortlessly on Roxy. I always wondered how some bloggers would have 4-6 comments on some posts and over 100 on others. (And thanks to a messy comment import, I currently have triplicate comments on all my pre-May 1, 2017 posts. Le sigh. It’ll get cleaned up eventually.) I wondered how bloggers would grow by thousands of Instagram followers or Facebook likes quickly.
I’ve discovered that they get those 100+ comments et al through participation in social media groups. I myself am now a member of several of these groups, mostly through Facebook but also through paid memberships to a couple. The paid membership groups offer other services like blog critiques, brand meetups and collaboration opportunities, and resources for pitching brands and such. In addition to resources on organic growth, we members in these groups can support each other by commenting on each other’s posts. There are blogging groups, there are creative groups and small business groups and social media groups and ALL of these groups have similar opportunities to support each other through likes, comments, follows, etc. I enjoy it quite a bit! I’ve discovered so many fun new blogs this way which I now follow for fun, not out of obligation. I do not participate in any posts or trades where a person is asked to click on my or other people’s links. This is click fraud and not something I want to go anywhere near.
I mostly use these resources for my OOTD posts. Higher engagement on those posts helps me to land sponsorships with brands I want to work with. I can’t call this growth organic because it’s not. I’ve sought it out, but I have found some awesome new blogs to follow because of my participating in these handshakes. And likewise, I’ve gotten new followers and people who organically love my blog because of this promotional work. I also use these groups for Instagram follows and likes or comments on certain posts. I love these groups because I’ve noticed the more comments I have, especially on blog posts, the more likely lurkers are to come out of the woodwork and start commenting too. So if you’re wondering why my OOTD posts have so many comments these days, this is why. A combination of organic comments from regular followers, traded comments, and lurkers coming out of the woodwork. I have found this method of trading comments very effective for the blog. Many bloggers have been doing this for years. I feel very late to the game for this successful method.
Additionally, this past Spring (2017) I experimented with joining two comment pods for my Instagram account. A comment pod has about 10 members, and we’d each be responsible for commenting on up to 2 posts per day on each other’s accounts. However, I found that comment pods crossed from the murky grey area to totally inauthentic for me. I found that the comments often were by blogger’s virtual assistants instead of the bloggers themselves, and often had NOTHING to do with what was actually going on in my post. I found myself commenting on posts that I wasn’t truly interested in. So I quit both pods I was in early May. It was not effective. These days, having had the experience it’s very easy for me to recognize which bloggers have comment pods (often multiple pods) and which are actually doing the work of growing their followings organically. The answer: most every large to big-time blogger has comment pods. Just About. Every. Single. One.
While brands seem to understand trades of comments and likes, most brands I have talked to through my day job or blog conferences or meetups are adamantly against comment pods or click trades. Similarly, this is where I draw the line as well.
Beyond these methods, I’ve also considerably improved my Pinterest skills and devoted some of my revenues here to buying sponsored posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. These tools have also helped me to grow the audience and Engagement here. I also experimented with loop giveaways on Instagram, but they left me feeling pretty icky and I think I’m done with those too.
We can debate whether this is healthy or unhealthy, but I’d rather not. We can debate where the line is but I’d rather not. In the marketing world hiring people to comment on your ads, help promote your products in exchange for pay and participating in forums, on blogs, in groups is pervasive. I think it’s more important to know that it happens everywhere and as a consumer you have the chance to make an educated buying decision knowing that there are plenty of stuffed, paid or traded comments happening to make you feel more positive about a brand, service, product, whatever.
Like it or not, comment trading and yes comment pods are ways to grow exposure for blogs and social channels. People wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work. I have become much more visible to brands in the last year because of these tools. The bloggers who best use these tools make them the spark that ignites their organic growth too. Just like a good marketing or PR company would.
Another topic I want to mention here is the banhammer. I am very liberal with the banhammer on the blog and on my social media channels. I go by the ethos that if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all; and if you know that (does anyone not know that?) and still say something mean you will be banned.
Unnecessary stuff includes political commentary, questions or comments that insinuate that bloggers shouldn’t make money, ‘helpful’ backhanded suggestions about how you think my clothes fit or look on me or anyone else on this blog, direct mean comments. Ban, ban, ban, ban. If you really must debate the validity of blogging or how an outfit looks, email me. I’d rather you didn’t though. There are plenty of other forums to spew your hate if you must. You don’t belong here.
I also have a tendency to take things personally, probably because this blog is some combination of a hobby and a business that’s very dear to me. It is too easy for me to take words as an attack. Although it’s something I’m working on, I can’t promise that short fuse will ever fully heal — it just continues to get longer and slowly more healthy. So if you feel you have been banned in error feel free in that case to email me. I don’t claim to be perfect but I certainly have a perfectionist streak in me. ?
What you can do as a reader
As a reader you may be wondering about some topics now.
Firstly, I sometimes get asked (or ‘told’ via comment) that people want to read this blog without clicking on affiliate links. If you are reading this blog you are going to encounter affiliate links in over 99% of the posts. Affiliate links, sponsorships and advertising are how I support this blog’s costs — hosting (now that I’m on WordPress I pay to host my site), fees related to the URL of this blog, tech costs and so on. The rest of the income from this blog goes into a contest fund, an outfit fund, and then fun stuff for me like the investments I am part of and trips, and so on. Right now a lot of the blog revenue is going into my boyfriend’s and my house fund. We recently sold our starter apartment, invested the profit, and are saving up to buy a larger condo or a house in Brooklyn.
So, if you don’t want to click on affiliate links you don’t have to, but if you want to avoid affiliate links altogether this is not the blog for you. They are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of other blogs to choose from these days.
Another topic you may be wondering about is how to support the blogs out there that are working, totally organically, to grow themselves and their audience. I suggest searching Pinterest for street style or outfit posts to discover more bloggers and then judge for yourself whether they are growing themselves organically or not. I personally tend to avoid bloggers where every post or every other post is sponsored — it’s too much for my taste. I like bloggers that mix their content up and give us a peek into their lives in addition to all the outfit and shopping fun.
Finally, if you want to help this blog continue to grow I encourage you to comment on posts. Every positive comment is extremely helpful for me when pitching brands, and also very motivating to me in those times when I’m feeling stuck or not so great.
The Purpose of This Post
When I first started blogging, it was for fun. There weren’t really affiliate networks back then for fashion. I had no idea that blogging could become a regular income for me or that it could become another reason to love my life. As a money-motivated person it brings me joy to be able to discuss a topic daily that I love (shopping and fashion!) and make enough money from it that I don’t have to suffer through a 9 to 5 job that I hate.
Life is great being a blogger. Sure it has its ups and downs like any lifestyle, but it’s very freeing for me as a creative person to be my own blogging boss. I wake up many days feeling great and free. That freedom is a feeling I can’t truly explain the totality and joy of.
I’ve always striven for a balance on this blog between the joys of shopping, the perils of overdoing it and talking about the behind the scenes work so that I’m not just some blogger behind the curtain. I wanted to write this post to make it clear how I earn money from it, what your clicks on the links mean and how they work. I also wanted to talk about some of the methods I am using to grow this blog.
I am continuing to experiment on this blog and I’m sure I’ll make more mistakes along the way. I will do good things and I may do not-so-good things (never intentionally, usually only recognized in hindsight).
Thank you for being here and following along in my blogging journey.