When I started Bargaineering, it never entered my mind that it could one day be a full time job that supported me financially, and then some. In the early days, most of the revenue came from display advertisements like Google Adsense and the payouts were acceptable. It wouldn’t take me to retirement but they were enough to keep my interest.

Then I discovered the world of affiliate marketing, where I could be paid on performance and not paid on pageviews. I learned about how I could make money writing about all sorts of things from credit cards to credit score services to photo printing. Commissions were extremely lucrative too. Credit card approvals usually paid between $50-$80. You could get a few percent on the sale of some photos. A free credit score application, from one of the reputable credit scoring companies, was a $10 commission.

As I learned more about the industry and more about how lucrative it was, I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I had grown my site because I offered information that was valuable to my readers. Affiliate marketing was valuable only to me. If my site became a cesspool of credit card reviews and free credit score posts, it might get me some quick cash but the site would die.

I had to strike a balance, but what was that balance?

For these difficult questions, I fall back to a rule that has never steered me wrong – treat my readers as I want to be treated. I want to read posts that provide value and I don’t care if the blog’s owner makes money if I buy something. If the information is good, it actually makes me feel better knowing that the blogger might earn something for his or her hard work. It helps ensure they’ll continue writing and producing good content.

How do I put that into practice? Avoid writing posts simply because you can promote a product and make a few bucks. It’s as simple as that. Only you know what’s in your heart but if you are writing content because you think it’ll help people, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about putting in a few affiliate links. If you you’re writing content for the sole purpose of making money, then you might want to re-evaluate if “selling out” is something you’re concerned about.

In the end, you will have to balance out these two competing interests. If you sell too much to your readers, they’ll see it and abandon the site. If you don’t sell enough, the site might not make enough money to retain your interest.

To find that middle ground, go with your gut and adjust based on feedback. If readers feel you’re writing too much for the sake of money, they’ll say so. If you feel like the site isn’t making enough, you’ll obviously know. Adjust your approach and re-evaluate.

Sadly, like many things in life, there is no universal rule of thumb. It just takes experimentation and feedback.

{Featured image via Huffington Post}