I’ll be honest with you: I approached this Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing review with more than a little cynicism.
I’ve always been rather dubious about courses that teach people blogging and affiliate marketing. Having been in the industry for over a decade myself, I know that earning a living from blogging is far more difficult than some online marketers would have you believe.
There’s also that oft-repeated theory that the only people who really make money from blogging are those who sell courses teaching you how to do it!
That’s definitely NOT the case. There are plenty of people making a living (or a fortune) from blogs that are nothing to do with blogging. However, I’m aware that many have doubts about these things. Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing isn’t a cheap course. It’s not a really expensive one either, but it does come with a price tag that, for most, will represent more than just “taking a punt” on something.
You’ll find out exactly what I think of the course shortly. But first, I’ll explain the basics, and tell you why I decided to review this product.
What IS Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing?
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is an online affiliate marketing course delivered via the Teachable platform. It was put together by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, a bonafide online success story who now makes more than $100,000 PER MONTH from blogging.
Making Sense of Online Marketing is aimed at bloggers who wish to make a living promoting affiliate products. It covers topics such as how affiliate marketing works, how to find suitable products and programs, how to comply with the law, and the technicalities of promotions and conversions.
Who is Michelle Schroeder-Gardner?
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is the owner of Making Sense of Cents, a personal finance blog with over 300,000 monthly readers and a six-figure monthly income.
Why I Wrote this Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Review
I’d like to quickly explain why I decided to write this review of Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.
I’m often rather outspoken about online courses. I even recently wrote about how, much of the time, people are probably better off buying the tools they need to get a project underway than purchasing course after course.
There were three reasons I decided to personally buy Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing and write about it:
- A regular reader of this site purchased another of Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s courses and had really positive things to say about it.
- When I looked into promoting Michelle’s courses, I found out I wasn’t allowed to become an affiliate unless I purchased one myself. This struck me as a very honest approach – after all, you clearly have some confidence in your product if you want people to have a throughly good look before they promote it for you!
- Whilst reading a post on Michelle’s Making Sense of Cents blog, I was interested to see that she makes the lion’s share of her (enviably enormous) income from affiliate marketing, advertising and partnerships. As such, this is NOT someone who’s making all their money just blogging about blogging.
Even though those factors left me suitably intrigued, it was still several weeks until I pulled the trigger and bought the course.
As I said at the start, I’ve been in this industry for a long time. I’m not a seven-figure blogger like Michelle, but I’ve long been earning “job replacement income” from this kind of thing, and I’ve consulted on seven-figure sites. As such, I was a little sceptical I would learn anything new.
It was a pleasant surprise when I did.
How Much is Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing?
The Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course costs $197. There is also an option to buy the course by making two payments of $105, with instant access to the entire course provided from the start.
The main part of Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is the course itself. This consists of six “modules,” each divided into a much larger number of “lessons.”
The majority of the content is text-based. This suited me perfectly, as I’m somebody who finds it much easier to learn from text than from video. However, I feel it’s important to point this out, as video is probably the assumed format nowadays. There are a couple of videos included in the “bonus content,” including a long one on Pinterest promotion.
An Exclusive Facebook Group
When you sign up to the course, you also get access to a private Facebook group. (You have to ask to join and wait for Michelle to give you access after confirming your purchase).
Access to this group is more of a big deal than it may first seem. The reason for this is that Michelle is active on the group and responds personally to questions. If you think about it, you’re getting access to somebody who’s already making millions from blogging – and that has considerable worth.
Michelle also runs things like “Feedback Thursday” and “Motivation Monday,” which encourage member interaction and networking.
I’ve not been on the group long, but it’s a great place to “find your people.” The members are – obviously – all people who have decided to invest in themselves and their blogging plans. It’s clear that they are all at different stages with their sites, but that’s a good thing. It’s a nurturing environment for those who want to be successful and aren’t just messing about – and I like that.
As well as the course and the group access, you get various “bonuses,” some of which are more exciting than others. Some of the worksheets and checklists are a bit “meh,” to be frank – covering the kind of things many bloggers would already use spreadsheets for.
At the other end of the scale, there are some useful additions, such as a video lesson on how to legally protect your blog, and one on Pinterest promotion from the people at Pinterest Traffic Avalanche (which one of my writers reviewed here).
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing isn’t a hugely long course. If you sat down with the intention of simply reading / watching every bit, you could easily do so in a day.
But size isn’t everything (ahem). Even as an experienced blogger, I found myself writing lots of notes on new things to try out and to work on. If you were more of a novice, I imagine you would have pages and pages of notes to go through! The text format also makes it far easier to go back and check on something – compared to remembering where a key point was within a video.
After completing the course, I personally had a list of 12 significant things to work on on my main sites, and another of nine affiliate programs that I hadn’t previously heard of. Even more importantly, I felt really fired up and keen to get started on all of those things. That’s the kind of “transformation” that good courses deliver.
Even though I only really bought the course so I could write about it, I genuinely felt like I’d had my money’s-worth – in motivation alone.
Is Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Worth It?
Assessing whether something is worth a particular price tag is very subjective. If you’re going to buy Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing and put all the advice into action, it’s absolutely worth the cost. If you’re going to read it all and do nothing with it, you will inevitably feel like you’ve wasted your money.
There’s an enormous amount of completely free information out there about blogging. One thing I began to realise as I worked through this course is that that’s not always a good thing. You can end up pinging from article to article reading about a bunch of different strategies and a bunch of different opinions. There’s definitely something to be said for sticking to the advice of just one person for a while.
With that in mind, one thing I particularly liked about Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is that Michelle is not at all shy about showing you exactly how she makes her money. She reveals specific affiliates, tells you how much they pay, and explains exactly how she goes about promoting them. This openness is refreshing and increases the trust factor.
I tend to judge courses (and self help books!) not so much on their entirety, but on the particular nuggets of wisdom I take from them. Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is full of those “aha” moments. Two that spring immediately to mind relate to which blog posts to concentrate on in terms of affiliate offers, and which Facebook posts to boost. I’m not going to plagiarise the course and copy the tips into this review, but they were both things that I couldn’t believe I’d overlooked. After shaking off the shame and embarrassment(!) I was left with some strategies I could immediately put into action to make more money.
Nothing in life is perfect, and I didn’t like absolutely everything about the course.
Although everything is well-written and easy to understand, I found a few places where the same small chunks of text were used in multiple places. That’s not to say it wasn’t equally relevant, but a rewording of the text the second time around would have upped the quality level a notch.
I also didn’t feel entirely convinced by the “worksheets.” With a couple of exceptions (particularly the checklist for ensuring you’re picking the right affiliate products), these seemed rather basic and superfluous. The fact you have to print them out makes me think that few people will actually bother using them. They may suit some peoples’ learning style, but I suspect many would prefer an electronic alternative.
Finally, I did find a couple of things that could do with an update, such as a reference to Twitter posts having 140 characters, when that doubled some time ago.
Who is the Course Suitable For?
As I started writing up my Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing review, I gave a lot of thought to who the course is most suited to.
I’d say it’s most ideal for those who have already started a blog, or those who know they’re committed enough to do so. It could also prove surprisingly useful for those who are already making some blog income and want to take things to the next level. As I’ve explained, I’ve worked on seven-figure sites, and I still came away from the course with plenty of new ideas.
If you’re more of a blogging novice, or you’ve not yet decided whether to dip your toe in the water, it’s obviously more of a dilemma whether to invest in a course like this. Spending the money may give you the accountability and motivation to really go for it. However, I’d advise working through a basic guide to how to start a blog first.
I can see why Michelle gets such good feedback for Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. It’s well-structured and honest, and it gives you a really clear idea of what you need to work on if you want to make a living promoting products online.
It’s important to note that this course isn’t a one-stop blueprint or “system” for creating a money-making website. You still have to do a tremendous amount of work yourself. There are numerous subjects – from SEO to Google Analytics – that you’ll need to learn about independently.
But that’s not really the point. Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing doesn’t claim to be a blogging course or an Analytics course. What it is is a well-pitched affiliate marketing course, covering a very complicated topic in a structured and sensible way.
$197 isn’t a small amount of money, but if you’re serious about getting started in affiliate marketing, this is a course worth some consideration. For me, seeing examples and screenshots from somebody who is very much “walking the walk” has considerable value. Add in the fact you get access to a group where you can actually ask her questions, and it’s all quite compelling.
If that all sounds like the kind of thing that could help you – it probably could.
Pros and Cons
I end my Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing review with some pros and cons:
- Genuinely useful information from somebody who has “been there and done it.”
- Access to an exclusive Facebook community.
- Revealing real-life examples.
- Several “aha” moments that could help people who already have experience.
- The cost may be prohibitive for some.
- Content is text-heavy.
- Some worksheets and “bonuses” much more useful than others.
If you’re interested in blogging and affiliate marketing, you’ll definitely want to check these out:
- My own guide to how to start a profitable blog.
- A review of Wealthy Affiliate – a heavily advertised platform for starting affiliate sites.
- This article, discussing all the tools I use to manage my own sites.
The price tag's not insignificant, but some of the information here is gold.