Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Smallest of the Small, the Least of the Least: Three Online Quests for a $5 Amazon Gift Card

I've been blogging for 12 years. Like most mid-reach bloggers, I have monetized my blog in several ways: Affiliate links, ad networks, subscriptions and buying goods and services directly. Like most mid-reach bloggers, I'd better not quit my day job.

My affiliate links help pay for the materials I review. (I rarely accept review items, prefering to remain an independent voice in the field.) Amazon is, for better or worse, pretty decent to bloggers. Depending on how active I am in blogging, the level of relevance the materials I review are and how flush my readers are, I get a  trickle of Amazon commissions.

So when Bing started a new search campaign to get people to use their shiny, unused search engine by offering gift cards to things other than Xbox, I decided to see how long it would take me to get a $5 gift card to Amazon.

At about the same time, I suddenly started getting emails again from Empire Avenue (remember them?) They are still around and, as my account was never deleted, people are, apprently, still buying shares in my "stock". I have millions of their fake currency "Eaves", but I noticed that they've devalued Eaves and are now selling - for real money - Vees. With Vees, you can get real-world items like $5 gift cards!

So, I thought I'd compare these three systems and see which makes the best sense in terms of time and money to get $5 off on Amazon.


The quest: $5 Amazon Gift card on Bing

After a quarter century as an Information Professional, I am now a Gold-level searcher on Bing. Aren't you impressed? Probably not, and you really shouldn't be, because being "Gold: level on Bing doesn't mean you have searching skills, it means you have free time.

To join Bing's searching rewards program, you need to have a MSN account. Not a problem, I have several Hotmail addresses I still use. (Laugh if you will, I have multiple active addresses on Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, work mail and other services. I've been online for a long time.)

Every day, one gets a single point in reward for every 2 searches at Silver level and every 3 searches at Gold. This is a tad penurious on their part, but a quick run-through of the News, Weather, and a few pre-programmed "interest" searches and I have my points. A scratch-off game also gives me the opportunity to win more points but, like the searches, the rewards are parsimonious. 50 points is all I've won in a month of digital scratching. Bing suggests searches on things for extra points and contests to enter for an extra few points a day. An app to add in mobile searches increases your points, as well.

Commitment: Takes me about 10 minutes every morning, 15 if I play the scratch and win. There is no cost.

ROI: I have my gift card in a month at Silver level and 2.5 weeks at Gold. (Of course, doing this regularly mean you'll move up to Gold status, which also drops the "price" of the card from 525 credits to 475.  With increased ability to gain credits, and a lower price, a Gold level member could get a $5 Amazon Card just about every 2 weeks.


The quest: $5 Amazon Gift Certificate through Amazon Affiliate links

I blog anywhere from 4-7 days a week on my primary blog. Each blog post takes anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on the content. 

Affiliate links work best when the item is 1) new and 2) affordable. A $250 premium item will get a lot of clicks, but few purchases, where a $10 just-released book will get more purchases. Obviously. As with Bing, the more purchases, the more the affiliate rate goes up, so a good month gets better disproportionately.

Affiliate payments are paid out more than a month later, and an affiliate has to hit a certain level of $/month before a payment will be made. If I'm posting more about online media, large-ticket or overseas items, I might not get a payout for a few months.  OTOH, a good month can be extremely good.  Pre-holiday and post-holiday months are usually significant, but they can't be counted on for consistency,

Commitment: Averaging 90 minutes a day, and waiting more than 30 days for that GC. 

ROI: When it's good, it's excellent, but for mid-reach bloggers who are not drawing in a salary's worth of readers, its neither consistent, nor always predictable.



The quest: $5 Amazon Gift card on Empire Avenue

You register an account and start to "purchase" "stocks" from people who think "Buy My Stock!" is a good promotion. They buy shares in you. You amass "Eaves" and quickly realize that if you are not active on EA at all, your stock will still go up if you do actual social media elsewhere. So you leave. "Eaves" have no worth, no value at all. It's strictly a score. You are worth XYZ score, your shares are sold at ABC score.

But Vees, well they have value. You can buy them for real money and cash them in for real things, like gift cards. And you can earn them, by completing "Missions" on the site.

1000 Vees cost $25, and it cost 650 Vees to get a $5 Amazon Gift Card. For the same $25 I can just get 5 $5 GCs, so this seems like a silly deal on the face of it. But what about earning Vees? I go over to the Mission tab and even when I filter only for Vee-earning missions, I see mostly Eaves. I complete a mission or two on every visit where Vees are to be earned (mostly in the form of clicking a link to visit someone's site.) The "missions" are valueless At least on Bing I'm reading today's headlines, checking the price of yen and the weather. On EA, I don't even have to look at the link I click, if the person creating the mission isn't sophisticated enough to require me to comment or share.

Commitment: 5 minutes a day, tops, clicking a button or two, but...

ROI: After about a month or so, I have amassed 231 of the required 650 Vees. And there are hardly any Vee-earning missions posted at any given time. I'll be doing this for a long time before I get $5 off on Amazon from Empire Avenue.


Triple Quest Conclusion

I'm not quitting blogging anytime soon, but I have to say, in my quest for this smallest, least of useful rewards, Bing wins. 

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