Howdy ThirstyAffiliates fans, I’m really excited to share with you an interview today that has been in the works for a while with one of our users.
Her name is Epiphora and she’s in what most people would call a somewhat unconventional niche for affiliate marketing. It’s not your traditional make money online or weight-loss type product – she reviews sex toys for a living.
Boasting a collection of well over 600+ toys and banging away at the keyboard for over a decade now has made her a household name in the sex blogger niche. Companies are lining up to get their products reviewed.
I wanted to delve deep here and see what makes Epiphora stand out and why her site is so successful.
She is a true authority in her space and it’s an honour to have her on the blog for an interview. I’ve also included a special video review of her website talking about some of the things I think make her successful and what stood out to me as well as a couple of things I think she could further improve.
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Let’s dive into the interview!
1. You’ve been blogging for nearly a decade about sex toys. What were the motivations behind starting a site reviewing sex toys? Was it filling a niche that you saw missing or was it more like passion writing? I think a lot of folks would love to hear how you started!
Oh man, I definitely didn’t get into this thinking I was fulfilling a particular need or niche. Reviewing sex toys was strictly a fun hobby, an interesting diversion as I slogged through college. I wrote my first reviews for a retailer’s site, and after a year of that I was enjoying it so much I decided to start my own blog. At that time I had no idea what the future of my blog (and my life) would look like; it’s not like “sex toy reviewer” is presented as a potential career option in school! That I was able to make money doing this was a happy surprise, one that enabled me to turn it into a career.
2. What are some of the advantages of being a blogger in the sex niche vs. disadvantages of the niche?
The sex toy industry is pretty small and insular, which is an advantage in that I can interact directly with the people behind the companies and my work can have an actual impact. In the beginning, I was able to make myself well-known more easily as well.
But a smaller, more specialized niche limits how far my blog can reach and how popular it ultimately can become. A large chunk of the population would never read any sex blog, and even people who do read my blog aren’t usually willing to share it with their friends/family or on social media. It’s harder to cultivate an audience.
Then there’s the general sex-negativity of the world. Most social media sites have restrictions on adult content; Facebook, for instance, won’t allow me to promote any post I ever publish, no matter the topic. I’m shadowbanned on Twitter, despite having a verified account. I run into roadblocks like that all the time. So sometimes even just getting the content out there is challenging. Additionally, folks hear about my job and immediately laugh it off rather than regarding it as the hard-earned career it is. That’s just the downside of blogging about something less socially-acceptable than make-up…
3. On your “New Here?” page (a page like this is a great tactic for larger sites) I noticed you said:
“I’m brutally honest, snarky, a bit jaded, and don’t believe in sugar-coating anything except my coffee. I will without hesitation point out when a sex toy is completely worthless and a waste of orgasms — or when sex toy companies are liars, misogynists, racists, full of shit, body-shaming, or sex-negative. But when I love something, I will walk across hot coals to tell you all about it.”
To me, this is a MASSIVE statement to your audience and to the industry as a whole. Can you comment on the importance of having content of substance (both in your niche in particular and in how that applies to other niches too)?
I believe that, aside from web design knowledge and sweet writing skillz, being genuine and unapologetic got me to where I am today. New bloggers often worry about finding their voices, about acquiring and retaining readers, about social media numbers and analytics stats. But without substance and a subject you’re truly passionate about, you won’t enjoy yourself, you won’t have longevity, and you won’t capture the attention of readers. It’s that simple, and I think it probably applies to every blogging niche in some fashion.
4. You’re very active on social media, is this where you get a lot of your traffic? How important has engaging with your audience on social media been for you? Keen to hear if there is a particular network you focus on.
Oh yes, social media has been hugely important to my blog’s success. I’m able to milk the weirdness of my life on social media, give readers a peek into the day-to-day reality of being a sex toy reviewer. A good chunk of my traffic comes from search engines, too, but I see social media as the best tool in building a loyal fanbase — people who actually care about my work and want to follow it year after year.
Twitter, in particular, has been the biggest social network for me and the one I focus on most; it’s where I make connections with both bloggers and readers. Facebook is notoriously difficult, not only for its anti-adult policies but also its horrible algorithm that only shows my posts to a tiny fraction of my followers. Instagram doesn’t easily translate to traffic, and I feel a bit distant from everyone on Tumblr. I use them all, but Twitter is easily the most important.
5. You write some really comprehensive, open and brutally honest reviews. Sometimes even quite scathing if something doesn’t live up to the expectation. Would you say this hurts or hinders the monetization side of things?
We all know a negative review doesn’t exactly compel people to buy something, but there’s more to it than that. A negative review shows integrity and builds trust with the reader. If I loved everything I tried, how could a person feel confident in a particular purchase? How would they choose? I truly believe my honesty is a core reason for my financial success. My readers feel they can trust me and make sex toy purchasing decisions based on my reviews, and that is a huge honor.
Further, very few sex toys are perfectly good or perfectly bad. Nuance matters and is appreciated. Recently I received this email that laid it out perfectly: “your review of a product you hated (one that later made your Worst Of 2017 list) was comprehensive and objective enough that I knew my wife would love it for precisely the reasons you did not. You’re damn good at your job.”
6. I noticed you do a lot of really great product roundup type posts. Especially during peak sales seasons and also just collating things on best-of pages, etc. Do you find that straight up reviews are better for affiliate sales or do the roundups drive sales better?
I definitely make the most money from promoting sales — no surprise there. My static “Sales & Deals” page is the single most profitable page on my site, followed by my more generalized “Buy Toys” page. I always write a comprehensive Black Friday post and those are quite lucrative. But generally, I’m less focused on which particular posts drive sales. I just try sex toys I want to try and write what I want to write, because staying enthusiastic about my work is vital to its long-term financial success.
7. You’ve started to bring a bit of video into the mix on your site. How did this come about and why did you put it off for so long?
I wouldn’t say I put it off necessarily. It’s just not my forte. Writing is my medium; I’m far more articulate in writing. I was also anonymous up until about two and a half years ago, so video just wasn’t an option. Videos are interesting once in a while, when the product makes sense, but I want to remain faithful to my written reviews, where I’m at my best. (Plus, I have no clue how to monetize video and YouTube isn’t exactly down with the sex.)
8. You recently started teaching others how to get ahead in the sex blogging niche. How did the business of blogging course come about and how has that changed your focus when it comes to your reviews business?
I developed the Be a Sex Blogger course with my good friend and colleague JoEllen Notte, a fellow sex blogger. We noticed a lot of budding sex bloggers popping up, eager to jump in but worried about how to do so. JoEllen and I have over 15 years of blogging experience between us, and we both make our living this way — so we felt uniquely poised to help newbies succeed and avoid the mistakes we’ve made. Sex blogging is a very particular niche, so having a whole course dedicated to it just made sense.
As far as how it’s impacted the rest of my work, I try to balance it all. We schedule our group classes meticulously, and the rest of it is available anytime for folks to purchase on an independent basis.
9. What’s in store for 2018? What do you hope to do more of?
This is gonna sound silly, but I hope to review more terrible sex toys! As the years have gone by, I’ve become more and more aware of my likes and dislikes, and I’ve noticed a general trend toward more positive reviews because of it. Ideally, I’d like my business model to evolve more into “send me stuff and I’ll review it if I want” rather than inherently promising a review, because that will lead to only reviews of items I find noteworthy one way or the other — stuff I’m excited about.
10. Where can people find out more about you/follow you online?
My blog is HeyEpiphora.com. The “New Here?” page is a great starting point, or peruse my toybox page to find the best and worst toys I’ve ever reviewed. I can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.