Disclaimer: Not a native English speaker and long post ahead 🙂
I've been a long time follower on here, probably since < year > but I never posted. Mostly because I wanted to share a decent result and trying out things firsts before I share my findings.
Let me start by saying I am not new to blogging or building websites. I've built several websites over the years since starting my online journey in < year >. But I am not an expert in terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), keyword research nor do I claim to having mastered this niche. But I have built an ecommerce business, an educational site including an online course (you can quickly verify that by Googling my username) and I've also authored 5 books on eCommerce/importing from China available on Kindle. Real books and not 15 page PDF's.
I've sold 2 websites in the mid 6 figure range since then and in < year > I wanted to focus on building an affiliate site.
What's more I've documented the entire process with over-the-shoulder videos (50+ videos) from the start – don't worry I am NOT selling these videos as a course or anything, they are free to watch for anyone who is interested on YouTube, but more on that later.
So let's dive right into my case study:
In mid < year > I sold one of my online businesses and I wanted to take a break as I was working non-stop without a holiday since < year > after I started my own business. That break turned out to be quite long and for a year I pretty much didn't do anything and just travelled. I did have an idea what I wanted to do sometime around September < year > and sat down to map out my plan on building affiliate niche sites. I did have 2 affiliate sites already but I never really pushed them. I wanted to create a completely new affiliate/authority site from scratch in a competitive niche (coffee), document and share the process over a lengthy period. And today its nearly 24 months since I started. What I saw initially was not a lot of competition and all of the sites on the web were pretty much just doing the same thing. Simple pages and themes with poorly written content. Even today there's probably only 2-3 decent sites out there.
I started building the site in December < year > and it went live pretty much 4 weeks later with 3 blog posts. At the time I had many other projects and I slowly lost focus and interest. By April < year > I had 7 blog posts live and kind of let it sit there for a while. I think at that point I invested around 40 hours into the whole project. I was working on projects that took my entire attention trough-out the whole year and didn't even look at the site anymore until September/October < year >. I looked onto Amazon affiliate that month and to my surprise I made 12$ or so without putting in work for 7 months.
In early November < year > I started to pick up on the project again and there were no significant earnings until mid < year >. Sometimes hitting mid 20$ per month. Traffic suddenly dropped after the Google May update. From Nov 19 – Jun 20 I probably put in another 80 hours of work. Essentially resulting in 45 total blog posts averaging 3-5,000 words. Traffic slowly came back in July with a new record high in earnings. I wrote another 10 blog posts from July until now (Dec 20). November was a record month with 150$, hitting highs of 200 unique visitors per day. As of 4th December earnings are at 70+$ already. More detail on earnings down below. Sure, these earnings are also because of pre-xmas season but I am seeing new highs now every day so it is motivating.
I wanted to give up on the project a long time ago and not just once. It is dis-encouraging when you hit your first 100 unique visitors only to see them go back to 20 a day after a Google update. Same goes for earnings. When you've put in 120+ hours of work and you made 9$ in commissions in a month lol. But from my previous online projects I knew it takes time and you need to put in at least a year's of work to see decent numbers. So I kept at it whenever I had time.
Now, I know that below numbers might not be great or decent considering many people in here that make 5 figures or more a month. But that is not my point with this post. I aim to motivate the people who want to start this as a side business, make a couple of hundred $ a month and maybe even turn this into a full time job. I know I did it when I started my online journey in < year >. I was ecstatic over my first $ earned online. This site is just a small project of mine and I make the majority of my money elsewhere.
Perhaps I also took too much of a bite with the niche. I just wanted to show its possible and I am looking forward to the days when I start ranking better for the really high search keywords (10,000+/month) that I am not ranking for on page 1/2 yet. Also I know several people who are in smaller niches that make 1K$ a month after 6-12 months. So niche and keyword selection is KEY 🙂 So I hope with this post I encourage some of the beginners who are just getting started to JUSTSTART.
First off you might be wondering why I reveal the domain. For one, I released the whole process in videos on YouTube so people find out anyway. Second, I am not worried about copy cats as this is a very difficult niche to start with and it took me 2 years to show some results. Third, yes initially I wanted to create a course around it and sell it. But with these earnings I felt that it is not warranted to charge XXX$. Don't get me wrong, I am convinced of the value of my videos/content but I don't like to sell a pipe-dream when it clearly took 12+ months to see some decent earnings (not that I ever sold a pipe-dream lol). And let's face it, people who buy courses expect to make money in 1 month because some guru told them so. I've created 4 courses already (on the topic of Amazon, importing from China) over the years and I made good money with those. Also I didn't want to go into coaching anymore as these days I focus on other income channels. So here I was sitting on 50+ videos and 200+ hours of work. If you consider recording and editing of the videos it was probably another 200+ hours.
Having said that, these videos are the only kind of case study on the internet as far as I am aware. And if there is any, they cost xxxx$+. Plus they are in-depth and I really do show everything how I built the site from small to big milestones; everything is revealed. So I was left with a decision, waste all that time of recording / editing and not releasing the information possibly helping people in the process?
So eventually some days ago I decided to give the whole information for free on my YouTube channel. I am no pure altruist and I don't believe there are any in this world. But there are people out there who genuinely want to help other people in worse situations without benefiting. And I believe that in these times with millions of people loosing their jobs it's up to those who still have an income/ a job to help those who need it more. Yes, sure I might earn some money with affiliate links, YouTube monetization etc. or trough the exposure but its not my main goal, whether you believe it or not. Also I won't be coaching or offering mentorship, I simply don't have the time. I put the information out there and it is up to each individual to just start, learn and get moving.
Plugins I used
I started with the basics for free, Jetpack, SUMO (for email capture), Updraft (backup), Insert headers and footers, Easy table of contents. The only plugin I paid for is Elementor Pro. I've had a yearly license for multiple sites since < year > so I used it for this site also. Its hands on the best visual builder for people who don't know HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) etc. At least for me. The only other plugin I paid for a couple of months ago is WP-Rocket to improve my site speed. I don't really believe in other plugins, they are a waste of money. I use Rankmath (free version) as a SEO plugin, I think its better than Yoast and easy to understand. I use Yoast on other sites and its less user-friendly and I find Rankmath is perfect for me.
I started working on backlinks in Jan-Feb < year >. Basically I reached out to all the brands that I mention in my reviews/blog posts. I asked them if they'd be interested to share my content on their website or social media. I think from a total of 200+ emails to these brands I got around 15 backlinks with 2-3 of them decent. I did get a couple of social media shoutouts as well which helped in the overall picture. As of today I haven't actively worked on backlinks and I think I got around 50 or so with more than half coming in organically. I am not pushing this also as I focus a lot on other things and proactively reaching out to brands for sponsored partnerships.
My strategy is not trying to rank organically as best as I can and use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as the main driver but work out deals with brands and other monetization methods. I can tell you that a site I built in < year > had at its peak 14,000 unique viewers. But income was at nearly 30,000$ per month. Why? Because I had a community that I actively worked for and I provided the most important aspect in this business = VALUE. Also that site had no affiliate monetization or display ads. It was purely digital content/membership. When focusing on value in your posts and actually answering people's queries or helping them you'll eventually gain more.
I wrote content myself and I outsourced content. I could have written it mostly by myself but in < year >/< year > I wanted to focus on other things than writing. As of September I am writing myself again aiming at 3 new blog posts every month.
I started with Pinterest when my traffic was still very low. As of now Pinterest is driving approx. 30% of the traffic to my site. The power of Pinterest! Seriously if you want to look into social media channels the only thing I can highly recommend is Pinterest. E.g. One of my biggest money making post is not even ranking in the top 20's. However I have 2 pins for that post and Pinterest sends me 15 people per day on average to that post. I usually convert 1 person. Meaning usually resulting in 10+$ commissions for the day. Yes, Facebook, IG are good for brand awareness but they don't convert. At least not for me. If you want to give your brand new affiliate site a kickstart – hustle on Pinterest! I also use Tailwind for automatic pin scheduling. Currently I only have 1 pin per post but I will create 4-5 pins for each blog post that also targets other keywords. For example, if I have a blog post titled: How to make French press coffee. At this moment I have only 1 pin for the main keyword but I will create 3-4 more that also target other keywords in that blog post.
Initially I used Google Keyword Planner, then Ubersuggest, then answerthepublic.com and also Surfer chrome extension. I am definitely not an expert on Keyword research but I do know it is essential. In the beginning I was targeting super high volume search keywords while I've now focused on low volume (500 or less). The high volume keywords are starting to rank nicely now but still far from where they could be. If I were to start over I'd still do the same.
WordPress site, simple theme but using Elementor Pro plugin to design the elements and the overall structure of the site. To build the main structure of the site it probably took me 8 hours. Over time I've edited the layout obviously but the structure can be ready within 8 hours. Hosted on Bluehost. At the moment its decent enough and I am happy with Bluehost but I know once traffic hits more than 10,000 a month I probably need to move to another host.
I'll only post from < year > onwards as < year >/< year > was insignificant. I estimate that I'll hit 10K per month very soon.
|Jan < year >||488|
|Feb < year >||519|
|Mar < year >||912|
|Apr < year >||1800|
|May < year >||1588|
|Jun < year >||1283|
|Jul < year >||1312|
|Aug < year >||1185|
|Sep < year >||1579|
|Oct < year >||2324|
|Nov < year >||3321|
|Dec < year >||1020 (as of 4th Dec.)|
The last 3 months I was averaging 12% conversion rate which I think is pretty decent. I took this conversion rate from the Amazon affiliate dashboard. I am currently in 3 countries (US/UK/CA) while the majority (95%) of the income is from the US. Many keywords are not even ranking yet and the ones that do seem to convert well. I am convinced that the quality of the content (not overselling things) causes the conversion to be pretty decent.
I won't list < year > in details as it was insignificant. The last 3 months were decent and I think I'll hit 200$ this month easily.
Next target should be 500$ by March/April. Jan/Feb are usually slow but I am hopeful with all the content I put out and that is maturing now I'll hit record traffic and earning even in Jan/Feb. Numbers are in US$. As a side note, its also nice to see that for about 10 days now I've been creating sales every day. So while I did have days with no sales 10 days ago even I had decent visitors I found that a minimum of 80+ visitors a day is needed to create a sale every day.
|Amazon Affiliate (all countries)||Other affiliate networks||Total|
|< year >||13.09||13.09|
|Jan < year >||11.36||11.36|
|Feb < year >||9.64||9.64|
|Mar < year >||22.39||22.39|
|Apr < year >||13.27||13.27|
|May < year >||26||26|
|Jun < year >||23||23|
|Jul < year >||65.84||65.84|
|Aug < year >||30||30|
|Sep < year >||84||84|
|Oct < year >||106||10||116|
|Nov < year >||140||8||148|
|Dec < year > (as of 4th Dec.)||79||79|
Currently I have 3-4 posts that also direct people outside of Amazon. For that I have signed up with: Shareasale, Commissionjunction, Pepperjam, Impact and Skimlinks. So far Shareasale and Pepperjam has produced the only outside Amazon commission (18$ in total) but I am seeing clicks now every day to these other networks. Only a matter of time that I will make consistently money on the other networks. I do also strongly believe in diversification. We all know Amazon is constantly cutting their commission rates. Another reason why I do try to diversify is my next point: Sponsored Partnerships.
A couple weeks ago I started researching 100+ brands in my niche. I created an infographic with all the stats of my site, my reach, email subscribers etc. I then emailed about 40 of them so far with a proposal for advertisement. Banners, sponsored reviews, pop ups on my site etc. So far only 1 brand replied with interest and we are working out the details now. E.g. I am charging from 49$ for 5 banners in related content post up to 149$ for sponsored posts. I am not giving up on this yet as I know it has worked in my previous projects. My philosophy making money online is always the same. If I get 1 brand that signs up for a month its money I didn't have before. And I also know from previous projects that eventually brands will reach out to YOU automatically. I basically then take 10mins of my time, create 5 banners in a blog post for example and done. Easy money.
Google Adsense/Display ads:
I am not running any ads on the site from ad networks as I believe it reduces the user experience. I know a lot of people do it and it's a way to make more money. However I have Display ads on one of my sites that is making less than 100$ a month with over 10,000 unique per month. Plus my readers from that site have emailed me it is annoying and sometimes messes up my site structure/content. I did test Adsense on Coffeescanner for 2 days in Nov < year >. 0.34$ ad income lol. So its not worth it in my opinion. I might look into Mediavine when I hit 100K visitors/month.
Apart from the yearly domain hosting and domain renewal I also have Tailwind (14$) and a professional GSUITE account (6$). But I think I don't need a professional GSUITE account. I did create it for the sole purpose of looking professional when I reach out for sponsored partnerships. But I am starting to think it doesn't matter. I won't go into details how much I spent on content writers because it was a private deal with someone I know and it was a unique deal. It would distort the outcome and overall goal. So that's a current 20$/month in expenses. If I would consider my own time as an expense we'd be looking at a serious loss 🙂 But again, that is not the point. I know the site will be very profitable in the long run. I know this because it isn't my first project. So I look at the big picture. Having said that, if you find the time to write your own blog posts you save a lot of money and you then have very low expenses.
I put a lot a lot of time also in miscellaneous things like creating pop-ups, proactively indexing new pages, creating categories, search functions within the blog, social media share functions, reaching out to other bloggers for guest posts, trying to build a Facebook community, creating an eBook to increase subscribers, etc..
Goals for the future:
Continue to write posts every month, reach out to more brands for sponsored advertisement, push Pinterest (see above under Pinterest). I am also planning to update my progress here monthly.
If you ask me where to start I'd say choose a niche that you have at least some interest in so that you can write your own content. Put in time in the evening & on the weekend (if you have a job) when your friends are out to party. Keep at it and don't give up. Provide value over everything. I am sure some in here think why doesn't he build an easy site and follow the strategies everyone talks about? As in making money a lot faster in easier niches? Well I've never been one to shy away from a challenge and I like to build things that last.
Phew this was quite the post 🙂 As I've mentioned in the beginning and for anyone interested, my entire 24 months progress is on YouTube. That's where you'll also find proof of all of the above in the screenshare videos. I won't post a link here or promote my channel. But you can easily find it when you Google my username 🙂
Again, one thing I want to leave you with here is: provide value. Build a community, email subscribers and help your readers. Money will come eventually.
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