The year in summary.
Whoa what a year it was for me. I moved to a small rural town in outback Australia in February and picked up a demanding engineering job building a solar farm later that month.
I simply had no time to devote to furthering my websites. I was getting out of the house at 5:00am and wouldn’t get home until 7:00pm that night. On the weekend I spent most of my time in a catatonic state trying to summon all the energy I would require to make it through the next week.
It was amazing work, but it had a detrimental impact on the amount of time I could devote to growing my websites.
Here’s a full drilldown of my earnings:
- Amazon USA: $18,390
- Amazon UK: £424
- Amazon Canada: $487
- eCommerce Sales Profit: $820
- Adsense: $344
- ShareASale: $62
- WordPress Theme Affiliate: $1,491
- Ebay Partner: $743
A total EBITDA of $22,014 on revenue of around $330,000
The 7% profit margin isn’t the best, but hey, for not having to deal with customers, returns, shipping or complaints it ain’t bad!
Luckily, before I had started at my new job I had sought to systemise the process of building income generating websites through affiliate sales. When I thought about it there were really only two areas that I needed to streamline…
There are two key pillars to building any successful website, these are: content ideation and generation. Everything else is secondary.
Where is SEO you might be asking? I would inculde that under content ideation, since we use SEO and keyword analysis in order to inform our content ideation.
I then created a list of all the areas that I could outsource. It came down to something like this:
- Content Writer
- Virutal Assistant
- SEO Assistant
- Plagiarism Detector
In a flow chart it would look like:
And the process repeats itself.
Now I have to admit, while the modifier keywords part of the flow chart was important for finding great keywords; the majority of the keywords I found that really crushed it came from finding the weaker affiliate sites using SEMRush which I’ll get in to later.
I hired all my support as freelancers through the site Upwork and had them working from a single Google Sheets document. This allowed them a space to coordinate work and organise between themselves.
I was amazed at how the sales just started to take off. You can see the big jump from March to April where earnings had almost doubled:
The chart shows some seasonality with earnings skewed towards the summer months in the US and October/November due to Christmas. This is due to a couple of the summer products receiving a higher commission and one of my best performing articles being related to a summertime product. There was even a month where earnings topped $2,000 where we can see a drill down below:
June was a fantastic month with $2,212 in earnings from Amazon US only. This is excluding earnings from other Amazon countries and other affiliate accounts which would have pushed earnings to over $3,000 for the month.
Having systemised the growth of my sites and effectively removed myself from much of the day to day decision making, I was able to put them on autopilot and check in once in a while to perform some WordPress core updates and plugin updates. Ultimately, I think I spent around 10 hours working on the sites throughout 2018.
That works out to be $2,200 per hour! Where else can you find rates this good?
Jokes aside, these results are entirely possible for anyone willing to give it a crack. The important thing is just to start and persist with making incremental improvements. Once you are generating a couple hundred of dollars per month you will be able to bootstrap growth from there with little investment of your time or money.
Crushing Keyword Research With SEMRush
SEMRush is an absolute powerhouse of keyword research. I cannot recommend it enough and believe it should be one of the first software subscription purchases new affiliate marketers make.
The strategy for keyword research is fairly simple. We start by finding low domain authority (DA) websites in the niche we are working in.
So for example, let’s say I’m building an affiliate website in the kitchen niche then I would start my search in Google with a generic search term like “best kitchen gadgets.”
Then keep searching through the pages for low domain authority websites (anything around 30 or under). Here’s a couple I found:
The first one I found was thesmartcave.com with a DA of 31. The next one:
Slashdigit.com with a domain authority of 27. The next one:
Americangr.com with a domain authority of 33. The next one:
Economicalchef.com with a domain authority of 21 – ripe for the picking.
Why do we look for domain authorities around 30 or less? It’s because these sites have less ranking power in the eyes of Google. It’s entirely possible to beat a website with a domain authority of 50, but it could take a year or more of dedicated on-page and off-page SEO.
So now we have our list of low authority sites in our kitchen niche:
- economicalchef.com – DA 21
- americangr.com – DA 33
- slashdigit.com – DA 27
- thesmartcave.com – DA 31
- topratedkitchen.com – DA 26
This type of work can be easily outsourced to a Virtual Assistant (VA) through Upwork.
Once we have our list of sites, we run the domain name through SEMRush which would look like this:
We can quickly see how the website is growing with details on the traffic, keywords, backlinks and geographical breakdown. Scrolling down we see:
This shows you the power of SEMRush. You are able to get a look into the backlink profile of your competitor’s site and use this information in your off-page SEO work. Incredibly useful, but I use this just to illustrate what SEMRush can do, I won’t touch more on backlink building in this article.
The page we are most interested in is:
Here we can see all the different keywords that this website ranks for in position #1 in Google. We can also organise the keywords by the amount traffic that gets sent to the website. I like to organise the keywords according to both these metrics and scan through the results to find keywords.
I look for three things when scanning through the keywords:
- That the keyword is product related. If it isn’t product related, you probably aren’t going to get someone who is in the buying funnel
- Monthly searches. Generally, the more monthly searches the better, but I would still target articles that had only 10 – 20 searches per month.
- CPC (Cost Per Click). This gives you an indication of the value of this keyword. The higher the better.
Taking these factors into account I’m able to identify six keywords from the first page:
|high voltage thermostat wifi||110||0.79|
|wifi floor heating thermostat||20||2.56|
|z wave thermostat||3,600||1.04|
|smart ceiling fan switch||390||1.09|
|blueair air purifier review||140||4.55|
You can also see how quickly the site has ranked for certain keywords:
For the keyword “heated floor thermostat” it’s taken the site around six months to go from publishing to ranking in the #1 position in Google.
Now, the one caveat is that to use all of the SEMRush features you will need to pay for a subscription. You are able to use it for free, but the results and number of searches will be limited.
I recommend starting out with the free version to get the feeling for the searches and strategy, then once you get some traction sink your teeth into and go for it.