Lessons from expanding a site elapsed $1000 a month in a year.

While these results aren’t very impressive compared to some people, the fact I’ve done it with only 20 articles posted and with no link building, hardly any social media or much of a clue what I’m doing might be motivation for some of you!

Results so far

2016 Earnings

I started in January, didn’t get my first click through to Amazon for two months (I had 2 clicks in March). In June I made my first sale and earned a huge $2.12, and from there the snowball really took off with earnings doubling or more every month since.

  • June $2.12
  • July $4.54
  • Aug $41.70
  • Sept $81.80
  • Oct $212.44
  • Nov $492.78
  • Dec $1,941.68

Traffic stats As you can see traffic stats closely follow my earnings, reaching around 10K monthly sessions in December.

Site KPIs

I’ve also kept track of some other key metrics over the last couple of months. You can see how my CTR (people clicking from my website to Amazon) quickly grew over the last few months as I started learning more about affiliate marketing and what type of content converts best.

 

Background I’ve worked in a digital background for the last 5 years, both for website agencies and for larger corporates doing digital strategy. While you might think that gives me an advantage, I was actually pretty out of touch and clueless when it came to setting up WordPress from scratch.

Not having a team of developers and designers to do the actual “doing” has been a pretty big learning curve.

I decided to start a blog in Jan 2016 before I had even heard about affiliate marketing. I was interested in a new hobby and had always wanted to try and create my own website and grow it from nothing.

I bought a template, signed up for Bluehost and created a few generic posts and went live. I probably wrote about 3 posts in the first 2 months.

I thought it would make sense to build something valuable first that got lots of traffic, then it would be easy to monetize later.

During that time I did some Googling about how to make money from a blog and decided I might as well sprinkle a few Amazon Affiliate links into my existing articles.

I got board and didn’t come back for a few months when I realized that my tiny blog was getting a few hundred visits a month and a few people clicking through to Amazon.

Once I made my first sale of just over $2.00 I decided I should really put some more effort into this thing.

 

Website strategy I use the word strategy pretty loosely. From the beginning, my focus was building a valuable resource in my niche. I skipped straight past niche selection, as this was just a hobby I was interested in. In hindsight, I got super lucky, as my niche (kitchen & outdoors) has a super passionate community of people who love to talk about (and buy) products.

In the future, I would not consider getting into a niche unless I was sure there was a number of forums, Reddit etc of people that love to talk about the niche and argue about what product is best for X.

Another advantage is that my niche has a decently expensive ($200-$1000) main product category, with loads of accessories ($5-$300). This helps pump the Amazon commissions up, and when you make those infrequent larger ticket sales, you get to keep more.

After experimenting with some different types of content, I found I got best results from writing “best X” type articles that went into great detail (2,000 – 5,000 words).

These usually include 3-10 products of that type, as well answering all the common questions someone might have, and things you need to know before or when first using a product.

A typical post probably takes me 5-6 hours to write, and I usually write 1-3 a month since I’m a lazy piece of shit. Trying to work on this.

 

Keyword research I don’t really do keyword research, and I think beginners probably waste a lot of time/money on something you can do for free.

What I do spend a lot of time on is doing content research in my niche. I follow 2 credits, about 5 forums, dozens of blogs and a Pinterest account just for my niche.

Google is really the best keyword tool out there. And it’s free. For example, find a popular forum in your niche e.g. www.kittenchat.com. Then type “site:www.kittenchat.com + “best””.

Bingo. Thousands of pages of people that are crazy about your niche discussing the best products. This gives me a huge list of topics I keep in Trello, as well as a starting point to research post content.

Once I have a topic I’ll do a proper review of the top 5-10 people ranking for that keyword. I want to make sure this topic is soft enough that I can rank easily. I’m looking for a few key things.

  • I like to see forum posts in the top 10 results
  • Links to Youtube are also a good sign
  • None of the big affiliate sites like thewirecutter
  • Shit affiliate sites are fine. You can usually tell if it’s a thousand words that have been spun together by someone off Upwork for $12.

Try and think outside the square. I rank for some competitive products because I could focus an article and go for the long tail. E.g. “Best LED torches” might look impossible, but “Best LED torches for caving” might be ripe for the taking.

I might chuck a few variations into Google Keyword planner to double check volume for prioritizing what post to work on, or to double check which specific keyword to use.

Now that my site is earning money I will probably look at investing in something like SEMrush. But this is definitely a luxury you don’t need when starting out.

 

Promotion I’ve done almost no promotion. So far I’ve just dabbled in a few areas, as writing posts take me so damn long. And for the time being, gives me the best ROI.

  • I setup a basic FB page where new posts are automatically posted to. I spent about $20 promoting it for some reason, and I get 1 or 2 new likes a week. I think it’s up to about 140 likes.
  • I set up a Pinterest account, created a few of my own pins but A) I’m a terrible designer and B) I’m not convinced traffic from Pinterest in my niche will buy. I also don’t like slowing my posts down with huge high def Pinterest friendly images.
  • I think I’ve sent 1 broken link email and 1 guest post email in the last 12 months. Never heard back about either.
  • I have a basic email capture pop up, that gathers a few emails a week. My list is up to 120 or so and I’ve never bothered to send an email.

 

Where to from here As you can tell from above I’ve only scratched the surface of this niche. My plans for 2017 are to continue growing the site out to about 40-50 core articles. This should cover all the main product types and accessories in my niche. I want to start slowly getting into some other strategy beyond content creation and praying that Google likes it:

  • Growing my email list and setting up proper email marketing campaign is going to be a huge for me this year. My website traffic is almost all one night stands, and while it’s nice to get the odd sale off Amazon, I want to keep them coming back and buying. Especially because my niche is gold around Xmas and Thanksgiving.
  • I’ve been putting off link building/outreach for too long. I think I have 1 shitty forum link, and a random link from a crap news website with low domain authority. To be honest I’ve surprised I got to 10k monthly without doing anything here.

I don’t believe in obsessing over what my keyword rankings are (Most of my traffic is super long tail anyway), but last time I checked most of mine were at the bottom of the first page, so I would expect if I could pump these up that would give me a huge boost.

I plan to pick 1-2 strategies from backlinko and then try and execute. Any tips here lol?

  • Outsourcing more content. I’ve experimented in this space, especially to expand the type of articles on my site so it’s not all heavily affiliate content. I’ve had mixed success, with the posts starting to do quite well in Google, but I’ve never been happy with the quality of the content.
  • Grow my traffic and revenue sources. Relying on Amazon + Google for everything is a shitty strategy. I plan on adding in other affiliates and am just signing on to an affiliate program with the manufacture of one of my top selling products. I’ll continue to look for ways to diversify my income and other traffic channels like Facebook.

Q and A

How do you write 3k words in 5 to 6 hours???

A/Can easily be done in 1-2 hours if you know the subject. It’s when you know nothing about what you’re writing about that time gets used up (or wasted, depending on how you look at it). Doing enough research to know what you’re writing about makes everything a lot easier and a lot faster.
You mentioned you didn’t really attempt to build up the site until a few months in. That revenue graph is pretty interesting that the money only started coming in the past month or two. How long did you work on the site seriously with no revenue?
Also, what was your experience signing up as an Amazon affiliate with next to no traffic on the site? Did you have much content? I’ve heard it’s tougher to get approved when you do it that early on.

A/In the first 3 months, I think I wrote 5 posts. All quite general content for my niche without a lot of affiliate type content.

That was enough to get my first sale, from there I started adding a few buying guides around July-sept and these started paying off big time in nov and dec.

Signing up for Amazon was easy.