Building an affiliate website is probably the easiest online business model you can get yourself into.
It’s super low risk and the returns can be exponential.
The thing is, more often than not, building a niche site to the point it reaches success and makes you a ton of money in affiliate commissions, might not be as straightforward as you’d like.
In this episode of the Online Business FM podcast — Episode 14 –, I’ll be sharing everything about my public niche site project case study that I started a few years ago.
From when I began building my own Amazon affiliate niche website to how long it took me to earn a full-time income from it, from what followed my seemingly quick success to my failures, from the lessons I learned and the strategies I tried to what I have planned for the coming future.
I’ll finish this session of the OBFM show with an exciting announcement that you won’t want to miss out on.
So… stay tuned and keep listening/reading!
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Niche Site Project
My Public Niche Site Project Case Study
Hello World, welcome to another episode of the Online Business FM podcast!
Louie here with the mission to help you start, grow or scale a profitable, successful online business.
Let’s do this!
Back in mid-2015, I started a public niche site project on my blog with the aim to describe every little step I took and all the SEO and digital marketing techniques I used as I was building an online property from zero to profitability; while, at the same time, putting a set of tools, services and tactics (recommended and taught by other people in the industry) to the test.
Rather than just tell people how my affiliate website was doing and how much money I was making (as so many others did back then), the purpose behind my public case study was to actually show people how it was done.
This free over-the-shoulder training on creating and monetizing a blog had its very own motto:
Showing always beats telling.
Which, by the way, is super true, right?
As I was about to show everything I did along the way — including my mistakes — I had a lot at stake.
Specifically my time, money and, of course, my reputation as a marketer — despite the fact that I was just starting out showing up publicly as one –, especially because that would be my first attempt at building an affiliate website.
It makes sense to inform you or to remind you that my previous experience had been running a viral-videos website full-time for around four years.
My lack of expertise at this level of affiliate marketing, nevertheless, instead of working against, would be a positive factor for my audience: I would be in the same shoes as most of them were.
Therefore, by better understanding their struggles and difficulties, I would be able to more easily help them solve their problems and get them closer to reaching success.
Niche Site Project Idea
I got the idea / inspiration to start my own version of a public niche site project from reading similar case studies by other bloggers and internet marketers such as Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com, Spencer Haws from NichePursuits.com and Tung Tran from CloudLiving.com.
They all came up with super interesting blog posts, videos and updates and I was moved to follow their good example.
My ‘Why’ Behind This Case Study
The reason why I started this kind of experiment in the first place was because I understood what others like me felt while reading other people’s blogs.
Instead of just learning about their earnings and success, what we would really want was to actually see everything that they did on their affiliate websites.
That being said, I made a promise to my readers to reveal as much as I could in order for them to totally get how things were done and to enable them to try and replicate by themselves the steps I was sharing.
My hope was that I could really help someone out there earn some extra money — or even more… who knows? — and make their lives a tiny bit better.
In the end, I would be helping myself, as well. In two distinct ways:
- I would be implementing a lot of the things I was teaching my audience (thus proving that those weren’t just words, they actually did work) and,
- I would be creating a new income stream for myself while getting more experience and learning new stuff.
Niche Site Project Goal
So, part of the goal for this project of mine was exactly what I‘ve just mentioned: to educate people on how to build a profitable, successful niche website.
And I would be doing it as I was also learning the best way to tackle each situation, struggle, problem or roadblock.
In a sentence, the goal for this case study totally matched this podcast’s tagline: let’s find out together how we can make it online.
As far as numbers were concerned, the initial goal for the niche site was to make $200 a month in Amazon commissions.
Now, I realize that $200 a month is not that high of a sum for some of you although it might be really important for others.
And, again, I had no experience of this sort and I was kind of putting my neck on the line there, so I figured I shouldn’t risk it even more than I was already risking it.
In regards to the rules of the game (so to speak), these were the ones that I had set right from the get-go, right from the start.
Time: I set a 6-month time frame to reach my monthly income goal of $200. And I told everyone I would work on the project for around 2 hours each day.
Domain Name: I decided not to reveal my then soon-to-be-bought domain name for a few reasons.
First, I didn’t want people from my audience linking back to my niche site because that would work against the whole experiment.
Backlinks help a site grow its authority and climb the search engine rankings and the only ones I could build needed to come from my own efforts, not from publicly announcing my niche website’s domain name on my blog.
Second, I didn’t want anyone falling into the trap of just copying what I was doing. That’s not the way to really learn something. Learning is actually understanding things, not mimicking others.
Third, other bloggers had had their case-study niche sites “destroyed” by SEO attacks. Apparently, some people had built a ton of spammy links to their niche sites and the result was being penalized by Google.
Needless to say, I didn’t want that to happen to me, as well.
Niche: For very much the same reasons, I also chose not to publicly announce which niche I was getting into.
Funds: To allow the highest number of people to follow my steps and build their own niche sites, I tried to spend the least amount of money as I possibly could. Which is relatively easy to accomplish with this type of online business — as it allows for very low risk and potentially high returns.
Tools: I was to use my recommended set of tools at the time, like Long Tail Pro for keyword research.
(I still use and recommend Long Tail Pro, but Ahrefs has become my favorite SEO tool now. Both can be used for keyword research, with Ahrefs having a higher price point and being a much more complete tool — it’s an all-in-one SEO tool, after all — than Long Tail Pro which is much cheaper and it’s also pretty good for its purpose.
If you’re interested you can check them out at onlinebusiness.fm/longtailpro — which is my affiliate link, mind you, meaning I earn a commission at no extra cost to you if you end up purchasing it through my link — and ahrefs.com.)
How It Went
It’s now time for the fun part!
I’m going to tell you how the niche site project case study went.
I officially announced I was going to start my own version of the niche site project at the end of July of 2015 and, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to devote that much time to it.
First NSP Failure
Most of the time I was pretty busy with my other projects. And, guess what(?), irony of ironies, I was actually spending a great deal of my available time writing my niche site project updates and other supporting articles.
What does it mean?
It means that one of my first rules, the one concerning time, was broken.
I failed to dedicate two hours every day to work on the niche website and, naturally, I was unable to reach my income goal in the desired 6-month period.
This was my first niche-site-project-related failure.
Even though my time management skills were my weakness, I was able to rank my money page high in Google, after a while.
I even got to reach the #1 spot in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages), at one point in time, for the keyword I was targeting on that money page.
And, so, slowly but surely, my niche site eventually started to bring in some affiliate commissions.
Amazon Commissions Breakdown
Let me quickly give you my Amazon commissions breakdown as they evolved over time:
In February of 2016 (about 6 months after I started the case study), I made my first sales and earned $7.25.
I remember to have celebrated this small win in a Facebook group and getting back some comments like “that’s nothing, you’ll probably won’t make much more”. But I didn’t care.
We need… — correction, we have to — celebrate even our smallest wins. That’s how you motivate yourself to keep pushing forward.
In March of 2016, I didn’t make any money from the niche site, but in the following month of April, I earned $14.68.
In May of 2016, the niche site made me $59.83 and beginning in June of that same year things started to grow really fast.
I made $160.92 in June.
$225.18 in July.
$364.03 in August.
$399.84 in September.
$380.35 in October.
$655.17 in November.
And… an incredible amount of $1,375.42 in December of 2016.
Not bad — I might say — for a site with only one money page whose reviewed products cost around $100 (or even less) on average and that Amazon’s commission percentage, at the time, varied from 6 to 8%.
Moral of the story: even with my failing to adhere to my 2-hour a day work time, I managed to reach success and got close to earn 4 thousand dollars (I made $3,642.67) from my affiliate website from February of 2016 to December of the same year.
The project had fulfilled its purpose.
The concept was proved.
Niche sites and affiliate marketing are valid, they do work as advertised.
What Happened to the Niche Site Afterwards
What happened after this successful endeavor was that I got involved in a few new projects and stopped working on the niche website altogether for several months.
Little by little, as new competing sites emerged in my niche, my Google rankings began go down.
Competition with new and freshly updated content and, probably, more authoritative websites was responsible for that, which kind of proves that there is no such thing as an 100% passive-income online business model.
In fact, the page on which I was targeting my main keyword, my main money page, has gone down in Google’s SERPs so badly that today it is very far from the top-10 ranking pages.
And, of course, together with that, my earnings from that niche website went down to shameful amounts, as well.
First Try to Get the Niche Site Back on Its Feet
To try and get my rankings and earnings back up again, I made two attempts.
From June 2017 to December of that year, I published 35 new blog posts, roughly 56,000 words of purely informational content targeting low-competition long-tail keywords amying to get some top-5/top-3 rankings in Google and bring in more authority for my website.
(I hired a few writers to help me do it, of course.)
The idea was to get some natural links to those articles and then spread some SEO juice from them to my money pages through internal linking.
(Yeah, money pages, plural — I had published a few more of them earlier on when I was still actively working on the site — but, as I said, 100% of my earnings came from my main one.)
The outcome were a bunch of top-3 to top-5 ranking pages (with several #1 spots) in Google, but not that great of a growth in terms of domain authority or income-wise.
Second Try to Up My Niche Website’s Earnings
In the second half of 2018, I again decided to publish more content on the niche website.
But this time I put in place a different strategy: instead of coming up with informational posts, I bet on commercial content, only.
The reasoning was simple: more money pages = potentially more money.
Out of the five money pages I published (this time I wrote all of them myself), one is already ranking at #7 and the remaining are still far from the top-10 pages in Google.
But, to give you all the information, I haven’t done any link building to improve their rankings, yet.
In the meantime and in regards to affiliate commissions, my affiliate website was able to break an all-time record. A negative one, that is.
I’m sorry to say, but my earnings decreased so awfully that the niche site generated a disappointing amount of… (wait for it…) 25 cents in September of last year (2018)!!
And it still hasn’t reached $50 per month on average in the following 4 months.
All things considered, this niche website is as good as dead.
Introducing Niche Site Project 2.0
Now, here’s what’s coming next:
Today, I’m officially launching a new version of this public case study: Niche Site Project 2.0 • Bringing a Niche Site Back from the Dead.
The main idea is to improve the website’s authority, get my money pages ranking high in Google and, obviously, earn a lot more money from it.
To achieve all of that, my overall plan of action is… not to use some kind of wake-up juice like in Back to the Future III, but to put my focus on (also) three…. fundamental pillars:
- On-site / on-page optimization.
- Link building.
- And updating old content (as opposed to continuously publishing new stuff).
This is part of what I promised back in Session 12 of the OBFM show — making this a much more practical podcast now that the fundamentals for the success of an online entrepreneur have been covered in the first set of episodes.
Alongside my Niche Site Project 2.0 updates here on the podcast, I’ll also update or introduce you on or to a different number of topics related to the first iteration of this experiment.
Specifically, we’ll discuss:
- What is a niche website?
- How to find a profitable niche?
- How to do long-tail keyword research?
- How to come up with a good domain name for SEO?
- How to set up your website and make it stand out?
- How to come up with an effective content strategy?
- How to monetize your blog?
- And much more.
As far as the NSP 2.0 is concerned, I’ll release a few updates, as I’ve already said, but we’ll also talk about:
- How to do on-page optimization?
- How to build links to your site?
- How to do outreach link building?
- Which content strategy is better: publishing new content or updating existing one?
- And a lot more.
NSP 2.0 Rules
The rules of the game stay pretty much the same.
Domain Name / Niche: I will not — cannot, actually — reveal my domain name nor niche for the same reasons I referred before.
Time: Building links and noticing the effects they produce takes some time, so I won’t set a predefined time frame. I’ll just keep working on the niche website and I’ll keep you posted on what goes on with it.
Funds and tools: Much like before, I will try to save as much money as I can and I’ll keep making use of my recommended set of tools.
There you have it, that’s it for this episode!
Join Us Next Time
I hope you’ve liked it and that you will keep coming back for the following sessions of this here podcast to check out my future Niche Site Project 2.0 updates.
All Links & Resources
The show notes page for this episode can be found at onlinebusiness.fm/14.
Thanks for listening…
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See You Soon
All right, I’m gone! I’ll see you next time!
From sunny Lisbon, Portugal to the world, this is Luís Miguel Correia a.k.a. “Louie Luc” and I’m signing off!