We're excited to bring you the story of Elle today!
Not only is she the first female success story we've featured on the blog, but Elle's also built herself a very nice income from her HPD site and that's why you're here too, right?
There are plenty of lessons here so without further ado, let's head into the interview!
PS. We've changed Elle's name to be respectful of her site but all the words below are 100% hers.
Please introduce yourself to the HPD audience and let us know a bit about you
A little about me — I'm a mom of two and have been self-employed for the last 15 years running an agency.
While I enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being self-employed, there's always been a lot of stress around being available for client emergencies and not being fully in control of my schedule.
I enjoy the work, but it's very much a time-for-money business model and would be hard to ever sell or fully hand off to someone else.
How long have you been building your affiliate site(s) for? Was the HPD site your first attempt at building one? What attracted you to use HPD?
About 5 years ago, I started a blog with a friend — it was somewhat popular but we never figured out how to make money with it. However, it got me curious about how bloggers make money.
Then two years ago, I was in a mastermind and one of the guys mentioned that he'd just bought an HPD affiliate site.
I wasn't familiar with affiliate sites so I checked out the HPD website. I didn't intend to buy anything and was a bit gunshy after the lack of success the first time.
However one of the sites for sale was on a topic I know about, plus HPD had a lot of good training information which made it seem doable.
I spent a week deliberating and finally bought the website.
What attracted you to the niche you ultimately picked?
It's a topic I know from my agency work.
That's been really useful to have that overlap — while it doesn't benefit the blog directly, I can keep up with trends easily and see the industry from a different point of view.
Plus I liked the idea of learning SEO and having a sellable side-project that provides passive income.
How does your site earn revenue today? Was it always this way?
Currently, the site earns revenue half in ads, half in affiliate income, with periodic sponsored posts.
I just got on MediaVine which was a great boost to our bottom line.
Before that, I was on Monumetrics which was certainly better than Google Ads and I recommend it to people who aren't quite at MV's 25k sessions yet.
Affiliate income is a mix of Amazon, which still converts the best, and some brand affiliate programs that have better rates.
Generally, if I see something is selling well, I go look to see if there's an affiliate program we can join.
Can you tell us some details about your current stats? Monthly traffic, monthly sales and income, monthly expenses, total income, how long has your site been going, anything else to include.
The site is 2 years old. Monthly traffic is at 57k sessions a month.
Right now the site earns about 2k a month.
I'm mostly reinvesting that back into the site (writers, VA and software like Ahrefs) plus some of the other sites I'm building.
I've also been going back through our old content and optimizing it which has probably had the biggest return for least effort.
When you first bought your site, what were the first things you did?
While I was waiting for the site to be built, I learned more about the specific niche, read a lot about SEO and got our social, especially Instagram accounts set up.
There was a great article on the site about what to do with your site for the first 6 months and I followed (most) of that too.
Suggested Article: Your first 6 month with a niche site
I also bugged the HPD team with lots of questions and they were very helpful.
Mainly I focused on creating more content though.
What kind of strategy have you employed to get your site ranking and earning? How long did it take and what kind of things will you do in the future?
I still remember my first Amazon sale.
I've never been so thrilled to see .43 cents!
That was about 6 months in.
After that, the sales started to be more consistent but I still have days when I get hit by a few returns and don't make any Amazon income.
I've mostly concentrated on content and building connections.
As the site earns more, I've also been upgrading to hiring expert writers on the topic and I feel like that's made a huge difference quality-wise.
I want the site to earn but also be something I'm proud of.
We've also had good luck with Pinterest driving traffic to the site and swear by Tailwind.
Suggested Reading & Listening:
Our Pinterest walkthrough & case study
Our Podcast episode with Kate Ahl of Simple Pin Media
We built a good Instagram following and it's a fun way to interact with the community, but we didn't see much click-through or ROI and have scaled back.
We're currently building our email list and will be testing that out.
According to Ahrefs, there was a big jump in your organic traffic and referring domains earlier this year, what did you do to get this huge spike in growth?
I’d been going through and optimizing old posts for a few months when we got that spike. So I think it was that.
However, I also got us on faster hosting, worked on site speed, started making our own videos and got a few links (4) at the same time.
Editors Note: When you're building up your site, you'll be doing lots of things to make “it work” so it'll be tough to narrow down exactly what caused a positive shift for your site. All that matters is that you keep that flywheel going though.
What did you struggle with at the beginning? How did you resolve it?
I definitely think the beginning is the most difficult. You have to work for months without seeing any return or even knowing if it will work!
It can be demoralizing. I've had a few friends who learned about affiliate sites from me and excitedly went to start their own sites but they've all stalled out at 5-10 articles.
That's definitely an area where buying from HPD is a huge benefit.
You get a site that already has well-structured content so you'll start to see results faster. I'm slow at writing and don't particularly enjoy it, so I never even considered trying to write all the content for the site.
Suggested Links: Human Proof Designs' Affiliate Sites
Now I think that was a bonus and I encourage everyone to hire writers. Even if you can't afford a great writer and you have to edit, you'll be able to create some momentum to get you through that initial phase.
Also respect your time.
A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking it's “free” if they do it themselves. Remember your time is valuable and limited too.
Try to keep your focus on higher value tasks and where you can add the most value.
Do you have any final thoughts or is there anything else you'd like to add about your experience?
This is very silly but something that helped me a lot when I started was having Google ads on the site.
I wasn't getting any Amazon sales and I was literally only earning pennies a day from ads but at least the site was earning.
And I could see that there was a continuum — it gradually went from a couple of pennies to .05 cents to .10+ cents a day.
I've always heard that zero to 1 is the hardest in business, after that it's just scaling.
It might not work for everyone but if you're in the initial phase and having issues feeling like you're moving the needle at all, it's worth a try.