Today's case study is a particularly exciting one for me because it comes from an “In Real Life” friend. Quite a few of my friends have followed in my footsteps and started internet marketing, or at least come to me for advice with their own ventures. My friend Jamie has done particularly well for himself, and I couldn't wait to share his story with you all.
After picking a slightly more competitive niche than I would have initially recommended, he soldiered on and kept going until his sites finally cracked page one, and then money started pouring in. Even the recent Amazon changes haven't slowed him down.
I've helped Jamie out along the way and been on hand to give him advice, but I can't take much of the credit. His success comes down to persistence and patience, and I'm sharing his story with you today as inspiration for your own successes.
Q. How much experience do you have with affiliate marketing?
I started my first affiliate website in December, 2015, and have since started 2 more. I started out knowing absolutely nothing about marketing, WordPress, or Google, and while I’m far from being an expert on any of them now, I have learned a lot about them over the last 16 months or so.
Q. What attracted you to the niche you choose in the first place? Were you an expert in that niche etc?
The niche I chose is a home improvement tool that has become very popular over the last couple of years. I actually can’t remember exactly how I came across it. But, the fact that they can be quite expensive definitely helped make my decision. I used to be a frequent shopper on Amazon, so I know how much a high customer rating helps with conversions, especially after thousands of reviews. The fact that the products I review have such a positive reputation was another factor.
Choosing this niche was a bit of a happy accident though. My research in the beginning wasn’t thorough enough, as it is a much more competitive niche than I had anticipated. It’s been hard getting it to rank well because of this.
Q. Can you give a brief overview/timeline of how things happened with your site? For example..what did you do first, what happened after 3 months, 6 months etc.
I spent the first few months writing lots of content. In the beginning I wrote everything myself, and was putting out a post or two each week.
After I had built out the site I started to look for backlink opportunities. I did a bit of guest posting, as well as scouring forums and commenting on blogs. But, finding these opportunities was really time consuming so I started buying backlink packages from The Hoth and Rank Guardian.
I was making sales from early on, but it wasn’t until about 8 months in that I made more than $100 in a month. My progress stagnated a bit here as I ranked on page two for a few good keywords, but couldn’t make that final push.
I started to take more of an analytical approach to try and find some answers. Semrush was a great help in finding the flaws in my game. My problem was mainly due to the content not being good enough, and it took a long time to go back and improve things.
My original posts would be maybe 2000 words at the very most, and mention keywords far too often. The pages that rank highest in the SERPs for me now are 4000-7000 words long, and use more diverse language that mentions keywords sparingly.
At around the 9 or 10 month mark, the changes I had made (and some more backlinks) began to have a significant impact on my rankings. I started to hit page 1 and traffic increased by a massive amount.
Starting in November (11 months in) my earnings have pretty much doubled every month up until this point.
Q. How did you learn affiliate marketing? Blogs read, forums joined etc.
The starting point for me was a book I downloaded called SEO 2017 & Beyond by Andy Williams. It gives a good picture of what’s involved in building a successful website. I also followed Neil Patel, Brian Dean, Human Proof Designs, and Wealthy Affiliate. The forum on the Google Search Console was also really useful for answering the more ridiculous questions that I had too.
Q. What would you say to people who have read a lot but either not got started, or are struggling to get momentum?
It can be a bit overwhelming at first because there are a few new skills to master. Besides learning about SEO, there is also WordPress, and marketing to learn about. I read a lot of material before I started, but learned the most by making a lot of mistakes. It’s best to just get stuck in and you’ll learn really quickly. The beauty of all of this is that there’s nothing complicated involved. Just a lot of little things to learn, which seems daunting in the beginning.
When I was struggling for momentum it was a great pick up to get advice from HPD, and also constructive criticism from contacts made through you guys.
There will inevitably be some difficult times, but you’ll learn the most important things from these moments.
Q. What did you struggle with the most at first? How did you resolve this?
I got very down with the fact that I would work really hard, but not get any immediate recognition for it. The nature of Google means that nothing happens immediately, and your rewards for your hard work come weeks or even months after you write a post or build links.
I’m generally a very positive person, but it was very testing when I wasn’t seeing any immediate progress or getting any positive feedback for my efforts (in the way of traffic or sales). This is just the way it goes, and I learned to keep looking at the bigger picture.
Looking back now, I made a huge amount of mistakes when building this site. But, my mistakes have been a big part of the positive results I have been seeing recently. Mistakes will be made and it’s much better to make them in the beginning when the repercussions aren’t severe.
Q. Your site went from making a few sales but struggling to get more, to suddenly exploding with rankings, traffic, and making 4 figures per month, what in your opinion led to this change?
I made the mistake of rushing things in the beginning. This meant that I put out a lot of sub-par content that struggled to make an impression in the SERPs. I wasn’t aware that the content was lacking until about 7-8 months in when I got some feedback from one of the guys at Rank Guardian, and started using Semrush. This allowed me to really analyze my content (as well as my competitor’s) in a meaningful way. I then spent a lot of time upgrading my landing pages to make the content better than the rest (in my eyes anyway). I’d already built a pretty decent backlink profile, so it was only the content that was holding me back.
Q. 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.
This year has been amazing. I set out in the beginning to make an extra few hundred dollars a month of passive income, so I’ve been blown away by the figures I’ve been seeing recently. I’m currently getting 450-550 visitors a day, and last month I earned $3,952. These figures are for my original website, which I started around 16 months ago. The other two sites are still in their infancy, and are just starting to pick up the odd sale here and there.
My monthly expenses include a Semrush subscription ($70), Clicky subscription ($15), the occasional backlink package, and obviously the running costs of having a website. I’ve recently started outsourcing some writing to HPD, which is saving me huge amounts of time and moving things along much quicker than before.
Q. How do you plan to increase these numbers?
Currently, two landing pages account for a huge amount of my traffic/earnings, so I’d like to rank my other landing pages higher. I’m really happy with the content, so it’s a matter of link building. I’ve just started to use Quora, which is a really cool way of picking up some extra traffic.
I got a great tip from you guys recently about finding keywords in Semrush that I rank for, but I’m not optimized for. By adding them to some of my posts I managed to boost traffic. I aim to do this every couple of months now. I didn’t pay much attention to the long-tail keywords in the beginning and they can add up to some significant targeted traffic.
I also have some ideas for new posts and new keywords to target. My site has become more of an authority site than a niche site now, as I’m expanding the range of products that I deal with.
Q. What’s the number one thing that you think most people will struggle with when following in your footsteps?
I think not seeing any results for the first few months is hard to take. No matter how hard you work, Google doesn’t really pay you much attention in the beginning. I worked very hard putting content out, but didn’t see much in the way of sales until halfway through last year. Things picked up very quickly after that though.
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Q. What kind of strategy have you employed to get your site ranking and earning? What kind of things will you do in the future?
My number one strategy now is making sure that each landing page is better than anything else out there. That means more words, more information, and more engaging writing. A lot of affiliate posts label themselves as things like “The Ultimate Guide to…..” and “ The Complete Guide to….”, but these titles don’t represent the quality of the content. I’m only happy with my posts now, when I feel that my guides are the best available. If I can manage this then, I’m confident that it will eventually rank well. Aside from this I’ll also be buying more links.
Q. What else would you like to add about your experience?
I’ve really enjoyed the whole experience actually. It’s definitely had it’s ups and downs, but I’ve learned a hell of a lot and I’m quite proud of what I’ve done. If I can maintain my current figures and make a decent go of my other two websites, then I’d happily give up my job. So, I guess it could be life changing.