UPDATED DECEMBER 2016
When I first started this site, the structure was an absolute mess. I decided at the time to make it an eCommerce-style site, with portfolios, and product listings.
The site would not have a shopping cart of its own though, I simply gave people links to Amazon/eBay or other vendors I was affiliated with.
The theme I was using was Venture by WPZoom (I use an adapted version of that theme for HPD presently too). It was a great theme, but a little bit over the top for what I needed. Why use portfolios for an Amazon blog? I really had no idea but thought it was cool.
I went to archive.org and found a couple of screenshots of how my site used to look, so that I can demonstrate this to you.
This page looked cool, but it was taking my audience away from Amazon. I thought that sending them to these pages would result in more purchases, but I made 10x the money when I just sent them straight to Amazon and did away with these pages.
This page wasn't really offering the user any new advice that the Amazon listing didn't already offer. I should have just linked people directly to the AMZ listing. On top of that, it was in breach of Amazon TOS, so I'm lucky I didn't get banned for displaying the pricing.
My Logic Back Then
I thought at the time that this would allow me to make more sales, because I could simply write info articles, and refer people to the portfolios/shopping carts to view different straight razors.
I hadn't yet got my head around how affiliate sites could work. I didn't understand about top 10 posts, best of posts, or review posts; I basically thought that if you wanted to feature products on a site, you should do it with portfolios or other eCommerce traits.
I think a lot of people approach niche sites this way at first. Afterall, when trying to visualize a site making money, the eCommerce model is much easier to understand.
There are also plenty of people who recommend and do well with the eCommerce model too.
Not me though, I've only ever had success with the affiliate review model, and this site is a classic example of that.
What Should I Have Done?
I should have kept it much more simple.
I remember how difficult I found it trying to tie posts into my portfolios so I could link customers there. I would do things like, write a review of a certain razor brand, then at the bottom of the page, say something like “Check out our portfolio to view the best razors from this brand”. Then in that portfolio category I would have created listings for 3 or 4 razors from that brand.
Each listing had about 200 words, and was basically just a uniquely written, rehash of the Amazon sales page.
What was the point? Why didn't I just link them to Amazon instead?
I was making the visitor flow so convoluted, when it should be simple. I was also wasting time creating all these product listings and portfolios.
I realize now that in many cases, all you need to do is send a customer to Amazon, and let them do the hard work. You don't need to try and sell the product to the customer, just point them in the right direction (via your affiliate link).
I'm sure that users browsing my site would have been getting confused too. I was interlinking posts to other posts, throwing the occasional Amazon link in, and sending users to portfolios that were basically glorified image galleries.
Even when it got traffic, the site barely got any sales as a result.
It's not just user engagement that suffers when you overcomplicate your site either. From an SEO standpoint, my site was a mess.
Not only did I have a lot of thin content (all those product lists were unique, but barely 200 words on average), I also had no clear website outline. I had pages set up as tutorials, posts being published every week, and portfolio listings with nothing but affiliate links.
The internal linking was there, but it just didn't make much sense.
So the lesson learned here is to keep your website outline simple. A complicated structure leads to the following issues:
- You will get confused when writing your content and not be sure what posts to link to and from where.
- Your users will have to follow a more complex path around your site and you will miss opportunities to get them to Amazon (or wherever).
- Your site's structure will be confusing and even Google will not rank you as well as it could.
- You'll waste a lot of unnecessary time.
Tips For Your Own Website Outline
In a later post, I will go into more details about the changes I made and the effects this had on my site's conversions and traffic, but I want to give you something actionable to go on here too.
The more simple your structure can be, the better everything will be. I had originally planned to create a flow diagram showing the ideal structure, but I find these can actually overcomplicate things. Not our goal.
Instead, let me try explaining it simply for you.
Ideal Niche Site Structure
Make this a blogroll showing your latest posts. You can have 1 or 2 featured/sticky posts if you want.
Have links to your main categories, so in this case, straight razors, safety razors, accessories, and also have links to your money posts (such as your “top 10” posts).
Create a mixture of reviews, “best of/top 10” posts, and info posts. Link the best of posts to the reviews, and link the info posts to the best of and/or the reviews.
The idea is:
- People will read your reviews and then click through to Amazon.
- They'll read your best of/top 10 posts and either click to Amazon or click a review (and then click to Amazon).
- They'll read your info posts, such as “Straight razor vs safety razor” and will then click through to your best of/top 10 posts.
This way, everything is sending the user closer to Amazon, and you are also linking internally to your money posts, causing them to rank higher in Google.
It's also very easy for you to manage.
Put your privacy, about, contact pages in the footer.
Test this, but things like Native Ad blocks, Category lists, Top Posts lists, and the usual sidebar content is fine.
If you set your site up like this, then you will definitely have given yourself a solid foundation to grow from, and I can say that on TWO occasions I've changed sites of my own from the portfolio/messy structure to the one outlined above, and on both occasions, it resulted in higher rankings, more traffic, and higher income.
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In the next post, we'll look at what I did to grow the site once I had set it up, and as usual, what I did wrong!
Missed the earlier parts of this series? Go back to the beginning here.