Today on the blog, we're bringing in Matt Diggity, SEO expert who has mastered the art of ranking on Google and scaling up a portfolio of successful niche websites.
He'll be walking us through the art of scaling effectively, from knowing when and how to start, to his key strategies for building a successful portfolio.
What You’ll Learn:
What Is "Scaling" All About, Anyway?
So you’ve been building up your affiliate site, and finally experiencing some success.
Your site is ranking and profiting, and you’re on top of the world – finally, all of your hard work has begun to pay off! Then you start to realize… if one site can generate passive income, many sites could mean true financial freedom.
Enter the realm of scaling affiliate sites.
As with anything though, scaling your niche sites isn’t an “easy” process by any means.
Setting up and running just one site takes a huge attention to detail and strategizing in order to reach success.
Mastering keyword research, SEO, all the techniques to rank… it’s do-able when you can stay laser-focused on one site, but what happens when multiple balls are up in the air?
It’s no wonder that for many people, just the thought of trying to grow multiple sites at once is enough to make their head spin.
And while your first site may have been a one-man game, scaling effectively is nearly impossible without a team in place.
On the blog here today, Matt Diggity will walk us through the steps and strategies he’s taken to reach massive success in scaling niche sites – and how you can do the same.
Get Clear On When You’re Actually Ready To Scale
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet building and running affiliate sites, it can be tempting to want to dive in headfirst and multiply your portfolio to get faster results.
But, unless you’ve had some pretty significant success already, this isn’t a great idea.
You never want to start out by building multiple sites at once – this is a recipe for frustration, overwhelm, and most likely failure. It’s important to develop a winning method for building sites that work – and the best way to do that is by focusing on one at a time.
Think about it: if you throw a massive amount of time and energy into building up a few sites, then none of them reach any level of success… it would be pretty discouraging, right?
Plenty of people bite off more than they can chew in the beginning, then end up throwing in the towel once overwhelm sets in.
Building out multiple sites is a huge financial and time commitment, so you really want to establish a proven system that gets results before sinking your hours and dollars into multiple sites.
Each website costs money to build and rank, costs you and your team time resources to create content, get links built, and reach success.
So, as tempting as it may be to see your friends building their portfolio, commit to reaching at least one win before you start to scale!
Reaching That First Win: Building Site #1 to Authority Level
There are essentially two milestones that a healthy affiliate site goes through:
- Getting out of the sandbox
- Reaching authority level.
It’s incredibly important that you get at least one site to the Authority phase before you think about starting to scale.
The Sandbox phase
In the beginning, when building your site up from scratch, you’re in what we call the “Sandbox.”
Your site is brand new, you’ve finalized the structure and design of the website, are creating initial content, and starting to backlink.
Essentially, you’re planting seeds here for the site to thrive later down the line.
During this phase, Google is ignoring you.
You might put in work for months without seeing any results in your ranking – and this is where commitment and resilience really come into play.
While you’re in the Sandbox phase, you want to stay pretty conservative with the content creation and backlinking.
Think a few pieces of content per month and sparsely collected backlinks.
In this phase, it’s really up to Google as to when your site starts to rank. And if you start hitting things too hard, you’ll stay in the sandbox even longer!
It’s important that your growth is organic, so that Google will recognize you as an authentic authority.
Think about it: Why would a fresh site that’s two months old suddenly be getting a massive amount of backlinks? Stay conservative and consistent if you want to see results that pay off in the end.
It’s also important to keep in mind that plenty of first-time sites don’t work out at all! This is totally normal – but it’s important not to give up.
Many people give up after their first site isn’t a home run, but those who do succeed see this as an opportunity to grow and learn, and make their next site even better. (It’s called the “Sandbox” for a reason!)
In this phase, you might see new content hitting page 9 or 10 on Google. While this is low, don’t be discouraged – you’re still growing! Stay consistent, and soon you’ll reach the next phase...
Getting out of the Sandbox
There is a reason our Aged Sites have been selling out since 2015. The advantage is ridiculous.
At a certain point, when you’ve stayed consistent with your backlinking and content creation, and if you’re in a viable niche, Google will start to recognize you as a growing authority.
Suddenly, your content will start ranking on page 3 or 4 of Google, rather than page 10. Hold onto your hats – it’s time to turn up the volume!
At this point, you want to turn things up but not go full blast quite yet. Google is still “iffy” on your site – so keep it chill! Scale up to 2-3 backlinks per week and a couple of posts per month, to continue building that valuable trust with Google. As with anything, trust is build slowly and surely… not all at once.
When you’re at page 3 status, it’s definitely time to focus on building things up but not to go all out completely.
Break out the champagne – your site has started ranking on page 1!
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the time to crank up the volume and keep things going at full blast – you're an Authority now.
At this point, any new content you put out on new topics is on page 1, 2, or 3 right off the bat.
This is the winning zone for your site – the prize you’ve been working towards. All limits are on content and backlinks are GONE – in fact, your only limits on content should be the amount of topics your imagination can come up with.
Your site is now an Authority, and Google recognizes your content as page 1-worthy.
Keep pumping out the content and start reaping the fruits of all your labors!
You’ve created a winning site, and now it’s time to start considering scaling your portfolio.
Scaling Starts With Outsourcing
Remember all of the labor that went into building out every part of your first niche site?
Maybe you handled everything on your own, so you could understand the full process – and that’s SMART.
You’re going to need to know the in’s and out’s of each strategy and process so you can troubleshoot and strategize as you scale.
But being a one-man team simply is not a sustainable strategy for scaling up. Your vision and expertise will be needed at the top – not in the day-to-day drudgery of content creation and backlinking.
There simply isn’t enough of you to create what needs to be done in the hours you’re allotted with your day.
"After success with your first website, you're ready to consider scaling up to more. But before you do so, you need to get some team members in place so you have the experience of what it's like not doing everything yourself.
The first step to wet your feet with outsourcing and scaling is hiring someone to write your content."
Which leads us to the key first step of scaling…
Don’t worry too much about hiring people with tons of direct experience – it’s often wiser to hire based on attitude, commitment, and enthusiasm.
Someone who’s smart and willing can always be trained up from a clean slate.
Think about it: if an applicant says they’re great at SEO, why are they applying for a job?
A great way to screen applicants is to create a Typeform survey with the questions you want answered. Ask them to rate themselves in variety of skills from 1-10, and only look at the 10’s.
Filtering your survey results will save a ton of time, and you’ll only spend time looking at the applicants who are right for the job.
Here is the order in which you should build your team:
- Project manager
1. Outsource content creation
The very first person you should hire on your next site build is a content creator.
Not only will this take a huge chunk of work off your plate immediately, but it will give you the valuable experience of knowing what it’s like not to do everything yourself.
(More than anything, this shift in energy is often what holds people back from outsourcing and maximizing their growth potential.)
There is a huge range of possibilities when it comes to outsourcing content, and it really just depends on your available budget.
You can hire someone to write articles for $5-10 on Upwork or Fiverr, or invest in higher quality copywriting.
2. Outsource backlinking
Once you have your content creator(s) in place, you can start to outsource backlinking. This might be to an agency or contractor.
3. Outsource project management
Finally, with your logistics team in place, you’ll want to think about hiring a Project Manager to manage the day-to-day tasks of the business.
At this point, you can give up the day-to-day SEO, and focus on higher-level things like which niches to get into, when to exit, and different ways to monetize.
Hire your PM from within, so your upper-level employees are familiar with your brands, content, and systems.
Creating A Budget For Scaling
One of the most common questions when it comes to scaling your affiliate site portfolio is, “How much will it cost?”
This question really doesn’t have one straight answer – a good website cost varies, depending on your budget and how much you want to invest in its development.
While there are people who throw up bad-looking sites with cheaply-written content, they’re not the ones generally raking in big success.
It’s worth it to make the investment in your websites, to give them the best possible chance to reach Authority level – after all, your time and the time and salary of your team can’t be recuperated.
(This is another reason why it’s important to get at least one big win under your belt before you start to scale: it’s an investment.)
As for the more specific cost of your site, it will depend on a few factors.
Content is the main cost when you build out your site, and quality matters if you want to start ranking in a decent amount of time.
If your niche is quite wide, you’ll obviously need to spend more to write on more topics.
There is a whole range of options when it comes to investing in your content, from $5/article on sites like Upwork and Fiverr, to upwards of $100/article for high-quality professional writers.
In Matt’s experience, $2,000 is really the bare minimum for creating a viable site that really has the foundation and legs to become successful in the long run.
Keep in mind: not all websites will make money!
The affiliate website game is one of determination and resilience.
Even an expert like Matt who’s been in the game for years, still has about a 60-65% success rate with his new sites.
The rest, he scraps.
Let’s be honest: it can be hugely discouraging to put your time and effort into a great site build with great content… that simply flops.
It’s part of the game though, and you have to be able to move on from the sting of a failure and let it go without giving up completely.
You have to be willing to "kill (some of) your babies", so to speak, in order to reach massive success with those vital winners!
Remember: you only need to have 1-2 big winners per year, to pull in a 6-figure income from affiliate sites. Stay persistent, and learn to see the failures as learning opportunities that will make your future projects even more lucrative.
Building Out Your Systems to Scale
When it comes to scaling, there are two words you’ll need to remember. We’ve already covered one: Outsourcing! The other?
As you know, building an affiliate site comes with many, many moving parts.
The name of the game here is developing systems so that processes become repeatable and resistant to human error.
Building out your sites sequentially
Many people are attracted to affiliate marketing because they want passive income. And it’s true – while a successful site takes a LOT of work to start up, once it’s up and rolling, it requires only about 1-2 hours per week of maintenance.
The key here is to build your sites serially – getting the front, heavy load of the work done in sequence (not in parallel.) So essentially, you’ll build out one site at a time (or outsource to your team, depending on the size), before moving onto the next.
Once the front-loading phase is complete, you can have multiple sites working in parallel because their maintenance is quite simple.
"When scaling, you build your websites serially, getting the front load of the work done in sequence.
Once that initial workload is done, you can have multiple sites running in parallel because the maintenance is easy."
4 areas to systematize as you scale:
Every system you create in the building process needs to be documented in a Standard Operating Procedure that everyone you work with has access to – whether that’s a full-fledged team or just you and your content writer. (And if you have a Project Manager, that person should be writing the SOP.)
Here are the 4 main areas to systematize as you build up your portfolio:
- Building your sites
- Creating content
- Link generation
- Optimizing content
1. Building your sites
What are the steps you follow each and every time you build a new site from the ground up? This is incredibly important to document, so you can outsource these logistics.
2. Content creation
Because you already have a successful site or two under your belt, you probably have some sort of system in place for creating content. Again, this needs to be documented and systemetzed for optimal scalability:
3. Link generation
Creating systems for generating links will help automate and speed up this time-consuming process once you have multiple sites going at once.
These three types of links are great to systematize:
4. Optimizing content over time
As your site grows in age, it’s important to keep optimizing it so it can maintain its ranking. Fortunately, you will have already created systems to make this much easier!
General strategies for systematizing
Every single time you do something, you don’t want to have to explain it again. Your team should have everything they need to replicate a successful process without constantly checking in with you or your PM.
Use templates wherever possible – for content, reaching out for guest posts, and hiring. Use software to help automate when it makes sense.
Common Questions About Scaling Niche Sites
How many sites should I start with?
It really depends on your time and budget. Once your systems are in place, it’s really not too much harder to build many sites than it is to build a few.
Keep in mind that each site will be an investment between $2,000 to $20,000, so allocate your resources accordingly.
You may want to build up a few sites to success then reinvest your budget back into building more sites.
How will I know which sites to invest more in?
Scaling websites is like planting seeds – imagine these websites like little trees you’ve planted, and you’re watering them every day.
Suddenly, you’ll see a sapling start to emerge! There’s no straight and narrow way to know which sites will burst out of the sandbox… you need to monitor and be ready to turn up the volume when one does.
When a site’s ranking has jumped from page 8 to page 2, it's time to start taking this site seriously. At this point, all the effort you’ve put in is starting to pay off!
New content will start to rank, and this site needs more of your focus.
What if I don’t have a ton of money to outsource and build new sites?
A good alternative to building up a bunch of new sites is buying sites that are already winning. (This is also a way to supplement your portfolio of new sites.)
A site you buy may have already escaped the Sandbox, or even entered Authority mode, and just needs care and attention.
Last year, Matt invested in a site that was bringing in $2000/month, gave it a makeover and started rolling out a ton of content.
This month it just cleared $21,000/month – which is 1000% growth in one year!
So if you have the money to invest in an Authority site, this can be a more efficient way to scale your portfolio.
You can save your resources by working on a site that’s already an authority, rather than dealing with the slow beginning phases.
Can I buy a site as a beginner?
Yes, but keep in mind that there is both a budget gateway and knowledge gateway.
You can definitely buy a cheaper site to get some experience: a site that’s bringing in $250/month might go for $5000, for example.
Make sure to do keyword research and Google trends to make sure the niche is still relevant.
What niches do you recommend for building my portfolio?
You’ll want to go through the same niche and keyword research phase for each of your websites, as you would for your first one.
Matt recommends niches in health, wealth, and relationships – no matter what’s happening in the economy, people are going to be interested in buying in these areas!
How will I know when to stop investing in a site?
Google trends will show you when the slope of a trend starts to decline, and it’s time to get out.
Sometimes you won’t know how long a trend will last, so use your intuition! It might also be time to exit when things just start to plateau off – maybe you can’t find any new topics to write about, or are just sick of it.
Either way, if it’s feeling hard to come up with new content, it might be time to move on.
There’s an intuition involved when it comes to exiting. Over time, you’ll start to feel when you can make the most money selling.
Before you sell, though, your site needs at least a year of earning history.
And keep in mind that the longer you hold a site, the higher its value will be.
For example, the standard 20x multiplier that your site will go for in the market might grow to 30x or higher if you hold longer.
Parting Words from Matt
What practices or rituals have helped you develop a successful affiliate business?
Morning rituals, yoga, and meditation are huge.
Having space for rituals and mindful practices helps you to get in a “creative” space of mind, rather than “reactive” – which is so vital for success in this kind of business.
You’re able to be in IN the experience of life and business, rather than looking AT it.
What's one book you recommend?
“Web Copy that Sells” is great for helping to develop solid writing skills.
It's a bit outdated in terms of platforms and internet language, but the principles are incredible relevant and effective.
Can you share one final piece of advice for someone looking to scale up their porfolio?
Find a mentor to help you get off the ground and stay accountable to your vision.
It’s easy to start out feeling like you can do it all, or being skeptical of getting help – but the right mentor is an absolute game-changer.
Nearly all successful people have someone they work with to help them uplevel and keep growing – it’s exactly the same in this type of business.
Save yourself the time, and get a kick start by finding the right person to be your guide.