[Noobie Content] Affiliate Marketing Inspiration - How much can you make from affiliate marketing?
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Let's look at some examples of what affiliate marketing can achieve, by real people who just started side projects.
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Affiliate marketing has been a wonderful way to make money online for a whole bunch of people, but for those just getting into it you may have questions such as:
- sir does this work?
- how long before money dear?
- who is the most richested sir?
- do the bulk get bulker?
When people first thing of affiliate websites they typically think of something called "best-something-online.com" that looks like total trash. There are a lot of sites out there with poor quality content that you can barely read, a WordPress theme from last decade and 5 posts across the entire site. A lot of people do affiliate marketing in a bad way (me included) and that's fine... These sites can make money but there are sites out there that you may already be aware of that are making stupid levels of income by providing a community with actual value and you may not realise they were started out of bedrooms by regular people.
Look at the above, "best drill bits for precision and power"... What you talking about bitch?
Drill bits are for putting holes in things, how does a lump of metal with some spiral flutes cut into it represent power or be powerful? How does a lump of metal be precise? Isn't that down to whoever is using the drill bit?
This represents a huge portion of the internets affiliate content, nonsensical crap that probably doesn't make money and when we hear of Google targetting "affiliates" it's these guys and this crap content that people want to get rid of and I can't say I blame them.
So if we want to get to the next level in terms of revenue and also become a net positive* for the internet in general, we have to do this right.
* net positive means making the internet a better place with an actual website that provides value to people who want to read it, not just a website that exists to send clicks. If you are Google and you want to create a list of genuinely great results it makes sense to tweak your search algorithm to find these sites. Therefore we have to assume that is what they are doing and therefore it makes sense to build sites that should be found by those algorithms. 256kilobytes.com is agreat example of this, it provides all this content, tools and community features for people to learn and ask questions when it would have probably been easier to creat 200 posts on the best seat covers for cars.
So how do we do this right?
There are a whole bunch of inspirational affiliate sites that have turned from side projects into businesses that have generated millions. This is the dream for many of us.
In this post we will look at five affiliate sites that were started with very modest means and developed into huge businesses. Some of which have sold for millions of dollars and some continue to generate millions for their original owners.
We will look at what they do and how they do it. Things that have happened during their growth and how they first get some traffic.
Hopefully after you have read this article you will have some good ideas on how to make your next affiliate site more profitable and more useful to those you're trying to attract.
MoneySavingExpert.com is a website founded in 2003 by Martin Lewis, a financial journalist from the UK. The website cost Martin just £100 to start and it looks like it was started with a microsoft frontpage template, nice.
Since then Martin grew the website to 13 million monthly users, he has an email list of 7 million people and has a user forum where people can ask questions with 1.9 million members.
In the UK, this is a very well known site and as a result of this growth Martin was able to sell this website for £87 million in 2012, while retaining his role as the websites editor.
How did he do it?
As stated, Martin was a financial journalist who managed to use some of his connections in the media to wrangle a couple of roles on TV shows such as Simply Money and Open House where he did short sections of the show making people aware of the latest news in the financial industry helping regular people save money. It was through these opportunities where he coined the persona "Money Saving Expert". He also had other outlets that he could use to promote himself, a column in the Express called "deal of the week" and later on joined the BBC's breakfast show where he continued this kind of content.
Martin made no appologies for growing himself and from the start used his platform to grow his personal website, and it worked well. Making people aware of complex financial issues in a 5 minute TV slot was kind of impossible... So he would rush through as much as he could and end with "find out more at moneysavingexpert.com...".
His website at the time looked something like this, dated November 2002:
Does this look like crap? Yes...
But we can clearly see that from the get go his was doing several things right:
- CTA to join his email list
- Great content, literally the best in it's class in the UK at the time
- An explanation of the goal (saving money, reducing how much companies profit from you and validating it to visitors)
- Proof of expertise, citing his BBC job, radio shows and newspaper job
- Click bait titles like "free wine", "manipulate your credit card" and "£400 free..."
He may have just been a journalist with an ego, but he was doing this right.
Martin also came across very well on TV, this is a random clip from YouTube but you can clearly see he is very peursausive and gives the illusion that he is very knowledgable and really is a money saving expert...
His popularity grew and through his work he helped millions of people pull themselves out of debt.
He also started several massive media campaigns, some of which became huge and were eventually regulated by the government.
- Unfair Bank Charges
- Energy Bills - he told consumers that they should be locking themselves into the current price. Shortly after British Gas increased prices by 30%.
- Student Finance
- Payment Protection Insurance
- Mental Health and Debt
This all served to help grow his website... But we have to sit back here and think about what he was doing.
Is using these platforms to promote yourself a bit egotistical? Yes, absolutely. He didn't give a fuck...
It's unlikely that anyone reading this currently has the same oppurtunities to get roles in the media like this... But became an expert on a topic that helps anyone listening to it (rich or poor) get fucked less by banks/governments and helps them retain more of their own money.
He really was an expert, he really did make great content and really did help 10,000's get out of debt and change regulations in the country by making people aware of just how fucked some of the regulations around finance were.
From the absolute start of his website until now, he has made the best content available on the subject. This kind of stuff is fucking boring, you have to be kind of retarded (or jewish, yes he's jewish) to go through the terms and conditions of 100's of credit cards to find the best one for every category of people.
This guy has gone from a tiny journalist at a newpaper no one cares about, to the "most trusted man in Britain".
During this he's got an OBE from the Queen, changed peoples lives, made 1000's of posts of the best content available on the subject, become a leading expert in his field, campaigned to change the law, sold his website for £87 million and probably a bunch of other shit I've not been able to remember.
In the UK he's on TV a lot, and every time he opens his mouth he becomes a little more of an expert in peoples eyes. TV shows are using him for anything for analysis of political campaigns to tell us how each party will effect our finances to issues around mental health.
This became even stronger in the UK when he donated £10 million of his website sale to charity, specifically the Citizens Advice Bureau which helps people in debt.
He's done so well I kind of hate him.
What does his website do?
I feel like I've gone slightly off topic, this is about the website but it was important to show how this guy has leveraged personal branding and PR opportunities into the best resource in the UK for financial content.
The website has several areas:
- Blog - Guides to various products like credit cards, savings accounts, ISAs and more. Super in depth, literally perfect content.
- Deals - Alerts to low prices on various products, coupons, sales and more
- Legal Help - There are also guides to help if you have been scammed or ripped off, employment law, content to help contest parking tickets and this kind of thing.
- A Web Forum - Where people have questions answered and start journey threads to saving for specific things like weddings or becoming debt free
- Tools - MSE has various tools to help calculate things like interest or taxes you may owe
- Holiday Content - Travel guides for cheap trips away to various destinations
- News - Latest news that may change the way you spend money.
If you gave me an unlimited budget and told me I had to make something to beat this website, I would struggle.
MSE has everything from the best content, an email list which is scary powerful and a community around the subject.
I often keep track of new parts of the website and content they build. I can't think of a better example to follow.
So, how does the website make money?
The guy is an affiliate. It's fairly obvious and it's not hidden anywhere.
Affiliate links are everywhere as you would expect, but something worth noting is it doesn't seem to change which product is recomended by MSE.
If you were to shill VPN's or Web Hosting... Many affiliates let the commission rate they recieve influence the product that gets the top rating. I do it on my Amazon sites, the best product is usually the most expensive because that makes me the most money.
But MSE are genuinely trying to help people, it's wierd.
While recomending products that don't earn them comission probably hits their bottom line in the short term, this strategy of making people trust you and not sacrificing integrity for cash is probably why someone paid £87 million for this instead of website that perhaps make more profit or perhaps have more traffic.
I think we could all learn from this.
Things that grew from MSE
This is a tool that grew from the MSE community I believe that MSE regularly link to to help consumers.
In the UK Amazon offer free delivery for purchases over £20. This is nice... but if your order doesn't quite meet the £20 threshhold MSE (or an ex-employee) has created SuperSaverDeliveryTool.com to help find items that you may find useful that help you get to that £20 free delivery cut off.
What a brilliant idea for an affiliate website. This is so much better than 99% of affiliate sites out there. This is a website that users are actually going to find useful and the best part is they don't need to write reviews or buy content...
This is the kind of thing which would be easy to market as a side project from MSE (like they have) or would even do well on a platform like reddit. Infact if you look it up in Companies House you can see the earnings...
What can we learn from this?
Martin managed to turn his personal brand into something huge, and I know many of us will not get the same opportunities of going on TV and starting national campaigns like he has...
However, we can think smaller. Instead of TV why not go on Podcasts... Instead of writing for newspapers go write some blog posts... Start a YouTube channel or perhaps write for your local newspaper, they would probably appreciate free content and move up from there.
Make your content the best it can genuinely be and don't shill shit. If your #1 commission product is kind of crap, tell people that. Imagine that you're trying to sell cycling equipment, you recomend a certain bike and 100's of people buy it. Well done, you've probably made a few $1000... But if 2 months down the road their bike is dead they are not going to trust what you say later on prevent further sales to these people.
Right now people go to Martin, read his content, possibly save money... If taking Martins advise saves you £150 on your car insurance who are you going to turn to when your home insurance is due? It's long term thinking.
There's nothing wrong with shilling shit if you're in this for money, but if you want to get to the next level then you really need to start thinking like an actual expert and making a website that will have people clicking your links repeatedly.
10Beasts.com is arguably the most impressive story out of all the site we look at today.
Not because it's the best, or hardest to build or it was really clever... Quite the opposite. This website was started by a regular small time bedroom affiliate who wrote some blog posts, ranked some mediocre content with standard links you can buy on any SEO marketplace and made $40k a month within 8 months, then sold the website to another person for $500,000 while it was less than a year old. After the site sold it literally got penalised as well, just to make things interesting.
The best part of this story is the guy had 8 pieces of content... If you go and check out the website now you will see that it's very different, more content has been added, standards are slipping, there's errors and bugs. The original site (which was sharp) has been archived here:
This wasn't a case of someone hiring teams of people and throwing $10,000's at a website with the hope of everything working out, Luqman (the site owner) is a regular student in the UK. This site was built using standard links that we can all go and buy, it used the Genesis theme, it's built on WordPress, the content is not all that special... But the execution and tactics used were excellent. This is a site we can all learn from an recreate.
It's truly a wonderful story and to this day many of my own affiliate sites take inspiration from the type of content 10Beasts made popular among affiliates. The layouts and general content style is now the type of thing you will see across 100's of affiliate websites.
This is also the website that inspired many SEO's to spam scholarship sites for links, this was ground zero for that tactic and was the one of the first "public" success stories of spamming various .edu emails to get links.
10Beasts was a website started by Luqman Khan, a SEO/internet marketer from the UK who got the idea from PC Mag top 10 style posts to create a website dedicated to Top 10 product lists.
The site itself is very simple with simple content focusing on product reviews of the 10 Best products for a bunch of keywords. The site is also nothing unusual, it's built in WordPress and uses the ever popular Genesis Theme. There was no custom development was done, this is as simple as life gets when building a website and you could literally follow this tutorial to recreate your own version of it.. The domain was brand new, it had no previous history or links. There is no weird site structure or SILO's going on either.
There are no tricks, no hacks, no domain history or hidden information. This site was brand new, published 8 posts and in month 4 had results like this.
Growth continued to grow at an absurd pace, in November (5 months later) his made $40,000, in november he made $80,000...
How do we know all this?... He blogged about it. Something I cover later, this is not the usual strategy but it's an absolutely perfect case study for noobs out there looking for inspiration because he left nothing hidden (and it helped get links...).
So let's get into it...
There is literally nothing to really get into here, we can see the format the author used throughout their site build here.
The site is very normal looking, nothing complicated and simple. Text is clean to read, it's a nice size and well spaced. Images are sharp and don't dominate the layout... To the untrained eye this looks very ordinary but some of this is done very cleverly.
The general layout starts with something like this:
This is very simply just the title of the post which is a set format like:
- Best 3d Printing Pen 2016 – Buyer’s Guide
It's simple, contains the keyword and what other content is included. It tells the user what the page has and delivers.
The introductions on 10 Beasts were done very well, using simple language they explain what the products are sneaking in the target keyword a few times naturally. They explain what sorts of attributes you may want from that particular product and how they judge and find a "good" product from the selection.
We can see that the author has included some very good details and they go into a good level of depth trying to answer users questions, while also padding out content and word count for SEO...
The anchor text you see above in orange are Amazon links, CTA's for users to click and get loaded with the affiliate cookie. This is a common theme throughout which is done very well and directs users at every opportunity to Amazon without making them feel pushed... It's subtle, it's perfect.
This is very clever, as you scroll down the page this hugs the side of your browser window.
I have outlined all of the Amazon links in green... The rest are links to various fraggles within the page.
This is set up and unique to every product review, it means that on our screen as we scroll down we have CTA's taking us to Amazon where we pick up the authors affiliate cookie.
This. Is. Genius.I don't have the conversion data or any heatmaps but I'm going to guess this is very successful and drives a lot of clicks without being pushy or even appearing like a real advert of any kind.
This is done with the standard WordPress widget system and a plugin like this that lets you control when certain widgets show. It gives you control to do this, it's very smart and requires little effort.
This is pretty standard in current_year, this is used on most Amazon affiliate sites because Amazon love to include these tables in featured snippets like so:
This isn't new and if you want to learn more check out my previous article on schema...
10 Beasts wasn't the first do this and their tables arn't particularly ground breaking either but they do a few things well.
This is a pretty standard 10 Beasts table. In green I have highlighted internal fraggles similar to the sidebar we saw earlier. In red we have the Amazon check price button.
The author could have used the Amazon API and displayed the price in the table, but then how would he get visitors to click the price button and put that delicious Amazon cookie on their browser?
He's not a man that will tell you the price, you're going to have to give him a fucking click for the price and you're going to fucking enjoy it.
We also have some standard product data on the table, letting users see the difference in products before they have to read any reviews... We also have some bold text thats says (Editors Choice).
This is 10/10 thinking... Before users even read a single product review they know:
- Basic product info in the table
- The products on offer with brands
- The best one on the review
- They are invited to click Amazon links in the sidebar, also highlighting the best product(s)
- Amazon links are in the introduction linking to similar products
The users have no read a single product review, they already know the winner and where to click to buy it.
Can we give this fucking man a medal please? This is high level conversion trickery and our users probably haven't even realised what is going on.
On the surface these are relatively simple, but there is actually a lot going on. I've done my best to outline the parts worth noting below.
This has been done to perfection! Everything from numbering the products so users know how many products are left on the page to using an orange CTA for the buy now at the bottom (orange is not used anywhere else on the site), it's outstanding. Even subtle hints on the product with summaries and highlighted conclusions for each product is very well done.
But this is totally scalable! It could be done with something like this or you could simply buy product review content for very little money. The review formatting could be done with a WordPress gutenberg block or you could create a quick PHP template... Even an excel sheet.
10/10 would draw over it all over again. This is then replicated 10 times for each product on the page and we move into the closing sections.
Underneath the product reviews the author deviates away from the template structure and each page is different, but this is a solid example and shows what they are trying to do.
We have more information relating to our products. This again is a very smart play by the author in terms of SEO...
This is not an accident, the author has realise that by only producing review content they are limiting theirself to the type of content they can write... For any keyword you will have related terms that Google expect a resource for that keyword to include. We can see examples of this within autocomplete data and bolted keywords on SERPs.
For example if you search for "fish tank", Google will also bring up results that contain "aquarium". They are very good at natural language processing and making these relationships between words.
If you're making a guide for the best resource on computer mice and you don't include terms like PPI, sensor, prediction, polling rate, buttons... Then chances are you're not talking about computer mice properly and Google will judge that your content isn't all that great.
By including a buyers guide the author is giving themself the opportunity to include these terms and also really nail down weakspots in the review content.
We also see the author link out to two very relatable resources for computer mice, these are spreadsheets that show what professional gamers are using on their PC set ups. The author used this opportunity to mention game titles in a review for gaming mice, smart.
The next part is a summary of the mice the author reviewed, it explains what products stands out, lists a picture (linked to Amazon) and singles out a product that the author recomends, this is what a user (and search engine) would expect in a good product review.
But the buyers guide continues... Not happy with how much content they had written, the author has created a guide to explain what all of the technichal jargon was that they used... again giving him a PERFECT opportunity to nail in related keywords to the main keyword and show search bots that this page really is expert content that includes all the words they expect.
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Some other content you may like:
PCPartPicker.com and that "get my cart up to the free shipping threshold" site are both S-tier affiliate site ideas. Also, IIRC, Honey also makes money from affiliate commissions. Also, speaking of PCPartPicker, Linus Tech Tips [YouTube] also does some S-tier affiliate marketing in that niche.
There are probably some comparable things that could be done here. PCPartPicker works particularly well in the PC building niche, since there are like sevenish parts that are 100% needed to build a PC from scratch, so some comparison is really necessary for buyers. Think of another niche like that and you could make easy money. The one that comes to mind is a textbook/college student items picker/comparer:
- Automatically find the cheapest price for a target textbook. Don't even bother with new vs. used; they don't care. Just get the cheapest.
- Find the cheapest price for other versions of the textbook. Ideally also find some way to automatically note what the changes are / how important they are. Plausibly let students vote versions up or down for how relevant they are/flag older versions if they're missing anything obvious.
- Where possible, link to free online versions of textbooks as well. Slash let students post links to free versions. Obviously you don't make money from those, but people will consistently come back to your site if you have that information and there's probably at least one textbook they do need that term that isn't available for free.
- Protip: Don't fucking let them use your server for illegal file sharing, or you will get fucking slaughtered by DMCA notices and plausibly have Amazon/other affiliate sites ban you.
- Possibly throw in some additional links for dumb bullshit/add-ons.
Sir, I can do you a nice SEO.
Solid idea dear.
PC Part Picker have also extended their system into cycling also, another niche where autists build things that require many parts in the same format.
It's a brilliant concept.
"THAT DOG IS GETTING RAPED" - Terry A. Davis
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