The New Year is here. 2020 has officially begun, as has the 8th month of the affiliate website case study project that I started back in June of 2019.
And boy, have I learned a lot!
To start from the beginning, you can read the Month 1 affiliate case-study pilot post here.
But the hypothesis was this.
“My team and I can build an affiliate marketing website from zero to $3,000 a month revenue in one year.”
Has it happened?
Well, we are on our way. The site has been launched. Content is getting published. The processes are dialed in. People are clicking on it, and as of last month… it is now officially making sales!
And I am 100% confident that even if I do not hit that $3,000 per month goal by month 12, it will only be a short matter of time after that before I do.
Now, before we jump into the deep end here...
If you are still confused about how affiliate marketing works or you want a proven step-by-step path to follow, click here and watch this webinar, today.
They teach the process better than I ever could.
But that said, the main objective of the entire blog series is to document the progress, so that you can follow along but the posts may not make total sense if you don't understand the 'big picture' revealed through that link above...
Today, you’re going to learn about some of the less publicized pitfalls to look out for when starting an affiliate site.
Here are 7 mistakes that I made in the last 7 months... and how to avoid them!
Mistake #1 - Not Setting Celebration Benchmarks
Starting an affiliate site for the first time is a little bit stressful… and very exciting.
This is a new beginning! This is how you’re going to earn financial freedom, right?
That’s big stuff!
And then, you jump right from the ‘excitement’ of starting to the monotony of publishing, publishing, publishing.
Trust me. For the first year or two of your site, it will often feel like nothing big is happening.
And this can get discouraging.
This is not a 'get rich quick' game... It is a marathon. And if you run out of energy, ambition or excitement for what you are building in month 3 or 4, you'll never achieve the success you desire.
It’s Important To Maintain Perspective
One thing that this experience taught me was to celebrate the small victories.
Celebrate things like…
- Publishing your first post
- Hitting your monthly publishing targets
- Acquiring new blogging tools or software and implementing them
- Publishing your 30th post
- Publishing your 100th post
These are excellent things to celebrate… and all of them are very big achievements that you deserve to be proud of.
You can also celebrate things like getting your first 30 impressions, getting your first click, making your first sale, etc.
But a word of caution… be careful with vanity metrics. Getting stuck on metrics like traffic, clicks, and sales, and relying on them to feel good about your blog is a trap, because at the end of the day, you cannot control them.
What you can control, however, is publishing great blogs on-schedule, making sure those blogs are optimized, tracking user behavior on your site, improving click through rates in search console, etc.
With enough consistent publishing following the right affiliate marketing course you will eventually get the clicks & sales you desire...
Because those are a by-product of publishing HUNDREDS of great posts...
Mistake #2 - Spending Too Much Time On The SEO Silo Structure
When I started laying out the framework for this new site, I thought that I would mindmap all of my keywords into silos beforehand.
This would help to keep things super-organized, right? It would also give my team and I a definite roadmap on what content to publish, how to structure internal links, etc.
Well, I spent hours doing this. I created a beautiful mindmap, spent hours on keyword research finding the perfect keywords, mapped all of those keywords out silo by silo… it really did take a lot of time, but I thought it would be worth it.
Well, as it turns out, this was time spent misplaced. Not only did the mindmap get outgrown quickly, but it turned out that some of it did not even fit with the vision for the site that ended up coming to fruition.
This was time spent doing something that could absolutely have (and should have) just been avoided. In hindsight, I’ve realized that there are simply much better things to spend time on in the beginning.
Instead Of Plotting Your Silo, Do This
One thing that ended up happening after the silo structure mindmap didn’t work out was that I created a click-through roadmap instead.
So, instead of working backwards from the products and keywords, you work backwards from buyer behavior, using buyer need to guide you as you map out your silos.
So, let’s say your site is about kitchen knives. Obviously, this isn’t a post about how to come up with long-tail keywords and map out silos for the kitchen knife niche, but this is a close example to what I did with my keywords for the new affiliate site.
Instead of focusing on specific keywords and how to arrange them into silos, you look at who might be looking at your site, and what they actually need to solve their problem.
Obviously, the mind-map above is not complete. But you can see that some long-tail keywords were beginning to emerge at the top as buyer behavior started to get mapped out.
And of course, you can break all of this down, add new branches, create entire new silos as you go along, etc.
And best of all, you can keep adding to this as you create content. You can even use it as inspiration for your keywords… rather than trying to do it all in reverse, planning keywords first, trying to arrange them in a specific order, etc.
What About Publishing Content To Create Silos?
Silos are definitely important. But, you will be further ahead in the game if you go ahead and just race to 100 posts before you start worrying too much about creating silos.
Consider that 100 post mark as a serious benchmark and milestone, as that is when rankings will definitely be picking up for your site.
So, get 100 keywords, create 100 posts, and race to that 100 mark before you really worry too much about silos.
Speaking of keywords…
Mistake #3 - Not Getting A KGR Keyword List First
In the beginning, all of the keyword research was being done in-house.
That’s fine. There are some great keywords that came out of that.
But it took a lot of time… hours and hours of research.
Instead, looking back on it, I wish I would have just bought a KGR Keyword Package from Human Proof Designs first… gotten about 100 keywords out of it (it’s cheap… about $100), and went right to work on those keywords.
They are long-tail, super-low competition, and awesome.
So when you are just getting started, if you have the cash, invest in a KGR Keyword Package.
(Note: this only works for affiliate marketing product sites. I’ll cover this more in a moment!)
Don’t even bother with keyword research, it is all done for you!
The only work to do is to go through what you get in the package and sort out the ones you won’t need or that don’t exactly fit with your websites goals.
Then, jump right into content creation and get it done!
KGR Keywords Only Work With Affiliate Product Sites!
One caveat to this is that KGR keyword packages really only work with affiliate product sites.
They don’t really work as will with authority marketing sites. My site, Milesbeckler.com, for example, isn’t a good candidate for a KGR keyword pack.
But my new affiliate market case-study site is… if you can put best knives for, or best drones for, etc. and Google shows this to you…
you’re in a perfect niche for a KGR keyword research package!
Mistake #4 - Not Knowing About Amalinks Until Month 3
The affiliate site uses Amazon Affiliate links. But unfortunately, it can be a little bit complicated to get the proper images for the products if you don’t know how to go about it.
If you’ve been following along in this affiliate market case study, you may also know that there was actually a pretty big Amazon image scare with the site, where a VA copied and pasted some pictures straight from Amazon into some of the blog posts.
This is obviously a big no-no, as it violates Amazon’s terms. Needless to say, the images were removed… but this incident prompted a search to figure out the best way to get images of Amazon products to use in blog posts. And the answer was Amalinks.
This plugin gives you the ability to get Amazon images without violating their terms of service.
Had I been using this from the very beginning, it would have saved a ton of time and effort… and saved me from a potential disaster!
Mistake #5 - Not Buying Premium Images Sooner
Since I started the affiliate case-study site, I’ve also pretty much relied on royalty-free stock photography for non-Amazon images.
But it very quickly became apparent that plain royalty-free photography did not satisfy the website’s need for high-quality graphics.
I ended up buying premium images, and that helped a lot. Before this, my team got really behind on imaging because they simply couldn’t find the proper images to use for blog posts.
Whereas, had I bought premium images sooner, this process would not have gotten behind schedule.
Mistake #6 - Not Using A Content Calendar
Even if you are just starting out, it really pays to have a content calendar/schedule.
Now, if you are doing it all yourself, and if you are sitting down two or three days per week to write and publish your own posts… you may be able to get away without doing this.
But at some point, you may want to use a calendar to manage your schedule… especially if you are going to be working with other freelancers. As my team and I found out, this can make a world of difference in keeping things organized!
I’ve never worked off of a content calendar before now. It used to overwhelm me, to be quite honest! My wife and I never worked off of a content calendar while we were working on her site either.
For her website, which was our first really successful website, it was…
- Choose a keyword
- Write a blog
- Choose a new keyword
- Write a blog
- On and on, ad infinitum
And for me, it was…
- Come up with three video ideas
- Make a video
- Make a video
- Make a video
- Add two more video ideas
- Make a video
- Make a video
I never really thought ahead more than three videos at a time.
But… this project (the affiliate marketing case study project) is very different. It is being done with a team, and turning a blog post out takes two weeks and half-a-dozen people, instead of the one afternoon it takes when you do it by yourself.
So using a calendar really helps to keep things on schedule.
Another benefit to using a content calendar is this...
When you put your content deadlines on a free Trello calendar, with a posted date to show you when it is supposed to be published, you are then working against a deadline.
At that point, you have Parkinson’s Law working for you, and you are much more likely to get it done because you have created a deadline for yourself.
Mistake #7 - Using Content Farms
If you are planning to write all of your own content, then this one may not apply to you.
But… if you plan to hire writers, then this advice is specifically important.
Do not hire content farms.
The content farms I tried just didn’t seem to be able to create the kind of content I needed for the site, we tried three of them!
What I wanted was just too specific, and the content farm articles required a lot of time to fix.
So it ended up pretty much costing twice as much.
With that being said, here are some lessons that I learned that might help you to avoid similar pitfalls.
If You Do Plan To Try A Content Farm, Test A Small Run First
Instead of ordering 12 at a time (which is what I did!), do a smaller run of 4, to get a better idea of what the quality will look like.
This way, you can get a better sense of how much extra work it will take to get the articles whipped into shape before you pay big money for a big order!
Consider Hiring A Professional Writer On ProBlogger First
One of the best choices I made for the new site was to hire Writers on ProBlogger as an alternative to using content farms.
In fact, you can read how to do this in my month 6 site update, how to hire a freelance writer that rocks here.
Hiring professional writers on ProBlogger actually saved money, provided better content, and just really elevated the entire process of getting quality posts published on a regular basis.
Plus, now content creation is all in-house… which is awesome!
Month 7 Traffic and Income Update
As you can see, traffic has had a pretty significant uptick.
Here are the tools we use to optimize our blog posts.
It takes time to grow an affiliate site from the ground up, but this is proof that if you stick with it, do it right, and stay consistent, you can absolutely get amazing results!
Impressions Are Rocking!
These are accurate impressions, updated in December of 2019. As you can see, this shows the kind of exponential growth that you can expect when you stay consistent with a blog.
But please, please keep in mind that you do not need an entire team to make this happen.
You can start getting awesome impressions and clicks all by yourself. All you have to do is do the work!
Expenses / Time Investment
Here is a record of what I spent on the site this month. Also, keep in mind, once again, that you will not have to pay for almost any of this if you choose to do it yourself.
- Research: $401
- 8 Articles From Writers: $674.37
- Editing and Publishing of 12 articles: $646.67
- Backlinks: $2,150
- Project Management $750
Total amount spent on the project in December 2019: $4,622.04
Total amount spent on the project in 2019, to date: $23,133.
Why So Much For Backlinks?
It might seem like $2,150 for backlinks is a lot… but for this very important task, I’ve hired a white-hat linking strategy company called reachcreator.com.
They are pricey… but they are the only white-hat link company that I use and trust!
This is, perhaps, one of the coolest things thus-far.
Last month, the site earned about $1.50 in commissions.
This month, it earned over $4.50!!!!
That might not seem like much… but this is HUGE!
The #1 trait of successful entrepreneurs is their ability to delay gratification... Which means detaching from the specific outcomes and looking at the processes.
In the last month, our income grew by over 300%.
This is the power of compounding in action... At the revenue level.
Not to mention our traffic increase of 143% in 30-days, impressions up on Google, number of sales increasing… it is going to be really awesome.
Check out the progress in next month's post here.
All that needs to happen for this to happen for you is, continue staying consistent, posting content on a regular basis, and focusing on providing real value to your audience.
Hopefully this post has helped you to foresee some not-so-talked-about pitfalls in the affiliate blog industry, and how to avoid them.
If you want to get a step-by-step plan of action to start your own successful affiliate marketing site today, click here and watch this free webinar, now.
I know that I have learned a lot through this case-study. But even with the pitfalls, I must say that it is a tremendously successful project thus-far.
It isn’t rocket science, but it does take time.
The best news, however, is this. If you get started now, and stick with it, you can achieve these results as well!
If you haven’t started your blog yet, start it today.
Do it. Make the change. Work toward being financially independent.
You can do it. I believe in you!
Leave a comment and let me know what you think!
See you on the next one!