Affiliate websites are a way for anyone to pick a topic, start writing, and hopefully see a decent passive income down the line. Unfortunately, choosing the a niche without enough potential could leave you with meager results for hundreds of hours of effort.
I’ve given affiliate blogging several chances in my day, and I’ve had a moderate amount of success. Along the way, I’ve learned how to spot niches with some potential, which is a valuable skill.
In this article, I’ll walk you through three ways to choose a profitable niche, the differences between each tactic, and why they work. Time is money, so let’s get started!
Joey Kissimmee interviewed me last week for his Income Press podcast. If you don’t know Joey yet then take it from me — he’s one of the good guys. We really hit it off and it was a genuine pleasure to share my story with him.
But what really got my juices flowing was the revelation that Joey’s site makes about $5,000 – $8,000 per month. He told me he manages this with around 500 – 1,000 visitors per day.
In May I made a total of $2,031 (nett) and received on average 784 visitors to my site. Compared to Joey’s earnings, this tells me one thing: I’m not making the most of this blog’s potential to make money. In this post I want to reveal the plans I have to make amends for that.
Joey had one suggestion right off the bat that was simple enough to incorporate immediately — the introduction of a banner for my freelance writing guide on all posts with the “Freelance Writing” tag.
Now if you click through to a freelance writing post on LWB you will see something like this:
This should hopefully boost the percentage of visits to my information product’s sales page as a percentage of total visits to my site — a key metric for measuring the income-producing potential of my blog. A simple trick and one I should have implemented a long time ago.
Joey followed up that suggestion with another: use a link tracking plugin. This is actually something that has been on my list for a long time but I have neglected to implement it until now. I chose the excellent Pretty Link Pro on the recommendation of several internet marketers and I’ve certainly not been disappointed yet.
The plugin enables me to set up trackable links for all of the affiliate products I recommend and also for my freelance writing guide. This means that I can see how well links (such as that connected to the banner in the screenshot above) perform in terms of directing visitors. With that information I can optimize my site which should lead to increased earnings.
I’ll probably follow this up with a more in-depth post on how to make the most of Pretty Links Pro in the future.
Making the Most of My Information Product
For the past few months my information product has made around $1,000 per month. While it has effortlessly outperformed my original goal I do feel that it has the potential to make more.
With that in mind I plan to instigate a new split test with a drastically different sales page. The existing sales page is pretty bland to say the least:
I had my web designer guy draft a more colorful sales page with edited sales copy and I plan on testing that against the above over the next few weeks. I am hoping that a more colorful and dynamic sales page will result in a higher conversion rate.
Beyond that, I may have another crack at split testing the pricing structure of my guide. Although I have tested this in the past, the results were somewhat inconclusive.
Boosting Affiliate Earnings
My affiliate earnings have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride since August 2012 (when I first made any kind of real money). I have broken $1,000 in both of the last two months but income was down ~$450 in June compared to May. This inconsistency in earnings hardly fills me with confidence.
My approach to affiliate marketing has been quite soft as I have always been wary not to portray myself as yet another money-grabbing “make money online” type blogger. However, upon reflection I think have been far too cautious. In reality, I think I have a lot of value to offer in terms of teaching people how I use the premium products that I love — doing so can help them. And if I make some money at the same time, everyone’s a winner!
With that in mind, you can expect more from me in terms of actionable tutorials in the near future. I am hoping that publishing such posts will provide a healthy boost to my affiliate earnings.
Increasing Traffic and Subscribers
The above methods focus on optimizing the site so that I can make more money out of the same number of visitors. On the other hand, the alternative approach is to get more traffic and subscribers.
In the past I have fooled myself into thinking that I work hard on building traffic and subscribers to LWB. However, over the past few months at least I have done very little. Sure — I have published posts and dabbled in social media, but how much time and effort have I put into an organized marketing strategy? Very little.
Leaving Work Behind’s consistent yet modest growth through 2013 so far.
I’m hoping that the release of my book in September will have a huge impact in this area. I feel like I need to something big and bold like publish a book in order to take this blog to the next level.
While I have enjoyed steady growth since this blog started in May 2011, I want to see Leaving Work Behind get much bigger. I hope that the book goes a long way in achieving my goals on that front.
If blogging has taught me one thing, it is that often the best solutions are those most obvious and yet most easily missed. With that in mind, I’d love to read your suggestions as to how I can enable Leaving Work Behind to make more money.
There’s no such thing as a bad idea as far as I am concerned, so please fire away in the comments section below!
As I wait impatiently for winter to turn to Spring I have a lot of time on my hands for my business. And although I may not always apply myself as well as I should (more on that later) my focused efforts seemed to nudge me in the right direction towards a record month of earnings in January.
Although destroying your previous record earnings is a wonderful thing to do, you always run the risk of a “sophomore slump” in the following month. So the question is, was January a one-off or did I sustain (or even build upon) my big income leap?
That was the question in my mind at the start of February and I sought to provide myself with a positive answer.
What Happened in February?
At the end of my last income report I said that I had a lot in store for February, but at the same time I wanted it to be a month of consolidation. Doing too much is the curse of many business owners and I didn’t want to fall into the trap of spreading myself too thinly.
Well, consolidation was certainly the name of the game. Although I didn’t start up any new projects I certainly had plenty to keep me busy: my freelancing, this blog, my authority site and my series of Kindle eBooks; not to mention all the various other miscellaneous tasks that I have to carry out in any given month.
I wouldn’t be comfortable in taking on any more work at this stage so my progress must come by making the most of existing projects and/or utilizing my time more effectively (either by becoming more efficient or switching to projects with a higher anticipated return). As I often say, we all have the same amount of time available to us — it is what we do with those hours that make all the difference.
In terms of earnings, I was doubtful of beating January’s record this month — it was after all a great month for me and a huge step forward. But how did I get on?
Monthly Income Report — February 2013
- Freelance writing:
- Income: $4,722.21
- Expenditure: $29.38
- Profit: $4,692.83 ($94 per hour equivalent)
- Income: $11.21
- Expenditure: $0
- Profit: $11.21
- Affiliate Marketing (Leaving Work Behind):
- Income: $963.03
- Expenditure: $19.83
- Profit: $943.20
- Information Products:
- Income: $1,058.57
- Expenditure: $85.01
- Profit: $973.56
- Income: $128.23
- Expenditure: $20
- Profit: $108.23
Total profit for February 2013: $6,729.02
Although I didn’t break January’s record there’s a lot to like about my progress in February. First of all I kept up the pace with a decrease in earnings of just 2%. But that doesn’t tell the whole story — a careful analysis of the numbers and the stories surrounding them leads to an even rosier picture.
Let’s first consider my freelance writing — I didn’t quite beat my January record in terms of total earnings but I did establish a new record in terms of my equivalent hourly rate. I doubt I will top the $100 mark in the near future but I am really happy with my earnings hovering around the $90 mark.
Then there was the real win of the month — my affiliate marketing earnings. I absolutely smashed my previous record of $447 and nearly broke five figures in February. To me this represents the momentum gained by a year-long perseverance in my efforts to generate a decent affiliate marketing income.
There were three products that made up the bulk of my affiliate earnings in February:
- WestHost ($400)
- Start a Blog that Matters ($265)
- TweetAdder ($220)
It’s interesting to note although I generated by far the largest volume of sales with TweetAdder (largely due to my post on how I attracted 10,000 Twitter followers in 12 months), WestHost was my most lucrative affiliate partner with $100 commission per sale. That doesn’t affect the motivation I have to promote any particular product but it is noteworthy to see how your efforts can be rewarded depending upon the product and commission.
For me the key to honest affiliate marketing is promoting only the products that you use and love. That is exactly the case with the above products: my site is hosted with WestHost, I used the Start a Blog that Matters course to re-launch this blog last May, and I have been using TweetAdder for more than a year to help build my Twitter followers. I’m never going to wander away from this method of affiliate marketing — I will only ever promote products I really care about.
I believe that the dramatic increase in sales this month is down to three things:
- I simply had a good month — the cards fell in my favor.
- My Twitter post helped generate most of the TweetAdder sales.
- I had a record month in terms of visitors.
My affiliate marketing earnings are notoriously unpredictable so I have no idea how I will fare next month. However, I will be surprised if I surpass my success in February (although it would be nice to get close again).
This is a speculative project for me and I will not begin to adjudge its success until I have released all nine books I have planned and optimized them in terms of cross-promotion. However, it is nice to see that I’m making a bit of money already and I hope that these earnings will increase month-by-month.
If you’d like to get free copies of my eBooks as they are released then sign up to my list here!
My Information Product
This month’s information product earnings hides a two-part story — thankfully one that ultimately has a happy ending. On the one hand it was not good to see my earnings dip by around 33% but there is more to this than meets the eye.
Generally speaking I have enjoyed an average of one or two sales of my freelance writing guide per day, but that all changed on 13th February. On that day I generated no sales. Or the next. Or the next. In fact, I went seven days with no sales at all, which was more than a little disconcerting.
So I started investigating and could only think of one thing — that my sales page was a little out of date. It quoted earnings from November 2012. I updated it to reflect more recent earnings and it was as if a switch was flicked. I made a sale within 30 minutes and enjoyed my best ever week of sales last week (not including launch).
I took two things away from this:
- When things are going well it is time to take action, not get complacent.
- Viewing the sales process from a prospect’s shoes is a useful exercise to carry out regularly.
Motivation and Application
Any business owner (and perhaps especially those that work from home) can you tell that motivating yourself can be really tough. This is something that I struggle with and seek to improve upon constantly.
Take the last three working days as an example. On Thursday I only got half of my work done. On Friday I ended up doing nothing, and this morning I didn’t get up until 10am. I have a pretty sizeable backlog of work and a whole load of guilt for not having done it.
You would be entirely forgiven for not empathising with my position one bit. The fact that I am able to do this would be seen as a huge freedom by many people in employment and I totally get that. However, self-motivation and applying yourself properly are huge issues for most business owners and I am no exception.
I am slowly coming around to the realisation that my motivation seems to ebb and flow. On some days I will work extremely hard and find it very easy to do so and on other days I will not want to work at all. The decision for me therefore is should I account for that and allow myself the time off when I simply don’t feel like working? I could do that and it would have no adverse effect — I would simply earn less and grow more slowly. But would doing so lead to a slippery slope in which I do less and less work?
On the other hand, I could try to force myself to work harder despite my lack of motivation. This would lead to me getting more done but I would also feel like I was driving myself harder than I perhaps wanted to. This conundrum has been at the front of my mind for quite a while and I don’t have a conclusive answer yet.
What’s in Store for March?
At this point I have no plans to start any new projects this month — I’ve got enough on my plate as it is! There’s a lot for me to be getting on with and no new projects certainly doesn’t mean that I plan for my progress to stagnate.
There are some interesting things to look forward to this month, such as the results of my authority site’s content marketing strategy and the progress of my eBook sales. It could also be a great month for information product sales — possibly even a record.
In fact, if everything falls into place then March could be a new record month of earnings. It’ll require a lot of hard work and no small amount of luck but I am happy that I can even consider it. After all, I was earning a basic salary of $3,750 in my last job and I have nearly doubled that the last two months running. Most interestingly, my “pipe dream goal” for the year of making $100,000 gross is still within reach.
All of the hard work, the months where I lost money and felt like I was going nowhere, the times where I wondered if I could ever succeed in establishing a viable business, the dreaming and the doubting, my friends and family considering me a little mad for what I was doing, and the risks I took in quitting a great job, are all part of the price I paid to get here. If you’re not where you want to be yet then never forget that success is more a matter of persistence than anything else. I would like to think that I am a good example of that.
Photo Credit: Kalexanderson
Alright, we’re up and running with income reports again.
Last month’s report (the first in four months) showed that my income was at an all-time high. I had slashed my expenses and developed my freelance income substantially. And although Leaving Work Behind was just starting to offer up a little bit of what I currently consider “bonus” income, my internet marketing efforts (i.e. niche/authority sites) were still down in the doldrums.
I expected my freelancing income to drop a little in September (due to the considerable number of one-off projects I worked on in August), and didn’t expect anything else of note to occur. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what happened!
What Happened in September?
September was definitely a month for investing time in projects that I hope will pay off in the future.
Beyond my usual freelance writing work (which typically takes up around 3-4 hours of my working days), I was busy working on my one hour authority site project, my upcoming freelance writing guide, and of course this blog.
My authority site is progressing nicely in terms of the content I have published, but I am yet to see a noteworthy flow of traffic. I am definitely playing the waiting game with this site — patience is a virtue when it comes to working with Google.
As for my freelance writing guide, I did one very important thing in September — finalized a launch plan. I will be revealing all in an upcoming post, but if you are interested in the guide, click here to sign up to the pre-launch list. You will be able to get your hands on the guide (a) before anyone else, and (b) at a massively discounted price! Also, if you know people who would be interested in the guide, please to tweet out a link. Thanks!
As predicted, all of the above left me with little else to do. In fairness, I think those three projects in addition to my freelancing work would probably be enough to keep anyone busy 😉
Income & Expenditure — September 2012
- Freelance writing:
- Income: $4,079.10
- Expenditure: $20.51
- Profit: $4,058.59
- Income: $3.98
- Expenditure: $18.79
- Profit: -$14.81
- Leaving Work Behind:
- Income: $313.42
- Expenditure: $39.32
- Profit: $274.10
- Information Products:
- Income: $0
- Expenditure: $28.59
- Profit: -$28.59
Total profit for September 2012: $4,289.29
It was great to see my income stay above $4,000 for the third month in a row, which is just about where I need it to be to sustain my current living costs.
Within the next few months I hope to sustain my freelance writing income, whilst developing alternative income streams (most notably as a result of the launch of my freelance writing guide). Diversity of income is absolutely key, so if I can build up my information product and Leaving Work Behind income into four figures per month (each) within say the next six months (or sooner), I would be happy. I would also of course like to see my website income develop considerably during that time.
The Development of My Affiliate Marketing Income
Since I have begun earning a modest income from this blog, I thought now would be a good opportunity to cover my affiliate marketing strategy.
As I have said on multiple occasions before, my ultimate goal with this blog is to build up a picture of exactly what it takes to establish substantial income streams online, from the very first day. I have been publishing posts here since the very beginning of my “make money online” endeavors, which makes this blog quite unique. Most (if not all) popular bloggers in my niche launched their blogs after they had started making money online, not before. Just check out my past income reports to see how my income has developed from day one.
With that in mind, my approach towards affiliate marketing is to never compromise the trust that I have built up with you, the reader. Everything I publish here must be an accurate reflection of exactly what I have gone through — my successes and my failures. Therefore, my affiliate marketing strategy is very much in the same vein as Pat Flynn’s. I will only promote products and services that I have used and love, and I will only promote them when it is natural to do so. I don’t spam my email list with affiliate promotions, and I don’t litter this blog with affiliate links.
This probably means that I make far less money than I could do, but you can’t put a price on integrity. The fact is, this blog wouldn’t be the same if I had a more aggressive approach to affiliate marketing. It would quickly become something I dislike, and then I wouldn’t want to do it anymore. So taking a considered and conservative approach to affiliate marketing is definitely in my best interests, as well as yours.
My affiliate marketing income in September came from five sources:
- Market Samurai: $262.56
- Tweet Adder: $27.50
- WooThemes: $17.50
- AWeber: $5.70
- Amazon: $0.16
The Market Samurai income mainly came about from an email I sent to my list. The software was going through a sale period, and whilst I have never emailed my list specifically about a product, I recognized that it was actually a great deal, and one that I would have wanted to know about (had I not already purchased the product).
The Tweet Adder income was as a result of last week’s post. To be honest, I was really disappointed with this outcome — I expected to make a healthy handful of affiliate sales. Given that two people explicitly told me that they had purchased Tweet Adder through my affiliate link after the one and only sale was confirmed, I am rather puzzled as to why only one was registered. Such are the trials and tribulations of affiliate marketing…
As you can no doubt gather from the breakdown above, very little income was produced via affiliate links in posts or my Resources page. Again, this comes as a disappointment, but I’m not interested in pushing things any further. I just hope that as I continue to add more affiliate links to posts (when it is relevant to do so), and attract more traffic to the site, my income will grow. I am a complete newbie to affiliate marketing, so the whole thing is a steep learning curve for me! But it is fair to say, given the huge amount of time I spend on this blog, that a better return on my time investment would be nice.
What’s in Store for October?
October is a big month for my freelance writing guide. The launch is set for early November, and I have a hell of a lot to do between now and then, as evidenced by this spreadsheet. I would have doubts as to whether or not I will get it all done if it weren’t for the fact that I have no choice. The launch date is set — there’s no turning back.
Other than that, the rest of my time will be spent on freelance writing, my authority site, and this blog. I don’t expect any movement of note on those fronts. I think October will be the calm before the storm — with the launch coming in November, it’s going to be an interesting month one way or another!
Creative Commons image courtesy of 401(K) 2012
When I first started dabbling with internet marketing, the potential of my efforts bearing fruit were generally met with doubt by my friends and family. Most people don’t seem to understand how a website can make enough money to sustain a livable income.
And in fairness, my friends and family have all been proven right to date – my last successful website was killed off by Google many months ago (just as it was starting to show promise), and since then I have spent far too long going about things in the wrong way.
But I digress. The project that I’m going to tell you about today originated whilst I was skiing with my family in Colorado. Seemingly out of the blue, my dad decided that he was very interested in investing in websites. And since I am involved in internet marketing, he wanted me to help him out. This came as rather a surprise, as last time I knew, the idea of investing in websites struck him as absurd.
I should probably tell you something about my dad. He is an extremely successful businessman, with an eight figure property portfolio spread over the UK, USA, and the Cayman Islands. But more than anything, he loves doing deals. It doesn’t really matter if it is $3,000 or $3,000,000 at stake – it is dealmaking that gets him out of bed in the morning. Which is the only way I can rationalize him spending a couple of grand on a website, when quite frankly, he has far better things to be doing.
For him, it’s just a fun experiment. For me, it’s an educational goldmine. I’m starting with an already-established site and need to take it to the next level. It’s going to be challenging. And if I manage to elevate the income, I will get a cut of the profit. So I have two incentives to make this a winner.
About The Site
Unfortunately, I am not going to be revealing the site itself. Unfortunately, there are plenty of unscrupulous people out there who like to scheme, plagiarize, and generally make a nuisance out of themselves. I hope you understand.
However, I can certainly tell you about the site. It is a review site for a common type of household appliance. As you might guess, it is monetized via the Amazon affiliates program, which is new to me. The site is pretty big, with nearly 150 pages (although I am not sure where they all are, as the navigation system leaves a little to be desired!).
Having said that, I think there is plenty more to be done.
Stumbling At The Starting Line
The first hurdle I had to overcome was transferring both ownership of the site, and the actual content itself. This turned out to be a bit of nightmare, but I eventually figured it out. The whole thing was such a hassle, I decided to document the process in a WPMU article, for others like me!
Once I had got that sorted, it was a case of adding the site to Clicky analytics and changing the Amazon affiliates links to point to my account. I quickly saw that there was a problem – the traffic numbers were about a third of what I expected (and what previous analytics data had indicated).
I now know that the backlinking strategy has been solely based upon the Postrunner private blog network – which I believe hasn’t been subject to one of Google’s manual culls (yet). So I am not immediately sure as to what has caused the dramatic drop in traffic. I am not going to do anything about this for the time being – I’ll just continue to gather more data and see if I can make any before and after rankings comparisons with the information I have available to me.
Although my plan to increase the earnings of this site has apparently taken a huge hit before I have even got started, there is no point in crying over spilt milk.
So What Next?
My provisional plan to increase the value of the site is threefold:
- Build a list
- Get more traffic
- Optimize monetization method(s)
Let’s take a look at each in turn.
1. Build A List
The previous owner made no effort to build an email list, yet most of us know that “the money is in the list”. With a site like this, I believe that an email list could be a relatively huge asset. You could use it to promote new reviews, send out “recommended products” emails…the sky is the limit.
I will probably just put a standard signup form in place to start with, but I would imagine that the conversion rate would increase dramatically if I included an incentive. My idea would be to have a monthly giveaway for all subscribers – perhaps one of the reviewed products. Something to keep in mind.
2. Get More Traffic
As for more increasing traffic, that can theoretically be achieved with more content and better link building. Building links is of course a touchy subject at the moment, so if I do choose to do anything, I will be pretty damn careful about it.
I think article marketing is out of the window, as there are so many different keywords to target (across all of the different review posts). Blog network link building in the vein of the now defunct Build My Rank (and of course Postrunner, which has been previously used for this site) would have been ideal, but I’m not sure that I want to touch that strategy with a barge pole right now.
Social bookmarking might be another option, but beyond that, I am not forming any concrete opinions.
3. Optimize Monetization Method(s)
As previously mentioned, the site is currently monetized with the Amazon affiliates program. It’s a perfect fit for the subject matter, but is there more I that can do? AdSense is an obvious choice, although implementing it may serve to reduce overall income (if potential commissions are lost to advertising clicks). That is something I could test.
Another idea is in-text advertising – this is something I know Chris Guthrie of Make Money On The Internet has used for his Copy Cat Crafts website. I don’t know a great deal about this option, but it is an idea I have in the back of my head.
Finally, I could simply look to better optimize how the Amazon affiliate links are presented and promoted on the website.
What Do YOU Think?
I’m sure that many of you have more experience than me in dealing with Amazon sites (a few names come to mind immediately), and I would like to open this up to anyone who would like to offer their comments and advice. What would you do in my shoes? Let me know in the comments section!
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver