Affiliate Site Case Study – Month 2 Update
It’s been a very busy month, this month.
On top of maintaining Daine Media operations and working hard for our clients, we’ve also been investing heavily in Survival Front and our other internal sites.
November has consisted predominantly of content production and link building, specifically utilizing the Shotgun Skyscraper technique developed by the guys over at Authority Hacker. I’ll update you on our progress and provide you with my honest feedback on shotgun outreach later in this post.
One thing to keep in mind as we progress through this project is that Survival Front has been built from scratch and not on a powerful expired domain, so things can and often do take time to kick in.
Anyway, let’s get started.
In November, we produced a pretty epic 38,000 words of content, across 19 posts.
In total, we produced:
- 18 Product Review Posts
- 1 Info Post
Let’s dive in and take a look at how this looked in practical terms…
As you can see, we’re concentrating heavily on monetization here, and there’s a reason.
On one of our other internal sites, which is 10 months old, we currently get around 4k unique organic users and we’re earning $450+ and growing.
This equates to around $0.11 per organic unique, which ain’t half bad, all things considered.
We’ve seen purely info content sites with 3 to 4 times the traffic earning similar amounts.
This shows the importance of having a lot of money pages.
For example, on one site we spotted in one of the other niche site groups that popped up after the launch of Niche Affiliate Empires, we noticed it was pulling in 17.3k organic unique users per month (332.5% more traffic than the internal site mentioned above), but was only earning $620.
At 17.3k organic uniques, you should be able to monetize this much more.
You also have to think somewhat about the intent of the site and how Google sees it.
I’ve heard anecdotal evidence, on many occasions, from people who concentrated too heavily on info content and later struggled to rank and monetize commercial content.
So, always bear these things in mind when you’re producing content, particularly if you’re just starting out.
Remember, most people give up too soon, and if you don’t see results as soon as possible (in terms of commissions) it’s going to be tough to keep going from a motivational standpoint, let alone a financial one.
So, without further ado, here’s a full list of everything we published in November:
- How to Read a Map – https://survivalfront.com/how-to-read-a-map/
- Best Bug Out Bag – https://survivalfront.com/best-bug-out-bag/
- Wilderness Survival Packs – https://survivalfront.com/wilderness-survival-packs/
- Best Tactical Flashlight – https://survivalfront.com/best-tactical-flashlight/
- Best Fixed Blade Survival Knife – https://survivalfront.com/best-fixed-blade-survival-knife/
- Best Prepper Books – https://survivalfront.com/best-prepper-books/
- Best Survival Tomahawk – https://survivalfront.com/best-survival-tomahawk/
- Best Survival Pocket Knife – https://survivalfront.com/best-survival-pocket-knife/
- Best Survival Saw – https://survivalfront.com/best-survival-saw/
- Best Survival Belt – https://survivalfront.com/best-survival-belt/
- Best Survival Food – https://survivalfront.com/best-survival-food/
- Best Survival Tarp – https://survivalfront.com/best-survival-tarp/
- Best EDC Flashlight – https://survivalfront.com/best-edc-flashlight/
- Best 2 Person Tent – https://survivalfront.com/best-2-person-tent/
- Best Folding Survival Knife – https://survivalfront.com/best-folding-survival-knife/
- Best 4 Person Tent – https://survivalfront.com/best-4-person-tent/
- Best 6 Person Tent – https://survivalfront.com/best-6-person-tent/
- Best Survival Poncho – https://survivalfront.com/best-survival-poncho/
- Best Ultralight Sleeping Bag – https://survivalfront.com/best-ultralight-sleeping-bag/
Overall, another pretty heavy month in terms of content production.
We’ve had a number of discussions internally regarding Survival Front and the general consensus is that we’re getting somewhere near to the point of ‘switching fire’ from heavy content production, to a link-focused strategy going forward.
We feel that the site is fleshed out enough that our resources could provide a better ROI if diverted away from content and toward building authority – this is where we’ll be focusing our efforts over the coming months while maintaining a trickle of content.
Whether you outsource your content writing or have an internal team of Content Marketers like Daine Media, it’s always worthwhile standardizing your processes and using templates.
This ensures that your writing guidelines are followed and your standards are maintained.
To avoid duplication, we incorporate our content briefs directly into our article templates.
This way, our writers can write directly into the brief/template and can reference the guidelines as they go; check it out…
The introduction provides an overview of your company (or site), lays out your ethos, and explains your writing standards and expectations.
Your introduction is the first section of the brief that your writers will read, so be sure to get critical key points in here before their attention wanders.
Next, you have your writing guidelines.
These are where you’ll get into the ‘nitty-gritty’ of your general writing processes and your requirements.
If you’re using outsourced writers, this section is particularly important as it details your criteria for accepting or declining an article – avoiding blurred lines or gray areas is key here.
We then go on to cover the product review and buyer’s guide guidelines.
This is the overview your writer will need, prior to moving onto each of the section templates individually.
These are all important points and you should emphasize to your writers that they need to fully read and digest this information.
At this point, we move on to cover our article conclusion/summary guidelines, before giving the writer some example articles for reference.
We also reiterate at this point, that plagiarism is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated – the example articles are just that; examples!
Try not to be too overwhelming with your article guidelines prior to getting to the template itself – you don’t want your writers to become board by this point!
Next, we break each section of our article down individually, starting with the article introduction.
You’ll notice at this point, that we have space under each article section heading where the writer can type directly into the template – this saves time and minimizes the number of documents you need to manage.
We initially cover our article introduction – punchy, catchy, and grabs the reader’s attention.
It should explain to the user EXACTLY what you’re going to do in your article. Strictly NO FLUFF!
Once the article introduction is out of the way, we get to the bulk of our article – the product reviews themselves.
If your affiliate sites are anything like ours, built and designed with CRO in mind, you’ll have fields such as:
- Pros & Cons
- Price Indicators
- Rating Indicators
You may also have things such as ‘technical specifications’ depending on your niche/product.
Populating the document with this stuff not only helps with research for each of the products, providing the writer with a deeper understanding by virtue of the fact that they have to go find and digest this information, but it also MASSIVELY increases conversion rate and, if designed well, improves site aesthetics and UX.
You’ll note that I’ve only put one product review section above – that’s simply because it’s an example…
If you’re reviewing more products (which I hope would be the case in a roundup review), then you’d simply add in more sections and change the minor details, e.g. ‘Product #1’ for ‘Product #2’.
The product review section continued…
After all of the technical aspects of the product have been covered, you’ll need to actually get on and write the review itself.
Remember, some of these roundup reviews can compare 5, 10, or even 20 products, so keep this in mind when writing your reviews.
You probably don’t want them to be 2,000 words each, as the entire article would be tens of thousands of words long.
Lastly, we come to our buyer’s guide (value editorial) and conclusion.
The buyer’s guide is simply a way of expanding on the type of product, as opposed to individual products themselves.
For example, if you were reviewing a bunch of survival knives, your buyer’s guide may go into more detail on the types of knives available, the materials they’re made out of, the different blade tangs, etc.
It’s about providing the user with more valuable information on a product they’re interested in and helping inform their purchasing decision.
And the conclusion is just that; a summary of the post.
In our conclusions we like to appoint a ‘winner’ – this is the product that will receive the ‘Our Choice’ badge at the top of our article.
Essentially, leave the reader with a strong recommendation, without being too salesy.
BONUS EXTRA: For those of you investing heavily in content for your own sites, particularly those focusing on product roundup reviews (e.g ‘best X for Y’ type posts), sign up to the Niche Affiliate Empires newsletter as we’re sending out an editable version of our content brief/article template this week!
With Link Building & Content Promotion
We scaled up our link building in November and ran several Shotgun Skyscraper campaigns as well as guest posting on relevant sites.
We’ll expand on our link building processes in detail in a forthcoming post, but when building links via guest posting, our biggest metric has historically been relevance.
We plan to broaden these criteria after December and develop some new processes, in order to widen the net for our link building efforts and scale-up.
The verdict is still out for me on the Shotgun Skyscraper method and, honestly, I don’t feel it provides a very good ROI…
In total, we acquired 17 links in November.
Not too shabby, especially considering we also pumped out 40,000 words of content.
These links were acquired through a mix of shotgun campaigns, as well as good old guest posting.
There are many advocates of the Shotgun Skyscraper method of link building, but I’ll be honest – I’m not one of them.
We’ve done a hell of a lot of testing over recent months, both on client sites and our own internal projects, and the conclusion I have drawn is that the cost (in terms of time, effort, and therefore, money) to run and maintain shotgun outreach far outweighs the reward.
You’re essentially identifying prospects that have linked out to similar pieces of content to the one you’re promoting, reaching out to them and asking them for a link to your new (hopefully better, more in-depth) alternative.
Here’s the issue.
People have become wise to it…
The same old method. The same old templates. The same old sketch.
And here’s the reality; the majority of responses you receive will ask for payment in response to a placement.
There’s nothing wrong with this but coupled with the fact that opportunities are few and far between, and it makes for a pretty poor performing campaign.
At one point, we launched a Shotgun Skyscraper outreach service at Daine Media, and we canned it a couple of months later.
The ROI simply wasn’t there for our customers (or ourselves) and we had to do the right thing and put it to bed.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard of a significant number of people having some real success with this method (for example, I’ve heard the guys over at Authority Hackers kill it with this method), but the reality was significantly different for us and, as this is a case study, I want to be 100% transparent and honest with everyone throughout this journey.
If you value your time and return on investment, stay clear of the Shotgun Skyscraper method.
Don’t worry, though.
As ever, there is a silver lining.
And that is…you guessed it.
There are two very opposing trails of thought on Shotgun Skyscraper which is, in essence, link placement into aged content (or ‘niche edits’ as some term it) and guest posting.
One group of marketers believe that having a link placed into existing content is not only less spammy but also provides your site with more authority due to the age and authority of the target (or host) page.
Then there is the other group who believe that the most natural form of any link a new and growing site can obtain is a guest post placement.
Yes, the content is new and has little page rank, however, when you think about it logically, it kind of makes sense to target guest posting first.
If you’re launching a new product, service, business, or blog, what is the first thing you’re going to do?
Shout about it from the rooftops, right?
It’s not spammy. It’s called promotion.
And every business under the sun does it.
You’re going to connect to local businesses and boast about your new offering.
You’re going to hit up professionals in related niches and try to gain some traction.
You’re going to connect to and try and build relationships with influencers in your industry in the hope that they’ll feature you in their publications.
So why wouldn’t a relatively new site start popping up across the web writing on related topics?
So long as the site is relevant and non-spammy, the content is of exceptional quality, and the post itself is contextually relevant and informative, then what’s the issue?
It’s my view that guest posting is the way to go for new and growing affiliate sites for the reasons I’ve discussed above; add into the equation that the opportunities you’ll receive via a guest posting campaign outweigh that of a shotgun campaign ten-to-one, and it’s pretty much a no brainer.
Disagree? Let me know why in the comments and try to convince me otherwise.
I’ll be creating a Beginner’s Guide to Guest Posting over the coming weeks to demonstrate just how efficient (and successful) the whole process can be, so be sure to stay tuned for that by subscribing to the Niche Affiliate Empires newsletter.
As well as running shotgun campaigns and doing a little bit of guest posting (which we’ll be doing a hell of a lot more of going forward), we also started with other promotional activities.
We feel that we now have enough content on the site, so we want to scale down content production in favor of giving half of our time to link building and half to targeted content promotion.
Specifically, we’ve started working with Quora.
We’ve worked with Quora extensively in the past, but this was many moons ago and we want to see (after countless Quora updates and algorithmic changes, no doubt) whether the platform is as good as it was.
We intend to expand these activities to other platforms such as Reddit, Facebook (particularly groups), forums, relevant blogs, YouTube, and Pinterest in the future, but first, we want to try our hand with Quora.
Previous experience tells us that Quora is an excellent source of relevant traffic and as long as you maintain your activity, this can grow consistently and quite significantly.
It also helps to establish you as an authority on a topic and if you strike it lucky, you can get featured in their Quora Digest email, which can end up being sent out to millions of Quora users.
Over the coming months, whilst we will still be producing a lot of content, one of our primary focuses will be promotional activities.
Here’s a brief step-by-step overview of the Quora promotion process:
- Using Ahrefs Site Explorer, enter quora.com into the search box and hit enter.
- Click on ‘Organic keywords’ in the left-hand sidebar.
- Set the ‘Position’ filter to between 1 to 10 and then enter a relevant (broad) keyword into the ‘Include’ filter.
- Order by ‘Position’.
You can also set a minimum search volume if you wish.
Now, you can add the questions that rank in Google to a spreadsheet and knock them off your list one-by-one, by creating a quality, long-form, visually appealing answer.
Don’t forget to add a link to your site in your answer.
PRO TIP: You can use engagement pods (groups on Facebook, WhatsApp groups, or Slack channels) and ask for upvotes, to help you secure the top answer.
It’s been some time since we fully utilized Quora for content promotion, so our intention this coming month or two, is to test the waters and see if it still provides a significant ROI.
If it does, great!
If not, we’ll can it and reassess.
P.S. Here’s a little secret from us to you…
We’re currently in the process of developing a web application that will automate 80-90% of the link building process!
I s**t you not, it’s going to be epic.
We’ll be looking for a maximum of 100 beta testers in the very, very near future, so if you’re interested, make sure you’ve subscribed to the NAE newsletter!
You won’t want to miss out on this beast. 😉
During November we drove a total of 2,858 users.
For month 2, that’s really not too bad.
But in all honesty, it’s a little misleading, as there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to traffic sources here.
It’s important to point out that a LOT of this traffic will be coming from social, particularly Facebook (and particularly the NAE Facebook Group). Since this is a public case study, we’re going to see this more and more.
Still, that’s a 61.01% increase in unique users over October.
In terms of organic traffic, we saw an encouraging 187 unique organic users.
This equates to a fairly decent 120% increase over October’s organic traffic.
One good thing to notice is that the bounce rate is fairly low at 40.24% and the average session duration for organic is quite good, too, at 3:16.
One important thing we did for Survival Front was to set up Google Tag Manager and set up some proper click attribution goals in analytics so that we can track affiliate link clicks.
This gives us a bit more solid data on what pages are and are not doing well and what products tend to convert.
Clearly, it’s our goal over the coming months to significantly increase our organic search traffic.
We’re quietly confident that, although things are slow at the minute, we’re going to see a significant increase over the next few months, as this ‘compound effect’ that we talk about so much leads to some truly awesome growth.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the hard work we put in now will pay dividends in the future – it’s all about that staying power!
During November we had a total of 59 primary keywords in the top 100, with 8 in the top 30.
Not phenomenal progress, but not bad for month two.
It’s important to understand that this site has been built from scratch and we’re not using an expired domain with tons of quality, relevant links.
The encouraging sign is that we’re starting to see upward movements in both rankings and organic traffic.
As I mentioned above, with respect to traffic, things will only compound over time, and we expect no less with rankings.
At this stage in the game, our rankings correlate with our organic search traffic and, so long as this continues in an upward trend, we’re laughing.
Although Ahrefs is, undoubtedly, one of the best marketing tools on the market, the data can, at time, seem unreliable and this has prompted us to begin to look at alternatives, such as Accuranker.
We’ve not yet made a decision to switch, or even come close to letting Ahrefs go – it remains a market leader in my opinion – but we’re putting the feelers out nonetheless.
If you use any alternatives to Ahrefs, again, let me know in the comments and I’ll check them out. 🙂
So, in summary, rankings are up, albeit they’re not amazing at this point.
Good things come to those who wait and I have a feeling the tide will turn very soon.
Digging Into Earnings
In November, we made an absolutely whopping $5.61.
I’ve already organized the retirement party and everyone’s invited!
Joking aside, this is to be expected.
With a site that’s so new and with little organic traffic, it’s pretty astonishing we’ve made anything – most brand new sites don’t make money for a while.
Considering we made just $0.85 in month one, an increase of 560% would make an excellent ‘guru’ ad headline.
I can picture it now!
“Learn How to Increase Your Sales by 560% in Just 30 Days”
It’s easy to look at all of the hard work that’s gone into Survival Front, with its 60 posts, 120,000 words of content, and everything else, and then see the $5.61 and think to yourself, “Is it really all worth it?”.
What you have to keep in mind when embarking on an ambitious project like this, or any affiliate site for that matter, is, it’s really not about the immediate, short-term gains.
I can pretty much guarantee that the work and effort we’re putting into this now will reap HUGE dividends later on.
I know, from experience, (as I’ve said previously, and will continue to hammer home) that this will begin to compound over time and growth will be almost exponential once it hits that tipping point.
We’ve seen it time and time again on both our own sites and client projects.
I won’t be cashing in on my retirement just yet, but it will come.
In December, we plan to focus heavily on guest posting and content promotion.
Hopefully, we see some more movements in the right direction.
Let us know your thoughts and if there’s anything specific you’d like us to cover going forward.
If you found this post useful, we’d absolutely love a share!