Affiliate Site Case Study – Month 6 Update
This is probably the most exciting update I’ve written so far.
Growth in March has been nothing short of phenomenal across the board, including rankings, traffic, and earnings, which have all increased significantly.
I’m going to analyse both our growth and our failures, as we take a look at the month when we finally hit that lucrative ‘tipping point’…
Affiliate Site Work To Date
Before we move on to analysing our results and achievements in March, let’s first take a brief look back at our progress so far.
Generally, it’s been a pretty positive journey so far, with significant ground made in rankings, traffic, and, of course, earnings.
Let’s dive straight in and see how we’ve performed to date…
Don’t have time to read the full update right now?
Check out our quick summary below for a high-level overview on what we’ve achieved this month.
A Quick Summary…
|Strategy & Operations|
After concluding that we had produced ‘enough’ content, we decided to focus heavily on link building and improving Survival Front’s authority. This month we acquired another 20 backlinks, bringing our total referring domains to 95. We plan to maintain this pace going forward.
Want to dive in further?
Great! Let’s do it…
When we set off on our journey to build and grow an affiliate site portfolio, we had one primary objective – to go from zero to $100,000 in monthly recurring commissions.
Survival Front has always remained a huge part of that strategy – this wasn’t your usual ‘throwaway’ affiliate site case study.
We’re all about building sustainable, profitable brands; true digital assets that stand the test of time.
And Survival Front was no different.
Since the start, there have been highs and there have been lows, and there have also been a lot of lessons learned.
But, generally, we’ve had a pretty positive journey so far, and have not only ‘survived’ but thrived throughout numerous algorithm updates, and witnessed some pretty staggering growth.
Looking back at October 2019 (month 1), we had a minuscule 85 organic users and made $0.85 in earnings – an achievement we were (and still are) extremely pleased with.
But to say things have progressed quite quickly since then is a little bit of an understatement.
In month 2 (November 2019), organic traffic increased by 120% and earnings skyrocketed by a massive 560%.
In December 2019 (month 3), organic visitors shot up by a further 114%, while our earnings increased by 177% compared to the previous month.
As we entered the New Year, January and February (months 4 and 5) saw our organic users increase by 37.66% and 20.11% respectively, while earnings essentially doubled month-on-month, increasing by 106% in January and 96.66% in February.
By February 2020 – in just 5 months – Survival Front had earned a total of $117.11 and had an estimated flippable asset value of $1,639.30 – $2,017.60.
Let’s check out our progress to date…
Monthly Progress: Recap & Summary
|Time Period||Organic Traffic||% Change||Earnings||% Change|
Now, it’s no secret that we’ve invested a hell of a lot of time, effort, and money into this site already (which I’ll discuss in great detail, later on in this post).
It’ll also come as no surprise to you that our total commissions to date – or even our flippable value – comes nowhere near our initial investment.
There is still some way to go before Survival Front recoups that initial outlay and becomes profitable, but genuinely, I don’t think that point is too far off.
In-line with our strategy, we scaled-down Survival Front operations (content production) in February and began focusing predominantly on link building.
We did this for a number of simple reasons:
- To reduce the monthly cost of the project (and therefore begin to claw back some of our initial investment).
- To allow Google to ‘catch up’ with our output so far and allow us to accurately determine our investment and resource requirements going forward.
Essentially, we decided that February was the time to pause, take a breather, and let things settle before making our next move.
We wanted to do this while maintaining the most basic of operational tasks, such as; link building (of course), on-page and technical, CRO, and development/design tweaks, plus some infrequent, highly-targetted content.
We’ll continue with this approach until we feel we’re in a position to, once again, invest hard and push forward with the project.
Here’s an overview of how far we’ve come:
Organic Search Traffic
- October 2019: 85
- February 2020: 663
- October 2019: $0.85
- February 2020: $63.05
So, overall we’ve had a damn good start and we’re determined to see it continue well into 2020 and beyond.
Now that the recap is out of the way, let’s take a closer look at ranking movements in March.
This month has been, without doubt, our best month so far when it comes to ranking increases, which are pretty awesome across the board.
Let’s take a closer look…
First, let’s take a look at keyword movements.
On desktop, we’ve had increases for 247 keywords and drops in 57.
On mobile, we’ve had similar results, with increases for 255 keywords and drops in 49.
So, as you can see, a really positive start.
This predominantly positive trend in movements will be due to a couple of factors, namely:
- The continuation of new content indexing and subsequently ranking.
- Improvements in Survival Front’s authority pushing up already ranking keywords.
But, as we dig deeper into the data, we can see an even more positive trend…
Across both desktop and mobile, the majority of our keyword increases have been in higher SERP positions.
What I mean by that is, most of our jumps took place in positions 1-50, while our only drops occurred in positions 51-100.
So, what does that mean in practical terms?
Well, quite simply, we’re seeing a positive upwards trend in the positions where people are most likely to see our pages.
What’s even better is that we had 24 more keywords drop into positions 1-3 on desktop and a further 36 drop intro positions 1-3 on mobile.
Ranking Group Movements
|Ranking Group||No. of Keywords||Increase / Decrease||Ranking Group||No. of Keywords||Increase / Decrease|
Now, for the seasoned SEO veterans among you, I don’t need to explain why this is such a positive trend, as anyone who has been involved in SEO for any length of time will understand just how valuable positions 1-3 in Google’s SERPs are, but for the less experienced readers, I’ll give a very brief overview…
With the number 1 result in Google attracting 31.7% of all clicks – according to a study carried out by Backlinko – it’s clear to see why monitoring and improving your rankings is so vitally important.
In fact, according to the study, positions 1-3 in Google sweep up more than 75% of all clicks for any given search!
That’s pretty significant.
It essentially forms our approach to affiliate marketing; find low-competition, high-buy intent keywords, with decent search volumes, and rank your content using SEO, in order to attract and then monetize the traffic.
Now that’s sorted, let’s dive straight into traffic!
We had some unbelievable growth in traffic this month across the board.
Organic traffic had the biggest percentage increases across all acquisition channels, with some absolutely massive jumps!
Without further ado, let’s get straight into it…
This month really does call for another ‘SEO guru headline’.
It’s so warranted that I don’t even apologise for this one…
“Increase your traffic by 284.28% in just 31 days!”
Across all of our acquisition channels, users were up 248.28% on last month, sessions increased by 241.38%, and new users skyrocketed by 309.81%.
|Traffic Type||Current Period||Previous Period||% Change|
Now, I really only focus on organic search; particularly at this stage in the lifecycle of a project, however, the other acquisition channels are at least worth a mention…
Email traffic was up by 25%.
Referral traffic increased by 65.05%.
Direct traffic increased by 160.29%.
Social traffic increased by 304.29%.
But, leaving all other channels aside, we witnessed some pretty exceptional growth in organic search traffic this month and it calls for yet another ‘sales guru headline’…
“Increase your organic traffic by 357.32% in just 1 month!”
That’s right – 357.32%!
Remember that ‘tipping point’ I always speak of?
We just hit it. Big time.
Granted, we did have 2 extra days this month, compared to February, but even still, this growth is pretty decent.
How long this growth trend will last for, and to what extent, no one knows.
However, I’d say it’s likely to continue for at least another 1-2 months, albeit probably on a smaller growth trajectory.
Sessions were also up this month by 351.02% and new users increased by a staggering 370.91% when compared to February.
March has been an all-round amazing month with regards to traffic; particularly organic.
Breakdown: Organic Search
|Acquisition||Current Period||Previous Period||% Change|
We’re extremely pleased with our progress this month and have seen some excellent growth – I don’t see any reason why Survival Front traffic won’t continue on this trend.
So, rankings are improving, traffic has increased, but what about earnings?
March wasn’t only a good month for rankings and traffic.
As is the norm for most online businesses, these increases generally correlate with more sales.
And that’s exactly what happened…
We’ve had a pretty extraordinary month and our earnings have followed the same exponential growth trajectory as our traffic.
We had a total of 209 ordered items in March, 182 of which were shipped by the month-end and 2 of which were returned.
We also had a pretty decent conversion rate at 11.14% and generated $4,702.93 in shipped items revenue – you’re welcome again, Amazon…
Revenue & Earnings
|Shipped Items Revenue||$4,702.93|
I simply have to – for the third and final time in this post – present to you another whopper of a ‘sales guru headline’…
“Skyrocket your sales and increase your revenue by 279.41% in just 1 month!”
I know, I know…
The headlines are getting boring now.
But, while growth remains this good, I simply can’t help myself.
But what does that 279.41% increase look like in real terms?
Well, pretty awesome, if you ask me…
In February we earned a total of $63.05, compared to $239.22 this month!
Now, to some of the more experienced affiliate site marketers out there, this may not seem like a big deal, but to put it into context, prior to March, we had earned a total of $117.11 since Survival Front’s inception in October 2019.
So, our earnings in March alone were 104.27% higher than all previous 5 months combined.
|Current Period||Previous Period||% Change|
As you can probably tell, I’m fairly pleased with the progress we’ve made this month across all of our key metrics, but particularly earnings.
If things continue as they have been doing, we’ll be extremely pleased.
Another decent month as far as link building goes.
We’ve been steadily ploughing away with outreach in order to try and maintain our link velocity.
Let’s jump straight in and see how we got on…
We’ve pretty much covered in-depth, our approach to outreach and link building in previous updates and so there’s little need to labour the point.
Although it is worth noting that I’ll be releasing a guide in May, detailing all of our link building processes.
If you’re interested in learning more about link building, make sure you’re signed up to the Niche Affiliate Empires newsletter, as we’ll be sending out a ton of valuable link building strategies and actionable step-by-step tips over the coming weeks, including our link building guide.
We’ll also be sharing more information about our brand new automated link building SaaS tool, which will be released for beta testing in the very near future!
And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
I recently ran a poll in the Niche Affiliate Empires Facebook group asking people…
“how much time do you spend on link building each month?”
The results were pretty clear cut.
Over half of all poll participants spent between 31 and 50 hours each month on link building – 58.70% to be precise.
I bet they’d be glad of a tool that can automate 80%-90% of the process, while ensuring a successful campaign, yielding outstanding results!
Well, it won’t be long before they have one…
But for now, let’s dive back into the link building we carried out this month.
It may have been done manually/semi-automated, utilising a whole raft of tools, but we still managed to acquire another 20 referring domains in March.
These links varied between homepage, brand-anchor text backlinks, and links pointing to our informational posts, as well as some directly to our commercial pages.
In terms of the number of links acquired, this decreased by 16.66% on the previous month.
That said, however, we focus predominantly on the quality and relevance of our links, as opposed to the quantity.
Link Building: Progress to Date
|Time Period||Number of Links Acquired|
|Total Number of Links Acquired||95|
Again, while 20 links in a month may not seem like anything special to some of the ‘bigger players’ in the industry, we’re pretty content with the pace of acquisition for now.
What we want to avoid, particularly with regards to link building, is any unnatural peaks and troughs in our backlink profile.
Over and above the quality and relevance aspect, we want to maintain a nice, steady link velocity, indicating to Google that we’re as relevant to the SERPs today, as we were yesterday, last week, last month, and last year, etc.
The last thing we want to do is turbocharge our link building in these early months, only for it to steadily decline as time goes on.
If anything, we want to start off nice and slow, and steadily ramp things up.
So, for now, we’re happy with an upward trend of around 20 links per month.
Link Building Criteria & Considerations
Gareth recently posted some top link building tips in the Niche Affiliate Empires Facebook group – ask yourself these questions and look for a positive answer prior to acquiring any future links…
Is the site (overall) relevant, or does it have relevant categories?
Is the site getting a decent amount of organic traffic? More importantly, is that site on an upward growth trend, static, or is it declining, and by how much?
Does the domain have a decent, varied link profile, from real sites, or is it propped up by SPAM and low-quality links?
Is the site linking internally from the primary domain to its guest posts? Or, have they siloed them off?
How many links per post on average do guest posts have pointing to external sources? Are competitor links injected, too?
Is the site ranking for relevant keywords? Also, do those rankings correlate with the estimated traffic?
Does the site have the potential to drive relevant referral traffic?
Is the site professional and does it produce quality, well-written content?
How often do these sites appear in vendor lists? Are they the usual suspects?
Is the site considered to be on a spammy TLD, such as Chinese or Russian domains, or others.
Web 2.0 Stacking
Is the site blasted with tons of Web 2.0 spam?
Spam & Anchors
Does the site and its guest posts have a lot of bad anchors (viagra, cialis, etc) or content containing these things?
Are the guest posts or link insertions in sponsored posts?
Is the site clearly and obviously part of a network?
At the end of the day, you’ll have to be the one who makes the judgement call on what links you do or do not acquire.
As long as you’ve done your due diligence and can answer positively to the questions that you deem necessary, the jobs a good’n!
So, that’s link building for March in a nutshell.
Let’s take a look back at some of the targets we set ourselves in our month 1 blog update and see how we got on…
Affiliate Site Goals
It’s always useful to have targets.
Regardless of the project, they help keep you focused and driven.
At the start of this process, we set ourselves a number of short-term (6-month) and long-term (12-month) goals.
Let’s take a look back at them and review our progress…
First, let’s cover our short-term goals.
These were targets that we intended to hit by month 6 (March 2020).
Short-Term Goals (6-Month)
|Earnings||$1,600 per month|
|Traffic||15,000 – 17,000 per month|
So, as you can see, some pretty ambitious targets.
I’ll let you know now; we didn’t make these targets.
Let’s take a look at how close we came…
Short-Term Actuals (6-Month)
|Earnings||$239.22 per month|
|Traffic||3,935 per month|
|Salable Value||$6,219.72 – $7,655.04|
The single biggest reason we wanted to do this public case study, was so that our community could ‘come along for the ride’ and learn from our experience.
And here’s one thing to learn about Daine Media, if you don’t already know it; we suck at dreaming small.
If you’re going to dream, dream big.
And if you’re going to dream big, dream bigger.
That’s always been our approach and always will be, and in truth, we’re not too disheartened by our results so far.
We may not have hit our (probably too) ambitious targets, but we’ve learnt a hell of a lot along the way.
And, not to mention, we’ve literally only just hit our ‘tipping point’.
While our 6-month goals may have been a little too ambitious, I remain confident that most of our long-term (12-month) goals are more than achievable.
So, with that said, let’s take a look and see how far we have left to go…
Long-Term Goals (12-Month)
|Earnings||$8,500 per month|
|Traffic||150,000 – 170,000 per month|
Long-Term Goal Analysis
Let’s take a look at each of these goals individually and try to determine what may be realistic, and what may be a little out of our grasp.
Although we’re only making around $250 per month currently, I feel that with our current rate of growth, we can still meet our earnings target of $8,500 per month.
This would equate to a 34x increase in our current monthly earnings.
In order to achieve this, our earnings would have to grow an average of 80%-85% month-on-month, for the next 6 months.
While this seems like a lot of consistent growth, if you look at our current rate of growth to date (see summary table), you’ll see that we’re more than achieving this at present.
The real question is, can we keep it up and for how long?
The next metric we’re going to look at – traffic – is probably one of the less realistic goals in my personal opinion.
In order to hit 170,000 monthly visitors, we’d have to 43x our current monthly traffic.
While nothing is impossible, I think this may be a little out of our reach within such a short space of time.
One thing is for certain – we’ll give it our best shot!
Note: It’s worth noting before we get into this, that our total estimated investment has changed from our initial prediction of $37,200 to a new estimate of $29,000, due to re-calculations in our figures for both short and long-term investment goals vs actual/predicted spend.
In hindsight, we probably should have been including rolling investment in each of our monthly updates, but unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.
However, as we’ve come to a key milestone in our journey – month 6 – I’ll be providing a full overview of our investment to date, prior to outlining our predicted investment going forward.
There are a number of ways we can break down the costs of this project, but we’ve decided to do so based on our activities, as opposed to the resources used to carry out those activities.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat; we’ve just chosen this way.
So, as we go through the figures, it’s worth bearing in mind that we had a dedicated resource, working full-time on Survival Front for 4 months (October 2019 – January 2020) out of the 6 so far.
This full-time resource allocation focused predominantly on the production of content, however, also carried out various other marketing activities, such as outreach, social promotion, etc.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that, as a full-stack digital agency, we use a range of software, tools, and plugins, etc. across a whole range of internal sites, as well as client projects.
Because of this, we don’t have clear cut costs for this type of expenditure when it comes to Survival Front as a silo.
We pay for these systems and we use them on Survival Front, of course, but we also use those very same systems (within the same monthly or annually-billed packages), across many other projects.
To more accurately reflect this, some costs have been divided by a number of projects (the number of projects on which they were collectively spent), which, in some cases, has given us our single-site (Survival Front) figure.
Note: Keep this in mind when calculating potential costs to your own projects; specifically if you’re thinking about investing in your first affiliate site, as some software subscriptions may remain the same price, but your single project will take on the full weight of the costs – this could ultimately mean that your costs are somewhat higher than our estimated investment to date.
Our estimated investment (shown below) is certainly not an exact science.
It could be slightly more. It could be slightly less.
It is, however, accurate enough that you can obtain some sort of ballpark figure and use it to plan your own projects.
So, let’s dive in and take a look at our investment to date (from October 2019 – March 2020)…
Investment To Date (Oct 19 – Mar 20)
|Software & Tools||$744.97|
|Outreach & Promotion||$535.76|
Here’s what some of those costs went on in reality…
Software & Tools
- Adobe Creative Cloud
WordPress Plugins & Addons
- Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) Pro
- G Suite
- Digital Ocean
So, as you can see, this is not an insignificant amount of money we’ve invested.
The plan was always to invest heavily in the growth of the site initially, and, once we had seen some initial growth, to maintain for a period of time while we recouped some of our initial investment.
As of March 2020, our estimated flippable asset value is anywhere between $6,219.72 and $7,655.04.
This means, if we were to sell now, we’d recoup between 43% and 53% of our investment, thus making an overall loss of around 47-57%.
Clearly this isn’t our plan and we’ll continue to grow Survival Front until it becomes profitable (and then some).
The site is already growing fairly rapidly – as our asset value increases in line with our monthly earnings and our ongoing monthly costs are reduced due to the ‘scaling down’ of operations, we should begin to see this gap close quite significantly.
Now we better understand what we’ve invested to date, it’s time to make some comparisons…
Custom-Built Affiliate Site: Premium Package
Many members of the NAE Facebook group have asked how the growth of Survival Front relates to Daine Media’s DFY offerings when it comes to affiliate sites; particularly our full-time resource affiliate site build and growth package.
The truth is, it’s extremely difficult trying to compare the two for all of the obvious reasons; niche selection, competitiveness, product availability, and much, much more.
No two niches are the same and, in fact, no two sites are the same.
That said, I’m going to try to compare the two (Survival Front growth Vs our Premium affiliate site package) as best I can.
So, here’s an overview of our full-time resource affiliate site package…
Custom-Built Affiliate Site: Premium Package
|Site Research, Design & Build|
|Launch Content||20 Posts (40,000 – 50,000 Words)|
|Monthly Content||12 – 16 Posts (24,000 – 32,000 Words)|
|Monthly Outreach||Guest Post Campaigns (6 – 15 Links)|
|Site Care||Ongoing Site Management & Maintenance, inc. Theme Updates, CRO Improvements, etc.|
As you can see, it’s difficult to really compare what’s included in our full-time resource affiliate site package to the growth of Survival Front.
Not least because we only had a full-time resource working on Survival Front for four months, and so it’s not as easy as simply comparing our investment in Survival Front over 6 months to the cost of the affiliate site package for 6 months.
What would be more realistic, would be to compare Survival Front total investment to the cost of 4 month’s worth of the Premium affiliate site package.
Here’s the logic behind this approach.
Survival Front had 4 month’s worth of full-time resource investment and has achieved the growth it has, and that the bulk of our investment to date occurred during months 1-4, and so it seems only reasonable that this is compared against the cost of 4 month’s worth of the Premium affiliate site package.
Again, not an exact science, but it’s the best we’ve got, I’m afraid…
Survival Front Investment Vs Affiliate Site Premium Costs
|Survival Front Investment||$14,312.01|
|Premium Affiliate Package Costs (4 Months)||$20,000|
Generally speaking – and I mean ‘generally‘ – we’d be looking to achieve similar growth as Survival Front, in a similar timeframe, with our Premium affiliate site package.
But, as I say, there are a lot of variables in this game, hence why exact comparisons can’t really be made.
What’s good about our full-time resource model, is its flexibility.
It’s not restricted by limitations that many other agencies set with their packages, such as hours, strict deliverables, etc.
With our package, we can literally change up our strategy at the drop of a hat, to meet the ever-changing needs of an individual site.
If that means, as we’ve done with Survival Front, significantly reducing content production and focusing hard on link building, then it can be done.
That single resource is solely dedicated to working on an individual project, full-time, and so gets to know the site inside out.
Again, this is why it’s so hard to compare one site with another, let alone trying to compare the actual growth of a site with the predicted growth of a service.
But, hey ho, I did my best.
Hopefully, the comparison I have provided has delivered some sort of value to you and will help you when you’re planning your affiliate site project finances going forward.
So, now that we understand how much we’ve invested in Survival Front to date, and how that relates to our Custom-Built Affiliate Site: Premium Package, let’s take a closer look at what we intend to invest going forward…
Future Investment (Apr 20 – Sep 20)
|Software & Tools||$400.00|
|Outreach & Promotion||$12,000|
Lastly, we come to our estimated flippable value (this time, based on a minimum of 26x monthly earnings).
This is a fairly straightforward one.
Providing we can hit our long-term earnings goal of $8,500 per month (which I still think is feasible), then we’re more or less set to hit at least a 26x multiple.
Goal Review Summary
In short, while we didn’t hit our short-term goals, I think we’ve still made some fairly tremendous progress in just 6 months.
The real question now is, can we maintain our current growth trajectory, month-on-month, thus driving enough converting traffic to meet our long-term monthly earnings goal, and subsequently, our salable value goal?
With continued investment going forward, I’m convinced we can, but I suppose only time will tell.
Either way, we’re going to learn a hell of a lot more along the way and end up with a solid asset.
We’ve covered quite a lot in this month’s update – only fair, I suppose, as it was the 6-month milestone.
I’m sure you’ll agree, though, we’ve had some excellent growth.
Below is a very brief summary of how far we’ve come in just 6 short months…
Monthly Progress: Recap & Summary
|Time Period||Organic Traffic||% Change||Earnings||% Change|
|Total Earnings To Date||$356.33|
|Estimated Flippable Asset Value (26x – 32x)||$6,219.72 – $7,655.04|
Thanks for stopping by, folks.
I hope you enjoyed the read!
Don’t forget to sign up to the NAE newsletter, if you haven’t already done so, as we’ll be firing out tons of valuable updates and info over the coming weeks; not least on our brand new automated link building tool.
Our month 7 (April 2020) update is coming very soon – if you have anything, in particular, you’d like me to cover, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll make sure it’s included!