Affiliate programs are a great way to increase the revenue on your website. There are many options out there to choose from.
One of the more popular options is Amazon affiliate websites. Many people talk about them like they are the easiest way to earn passive income and riches.
But is that the truth?
After creating a website that reached over $1,000 in affiliate income per month and 35,000 unique visitors from organic search, I'm here to spill the beans about what it actually took to get there and what I learned along the way.
What's The Website?
First off, I want to be upfront that I won't be sharing the website domain that I'm going to be talking about in this article.
Because I've learned the hard way that depending on how many people read this article, I don't want to have 100 or more competitors pop up overnight. And out of those 100, there's always that one person that will steal content from a website thinking that it will make them money too. It won't, and all they will do is waste their time and cause the original site owner a lot of problems.
Most people are good. I simply can't share it because of the few bad apples out there. Since you don't know me and I haven't established trust, I do want to provide a snapshot of the earnings of the site from the year 2017.
With that said, let me shine some light on what I learned on this journey so that you can start much further ahead if you decide to create your own affiliate site.
1. Don’t Go After Bad Niches
Usually, the first place people begin when they set out to create a website like this is with keyword research. The main goal is to find the perfect balance between searches per month (LMS) and keyword difficulty. Depending on which keyword tools you use, you can find different metrics for difficulty.
Personally, I use Ahrefs, which has the "KD" metric. It works very well because it represents roughly the number of quality backlinks that you need to get to rank on page 1 for that keyword.
At some point, you will have to build backlinks to grow your site, so you must target low competition keywords. If you don't, then you're going to be heartbroken later on. Most rookies ignore this issue.
In fact, keyword research is the most critical part of this game. Choose the wrong niche, and keywords that are too hard, and you will work your rear off for a year and not get any good results. I kind of knew to watch out for this, but I didn't really know what I was doing when I started back in May of 2016. I've learned a lot since then.
Not only is individual keyword difficulty important, but who are the other players in your niche and how many are there? Ideally, you want to pick a niche where there are not too many competitors, otherwise, the amount of work that you will have to do will multiply, lowering your chance for success.
I chose poorly here with a sub-niche of outdoors products. Little did I know that there were expert blogs at the time pointing to the same niche for newbies to jump into. Because of this, my success took much longer since I had to outcompete a ton of other people.
In comparison, I recommended to a friend to jump into a completely different niche after a year of doing this kind of work, and he got results 4 times faster than I did by doing the same process. It's all about picking the right niche.
To summarize, you must balance finding a niche that doesn't have too many competitors, has keywords that get decent searches per month (1,000 LMS is pretty awesome), and the keyword difficulty is low (for Ahrefs KD, lower than 10).
2. Pick Products That Sell
The next problem that you will run into after you select your niche is finding the right products to write reviews about. Typically, the keywords that you go after are going to dictate the type of products. Your job is to find great products for the reader that they will actually buy.
Many affiliate sites get traffic from Google but have terrible products in their articles. Personally, I had strict limits of only putting products with 4 stars or more from reviews, and that had many reviews on top of that. It's the main criteria that someone is going to look at right before they buy.
Part of writing review articles should include researching the different products offered and prioritizing the good ones in a proper list. Then you can write reviews about them. If you skip this part, your conversion rate will be terrible and you won't make near as much money as you could have with commissions.
3. Follow Associate Rules Closely
There are several policy rules that you must follow as an affiliate. Make sure that you carefully read through the different rules and that you have processes in place for your website where the rules are followed correctly.
Once you create your affiliate account, usually you have a few months time to make your first sale, otherwise, your account will be closed. When the first sale happens, it triggers someone to take a look at your site to make sure you are following the affiliate rules correctly.
The rules change from time to time, so it's your job to keep up with those changes and if required, implement corrections on your website.
4. You Need Experience Getting Traffic
If you do the math, then most likely you will find that you won't be able to use pay per click ads to drive traffic to your affiliate website and still make a profit. The amount that you make on sales commissions just isn't enough to be able to buy ads. Sometimes, there are rare exceptions for very expensive purchases, but that is not the norm.
Instead, you need a traffic plan on how you will get visitors to your website. Some people go with social media, but the majority go with search engine optimization. So you have to make sure that either you have experience with SEO, or that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and learn how to do it.
Personally, I went with SEO and I'm glad that I did. It turns out that SEO is a very useful and effective way to get visitors to any type of website.
For example, I took all of the experiences learning how to do an affiliate site and then used that to get good at local SEO for small businesses. It turns out that the fundamentals are the same. If you want to get your feet wet, check out my guide to see how SEO works for a rundown of the different ranking factors.
At a bare minimum, you need to do high-quality content, superb on-page optimization and get high-quality backlinks. Those alone will give you a 60% SEO solution. If required, there are other factors that you can improve, as outlined in the guide that I recommended above.
5. Lots Of Work
In reality, most gurus will never tell you how much work is actually involved. I'm not one of those gurus. An affiliate site is a ton of freaking work. In fact, as I look back at how much I've made so far, I haven't quite made enough to justify all of the work and expenses yet.
In time, that will change, but it can take years to break even on an affiliate site and then hit the profit only months. Again, I chose a bad niche with tons of competitors, so if you heed my advice in this article, you will most likely avoid the mountains of additional work that come with choosing a bad niche. However, even a good niche still takes a lot of work to be successful.
My point is, get ready to work your face off. There are a ton of people out there trying to do affiliate websites, so competition will be steep. You will have to outwork all of those people for an extended period of time and keep going when they start giving up. Only the strong will last.
Learn how to outsource, and learn how to do it for cheap. I leveraged Upwork to handle product research, writing, editing, and on page optimization. It was a game changer. Had I not started outsourcing, I would have given up. The problem is that you need cash to do that, and you need it before the site starts making money.
6. Takes Time
The final lesson is that this sort of thing takes time. Using SEO alone means that a brand new domain will be in what's called a sandbox for the first 6 months. That means that your site won't rank for any keywords in that time period. This hurts many people because they think they are doing SEO wrong since nothing is ranking. You are driving blind.
You have to know what good quality SEO looks like, and have solid processes to implement it on your site. If you do, then when 6 months are over, your site will come out of the sandbox and you will notice a substantial increase in traffic. The traffic will keep growing from that point and that's when things get exciting.
So plan on at least 1 year of hard continuous work in order to get to where your website is doing pretty good. Remember, it's a marathon, not a race.
In summary, Amazon affiliate websites are a great way to earn some income. The problem is that so many people are doing it because there is a low barrier of entry. Anyone can start a site and participate in the program. That's why picking the right niche and picking the right keywords are extremely critical.
Once visitors click over to Amazon, you better have picked awesome products that convert if you want to maximize your results. Make sure that you are also following all of the associated policy rules too in order to not get kicked out of the program.
I recommend that you use SEO as your traffic source, which means that you need to be good at it or be willing to learn. It takes lots of practice. Don't underestimate the amount of work that it will take to be successful. And remember, patience is a virtue. It will take time to get results.