Behind the Scenes of Building and Selling a $145,000 Amazon Affiliate Site
Hey! My name is Kevin Graham, and I’m currently living in Chiang Mai with my business partner, Richard. We build and own a portfolio of successful Amazon affiliate sites.
Today, I’ll be giving you a “behind the scenes” look at our business and the way that we create profitable affiliate sites by sharing the details of our sixth site, which recently sold on the Empire Flippers Marketplace for $145,000.
Discovery of the Niche — Early June 2014
The first and most important step in building a profitable site is keyword research. Many others have written blog posts and created paid training courses on the art and science of performing keyword research for niche sites. For people who are just getting started, I’d recommend buying Long Tail Pro and completing the included Long Tail University training package to get a better understanding of this topic.
Rather than repeating all of that here, I’ll just give you the overview of what Richard does when he finds keywords for our sites — he uses a mix of copious amounts of caffeine, a copy of Long Tail Pro, some in-depth analysis of the first page of Google, and a sacrifice of sanity.
After selecting 21 keywords of a “best [xxx]” and “[xxx] reviews” nature, covering a modest 15,700 monthly searches on Google, we begin to create the site’s content plan, which lays out the keywords we’ll be targeting on each page, and how many pages there will be on the site. That’s the basics of our process whenever we start working on a new website.
After a brainstorming session with Richard, I came up with the idea for the brand for this particular site. The brand paid homage to a popular site from a few years prior and — whilst not infringing on their copyright — it allowed us to inject a bit of humour into the site, create a memorable brand of our own, and have some fun with what might otherwise have been a rather boring topic in the home fixtures niche.
We registered the domain name in late June 2014 and began to work on building the site.
Site Strategy and Branding — Late June 2014
While finding profitable keywords is an extremely important component of niche site success, you still need to have a strategy for the site. By strategy, I mean how the site will look and feel and, most importantly, how it will make money. Because the keywords for this site were all of a product review nature, using the Amazon Associates program was the obvious choice for us.
The Empire Flippers have written an in-depth guide to the Amazon Associates business model, but — briefly stated — when visitors click through from our website to Amazon and make a purchase within 24 hours, we get a commission on everything that they buy in that order.
Based on Richard’s keyword research, we knew that we would be able to rank a site on the first page of Google using links from our private blog network (PBN). That way, we’d be able to get free traffic to the website from Google’s organic search results and monetize those visitors by recommending products and sending them to Amazon to purchase them.
One final hurdle for the site was that the niche was — as Joe diplomatically described it on Episode 154 of the Empire Flippers podcast — “not the most interesting or sexy niche.” Luckily, our writer is very creative (and enjoys a few bad puns), so he was able to inject some life and humour into the site. This helped to keep visitors entertained, informed them of the best product for their needs, and kept the bounce rate low.
Building the Site — July/August 2014
Armed with a name for the site and a creative angle, Richard finalised the site content plan with the specifics, such as the number of pages, page titles, word counts, and the products we’d be reviewing on the site.
Once the site content plan was completed, it was sent over to our amazing writer, who I’ve worked with for over three and a half years now. Our writer works with a few different clients, and was also working on other sites for us at the same time, so it took a little while for him to get the content for this one finished.
After looking over and proofreading the content, I handed things over to my site builder who is based in India. He took charge of building the product comparison tables and taking the content that our writer delivered and formatting it in WordPress. After adding a logo designed by yours truly and a few minor tweaks to the site once it came back from our site builder, it was ready to make bank.
First Earnings — October 2014
Two months later, this site had earned a life-changing… $6.85. Yeah, Buddy! Even now, after building 40 sites, it is still a thrill when a site earns its first dollar.
Christmas & Break Even — December 2014
Earning a more respectable $442 in December 2014, we recouped all of the money that we’d invested. Getting a four-month payback period on your investment is one of the many reasons that I love building Amazon affiliate sites.
The Site’s One Year Anniversary — August 2015
A niche site can be compared to a good red wine — the older it gets, the better it becomes. Rankings, traffic, and earnings all increase as the site begins to age and becomes more trusted in Google’s algorithm. We’ve generally found that 12 months is an important milestone for sites. I guess you could say that we were proud parents, as this site was now making just over $5,000 per month — in August, it made $5,141.78.
A Decision to Sell — March 2016
At this point, we’d been building sites for just over two years and had a bustling portfolio of sites. We felt that the site had reached its potential and had achieved a stable plateau of earnings and rankings under our set of skills and resources. It was time to hand over the baton to a new owner.
We considered the Buyer Personas from Empire Flippers. For a Portfolio Paul, this site would represent a solid earner in their portfolio and provide a great ROI. It could also provide job replacement income for a Lifestyle Larry. On the other hand, a DIY David or Flipper Fred might find that the site could provide a great project to work on in order to further expand the site and increase its earnings.
With much excitement, we listed the site for sale on Empire Flippers. This would be the fourth site that I’d sold, and I was very familiar and comfortable with the processes by this point.
(Im)Patiently Waiting for the Right Buyer — March-May 2016
The site passed the vetting process and was listed on the Empire Flippers Marketplace at the end of March. And then the wait began. As dull as cashing a $6,000 Amazon check each month is, not a whole lot happened during this period. We had a couple of depositors who expressed an interest, but it did not progress much further than that. This was the same thing that we experienced the last time we sold a large site as well — these things take time.
Sold, Sold, Sold! — June 2016
Exactly two years to the day after Richard found the keywords for the site, I was part of a buyer/seller call that was facilitated by Joe from Empire Flippers. After showing the buyer through the site via a screen share and answering their questions, the call was coming to an end. Joe calmly, yet directly, asked the buyer for the sale.
At this point, we had established trust with the buyer and he had confidence in the site and its earnings potential. He said he did not want to engage in the typical back and forth game of negotiating, so he made an offer of $145,000, just below the site’s $148,700 list price on the marketplace. I accepted his offer on the call and the deal was done.
Two weeks later, we had been paid out, and there was an extra $123,500 in our bank account. Empire Flippers charge a 15% commission on the proceeds of a sale, and in my opinion, their service is worth every dollar. The Empire Flippers brand, reputation, and trust factor definitely contributed to the successful sale of this site.
What’s Next — June 2016 and Beyond
US$123,500 is equal to about 4.3 Million Thai Baht — so I guess I can say this was a multi-million-dollar exit. On a serious note, this puts Richard and I in a real position of strength, allowing us to have more leisure time and to pursue new business opportunities.
While Richard is still focussed on building new niche sites, I launched Bulk Buy Hosting in December 2015, which provides an easy, safe, and affordable way to host a private blog network on premium hosting providers.
If you’re not already running a private blog network and are interested in starting your own, I’m running a live case study on the site to rank an Amazon affiliate site using a private blog network.
If you’re already running a PBN and looking for an easy, safe, and affordable way to host your network on premium providers, then please check us out.
Thank you for reading this “behind the scenes” look at the process of building and selling an Amazon affiliate site. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions about anything I’ve covered in this post, please leave a comment, and I’ll try my best to answer them all.