EF Staff

August 8, 2016

Kevin GrahamHey! 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.


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Discussion
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  1. Kevin Graham says:

    Thank you for letting me share the story of one of my sites with your audience! I’ll be monitoring the comments and answering any questions that people may have.

  2. Brandon says:

    Hi Kevin, thanks so much for sharing this great overview. I’m still waiting to get that first dollar from just one of my sites so when I read that you’d made $6.85 in October of ’14, I thought “I’d sure be happy to get a notification from Amazon that I’d gotten a buck.” Still, I noticed this week that I’d gotten two more click-throughs and I’m quite happy about that minor progress.

    I flew to Vietnam a few months ago to visit with Justin, Joe, and the EF Krewe. They all helped me focus on two main things that seemed to fit my situation best: affiliate sites and selling my own products via Amazon. Despite priding myself on being more positive-focused, I just couldn’t see how I would be able to have my own product shipping out from here in China (where I live currently) without having a load of investment money. Still, they were firm in their opinions and I thought a LOT about everything they told me. Today, I’ve got a couple of Amazon affiliate sites and am also awaiting the first order of my very own custom-made product, which I will ship to the US this fall.

    I would love to chat with you, especially after reading this article and hearing about how your niche wasn’t “sexy.” That’s how I feel with mine! I like the product and I think it’s useful but it seems not interesting at all!

    Thanks again and I wish you the best, Kevin!

    • Greg Elfrink says:

      Hey Brandon!

      I’m glad to hear you’re moving ahead with building out some content affiliate sites! It’s a great way to grow, and a great place to focus your time – as shown with Kevin here, they can be pretty profitable.

      All it takes is some good ol’ elbow grease, little bit of knowledge, and focus.

      You’ll get there!

      • Brandon says:

        Thanks a lot, Greg! I received so much invaluable thoughts from you guys that I’m still pondering it all! The great thing is that it’s helped me to get what I want, which is 1) FOCUS and 2) moving from wanting and thinking to DOING. I’m not concerned about failing anymore as much as I am about the things you mentioned–focusing, learning more, and working hard! Thanks again to you guys and keep up the awesome work!

  3. Nice article. Can I ask how many pieces of content you created (assume more than the one for each of the 21 keywords). Then after launching, did you continue to post conetnet? If you did, was that reviews or other useful content related to the niche.
    Thanks
    Paul

    • Kevin Graham says:

      Hi Paul,
      There were 8 or 9 main articles to target those 21 keywords, as several of them rolled up in to similar groupings – eg the best [xxx] and [xxx] reviews variations, etc.
      After the main pages on the site went live, there were a number of product reviews that were scheduled to go live over a period of time.
      Other than that, the site remained rather static apart from quarterly reviews and updates to keep the products fresh and updated.
      Thanks
      Kevin.

  4. Matt says:

    Hey Kevin, cool article. How did you promote the site? I’m assuming PBN? Did you make a new one or use an existing one? Anything else – any social? Also what was breakeven – I’m assuming more than the December earnings?

    • Kevin Graham says:

      Hi Matt,
      The site used PBN links to get it started, and started to pick up some natural links after it went live and started ranking on the first page. Breakeven point based on our budgeting for site build costs including content, domain, premium theme and the time spent building the site by my team member was $447. Actual costs might have been slightly higher or lower, depending on how much time he actually spent building the site compared to our estimates, because we pay him an hourly rate.
      Thanks
      Kevin.

  5. Kevin M says:

    Hi Kevin (Great name). Really interesting read. I was wondering if you could share a little bit about how you find a good writer and content producer.
    How have you found outsourcing this kind of thing?
    Do you have to provide a lot of background detail on the topic you want them to write on or just kind give them a general brief?
    I see it mentioned a lot on EF about sites only needing X amount of time per week/month and that you can outsource content creation, but I wonder how you assure that the content is actually good, well written etc. Thanks in advance, Kevin :)

    • Kevin Graham says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Outsourcing content production is one of the biggest reasons that we have been able to scale our operations. Finding a good writer isn’t easy, but when you do get one, you hold onto them and keep them happy for as long as you can.

      With our writer, we have given him a guide as to the nature of the content and the way we want it structured, but he knows our style guidelines very well now and can write without us having to spell out each subheading that we want on each page.

      If you’re bringing on a new writer, it helps to be a bit more prescriptive about what you want them to write about, the subheadings, etc.

      We pay our writer an allocation of “research time” to look at the products on Amazon and pick which products will be going on the site, as well as to understand the niche in general and what matters to buyers of these products.

      To find the right writer, start by getting a few writers on UpWork to all complete a sample job for your site, or a niche that you know a lot about. Read though them all, see which one you feel reads the best. You can also use tools like Grammarly to check for the technical accuracy of their writing in terms of grammar, tense, etc.

      I hope this helps.

      Thanks,
      Kevin.

      • Kevin M says:

        Hi Kevin, thank you for the detailed reply! Will follow your advice. Cheers.

        • Greg Elfrink says:

          Hey Kevin M!

          Upwork is a great place to look for good writers, but another really interesting option is to use to Reddit. You can often find pretty good writers within the niche you’re building by looking through subreddits of your niche on that site.

          Often these writers will be pretty cheap (maybe a bit more expensive than iWriter or HireWriters), but will often be pretty well informed on the niche too.

          Though if you’re looking for a writer to write in a ton of different niches, I would probably stick with Upwork as well.

  6. Carl says:

    Hi Kevin are you using English writers?

    Also do you have a certain content length you are shooting for in these articles?

    Thanks in advance

    • Kevin Graham says:

      Hi Carl,
      Yes, I do. The writer that I used for this site is an American.
      Generally, we aim for 1500-2000 words, but that really depends on what else is ranking on the first page of Google.
      Hope that helps.
      Kevin.

  7. Michael says:

    Hey Kevin.
    Congrats on a big sale, and thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you shared the humble beginnings. Often the writers gloss over it, and people think: “overnight success, must be nice!” because they didn’t see any of the hard work or time invested. Anyhow, thanks for the inspiration!
    Also, I think I’ve seen you in Powerhouse Gym in Chiang Mai? If you’re still around, let’s grab a beer some time.
    Cheers
    Mike

    • Kevin Graham says:

      Hey Mike,
      Glad you liked the story. I felt that sharing the humble beginnings of the site is important, as it helps to show people who are just starting out that they’re on the right track with their sites.
      And yeah, that would most likely be me at Powerhouse Gym. Hit me up on Twitter and we can meet up for some beers.
      Kevin.

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