Case Study: Building an Affiliate Website to $100K from Scratch and Selling with Empire Flippers
We’re back with another case study. This time we built an Amazon affiliate site to $100,000. Now we’d like to tell you how we did it.
The goal of this case study is to share our method of buying and selling websites as a scalable process.
Here are the essential facts and figures about the site…
- Niche: Music
- Site Created: February 2017
- Monetization: Amazon Associates, Affiliate
- Total Earnings: $55,295 USD (Feb 2017-Oct 2019)
- Total Expenses: $20,400 USD (Feb 2017-Oct 2019)
…and the sale:
- Empire Flippers Application: June 6, 2019
- Listed on Marketplace: $108,541 (July 10, 2019)
- Sale Price: $100,000 (Oct 25, 2019)
- Transaction Complete: Nov 11, 2019
- Net Payout: $85,000 (after Broker’s Commission)
- Total Site Profit: $119,899
- Jan 2017: Bought used domain
- Feb 2017: Launched site with 30 articles
- Jun 2017: Made first Amazon sale
- Aug 2017: Started outreach campaigns
- Dec 2017: Passed $1,000 revenue per month
- Jan 2018: Added New ClickBank Affiliate
- Dec 2018: Highest earning month $6,638
- July 2019: Listed on the marketplace
*Expenses have been round up to represent the cost of domain, hosting, links and content costs for each month.
When I first told my team I wanted to build a site based on an exotic musical instrument, they thought the idea was far-fetched.
They all laughed … until the site started generating real revenue.
If you have a similar “crazy” idea, how do you go about validating market potential and estimating cost vs. revenue?
Here’s how we did it:
- Step 1: Market Research
Estimated Time spent = 3 hours
Since our site generates traffic from Search Engines, we used Google Trends to get a broad view of how the niche itself was performing in search. Ideally, you want to see a positive and steady search trend over the last 5 years.
Let’s look at a few examples:
Search trend for “paleo”:
Search trend for “best mattress”:
Why is this important?
Search trends are an indication of market demands. Therefore, if you can operate in a space where search volume increases over time, it means you’re likely to see more traffic over time even if your ranking in Google stays static.
- Step 2: Keyword Research
Estimated Time spent = 8 hours
There are a lot of good keyword research tools on the market today. Personally, I like to use SEMrush’s Magic Tool for the job.
Typically, the most relevant keywords for an affiliate website are keywords that contain the phrase “best” or “review”.* These words show pre-sale user intent and provide the user with the information they are looking for.
For example, users will search for “best yoga pants for 2019” or they might look for information on a specific brand like “[Brand name] yoga pants review”.*
*I’m not saying that these are the only relevant search terms. If you dig deeper, I’m sure you’ll find additional search terms.
Let’s look at aggregate data for “yoga pants”:
The aggregate search data shows around 20,000 monthly exact match searches in the USA.
The aggregate search data on our site was 66,000 monthly exact match searches per month. So typically, you’ll be seeing at least 30,000 searches per month. Although this can change if you’re talking about higher ticket sales.
- Step 3: Competitor Research
Estimated Time spent = 6 hours
Any time you enter a new niche, you want to have a look around to see which major sites are dominating the SERPs.
Ideally, you’re looking to see if smaller niche-specific sites are ranking for the top results. That’s a good indication that bigger players have yet to enter that space.
The next step is to look at the top 3-5 niche-specific sites and review the type of backlink profile and number of articles needed to generate the traffic needed for the site to make the revenue levels you’d like to reach.
We made a simple table that looks like this:
*Make an average for each parameter and make a content and outreach plan.
So in this case, your average parameters for a site in this niche would like something like this:
- Avg. # of referring domains required: 150
- Avg. # of articles required: 200
- DR required: 37Organic traffic potential: ~25000 monthly visits
- Step 4: Site Launch
Estimated Time spent = 30 hours
In Feb 2017, the site was launched on a free WordPress template. We went live with 30 articles. After the initial launch, we kept uploading at a pace of 4-5 articles per month over the next 12 months.
The key to content is to create a competitive advantage. In our case, we hired a content writer with experience in our targeted niche – we found a content writer that plays the instrument.
- Step 5: Outreach
Estimated Time spent = 2-3 hours per week
The site already had a solid backlink profile but most of the links were pretty old. We thought the site needed fresh, new high-quality links to signal that it was relevant again.
We mostly did white hat manual outreach and guest posts to build the new links.
- Step 6: Maintenance Mode
Estimated Time spent = 2-3 hours per week
Around 18 months post-launch, the site was ranking well for most of its niche-specific keywords. For maintenance mode, we made sure to update the top-ranking pages every few weeks.
- Step 7: Time to Sell
Estimated Time spent = 10-15 hours
As the site’s revenue remained stable, we thought it would be the right time to sell. Like any asset, it’s much better to list for sale during positive or stable trends.
If you wait for your site to tank before listing it, you’re likely to get a much lower multiple and risk the potential of it being labeled as a “distress sale”. This means you’ll have zero to no leverage against potential buyers.
Our preferred marketplace to sell sites is Empire Flippers. No other marketplace does all the work for the seller, from verifying the financial reports, to a designated migration team that handles transferring everything to the new owner.
By selling through Empire Flippers, I was able to continue to focus on my day-to-day tasks, instead of spending a large chunk of my time trying to sell the site.
If you read my previous case study, you know I’m a big believer of choosing process over outcome.
The difference between scalable projects to one-time success can be summed up in one word, process.
Here we were able to take a process which we had perfected from years of SEO work with clients and customize it to fit our new in-house project.
We have tested this method across multiple SEO projects and it works (almost) every time. We believe in its success because it’s a data-oriented, simple and easy-to-follow process.
I tried to make this case study as transparent as possible without giving away too much sensitive information. In case I missed anything or if you have any additional questions please let me know in the comment sections.