[Case Study] Flipping an Affiliate Website for $136K in 16 Months
We’ve flipped an Amazon affiliate site for $136,000. Now we’d like to tell you all how we did it.
The goal of this case study is to share our methods and concepts detailing how we approach the process of buying and selling websites as a scalable process.
Here are some of the essential facts about the site and the sale.
- Niche: General Amazon Affiliates
- Site Created: May 2014
- Site Acquired: April 2017 for $ 52,256
- Monetization: Amazon Associates
- Total earnings (Apr 2017-Oct 2018) (USD): $60,000
- Completed Empire Flippers Application on: Oct 6th, 2018
- Listed on marketplace: Oct 14th, 2018 – $136,773
- Sale price agreed: Oct 25th, 2018 – $136,773
- Transaction completed: Nov 11th, 2018 – Net payout after Broker’s commision – $116,257
- Total site profit: $124,750
Buying the site (April 2017)
What we look for when buying a content site
This site had all the things we look for when buying a content site monetized with affiliate links that generates most of its traffic from SEO.
Here’s what we look for as part of our due diligence process:
Evergreen niche- We aim for websites that operate in the “Evergreen niche”: addressing topics that will always be relevant (Product reviews on Home Appliances and gardening tools for example).
Such sites can operate as passive sources of income while requiring few content updates over several years.
Solid backlink profile- When buying an SEO site, once of the first aspects to look at in the early stages of the due diligence process is the site’s backlink profile. A spammy backlink profile could be subjected to a Google Manual penalty.
Normally, a natural backlink profile has a large ratio of branded anchor text links from “high authority domains”, which means the site has real links coming from real sites. Be cautious when a backlink profile is compiled mostly from PBNs or other low-quality sites linking with a high ratio of exact match anchor text on the site’s “money keywords” Those usually include keywords like “Best” or “Review” in the anchor text.
This does not mean that sites with PBNs as part of their backlink profile are not good investments, but it does mean you should have a risk mitigation strategy to dilute those links over time with higher-quality natural links.
Scalable niche- One of the key things to analyze is how scalable the niche you’re operating in is and how well the site ranks for its top keywords. If it’s already ranking in the top three positions for most of its keywords while operating in a niche with limited search volume, scaling revenue would not be all that likely.
Positive traffic trend- Much like the stock market, SEO traffic fluctuates in certain ways for content websites. Using SEO tools (like Ahrefs and SEMrush) make it possible to predict reasonably how well a website is going to perform. You should be looking for a slow and steady increase over time.
*In the graph above we can see the upwords traffic trend started at the end of 2016 going into the start of 2017
Creating the Growth Plan
Once we acquired the site, we immediately started working on our plan to scale the site.
We followed a simple three-step process while implementing the 80/20 principle.
1. Identify the top 5 to 10 highest earning pages
The best way to identify top earning pages for an Amazon affiliate site is to add a unique Amazon ID to each of the site’s pages. That way, we’re able to track exactly how much revenue each page is generating, allowing us to optimize our content and set up our growth plan according to that optimization.
If you’re buying a site that has only one Amazon IS implemented, set up unique IDs for each page moving forward. You can also do this by looking at your Google Analytics and mapping the site’s pages with the highest traffic volume and high ticket items listed for a decent estimation of page earnings. However, using Google Analytics is not as accurate as setting up unique Amazon IDs.
2. Optimize the top pages for on-page and off-page SEO
Once we mapped out our top pages, we began looking at optimizing those pages for both on-page and off-page SEO. We did this by optimizing existing page content first, making sure it was as detailed and SEO-friendly as possible. After that was completed, we started outreach campaigns to help that content rank better with the help of natural links.
3. Create new content sections
Once Steps 1 and 2 were in motion, Step 3 started to grow the site’s revenue over the long run. Here, we looked at making additional content sections to target more keywords, which would increase the volume of organic traffic to the site.
*You don’t have to focus on just high-volume keywords (ones with 1,000 monthly searches or more). Look for long-tail keywords that target higher ticket products as well.
First Strategy: On-Page SEO optimization
When we ran a complete site audit, we found a few issues:
- Similar pages targeting the same keywords – To address this, we consolidated similar pages to create fewer pages with higher word counts and longer form content.
- Low page speed performance – Our dev team Improved page loading times from around 3.5 seconds to less than 2 seconds.
- Long URL formats – Shorter and more specific URL formats rank better 99% of the time, so in this case, we redirected over 50 buying guides from “/top-10-money-keyword” to /money-keyword”.
Second Strategy: Off-Page SEO optimization
The site had a solid backlink profile (a major Google ranking factor that should be included in an SEO plan to scale revenue), but the previous owner didn’t do much outreach and link building.
Since this was a general review site, our tactic was to create expert blog roundups of various niches and contact bloggers we featured to let them and follow up with an email to let them know they are on your list while suggesting they add a mention and a link to you on their site.
With this tactic, we were able to get a nice number of natural backlinks. Here’s an example of a specific page we were working on below:
*We managed to secure 11 high authority domains to an article on the “Best Fitness Blogs”
The process was pretty straightforward: look for bloggers with an “In the press” section as well as mentions and links to their awards from other sites. Bloggers are usually very receptive to collaboration once they hear they have been included in an expert roundup of their niche.
Here’s a quick disclaimer: not all the sites we’ve purchased were as successful as this one.
In fact, we’ve had some pretty major setbacks over the past two years of buying and selling websites. During that time, we’ve learned two important takeaways that guide us moving forward:
- Focus on one type of online business- For us, it’s content sites. We like this type of business as an investment, because it’s highly scalable and easy to manage. You can read more about why we like content sites in this article.
- Choose process over outcome- The key to any scalable operation is having a process you can repeat time and time again. Having a process in place for acquiring and scaling content websites takes most of the insecurity out of buying a new site. That means team members and stakeholders are aligned and know exactly what’s going on every step of the way.