3 Site Affiliate Marketing 12 Month Case Study – Month 1 Update

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Month ONE: February

**Affiliate Website Layered Case Study – Month 1 (Structure, Strategy & Baby Steps)**

Case Outline: A few years ago I quit a very well-paying job to pursue my dreams as a business owner. Over the course of almost 3 years I successfully bought 2 businesses, started 3 and failed/closed 4 of them – and then started a long process to get back into the workforce and tried to get back to the wage I had made before taking the leap. I backburnered the one business that I had left and didn’t think about it for almost 3 years.

I don’t regret the attempt and I certainly don’t discount the lessons I learned. I do however regret that I hadn’t learned more about affiliate marketing while I was running my own show. I certainly would have been in a different place if I had known even a little bit about it. The one business that’s still around had a pretty robust website that was focused in the fitness “niche”. At the time that I stopped working on my business we peaked at around 30K pageviews for the month (early 2012) but were only generating about $600/month in advertising revenue! Ahhh, hindsight! I was trying to go door-to-door and get advertisers to buy ads – wow, that was hard.

Fast forward to early 2015, I have a decent job (at a desk all day), this site still humming at 5K pageviews/month with almost ZERO thought given to it for almost 3 years, I own about 20 additional domain names and a little too much time on my hands. I start digging into Reddit and I stumble upon a few case studies talking about affiliate websites. Suddenly it hits me – I could do that! So, that’s where this case study starts… with me trying to resurrect my site and turn it into something that generates a small stream of money.

But, I have a hard time focusing my attention and efforts so my one site idea suddenly turned into 3 sites to test 3 different approaches. I have an existing Fitness related site, a new Sports site and a new Outdoor site (we’ll creatively call them the FitnessSite, SportSite and OutdoorSite during this case study). I’m going to test building an authority site, a comparison/review site and a pure Amazon affiliate site and see how it goes. You’ll get to come along for the ride.

Aside from knowing how to work on a WordPress site a little bit, I don’t really know much about any of this stuff. I don’t even really know how much work is required but I do know that others have done it so I can do it too. Don’t expect me to “preach knowledge & authority” since I intentionally started this with ZERO knowledge – I thought it would make for a more realistic case study. Also, next month I will create a very basic blog where I will post more details about what I’m doing and the themes, plugins, add-ons and affiliate networks I’ll be using. I’ll provide that link when it’s up and going.

EDIT: So I bought the domain name [zot717.com](http://zot717.com/). I think I’ll just use that domain for my basic blog to document this case study. Feel free to give it a visit.

And finally, don’t ask me to tell you the names of my sites nor my exact niches, I don’t want to skew the results. I will reveal them in a few months after they get going.

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**Goal:**
The overall goal for doing this was just to see if I could do it. My monetary goal is to see if I can get 3 sites that could each generate $1000 in affiliate income per month by January 31st, 2016 (seems so far away). Hope and goals are different… I hope I make 3X that amount within a year, but my goal is low since I’m a bit sceptical.

**Budget:**
My budget for this whole year is $500 out of pocket. After each site starts generating its own flow of money, I can use up to $1000/site to fund growth but until that time my budget is only $500 total. I don’t count my time in my expenses.

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**Starting STATS:**

Category | FitnessSite | SportSite | OutdoorSite
—————|————–|————–|—————-
Age| purchased in 2009 | purchased in 2009 | purchased in 2010
Subdomains | 7 | 0 | 1
Pages | 140 | 3 | 6
Posts | 3000+ | 2 | 10
Categories | 40 | 10 | 50
Traffic | avg 5000 pv/month in 2014 | 0 pv | avg 100 pv/month in 2014
Last Update | 4 posts in 2014 | 0 | last update 2011
Money | $30/mo Google Ads | 0 | $5/mo Google Ads

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**RESULTS**
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February Results (screenshots at the very bottom): This month’s results are pretty lackluster and boring. A lot of time was spent just doing research and laying the foundation. I’ve outlined how I spent my time on each site below.

**FitnessSite Update:**

This month I broke the site! I had originally used this site for local news & information so each subdomain was specific to a region. Each one had it’s own WP instance and, in some cases, duplicated content. I had to get rid of those so I merged all the content and deleted all the subdomains & consolidated. This made me take a huge hit in traffic. My webmaster tools on Google now show that I have 1400 404! error pages. This is concerning since it also shows that I have 229 external backlinks – so I fixed the main ones and redirected the rest as best I could. I also found an internal link checking tool (Broken Link Checker by Janis Elsts) and it showed that I had over 2200 [Broken Links!](http://i.imgur.com/9UrTZNN.png) I’m not sure I’ll ever fix all of them but at least this way they are identified. This is going to be a long process to rebuild but I knew that coming in since the whole strategy will pivot. But at least I have some quality content and a base of users/traffic that I can start to regrow.

**SportSite Update:**

Starting from scratch was fun! It took a lot of time to plan and build the framework but I think once this gets going it will be really fun to write creative, targeted, and SEO rich content. I will spend a lot of time on this site since it’s truly in a niche I love already and generating content and traffic should be natural since I live in this world. I had originally planned on this being a small and very targeted niche site for just a couple products but I soon found that my outline was at 4 pages. In order to cull the list I decided that I could only focus on the top 3 subjects and the rest had to go to a “someday maybe” list that I’ll get to later. Right now I’ll only optimize and focus on those 3 subjects within the niche until the site is in the very top for that category – and hopefully that will generate a greater return than trying to focus on 15 very light topics.

**OutdoorSite Update:**

Built the structure & let it simmer. This is in a pretty saturated niche already and I didn’t quite know how to position this site in the niche. I’m still thinking through it so I just built the structure and added a couple posts – now I’ll just let it sit for a couple of months while I decide exactly what I want to focus on. It’s going to be the bastard child until mid summer probably. This site is in a niche that I’m very curious about but I don’t really have the time to dedicate to it. I’ve always wanted to learn more about it so I’m leaning toward making this site an “intro to the niche” site since it will grow and develop as I do. I’m still not sure. This will also be my Amazon Affiliate site, which is probably the easier site to build, so I have to take that into account while building my strategy.

**Site Breakdown for Month**

Category | FitnessSite | SportSite | OutdoorSite
———————|————–|————–|—————-
Total Time Spent| 21 | 38 | 16
Subdomains| 0 | 0 | 0
Pages| 75 | 53 | 22
Posts| 2200 | 6 | 11
Affiliate Links/Ads| 17 | 3 | 7
Traffic| 936 pv (90% new) | 1429 pv (10% new) | 265 pv (77% new)
Money| $28 Google | $0 | $3 Google

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**February Commentary & Details:** This past month was spent doing a lot of keyword research on each niche to find the exact focus for each site. For the purpose of my case study, I’m not going to get into the details on how I chose my keywords or my niches on Reddit. There are plenty of great case studies out there that talk about researching keywords/niches /u/HumbleSalesman has a pretty good one. There are also fantastic resources out there on the web – just Google (or DDG) it. I have provided some “real life” searches that I did this month below.

I don’t count the full price of my hosting since I get that reimbursed from another venture I have. I also only count the domain spend if I have to actually renew the domain – that’s not due for another couple months.

This month I also spent a lot of time researching the best structure for the 3 sites and spent a TON of time working on the outline for the menu structure. I’m a visual person so I set about outlining my sites in nested outlines. So I would have the main page, sub pages and categories. I would also put a bullet point for POSTS and then under that I would put any ideas I had for post titles and supporting keyword targets.

This helped me to sort out the structure and flow before adding my first page. Obviously I had names for each of these items and the list ended up being 4 pages for the SportSite. Once it was outlined then I just started making the pages & categories and crossing them off the list. This way when I started filling in each page with content I could easily create my internal links as I went without having to stop to create that page. I called this my site foundation & framework.

Time Spend:

* Keyword Research – 15 hours
* Outlining site structures – 3 hours
* Strategy – 9 hours
* Building Site Structure – 31 hours
* Researching Niche – 9 hours
* Setting up social media – 3 hours
* Writing Content – 5 hours
* Total Time Spend – 75 hours

Money Spend:

* Theme – $75
* Unlimited Use Plugins: $300
* Domains – $0 this month
* Hosting – $13 this month
* Total $ Spend – $388

**February Net Income: -$357 – it’s going to be red for awhile I think**

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**FINAL THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH**
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The one main thing I learned this month is that it’s not easy work. Well, it is actually pretty easy work compared to being an electrician in winter or a heart surgeon… but overall it’s *very* time consuming and requires a lot of mental power. I was tired after this month. I also realized after the 3rd week of research that there probably isn’t one *BEST WAY* to do things – everyone has their own opinions and they all counter each other – if you’re looking for the answer it’s not going to come – there just isn’t one answer to any of this. The best *SOLUTION* is to just get going and see how it goes otherwise you will suffer “Analysis Paralysis”.

I also learned that I can’t spend this much time in March or I might just lose my job!

**New Skills Acquired, Websites Used & Tools Found:**

* Google – I Googled everything!! Here are some of the actual things I Googled this past month: “Best Affiliate Marketing Networks”, “Popular WordPress Popup Plugins”, “Best Plugin for Affiliate Marketers WordPress”, “Find Keywords Ranked by Competitor Website”, “Best Review Plugin for WordPress”, “Find Traffic Stats for Site Free”, and “Affiliate Marketing Case Studies”. Plus many more. As you can imagine the list was huge. I could write a whole post just full of my keyword searches. Another thing I did notice is that a lot of my searches returned the same information so I researched an alternative search engine and found DuckDuckGo…

* DuckDuckGo – It’s an alternative search engine to Google – it doesn’t track your history so the results it returns (in theory) are completely unbiased. This was nice when I was doing keyword research as well as other searches. I felt like my results were more targeted around the specific keywords and not around the ads, my history or whatever else Google thought I would like to see. I found a lot of high quality resources on page one of DDG that were on page 27 of my Google searches so I would have never found them otherwise.

* Reddit – I think this goes without saying. A few searches on the different subreddits and you will spend a ton of time reading about everything you should do, didn’t know you wanted to do, and didn’t know even existed. However I found that I was spending too much time on Reddit last month so I gave it up for Lent – I’m not Catholic so I don’t know how long my forced fast was supposed to be but those 2 weeks without the “Reddit Temptation” were very productive.

* [Quora](www.quora.com) – similar to Reddit but it’s not anonymous so you have to limit how much you ask/share if you want to protect your niche and your ideas. But, it’s nice for getting answers from actual “known” experts. That’s the one drawback to Reddit – someone on here that claims to be an authority could actually just be some guy living in his mom’s basement regurgitating information found on the internet.

* [NicheHacks](www.nichehacks.com) – This site was the result of my “affiliate marketing case study” search. I found his information to be very useful and helpful while building all aspects of my sites. There’s a lot to be learned on his site.

* [Backlinko](www.backlinko.com) – Equally informative, Backlinko really helps you dive into how to gain traffic and increase your site’s visibility to search engines. Backlinko (as the name implies) provides ideas for ways that you can get your site noticed by experts and generate quality backlinks which are legitimate and will help you site’s authority.

* [Spyfu](www.spyfu.com) – This was the result of a Quora search on how to research the traffic of your competition. I found this site to be very useful and I might even consider paying for a membership after I get going. I think it could make up it’s value pretty quickly.

* [Alexa](www.alexa.com) – I used Alexa to help me target my niche by seeing which sites are ranking well and getting traffic. I used this exclusively until I found spyfu, now I use it in conjunction with spyfu.

**Useful Tips:**

* Use an Outline to help you flesh out the menu structure, post ideas & keywords
* All Traffic is not the same – I’m building for CONVERTING traffic (email subscriptions, return visits and lots of clicks) and not just hit & run traffic.
* Go with the masses – sometimes it costs money but it could be worth it. I leaned toward the plugins, themes and information that had the highest downloads, recommendations or traffic.

**Lessons Learned:**

* Stop daydreaming, researching and philosophizing about your idea and get started – sometimes a forced fast is required.
* Having the mindset of an Entrepreneur is both a blessing and a curse – focus dammit!
* The long term is always easy to say but hard to live. It’s a slow and painful process.

**Images:**
Here are some traffic screenshots (you can see that I worked on the FitnessSite at the beginning of the month, the OutdoorSite in the middle of the month and the SportSite at the end of the month by the spikes)

* [FitnessSite](http://i.imgur.com/j5XJ8ag.png)
* [OutdoorSite](http://i.imgur.com/AlU9VXO.png)
* [SportSite](http://i.imgur.com/pff4PGz.png)

Hope you enjoyed the summary. Next month I hope it’s shorter and full of more good news and results. Please ask any questions below and I’ll try and answer them.

EDIT:

[See the month 2 update here](http://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/comments/32ly4f/3_site_affiliate_marketing_case_study_month_2/)