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Month TWO: March 2015
**Affiliate Website Layered Case Study – Month 2 (Content, Content, Content & Some Affiliate Links)**
[See Month 1 Update Here](http://www.reddit.com/r/Entrepreneur/comments/2xxhn3/3_site_affiliate_marketing_12_month_case_study/)
Case Outline: 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 over the next year. 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.
As promised last month, I put together a very basic blog to go into more detail about the process and tools I’m using. Some of the links are affiliate links but I figure if I’m providing value you might be inclined to click and buy. A few years ago I wanted to write a book about failure. So I bought the domain name [zot717.com](http://zot717.com/). I’ll just use that domain for my basic blog to document this case study. Feel free to give it a visit to see a list of the plugins, themes and other thoughts that I have (yes, there is more information there about these case study sites).
Note: 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.
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. 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 skeptical.
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.
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
March Results (screenshots at the very bottom): Just like Month 1, this month’s results aren’t pretty and could even be a little discouraging. I didn’t get to spend a lot of really good time on any of the projects this month. I had work, family and hobby obligations that took up more time this month than normal. I manage a few people at work and 2 of them quit so I spent a lot of my “normally free time” doing interviews. I had a child’s birthday and a wedding anniversary in March. I manage 5 other sites for a couple businesses/friends and they were a little more needy this month with updates, formats and a few changes. All of this ate into my time this month so I realize that I have to be happy with the work I was able to do.
With my complaining out of the way… on to the results.
I earned about $21 from Adsense on this site for this month on about 1101 visitors.
For this month I signed up for a few affiliate programs that were specific to this niche as well as a couple of the bigger affiliate networks. I backed into the affiliate networks by finding the sites/products I wanted to promote then found out if they had an affiliate program. In some cases that meant emailing the company or using their contact page to ask them about a program. You’d be surprised how many companies have affiliate programs but don’t really advertise them. From this I was able to sign up for, and get accepted into, the Commission Junction, Avantlink and Shareasale networks. I have been approved for several merchants and have started to pepper in some links into the content. I have an advantage here since my existing site is so established. Newer folks to AM might have a harder time getting approved for some established/larger networks.
Last month I broke the site by changing the whole structure. My traffic has suffered, not to mention I haven’t really put up any new content. Because of the changes I started making to the site a few of my old freelance writers contacted me to see if I was starting it back up (really?!? did they like writing for me that much?). I let them know that I will be breathing life back into the site and work will be coming their way soon. This made them really happy since one of them was making around $300/month writing for me in the past. However I did let them know that I will have much more “editor control” on their submissions since I want to curate the content that does hit my site.
I did some more pruning on the site this month. I deleted a few hundred posts and several pages. I’ll keep pruning to get some of the outdated (and duplicate) content removed.
I haven’t gotten any conversions on my affiliate links yet but am averaging 4 click throughs each day. Eventually someone will buy something.
Woohoo! I made $5.86 in Amazon income with this site this month. [Imgur image](http://i.imgur.com/Ddzeb3f.png)
This is the site I am most excited about. I really want to make it awesome. Because of that I found that I get hung up on the content writing part. I want it to be perfect from day one so I find it’s creating a stumbling block for me.
I don’t remember which Redditor wrote this but I came across a comment from someone who said that you should just put up a MVP (minimum viable product) version of your content. Basically just start writing your content. Let it flow, just write what you want it to say. Ignore links, ignore images, ignore affiliate links, ignore flow, ignore all of that. Just get the content up there. There’s time to change it and perfect it later. Right now you need to flesh out the site and that means words on pages. As long as a user can get the basic idea then you can move on to the next one. Once they’re all up there then you are free to start working on ways to get traffic.
In between the execution of your “marketing strategy” you can revisit your content and really start to make it shine. That’s what I’ll be doing with this site for next month. My hope is that I get it to the point where I can actually start implementing my social media & marketing strategies to really see what this site can do.
In the table below you’ll see that I have 65 pages of content but only about 10 of those actually have any content on them at all. That would make for a really poor user experience if I were to start marketing my site now – they’d land on a page and see that just about every internal link takes them to a blank page. Sure that page is beautiful but the rest of the site sucks. So I’ll be filling them in next month as quickly as possible. Just a word vomit on the page… with a little bit of organization.
I earned about $6 from Adsense on this site for this month on about 168 visitors.
Most of this site is built and it won’t change much other than content and design later in the year. Because of that most of my pages are complete – there just isn’t new content. Even though it’s stale, this month I received a message from my contact page requesting a guest post. I will allow just about any relevant author to write a guest post on my site at this point. I just don’t have time for content generation. After a little back and forth with the author I got his article and posted it to the site. Not bad for a little bump in traffic but nothing converted. Since this site will be my Amazon Affiliate site that’s not good since their cookies only last 24 hours. I’m still not planning on doing much with this one for a few months.
**Site Breakdown for Month**
Category | FitnessSite | SportSite | OutdoorSite
Total Time Spent| 3.5 | 10 | .5
Subdomains| 0 | 0 | 0
Pages| 70 | 65 | 24
Posts| 2107 | 15 | 12
Affiliate Links/Ads| 42 | 13 | 17
Traffic| 1,101 pv (94.2% new) | 275 pv (58.5% new) | 168 pv (97% new)
Money| $21 Google | $0 | $6 Google
**Commentary & Details:**
During the month of March I spent a lot of time working on “real life” projects so I didn’t have as much time to dedicate to this case study. But, as predicted, I felt compelled to do a little work on each site and on the [update blog](http://zot717.com/) because I felt accountable since I put it out there publicly on Reddit last month. So that part of the case study worked just like I had hoped. Sometimes we have to know ourselves in order to get external motivation.
* Sunk Time (Prior Months): 75 hours
* Competitive Research – 4 hours
* Writing Content – 10 hours
* Total Time Spend (this month) – 14 hours
* Sunk Costs: $388
* Hosting – $13 this month
* Income – $32.68
* Total $ Spend (this month) – $7.32
**Net Income: -$331.64 – it’s going the right direction, just very slowly!**
**FINAL THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH**
This is a long term play. I have to keep thinking about that. Honestly I’m pretty disappointed with the progress and I really thought I would have something to brag about this month – but I don’t. Hopefully next month is better.
I got a TON of PMs from Redditors last month asking me to reveal [my site](http://99fails.com). I’m not going to do it.
However there were a few messages from folks who wanted to write for me or do a guest blog. I was really excited about working with a few of them but it turns out they went through the whole process, it seems, to just get me to reveal my site or niche to them and then I never heard from them again.
I’m open to working with anyone that is in a related niche but I think I’ll be a bit more selective in the future about who I work with and to whom I share my stuff. Kind of a ‘lesson learned’ for this month.
**New Skills Acquired, Websites Used & Tools Found:**
* Time Management – With limited time you need to focus on where you can make the biggest impact. I decided this month that I already knew everything I needed to know about my niches, my keywords, and my competition (after 4 hours of research). This was just a little mind trick since I know I don’t know everything but it helped me to focus on just writing content which is currently the only thing that’s keeping me from really executing my marketing plan.
* Google AdSense – I found out through some post or blog that I was reading that Adsense isn’t just a “set it and forget it” type of network. I had put my codes in place 3+ years ago on most of my sites and a lot has changed at Google since then. This would explain, in part, why my revenue from this channel has declined in the last few months. Sure enough, when I logged into my account I saw that none of my ads were “revenue optimized” on any of my sites. So I went in and updated all my ad codes and then re-deployed them on each of my sites. So far I’ve seen a 207% increase (according to Google) in my clicks with the same amount of traffic. Good thing to look at every few months. And this was an important update since it was ⅞ of my total revenue for the month.
* Reddit – I’m pretty sure Reddit is a very bittersweet place. It’s great for getting answers and finding solutions to problems but it’s also really easy to become distracted.
* Make a list of everything that needs to be done on the project. Put time estimates next to each task. If you ARE short on time, when you have it, start working on one item that’s easy to knock out. My old boss always would say “go after the low-hanging fruit”. I need to do that more.
* 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. Because of that I don’t want to focus on revenue generation up front. I’m building the framework for an affiliate site but the first thing I need to bring to the table is a genuine desire to help people. Sometimes that means that I’ll give A LOT of stuff away for free. Eventually I’ll get enough momentum to generate decent commissions.
* Other Redditors don’t lie when they say that this stuff isn’t easy work and you have to be committed to the long term. I’m not too pleased with a $5 return in affiliate income for the month but I know that I’m building something that people will like and find useful. To that end I will continue.
* Even 15 minutes spent on generating content is time well spent. 15 minutes on Reddit does not have the same value. I need focus my 15 minute chunks on those tasks that have the most return.
Here are some traffic screenshots from this past month.
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.