Challenges of Building a Profitable Affiliate Site

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build affiliate site

Affiliate sites are one of the most profitable businesses you can run.

Once they’re up and running, they make money passively, are easy to manage, and are highly scalable.

But best of all, they’re able to be sold for up to 40x monthly earnings. Meaning, you can have a big payday when you decide to exit and sell the site.

The only downside is that it comes with a few big challenges, and a steep learning curve, especially if you’re a beginner.

In this post, I’ll share some of the biggest challenges that you should expect on your journey to building a profitable affiliate site, and some steps on how to overcome them.

Doing proper niche research

Here are some of the most common questions people (should) ask when starting new sites:

  • What niche should you choose?
  • Is the niche profitable?
  • What’s the market size?
  • How large can the site be grown to in terms of traffic?
  • How large can the site be grown to in terms of revenue?
  • What’s an optimistic target? What’s an aggressive target?
  • What’s the competition like?
  • Which affiliate and/or display ads programs are there for this niche?
  • Etc.

These are all questions that you must be able to answer when considering which niche to choose.

And they’re all done through research.

Choosing the right niche is one of the most difficult parts of starting affiliate sites. Some people end up spending over a year just trying to choose a niche they can target (we definitely don’t recommend that).

The challenge is it takes a lot of prior experience to know what to research, what to look for, and how to spot opportunities.

What might seem like a good opportunity for a beginner may seem obviously bad to an experienced affiliate marketer.

If you’re a beginner, you also have to consider how capable you are of competing in each niche. In other words, you should try and find easier niches with less competition. An expert might be able to plan an affiliate site around a super competitive niche like credit card reviews. But a beginner would be better off targeting something much easier based around hobbies like fishing.

how to find profitable keywords

Keyword research

Niche research is only the beginning.

The deeper, most important part of the research phase is doing keyword research.

For 99% of affiliate sites out there, SEO is the main traffic driver. Paid traffic can work in some industries, but if you want a passive site with the highest profit margins, SEO is the way to go.

Therefore, when determining competition levels, what we’re really looking for is: How strong are competitors’ SEO?

 

  • What keywords should you target?
  • What keywords can you compete for when your site is still new?
  • What keywords can you build money pages around?

 

Finding keywords you’re going to be able to rank for with a new site with a weaker backlink profile is one of the most important parts of building affiliate sites.

And it’s the part that people find most challenging and make the most mistakes around.

One of the most common mistakes is building a site entirely around ultra-competitive keywords with super high search volumes. Big keywords always have big competition, and it’s impossible to compete with them when you have a brand new site.

Instead, you should be putting your efforts into creating money pages around low competition, long-tail keywords with a moderate search volume. You can still compete for bigger keywords down the line, but in the beginning, your main goal should be to start driving traffic from easier keywords.

Learning how to write high-quality content

how to use grammarly

So you’ve identified the right keywords. Now it’s time to write articles that target them.

Writing well is a difficult thing to learn. Proper grammar and sentence structure is only the beginning.

You have to learn what kind of content Google wants to rank, and how to optimize your article for your target keywords.

The most common challenge I see amongst beginners is knowing which on-page SEO strategies matter most, and which ones to focus on.

They’ll either over-optimize based on poor advice they read from a random SEO forum, or they’ll ignore optimization completely.

If you’re new to this, focus entirely on creating a great resource.

Help the reader, answer their question completely, and make your article be the end solution for whatever they’re searching for.

If you’re able to do that, you already won 90% of the battle.

The remaining 10% involves simply adding in your main keyword to your title, H1 tag, use LSI keywords throughout the article, and make sure to include your main keywords in frequently without excessively stuffing them in.

There’s more to on-page SEO than that, but these are the most important to pay attention to.

For a full list of on-page SEO strategies, check out this tutorial.

Learn what really moves the needle in building search traffic

link building for affiliate websites

Optimizing your article is only the first part of ranking on Google.

The next part is building backlinks.

Backlinks are what makes pages rank.

For most people, even experienced SEO’s, link building is the most challenging part of the entire process.

Getting other sites to link to you isn’t an easy thing to do. And if you want to do it the proper way, it takes a lot of trial and error to get right.

One common mistake people make is building massive amounts of weak, spammy links in an attempt to speed up the rankings process. This actually has the opposite effect and can potentially penalize your site and prevent it from ever ranking for anything.

Instead, the best kinds of backlinks to focus your efforts on are outreach links. This is where you simply ask other webmasters to link to your website.

It doesn’t have a huge success rate (around 10-15% if done well) but these kinds of links can really propel your search rankings.

If you want to learn more about outreach link building, check out RankXL’s 10,000-word primer on outreach link building.

Outsourcing work cost-efficiently

One of the most attractive parts about building affiliate sites is that you’re able to hire others to do all the work for you.

Writing content is probably the most time-consuming task for creating affiliate sites. What if you could pay someone to do all the writing for you?

That would give you so much extra time to either focus on other aspects of the business like building backlinks, or even going out and building another affiliate site at the same time.

Point being, if you know how to outsource well, you can make building affiliate sites a very wealthy business for you.

The challenge though is it’s very difficult to make your first hire. You will inevitably make mistakes in how you hire, what you outsource, and how you manage them. It’s something you get better at through experience.

There is a lot of debate amongst people whether outsourcing is good or not. Outsourcing can get expensive, and some people prefer not to spend so much money on a monthly basis for work they can just do themselves.

At the beginning of this article, I stated that one of the major upsides to building affiliate sites is that you can sell them in the end for a large multiple of monthly earnings.

What that essentially means is that you’re not just building a website, you’re building an asset.

And if you think of it that way, you’ll realize that it’s possible to outsource the entire process of building affiliate sites, and still make a huge profit at the end.

Let’s go through an example:

Let’s say that you decide to outsource all your content production.

  • You spend $1,500/month for 15 articles. At the end of the year, you have 180 articles published, and you’ve spent $18,000.
  • $18,000 might seem like a huge amount of money to be spending on building an affiliate site.
  • But let’s say that you’re able to rank for your target keywords and the site makes $1,500/month.
  • At a generous 35x multiple, that site is now worth $52,500.
  • Meaning… because SEO is an organic traffic strategy that is long-term, you can essentially stop content production, eliminating your monthly costs, and then sell it for $52K.

When you think of like that, outsourcing can be a great weapon which gives you more time to build multiple sites at once. Instead of writing all the content yourself and building a single $52K asset, you can build 2, or even 3.

Design

Some people say design doesn’t matter. But today it matters more than ever.

In the past, really ugly looking websites could be successful because there just wasn’t enough competition out there. Nobody cared whether your site was ugly or not because there wasn’t anything that looked amazing to compare it to.

Today, businesses are realizing the importance of looking clean and professional. Especially since an affiliate site makes money by recommending paid products, you want to at least look like a trustworthy brand.

The challenge is that the design takes a long time to learn. A lot of it comes from “feel” and your own personal experience and exposure with good design.

And for beginners, it’s already a ton of work to learn SEO and everything else that goes into building an affiliate site. Learning how to make your site look pretty can add another few months to your learning curve, delaying your launch.

In my opinion, it’s still worth it to either spend time on learning design or spend money on outsourcing it.

If you’re outsourcing it, pay at least $50 for a premium WordPress theme. And another $150-$300 for a nicely branded logo and the other creatives.

Lastly, taking action and just getting your site built

take action and build your affiliate site

Last but not least, one of the biggest challenges people face when building affiliate sites is just getting something out there.

It can be very easy to spend a month or even over a year researching different niches and planning your site. It’s also very easy to doubt yourself and spend too much time trying to get everything perfect before you launch.

This is the pitfall most people face.

They just do a bunch of research, get sidetracked, and never actually build and launch their site.

 

“What if it’s not perfect?”

“What if I chose the wrong niche?”

“I thought it was a profitable niche, but the competition looks scary. Maybe I’ll do a little bit more digging first.”

 

What you want to do is trust your initial research process and then just go into launch mode.

If you’re building an affiliate site for the first time, you’re inevitably going to make mistakes. There are going to be things that you “miss” in your research. There will be things you overlooked. There will be parts you miscalculated.

What’s more important than that is just getting a site out there and learning by doing. Mistakes will be made, but that’s all part of the learning process.

It’s rare for anybody to have a one-hit wonder, where they build out their first affiliate site ever, and it just takes off.

Take action. Get something out there. And learn by doing.

Conclusion

Building and growing affiliate niche sites is a really profitable venture.

However, there are a lot of hurdles along the way, especially if you’re a beginner. There’s a lot to learn, and for beginners, each step can seem like a huge milestone to hit.

It can take a lot of time, effort, and persistence to overcome each of them. But once you do, the reward is definitely worth the effort.

And remember, each affiliate site you build is an asset.

When you think about it that way, the value of what you’re working on increases 10x more than most people realize.

34 Comments

  • Reply
    Haris
    May 3, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Welcome to RankXL. Hope you will help me to increase my web traffic because it is the tenth month of my blog,yet only get 10 visitors a day

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 4, 2019 at 2:33 am

      Thank you, Haris.

  • Reply
    Sergio
    May 3, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Chris always had a very personal take on topics covered on this site, he “spoke the same language” as every one of us trying to get a site off the ground, at least speaking for myself. That´s why I always came back to this site, signed up for his courses, etc. I´m affraid rankxl.com will become part of the noise out there, more of the same. Chris, I´m missing you already.

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 3, 2019 at 11:54 am

      Hi Sergio, thanks for stopping by. Nothing to worry about. I’ve been in the SEO/marketing trenches for 9 years now and I don’t plan on changing the culture around here. It’s going to be actionable advice that resonates with everyone.

    • Reply
      Diane
      May 5, 2019 at 3:42 pm

      I completely agree with you Sergio

  • Reply
    Kristie
    May 3, 2019 at 11:53 am

    I’m curious where you got the number that affliate sites could be sold at 40 times current earnings. Thanks.

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 3, 2019 at 11:57 am

      Hi Kristie, thanks for asking that question. I’m heavily involved in buying/selling content sites and, if all of the variables (age, niche, content, backlink profile, trends) align, you can get way more than 40x for the site. I’m not talking about listing the site with the known brokers who have their own ranges and fees. I’m talking about PE funds and investors (as myself), who’re willing to pay that much. However, the median range for most content/affiliate sites that are clean and on an uptrend is 33-36x L6M or LTM.

      • Reply
        Iqbal
        May 3, 2019 at 12:29 pm

        nice to read the first notification from the new director of rankxl.

        to be hones the way you “talk” to us through article its really the investor way of thinking.

        One point that make me quite surprise when you mention “the common mistakes when people go to big competion and high search volume keyworr” cmiiw.

        but, thats the way rankxl was teach us. Building the authority site through high search volume keyword.

        For me, seems very contradictive. its like say that rankxl was wrong.

        Just wanna hear your comment about that.

        anyway, appreciate your work :).

        Thanks

        • Reply
          Andrej
          May 3, 2019 at 12:44 pm

          Hi Iqbal,

          I (and my peers) view myself as an SEO/site builder first, business owner second, and an investor third. My primary focus is always on getting that organic traffic and hustling in the trenches.

          At the beginning stages of the site, it’s crucial to tackle the keywords that you’ll be able to rank for (long-tail, low competition keywords – usually up to 3k MSV). If you go after the big guys, you’ll eventually feel sick to your stomach when after 8 months you don’t see more than 10 daily visitors coming to your site. All of that can be mitigated, of course, but you’ll need to have a pretty large budget/risk tolerance on your disposal.

          My way of doing things is to tackle the long tail keywords first. Start getting some traction/visitors/links/mentions, and then work your way into tackling those bigger terms. That way, you’ll start getting some organic traffic rather quickly and you’ll feel much better about the project overall.

          I’ll share more details on this in the coming weeks/months. A lot of actionable case studies to share ;).

  • Reply
    Luke
    May 3, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    As far as I know you can get for your site 30x of what it is making a month. So if your site is making $1k a month you can get $30k for it. At least this is what I see at Empire Flippers. By the way, do you recommend EasyAzon plugin?

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 3, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      Hi Luke,

      please check my reply to Kristie.

      EasyAzon – sure thing. It does its job.

      • Reply
        Seppe
        May 6, 2019 at 3:23 pm

        Hi welcome andrej i already love your blogposts:)

  • Reply
    Iqbal
    May 3, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    Hi Andrej,

    Nice to hear your respond..
    i’m waiting for the next article.

    Thanks.

  • Reply
    Eugene
    May 3, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Good day, Andrej,
    I will probably echo others here saying that your concepts are a bit different from Chris, but hey, that’s what I expect from a new RankXL owner. I like your views on the growth of a new affiliate site though, and I’m looking forward to the other three parts of the series.
    Cheers,
    Eugene

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 4, 2019 at 2:00 am

      Hey Eugene,

      Thanks! Chris has a really solid foundation here and his way of doing things definitely works. What I hope to bring to the table is my experience working on building, growing, and eventually, selling content sites (affiliate, ads, info products). Making your online income as passive as possible is what I’ll be teaching here (together with my partners), and I hope you’ll find it helpful.

  • Reply
    Axel
    May 4, 2019 at 12:26 am

    Hi! Welcome!

    I love rankxl since it made me earn over 5k everymonth. Where I live (Argentina) it is like a fortune. 🙂

    I bought two of Chris courses (authority and the other I think was called growing a blog.

    I hope you update the courses, specially the first because it has some outdated content.

    I hope I’ll be also your fan soon!

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 4, 2019 at 2:01 am

      Hi Axel,

      thanks for buying the courses!

      We’ll definitely work on refreshing those in the coming months.

      Cheers.

  • Reply
    Steve
    May 4, 2019 at 2:13 am

    Welcome Andrej,

    Not an easy job replacing Chris because of his personal approach. I wish you the best of luck and I’m looking forward to you taking Rank XL forward with your own input.

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 4, 2019 at 2:17 am

      Completely agree, Steve!

      I’ll do my best to continue developing the site without losing the personal touch. I don’t plan on commercializing anything here and every piece of advice will still be 100% genuine, tested, and coming from me personally. I hope you’ll like it.

  • Reply
    Agnes
    May 4, 2019 at 5:33 am

    Hi Andrej,

    My main challenge is link building from authority sites in my niche. I am pushing on and I have noticed a number of my long tail keywords are ranking on page 6 to 100 on Google. Thank you for this post and lots of other posts on your site.

  • Reply
    Jim Hofman
    May 4, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Andrej, welcome! Excellent first article here and I’m looking forward to your influence on RankXL. I especially like your advice on not being afraid of mistakes … to just “get the boat in the water” so to speak. Fear of screwing things up can be paralyzing – it set us back about two years in our efforts to get sites up and running. Once the fear factor is minimized, things become a lot easier and confidence grows.

    Even an hour or two daily working on sites will generally yield good results over a years time. Budgeting time and holding firm to the belief your sites will eventually make money are critical factors.

    Thanks for this article and the jolt of motivation. Looking very forward to what you’ll bring!

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 4, 2019 at 10:20 am

      Thank you, Jim. Appreciate it. Taking action is crucial. I hope you’ll find a lot more inspiration in the coming weeks because we’ll be ramping up content production significantly.

  • Reply
    Cash tribe
    May 4, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    I just started to take this website seriously, was here reading the comments and noticed that there is new management.

    Well I’m new to the family so let’s do this.

    By the way, I loved this article.

    I hope you keep them coming bro.

  • Reply
    Bhuboy
    May 5, 2019 at 1:03 am

    One site or multiple sites? If I have previous site that I am now uninterested in working in, but makes me around $100/month from amazon, and have a new site which is my passion, should I stop completely working on the previous site and focus on my passion site, or should I build them together. Thanks

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 5, 2019 at 2:10 am

      That depends entirely on you and how you do things. I, personally, like to do one thing at a time (the ‘thing’ that’s going to influence my desired outcome the most). That said, your old site can bankroll your new project quite easily if you give it some basic TLC. If you like to read books (or listen to audiobooks), I recommend taking a look at “The ONE Thing”.

      • Reply
        Bhuboy
        May 8, 2019 at 12:10 am

        Hi , what do you mean by “That said, your old site can bankroll your new project quite easily if you give it some basic TLC.” i just want to understand it clearly so i wont make wrong action thanks

        • Reply
          Andrej
          May 8, 2019 at 1:20 am

          Sorry for not being more specific – TLC = Tender Loving Care. Just work on updating the site and making it better overall, and it can serve you as a source of capital to fund all your future ventures.

  • Reply
    Rami
    May 5, 2019 at 4:55 am

    Great post Andrej,

    Last week Amazon added another challenge which is they cut the fees of a lot of products from %7 to %4. Literally cutting the income of tons of website.

    Kinda frustrating, did you hear about it?

    Thanks

    • Reply
      Andrej
      May 5, 2019 at 6:08 am

      Thanks, Rami.

      Yeah, I got that email as well. I’m not into those categories, so I luckily got away untouched. However, that’s one of the reasons why it’s essential NOT to keep all your eggs in one basket and diversify the pool of affiliate partners you’re working with. Being too dependant on one can be soul-crushing if something like this happens to you without an alternative.

  • Reply
    maQQeo
    May 5, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Hey Andrej,
    good luck with your new challenge.

    Chris was able to give so much valuable content for free to stand up from the crowd. Hope you’ll keep this way.

  • Reply
    Nevelson Odimgbe
    May 5, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Hello Andrej,

    This post seems more exactly like a direct message to me.

    I was like wow, the moment I came across the paragraph that’s says “TAKING ACTION AND GETTING YOUR SITE BUILT”, that was a part that hit me so hard, actually I have bought a choice plan which will last for 3 years with Bluehost and also a greate looking theme, Logo etc.

    Have spent about 5 months now designing the sites, the greatest challenge am facing now is selecting of niche, a profitable niche.

    Still haven’t launch the site, I may like you to take a look on it and give me a suggestion.

    Lemme know if you will, so I will send you my details to your email provided.

    Thanks
    Nevelson

  • Reply
    Jas
    June 19, 2019 at 2:23 am

    Hello Andrej,

    this is maybe off topic but I will ask you anyway. How would you go about the affiliate site which was doing good in the past but suddenly sunk in rankings. There are no manual penalties in search console. I suspect unhealthy links but really don’t know.

    What would you do to access this kind of issue and what tools would you use.

    Appreciate your response and wish you all the best!

    • Reply
      Andrej Ilisin
      June 19, 2019 at 2:26 am

      Hi Jas,

      that’s usually a sign of an algo update. It’s tough to say in a vacuum, but that deserves a standalone post because it’s not a simple topic.

  • Reply
    Jas
    June 19, 2019 at 2:43 am

    Thanks Andrej for the very quick reply!

    I hope you will make a post about this because a lot of people have the same issue.

    There is a huge buzz on Facebook groups and forums but there are not a lot of people who know how to assess this problem.

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