[Case Study] What’s Behind a $1,000 a Month Affiliate Site?

One of our Digital Worth Academy students hadn’t been in touch a lot but came out of the woodwork last week to mention that her affiliate site had just crossed over earning $1,000 a month.

It’s an important milestone for any online business. It’s also a stepping stone goal for a lot of our students aiming at eventual incomes higher into the 4 figure per month range.

After all, if you understand what’s worked for this site, you know that two lots of all of this could equal $2,000 a month.

That’s what I’ve tried to break down below, in as much detail as possible (given the caveat in the following paragraph): What has worked for this site that any of us can model.

Two quick notes before diving in:

Note 1: This is one possible way a site could reach $1,000 a month but it’s not the only way, nor is it the best way.

Note 2: We’re not going to show this student’s site here, and I don’t think that takes anything away from the myriad things we can learn about her success.

What Kind of Market?

Broadly speaking, the site is in the market of health. We don’t recommend students starting in this market at the moment unless they have – or their writer has – real health/medical credentials, because of the high requirements for Expertise, Authority & Trust.

But this student has made a start there, without any E-A-T at all so far, and it’s working at this level, which is interesting in itself. There will be work to do in time to develop E-A-T if they want the site to keep growing. That same work isn’t required to the same extent in non “Your Money or Your Life” markets.

What this student did do well was to start in a tiny corner of this big market – a core principle of DW training. She’s focused on covering just a few products in this market to start with, as we’ll see below.

Market Takeaway

Even though it’s not what this student did, it’s really helpful nowadays to start your site in a market that’s NOT “Your Money or Your Life”, that is, primarily, anything to do with health or finance.

Even more importantly, the best you can do is to start in a small corner of a big market, and slowly expand your presence in the market with time.

How Much Traffic?

Here’s what Ahrefs says about the site:

I know you’re going to ask about those backlinks. We’ll get to that in a second…

1900 visitors a month. If the site earned $1,000, that’s about 52c per visitor.

For a site like this, that number is pretty great, and you’ll get a sense of how it’s being accomplished below.

By comparison, with product content monetized with Amazon affiliate links, we typically see an average 30c per click on our affiliate links. She’s getting 50c per website visitor!

As for the backlinks…

This student did something we don’t necessarily recommend at Digital Worth, which is to start their site on an expired domain name.

It’s not that starting on an expired domain is a bad strategy, I just don’t think it’s always worth the time/effort if you know how to do everything else (like build links) properly. After all, buying a good expired domain name with the kind of properties that will actually help you, is pretty hard.

For example, she appears to have inherited this domain name with about 50 good quality links pointing to it. (The rest of the 222 are lower quality sites not doing much for the link profile. About 75 of them actually look like spam links that seem to have been inherited along with the good ones. They add extra work for you, as you enter them into your disavow file). I don’t know how much she paid for the domain, or how much time it took her to find it.

The thing to understand is that typically, in time, a lot of those links will be lost (when the website owner realizes that the site they’re linking to has now changed, and isn’t relevant anymore). There are even questions about how Google views them when the end URL changes and the link is now redirecting to a page (usually just your homepage) that’s no longer relevant.

It certainly helps to start on a domain that has a DR of 29 instead of a DR 0. But as links start to be lost, they need to be replaced with new ones you build yourself. And if you’re building links yourself anyway, how important was the initial advantage you gained? (and was it worth the time/money spent on it?)

My analysis is that the expired domain may have slightly increased the speed of results in this case (in the absence of further link building, which it looks like this student is only just getting started on) but it hasn’t – and won’t – affect the level of results in a significant way.

Traffic Takeaway

You don’t need a lot of traffic to make money if you can attain rankings for highly targeted buyer keywords and sell them on high converting offers (more on which below). If you’ve been doing this for any length of time, that won’t be news to you.

You also need backlinks in order to make money with this kind of site. Once again, not exactly a newsflash.

Once your Domain Rating has started to climb even a little bit (29 isn’t particularly high, or difficult to achieve) ranking for low competition keywords becomes a whole lot easier.

What Rankings?

How hard is it to get 1900 organic visitors a month? Take a look.

Most of the 1900 visitors come from 5 keyword rankings, that only promote two products.

They’re a mix of product name keywords, review keywords, and keywords that are like pre-sale questions about the product being promoted.

They have great volume for product name keywords and extremely low organic competition. Ahrefs reports the Keyword Difficulty of these terms as all below a difficulty of 5! (out of 100)

These are rare, but as this example shows, it can be worth taking the time to hunt them out.

I said at the top of this post that this is one way to reach $1,000 a month, not necessarily the best way, and this aspect of the site provides an example of why.

This site has a small number of articles, with a small number of rankings, for higher volume keywords. The other way to reach $1,000 a month is with a larger number of articles, getting a smaller number of rankings for a larger number of total keywords.

The downside with this student current setup (which can be easily improved) is diversity. If she loses one of those rankings, revenue can change quickly. If you have 100 articles getting traffic instead of 10, and one loses traffic, you might not notice.

Neither is right or wrong as long as you understand the upside and downside of each.

Keywords Takeaway

A handful of top 10 keyword rankings for product name terms, where the products offer high commissions, can be all it takes to generate $1,000 in commissions.

What Affiliate Programs?

The offers generating commissions on this site are from Clickbank, and one of the larger affiliate networks that aren’t CJ or Shareasale (think Peerfly or Pepperjam).

That means, they’re not from the Amazon Associates program.

The upside here is that you can earn much higher commissions. The main downside is you have so many fewer products to choose from.

(A secondary downside is the lack of reliability of so many of the other affiliate networks. Depending on the network, you can’t always be sure you’ll be approved to promote their offers or be sure you’ll get paid on time).

When you’re picking a market to start a site in, it’s worth looking at a lot of possible monetization options. You want to know the products in that category on Amazon, but if there are things you can sell at other networks, you want to have done due diligence on those as well (then start by focusing on your highest profit potential corners first).

Affiliate Offer Takeaways

Whatever market you’re in, and whatever affiliate programs you’re currently working with, take a look at Clickbank to see whether there are any relevant products that are being searched for by name, that you can write product content on.

While you’re at it, do a search for some general keywords in your market on Offervault (which I still love after all these years) which aggregates affiliate offers from many different networks. There could be a high paying offer with rankable keywords just waiting to be found.

Final Word

Some good keyword and affiliate offer research. Some quality content. Some quality links. Enough time.

Nobody just stumbles on a $1,000 a month affiliate site. It takes skill, and work and patience. This student actually mentioned to me that she’d taken a course of mine years ago. She’d been learning and trying things for quite a while. This was no overnight success.

But it sure is possible, and I hope this post has helped you better understand how.

To get started yourself, come join us at Digital Worth Academy.

Andrew Hansen

Hey, I'm Andrew. I'm the proud co-creator of Digital Worth Academy. I've been doing SEO and affiliate marketing for the past 14 years and I'm excited to be sharing the best of what I know here.

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