I love looking at other successful affiliate sites.
Even if they’re not in my market I find there’s always something to learn. There could be something cool about how they layout their content; Or something interesting about where they place their monetization; Or about how they optimize their site structure.
I love looking at them, and the more obscure they are the more interesting I find it.
But there are thousands of great sites other than those that are growing quickly, doing innovative things, and profiting heavily, that have lots to teach us about how to make more money on our own sites.
Here are 3 sites like that, along with short breakdowns of how well they’re doing, what’s working for them, and what they could improve on.
This is a great example of a simple, plain-looking website totally crushing it with little more than a tonne of high quality, high-value content.
BoM reviews everything from saws, to snowblowers, and they do it well.
It’s primarily a review site, but it’s a Digital Asset by our guidelines in that, on top of straight product reviews and roundups it publishes a lot of informational content in the form of guides and how-tos.
They obviously started with a domain name and a theme that was broad enough to allow future development into many different product areas. With time, they’ve taken on one section of the market after another and built a high traffic – I would bet very high-profit – site web property by doing so.
What stood out to me here was the high amount of traffic relative to the Domain Rating.
These people haven’t built a huge number of links relative to their traffic. They have clearly invested more money and effort in content and it’s paying off.
How They Make Money
This is a straight-up Amazon affiliate site. They do “best of” lists, as the name implies, and individual reviews of the products on those lists.
As far as I could see they don’t run any ads and they don’t sell any products of their own. They are collecting email addresses so it’s possible they have another monetization channel there.
What We Can Learn From BestofMachinery
- A simple, clean layout is a big draw: While there’s nothing fancy – or even pretty – on this site, the content is well-spaced, logically laid out, and easy to read.
- Content depth helps: On their “best” articles they typically do 10 products. Their roundups are rarely less than 2000 words, and they usually add on to the end of these articles – because it’s valuable and Google likes it – some general question answering about the product. For example in their article on pressure washers for cars, they have sections at the end like “Soap vs Detergent for Cleaning Cars”.
- Content Volume: This site is less than 2 years old but they’ve published around 900 articles. My guess is these people had a nice budget to start with and invested heavily in writers. Even if that’s not your situation, it’s a reminder to – in the beginning – publish like your life depends on it.
- Pop in #1: On their best posts they have a cool pop in widget that tells readers before they’ve scrolled what the #1 choice is.
What They Could Improve
The primary thing this site is missing – and I dare say they will need to improve if they want continued success moving forward – is their on-page E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trust).
The authors on this site don’t have their own author pages. They don’t have pictures. They don’t have listed credentials, even if those credentials are just “I tried 5 different pressure washers in order to write this article”.
Of course, this isn’t a market you would expect to require a high level of E-A-T, and I think that’s why they’ve gotten this far without an issue.
But they have competitors that do this. And when it comes to a situation where Google is considering whether to rank them or a site with identical content quality but much higher Author E-A-T, they won’t be able to win.
If you’ve been deep in your little Amazon affiliate cave for too long, this site will provide a gentle shove outward.
CruiseHive is a site for people who take cruises. They offer tips, guides, videos and instructions on how to make the most of your cruise experience.
Of course, that has a lot to do with buying the right things, from the right parking (where you put your car while you’re away on a ship!) to the right luggage, to the right cruise itself. Those things give this site plenty of potential to monetize while providing very valuable assistance to people.
You’ll notice they’ve needed a lot more focus on link building and promotion than BestofMachinery, owing I would bet, to the higher competition in their market.
How They Make Money
This discussion is a lot more interesting. We’ll start with the obvious first:
- Amazon: They do drop Amazon affiliate links, like this one, in their Miami cruise parking article (note that this is an affiliate link for a product that the article isn’t explicitly about. Many affiliates forget those opportunities):
- They’re also experimenting with a little Amazon shop:
But I’m totally certain that this isn’t where this site is making most of its money.
- Promoting cruise related products & services: In their posts, they promote non-Amazon affiliate programs for products like cruise parking and hotels with shuttles near the cruise ship ports.I saw a post where they were using the partner program through Viator.com to promote a parking service and a link to a Hilton hotel booking page on TripAdvisor.com that they were promoting through Viglink.com.Affiliate programs like these can offer huge EPCs and commissions so they’re interesting to look out for in any market.
- Promoting Cruises: They’re also allowing booking of cruises through Cruiseline.com. Their relationship with Cruiseline isn’t exactly clear (it’s more than a standard affiliate link relationship by the look of things) but they’re certainly earning money when people book cruises through CL, having come through them.
- Advertising: They have an Advertising page, where they’re offering ads and partnerships that are undoubtedly paid. This could be text links, or sponsored content, or banners, but the specifics aren’t publicly clear.
What We Can Learn From CruiseHive
- There are plenty of ways to monetize: Even what they’ve done doesn’t scratch the surface of the possibilities. Part of our job as site owners is to do business development. That is, constantly be looking for new ways to generate revenue both from our existing processes, and processes that our existing teams and resources could easily develop.
- Cool Facebook Subscription Trick: I would bet the owners of this site know that their demographic’s primary social media platform is Facebook, and that’s why they’re offering this…
- Deals Content: They have a Deals section where they create content on deals for particular cruise types (Eg Disney Cruises). Most markets have a “deals” segment; eg snowblower deals, pressure washer deals. This segment can provide plenty of new organic traffic opportunities (they can be keywords) and the traffic can convert well since the deals are time-restricted.
What They Could Improve
I can’t be sure that this would be worthwhile relative to their other sources of revenue, but I do think it’s interesting to mention, given the possible application in other markets.
One thing I noticed is that they mention a lot of smaller private parking garages near cruise terminals and link to them with no affiliate or tracking links. Presumably, this is because the smaller garages don’t have affiliate programs, but they could be contacted for a private deal to be arranged. Small businesses like that would love to have new leads and I bet many of them would pay.
This is an extremely successful content site that I imagine – but of course, I don’t know – started small and is now run by a team of employees in an edgy office in some expensive city. (I read the about page after writing that sentence, and at least the first part turns out to be true.)
They mainly write about designer handbags, but as the about page explains: “If there’s a subject in which modern, educated, affluent women are interested, you can bet that there are detailed discussions of it on our forum.”
Although they monetize with affiliate links, that’s far from all they do to generate revenue, as we’ll see below.
You could say that this is not technically an “affiliate site”, and you would have picked up on one of my secret motives in writing this article, which is to help affiliates like us think more broadly about what’s possible in the content publishing businesses we run.
Purseblog’s combination of product-driven content and engaging entertainment and lifestyle material make it a Digital Asset that we could do a lot to model.
The Ahrefs numbers here tell a very incomplete story.
Additional data from SimilarWeb tells us that their total traffic is likely more than 1.5 million a month and that a huge amount of it comes from shares on various other sites (though curiously not very much from Social, which I find hard to believe).
How They Make Money
- Ad Networks: They run tonnes of Adsense on the site. Probably too much really, as it’s extremely distracting from the high-quality content, but I trust they know what they’re doing, and that the ads are performing well.
- Affiliate marketing: They promote department stores like Nordstrom.com as well as high end online stores like Net-a-Porter.com. They do a lot of highlighting of relevant sales and even when they’re not explicitly promoting a product they talked about, they encourage readers to click their links before shopping to help generate commissions.
- Private Advertising: I saw an intriguing thing on their Advertise page. It looks as though they have privately arranged advertising partnerships with many of the brands they cover. This means they’re likely getting paid for writing content that – for most of us – would just be informational, and without monetization potential. Posts like this one on Fendi’s Fall 2019 Couture bags for example.
What We Can Learn From Purseblog
- Forums work: At least when done well, and for the right market. A look at their Top Pages in Ahrefs tells us that their forum is the most visited thing on their site by far.
- More User-Generated Content: They do these things called Confessionals where readers of the site write in about themselves and their stories and it makes for fascinating voyeuristic reading for the community.
- Design is as important as your market thinks it is: Aesthetically, Purseblog is very sharp. The fonts hint at opulence. The black and gold theme conjures art deco glamour. The artwork and photography are fitting. The crucial point is, for Purseblog this is important: Their readers have an obvious interest in aesthetics. BestofMachinery, and its men shopping for pressure washers have no such interest, and design work there, other than basic functionality would not be so well rewarded.
What They Could Improve
There are a lot of posts – like the Fendi bags one above – where they are writing about a kind of product that their readers might want to buy, and the affiliate programs they work with stock similar products, but the posts contain no affiliate links for those products.
For example – and assuming this isn’t precluded by their private arrangement with Fendi – that article could have a section after all the runway photos like “Inspired? These Fendi Bags From 2018 Are Beautiful” where they list similar Fendi bags currently available at Net-a-Porter with affiliate links.
I hope you’ve found plenty of value in this list. Our plan is to update it regularly and share new sites when we come across them.
One big benefit of looking at really successful affiliate sites is motivation. These sites offer us a glimpse at what ours could become if we work hard enough and smart enough, for long enough.
So many of their stories (like the one on the Purseblog about page) are like our stories: It’s someone with a crazy idea, who went for it and didn’t let go. 10 years later they get to make a living doing something they love, getting millions of visitors a month who admire and appreciate their work as they earn a small fortune.
If you still haven’t started your own Digital Asset, we’d love to help.
When you enter your email below we’ll send you a set of steps to get you started, including business ideas you can use, mental hacks to boost your motivation, and marketing techniques you can implement that have already worked for thousands of people like you.