Most people who build niche sites fail to make much money at all for their efforts. New affiliate marketers often start their journey with stars in their eyes after reading about four, five and six figure a month earnings reports from those who are many years ahead of them.
Those lofty earnings expectations are enticing! Pat Flynn’s latest income report showed a profit of $117,122.43 for June alone. Life changing money for most people.
These reports are incredibly motivating but do not prepare people for what it really takes to reach a point where your earnings are significant enough for it to be worth your time.
If you are starting from zero you need to be prepared for a long, hard slog before you see any real financial return. Start thinking in years, rather than weeks or months.
Two weeks to Two Years
The excitement for your new project will carry you a long way in the beginning. This will wear off eventually and many will fall away with it if they have not seen results.
Your new project may fall down that list of priorities, life gets in the way, and you never really get around to that next item on your to do list to move your site forward.
This is a common story. Niche sites are a very crowded space at this beginner level. Those who stick with it and push through this dead period of seemingly rewardless work are the ones who will prosper.
Build a Sustainable Routine
In order to set yourself up to win, you need a routine that is sustainable over the long term. If you come out all guns blazing and devote your whole weekend to building your website, you might keep this up for a few weeks. Then the task of sitting down for another marathon session is too big. Your brain switches off and the motivation is gone.
Unless you have an amazing idea, a strong relevant network, and great technical skills, chances are that you will not become an overnight success. If you execute good daily habits for 12-24 months then your chances of succeeding increase exponentially.
Rather than just thinking about where you can allocate 5-20 hours a week for your site, get out your calendar and schedule it in. Make sure you are realistic about the commitments of everyday life.
Things are going to get tough. But success will only come from doing the things that others won’t. Find the time, and make it happen.
If you have to skip your Netflix binge a few times a week… Do it!
If you have to get up an hour earlier…. Do it!
If you have to work through your lunch break… Do it!
It is the small habits that will add up over time and get you to where you want to go. Chances are that there are small luxuries in your life that don’t really add much value, relaxation or satisfaction. Replace them with work time, so you don’t have to sacrifice as much family & friends time.
To give you an example, during my regular work week I have to squeeze all I can into the time I have. So I committed to the following:
- 30 minutes on the train to work in the morning
- 60 minutes in a café at lunch while I have a coffee
- 30 minutes on the train home again
- 60 minutes in the evening after dinner, and spending some time with my son
It is a tough schedule, but once I got into a routine I just got it done most of the time. Was I perfect? Hell no! And you don’t have to be.
If my brain was fried I might catch some sleep on the train.
After a few big days I would take the night off to have a glass of wine and binge on TV.
On Fridays we might have lunch at the pub with colleagues.
But I would get back to it the next day.
Across 250+ work days in a year these small pockets of otherwise dead time add up to massive progress! Even if I stuck to this half the time that is 375 hours, plus weekends invested into your website.
The flipside is that it is also very easy not to stick with it. If you skip a day, it can become two. Then a week, then a month. Your daily habits can work for you, or work against you.
This is a concept discussed in The Slight Edge. Great reading for anyone working towards any long term goal. Or has struggled to follow through on commitments in the past.
If you cannot squeeze in regular hours, then the bare minimum is to make this micro commitment to yourself.
Every day, complete one task that will move you closer to your goal. The day you stop, is the day you become just like everyone else.
Your 12 Month Deliverables
So what does a good 12 month plan look like? When you boil it down, most of what you need for a successful site is all captured under two umbrellas:
- On-Site (content)
- Keyword research
- Topic research & writing
- Format & publishing
- On-site SEO
- Off-Site (links)
- Guest posting
- Social Media
- PBNs (if you are into that kind of thing)
If we can quantify exactly where we want to be in 12 months’ time, we can then work backward from there to map out the path to success.
- 30,000 words written (100 hours)
- 12 guest posts
- 20 other links (good quality white hat links)
- 100 Twitter/FB/IG/Pinterest followers (pick one to start with that is most relevant to your niche)
- 100 email subscribers
- 200 push notification subscribers
For the example’s sake, we are going to work with a conservative five hours per week. The above 12 month goals might also be very conservative for a year’s worth of work. If you want to stretch yourself further, go for it! But be realistic in what you set. If you fall behind the growing mountain of work to catch up can be a motivation killer.
You will notice that I have not quantified the number of posts and gone for words written. This is for two reasons:
- Posts can, and should, vary in length depending on the topic. With varying time needed per post, it can make your goals a little vague when mapping out your plan.
- It is easy to break down a number of words into daily and weekly deliverables, making it easier to stay on track.
Some of you may also be scratching your head wondering why there are no goals for website visitors and revenue. My best advice is to forget these two metrics exist for your first year and just focus on creating something of value – ok maybe don’t forget it entirely, it will be important to review your progress throughout the process. But it is not the primary driver early on.
Yes you should earn some money in that first year, but revenue should be a by-product of doing good work and creating a valuable asset.
If you can reach each of the above goals, you have the foundation of a valuable long term asset that you can turn into something special…. And lucrative.
Be Aware of the Sandbox
Your site is unlikely to get much love from Google in the first six months. You have to prove your worth to the internet world before you will be a trusted website in the eyes of the search juggernaut. This is often where the real test of your determination will come in.
After four or five months of hard work, you may not have much to show for it. It is best to be accepting of this before you start.
In the process of writing this article, Ahrefs published a study they conducted on the time it takes for new content to rank in Google. Their data showed that only 5.7% of new web pages get ranked in Google’s top ten search results within a year. This is for all sites combined. When you look at those with a high domain authority (>DR=80) this only increases to 10.8%.
It will take years to build up a domain authority of 50, so reaching the heights of an 80+ domain is a monumental task! The good news is you don’t need to hit those lofty heights to make a good living as an affiliate.
This is important knowledge to have so that you don’t get too frustrated when things don’t happen for you right away. It is also a reminder that you have to offer something of value and not be just another web page.
You may have better luck with social media traffic in the early days. But unless you are a master at creating viral content you will not get traffic at scale for a while. It is always nice to see a few people trickling into your site though.
So keep your head down, keep publishing and building links. Google will come to the party eventually.
High Level Road Map
This is not a one size fits all outline. It is just to give you an idea of what you are getting yourself into before you start. Some can do more, some will do less. You may also have to factor in a lot of learning time depending on your technical skills, and how quickly you pick things up.
- 20 hours per month available
- Average writing speed of 300 words per hour
- 30 outreach emails and hour, success rate of 2%
- No outsourcing (yet)
These assumptions will not be accurate in many niches, and with many people. Link outreach especially can be far more efficient when you start using tools and work to a system. Your conversion rate can also be far higher!
Hour Allocation Matrix
|20 Hours Per/M||Niche & KW Research||Web Design||Writing||Publish & On Page SEO||Social Media||Guest Posting||Out-reach
Let’s go a little deeper and look at the tasks that we need to squeeze into these hours. Again, this is not a difinitive guide. Your hour allocations may look very different depending on what works in your niche. E.g. Guest posting may not be as successful and you can allocate your time elsewhere.
Look at this as a starting point for you to then map out your own plan.
|Month 1||Niche Selection and competitor research||5
|Keyword research and content plan||5
|Write your first 1,500 words (1-2 articles)||5
|Register your domain, sign up for web hosting, and install a Wordpress theme||2
|Start designing layout of site||3
|Month 2||Register your Google Analytics and Webmaster, install code and upload site map||1
|Write a further 4,500 words (1-5 articles)||15
|Publish articles and start building out your first content silo||2
|Refine your website design||1
|Register your target social media accounts and start posting your content||1
|Month 3||Dedicate half of your writing time to your first lead magnet||6
|Add a lead capture form to your site (Thrive Leads) and integrate with email marketing solution (Get Response)||1
|Write a further 1,800 words (1-2 articles), publish on site and share on social media (automate this with Missinglettr)||6
|Add related content to social media channels other than your own at least once per week||1
|Start prospecting for, and writing guest posts||5
|Month 4-6||Write 3,000 & publish words (1-3 articles). Email list to notify of new posting.||10
|Start your outreach for backlinks. Contact other sites in your niche, and also those sites who are linking to your competitors. ||3
|Guest post prospecting and writing||5
|Continue adding social media content, and start posting in niche related groups/forums||1
|Site maintenance and improvements||1
|Month 7 Review||Conduct a review of your content to date. Is there a particular style of post that is gaining traction with your audience, and can you add more of this into your publishing schedule for the next six months? ||1
|Identify keywords you rank for, but do not specifically target in content. Update the content to include this keyword if it improves the article.||2
|Review the growth of your email list. Is your lead magnet working, can you add others that are post relevant? Allocate some of your writing time to a new magnet if needed.||1
|An honest review of your niche selection is necessary at this stage. Do the intended monetization methods still stack up? You will have worked hard to get this point, but if your idea just isn’t working then best to have an honest conversation with yourself now about the direction of your site, and whether it needs to change. If you are worried, seek advice from an expert. ||1
|Month 7-12||Repeat the steps in month 4-6, plus an hour per month to review your ranking content, and improve as needed. ||20
This is a very basic checklist and will not cover every detail for what needs to be done. The learning curve will be steep and there may be some technical things that take you four times longer than you thought (if you are anything like me)…
The point of including it though is to highlight what you must be willing to do before you start to see significant rewards.
By committing to executing this plan before you start, it will help remove the short term frustrations you may feel early on. Think of it as a 12 month study plan that you will come out of with knowledge, AND a business at the end of it.
Sure you will make a few bucks along the way. If you see every dollar as a bonus then you will be in a good head space to see this through.
The frustration will be short term, the benefits will last a life time.
Eventually, you don’t want to be doing all the legwork. What good is a business if it sucks the life out of you?
Don’t rush into this! Outsourcing will only lead to waste if you have not mastered your process first. It is very difficult to automate what you do not yet understand.
Put in the hard work first. When you know what you are doing well enough to start training someone else, only then should you bring in some help. If done well, you can really accelerate your progress by outsourcing.
Imagine what you could do with the extra ten hours a month if you didn’t have to write anymore?
When you are ready your 12 month plan can become a paint by numbers outsourcing guide if you have the budget, and the know how to do so.
It is through this acceleration that you can start to build your online empire.
What is next?
When the money does start to come in is when your discipline will be put to the test.
If you can remain patient and resist the temptation to pull out your newly created revenue stream, you can use this to build out a system.
Remember we are playing a long term game here!
If you reinvest your profits and automate your content creation, and link building processes, then you take on the role of project manager.
That 20 hours a month limitation is now generating four or five times the output of those first few months and your progress is ready to snowball.
What if I am Not Making Money?
If you are not gaining the traction you hoped for don’t let your head drop. Re-trace your steps, and look at how your site measures up against the competition. Can you revise the content to make it better, do you have enough links compared to others ranking for your target keywords?
Chances are that whenever you go through this process you will see things that you didn’t see in your first few months. You have been learning and improving and will be able to deliver a higher standard.
In some cases, you just need more time to climb the SERPs and build domain authority.
Perhaps you have traffic and it isn’t converting. Your calls to action may need some tweaking.
There are a thousand variables that you could look at, but take it as an opportunity to make both you and your site better.
If you take anything away from this post, let it be this…. The first 12 months of your affiliate marketing journey should be more about education than money.
The more shortcuts you try and take the worse off you will be. Create something of value, learn the technical stuff along the way, and you will be in a strong position to shift your focus to the money as you get deeper into your journey.
This is called as Step by Step Plan to Start one’s affiliate marketing journey. I really like the way you have shown hourly allocation of time into the elements of work required to make it happen.