January 27, 2023 2 1343

Case Study: Making $19 263/ Month With an Amazon Affiliate Content Site in 14 Months — a $900 000 Case Study

Today we are sharing with you a case study from James Ackerman, a webmaster who bought a small content site and scaled it to the point where it now makes him $19 200 per month in passive income through the Amazon affiliate program.

This site was originally making $371 per month at the time when James bought it, but just 14 months later, it makes $19 263 per month, and its current valuation is $900 000.

In this article, we are sharing how James was able to grow this site and explaining the strategies used with a highly data-driven approach. We are sharing the exact numbers behind the site in terms of articles, links, pages, and other detailed processes so you can replicate this success at the same or even bigger scale.

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Let's dive into this article...

Website Content Valuation: Before and After with a Sales Multiple

  • Then: $11 130 (at 30x of $371 per month)
  • Now: $770 520 – $943 887 (at 40x–49x of $19 263 per month).

The Site's History

  • Niche: Self-help
  • Traffic: SEO and Social
  • Monetization: Google ads, affiliate programs for self-help, and Amazon eBooks
  • Content type: Self-help guides, book reviews, detailed articles about trainers and successful people, list-type posts, and mental health.


Step 1: Site Structure, Content Marketing Plan, and Semantic SEO

To start off with how James was able to turn this site into a success, we need to look at his initial site structure plan, content marketing, and semantic SEO plan. James broke down his website’s structure in the following way:

>> Categories/subcategories/posts

And below is how he organized the website following the structure above.

  • Site: 1
  • Categories: 5
  • Subcategories: 27
  • Pages: 11 
  • Total articles (posts + categories + subcategories): 1092 (This includes the older ones as well that he optimized).
  • Combined search volume of all keywords: 710 000 per month with US-based traffic

Pro tip: Spend a lot of time devising a very thorough content plan. During this stage, you might think that things are not moving forward. However, defining the direction and blueprint for this project is not only important but crucial. You don't want to post 700 articles on a site only to end up realizing that it won't work.

To achieve this site structure and content plan, James advises that you follow the example below:

Assuming that you have a content site in the music niche that is centered on the Coldplay music band:

  1. One single topic: Coldplay
  2. Related entities: Enter the main keyword into Google and look at the knowledge graph (summarized information on the right side) and top-ranking pages. Identify what the related topics to Coldplay are. like band members, albums, where it's from, genre, etc. Check out the main note at the bottom of this list for a quick way to do it.
  3. Each main topic would be a category, like "band members." The URL should be: site.com/band/members
  4. Each subtopic would be a subcategory like the band members' names, for example, Chris Martin or Jonny Buckland. Site.com/band-members/chris-martin would be the URL.
  5. Make a list of all the keywords for each subcategory, such as Chris Martin.  Go to Ahrefs > Keyword Explorer > Enter "Chris Martin" > Select Region > Download a CSV file containing all keywords: >Sort to remove duplications and unnecessary words (like you would delete any Chris Martin-related keyword that is not for Chris Martin of Coldplay). You also need to group similar words together to avoid cannibalization. For example, "Chris Martin from" and "Where is Chris Martin from?" mean the same thing, so have one article that targets both. Note that this is going to be the most tedious and time-consuming process of all.
  6. Each keyword will be assigned to a subcategory (for example, Chris Martin), which will be the primary, and another category (band members), which will be the secondary. This is done when you are uploading a post to WordPress and there is an option to select categories.

Note: About extracting entities from Ahrefs, James says that he used to do it manually, but now he uses inlinks. Just go to the content brief, enter the main keyword, select a region, and the tool will share topic clusters along with user intents (what, when, why, etc.).


Pages
To begin, you can select what, when, why, and where, as well as any other intents suggested by the inlink:

  • What is Coldplay and where can I find out more?
  • Who: information on the members of Coldplay.
  • When: when it was founded, concert dates, etc., and other relevant information.
  • Where it was founded and other pertinent information
  • How: The Journey of Coldplay and Related Info


Homepage:

  • It would link to all the pages, categories, and subcategories.
  • Every page, post, category, and subcategory would be a maximum of two clicks from the homepage.

By following this example, James says that you can achieve a content structure that will help your site shoot through the rankings and get a lot of traffic. It’s a bit tedious at first, but it's also worth it.


Step 2: Content Guidelines

James has an in-house team of writers who follow specified content guidelines. These guidelines are instructions that aid in the smooth and efficient operation of processes.

A couple of things that the writers receive specific sessions on are:

  • The tone of the article
  • Template
  • Formatting instructions
  • Structure of the article
  • Flow
  • Headings
  • Lists
  • Tables
  • How to write to get featured in "featured snippets"
  • Others
  • Guidelines for SurferSEO (very important)
  • Range of words


SurferSEO Guidelines

James says that he takes a highly data-focused approach to reverse engineer the competitors to increase the odds of getting ranked. We do the following:

  • Use SurferSEO
  • Select relevant top-ranking competitors manually for each main keyword.
  • Generate content guidelines (number of words, keywords to include, density, format, etc.).
  • Connect these instructions to Google Docs using the SurferSEO extension.
  • Delegate tasks to writers and only approve articles that meet the team's standards.

At this stage, he not only has the blueprint/framework of the site, which includes the homepage, categories, subcategories, posts, and their URLs, but also precise instructions on how to write each page in terms of the number of words, keywords to use, their densities, H1, SEO title, and SEO meta.

"I would personally suggest having this ready, especially in case of a bigger project." It helps to estimate costs, define timelines, build a team, create delegation systems, establish quality assurance protocols, and much more. However, if you have a small-scale project, I would recommend doing all of this to at least 80% of the extent that I have explained above. James says.


Step 3: Content Production

By following the information from the steps above, James and his team of writers started producing content. The processes that they laid out enabled them to write around 1 000 pages in just 5 months.

Summary of content produced:

  • 1 049 new articles
  • Total words: 1 828 407
  • Average number of words per article: 1 743.


Step 4: Uploading, Formatting, Onsite SEO, and Publishing

  • The content was written on Google Docs that was integrated with the SurferSEO extension.
  • Content from Google Docs for each article targeting one specific keyword
  • uploaded to WordPress
  • Formatted (to increase conversions and make information easier to find for users)
  • Onsite SEO (H1, title, description, tags, categories) (2+ images, alt texts, and so on)
  • Schema is important (they manually added it to the site as plugins seem to glitch most of the time).
  • Interlinking: Based on the info from the site plan, apply maximum meaningful and contextual interlinking to relevant articles, subcategories, main categories, the homepage, etc. Avoid over-optimization. If you are on a paid plan for INLINKS, you can just add JSON code and it will automatically add schema and internal links (disclaimer: it is not always right, so you need to recheck). We used to do all this manually but recently started using in-links. The tool still has a lot of glitches but is much better than doing everything manually.

James says that for internal linking, you can use the Link Whisper plugin.

He also says that you should publish your content very quickly and frequently, as it always helps; just ensure that you are maintaining quality as well. Once you have published all the content in the plan, just keep posting 2-3 articles per week and schedule them to be published. This would ensure that Google sees your site as relevant and fresh.

And you should always keep updating old content, as it helps with maintaining the ranks.

"One quick tip for people buying sites: If you notice a lot of outdated content with outdated dates on a project you are looking to buy, this is one of the good points. After purchasing, you can simply update the content and dates, and the traffic will increase immediately. We have tested this with over 7 acquired sites, and it works like a charm."


Step 5: Backlinks (Cleaning Up)

Analysis:

James found that the site had a lot of toxic backlinks. The owners had ordered links from sites like Fiverr way back in time. Moreover, they also used some private services to build links.

"We noticed that those links were doing more damage than good, so we decided to get rid of them."

Process

  • Ahrefs
  • Enter the site URL.
  • Backlinks
  • Filter out anything less than DR 10.
  • Export list
  • Manually check for toxic or spam links now (they could have a high DR as well).
  • Add them to the list of links you exported earlier.
  • Complete the list of broken links.
  • Go to the Google search console.
  • Submit the list to disavow.
  • Resubmit the sitemap (to be on the safe side).
  • Give it a few days for the changes to take effect.

James says that he later noticed that this is one of the steps that yield good results even on his other websites, and he definitely recommends it.

Even if you ignored the spam, the site had a strong backlink profile. The team took care of the toxic links, and the rest of the backlink profile was quite healthy. They then decided not to put much effort into specifically building links. However, they did build naturally and strategically.

Step 6: Expertise, Authority, and Trust (EAT)

Google gives a lot of importance to expertise, authority, and trust. In simple terms, is your content thoroughly tested, researched, backed up, and written by real people who have real credibility and expertise in the subject matter?

James says that he took this very seriously and asked his team to implement the following actions:

  • Export a list of the top self-help websites.
  • Each site's top authors were extracted.
  • Obtain their email addresses.
  • Email each of them and worked out the details for posting on our site.

The authors were asked to:

  • Write 3 articles each and post them at separate intervals.
  • Post on each of their social channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) with a strong caption
  • Share each post on their own social profiles as well.

James added those authors to the home page and the about us page in the team's section on the site. He added their socials along with the details and displayed their image on each post.

All these terms were finalized before they were onboard.

James says that the results of this were amazing! This was one of the steps that moved the needle more than anything else. Real experts are now involved in the project, and as a result, James not only received links from their respective social networks, but many people who were following them began sharing his site as well.

So he got a lot of high-quality backlinks, which helped the site establish real credibility and reputation.

Step 7: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

James says that he applied conversion rate optimization in stage 1, where he optimized the first 43 articles. In the next stage, he started optimizing articles once everything was published.

Here is the timeline:

  • Month 1: Site design + basic fixes + CRO
  • Month 2–6: Bulk content production and publishing
  • Month 7: Double-checking indexing, quality assurance (again), admin stuff, etc.
  • Month 8 and beyond: Consistent, proper CRO,  monitoring, making, and iterating fixes plus uploading expert monthly content.


What did he do?

  • Removed the featured image. It still existed, but we stopped displaying it. This way, the content moved up on the page, and there was more room to show ads, content, and calls to action. This increased the conversions.
  • H1 appeared at the top of the page under the navigation menu.
  • Right under the H1, he added the author's name and updated the date (it wasn't there). This adds credibility and trust.
  • Quick paragraph (the paragraphs written before were long and not focused). The copy in this case matters a lot.
  • Table of Content (not there), he added it for better navigation and jump links.
  • A quick call to action table that displays top products as well as an affiliate link in the form of a button. He included the pertinent ones even in the information articles.
  • The color of the button for the CTA was important. He used a color wheel and chose the color opposite to the site's main brand or theme on that wheel. This way, it popped out more and increased clicks.
  • Sidebar with sticky widget that shows a proper ad (the sidebar wasn't there). The site was initially full-width with no sidebar.

These were the main important changes implemented on the site.


Where does the site stand currently?

In August 2022, the site had a revenue of $20 000 with over 160 000 visits. The process of expansion is ongoing. James says that he is quite happy with the results.

He was quite fortunate to hit a strong industry and revive a project that was sitting idle. COVID's external situation, as well as the economy, make it easier for them to produce promising results.

Exit Plan

James says that he is currently deciding whether to keep growing the site or sell it. Usually, at low seven-figure salaries, you must make that decision, and depending on your priorities, you must either leave or stay.

James has prospects to expand it even further by adding courses, high-ticket referral training for leading self-help coaches and mentors, etc., and scaling it.

"Most probably, we would continue to grow it and not exit at this point." Based on our traffic growth and revenue projection calculations, we can hit $50 000+ per month in the next 4 years.

Starting now, the money invested so far will be returned in 1.5 years, and after that, it's all profit. However, we intend to reinvest everything in order to achieve rapid growth.

We are only in the calculation and projection phase at the moment. "However, even if we do nothing and sell the project, the ROI is much better than any other type of investment available," James says.


Conclusion

James Ackerman bought this site when it was earning $371 per month and grew it to earn $19 263 per month. Of course, he bought the site, which meant that it involved some risk, but with a well-calculated growth plan, James was able to grow it to five figures.

The site also has a huge potential for being scaled further, as many more monetization options haven't been launched yet. Things like a Youtube channel for the site, courses, digital products, sponsored posts, and many other monetization options haven’t been initiated as yet. This could easily scale the website to a seven-figure valuation.

"Investments like websites are risky, but with proven models, the risk is minimized to a huge extent," James says.

We hope this case study was helpful and that you'll be able to implement the findings in your own projects as well. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

How do you like the article?
Tayyab Answer
Excellent article, helped me a lot.
September 02, 2023, 14:09 0
Belayet Hossain Answer
Great case study!

Can you please describe the point more elaborately, how did you find out the niche experts from the competitors site and convenience them to walk with you?

Thanks in advance.

September 16, 2023, 19:43 0