Case Study: $0 – $4k+ in affiliate comissions

How I grew a side-hustle project from $0 to $4k+/month in profit with a recent valuation of over $70k

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In 2019 I bought a domain name, added a bit of content and let the domain age while working full-time at my in-house job at Combell plus doing freelance client work.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2020 before I really started to work on this project. In January 2022, the project hit the milestone of making over $4k in affiliate commissions in one month. In 2023, the project has hit the $6k mark in January and February.

While the main traffic source for this project is organic search, some lead-magnets in combination with email-marketing/marketing automation is generating a small amount of traffic as well.

An independent website broker has valued this project at $70k – $86k according to current valuations in September 2023.

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Different stages of growth

1. Research & Domain Aging

As standard practices in SEO industry dictate, I started off with in-depth keyword research. The standard tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEOMinion, AnswerThePublic etc have all been used to get an idea of the (size of) the niche.

After doing the keyword clustering and deciding on the website structure, I hired a freelance writer and freelance content uploader for a few hours per week to get the first pieces of content live.

A simple Trello board made it easy to see the status of every content piece.

Once there were about 40 articles uploaded in different categories, I let the site and domain age a bit so it could age. Domain age is in my opinion one of the most underrated and overlooked ranking factor.

2. Adding affiliate links and produce more content

Once the domain had aged a bit, I analyzed how the different articles and categories were ranking. No linkbuilding had been done yet except for a few foundational and pillow links.

After analyzing performance, I noticed that one category seemed to have more ranking potential than others.

I started slowly adding a bit more content for that specific category. I created some of the content myself and outsourced some to freelancers.

During this phase I also added affiliate links and started seeing some affiliate comissions slowly dripping in while organic traffic started to grow.

3. CRO, content sprints & linkbuilding

Both organic traffic and revenue started to grow so I decided to reinvest some of the profits. I started a content sprint with a team of writers.

I hired 4 freelance content writers who would work a few hours per week and a part-time content editor. At this point, I was still spending most of my time on freelance client work so I only did some A/B Tests and CRO myself.

I invested some of the profits in linkbuilding as well. At this point, the most important links that were built were guest posts.

4. Let the website age, create lead magnets & marketing automation

After the content sprint, I let the site age for a while again. Primarily because I was fully booked with freelance client work. But this was an ideal period to see how the new content would perform.

The project was making $2k – $3k/month in profit on average during this period. 

I did hire a freelancer to create 2 lead magnets and I set up email marketing flows with ActiveCampaign to at least capture some email addresses and follow up with a few automated emails.

5. Google updates

While I was letting the site age, the site got hit by some of the Google updates. The Review update and Helpful content updates set the project quite a bit back. There have been good months were the site was making over $6k in profit in the best months but the last few months were substantially less. 

The hits by the Google updates obviously are visible in the revenue as well as the amount of organic traffic & rankings.

6. Revamp & Rework

I’m currently in the process of revamping and reworking this project. By collaborating with manufacturers, redesigning the site etc, I plan to create a brand of this project. 

There is still an insane amount of work to be done but I don’t have that much freelance client work anymore so I have enought time on my hands to get this site to the next level, recover from the previous Google updates and grow this website further to over $10k/month.

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