As I’ve written elsewhere, I’ve done affiliate SEO actively for a little over 3 years now, but I was just lurking around for the first 7 years, doing nothing. This was by far the biggest mistake I’ve made.
But in addition to that, there are so many other mistakes I’ve made along the way. I’ll list them below so that you can hopefully learn from them 🙂
#1 Not taking action – the biggest mistake by far
I have a serious case of analysis paralysis. I think I just have this sort of personality type. This isn’t really helpful in being in business for yourself.
Perhaps being a risk manager in a bank would be the perfect position for the overanalysing types, but ehh.. I’ve worked in a bank and would never want to go back.
If you look at a typical entrepreneur, I’d say, in most cases, they are the go-getter type. Whenever they have an idea, they throw themselves at it 100% and run along. When they fail, they just adjust and try again.
This is what will lead to results.
It took me a lot of time to figure that out and I’m still struggling with it. They way to combat it is to be mindful of the problem and just take massive action.
#2 Jumping from one site to the next
I’m guessing many people have the same problem. You have an idea and get super excited about it. That initial excitement will fuel you for the first week or two until it slowly fades away.
Instead of taking constant little actions, you just start to look for new and better ideas that are potentially easier and have higher potential. So you start with the new thing.
I’m consciously letting my shiny object syndrome loose on the 10 site case study that I’m doing with hopes that out of this experiment, I’ll find 2-3 niches that have the best return on investment. So as you can see, I still struggle with it 🙂
How I managed to manage the problem a little is to set a clear goal. With my biggest earning site, the trick was that I told myself to not do anything else before I get to 100 articles. Only then was I allowed to do something else.
Luckily the site started to earn serious income with the 100 articles and it was easy to find motivation to carry on.
Set a specific input focused goal for your project and don’t do anything else until you’ve completed that goal. Whenever you want to quit, just be mindful of the fallacy and keep on trucking.
Doing 100 articles is actually a really good idea. I’d say that in most cases, you will earn at least 100$ a month from your site if it had 100 articles up on it and you’ve done at least mediocre keyword research.
I usually aim to conservatively earn at least 10$ per article per month. Reaching 1K$/month from 100 articles would be average or below average outcome in my mind.
#3 Spending too little time on niche selection
When first choosing a niche, I just listened to what most gurus are recommending – choose a niche that you’re interested in. And I still believe this to be true. Especially if it’s your first site.
if you want to give yourself better odds of success, spending time on niche research is one of the best investments on your time in terms of affiliate SEO.
Here’s an example of two of my sites that I started with a 6 month time difference, but the progress in terms of monthly income has been compared on the chart:
Both of the sites received a similar amount of effort. They aren’t exactly comparable in terms of number of articles and links, but the difference in inputs was at best 1.3-1.5X for the bigger site, but the difference in earnings is almost 20X.
#4 Not understanding or checking search intent
Before deciding to go after a keyword or not, you should always check who are ranking in the top positions.
You need to make sure that they are sites similar to what you are going to build and articles similar to what you’re going to write or have written.
One of the mistakes I made was that I saw that a bunch of keywords had a lot of search volume and I decided to make a site around the topic targeting those keywords.
All of them were around hoverboards, but what I didn’t check was that first positions were filled with e-commerce stores and not affiliate review articles.
I ended up spending too much on linkbuilding trying to force myself to top positions while I was confused why can’t I beat some random e-commerce stores with no links.
So always check the results to see that Google is willing to rank articles similar to yours and you should be OK.
#5 Going into niches that were dominated by sites using PBN-s
This might be difficult to notice. What can go wrong is that you do your keyword research and see that a lot of low DR sites are ranking and banking with little to no links at all.
So you assess that you only need 2-3 links to take over the top positions and you start going after those keywords. After building 2-3 without any effect, you add more and more until you end up with 30 links and you’re still not cracking the top 5. What gives?
It might just be that the niche is dominated with pbns. All the top guys are using them and you won’t really know how many links you’ll need to beat them.
This is usually the case with some specific niches like casino, day trading, forex, mattresses, etc.. but it can also happen in every other niche.
Check this SERP out, it’s for the keyword “best adult scooter”
You see that the #1 guy has 4 referring domains while the #2 guy has 39 domains and a higher domain rating. Something suspicious is happening at the bottom end of the SERPs as well.. look at the super low DR sites ranking with 1-3 referring domains, while there’s a DR 70 site with 26 referring domains behind them.
Here it’s obvious that this particular keyword is filled with players using hidden links. You can still go after those niches and keywords, but you won’t know what you’re going up against.
#6 Relying on Amazon
Amazon has cut their rates many times. In April 2020, they cut rates in almost all niches and my main site saw a decrease from 8% to 3%. That’s hard.
Also, you might get banned from their associates program for all kinds of reasons and their customer service for affiliates is absolute shit.
Amazon is great for lazy affiliates like myself, who don’t take the time to research other options, but as soon as you start getting decent traffic (at least 10K visitors per month), I’d recommend to actively start looking for better affiliate deals.
Or, try to look for a niche where you can promote digital products, SAAS companies or something other than physical products.
At least try to diversify as much as possible. Even adding display ads is a good strategy. If you were relying on Amazon alone and can quit your job on those earnings, you wouldn’t want something to happen to the only source of income you have.
#7 Being too lazy
I’m lazy and procrastinate a lot. One simple way that I’ve figured out to combat this is to have a goal of taking action on my web projects for at least do times per day for a minimum of 30 minutes each time.
It’s a simple goal and what will happen is that once I start going, I’ll find myself taking action for hours in a row. If I surpass an hour on the first time, I won’t have to do anything the second time around.
Also, if you have money, one of the best hacks is to hire a VA to do stuff for you. Which brings me to the next point..
#8 I was too scared to hire VA-s for too long
I thought that it’s a difficult process. I thought that I would need to have a full time gig to give to someone before I’m able to hire someone.. that I’ll need at least $1K/month to get a VA in the first place. Plus I didn’t want to deal with contracts, taxes and all those things.
When I actually started to look into the VA thing, I saw that I can hire people for as low as $3/hour and Upwork takes care of all the taxes and contracts for me. I can hire them for a few hours at a time and not worry about giving them a constant stream of work.
After realizing this, I pulled myself together to create SOP (standard operating procedures) for the repetitive tasks that I was doing and handed them off to my new VA.
I found my first VA from Upwork and he is awesome (still working with me). I was amazed at the level of intelligence that guy had given that I was paying him 3 bucks an hour.
This meant that I could pay for a full working week for what I was making in a less than a day at my full time job. Things started to progress much faster for me.
#9 Overestimating writers content quality
There’s a big difference wether you’re writing content by yourself or if you’re outsourcing it to an outside writer. Especially if you’re trying to find the cheapest writer possible.
Outside writers just don’t have the motivation. They don’t care about the site, they just want to pass your initial quality check and get the money.
If you’re ordering a lot of content, you won’t have time to check through every word or even read the whole article. Writers know this and they will often lower their output quality over time.
Be mindful of this and try to figure out how to avoid this happening. Content is your product, so pay close attention to it.
#10 Trusting people and not checking in on their work
I had a VA from Venezuela that seemed like a decent and trustable guy. He was uploading articles for one of my sites and seemed to do a good job at it. After about 3-4 months I discovered that he had been planting his own affiliate links into the articles.
He did it sparingly so that I wouldn’t notice. Images and some other elements had his links in them and it took me such a long time to find out.
The lesson was clear – don’t trust people, you always need to have systems to make sure that no one is ripping you off.
#11 Spending too much time reading what others are doing
In reality, this is the same lesson as #1, but it’s worth repeating.
Many times throughout my affiliate SEO ventures I’ve found myself spending more time on reading facebook groups, forums, reddit and the likes compared to actually doing the work.
Now I track my time. I use toggl.com and a device called Timeflip. I then mark down the results at the end of each week to see how much time I’ve put in. I try to keep it at a good level that I know is needed to move the needle on my ventures.
#12 Not buying an already established website
If you have the money, it makes A LOT more sense to buy an already established site that is at least 12 months old and is already bringing in some money.
You are going to save 12 months of your time and how much is that worth? A lot is the right answer.
Also, if the site is earning money, it has already proven to be a niche where you’ll be able to make money in. Just make sure that there is additional growth potential.
If you don’t have the money, confidence in this business model or skills, then you can always start a site from scratch. It’s just that buying an existing site can be a very profitable shortcut.
#13 Starting sites from scratch instead of buying domains with existing links and age
It’s similar to the previous point. Here I’m not talking about sites with content and earnings (those are more expensive), I’m talking about domains that have been used before, but have been dropped.
These kinds of sites have links pointing to them and have some age. This will help you rank much faster.
When I’ve started sites from scratch, it usually takes 6-9 months to get any organic traffic at all. But if I buy a previously owned domain, I’m usually able to get initial traffic in months 1 to 3.
Also, you’ll have links. I just bought a site from ODYS for 600$ that had 200 referring domains, out of which 80 were good links from niche relevant sites. If I were to build those links by myself, that would cost me at least $4,000 (one link is around $50 if I build it by myself).
These existing links will help all your articles rank as you’ll have a higher domain rating to start with. So I got the links for $7.50, which is a steal.
It isn’t always easy to find a site from these marketplaces. I still do start sites from scratch, but only if I can’t find anything listed in the niche that I want to get into.
#14 Not believing in myself
I think that I didn’t take action because at my subconscious level I didn’t really believe this to be a real way of making money. I figured it’s a scam or a short term thing where some people just get lucky.
Now I’ve seen first hand that it’s a repeatable process that just takes time and consistent effort. If you give it those two components, you are going to succeed sooner or later.
That’s it, I hope you found these tips helpful. Feel free to post a comment if you want to ask anything about any part of what I’ve talked about above.
5 thoughts on “My Biggest Mistakes With Affiliate SEO”
Such an informational post! Liked it. By the way which domain and hosting did you used? Or which one do you recommend?
I use namecheap to start things off. It’s a really cheap option. Once I start getting traffic (at least 10K visitors/month), I’ll move on to Siteground, because they’re way better and faster.
I guess , I just happen to possess all these personality traits too (laziness, overthinking ,procrastination and what not🙃),but I too have adopted very similar measures to get my work done over in the long run. But yeah, I literally related to you a lot man🙌. I would like to hear more from you .It would have been great if you had a youtube channel or something (Btw, mail me the name if you already have one🤩 ).
I don’t have a youtube channel. I’m a highly introverted guy, so talking in front of a camera is very hard for me. Writing from the darkest corner of my room, is way easier and I’ll continue this path for now 🙂
Once again you got me bro 😂, ditto natured guy this side too🙂