Affiliate sites are one of the most profitable businesses you can run.
Once they’re up and running, they make money passively, are easy to manage, and are highly scalable.
But best of all, they’re able to be sold for up to 40x monthly earnings. Meaning, you can have a big payday when you decide to exit and sell the site.
The only downside is that it comes with a few big challenges, and a steep learning curve, especially if you’re a beginner.
In this post, I’ll share some of the biggest challenges that you should expect on your journey to building a profitable affiliate site, and some steps on how to overcome them.
Doing proper niche research
Here are some of the most common questions people (should) ask when starting new sites:
- What niche should you choose?
- Is the niche profitable?
- What’s the market size?
- How large can the site be grown in terms of traffic?
- How large can the site be grown in terms of revenue?
- What’s an optimistic target? What’s an aggressive target?
- What’s the competition like?
- Which affiliate and/or display ads programs are there for this niche?
These are all questions that you must be able to answer when considering which niche to choose.
And they’re all done through research.
Choosing the right niche is one of the most difficult parts of starting affiliate sites. Some people end up spending over a year just trying to choose a niche they can target (we don’t recommend that).
The challenge is it takes a lot of prior experience to know what to research, what to look for, and how to spot opportunities.
What might seem like a good opportunity for a beginner may seem bad to an experienced affiliate marketer?
If you’re a beginner, you also have to consider how capable you are of competing in each niche. In other words, you should try and find easier niches with less competition. An expert might be able to plan an affiliate site around a super competitive niche like credit card reviews. But a beginner would be better off targeting something much easier based around hobbies like fishing.
Niche research is only the beginning.
The deeper, most important part of the research phase is doing keyword research.
For 99% of affiliate sites out there, SEO is the main traffic driver. Paid traffic can work in some industries, but if you want a passive site with the highest profit margins, SEO is the way to go.
Therefore, when determining competition levels, what we’re looking for is: How strong are competitors’ SEO?
- What keywords should you target?
- What keywords can you compete for when your site is still new?
- What keywords can you build money pages around?
Finding keywords you’re going to be able to rank for with a new site with a weaker backlink profile is one of the most important parts of building affiliate sites.
And it’s the part that people find most challenging and make the most mistakes around.
One of the most common mistakes is building a site entirely around ultra-competitive keywords with super high search volumes. Big keywords always have big competition, and it’s impossible to compete with them when you have a brand new site.
Instead, you should be putting your efforts into creating money pages around low competition, long-tail keywords with a moderate search volume. You can still compete for bigger keywords down the line, but in the beginning, your main goal should be to start driving traffic from easier keywords.
Learning how to write high-quality content
So you’ve identified the right keywords. Now it’s time to write articles that target them.
Writing well is a difficult thing to learn. Proper grammar and sentence structure is only the beginning.
You have to learn what kind of content Google wants to rank, and how to optimize your article for your target keywords.
The most common challenge I see amongst beginners is knowing which on-page SEO strategies matter most, and which ones to focus on.
They’ll either over-optimize based on poor advice they read from a random SEO forum, or they’ll ignore optimization completely.
If you’re new to this, focus entirely on creating a great resource.
Help the reader, answer their question completely, and make your article be the end solution for whatever they’re searching for.
If you’re able to do that, you already won 90% of the battle.
The remaining 10% involves simply adding in your main keyword to your title, H1 tag, use LSI keywords throughout the article, and make sure to include your main keywords in frequently without excessively stuffing them in.
There’s more to on-page SEO than that, but these are the most important to pay attention to.
For a full list of on-page SEO strategies, check out this tutorial.
Learn what moves the needle in building search traffic
Optimizing your article is only the first part of ranking on Google.
The next part is building backlinks.
Backlinks are what make pages rank.
For most people, even experienced SEO’s, link building is the most challenging part of the entire process.
Getting other sites to link to you isn’t an easy thing to do. And if you want to do it the proper way, it takes a lot of trial and error to get right.
One common mistake people make is building massive amounts of weak, spammy links in an attempt to speed up the rankings process. This has the opposite effect and can potentially penalize your site and prevent it from ever ranking for anything.
Instead, the best kinds of backlinks to focus your efforts on are outreach links. This is where you simply ask other webmasters to link to your website.
It doesn’t have a huge success rate (around 10-15% if done well) but these kinds of links can propel your search rankings.
If you want to learn more about outreach link building, check out RankXL’s 10,000-word primer on outreach link building.
Outsourcing work cost-efficiently
One of the most attractive parts about building affiliate sites is that you’re able to hire others to do all the work for you.
Writing content is probably the most time-consuming task for creating affiliate sites. What if you could pay someone to do all the writing for you?
That would give you so much extra time to either focus on other aspects of the business like building backlinks, or even going out and building another affiliate site at the same time.
Point being, if you know how to outsource well, you can make building affiliate sites a very wealthy business for you.
The challenge though is it’s very difficult to make your first hire. You will inevitably make mistakes in how you hire, what you outsource, and how you manage them. It’s something you get better at through experience.
There is a lot of debate amongst people whether outsourcing is good or not. Outsourcing can get expensive, and some people prefer not to spend so much money every month for work they can just do themselves.
At the beginning of this article, I stated that one of the major upsides to building affiliate sites is that you can sell them in the end for a large multiple of monthly earnings.
What that essentially means is that you’re not just building a website, you’re building an asset.
And if you think of it that way, you’ll realize that it’s possible to outsource the entire process of building affiliate sites, and still make a huge profit at the end.
Let’s go through an example:
Let’s say that you decide to outsource all your content production.
- You spend $1,500/month for 15 articles. At the end of the year, you have 180 articles published, and you’ve spent $18,000.
- $18,000 might seem like a huge amount of money to be spending on building an affiliate site.
- But let’s say that you’re able to rank for your target keywords and the site makes $1,500/month.
- At a generous 35x multiple, that site is now worth $52,500.
- Meaning… because SEO is a long-term organic traffic strategy, you can essentially stop content production, eliminating your monthly costs, and then sell it for $52K.
When you think of like that, outsourcing can be a great weapon that gives you more time to build multiple sites at once. Instead of writing all the content yourself and building a single $52K asset, you can build 2, or even 3.
Some people say design doesn’t matter. But today it matters more than ever.
In the past, really ugly looking websites could be successful because there just wasn’t enough competition out there. Nobody cared whether your site was ugly or not because there wasn’t anything that looked amazing to compare it to.
Today, businesses are realizing the importance of looking clean and professional. Especially since an affiliate site makes money by recommending paid products, you want to at least look like a trustworthy brand.
The challenge is that the design takes a long time to learn. A lot of it comes from “feel” and your own experience and exposure with good design.
And for beginners, it’s already a ton of work to learn SEO and everything else that goes into building an affiliate site. Learning how to make your site look pretty can add another few months to your learning curve, delaying your launch.
In my opinion, it’s still worth it to either spend time on learning design or spend money on outsourcing it.
If you’re outsourcing it, pay at least $50 for a premium WordPress theme. And another $150-$300 for a nicely branded logo and the other creatives.
Lastly, taking action and just getting your site built
Last but not least, one of the biggest challenges people face when building affiliate sites is just getting something out there.
It can be very easy to spend a month or even over a year researching different niches and planning your site. It’s also very easy to doubt yourself and spend too much time trying to get everything perfect before you launch.
This is the pitfall most people face.
They just do a bunch of research, get sidetracked, and never actually build and launch their site.
“What if it’s not perfect?”
“What if I chose the wrong niche?”
“I thought it was a profitable niche, but the competition looks scary. Maybe I’ll do a little bit more digging first.”
What you want to do is trust your initial research process and then just go into launch mode.
If you’re building an affiliate site for the first time, you’re inevitably going to make mistakes. There are going to be things that you “miss” in your research. There will be things you overlooked. There will be parts you miscalculated.
What’s more important than that is just getting a site out there and learning by doing. Mistakes will be made, but that’s all part of the learning process.
It’s rare for anybody to have a one-hit-wonder, where they build out their first affiliate site ever, and it just takes off.
Take action. Get something out there. And learn by doing.
Building and growing affiliate niche sites is a profitable venture.
However, there are a lot of hurdles along the way, especially if you’re a beginner. There’s a lot to learn, and for beginners, each step can seem like a huge milestone to hit.
It can take a lot of time, effort, and persistence to overcome each of them. But once you do, the reward is definitely worth the effort.
And remember, each affiliate site you build is an asset.
When you think about it that way, the value of what you’re working on increases 10x more than most people realize.