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Affiliate marketing case study - How Mr B went from newbie to $18,000 a month
After my call in a recent newsletter for people who would like to submit a case study to help other affiliate marketers, we were contacted by Mr B.
Yes, we promised to keep his identity and website private so Mr B it is.
Upon reading his answers to our questions, we decided that his journey from offline to online business made fascinating reading. We know that his insights will help you in your business as you move forward.
We have checked out his main site and yes, it really does have outstanding rankings in a highly competitive area. He owns over 300 domains, made around $18,000 last month and has just been offered $40,000 for just one of his smaller sites.
Welcome to Mr B’s Business!
Hi, Mr B and thanks for taking the time to share your experience with the members of AssociatePrograms.com. I know that we can all learn a lot from you.
Firstly, can you give us some background on yourself? Tell us a bit about your career experience before you first got started online and what has happened since please.
Before I got started with online marketing, I worked in and owned a Bakery. I had lost a fair bit of money and figured there had to be a better way to make a living than working the long and early hours required to run a successful bakery business.
I had heard a story about a friend of a friend who was making loads of money on the Internet selling software. I also heard him say that his friend ran an affiliate program and was paying some of his top affiliates tens of thousands of dollars a month in commissions.
After talking with him, his friend gave us a healthy commission which was more than the usual affiliate received and so we set out to learn how to sell the software and how to recruit more affiliates for him. It was a 2 tier affiliate program and he had upped the usual 10% to 30% for second tier affiliate signups for us.
Over the next 6 months, we spent hours talking on MSN Messenger until the small hours of the morning trying to figure out how to make it all work for us.
We had some success after all of our planning and before long were generating a few hundred dollars a month profit from the 2nd tier affiliates that we had signed up to the program.
It was about this time that I decided to change careers and get involved with computers and online stuff. I taught myself how to build websites with FrontPage and how to build, network and upgrade computers too.
Eventually I got a job with a company who needed someone to manage their office computers, their email and to build them a new website. Due to the nature of the position, I was able to kind learn as I went and I got all the systems and their website working how they wanted.
It was about that time that I moved into lead generation for them. I learned how to build optin pages and run Google AdWords campaigns effectively. Before long I was in several partnerships managing a range of different AdWords accounts and generating several million dollars in product sales.
It was at this time that I decided to go out on my own. I initally started out just doing lead generation through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC ) advertising for a few new clients.
It went ok for a while and I was making good money, but there was no goodwill there from the clients. Most of the companies I was dealing with either went bust or decided to take their lead generation back in house after they figured out how I was doing it.
I decided that what I had been doing wasn't the ideal business model and set out to put some of the SEO skills I had learned into practice. I planned to build a site that I would own and completely control.
I’d had the idea for my main site probably 2 years before I built it. I thought it was a good idea but I knew it would take a while to get off the ground.
I checked the domain I wanted but it was already taken so I contacted the owner. At the time he said that he didn't want to sell but after discussing it with him, we came to an agreement that I could have it for $1,000 USD.
I thought it was worth it so I paid the $1,000 and bought the domain.
Originally I just setup a Wordpress blog and then set out to come up with the content. This wasn’t that easy to do. After some time I decided to outsource the content creation and I paid a ghost writer about $3,000 to write the articles for me.
Then I lost interest in the project and went and found another way to make some money through PPC arbitrage. I worked hard and built that up for about 8 months but then the inevitable happened - the ad feed company started lowering the Revenue Per Click (RPC) to the point where it was no longer profitable.
So, once again I was looking for an income stream.
I considered applying for the position advertised with the guys at AssociatePrograms.com since I live just a few hours away, and had been thinking about a move to the Gold Coast. In the end, I thought about how much I love working from home, and not having to justify myself to any boss or anything, so I decided not to apply.
Instead, I took on another lead generation client because I needed the work. That went ok for a while and I made a good income from it. But once again, they decided to take all the work I had done, and run it all in house.
This time, I decided to really focus on building my own site. I loaded up my main site again which had really just been sitting there with a blank Wordpress install on it for a year or so. After some deliberation, I decided to post all the content I had paid for and never added, to see how it would go.
I started looking into SEO more and more and took my time to work out what worked and what didn't. I picked an initial keyword phrase on which to focus my SEO efforts and within a few months I managed to get the site into the #1 spot in Google for that term. After I achieved that initial goal, I started going after more highly competitive keywords.
Initially I was just making money from AdSense really. I tried a few ClickBank products, but nothing seemed to convert very well for me. I did keep testing different things though until I found what was converting.
Although I didn't really like the idea of promoting some types of products, I learned that it didn't really matter what I wanted. It only mattered what my visitors wanted. Eventually I gave them what they were looking for and started making better money out of the site.
Before long, and with a lot more SEO work, I started to rank in Google for the more competitive terms and my traffic just kept increasing.
I continued my search for the best product for my traffic and I found and tested some CPA offers. I found they converted well which increased the sites income to about $5,000 a month.
Around this time, a few people contacted me asking if they could run banner ads on my site. About 6 months ago, I started offering that as well. To make this work effectively, I had to install a whole new premium theme and get some custom coding done to make room for the banners. The end result was that I basically doubled the sites income.
Over the past 6 months, I have been mainly working on increasing traffic and I am always testing new revenue sources to see what works and what doesn't.
I have also started building some new sites in completely different niches which are also starting to go well. One of these sites hit #1 on Google for its 2 main keywords and is now bringing in an addition $3,000 - $4,000 a month.
I was also just recently offered $40,000 USD for the site. Which I initially turned down, but we are now negotiating and I expect to close the deal in the next few days.
I have now started building more sites, as well as recently putting together a “21 Step Guide” ebook outlining the steps I take to build my sites and get them ranking in Google.
That’s quite a journey and it sounds like you have come a long way since you began your online venture. So how long as your site been on the Web?
In its current form, the site has been live since June 2009.
How many other sites have you had over the years?
I have had literally dozens of others, I still have around 300 domains to my name, there are a heap that were just ideas that never came into fruition and are now sitting around doing nothing. Some are left over lead gen sites and PPC landing pages that I have used in the past.
I also recently sold a .com.au domain that I bought for a measly $69 for $110,000 AUD. So that was a nice little boost and a great return on investment.
Can you tell us where the idea for your current site came from?
I remembered seeing a blog post years ago on my main topic, and I thought that it would be a great topic for a whole site.
How did you go about developing the initial design for you website? Did you get anyone to set it up for you?
The site is all Wordpress based. I installed it and built the basics then hired programmers on Elance and Scriptlance to make all the coding edits for me. I use outsourced programmers because I only know some basic HTML.
What is the target market that you are aiming at?
I’m targeting people who are looking for ways to make money. They could be looking for extra cash right through to replacing their income.
After all of your offline experience, why did you make the choice to run your business on the web?
It’s the ultimate business model as far as I am concerned. You have no staff hassles, no stock to carry, very low overheads and unlimited scalability if you want to grow.
What kind of revenues are you earning? Where or who does this income come from?
From my main site, I am making $15,000 to $18,000 a month. The dollars come from Google AdSense, CPA networks, ClickBank products and direct banner advertising sales.
I am now at the point where I’m about to start selling my ebook on how I build sites from my main website.
I’m hoping that this will give me another stream of income.
I have a few other sites that I have built which have been generating another $3,000 to $5,000 a month lately. There are also a lot more sites in the works.
Plus… I still get commissions from some of the previous lead generation work I did. Sadly, those are getting less and less as I haven't done that since about September 2009.
Can you give us some insight into your favourite marketing strategies?
I love PPC because it supplies you with instant traffic. You do need to have a good sales and marketing system and a high endish product in order to make that work really well.
SEO traffic is probably my favourite because once you do the work, the visitors just keep coming… day in and day out.
I also have some other promotional strategies planned but so far I haven't gotten far with them. I’m always looking for ways to leverage my time and outsource as much as I can. It simply doesn't get done if it’s left up to me.
What traffic numbers are you seeing on the site (visitors a month)?
That depends which statistics package I look at :-)
My main site got around 178,000 visits and 475,000 page views last month according to Google Analytics.
What do your statistics show about your main sources of traffic?
According to Google Analytics:
Search engines - 86%
Direct Traffic - 8%
Referring Sites / Links - 5%
Do you use your pay-per-click advertising on your main site?
No, not for my main site but I have done millions in sales from PPC in the past. My Average Visitor Value is not enough to warrant using PPC for this site.
As you have been building your traffic, have you taken the time to build a mailing list? If so, how big is your list?
I started building a list from my main site traffic but found it really hard to convert them to $$$. After a few months, I had 14,000 on my list but I took the optin form down so I am currently not increasing that number.
I am planning to ramp it back up again to try and promote my new ebook.
I think if I can make this strategy work, it could have a huge impact on the sites’ revenues.
What kinds of challenges exist for the people competing in your market?
Standing out in the crowd is a big issue. I wouldn't advise anyone to enter this niche. I don't really even know why I did to be honest. I guess it might have been an ego thing.
Knowing what I know now I wouldn’t do it the same way or work in the same niche. My other sites which make $3,000 to $4,000 a month were very, very easy to build when compared to my main site. And also, they took a lot less effort and involvement to get where they are presently.
I would suggest to people that they start with an easier niche. It’s simpler and far more profitable than the “Make Money Online” niche.
Would you say there have been any mistakes that you've made along the way that others could learn from?
I would have to say that I’ve pretty much made every mistake possible along the way. I believe that the only way to truly know how to do something is when you have personal experience doing it all the wrong ways.
If you get things right the first time, you don't really learn anything. And, you don't have any experience to draw on when someone goes wrong.
So, personally, I see mistakes as good things to learn from. I know it sounds cliché to say something like that, and most people reading that will just think "Yeah Yeah", but it's the truth and that's how I feel about it.
Would you be able to tell us 3 tips that you wished you had known or learned when you first started your main site?
In my opinion, too many people, myself included, expect to make money doing nothing. They read about all these Internet billionaires, and think that they can just click a few buttons and watch the money roll in. It just doesn't work like that. If you want to make money in this business, you have to do the work.
50 hours a week in an office job buys you maybe $80,000 - $100,000 a year. People then expect to be able to put in 1 or 2 hours a week online and replace their income.
This is a fantastic business to be in but it's still a business and still needs to be run like one.
50 hours a week spent building an online business can pay much greater rewards than a job ever will. It does take time to learn how to do it and commitment to get good at it. Then you have to follow through on what you have learned.
Stop listening to the Internet Marketing (IM) Gurus or jumping on the latest IM launch that promises you easy profits! Nothing worthwhile doing is easy in my experience.
Control your expectations. People seem to massively over estimate what they can achieve in 1 month. At the same time, they massively under estimate what they could achieve in 6 or 12 months working on the same thing.
Don't be put off if you’re working on something for 3 months before you see any real income. The types of sites I build don't make a cent in their first 3 months. It usually takes 4 to 5 months to see any consistent income from them. Once they do start generating income, they are well worth the wait.
Could you tell us about 3 things that have made the most difference to the success of your site or have improved your cash flow?
There have been a heap of things I have done but the main thing is just to be continually testing new things, split testing offers and finding what works then dumping what doesn't.
Tip #1 - Site Redesigns,
I have been through about 4 complete redesigns so far and each once has increased my revenue.
Tip #2 – Expectations
Get yourself into the mindset that it will take a year of hard work to build your site up. You will need to submit more articles than anyone else in your niche, get more bloggers linking to you than anyone else, and basically do more of everything than anyone else. You will also need to have better content than anyone else.
If you start out with this as your plan, then you will probably be pleasantly surprised when it all starts happening sooner than you expected.
Tip #3 - Follow Through
Tons of people, after not reaching their initial unrealistic expectations, give up and stop trying. They don’t realise that what they were doing probably would have worked if they just kept at it for a while longer.
If you had a complete newbie sitting down in front of you right now, what advice would you give them when they're just getting started on the Web?
This is a tough one. I would give them a copy of my ebook :-) Ultimately, it's up to them to have the desire to make it work. I used to try and talk to people about what I do but personally I don't bother anymore. It's a waste of my and their time usually. If someone keeps coming back and asking me things then I am happy to share my experience with them. For the most part though, I don't even bother telling people what I do for a living anymore.
Thanks Mr B! It’s been great talking with you and I know that there are some great tips and advice in your words. Good luck with your ongoing success!
Just the Facts
- Site Name: I have heaps, but my biggest is XYZ.com (main site)
- Owner: Mr B
- Launched: The latest version was launched around November 09
- Traffic /mth: 175,000 - 200,000
- Revenue /mth (roughly): The site is still growing as I unlock more ways to generate income, but this month I should hit $18,000 ($14,000 last month, $12,000 the month before) just for this particular site.
- Target Market: People looking for ways to make money
- Theme/Topic: Ways to make money online and offline
- Top 3 Marketing Strategies: SEO, Article Marketing and still attempting to monetize my subscriber list effectively.
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