CASE STUDY: How To Create An Affiliate Review Site From Scratch [UPDATED]
**Please visit the newer version of this page: Affiliate Niche Site Public Case Study**.
When done correctly, an affiliate review site can earn you hundreds and even thousands of dollars year in, year out. Do the work once (in most cases) and let your site constantly fill your PayPal account with affiliate commission after affiliate commission.
I already have one out-and-out review site which reviews one piece of software (which I don’t share on this blog for obvious reasons). It is fairly successful and I have made a few commissions on it – but it is an expensive piece of software, so I don’t believe that many people actually want to purchase it when there are other alternatives on the market for a fraction of the price.
But when somebody does purchase, the affiliate commission is huge.
So that got me thinking. What if I setup another affiliate site which reviews other products, which maybe isn’t as expensive as the product I already review?
And more to the point –
What if I was to share with my readers how I did it, what action I took, and everything else? What if I turned it into a sort of, well, experiment?
I immediately got very, very excited, and thought to myself: Hell Yeah! Let’s Do this!
I have absolutely no idea if this will be successful or not, but that is what makes me so excited – because I am sharing everything in this very post, no matter what happens.I may well be left with egg on my face, I may well be left looking very stupid, but I don’t care – how many other people give you an insider view of setting up a potential money making machine – for FREE.
Below, are the very steps I have taken so far. This post will be updated frequently with the progess, so don’t forget to bookmark it and if you haven’t already, share the post wherever you see fit!
Please do feel free to copy any of the steps I have taken, (or let me build you affiliate site with my WordPress Install & Setup Service) use it as a blueprint for setting up and creating your own affiliate review site, or just sit back and enjoy the entertainment – I am sure to make mistakes along the way! All I ask, and I know this is a big ask, is that you don’t copy the exact idea and the exact product I will be promoting – all that will do is severely dilute the market and none of us will make a profit – that I can assure you (and is one of the reasons I don’t share my other affiliate site on here as i mention above).
STEP 1: BUY HOSTING
I already have a hosting account with BlueHost*. They are superb, and far superior to any other host I have used in the past, like HostGator or GoDaddy. I recommend BlueHost because their service is excellent, I have experienced no problems with them, and their backend (cPanel) is by far the easiest I have ever used.
If you are copying this ‘blueprint’, and you do need hosting, but need step by step instructions on setting everything up, then this blog post will help you out:
STEP 2: IDENTIFY WHAT YOU WANT TO PROMOTE
I have a simple rule when it comes to promoting affiliate offers:
- I have to have used the service or product either now or in the past,
- and I have to have had an excellent experience with them.
Notice above when I talk about my host? The BlueHost* link is clickable, because I believe in them (and yes, it is an affiliate link). But when I mention HostGator and GoDaddy, there is no link because I do not promote their services – because I don’t use them for hosting anymore and I do not recommend them.
In my opinion, you are better off promoting something that you are comfortable with, that you have knowledge with and something that you wouldn’t mind recommending to friends or family. I have said this before, but will say it again – would you recommend a restaurant to a friend or family member, if you had never eaten at that restaurant yourself?
With that in mind then, I have decided to build an affiliate review site around something that I have used, and absolutely love.
That product is: Magazine and Newspaper WordPress Themes.
Digging a little deeper, I am not going to review and promote just any magazine or newspaper WordPress Theme. I am going to review and promote just one type. That type is the theme that the Smart Income Detective Blog is run on – which you can see here – Magazine and Newspaper WordPress Themes*.
STEP 3: KEYWORD RESEARCH
Before I start with step 3, I just want to say one thing – SEO, keyword research and all that sort of thing is my WEAKEST area in Internet Marketing. I can sit here and say I actually know very little about it all, and what I do know, I find it hard to understand.
Two reasons for this:
- It bores me.
- There is so much information out there – most of it misinformation.
Keyword research is something that sends a shiver down most peoples spines. I know this, because it sends a shiver down my spine everytime I hear such a phrase.
When I searched for a suitable theme for the Smart Income Detective Blog, I searched for ‘WordPress Magazine Theme’. It threw up many results, with many different levels of ‘review’ sites all offering different themes that went along the magazine look and feel. One of the sites threw up the very theme that I am using on this blog right now, and I went through and purchased through their link as a thank you for a really good, in-depth review.
So for the purpose of this experiment, and using my own experience, I guessed that if someone was looking for a wordpress theme that had the layout of a magazine, they would type in something like ‘wordpress magazine theme’ into Google.
I jumped across and used the Google Keyword Tool to see just how many people were searching for this, and here are the results:
It showed me that:
- There were nearly 50,000 searches worldwide for the term ‘wordpress magazine theme’.
- And competition for this keyword phrase was ‘Low’. (Don’t get fooled by this – this means that competition is low for PAID keyword placement).
STEP 4: IDENTIFY A DOMAIN NAME
The primary goal of the review site then is to review magazine themes. To my astonishment, wordpressmagazinetheme.com was available, and as a friend had a discount code, I went through goDaddy to purchase the domain name for £1.72/$2.99. I also searched for wordpressnewstheme.com, but this was not available. I did toy around with a few other variations, but settled on the below:
I quickly changed the nameservers, and now it appears within my BlueHost* cPanel.
Why did I chose this domain name?
Quite simple really – the keyword phrase that I researched is an exact match for the domain available. Those of you who know a bit about SEO may know about Exact Match Domains (EMD’s) – that is domains which have the keywords within the domain itself.
Now a lot has been said about EMD’s over the past 12-18 months, with many believing that having an EMD is not as important as it used to be. But on the contrary, I have heard whispers from various blogs that Google are now back on with EMD’s – meaning that having keywords within the domain itself may be still considered in their ranking algorithms.
But in truth – nobody knows for sure. Nobody knows how Google operates their ranking algorithm, and why some sites rank better than others (in the main), a lot of it is guesswork and a lot of it is hearsay. However, with a domain like this up for grabs, I could not see the harm in securing it for my review site – which funnily enough, will be reviewing wordpress magazine themes.
STEP 5: MINDMAPPING AND BRAINSTORMING
I mindmap more or less everything I do online. Mindmapping helps me outline new or existing projects, and helps me put it in some sort of logical order that I can see on one screen – take a look at this post on mindmapping to see how it could help your online business.
Now, I did do a mindmap right at the start of this process to help me identify what sort of product or products I wanted to review and promote, so although I have listed this as Step 5, I have used it throughout all steps just to record what I am doing and what the outstanding tasks are.
I have included it at this step because I think it is important that a mindmap is completed before you search for a theme – to me, my mindmap dictates to me what sort of theme I want – from my mindmap, came these important 4 features: A rating system, clean and easy look, a simple navigation bar and some sort of slider or carousel.
STEP 6: SELECT AN APPROPRIATE WORDPRESS REVIEW THEME
First of all, even without considering step 5, I already know what I want from a review theme. Two main things:
1. A fast loading, minimalist theme that is easy on the eye, and,
2. A theme which is easy to customise on the backend (because I am no expert).
The first one is easy. I want something that is easy on the server and fast loading because I already know that there will be a huge amount of WordPress Theme review sites out there. So I want the site to load in double quick time, because I know when I go searching for themes, I literally look through hundreds of review sites very quickly, as I am looking for screenshots of the theme to see which ones visually appeal to me. If I come across something that is slow loading, I will click the back button. If I am like that, you can be sure other people are like that, too.
The second one goes without saying really – I just want to put up some reviews, some screenshots and maybe even some video, with minimal fuss, and without the need to go messing around in CSS files etc.
Add my mindmap in from Step 5, and I know exactly what I want.
After a bit of research, I finally went for this one, which cost me just $9.
Now, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like the simplicity of it, I like the features (such as the top rated widget) and I like the fact that there are buttons that can be customised to take the visitor straight to my affiliate partner’s site. Of course, the great thing about WordPress, is that the theme can be changed with a click of a button – so if it doesn’t work, I can always change the theme and test another one out.
CURRENT STEP – 20th June 2013
I still have a lot to do – the theme is installed now and that is about it. I still have a ton of work to do until I can launch the site and hopefully, start making some affiliate commissions.
If you haven’t already, please do bookmark this post for future reference – it will be updated as and when I complete the steps until my affiliate review site goes live.
You can see everything I am doing right now: www.wordpressmagazinetheme.com
UPDATE: 1ST CHANGE OF HEART
I recently updated all of my WordPress sites to WordPress 3.5.2.
One thing I noticed was the new updated Twenty Twelve Theme, which comes free with every installation of WordPress. I never noticed it too much before, maybe because it is not all singing and all dancing like other themes I am used to.
But it hit a chord with me, and I toyed with the idea of using it for this experiment. On the review theme that I had already decided on and chosen, I had already completed 3 reviews, and the homepage looked like this:
While I liked the visuals and aesthetics of the site, I didn’t like two aspects of it –
- The amount of clicks it would take for a visitor to see all the themes reviewed.
- The menu setup on the backend of WordPress (confusing to say the least).
I believe the amount of clicking a visitor needs to do is really important in making an affiliate site successful – especially when the products and the decisions are based on visuals first. I said above that when I search for themes, I want to go to a page and just scroll down, looking at the images of themes that are setup. With the first theme I chose, this wasn’t possible – a visitor would need to keep clicking links to see all of the different reviews. With the Twenty Twelve Theme, I could put a smaller review on a single page – so the visitor can quickly scroll down the page. The only click the visitor would need to make then, would be when they are clicking an affiliate link…
I also looked at a couple of other review sites for WordPress Themes. 9 out of 10 reviewed WordPress Themes using this technique. No clicking required, just scroll down and down in order to see multiple reviews of different themes.
With these thoughts in mind then, the decision was made. The new theme for my affiliate site experiment is now Twenty Twelve.
Current Step – 23rd June 2013
I need to configure the Twenty Twelve Theme, and continue writing reviews for now.
The experiment continues……
Current Step – 14th August 2013
Admittedly, I just haven’t worked on this site as much as I should have done over the past couple of months. My estimate is that it is going to take a good, solid 12 hours to get the core content onto the site. So far, I have spent about 3 hours on it – and much of that so far has been spent messing about with the theme.
Yes, the theme has changed for the THIRD time! But this time, it stays. I know it will stay, because it is now on a framework I absolutely adore – The Genesis Framework using the free CopyBlogger Child Theme.
I have also added a few more reviews, but it still isn’t enough. Hopefully, by the end of August, I will have finished completed the core of the work, and I can start looking at ranking the site for the chosen keywords.
All the best,