The Post-Grad Survival Guide

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How I Made $150,000 From My Bedroom

An in-depth look at how I started and sold a successful affiliate site

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Photo: NeONBRAND/Unsplash

There are a lot of people out there that claim to have made hundreds of thousands of dollars doing very little else other than sitting in front of their computers in their underwear…

Some of these people are simply frauds, seriously inflating (and sometimes outright lying about) any earnings in an attempt to sell overpriced products, services or courses that provide little to no value. Ironically enough a lot of these people are running their scams and making money from in front of their computers, likely in their underwear.

But then there is the ever-growing list of people that legitimately make hundreds of thousands of dollars from home. They leverage the internet, their expertise and some clever marketing to make substantial amounts of money sitting in front of their computer.

I did exactly this!

Here’s some proof:

US Amazon earnings from December 2018
US Amazon earnings from December 2018
US Amazon earnings from December 2018
Affiliate earnings from December 2018
Affiliate earnings from December 2018
Another affiliate program earnings from December 2018

Ok, but how do I make money from home?

How I made the $150,000 from my bedroom was through digital/affiliate marketing.

Specifically, it was using digital marketing to build a content website that I then monetised through affiliate programs and advertising partnerships.

That means someone would come to my website through Google from one of the highly targeted keywords I had used to build a post around. They’d read the informational article in which I would recommend a product to buy and then they’d click through an affiliate link that would pay me a small commission if they bought something.

So very simply put, I made a website where lots of people who are looking for information on what to buy would visit. I make money when they buy through an affiliate link or through advertising on my site.

Let’s get into more detail!

Niche and Keyword Research for an Affiliate Site

The first thing I did was to establish a niche that would be profitable. Forget the idea of simply writing about what you love, if you want to make money as an affiliate then make sure that what you’re writing about can make you money. That’s what this section is for.

I began with a specific niche in mind that seemed like it would be a good fit so I started some proper research. At this point, I didn’t know everything about the niche and I don’t think it’s at all necessary to know anything about the niche you choose. Within the first 20–30 posts, if done correctly, you quickly become an expert like I did with the niche I chose.

To confirm that it was worth my time I used a tool called Semrush (affiliate link to a 14-day free trial) and other smaller pieces of software to compliment it.

I would search in Semrush for keywords similar to ‘best laptop for kids’, ‘best laptop under $200’ or ‘MacBook Pro 2020 15 inch review’, anything that someone who wants to buy something would search for. ‘Laptop’ is an example, don’t use laptops as your niche as it’s so incredibly saturated.

The keywords I focus on also have to meet a Semrush criteria that I set myself. This is to have a ‘keyword difficulty’ of less than 60 and a monthly search volume of over 720.

I got the free trial of Semrush and then did as much research as I could during the trial. By the end of it, I know exactly what posts I plan to write for the first 20 or so posts of the website.

There is a bit more to the process though. Once I have a long list of potential keywords I then need to find out what the competition is actually like rather than relying solely on the Semrush keyword difficulty metric.

For this, I use the Moz toolbar, which gives a website’s Domain Authority, DA (a numerical value that predicts how well a website will rank on Google). I use this to see if other strong websites are ranking for the keywords I have found.

I tend to find if a keyword has results on Google where multiple websites’ DA is less than 30 then the keyword is worth pursuing as one of the first 20 posts I complete. The lower the DA of the websites already ranking for the keyword the better.

The overall goal here is to rank highly as quickly as possible for these first 20 ‘longtail’ keyword posts and build from there. Finding the keywords to do this is a balancing act between a keyword with a high volume (so you know enough people are searching it to make it worth your time) and low competition (so you have a chance of ranking on the first page of Google).

If you’re thinking of starting your first site I wouldn’t be as strict as this as I strongly believe the process of just starting your first site and learning what it takes, even in a very competitive niche, is far more valuable than any monetary returns you’ll make.

Quick Summary

As this is what I consider to be the most important part of the process I thought I’d quickly summarise it to help clarify any misunderstandings.

I aim for at least 20 longtail keywords that are highly buyer-focused lists or reviews for items over $100 (ideally way more) that meet the basic Semrush criteria I mentioned before. They also need to have as many websites as possible on page 1 of Google that have a DA of less than 30, and as few large informational websites as possible e.g The Wirecutter or newspaper’s websites. If the results are mostly low DA sites with poor quality posts then that’s good and I’ll go with it!

This was exactly what I saw for all 20 of my first posts for this site.

How I made a WordPress website for Affiliate Marketing

So once I had found a niche and had a plan for the website content, I needed the website itself. I build all my websites using WordPress. WordPress allows for quick, simple websites to be built that can be customised to your exact liking.

There are a few things to consider here but it’s not as confusing as you’re probably thinking.

Domain Name — The domain was brand new, bought from Namecheap. It was a brandable domain that doesn’t include any keywords but is relatable to the niche I chose.

For example, it wasn’t bestlaptopreviews.org but instead a word that could be turned into a brand.

Hosting — There are so many good hosting companies out there and so many good variations of hosting that you can’t go too wrong. To keep it simple I used a simple shared hosting plan from SiteGround (affiliate link) and would recommend that for anyone starting. They have fantastic customer service and a few great introductory offers. A VPS is a nice alternative if things start to pick up and you want a faster site.

WordPress Theme — The theme is what you use to style your site. I use Genesis themes as they are lightweight, super customisable and can be used on multiple sites. As I had a bit of web development experience I managed to customise the theme to my exact likings.

Content — Content is the big one, this is where most of my effort went. I made sure my first 20–30 posts were long, very informative and in perfect English. I try to get them live on my site as fast as I can. Unfortunately for this site that didn’t happen as smoothly as I would have liked and it took me 5 months to hit the 30 posts milestone. But after that, the site took off and continually grew as I kept producing content a few times a month.

With content, I believe you have to provide substantial value. I like to think of my site as a roundup of all the information on the web for my chosen keyword. So when someone comes to one of my pages, they might not know it, but they won’t need to go anywhere else to get all the information they need. I always put myself in the user’s shoes and think of all the things they might need when reading my content.

How I promoted a WordPress website

Once I had my site built, online and the content out there, I then thought about promoting it. Most of the time the keywords and the on-page SEO will take care of most of this for me. A well-optimised site will naturally start to rank highly on Google and the users will come by themselves.

But sometimes a bit of hands-on promotion and building some backlinks (links to my site from other websites) can be crucial. Building backlinks is considered to be one of the best ways to increase your rankings on Google.

One simple method I have used that has been successful is I email every single company that I mention on the website telling them that I have discussed their product on the site and they can use the post in whatever they like. This has created some great relationships and even better opportunities. Through one of these relationships, I was offered a product to review that was being sold for close to $1000 and then after I posted the review for that, I got two more! I’ve also gained multiple backlinks through this process just from that first email.

One of the greatest successes from creating these relationships came from a product giveaway I held quite early on. I asked 2 companies who I had previously spoken to using the above method if they wanted to sponsor a giveaway and they both agreed. I ended up choosing to work with just the first company to reply and said I’d work with the other in the future. Now I had a giveaway prize provided to me for free. I then found a website that hosts giveaways and posts the giveaway, including a bio about my website with backlinks, to a network of other bloggers who all posted the bio on their websites. Ultimately this resulted in a giveaway that was entered over 100,000 times!

The benefits of this were huge for everyone. I greatly improved my relationship with the owner of the company who provided the product. The owner got exposure and backlinks in exchange for one product. I paid just shy of $200 for a service offered by an inventive blogger who skillfully leveraged their position to create another revenue source from basically nothing. I got followers, backlinks and more without having to go through the arduous process of email outreach and other mind-numbing backlinking tasks. And someone got one of the best products in the niche for free. Everybody won!

When you’re dealing with computers all day, I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of the human touch.

The Final Few Months and Selling my WordPress Website

I worked on this site on and off for roughly 5–6 hours a day for the first 3 months, then I put about 5 hours a week into it for the next 9 months. This work included replying to emails, creating new content and reaching out to work with new people. At this point, it was averaging $3,500 a month.

But after about the first year my priorities shifted and I could spend less and less time on the site which led to a slight decline in monthly revenue. So I eventually concluded that instead of letting the site ultimately die I could sell it and use the money generated for my next project. I could use it’s still strong revenue numbers, high-quality posts and no shady practices to sell it for a very respectable sum.

I chose to sell the site through a company called Empire Flippers who are an online business brokerage. After around 3 months of promotion on their website and negotiation with potential buyers, it was eventually sold for just over $93,000. When all the monthly earnings were taken into account the total I made from this site was about $150,000!

Not bad for what amounts to an extended side project!

What I learned from building and selling an affiliate site

The greatest takeaway from this is that it is possible to make a good living from sitting in front of your computer. If you’re willing to put in the time to learn new skills and create something that people will want to use then there are still great opportunities out there.

I hope you’ve found this interesting and maybe it’s sparked something in you to see what possible online business ventures you can do yourself.

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Written by

I create businesses, code things noone ever uses and write about what I’ve learned along the way - https://jmjsmith.com

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