Wow, the last time I posted on this blog was way back in February of 2017, where I provided an update on how I was doing with niche sites. I really didn’t think it had been that long, without checking I guessed we were maybe coming up to the 18-month mark at most.
It just goes to show how quickly this industry moves, take the recent Amazon commission changes that came into play on the 21st April (I’ll get onto this later), I’ve seen 3 of these ‘updates’ since we last spoke.
That’s 3 major hits to my revenue, and yet I am still going to be promoting the Amazon Associates program, and I will cover why in my update below.
So let’s jump to the update.
What Have I Been Doing?
A lot has happened over the past 3-years in the industry, my business and personal life. Since I left my full-time job back in February of 2015, I’ve built and sold websites, learning many lessons along the way.
Here are a few of the things I’ve been doing in the last few years since I’ve been away from the blog:
- I’ve moved to a nice village in Cheshire, England.
- We’ve had a baby, a boy and our first!
- I’ve refined my keyword research methods and systems to find hidden gems.
- Built better affiliate websites, using quality writers with industry-specific knowledge and experience.
- Planned for FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early – check out the FIRE movement).
- Created a lifestyle business that provides the freedom to do what I want, from wherever I want.
It may all sound pretty boring and simple to you, but that’s how I like it. I’m not a social media influencer trying to impress people with all the free stuff I get for promoting said stuff, and you will never see me posing in front of a Lamborghini.
I prioritize time freedom above everything else. I am my own boss. Choose where and when I work. Live comfortably within my means. Have the time to travel and experience new and different things. Don’t drive a flashy car or have the most expensive house in the area. But knowing that I could if I was so inclined, for me, is the key to a perfect lifestyle business.
Building An Affiliate Website Empire
Having the mental space to just ‘do your work‘ is hard enough without clogging it up with shiny objects that distract you from your current projects.
If you’re anything like me, you have 1000’s of ideas in your head or written down that you simply don’t have the time to work on. This is why I’ve created a list of niche site ideas that’s I’m giving away for free.
For those of you looking for a niche to enter or a new angle, I’m certain there’s something in there for everyone – even if it just gets your creative juices flowing.
If you’re new to affiliate marketing, check out my guide on how to build an affiliate website.
My Current Projects
In my own affiliate empire, I’m still building and growing niche affiliate websites from the ground up and sometimes buying exiting assets to grow and flip.
I’ve currently got several projects (7 in total) all in various stages. I have 3 main earners bringing in the bulk of my revenue and 4 other sites that are earning a little or still in the development stage.
I like to build at least 1 new affiliate site per quarter, so it’s there on the back burner waiting for its time in the sun. I think this is a good way to ensure you always have assets you can grow, ready to replace those you flip, or that get hit by Google or Amazon or any other single source you may rely on.
I plan on flipping 1 or 2 of my larger sites this year and also a couple of the smaller ones, I may offer them exclusively here directly from the Cloud Income blog for those looking for a start site that’s ready to go and earning a little bit of revenue.
More on this to follow when I decide which sites to keep and which to offer for sale. If you’re an investor or looking to buy niche sites, likewise, if you’re looking to sell a content site, I may be interested in making you an offer.
You can email me at email@example.com, provide a few details and we can talk privately.
Seriously, this is one of the best things I have implemented into my routine and I highly suggest you try it.
The process is quite simple, on the 1st of each month, you create a new blank Google Doc and ponder these questions:
- What happened last month? – List things that have happened over the course of the previous month big and small, whatever matters to you.
- What did I learn? – What are the takeaway lessons from the above?
- What do I need to do next month? – Using the lessons above and your existing projects, what are the key actions you need to take to make next month great?
- Thoughts & Musings – This is my favorite section that allows your imagination to run wild. Here I pose a lot of “What If” questions to myself and try to answer them.
The process above really gets your brain working and some of my best decisions have come from this simple process. Let me give you an example of what I had in my March-2020 Musings.
Random Thought: More is not always better – align my business goals to my lifestyle goals.
- Covid-19 (Cornovirus) kicked off in Europe – need to track how this affects traffic – I predict an increase in traffic & slow shipping times.
- Website 1 continues to rise and is my main focus in 2020 for a potential flip in 2021.
- Website 2 is doing well after the 301-redirect and continues to bring in good revenue.
- I migrated XXX over to YYY to create a larger site to challenge to ZZZ.com competitor.
- Began CRO on Website 6 by adding unique tracking ID’s the top 10 traffic pages.
- I purchased a domain in the XXX niche to tackle the ‘new’ model with the aim of building a passive/recurring income stream of $5k within 12-months.
- CashFlow forecast and actuals sheet have been greatly improved to automatically pull numbers from bank statements and use accurate exchange rates from gov website.
Not everything has to be business-related either. For example, in the “What I Need To Do Next Month” section, I included:
- Work on 3 BIG TASKS per day MAX
- Only check email twice per day
- Only drink 2x coffee’s per day
- No phone screen time after 8pm
- 4 browser tabs open at a time MAX
- Drink 6x glasses of water per day
- Nice long Dog walk of 1-hour+ each day
Here’s an example of the random thoughts & questions I like to throw at myself:
- What is the ONE THING I can do for each project to move the needle?
- What can I do to improve my Build – Rank – Flip Model?
- What is my FI Number? (Financial Independence – check out the FIRE movement)
So that you have it, my monthly musings, which I think is a kind of mishmash between bullet journaling, monthly reviews, and my own little twist.
Other People I Follow
I thought I should include this section since these are the guys and girls who tick all the right boxes for what I look for in someone to provide inspiration and also align with my own moral code. (in no particular order).
- Jon Dykstra – FatStacksBlog.com
- Matt Giovanisci – MoneyLab.co
- Shawna Newman – SkipBlast.com
- Anne – Yeys.com
- Doug Cunnington – NicheSiteProject.com
- Ron Stefanski – OneHourProfessor.com
All of the guys and girls above provide some very entertaining content, which is mostly different from the usual stuff you read In the space.
Amazon Commission Changes
Back in 2017, when Jeff and co made changes to the Amazon Associates program, I took at 35% haircut. Ouch.
It took a while to get that revenue back, but what it did make me do was to take stock of my business and realize how reliant I was on Amazon and Google, and make plans to rectify that. (if you want to kick up the arse, check out The Millionaire Fastlane (affiliate link) by MJ DeMarco and the CENTS model).
If you’re listening to the advice of some of the guys shouting from the rooftops who are screaming “let’s remove all of our Amazon affiliate links”, I urge you to keep your cool. Doing that will only hurt you, not them. They don’t need you or me and no matter how much you shout, they just don’t care.
If you’re considering swapping out their links for another program, then I can tell you from my experience, finding an affiliate program that converts as Amazon does is tough. I’ve tried many of the big players and they are just abysmal.
So even with a lower commission rate, Amazon will still bring in more revenue, to the point where I’d have to be given 20-25% commission rates just to match what Amazon delivers.
So with that, I will continue to promote Amazon on my websites that are suitable but with a few twists.
1. I Will Be Offering Visitors Multiple Purchasing Options
Rather than cutting my nose off, I will simply add additional buttons and links to my pages where another program stocks that product. If I can pull the prices from an APP I may give that a try, but the last time I displayed Amazon pricing on a website, the A/B tests showed that was a bad move and click-throughs dropped.
2. Integrating Display Ads
I already integrate both display ads alongside Amazon on some of my assets, however, I exclude some pages that would be negatively affected by them, such as high traffic landing pages and high commission products.
I also use Ezoic, and I’ve recently joined their Premium Program for access to premium advertisers and high ad rates. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes, since it is a paid program with a monthly cost to my business, so the additional ad revenue must outweigh the cost to make financial sense.
3. Outreach For Ad Placements
One thing I’ve been pondering for a long time and never gotten around to is reaching out to those companies that manufacture the products I sell the most of and offering them some form of advertising on a monthly recurring model.
This is not only attractive to me as a business owner, too have stable recurring income, but also to potential investors and those who may wish to buy my websites down the line.
In addition, product manufacturers and eCommerce stores get to have their products and brands placed alongside super-relevant content and a highly-targeted audience.
4. A/B Testing Different Affiliate Programs
I already do this and will continue to do so, especially on products that are not on the Amazon platform. You can often find completely new categories to tackle when you open up your research.
I’ve come across a number of programs recently for one of my larger sites, that offers some high priced products and 10% commission rates with a 60-day cookie window. That’s insane!
Since I’ve already prepared for this A/B testing phase by setting up unique tracking ID’s on my top 10 traffic pages, I can get started with this right away.
More to follow on this in future articles.
5. Finding Opportunities in Google Search Console
Search console is a place I like to look for easy-picking keywords that Google is literally telling me I can rank for.
I have an article outlined to show you how I do this, but it’s a goldmine of information (even after they changed the layout and design to confuse us) and you can even use this in place of an expensive keyword tool or in combination with, to make it even more powerful.
6. Buying More Affiliate Websites
Since many people will be hurting and looking to get out of the game to recoup some of their investment, I’m in a position to potentially help them out and buy their websites.
You may think this is opportunistic, blah blah blah, and it probably is. The way I see it, someone wants to sell their business for whatever reason, and I want to buy it. I’m not into lowballing people. I like to offer a fair price based on traffic and revenue.
So, if you have an affiliate/content site you’d like to sell, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss further.
7. Looking Into eCommerce or Dropshipping
I know, a big deviation away from affiliate sites, however, I know I sell a TON of certain products AND I control the top spots in the SERP’s that bring a lot of traffic.
So why not take advantage of that and source my own products and use Amazon FBA or even find a company that will dropship the products to completely remove the risk from my end.
Then you have print-on-demand products (like I did with TeeSpring a while back), there are so many options.
The trick I feel is to test the waters initially and find products with a decent margin, that doesn’t cost a lot to ship and/or create.
What To Expect From Cloud Income
Honestly, a big reason for my hiatus was how much time blogging here took away from the rest of my business, the part that makes the money. But I have missed being a part of the community and sharing my thoughts with you all.
So, I will be back to publishing when I have something interesting to share. I’ll mostly be sharing my case studies and results of my tests making money online and buying and selling online businesses.
If that’s something you’re interested in and you’re not on my email newsletter, you can join here so you never miss an article.
One of the things I’ve been practicing over the past 3-years is the 80/20 principle, and focusing on the 20% that drives 80% of the results. Which for the case of this blog will be interesting topics and decent-ish written content.
You may notice that I’ve cleaned out a lot of the old case study content since it’s no longer relevant. I want to show you what’s working right now, not what worked in 2013. I plan on replacing those case studies with new up-to-date adventures and forays in the niche affiliate building game.
I’ve got one such case study lined up already with a recent purchase I made of a site with decent traffic and zero earnings.
Courses and Guides
Some of my super-top-secret stuff I plan to share with a select few insiders. These are just mere ponderings right now, thanks to my Monthly Musings process outlined above. But if there is a demand for it, I will create it.
This will be in the form of cheap, clean, and simple, no-fluff information, covering a wide range of topics all designed to help you grow your own empire. If you’re interested let me know and I’ll get to work!
Plans For The Rest of The 2020-21 Financial Year
A word on the lips of most Amazon affiliates these days is diversification. Sure, moving some of your business away from Amazon is a smart move, after all, having 100% of your income rest solely with one company can only spell disaster.
So I will be taking the steps outlined above to move my business into a position when it is less susceptible to the whims of one company.
I do foresee a time where Amazon.com could switching to a ‘related product only’ commission structure like the UK platform has already done.
This is a big one and something that would really hurt me and many others, since you currently receive a commission on the entire basket at checkout, on all products, not just those you linked to and sent traffic to.
Can I see them closing the platform down entirely?….
Well, I’d never say never, but I would be very surprised if they did close it completely. But then again, should I be surprised at anything they do?
I have 3 in-house tools that I’ve been using and working on for some time, they include a keyword research tool, and Amazon product stock checker, and a simple ‘word count’ tool so I can process URL’s en-masse to find their actual word counts.
There are a few others, but those are the main tools I use to find super-low competition keywords and niches.
I plan on developing them to a point where they are ‘field’ ready for you guys take them for a spin and tell me what you think.
Build – Rank – Flip
This is a model I’ve been working to for some time now, however, I always seem to hold onto my web properties for too long and miss the “flip” stage completely.
Sure, I’ve sold websites and used the cash injection to fund other projects (and a new house!) but my goal for this financial year is to see more projects through to the flip stage to fund other areas of my life and business.
Continue To Do What Others Aren’t Doing
A pretty weird and wide-ranging heading I’ll admit, but with so much noise in the affiliate space, I find comfort in doing things differently to most others out there. What does that entail you ask?
- Zero Active Link Building – Yep I hate building backlinks, been there, done that…no…thank…you.
- Building Niche Focused Websites – You build up trust much quicker by focusing on one niche market.
- Micro Niches – Wait, what? Are we back in 2009? Nope, this is the new/old trend and is the way to easy money.
- Industry Expert Writers – I only hire people with industry-specific experience and knowledge to write content for my sites.
- Reinvesting Offline – Moving profits from online ventures to offline, such as property and other businesses that fill a need.
- Lifestyle Business – As mentioned above, More is not always better – align my business goals to my lifestyle goals.
I think it prudent to end with a note on the current global pandemic and Covid-19 that has wiped billions off the economy, put people out of jobs, and seen families lose people they love.
I sincerely hope you are holding up as well as can be expected in this uncertain time, and I am sure there are many of you that have been hit quite hard, especially when combined with the Amazon changes, you may be struggling with your online business.
If this is you, I’d like to offer my help and advice. You can contact me directly via email at email@example.com or via my Facebook Group and we can have a chat and see what we can do to get you back to where you need to be.
That’s all from me for now, I’ve got a backlog of articles all in draft form that I will be publishing over the coming days and weeks. Join my list to be notified when these go live. Cheers