Hey! Who are you and what is your business?
Hi, my names Rob and my family and I currently call Austin, Texas home. We started the entrepreneurial journey back in November 2014 by packing our bags to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and never looked back. I’m writing this from Merida, Mexico as we love to travel any chance we get (the pandemic is not making it easy).
I run a few affiliate-based websites that generate traffic and sales almost exclusively from SEO. My main focus is on one large authority. We’ve built an awesome team and are looking to continue to grow that site. I’d estimate that this site takes up over 95% of my time commitment.
I have a couple of smaller affiliate sites that still dribble in recurring revenue and don’t require much maintenance. In addition, I’ve created a couple of apprentice-style JVs where they build new affiliate sites under my coaching/guidance.
I don’t like sharing specific numbers but can say that the business has achieved 7 figures or more in revenue from 2018 until currently.
What is your background and how did you come up with the idea?
My background is quite boring and I’m not like those entrepreneurs that say that they had bad grades in school. I always got good grades and ended up getting my degree in Accounting of all things. Before the age of 25 (when I started my biz) I went along with what everyone else was doing.
I started the affiliate SEO business because I was miserable. I saw so many people from the university I attended getting better jobs and raising up the ranks of their careers. I was timid and not fit for the corporate world and kept thinking, “if I don’t change something I’m going to hate the rest of my life.”
I had the little voice telling me there was something more for me. I trusted my gut and knew that there was another way for me to succeed in the work world. I started a fun little golf website in 2013 and happened to message a competitor complimenting them on their site.
He thanked me for the kind words and told me to check out an SEO course called “Bring the Fresh.” From that day forward, I became obsessed with SEO and wanted to become the best at it.
How did you build and launch the business?
The beautiful thing about affiliate SEO is that everything is right in front of you in terms of deciding which niche to target. You can use tools like Ahrefs to learn how many times people are searching for terms like, “best laptop.”
Then you look at the first page of Google and try to determine if you can compete against the websites ranking there.
When I first started my capital was quite low. It was important that I pick less competitive niches and target the low-hanging fruit in terms of keywords. That allowed me to keep costs low and start generating some small revenue.
From there, I would take my earnings and newfound learnings to more difficult (and lucrative) niches. It’s also possible to sell these websites and inject additional capital into your business. I was fortunate enough to have sold 3 websites and it helped boost my large authority site today.
How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?
The main authority site isn’t in its peak right now due to the insane competition. Most of our competitors are owned by large media companies and each year the first page of Google gets crazier.
That said, we are still a strong company and profitable. Our focus is to build a brand similar to NerdWallet where we do not have to rely on SEO traffic alone.
We believe that having a best-in-class product review process that people trust will help us achieve this goal. We have just started the hiring process to bring on a YouTube leader to build out this new arm of the company.
Here is a screenshot of our traffic from January 2020:
Where have you seen the most success in customer growth & retention?
We have been a 100% SEO company up until now which means we drive all our new customers from the Google searches (ie, “best cat litter”). There are so many advanced SEO techniques out there, but we keep it simple and stick to the basics of what you need to do well.
We put our focus on high-quality content that follows strict on-page SEO guidelines. We create checklists for our writers that are vetted through tools like SurferSEO.
In addition to great content, we’ve had success running outreach campaigns internally to acquire precious backlinks. The combination of quality SEO tailored content and top-tier links help us achieve SEO rankings for commercial keywords that drive our affiliate revenue.
If you were to start your business over, what would you do differently?
The first thing I would do is trust and hire people to support me in my weaknesses. I have held on to way too many things and it’s kept me working in my business rather than on it.
I’ve made massive strides in this in the last half-year by sticking to a framework called EOS. We hired an EOS implementer back in September 2020 and the main benefits have been me “letting go” and bringing on people better at things that I suck at (and hate doing).
The other thing I would do differently is to make sure I’ve found something that fires me up. I don’t regret the first couple of years of my entrepreneurial journey making random sites about any product line to get my baseline cash flows up. That’s fine.
But once I had enough capital I regret not turning my focus towards building a great team and trying to build the best damn product review process out there. EOS has also helped clarify our company’s mission and excited to show up every day to help us grow!
What crucial tools do you use in your business?
We live by a tool called Ahrefs.com. If you’re doing SEO this is a MUST have in my opinion. It has a lot of advanced tricks, but at the core, its most beneficial aspect is that it allows you to reverse engineer any site ranking on Google. It tells you exactly which keywords they rank for – the blueprint for what you need to do is right there!
For personal task management, I’m a huge fan of a productivity framework called Getting Things Done. I use Trello to carry out the methods, but it doesn’t matter what tool you use. You must build the habit before you obsess over which tool to use. This framework has single-handedly changed how I organize my entire life.
Which people, books, or other resources have had the most impact on you?
The Millionaire Fastlane was the book that got me started back in 2013. I was coming from the go to college, get a job, work for 40 years and retire mindset.
This book opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking. If you’re just starting your journey consider this the book that opens your eyes to the matrix of entrepreneurship.
The One Thing is another great book that I read early on that shaped how I approach business. Shiny object syndrome, in my opinion, is probably one of the biggest reasons most folks don’t achieve the success in business they want.
The ability to commit and focus on less (one thing) will radically improve your chances of success (warning: it takes discipline and makes you look boring to others).
Where can we learn more about you & your business?
Feel free to send me an email at robatkinson0687 [AT] gmail [DOT] com.
How Two Friends Started a Futuristic Jewelry Business and Scaled to $50k /month
Read our interview with Gerrit Kesten, learn how he and a friend built up their tech-inspired Jewelry business to $50k /mon with a small team and no experience.
Keyword Research 101 – Everything You Need To Know About Finding Profitable Keywords For Your Website
From VA to a $5k MRR working just 10 hours /week – the perfect lifestyle business?
How Eugen went from VA to a lifestyle business generating $5k MRR by servicing clients' paid traffic needs. Learn what it takes to become a freelancer.
How to Get Backlinks With Guest Posting to Help Boost Your SEO For Your Website
Building a $2m ARR SAAS business that supports over 29,500 businesses
How Sreedhar Ambati, Founder & CEO of EngageBay built a 2m ARR SAAS business that supports 29,500+ businesses with a team of 20. Learn his growth hacks & tools.
Starting an eCommerce Store For the Bearded Gent Generating Over 7-Figures /YR
How Eric built Beardbrand around the growing popularity of beards and male grooming and turned it into a $3m /yr brand recognized around the world.