Affiliate marketing can be a tremendous source of passive or primary income. While methods vary from marketer to marketer, one of the most common types of affiliate marketing is an affiliate website. Different types of affiliate websites promote products or services in different ways but generally, all have one thing in common; their viability is predicated on income received through affiliate offers.
Making Money with Affiliate Websites
Affiliate websites tend to vary in their approaches to making money. Some websites offer coupon codes, others have product reviews, and others casually reference products within the body of informative articles. However, the content may present itself to readers, affiliate websites all share the common attribute of having links that readers can click, which take them to a third party website, that offers them a product or service, which the affiliate website will receive a commission.
For an affiliate website to be successful it must provide value to an audience in such a way that isn’t currently being done. That may be as simple as writing an article on a subject that hasn’t been written on before or as complex as calculating PC part components’ interoperability with one another. The biggest and most successful affiliate websites may all appear to be different but, at their core, they are all offering more value than many other websites.
Sometimes more value is a consideration of scale rather than the quality of a single piece of content. For example, a website offering 100 decent product reviews is going to be more profitable in most cases than a website offering 5 incredible product reviews. On that same plane of thought; smaller affiliate websites can often easily compete with larger sites for specific keywords by doing just that; creating incredible reviews of single products and incrementally poaching their positions in the SERP.
Appreciate the Buying Process
A reader’s buying process is a multi-stage endeavor that ranges from initial discovery and research to locating buying opportunities and comparing prices. Many smaller affiliate websites make a decent income by having a presence in the SERP purely for product comparison. These are articles like Top Ten Credit Cards of Whatever Year that are focused almost purely on displaying products and links to affiliate offers. The most successful and largest affiliate websites are those that address each stage of the buying process with thoughtful and well-developed content. In most cases, run-of-the-mill affiliate websites can’t compete on this level due to the necessitated resource commitment.
Most Successful Affiliate Websites
With all the above thoughts in mind, one can better understand the strengths of the best affiliate sites. Looking at what these websites are doing well, how they’re doing it, and how people respond can serve a valuable role in your initial research process. Viewing the keywords these websites rank for, analyzing the services they provide, and breaking down their systems of monetization can serve as an invaluable learning tool as you develop your own affiliate websites.
PC Parts Picker
PCPartsPicker has been around for years and provides a service to people building their own computers. Part of this process involves sourcing individual components such as CPUs, Graphics Cards, RAM Memory, and even Keyboards. Different computer parts don’t always play nicely with one another and conflicting hardware can cause a computer’s operability to grind to a halt. PC Parts Picker allows users to create an account, search for types of computer parts, check for conflicts, and also displays availability from several computer hardware suppliers like New Egg.
Over the years they’ve built an active forum which often showcases user builds, in-depth editorials, and other content related to every aspect of the buying process—including recreational reading! This website is monetized by the availability offers shown on each part. These offers link users to affiliate offers that earns PC Parts Picker a commission when a purchase is made. The magic is that the product offers are displayed in such a way that provides a user with added value rather than a disruption.
The Wire Cutter
The Wire Cutter is one of the largest affiliate websites online and is now owned and operated by the New York Times. Initially, this website was a tech review website that covered everything from smart phones to wireless routers. This website was recently combined with The Sweet Home, another behemoth affiliate website focused on home goods. This site now includes reviews for just about every type of popular consumer product. The Wire Cutter is arguably the biggest online but also has one of the most straight-forward business models around.
The Wire Cutter does product reviews which include links to buying offers from affiliate sources such as Amazon.com. Their articles include the purchase of products, the creation of video reviews, lots of user feedback, and huge scale. At the time of writing this article, thewirecutter.com was currently ranking for 1.4 Million keywords, as reported by Semrush. There is no scalable way for this amount of content to scale with backlinks to single articles in the same capacity that smaller, more focused affiliate websites can. For this reason, smaller affiliate websites will often outrank The Wire Cutter easily, but can’t even dream of competing on such as scale.
Just about anyone with an interest in technology, engineering, or even just science is aware of Popular Mechanics media brand. This website, also supplemented by a paper magazine distribution, covers all things related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) interests. Being geared towards mainstream consumption, this often appears as quirky and insightful editorials on current events. This website displays traditional advertising in many of their articles but also has a solid base of content that is geared towards product reviews.
Popular Mechanics have links to Amazon products, and likely many other affiliate products but also have many links to the Huckberry eCommerce site which is owned and operated by Popular Mechanics. In this capacity, they are serving as their own affiliate! The FTC has some things to say about this type of endorsement but it seems like Popular Mechanics has covered their butts. Oddly enough, it seems that there are many references to Amazon products made from the Popular Mechanics website that doesn’t contain affiliate tagging.
Consumer Search is a pretty straightforward affiliate website model and has been around for a considerable amount of [Internet] time. It has changed hands a couple of times and is now part of the IAC Publishing group which was bought as part of a larger 300 Million dollar deal. Consumer search has long-form product reviews, giving search engines all that contextual feeding the love, which contains affiliate links to buying opportunities.
This provides deeply relevant bodies of content for search engines to assess the purpose of their pages, while also providing in-depth discussion for readers, but keeps the money-making links near the top for those just looking for a quick click. How many times have you hit the back button on your browser when you’ve been hit will a wall of text when you really just wanted the top 5 product recommendations so you could read their reviews on Amazon?
Applying These Models to Your Site
These affiliate websites are all behemoths in their own ways. They rank for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of keywords in the search engines and receive millions of viewers each month. The scale of these websites isn’t attainable by average affiliate websites but their methods of promotion, content organization, and monetization can be mimicked fairly easily.
The business models of these websites are the products of millions of dollars flowing through them every year and it’s safe to assume they’ve split-tested many different approaches. Basically; the approaches these websites take in how they’ve been monetized is a really good way to model your site’s approach. After all, why not leverage the product of millions of dollars worth of incentive for your own gain?
The biggest websites on the internet, including these affiliate websites, almost always have a tremendous amount of Domain Authority. This allows them to rank decently in the SERP for keywords they afford little specific focus to. Plugging these domains into keyword discovery tools like the Semrush organic keywords explorer can help you find some really lucrative opportunities.
Finding keywords that these sites rank 5-10 for are often signs of opportunities for smaller affiliate websites. Before getting too excited to make sure you do a thorough competitive analysis before devoting too many resources. Sometimes these sites may be ranking #5 because there is a tremendous amount of competition and even they have a hard time competing!
One of the best ways to learn how to build a successful affiliate website is to take notes on other successful affiliate websites. Sites like The Wire Cutter or Consumer Search are worth tens of millions of dollars, if not more, and have expended a lot of resources to develop successful marketing models. Working to mimic their approaches can help your affiliate websites be more impactful and profitable while you evolve your own unique strategies. When in doubt, go with what has been proven to work.