How to Build a Successful Affiliate Website (Step-By-Step)

Your Step-By-Step Guide to Turning a Newly Purchased Website into a Money Making Machine.

Affiliate marketing isn’t as easy as the experts make it seem.

Buy an Affiliate Site on Flippa

Sure, it would be nice if we could all buy an established website and trade in our full-time job for Mai-Tai’s on the beach.

Affiliate marketer on the beach

Image credit:

But an early retirement requires work.

Today, we’re going to talk about how to earn those Mai Tais. We’re going to talk about how to convert your affiliate website into a passive income machine with the help of search engine optimization (SEO).

We’ll delve into evaluating the most valuable pages on your website, analyzing the competition, and finding a profitable niche to target. We’ll then talk about capitalizing on your top SEO opportunities, stealing the success of your top competitors, and scaling the most impactful digital marketing initiatives to maximize your results.

Article Contents:

  1. Why SEO Matters
  2. Assess the SEO Value of the Site
  3. Evaluate the Competition
  4. Identify a Niche
  5. Optimize Top Pages
  6. Steal the Success of Your Competitors
  7. Scale What Worked

Why SEO Matters

“SEO seems like an arbitrary place to start.” You might be thinking. “Why not focus on social media instead?”

A 2018 study conducted by SparkToro shows that Google drives 10x more referral traffic to the average website than Facebook.

In an ideal world, you would be focusing on SEO, social media, and every other marketing channel out there. That being said, we believe in putting the most emphasis on the initiatives that drive the best results.

With that in mind, we’re not going to delve into using email marketing or a massive social media following to drive affiliate commission. Instead, we’re going to talk about how the most successful affiliate marketers build massive email lists and passive income through SEO-centric blogging.

Assess the SEO Value of the Site

The first step after buying an established domain name is to look under the hood and see what you have to work with.

We break this down by asking three questions:

  • Which pages hold valuable keyword rankings?
  • Which pages have the most meaningful websites linking to them?
  • Which pages drive the most organic traffic?

As we search for those answers, we note our current standings and identify how this stacks up with competing websites in our industry.

1. What Keywords Do You Rank for?

Our team uses SEMRush for this process. However, any keyword research tool will work.

Plug the site into your keyword research tool. Look at the top keywords that your affiliate website ranks for.

Does one page hold 80% of these keyword rankings, or are rankings spread out evenly across the site?

Notate your top 10-20 keywords, as well as any keywords that you rank in positions 11-20. Highlight keywords that have a high search volume or a strong commercial intent.

Keywords that you rank in the top 10 positions for drive value to your site today. Keywords that you rank in positions 11-20 for will be the easiest keyword ranking wins to focus on first.

2. Which Pages Have the Most Meaningful Websites Linking to Them?

Backlinks are the currency of the internet. Take 30 minutes to understand which pages on your website drive the most link value.

Use a tool like Ahrefs to sort your pages based on their link profile. Hover to “Best by links” and sort in descending order based on URL rating or root domain backlink count.

You should see something like this:

Note the top pages that show up here. These pages have the most authority that can be passed to more meaningful pages on your website.

If you see that 50% of your links come from 3 different articles, ensure that those articles include a link to relevant, revenue-driving pages to enhance rankings of those pages.

3. Which pages drive the most organic traffic?

Now log into Google Analytics and review your site’s organic traffic.

Set the time range to view the last 12 months of data (if you have access to this data) and view “Landing Pages” within the “Behavior” tab.

Note the pages that have driven the most organic traffic to the site over the past 12 months.

You should see a strong overlap between the three and have a better understanding of your site’s current search value.

Evaluate the Competition

With a stronger understanding of your site, it’s time to see how you stack up against the competition.

Review your top 5-10 highest traffic-generating keywords. Search for each keyword and list the websites that appear above you in search results.

Now describe your website’s niche in 2-3 words.

Go to Google and type in the phrase “best [insert 2-3 word descriptor] blogs.”

Click on each of the search results that look like these:

Open up each article and list out all of the websites that show up in these lists.

Take all of the websites in your list and plug them into Ahrefs. Write down their total count of referring domains and estimated organic traffic.

Add your site to the list to get a stronger sense of how you stack up against the competition.

Identify a Niche (and Revenue Model)

If you find yourself at the top of the list, you’ve found a great opportunity for a niche site. You can now focus on monetizing.

If you find yourself towards the bottom of the list, it might be time to think about finding a narrower niche where you can outrank the competition.

Once you’ve solidified your niche, it’s time to start thinking about your affiliate revenue model.

There are pros and cons to each option, but the most common ways to make money with affiliate marketing are:

  • Google AdSense (or similar display networks)– advertisers pay per impression or click that you generate to their site via display ads. AdSense provides minimal revenue per visitor but can be an excellent source of affiliate income for sites with millions of monthly pageviews.
  • Sponsored Posts– offering others in your industry the opportunity to write full-length articles on your site as a form of advertising.
  • Affiliate Products– build relationships with advertisers and take a commission for each affiliate sale or lead that you generate via personalized affiliate links. For simplicity, start with an affiliate network like ShareASale, Commission Junction, or Amazon’s affiliate program. Matt Diggity made a list of the top affiliate programs here.
  • Ecommerce– sell your own physical products, digital products, or services on the site. 
  • Sponsored Emails– build an email list and offer to promote advertisers to your entire mailing list via paid callouts in your email newsletters.

If you struggle to find a revenue model that for your niche, search for a more profitable niche to target.

Optimize Top Pages

With your niche and revenue model at the front of your mind, it’s time to target the low-hanging fruit.

Revisit the top pages that you identified in step 1. What opportunities do you see to enhance the value of those pages?

  • The average first-page result on Google is 1,447 words. If your page is shorter than that, focus on expanding the contents of the page
  • Look at the pages that rank above you. What content do those pages include that your page lacks? Does it make sense for you to add sections about those same concepts to your page?

More SEO opportunities to scale these pages here.

Next, log into SEMRush and filter down your keyword rankings to show all keywords that you rank in positions 11-20 for (we also recommend filtering out keywords that receive <50 searches/month).

As mentioned above, these keywords will be the most valuable opportunities to capitalize on.

The pages that rank for these keywords are on the cusp of seeing massive traffic gains. Expand these pages; improve their readability; link to these pages from other sections of your site.

Keep your revenue model at the front of your mind when prioritizing these updates. Some search queries will be more valuable than others. However, all queries that relate to your niche have the potential to drive revenue (more on how blogging drives revenue here).

After capitalizing on these top opportunities, it’s time to steal your competitors’ top search rankings.

Steal the Success of Your Competitors

Revisit your list of top competitors. Plug each of those competitors into SEMRush or Ahrefs and isolate each competitor’s top-performing pages.

Add those pages to a list and analyze each of those pages. Break down the length of the content and estimated search traffic that the page sees.

Now evaluate your site. Do you have a piece of content that relates to this overarching theme? If so, is your page more or less comprehensive than the top-ranking page?

The average first-page result on Google is 1,447 words. Scour your competitors for any top-performing pages that are <1,500 words and focus on creating high-quality content that gives a more in-depth overview of each subject matter.

(More on how we find and write top-performing content here).

Identify pages that you have an opportunity to enhance. Then identify new content ideas that make sense to add to your editorial calendar.

P.S. Download this sample template for evaluating competitor content.

Set aside time to promote each article that you write.

Link building is the most effective starting point for scaling long-term visibility. One of our favorite link building techniques is to pull a list of all the websites that are linking to similar content. From there, we start conversations with those publishers.

Build relationships and encourage them to link to your article as a helpful resource for their readers. Outside of that, here are a few simpler link building techniques to gain high-quality backlinks.

Scale What Worked

Take time every 1-2 months to identify the pages that see the most meaningful traction in terms of traffic and commission rates per pageview.

  • Review keyword rankings and organic traffic to see which pages gained the most visibility
  • Review on-page metrics like bounce rate and average session duration to see which pages kept your site visitors most engaged
  • Review goal completions and goal conversion rate to see which pages generated the most leads/customers

Look for trends in performance. Do how-to articles have a higher goal conversion rate than product reviews? Do image-heavy articles keep people on the site longer than articles without images?

Scale what works as you learn more and more about your visitors.

Converting a newly purchased site into a successful affiliate marketing business is hard work, but follow this framework and you’ll be well on your way to building an industry-leading affiliate marketing website.

Interested in working with experts who do this on a regular basis? Learn about Intergrowth’s content marketing services to see if we’re the right team to help you out take your online business to the next level.


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