A couple of years ago you would have found me moaning about the changes going on over at Squidoo because they had recently started making changes that were making it more difficult to earn a few grand from your lenses. I had a few of my own niche sites at the time, but the bulk of my Amazon Associates income came from Squidoo. As a result of those changes over at Squidoo, I was forced to build up my own portfolio of niche sites and it’s been the best thing to ever happen to me in this business.
One year ago, I was a few months in on my 10-month round-the-world trip thanks to the earnings of my portfolio of sites. That’s a lot of change in the span of one year. Fast forward to this year and I’ve just come off my most profitable months with Amazon Associates ever (over $7,000/mo). In just two years, that is a hell of a lot of change. I’ll do my best to explain how I got there and maybe you can do it in less time.
The Earnings in 14 Months
Amazon Associates is not the only affiliate program that I use with my niche sites, but it is the only income that I’m including in the $78,689 total. Of that amount, it breaks down like this:
- $39,307.68 from selling three niche sites
- $39,381.98 from Amazon Associates program
So, if you break down just the Amazon Associates earnings, that comes out to just over $2800 per month over that period. Obviously, if I hadn’t sold the sites, it would be a higher average.
The bulk of my earnings come from five niche sites, but in total that amount you see in the screenshot covers 44 different niche sites (though some are smaller support sites for my larger money sites).
Two Years Ago
I can safely credit my niche site success to my experience at Squidoo. It was so easy to rank lenses there, that I was able to quickly learn what type of content it took to create a lens and end up on page one within a few days. Quite frankly, it was easy money once you got the hang of it.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that epically long content was the driving force in those quick rankings. Since you created lenses with modules, it wasn’t easy to see that those lenses were often over 2,000 words in length.
When Squidoo got their penalty from Google and began locking accounts, I started making plans to do more content on my own domains instead of a site like Squidoo where my content was at the mercy of someone else. In late September of 2013, I started my first niche site in the style of my successful Squidoo lenses. It didn’t take long for it to start ranking and earning me money. By Christmas, I was already over $1,000 per month from it.
What I should have done was immediately start creating other sites as well. I didn’t. I was too comfortable with the income I had coming in from freelance writing and other online ventures.
2014 – First Niche Site Sold
That niche site I’d started in late 2013 continued to increase it’s monthly earnings. So, I decided to start another site in a completely different niche. At this point, my work method was to get a site up to 20 posts and then let it sort of marinate in the SERPs while I went to work on a new site. Then, repeat.
By June 2014, my new site was up to $1000/month already and I listed my older site up for sale at Empire Flippers. Within about a week, it sold and I made $16,191.48 after their fees. That same week, I set off for Oslo, the first stop on my round-the-world trip.
I spent the rest of the year mostly visiting countries in the UK and Europe, with a few stops in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Along the way, I took time out to create more niche sites while continuing to work on those already making me money.
In the fall, my top earning site took a hit in the rankings due to someone stealing my content from a popular post, as well as a negative SEO attack. Earnings were down for a couple of months while I sorted that out. I was able to the get site using my content to take it down and I used the disavow tool to dispute the bad links.
My earnings and rankings were down for a couple of months, but rebounded just in time for the holiday rush. December became my highest month ever with Amazon Associates (at the time). Apparently a competitor noticed my success and I got hit with another negative SEO attack that I didn’t notice until January.
2015 – Selling Two More Niche Sites
January saw a steep earnings decline as a result of that negative SEO, but recovery didn’t take quite as long as it did the first time. I used the disavow tool again and it seems to have worked.
After ringing in the New Year in Spain, I set off for a couple of weeks in Italy before stopping in Dubai on my way to SE Asia. While in Australia, I noticed that one of the sites I’d created a few months back was really started taking off in terms of earnings. I made a few tweaks to it before heading off to Hawaii for six weeks.
By the time I got back to the mainland here in the US, that same site was earning even more. So, I decided that if the trend continued, that I would try to sell it. So, I ended up listing it in July and it sold about a month later, earning me $21,675 from the sale. During roughly this same time period, I ended up selling a smaller site that I hated working on to an online friend for $1500.
After selling the site last month, I ended up bringing in over $4,000 from Amazon and am on track for a similar amount this month.
How I Create Amazon Affiliate Niche Sites
Accomplishing over $1,000 per month with Amazon niche sites is a common goal for a lot of people, and something that isn’t all that hard to do with the right plan. Whether you want to reach $1,000 or more per month, I believe that if you follow my tips below that you can reach that goal within the next 12 months (if not sooner).
Step One: Pick A Niche
Before you can get started on a new site, you need a niche. For some people, this is something super niched down like baby strollers. For others, it is a broader niche like baby products. I tend to fall in the second camp because I like to have room to grow and not get stuck writing about the same thing over and over.
I know that finding a niche is really difficult for a lot of people, but I find it rather easy. If you’re going to be doing the writing on your own (instead of outsourcing), then definitely make sure you choose something that you’re interested in – at least a little. I made the mistake of starting a site in the dogs niche once and really hated writing for it.
I often get ideas for niches from sales papers and walks through stores. And if I get stuck, then I will just look at the list of Amazon categories (not an affiliate link!) and go from there. At this point, I don’t even worry about the keyword research or finding the best keywords because I am going kind of broad in my niche, so it doesn’t matter.
Step Two: Get A Brandable Domain
Normally, I like to choose a domain name that has authority site potential, which means something that is brandable. (Note: I did not do this for the site I sold last month as it was a PMD test site) So, if I decide to make a site in the baby products niche then I might look for a domain name like NewbornNuggets.com or BabyDelight.com – just something that let’s people know the broad niche and gives you plenty of room to create a strong brand and create content on a lot of different things.
In my experience, you can still rank EMDs and PMDs, but it’s easier to sell (and rank) sites with a brandable domain.
I typically buy my domains either at NameSilo or Namecheap. I use NameSilo more often because they offer free WHOIS Privacy, even at renewal time, whereas Namecheap only offers free privacy for the first year. If you want to save $1.00 on your registration at NameSilo, you can use code BUCKSAVER. I definitely avoid buying on GoDaddy where the privacy protection is very high in price.
(Disclaimer: I make 10% commission if you buy via the NameSilo link and 15% if you buy via the Namecheap link.)
Step Three: Get Reliable Hosting
When it comes to choosing a web host for my Amazon affiliate sites, I look for a hosting company that has good uptime, good support and fast load times. These days, I mostly stick with the three web hosts you see below for my money sites.
- MDD Hosting
- Stablehost (use STABLE40DISCOUNT promo code for 40% off)
Of those, SiteGround is definitely my favorite, but I put my most recent niche site on a new Stablehost account. If you’re just getting started, then go with Stablehost because they are the cheapest and they have great uptime and decent support.
And yes, if you sign up for hosting through any of those links, then I will make a small affiliate commission. You don’t have to use those links though. Just take my advice and don’t sign up for Bluehost like most people recommend – they only do that because they offer really high affiliate commission payouts. Hosting with them isn’t great and their WordPress install process is horrible, plus they add some plugins to it that you definitely don’t need.
Step Four: Get Your Site Set Up
Once you have your domain and hosting, you’re ready to get things all set up. So, change those nameservers on the domain so that they point to your hosting and install WordPress.
At this point, I expect that some of you are thinking –
- What theme does she use?
- What plugins does she install?
- Does she setup a static homepage or a blog homepage?
- Does she use posts or pages?
- Does she use custom logos?
- Does she cloak her links?
Well, I think you’re asking the wrong questions cause the truth is that the answers to those questions don’t mean squat when it comes to making money from your sites. If you get that, please scroll down to the next section. And if you don’t get it, here’s my quick answers…
What theme do I use? A mixture of free and premium themes. For premium themes, I’m a fan of Thrive Themes and StudioPress Themes for WordPress. For free, it is whatever catches my eye at the time. Two of the three sites that I sold were using free themes.
What plugins do I install? Not every site is the same, but I often use: Akismet, Jetpack, Statcounter, Simple Firewall, Yoast SEO, Table of Contents Plus, Universal Star Rating, W3 Total Cache, Quick Cache, Genesis Simple Edits, Ad Injection, and a wp-login renamer that I can’t remember the name of.
Static or blog homepage? A mixture of both – just depends on what I’m feeling. Two of the three sites I’ve sold had blog homepages.
Posts or pages? A mixture of both – just depends on what I’m feeling.
Custom logos? Nope.
Cloaked links? Nope.
Step Five: Time For Keyword Research
Before you know what to write about on your site, you need to find good keywords. I’ve already discussed my keyword research method here. I keep it simple. If you really need a tool, then I suggest KWFinder.com – it’s free for the basic account.
Step Six: Creating Content
One of the majors of my undergrad degree is English/Journalism, so I write almost all of the content on my money sites. I know that this isn’t always an option for everyone. Maybe English isn’t your first language or you just don’t want to write or can’t due to a demanding day job. Well, if you need to outsource your content, I suggest paying for a high quality writer. Yeah, you might be able to find someone for cheap on UpWork, but you may end up going through 20 people before you find that person.
I’ve had good luck getting high quality content from writers at Textbroker and Writer Access. I suggest going for at least a level 4 writer on each site for the best results.
I’m not going to waste my time giving you a complete rundown on how to write content for you niche sites cause plenty of other people out there have already written about it. (One of the better examples is here, but don’t put prices on your sites like in the example cause Amazon will close your account. Another decent resource is this one.) My content is usually pretty long and covers pretty much anything that a potential buyer of the product might ask about it. It usually takes me a couple of hours to write posts for my sites and they regularly exceed 2,000 words. Some of the informational posts are shorter, though.
I will say that I tend to see better results when my keyword density is below 3%. Often, when I find a post is not ranking like it should, I check it and notice that the keyword density is too high and after fixing that, it starts ranking well.
And yes, I include videos and photos when I can. Even though I do not create my own videos. You just have to be careful that you don’t choose a video that links to a competitor’s niche site.
I typically prefer to get my sites to at least 20 articles before I move on to the next site. After that, I try to create one new post a week. However, I don’t always stick to these rules but for someone starting out I think it is a good structured routine to keep.
Step Seven: Link building
I am probably one of the laziest people out there when it comes to backlinking my niche sites. It is such a tedious task, which is why I spend as little time on it as possible.
As soon as I get my site up with some content, I spend a little time creating some solid profile links for it. These are branded links and naked URL links. I’m talking about things like a Twitter profile. I don’t really have a set number of these that I do, but usually it is somewhere between 10 to 20 or so of them.
And since I have created that Twitter profile, I go ahead and link it up in the Jetpack sharing setting so that all new posts will auto-post to Twitter. And if I’ve created any other social media accounts, I do the same.
Blog comments are the next thing that I do. I’ll wait until I’m doing something mindless like watching TV and then look for some niche relevant blogs to leave comments on.
After that, I move on to more branded backlinks and generic backlinks (click here, etc.) with a package from The Hoth. I usually just go for the $60 Hoth Mini package because it is the cheapest and it seems to always give good results for the money.
And once that package is all finished up, I move on to PBN links sometime in month two or three of the new site being live. I’m not really going to go into detail about how to create your own PBN right now because there are plenty of other resources on that out there. I do control all of my PBN sites and I have over a hundred of them. Though I’m not actually using all of them right now cause I’ve ended up with a few too many PBN domains for one person. And I outsource all of my PBN content to INeedArticles cause it is super cheap.
I used to slow drip my PBN links so that I could see their impact before sending too many unnecessary links. However, I’ve noticed lately that it seems to take longer to see that impact, so now I’m sending between three and five PBN links in a month.
Step Eight: Go Back To Step Five And Repeat
Once I get a site live with content and backlinks, I just continue adding content and links as needed. Often, this means that I need to find new keywords for that new content. And once that new content is up, I create some new links to it – primarily PBN links with a few blog comments here and there.
I also check out my competition’s backlinks to see if there is anything that they have that I can replicate for my sites. I mainly use Ahrefs for this purpose.
ETA – Making That Rich Stuff
If you’ve read this far, then you’re probably wondering how long it will take you to start seeing some of that rich stuff in your account after all this hella hard work. We all want to see money for our labors, right? The answer to that timeline question – it depends.
The site I sold last month didn’t earn me a single cent for the first three months. But a new site I started in July made some monies in it’s very first month.
If you pick the right keywords, then with a little luck and good content you can end up ranking quickly and start making money from the start. I love it when this happens and it happens with most of my sites. Based on my experience, the competitive niches take about three months to start earning. And the low competition niches can start earning in the first week.
I shared my income and process above to show you what is possible with Amazon affiliate niche sites. It took me a few years to get to the point where I’m at now and it might take you just as long. I hope that if you follow my method above, that you can shorten that time and start earning from your sites sooner rather than later.
I think it is important to not get discouraged if you’re not seeing the results that you want to see as quickly as you want to see them. I have seen sites earn a small amount for months and then all of a sudden explode in earnings. If you just keep adding good content and links, then you should start to see things turn around.
I also want to point out that the way that I work on my portfolio of niche sites is not the only way to do it. There are plenty of other people online sharing their stories and methods, most of which differ from mine (especially the keyword research part).
It is also worth mentioning that I do not have a traditional cubicle job so almost 100% of my time is spent on growing my niche site portfolio. In fact, I did not see my income increase significantly until I quit taking on freelance writing clients and doing Google rating (yes, until mid-2014 I was getting paid as a Google quality rater). Only when I started focusing on my sites did I start to see the income results that met my goals.
Questions? Drop ’em in the comments down below.
Hey, I’m Shawna. I make a living working from my laptop in places like London, Sydney, Dubai, Rome, Oslo, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. I share how I do some of that on this website.
29 thoughts on “14 Months, 20 Countries, and $78,690 From Amazon Affiliate Sites”
A very inspirational post Shawna. I loved your step by step guide too.
BTW, the photos you attached with the post are not showing here. Can you please check the issue? 🙂
Thanks! And thanks for the heads up on the photos, not sure why they weren’t showing, but I re-uploaded them 🙂
I have read the whole post. Really I have enjoyed it. Got overall instructions for Amazon Niche site. I’m working with 5 niche site. One of my niche site got #3 page ranking in Google. Wish me best of luck
Best of luck my friend – I hope your sites crush it around the holidays!
Really It was a guideline wrapped by some stories. I have made some notes as you prescribe. Thank you for your great advice.
No problem. Good luck!
Thanks for the share. This is so inspiring to read. I have just started my own niche site challenge and to get an income like you’ve listed just though niche sites is a dream.
Looking forward to more inspiration from you!
Stick with it and you can get there too! 🙂
just one comment shawna = awesome
Yay Shawna super love this article. As always you make things simpler and so easy to understand. Thank you for taking the time to share your journey. I’m a new fan;)
Powerful and exact buddy. Thank you!
Thanks for this valuable post.
I am really very much inspired after read your story of success, Even I have started a Blog site to help people and hope it will be, basically who use a Smartphone or Smart Device,
I have read the post carefully. Actually it is informative and educative too. It is also motivative post for me to launce a good journey on niche site.
It’s a tough world out there. All those negative seo attacks are a pain. I have heard on the grape vine though that google are forcing new updates out to try to combat these spam links. Ive had a few sites hit before and the site didn’t budge from google only a slight adjustment as my link building system trying to come across as natural as possible. I do use my own pbn though i don’t use other peoples because technically that’s not a pbn.
Im guessing when they saw the mass spammy links especially the xxx ones :\ they decided to ignore them as it clearly looked like an attack. Still had to remove them all but yeah at last it didn’t effect rankings.
It’s very annoying that majority of competition online these days spam there way to success and if someone knocks them off number one they get there wallet out and pay for a take down. There is too much exchanging of cash to rank on google these days. What happened to do it on your own and creating HQ content.
I guess though you would see a ton of this if your dipping your feet in the pit that is amazon marketing. I do dabble a little myself us and uk sales. But only certain niches that I enjoy working on. I wish you the best of look and I have bookmarked your site to see how things go. I do like the idea of traveling though.
Negative SEO is worse in some niches than others, so I try to stay out of those niches for my sanity 😉
Hey Shawna, thank you for such a helpful post. It took me 4 months to get my site launched as I did all the work myself but I’m not complaining. I learned a TON and I’m working on my second site now while I let the first one ‘marinate on the SERPs’ as you put it. 🙂
My first site promoted mostly Amazon and a few Clickbank products but for my next project I’ve decided to offer more Clickbank and CPA products from MaxBounty as the commission rates are awesome. I hope I do everything right though. At least I already have some ‘experience’ from working on my first site so I hope it doesn’t take me another 4 months to launch the new site!
If you don’t mind sharing, which niches have a lot of negative SEO going on so newbies like me can avoid it?
Still had to remove them all but yeah at last it didn’t effect rankings.I am really very much inspired after read your story of success,I do use my own pbn though i don’t use other peoples because technically that’s not a pbn.
I totally agree you can start earning quickly with Amazon affiliate sites no doubts, but it’s tough out there to maintain the income.
Keywords get stolen quickly you just have to be ready all the time to overcome negative SEO factor.
I would suggest to all the beginners just give it some time, & don’t lose hope.
It was a pleasure reading your post..quite a lotta information. I am also trying to make my earnings rise with amazon associate program. Although I ve reached Page 1 for quite a number of keyowrds yet i am still away from the coveted #1 spot. I got a qs for you .
I am a novice at PBNs yet i feel that is quite the chunk of secret sauce for ranking even today. Can you suggest me a guy or service who at legit and can be trusted to build me PBNs for my affiliate site and ofcourse at reasonable charges. thanks again for the lovely read 🙂
When I don’t build my own PBNs for links, the only place I trust is Diggity Links. Of course, the downside is that those are a monthly-rental fee instead of a one-time fee. As an alternative, I suggest Love To Link where you can get one-time fee guest post links at affordable prices. I use both of these services and I’m a big fan. Good luck with your sites!
Thanks for the in-depth and real insights about how you create niche affiliate sites.
I will recommend this article to my readers.
Very Very helpful article start to end with every step you take in your site to rank, it will help me to build my business thanks, Shawna.
Another great post. Have you found the use of PBN’s are still as effective in 2020 than when you originally wrote this post in 2015?
I don’t really use PBNs on my main sites these days. However, I do have one test site I started earlier this year that uses PBNs and it’s doing better than some of my white hat sites. If you haven’t seen this post from 2018, then it might interest you – https://www.skipblast.com/project-pbn-case-study/
Thanks for the referral post, a fantastic read! I’m getting into your Digital Authority course and looking to set up a couple of niche sites and with one of these sites was going to do something like your PBN linked site experiment to see if I could get 6 months or so of income before the site got hit though reading your post it would appear substantial PBN knowledge would be needed for decent results.
Ah, I thought your name looked familiar – must’ve been the course sign up! If your plan is to have your own PBN, then it’s not something that a beginner should attempt cause there’s just too many ways to do it wrong. However, you can buy/rent PBN links with little to no real knowledge on how to set up a PBN. I’m currently using links from Rank Club (https://rankclub.io/) for my test site. Last month that site made almost $400 and it’s on track for over $600 this month….and I only start it at the beginning of the year and I’m spending just over $100/mo on those PBN links rentals.
That’s what I thought, I like the idea of what you’ve done with those PBN link rentals. That’s a nice return on your test site, hopefully it hits $1,000 for June!
I see that this is an old blog but still got so many inputs from your write up. i have few plans on starting my own niche site. Thanks for sharing your experience with us Shawna.