Typically, there are two main approaches that we SEOs can utilize to monetize our skillset.
Client SEO involves ranking which ultimately generates leads for clients, whether applied directly to their websites or to your own lead-generation site.
With affiliate SEO, you’re typically ranking your own websites with the goal of selling a 3rd party product, in which you would take a commission from the sale.
For those that don’t know me, I’m 100% affiliate. Like most, I started out in my early years taking in clients. But I soon found that I ran into a wall. I couldn’t scale my income to the levels I wanted because a huge chunk of my time was spent babysitting customers.
In 2010 I fired all of my clients; five-figures per month worth. The result: I was able to scale my business to levels I never thought imaginable. In addition to that, I’ve created more freedom in my life, I have time to travel 365 days of the year, and I can choose what I want to do, and when I want to do it.
If you are involved client SEO and you’ve often postulated what it would be like to ‘truly’ be your own boss, you’re in the right place. You’re about to take a look how to make the transition from client to affiliate SEO.
Client SEO vs. Affiliate SEO: Pros and Cons
Both approaches have their merits. Let’s see how each of them measures against the other.
- Instant Revenue – The great thing about client SEO is that as soon as you shake hands with your client you get paid.
- Clients fund your growth and education – A monthly recurring income of $500-$2000/month is more than enough to allow you to experiment with various ranking techniques or to build your own PBN.
- Low competition – Most of the time, your clients want to rank locally: a limo company in Miami for example. Local playing fields are typically easier to rank in and require fewer resources.
- Time scalability issues – There’s no way to avoid it, clients need to be talked to. They send emails with questions and often require phone check-ins. This is a serious drag on your time and can be quite annoying when you inevitably take that needy customer on board.
- Income scalability issues – Clients will typically have a ceiling on how much they want to pay you. Even if you’ve doubled their business and have increased their monthly revenue by $10k, you’re going to have a hard time getting them to pay you more than $2k of that. Why? Because there’s always another SEO knocking on their door, offering to do it for cheaper.
- Cold Calling – I won’t even get into this. You already know it sucks.
- Customer Turnover and Lead Generation – Regardless of how good a job you do, there’s going to be turnover. Shit happens. Economies shift. People change priorities. To keep up with the inevitable turn over, you need a constant influx of leads.
- Location dependence – I know plenty of people who are able to effectively manage clients remotely. Daryl Rosser for example. But getting to that point requires either some very slick email skills or late nights calling clients in opposite time zones.
- Income: The sky is the limit – The great part about affiliate SEO is that there is no ceiling on how much money you can make. If you’ve doubled your traffic from one month to the next, you don’t need to negotiate with your provider for more money. Affiliate commissions are paid out per-sale.
- Finding “clients” is easy – Instead of having to reach out to individual product owners, most affiliate partnerships are setup by an intermediary company such as Click Bank, Market Health, etc. Getting on board just involves a simple application process
- Your time is your own – With the affiliate model; you’re truly your own boss. You can decide to work when you want, and from where you want. If you decide you don’t want to work for a month, that’s completely available to you. You’re accountable to no one but yourself (which ironically can be a bad thing for some personality types).
- Niche domination – Once you find a profitable niche and you start to make you money, deploy more sites and dominate the entire niche. Occupy the entire first page and monopolize all of the traffic.
- Product creation – Let’s say you rank for “how to get a six pack” and you’ve been promoting a diet program. There’s nothing stopping you from having your own product created instead, keeping all the profit for yourself, and sky-rocketing your income. There’s even the possibility of taking it a step further and listing that product via Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).
- Takes a while to rank and make money – If you’re used to ranking locally, prepare yourself for more competition than what you’re used to. In affiliate, typically it takes longer to rank and you don’t get paid in the meantime. Plan to budget for the resources required to get you to page 1.
- Negative SEO – It’s not as common as it used to be, but negative SEO tends to pop up more often in affiliate, especially in the lucrative niches.
- Niche selection – Hands down, the most important skill involved in affiliate SEO is niche selection. This is what it all boils down to: being able to find the niches with the highest profitability and the least barrier to entry.
At this point, you’ll have to ask yourself… am I the kind of person that prefers working with clients? Or am I willing to take on more challenge in order to be my own boss and remove my time, location, and income limits?
If you answered yes to the second question, I’d like to share with you how I recommend making the transition in the smoothest way possible.
Moving from Client SEO to Affiliate SEO
1. Selecting the right niche
I mentioned before that affiliate SEO is all about niche selection. It doesn’t matter how well you can rank if the niches you’re ranking aren’t profitable.
That said, finding the right niche is a lot like playing roulette, but with much better odds. If you keep playing enough, eventually you’re going to win. And you only need to hit it big with one niche in order to fund your entire business.
In order to find your first niche, many people suggest tapping into your interests to find a niche that you’d like to write about and get involved in. This is a great approach if you’re looking to build a huge authority site that you’re committed to developing on a daily basis.
However, there are pitfalls with this approach. Just because you’re a huge fan of yoga, doesn’t mean that that it’s a money-generating niche. I know this from personal experience.
Instead, I offer a different approach for niche selection: shortcut the guessing process by reverse-engineering what’s already working.
Method 1 – The Flippa Method
Go to flippa.com and see what’s already selling. Sales prices are typically determined by a 20x monthly profit metric. If a site is selling for $20k, then it’s making $1k per month.
Sift through the market place until you find a niche that you’re interested in, makes a good amount of money, and has an acceptable amount of competition
Method 2 – The Wikipedia Method
Alternately, you can use what I call the “Wikipedia method”. Sloppy SEO’s commonly use Wikipedia for their outbound authority links on their PBNs. Take any Wikipedia page in a niche you might be interested in and chuck it into Majestic. Manually go through the backlinks and hunt down the unblocked PBNs that are linking to this Wikipedia page. Then simply look at the PBNs themselves to see what money sites they’re linking out to.
These methods offer two ways to discover niches that are already making money for someone else, so they can definitely make money for you.
2. Start Planting Seeds Now
As mentioned earlier, it takes a while for sandboxed sites to rank and start to enter profitability. Start creating sites now, as many as your budget will allow for.
Take a look at your financials from client SEO. How much profit are you making? How much of that profit are you comfortable investing in your new business model? Once you’ve figured out that number, it’s time to start budgeting.
Bear in mind, you’re going to need to consider all of the following expenses:
- Backlinks: Are you going to be content marketing and building your own links? Are you going to be building your own PBN?
- Content: How much content is needed for each of the sites you’ll be starting?
- Assistants: Do you need VA’s to help with PBN setups, social profile creation, and other tasks?
- Etc, etc, etc
Once you’ve figured out how much you’re able to allocate and how many projects that allocation will cover, it’s time to start deploying sites.
Remember, affiliate is like roulette. As with any games of chance, you need to play to win. The more you play, the higher your chances are of winning. Make as many money sites as you can today, and start the process of growing these assets as soon as possible.
3. Once you’re making money, start to fire your clients
The 80-20 principle (Paretto’s Law) looks like this: roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
Take a look at your clients. 20% of your clients cause 80% of the problems, don’t they?
Once you start making money from affiliate you’re going to start firing your bottom 20% of clients in order of how much stress they add to your life and how much time they hoard.
Firing your clients is going to give you more time to…
4. Dominate your niche
Once you’ve found a profitable niche and you’re making money, it’s time to deploy more sites. On average, the #1 ranked website only collects 33% of the Page 1 traffic. Occupying slots #2-4 will essentially double your traffic, and thus double your income.
You’ve already ranked one site. You’ve hopefully taken good notes on what backlinks are required to get there, what anchors to choose, how often to link, what kind of content ranks, etc.
All you need to do next time is to repeat the same process. Once you have a recipe for ranking one site in a niche, you’re cracked the code. I’ve never run into a case where my recipe didn’t work the second time.
At this point, it’s all about leverage.
- As you start to make more money from affiliate, continue to fire more clients.
- Deploy more sites in your money-making niches until you’ve maxed out the niche’s revenue.
- Start to deploy new sites in untested niches so you can ‘play more roulette’ and hopefully scrounge up some gems.
- Start hiring a team to help with the busy work. Consider hiring an apprentice to take over the ranking aspects of sites so you can focus on niche selection.
- Consider applying the 80-20 principle to some of your earlier niches and selling them off, freeing up more time for niche testing and scaling into larger niches.
Once you’re making money in affiliate, to scale up, you simply need to reinvest into new niches, refine your processes, and build your team.
Or if you’re looking to go the complete opposite route, take a few months off and enjoy your freedom. Give yourself a well-deserved vacation.
By this point, you’ve created a passive income stream that gives you amazing ROI on your time, while truly being scalable. It’s up to you what you’d like to do with that time and money, but remember, at this stage, you are truly your own boss and you’re virtually limitless in where you want to go with it.