Ep:30 Julie Adams - On Successful Affiliate Sites

  
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Happy New Year everyone!

We’ve got plenty of big plans for this year and we’re kicking off with this enjoyable discussion between our Website Investing “voice,” Avi Silverberg, and Julie Adams from Serpdecoder.

Julie transformed from roles as a babysitter and SEO agency employee, to owner of a portfolio of affiliate sites - the largest of which makes $30,000 per month.

Sit back and listen to hear how she did it - or read the notes below.


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📝 Show Notes

Julie’s Background and Portfolio

Joining an SEO agency

Julie did odd jobs while in college, including working at a movie theater and babysitting on the side. Interestingly, the person she was babysitting for was the owner of a marketing company who offered Julie the position of content developer. Knowing nothing about the position or anything about SEO, Julie started work and learned the trade quickly through a combination of trial and error and talking with clients and colleagues. Five or six years later, Julie was managing all the company’s SEO campaigns, using a process she’s honed from practice and experience. At one point, Julie was handling a whopping 80 or so clients. She grew to love her work, and happily did SEO for 40 hours a week.

Building Her Own Sites and Moving On From the Company 

Learning and working on SEO for 40 hours a week prompted Julie to take her work home and do SEO on her own affiliate sites. Her first site was a motorcycle blog where she put out informational content and basically wrote whatever she wanted. Later on, she realized she could earn money by promoting products on Amazon. She failed at her first attempt and let that domain quietly expire. Soon after, Julie built another site in the outdoor niche. This time, she went into it with an income-generating mindset. This site performed significantly better and grew to around $1,000 a month. Julie saw the potential and decided to build a site once every 3 or 4 months.

With her own sites, she was able to experiment and do things that she normally wouldn’t do for clients at the company. This helped hone her craft even more. Julie's journey with affiliate SEO sites allowed her to earn a significant income on the side--more than what she was earning as an employee. After a couple of years, she sold one site for $34,000 on Empire Flippers and reinvested the money into her other sites. The goal was to quit her job and focus on her sites full time. 

Consulting Work 

These days, Julie doesn’t pursue clients. She works 100% with affiliates, and does a few consulting gigs. 

Growing Sites and Her Portfolio

Julie no longer focuses on building sites. She now focuses on certain niches and grows only those sites. Currently, her portfolio contains 6 or 7 sites, and these days she tries to build a site once every 6 months. Half of the sites in her portfolio were built from scratch on fresh domains, while the other half was built on expired domains. Julie says she feels safer starting with fresh domains, since she won’t be worried about the sandbox period. 

Working With Expired Domains?

Julie is generally open-minded and up to trying anything when it comes to building and growing sites. Usually, when she finds a niche, she starts searching for expired domains. However, if she can’t find one that looks appealing after 2 or 3 weeks, she starts with a fresh domain. 

When looking for expired domains, Julie takes into account niche relevance, the presence of spammy links (usually ones with Russian characters), and others. Also, she doesn’t take on domains that have been expired for longer than 3 years. As for niches, Julie looks at the offers first, without paying attention to the type of niche or even the keywords and SEO. 

Lastly, she loves looking for domains that were once local businesses. These domains usually have directories containing names, addresses, and phone numbers - all of which get picked up by Google. That way, it has a little bit of authority built in. Julie says that this is a great alternative to links, which can get pretty expensive.  

Amazon 

Working With Amazon Product Links

When it comes to Amazon products, Julie starts by looking at the cost of the product, how many reviews it has, and if those reviews are legitimate. She then checks if there is enough demand online to make it viable. Julie does this by taking the cost of the product and multiplying it by the number of reviews. If the value is over 10,000, it shows that the product is both expensive, and has high demand. According to Julie, this is a good baseline to determine the viability of a product and whether it is something she should consider. 

Getting Away 

Julie says that getting away (mostly) from Amazon is the best move she’s ever made. Back in March or April, Amazon cut commissions in the home niche. Coincidentally, this was the niche of Julie’s biggest site. It took a drop. Prior to the cut, the site was doing really well, and was on track for a flip at $200,000. In fact, it was appraised only one day before Amazon cut commissions. This prompted Julie to move away from Amazon and deal directly with product manufacturers. Now, Julie’s process involves looking for a 10% commission from 5-6 different manufacturers, and getting them to compete with each other during the negotiation. Julie says that you have to at least triple whatever Amazon offers. As an example, one of Julie’s sites used to earn around $4,000 a month from Amazon commissions, but now that she’s moved away from Amazon, that site rakes in around $30,000. All she did was speak directly to the manufacturers of the products on Amazon. More often than not, Julie says that they will offer you higher rates really quickly. 

Website Design

Keeping It Simple

Julie likes to keep things simple when it comes to website design. She says that simplistic designs do not equate to laziness. When it comes to copywriting, information can be presented to consumers in many different ways, and Julie likes to test different ways to evoke emotion with her content. 

Writing Content

Julie has worked with the same writer for over 2 years now. This writer understands Julie's style well, which means that Julie can quickly check the work and make any necessary edits. 

Using Nelio

Nelio is a great inexpensive WordPress plugin that allows you to take a page and make a carbon copy of it. After changing and tweaking whatever you want, Nelio makes the page canonical so that it won’t interfere with the index. Through it, you can serve a user either the original page or the copied page. It also has a handy heatmap feature.

Growing Sites

Biggest Site

Julie is looking to grow her largest site, which is currently making around $30,000 a month. Her ultimate goal is to cash out of the website and, eventually, retire early. What’s great about the site is that it’s in a niche that she wants to add additional sites to. When she does finally sell, she’d be offering an entire portfolio dedicated to that niche. This also eliminates any ongoing non-competition concerns. 

Monetizing Her Sites

Trying Other Models

Julie has begun email marketing. Though she doesn’t have an extensive list, she believes that email is a great monetization model. It involves an audience that she’s built, and which doesn’t have to rely on Google. Email marketing is also great for marketing flash sales. 

Ads vs. Affiliate Sales

Julie prefers affiliate sales since they earn more money than ads. This is why she doesn’t care about ads too much, and is more interested in where the clicks on her website are going. Avi says that a study shows that advertising on affiliate content doesn't really reduce the click-through rate on the affiliate offers, but this is also highly dependent on the niche and the type of audience. 

If Julie places ads on her site, it will most likely be on her informational content. That way, she would make some money off them instead of funneling them into the site’s buying guides. 

In the end, there are a hundred different ways to monetize your websites. But, if you’re already good at one monetization model, Avi says that it’s better to focus and double down on that model to get the most out of it. 

Investing in Her Sites

Profits 

The profit margins on most of Julie’s sites are around the 80-90% mark. She prefers to reinvest this into her sites every month, with around $2,500 spent on content and about the same amount on links. 

Finding Workers 

Hiring and Firing

Both Avi and Julie tend to hire and fire quickly in order to find the right person for any job they have available. In fact, Avi likes to hire 2 to 3 people at a time and then choose the best one from them. 

Finding the Right One

It is definitely hard to find the right person for the job. Julie likes to find people on Upwork, which has a ton of job hunters and freelancers. 

SEO

On-page

Julie says that there are shortcuts for on-page that are not really available for off-page. In fact, you can get a lot done on on-page if you have the right techniques, coupled with instinct and experience. There's a lot more to it than just using your tools. It also involves using your past experience - especially when new problems arise.

Tracking Changes

Page Watch

Julie watches the top 20% of pages that bring in the most revenue. Each week, she goes through those pages to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and to track if any of the changes she’s made have affected page rankings. 

Diggity Marketing

Webinar Series

Julie is going to produce some type of webinar series over at Diggity Marketing. She’ll share everything she knows about websites and SEO, including all the processes she uses on her sites. 


What did you think?

Did you enjoy this episode or do you have a question?

Please leave your comment at the bottom of the web version of this post.

Cheers,

Juliet