Recently there was a good article on Lionzeal on why Amazon affiliate sites might not be the best way to go in regards to skilled technical SEO’s who do not want clients and want to simply earn on a more passive residual income without having to report to anyone.
In this post I expand on something we started integrating about 12 months ago that’s along the same lines as this post.
This post assumes you can rank websites no matter what, if you’re not quite to that stage I’d recommend a few things, the most important of which being: Test ALL and ANY shit you do. There’s a lot of misinformation in the SEO space and a lot of individual moving parts to a successful campaign, testing and breaking down each individual metric and making decisions based on your own testing and case studies is going to be worth a lot more to you than simply watching/listening to tutorials.
Be careful of the SEO experts and gurus – 95% don’t know what they’re doing. And remember the richest SEO’s in the world are also the quietest….
Anyway, now that crap is out of the way….
Client SEO vs Affiliate SEO
The debate as old as Google itself.
In the SEO industry there seems to be 2 very large camps “affiliate SEOs” and “Client SEOs”.
Put simply: Affiliate SEO’s build websites of their own and send people to affiliate offers and earn a commission.
Client SEO’s do consulting and rank websites for other individual businesses.
There’s advantageous and disadvantageous to both, with a good post on those here.
But even inside those 2 camps I think the skills of ranking website inside of Google is under-valued. Let’s take each side for a second.
Who in the F*CK want’s clients?
Actually I do, I think it’s pretty fun and it’s pretty easy once your project management is streamlined.
The reasons why client SEO suck:
- You are not paid on value.
- It’s a fixed fee (usually monthly.)
- You have to “answer” or “report” to someone.
- You can have “bad clients.”
- Invoicing/Late payments, all that crap.
Travel the world, make money whilst you sleep etc etc etc.
Reasons why affiliate SEO sucks:
- You are not paid on value.
- It’s a fixed fee (usually per sale).
- You can have “bad affiliate commissions”
- Have to cover all bases – Design, content, conversions etc.
A few disadvantageous in both camps.
But can you see a theme….
You’re not paid on value, you’re paid a fixed fee and you are not in complete control….. (I mean some people might say SEO’s are never in complete control as “Google could change at any time….” – Although technically “true” if you understand the algorithm and Google well enough you can usually be ahead of the curve and it actually gets easier not more difficult with time. But anyway, that’s a rant for another day.
Not too long ago Amazon decided to f*ck everyone with their commission changes. This led to affiliates losing 30%+ of their potential earnings overnight.
The same issues can happen with clients too – They can simply cancel even if you’ve been smashing it. So, in both cases there’s a lot of risk and a few issues I see.
The 3 primary issues I see with both these models is:
- Not paid on value.
- Fixed payment (either monthly or per sale).
- No control.
So, over the past 6 months I’ve been developing additional “revenue streams” (Hate that phrase) that leverage the same core skill (ranking shit in Google) but monetising them in a different way that, in my opinion has led to a higher profitability at a lower competition/cost/effort/time my end with a lot more control. These strategies are ALOT more work but not from a ranking point of view.
There are hundreds of methods of monetising websites that generate a lot of organic traffic, but in my opinion as SEO’s we tend to look at the more competitive tougher end of the scale, instead of picking up the easier traffic & profit. Below are 3 core ideas we’ve built out to be individual businesses in the past 12 months.
Mini disclaimer before we go through these – I am involved in all of these models as well as in client SEO and affiliate SEO itself. But the main reason why I prefer these is that the overall value is higher, there is no fixed payment as such and they are real businesses that simply leverage the skill of SEO. So, let’s get cracking.
1.) Multi Locational Lead Gen Model
A while ago I did a review of a plugin called SerpShaker. This used to work incredibly well and to a certain degree still works pretty well to this day especially on the local lead gen model.
But the strategy I’m referring to today more talks about leveraging multi-locational rankings for the 50-100 biggest cities in the UK and more specifically ranking inside the map pack.
The outlined strategy involves building an industry specific website and building individual landing pages for each location (nothing new there.) Then a full local SEO campaign to each one of these inner pages WITH an associated Google my business address.
What’s awesome with this strategy is you can still build industrial relevant content
Note: With these site’s it’s important to remember individual landing page quality, so I’m not talking about the thin content multi-locational page sites associated with serp shaker or rank and bank style local lead gen, instead I’m talking about a real brand on top of a strategic 100 x local seo campaign. This is something companies such as comparemymove or coachhirecomparison.co.uk have done really well.
As you can see these companies are making some good earnings from their strategies (I’d also be amazed if the screenshot traffic value above was only $23k/month judging by the keywords they rank for.)
Anyway, I’m not going to outline the process in any more detail for now but will do a full case study at a later date, so hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions.
3 Elements to nail with large local lead gen:
- Site feel & design – Needs to match the feel of a local business in that specific industry. If you are creating a lead gen site that is meant to be a roofing company and it looks like an apple.com site then you’ve probably over-done it.
- Conversions – brush up on the basics of lead generation conversions and CRO.
- Do the maths – Explained below.
Doing the local ROI SEO Maths.
I f*cking LOVE maths when it comes to SEO and money, because it’s so data driven.
Note: To make this strategy a ton more accurate – Start by testing 1 city with adwords – Sort whether your site converts first, then go and build it out if it does. If you had 10 clicks and 0 leads you have an issue. Lead generation sites *should* convert 1 in 4 at worst on super-hot traffic. Anything less than 1 in 7 and you have a problem.
Data point 1: Assuming a 1 in 5 conversion rate (to lead not sale) – Again it’s better to have this as an official stat based on your site and niche (from adwords). Even if you don’t have anyone to give the leads to yet just get proof of concept to avoid wasting weeks down the line if you are in a crappy converting niche or your site sucks.
Data point 2: Lead value – pretty f*cking important. How much is each lead worth? Of course, this varies dramatically based on the service offering and you can’t really put a generic figure on this but for the sake of this post we’ll say £15 per lead. Whether that’s 1 exclusive lead sale for £15 to 1 company or the lead being sold 3 times for £5 each, doesn’t matter yet.
Data point 3: Search volume – “The gold mine of local.” As most SEO’s know local search volumes are way off. This is a blessing and a curse. In short, we’ll be tracking what search volume’s we can see with anything additional being a great bonus. The focus as always is on maps & long tails for quick-wins.
Local search volume is actually a real issue when it comes to building out these sites, the data that shows very low figures can lead to you not pulling the trigger on a specific site build, whereas in actual fact a search volume of between 0-10 can actually be closer to 100 when all variations and long tails are added, this is something I saw with the imaginary gym test.
Data point 4: Cities to target & resources – How many cities do you want to target and what are your resources in house? Can you write 100 unique landing pages without going insane or slipping into duplicate content territory? (Even though a bit of duplicate content is fine….) The final data point is one based on whatever resources you have in-house in terms of money and time.
Then just do the maths.
busy lazy, I took the average search volumes from cities sized 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th and 50th add those up and divide by 5. To give a rough city search volume average of XX. I’ll use the figures from one of our site examples; which was 220/month excluding long tails. Sounds sh*t and low right? But the competition is SO LOW it’s a dream!
This site example maths:
- Data point one: 33%. (just over 1 in 3 convert to lead)
- Data point two: £12
- Data point three: 220/month.
- Data point four: 50 largest cities in the UK.
Site’s ranking 1st in maps & 1st in organic should generate roughly 35-50% of traffic but we’ll take a low-ball estimate to be safe of 30%.
- 220 x 0.3 = 66.
- 66 / 0.33 = 22 leads per city per month.
- 50 cities x 22 = 1,100.
- 1,100 x £12/lead = £13,200/month.
Figure doesn’t sound great, but the beauty of the method is the competition on the local level is non-existent, this isn’t one of those situations where your competing against other SEO’s or smart business owners, it’s a relatively “dull” niche. This site is also going to be a case study on the blog, total costs are around £2,000 + £1,100 a month so should be fun.
Our Strategy (Case Studies Coming Soon)
This is a very new strategy and something that was only proof-of-concept tested in February this year. Since then the new Ltd company has been established, niches have been selected and sites are being built. I’ve also recently partnered with a co-founder to take care of all of the operational side of the business with the most important element being the companies to sell the leads to themselves.
If you are just getting started in SEO and don’t have the budget to do everything at scale, the solution is really, Greally simple – Rank 1 city + service and sell the leads manually. Once you see the ease at which you can rank for locationally relevant keywords (if you know how to rank sites) you’ll see the possibilities with this method. Oh and learn maps optimisation! It’s a different f*cking algorithm!
Taking it further
If you’re looking to take over a city/country/industry/world you can actually take this one step further by creating businesses to deliver the service or product itself, building a team to go out to deliver the product or service and instead of simply getting the lead commission you actually earn the profit margin of the business. Of course, operationally this is a lot more work but it’s not called the “taking it further” idea for nothing.
Why It’s Better than Client & Affiliate?
Client – If you had a client in the niche and you earnt less for them than they paid you, you’d be gone. This model you are paid on VALUE.
Affiliate – Have you seen local & map serps? – The competition is very, very low.
2.) Ecommerce Drop-Shipping Stores
You’ve seen the ads – “make $100,000,000 a day Shopify + dropshipping” I won’t bore you with the details but the short version of the hyped model is: Shopify + Oberlo + Facebook ads = loaded. Reality is the people setting up these sites have no idea about design, conversions, product selection or buyer psychology.
The model itself is really interesting when you relate it back to building a real brand and simply use drop shipping as a distribution model. If any SEO agency has had Ecommerce clients, they know that what we do on the Ecommerce SEO level can be extremely profitable for clients generating incredibly ROI’s. As a result, start your own eCommerce business and simply rank the related terms.
It’s a very simple model, build product listings, rank the site, generate sales, ask supplier to fulfil sale.
Not quite as easy as local to rank though.
Difference is of course that you are usually competing with the entire world, or at best one country.
And chances are you will have some big authorities in the industry, but the difference is, you are an organic seo expert, right? – So simply invest your own time and money into ranking your own Ecommerce site as if they were a client.
This model is a little more difficult because you do need to build a real site out. If you aren’t a designer or do not fancy importing products from aliexpress or sourcing products yourself from distributors then either a.) Hire someone to do it for you, b.) get a co-founder or c.) man the f*ck up and hustle.
Our Strategy (Case Studies Coming Soon)
It’s pretty simple, we’ve selected a niche, done a lot of competitor analysis, keyword research and auditing and are building the site out now. This is also going to be a case study…. I love case studies if you haven’t noticed already. Site has started to generate real organic traffic already and is already making a couple of sales. Paid social up next, on-page optimisation & then a full content marketing and link building campaign for the next 12 months. Updates for the project will start in a few weeks and should be monthly, again there is a co-founder in this business mainly for the social side of things.
Taking it further
Build a real f*cking brand.
Pretty simple. Improve all operational elements of the business, create custom products, add marketing channels (social, Adwords, Amazon, CREATE an affiliate program etc). Streamlining each individual element isn’t the easiest thing to do but once you do achieve this the figures become very large.
3.) Client Service-Type Businesses (Outside Of SEO)
Probably the quickest way to go from £0 to £5,000/month through utilising your SEO skills and something I don’t’ see spoken about enough in the industry. If you decide to scale this method and go down the agency route, it’s a definite way to build a 7-figure business within a few years.
This model can be built into locational rankings or a very specific offer targeting niche relevant keywords. For example, offering digital marketing or paid advertising to one specific industry type “SEO for xyz niche” or “Web design for XYZ niche.”
Although ranking for national and international service type keywords is great, it is still more difficult than ranking on the local level, but for this strategy it does depend on the service offering itself but you can mix strategy 1 with ranking nationally to get the best results.
A few ideas for this where the most important part is organised project management (and decent sales/closing skills)
- Custom web development – Higher end stuff. The quality of overseas freelancers is ridiculous. We recently paid £1,000 for a full custom site dev and it looks incredible, in the UK/West this probably would have been around the £15,000 mark with the added tools integrated into the project.
- Simple Front-End Design – Targeting lower end clients in the price point of £1-10k. Again, outsourcing all the actual design and simply being extremely organised & strong project management from the UK end.
- Simple Social Media Management – Hire a VA and land 10 clients @ £300/month to syndicate posts through social – £3k/month business. If you had a good enough VA who could deal directly with client’s back and forth this model scales very easily.
- Higher Level Social Marketing – Ads, copy, creative, engagement etc. Again, very easy to streamline the back-end.
These aren’t new ideas by any stretch, thousands of digital agencies build their entire model on this premise, but leveraging organic traffic to drive the business has multiple advantages. Even integrating good cold outreach strategies where relevant would get you to your individual goals very, very quickly.
Our Strategy (Case Studies Coming Soon)
Within 12 months a side business in a certain niche was able to grow to a point where the business was receiving 50+ leads a month and earning 5 figures a month as a result. The stats for the site were:
- 12 posts – approximately 3,000 words each.
- 6 pages – approximately 1,000 words each.
- Core SEO basics – Keywords, competition, on-page & initial link building.
- 20-30 “good” links.
The crazy thing is these stats are built out from only around 800 organic visitors a month, but because the traffic is all looking for the exact solution the conversion rates are incredible.
The great thing with these options is there’s so much synergy around the offerings. Imagine the ease to up-sell SEO for a web development or social media client… In the above example we’ve generated 2 organic SEO clients in March from the site (12-month campaigns).
Taking it further
Build out a team around this new business and look into other channels for promotion. Simply put – scale the business. In the above example there’s a lot that needs to be done from an operational point of view before the business can reach it’s potential but they’ll be a lot of case studies around this once its more streamlined.
Building A Business Driven By Organic
The key behind all these strategies is building a business on top of your SEO skills, that is almost solely powered by organic traffic. Many business owners struggle to generate leads & sales, it’s one of the major reasons businesses fail.
If you can solve this core issue utilising SEO, the business that you “add” on top of this almost doesn’t matter to a certain degree, monetising this skill with clients is just the tip of iceberg when it comes to the methods of generating a profit through SEO.
Even affiliate SEO’s tend to narrow their focus looking for niches that have the best paying affiliate offers. The issue with this is the competition that comes as a result of it. Ranking for “best” product keywords is getting more and more difficult and also less and less profitable, whereas building a business or even partnering with another individual to take care of “operations” can be far more profitable.
The psychology behind ranking 1st in Google is massive. The trust associated with this too increases conversions on your website. Google acts as a “vetting” metric for the average consumer or prospect. Whereas as SEO’s we know that is not the case.
Leveraging this trust and offering a great product or service that isn’t your “average” SEO monetisation method can result in building a profitable business very very quickly if you look past the generic affiliate & client monetisation options.