SEO case study: a cool one-paged affiliate website (w/ weekly updates!)

Would you like to see how we build a brand new online business from scratch? 

Well, this blog post is exactly about that 🤠!

We recently came up with a new business idea and will update this blog weekly. We will show you our progress with regards to all aspects of setting up an online business: niche selection, domain registration, website creation, content creation, link building and monetization.

Every week we will post how much traffic and revenue we have generated. So follow along, let us know what you think in the comments at the bottom of this post 👇!

The business idea, as result of the current COVID-19 situation

One of our colleagues mentioned that her work from home ‘office’ was already getting quite hot, due to spring temperatures rising in the Netherlands. If we will have to continue to work from home in the summer due to the coronavirus, more people might experience this problem.

Joep immediately thought of the need for air conditioners and quickly checked Ahrefs to get some insights into this niche:

Damn, interesting! High volumes, low keyword difficulty. That’s how we like to see them 📈🔥. We dug a little deeper and found a very interesting angle: portable air conditioners:

As setting up a completely new online business would require a lot of work, we decided to pursue this idea only if it would meet the following requirements:

  • Buy a (semi) exact match domain
  • Setup only one page, but make it incredibly well (inspired by this article)
  • Invest in link building immediately and spend max $ 1.000

And so it begins … 🤠

Update: Week 1 (april 6-12): 

After bulk checking lots of domains with the keyword lists we exported, we found out that most of the hidden gems were taken. We even found a few affiliate competitors, with loads of content. This worked out quite well for this particular website:

This website is only one year old, and already receiving over 10K in monthly organic traffic with only 30 referring domains (of which most of them are low quality).

Domain registration

With these new insights, we registered a semi exact match domain, as we wanted our focus keyword [mobiele airco] in it:

Installing WordPress

We have built many websites over the last 16 years and still think WordPress is the easiest and fastest way to get a good looking website up and running.

After we purchased a very simple Webhosting package, we installed WordPress. As a theme, we used Enfold as it is a very versatile template with lots of opportunities and an advanced lay-out builder.

Plugins

Plugins we usually always install are (all free):

Drafting a template

To get an idea of what our one-pager would look like, we quickly drafted a template we had in mind:

Writing the first paragraphs of content

As it has to become a monster high quality content page, we decided to write the content ourselves. It’s harder to outsource content for a one-pager, that has to be the best in the game. Here’s what we did:

  1. We looked up the first 5 results for our main keyword [portable air conditioners]
  2. We analyzed the copy, questions (FAQ) and dived a little deeper into the topic to understand important subtopics
  3. We started (re)writing the copy, having multiple windows open at the same time

Creating a logo

Creating a logo nowadays is super easy: if you do a Google search for [online logo creator] you’ll get a ton of useful and free websites where you can create your own logo. All you have to do is put in your company title, slogan (optional) and select fonts and examples you like. Then, the system will generate multiple logo’s for you to choose from. Some require user registration, but that’s absolutely worth the effort to get the download.

Here are a few good sites:

Screenshots of the progress:

Stats of week 1:

What$
Domain registration$ 5
Hosting$ 10 / year
Total costs$ 15
Traffic0
Affiliate revenue$ 0
Google adsense revenue$ 0
Net profit– $ 15

Update: Week 2 (april 13-20): 

First results!

After the first update, we created a Google Analytics tracking-code and a Google Search Console property for our new project so we could start tracking results. Shortly after the initial upload of content, we already started to rank for a couple of queries:

This is a very good sign, as Google is already qualifying our website for certain queries 😎. Most of them are 80+ rankings, but you can notice a slight increase over time, where the page slowly gets pushed to the top to see if people click (CTR = indirect ranking factor) and if they find it relevant (do they bounce? Dwell time = ranking factor).

Link building

As a few backlinks are crucial for Google to take our one-pager even slightly more serious, it was time to build some links this week!

We placed two links on our own websites, this blog and another dog related affiliate site. Unfortunately, not much relevance here. We don’t expect a lot of result from this, but it only took us 5 minutes and gets some initial linkjuice flowing which Google might notice 🤠. We resubmitted the URLs and corresponding sitemaps in Google Search Console to push this even a bit more.

We also reached out to our network of fellow SEOers to see if anyone could provide relevant backlinks (paid or unpaid). Luckily, we found a new contact who owns lots of websites in all kind of niches who offered us paid links in exchange for newly written blogs on his websites. The price was $60 dollar per link. We agreed to test five links and came up with the following anchor texts:

URL: vergelijkmobieleairco.nl

  • mobiele airco kopen | buy portable air conditioning
  • mobiele airco vergelijken | compare portable air conditioning
  • beste mobiele airco | best portable air conditioning
  • beste mobiele airco 2020 | best portable air conditioning 2020
  • vergelijk mobiele airco’s  | compare portable air conditioning

Be careful with exact match anchors, as you don’t want to over optimize and get penalized by Google’s realtime Penguin algorithm. That’s why we chose some semi exact match anchors, just to be safe. We emphasized we wanted as much links from websites with as much relevance as possible. The links should also be do-follow as these are the ones Google actually considers as ranking factor, compared to the other tags. Links will be placed in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

More copy, with neat little tables

Finally, we also added some more copy that focuses on keywords that have a high monthly search volume. As Google loves structured content, we placed some tables between the copy. One table contains a lot of outgoing links to the manufacturers of the portable air conditionings. We did this to help Google to understand our relation to this topic and to become part of the air conditioning related entities.

Screenshots of the progress:

Stats of week 2:

What$
Domain registration$ 5
Hosting$ 10 / year
5 backinks$ 300
Total costs$ 315
Traffic0
Affiliate revenue$ 0
Google adsense revenue$ 0
Net profit– $ 315

Update: Week 8 (april 12th – may 22nd): 

Time for an update again! It has been a while since our last update and we have some exciting news to share. We bought five more backlinks from the same supplier, added more content, got approved by multiple affiliate programs and … the first affiliate commissions are in 🤠🤑📈.

Now this is pretty insane if you compare it to the amount of traffic we received. It seemed we only just took off:

If you calculate the earnings per visitor, it’s currently at $ 1,50! We believe that’s due to the fact we rank for a lot of longtail, but buy-intent focused keywords such as [Fuave acb14k01 review]. So we basically frank for a lot of {brand} + {model} + review searches. Besides that, we also rank for other like [best airco’s] , [top 10 airco’s] and [buy portable airco].

Make sure to add all those amplifiers in your content as well:

  • Top 10 / Best
  • Review / Rating
  • Guide / Tips
  • Buy / Get
  • Cheap / Affortable / Low price
  • Promotion / Discount / Promo codes
  • Online / Near me / +City / Store

Furthermore, we added promotions to the page  and we optimized the affiliate links on the page itself by linking brands to their overview page on the retail website. We just finished adding different schema markup (FAQ) to it as well.

All in all this is a very promising start and we’re almost breaking-even on costs, so we guess in a few days we are already making big profits from this website. It’s going to be a hot summer in the Netherlands and search volumes still have to go 10X. A quick calculation shows us that we should be able to get at least 10.000 visitors in the next two months * $ 1,50 per visitors = $15.000 revenue in affiliate commissions 😅😎! We will definitely post updates in the next two months to keep you informed because that would be nuts.

Don’t forget this is within eight weeks of domain registration with very minimum effort which means you can do this TOO!

Screenshots of the progress:

Stats of week 8:

What$
Domain registration$ 5
Hosting$ 10 / year
10 backinks$ 600
Total costs$ 615
Traffic388
Affiliate revenue$ 582,80
Google adsense revenue$ 0
Net profit– $ 32,5

That’s it for now 😃. Hit CRTL + D to bookmark this blog post and make sure to check out the next update! Also comment below if you have any questions 👇.

Update: Week 20 (april 12th – August 23nd): 

It has been a long time, we know, but it is time for an update again. A lot has happened in the meantime, both good and challenging… We obtained five more backlinks, created some more (related content), optimized page speed, finetuned the products and one-pager and waited for the heat to start and the commissions to get in🤤

That happened at first, but then things went downhill…. 🤯😭

From April until the end of May traffic was on the rise:

seo case study april-may 2020

At the end of May we:

  • Added more products to the page
  • Added more affiliate links to other e-tailers selling mobile airconditioning
  • Obtained five more backlinks

And we waited for the real summer to start and the revenue to come in…

As you can see below that happened in the month of May:

Commissions affiliate marketing seo

By the end of May the website had already generated close to € 1.100 (we’ve had some other affiliate programs running besides the one showing above in the screenshot), which translates to roughly $ 1.300 in the first month of doing affiliate marketing for this website.

Considering the ~1000 unique visitors we had by that time, that means a staggering $1.30 per unique visitor. And it wasn’t even summer yet.

We were expecting goldmines to come in  🤠💰

But then, what happened… 😮 😯 😧 😰 😨

A free fall 🪂

Our most important rankings were declining rapidly from the ~1st of June:

Ranking decline affiliate website

Have we been too reckless? 😵

YES! 😱

Considering the following factors:

  • One-pager (not necessarily a red flag, but it can be more challenging)
  • Fifteen quickly acquired backlinks with similar exact-match anchors from low to medium quality websites. All websites had similar themes, sometimes even partly corresponding IPs
  • We didn’t add rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored to outgoing affiliate links; and the whole damn page was FULL of them.
  • Keyword density: although it can be more challenging with a one-pager, the amount of exact keywords [mobile air conditioning] on the website was way overdone.
  • A backlink from this shady website “seohustlers.com”😬 on which outreach tactics are as transparent as can be 🤫. Also not sure if Google contextualizes the name [seo hustlers] and sees its connection to an affiliate website as spammy? 🥴
  • June and July were actually not as warm as expected, so search volumes dropped.

This is what we said about this at the beginning of the challenge:

Citation seohustlers air conditioners

As we didn’t receive any manual penalty, we assumed that we were hit by the real-time penguin algorithm… We didn’t follow our own advice, because of hubris.

So we changed the following in different stages:

Stage 1

  • Lower keyword density
  • Changing exact match anchors into broader “more natural” ones
  • Drastically decreased the number of outgoing (affiliate) links

Stage 2

  • Disavowing domains gradually up to a total of six domains
  • Obtaining a few more diverse / qualitative backlinks without exact match anchors
  • Rewriting / adding pieces of content for more user-friendly texts and context
  • Adding “natural” outgoing links to Wikipedia and Google Maps (hoping that pleasing Google this way would help 😅)
  • Adding rel=sponsored to all outgoing affiliate links

Did any of it help?

Well, unfortunately only slightly:

Google Search Console clicks aircon may-august

For the keywords with highest search volumes [mobile air conditioning] & [buy mobile air conditioning] we’re still on the last page of the Dutch SERP… Nice and comfy between the Google Books and other irrelevant results 🤡:

last page ranking affiliate website

Both clicks and and positions never really restored, despite the efforts.

This is also reflected by the total revenue of the period May-August:

Affiliate commissions end of august aircon

Together with the other affiliate programs we run for this website, total revenue is ~€ 1.800, which roughly makes $ 2.130 

So what’s next?

Well we’re not going give up, because the project has proven to have far too much potential. However, this season won’t bring in the treasure fleet unfortunately. We are determined to make it a success and learn from our mistakes.

The first few steps will probably include:

  • Disavowing more domains
  • Obtaining diverse, qualitative backlinks
  • New relevant content
  • Doing a test by creating multiple pages (i.e. specific brand pages)

If you have any ideas or experience with this, we’re always happy to receive tips 🤓

Stats of week 20:

What$
Domain registration$ 5
Hosting$ 10 / year
Backlinks (of which we had to disavow a few)$ 900
Total costs$ 915
Total Traffic2.353
Affiliate revenue$ 2.130
Google adsense revenue$ 0
Net profit$ 1.215

That’s it for now 😃. Hit CRTL + D to bookmark this blog post and make sure to check out the next update! Also comment below if you have any questions 👇.

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