Starting an affiliate website can be a daunting mission. However, once you grasp the key principles it can seem easy. However, easy does not equal simple - especially when you stand against competitors with more experience and deeper pockets. Sprinkle in some of that sweet self-doubt and the mission seems like climbing Mount Everest.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with insight into our tried and tested method of building websites.
We at Hekkup have built over 180 websites in total and are always experimenting to obtain the best results possible with our own websites. Affiliate marketing is all about living, learning, and adapting.
Before we get into the process of building an affiliate website, I want to present myself so that you know who I am and where I come from.
I’m Hektor - founder of Hekkup. (Fun fact: ‘Hekkup’ was what I called myself before I learned my own name)
I’ve built affiliate websites since the age of 15 and therefore have 7 years of experience in the field. I run Hekkup on the side of my full-time job as an SEO specialist.
I’ve built up over 150 websites during these 7 years, and tried and tested most methods for generating traffic and overall just making money online.
I ran into affiliate marketing and got really lucky. My first website sold after a year for $88,920 -- which was an insane amount of money for a 16-year-old.
I also made roughly $15K in commissions before selling the website, so the first site made me $100K+ in pure profit.
Looking back, I was maybe too lucky.
I had started a site in a niche that was unknown to most people and wrote articles without even looking at the number of searches it had.
Since it was my first site, I was pumped when I sold it. I thought I was the “King of SEO” and built 100 affiliate sites the following year.
This time, luck wasn’t on my side.
I mass-produced websites thinking that everything would be as easy as with the first site. I hired a Filipino team that pumped out content and set up the sites for me, I barely did any keyword research (it obviously worked the first time, right?)
Looking back now, I feel ashamed. During this time I hit the jackpot once and made $15,000 with a site, but that was it. I didn’t have a clear replicable system that I could follow.
It was at the end of 2017 when I decided I had to restructure the company.
I had to make sure that I had a system. A system that was bulletproof and that didn’t rely on luck.
I didn’t renew most of the 100+ domains I had built sites on, I kept 1-2 that I thought I at least could sell (they brought in some money) - and started 3 new sites.
I knew it would be hard to grow my revenue in 2018.
But I was proven wrong. Closing down 100+ websites allowed me to put more love into my handful of affiliate websites, and in turn, they started to make more money month after month. 2018 ended with a 60% increase in revenue compared to 2017.
Since 2018 Hekkup revenues have increased by 10X. So this new way of working really has proven to work.
One key aspect I learned during this time was that:
Enough about the history of our process. Now it’s time for me and you and I to go through the exact same process me and my team use when we build a new website.
Before that, let's start with some screenshots of results we've gotten with this exact method.
Below follows a step by step guide where you will follow us in our normal process of selecting a
Niche selection is one of the most important steps in the process, and it’s also the very first one.
Picking the niche is the one thing (based on talking with hundreds of people interested in building an affiliate website) that stops most from actually getting started.
We’ve been through a lot of ways of selecting a niche, and figured out that it all comes down to two things: how big is the niche, and how much money can we make within it?
As a matter of fact, we do not look at the competition level anymore. What we do is instead looking at domain marketplaces like ODYS, and trying to find domains that interest us.
Once we find a domain within a niche we deem profitable, we buy it.
The domain already has existing backlinks pointing to it, giving us the ability to leapfrog any potential sandbox period and getting the trust of Google quicker. On top of that, since we get a domain with a natural link profile we can point more aggressive links towards it almost instantly.
My tip for anyone who has a bit of a budget is to buy a powerful domain from the start. The price is usually around $300-$3,000 per domain, depending on strength of the domain.
The financial aspect of it is another important factor. If you buy a domain with 100-300 backlinks pointing to it already, you’re basically buying 100 links for $3 per link if you buy a domain with 300 backlinks for $3,000.
If you are looking for the same quality links you’d have to work your ass off to achieve this price per link.
Once we have secured a powerful auctioned domain, we figure out what niche to target with it. The easiest auctioned domain to do a niche selection on are e-commerce sites which have closed down – you can make a site around the products that they sold.
Was the site an e-commerce site focused on cars? Make an affiliate site towards cars, where you review car gear and car safety products.
It is extremely important we match the niche as closely as possible since Google does weigh “niche-specific” backlinks more than irrelevant links.
Niche-specific links do not mean links from other sites in the same niche, but links coming from articles around the topic/niche your site is about. Google sort of locks down a domain to a certain niche after some time, and "lifting" this lockdown can take time and require extensive link building – not worth it.
If the domain you buy was a blog previously, try to figure out what the site was “niched” towards. The way to do this is to see what the sites linking towards the domain are writing about when they mention the blogger.
If he/she was into fitness, they might have some recipes or workouts that they shared and that people linked to. Make it a fitness site!
Every now and then you’ll stumble into domains that can be used for all niches. It could be an e-commerce site that is targeted towards many different product categories, or a blogger being all over the place with their hobbies. This could be a perfect opportunity to start a 10Beasts’ type of site.
After reading this, you might wonder:
Why don’t you decide the niche before buying a domain?
Good question, this is due to the fact that auctioned domains are a scarcity.
The good ones are hard to find, and when you find them, you want them as quickly as possible. Having locked yourself in on a specific niche makes the process of starting your site much harder.
Sometimes you’re lucky enough to find a domain that fits perfect with a niche you’ve wanted to enter, but it is not something you should count on.
After finding a niche you are going to enter, it is time to do keyword research.
Keyword research is the process of finding what potential buyers of the products in your niche are searching for.
While one could technically try to guess it by brainstorming, it is much better to rely on data.
I personally use Ahrefs for all keyword research related activities.
The process is fairly simple.
First, we have to find seed keywords, these are the keywords that help us find all related keywords. It should be a phrase that will be included in most related search terms in the niche.
Let’s say for example we are making a site about saws, and we know that we are going to write buyers guides towards potential buyers of saws.
People search for “best + saw(s)”, “top + saw(s)” and “saw + reviews”.
Tip: Get some popular products to write specific reviews by including the keyword “saw + review”. This is great support content for your buyer’s guides, but also a great way to make even more money by ranking for these less-competitive product-specific keywords.
It should look something like this:
Click the orange search button. Then click “Having same terms”.
This will pull up all keywords (in the Ahrefs index) that include the combinations of keywords we’ve included.
In this case, that's 45,919 keywords.
That’s A LOT of keywords.
This is where some proper filtering comes in.
What I usually like to do is to set “Results on the page” to 100, and click all the way down to page 10.
Now I will know what search volume range the first 1000 keywords are in.
Based on what I see here I usually set a search volume span – so I can export, for example, everything above 100 searches per month.
In this case, we see that already within the first 1000 keywords, we are only down to 80 searches a month.
Thus, I’d try to set the search volume span to everything above 100 searches per month.
I set the volume span, get a bit relieved that there are only 412 keywords left, and click “Export”.
I also export all keywords from 100 searches, down to 30-40 searches per month. These could be a good source of long tail searches later down the road, and can always be useful to take a glimpse at when you want to write more articles (great ideas for support content).
I keep this stored for later.
Now onto my colleague. Take it away, Anish!
Thank you for a fluff-free keyword research guide, Hektor. And now for the next part of this guide, we will cover keyword sorting.
Before that, I will briefly introduce myself to you all!
My name is Anish Nandalike, I am 24-years old and currently live in Bangalore, India.
I ventured into the world of online marketing during my engineering. I learned less about engines (what I was supposed to learn in mechanical engineering) and more about building and ranking websites during that time.
I was fascinated about how Google goes through thousands of pages and then served top 10 pages for a particular keyword.
Also, how those pages on top made a ton of money with ads, affiliate programs and what not.
The next question on my mind was - How to create a affiliate website which is profitable and well worth my time?
6 years afterward, having built and ranked websites (some failed too), here I am working with Hektor as the COO of Hekkup, doing what I love.
We have been building affiliate websites together from the past 2 years, this has helped us in building processes which are “bulletproof”.
How you may ask?
Simple, we focus on quality and Google loves quality stuff.
Now, that is enough about me, let’s quickly dive into the topic of ‘keyword sorting’.
Let’s understand the what, why, and how of keyword sorting.
Keyword sorting is the process of grouping keywords having similar search intent together.
When I say "similar search intent", it is not what you think the intent of the searcher is, it is the intent perceived by the search engine.
Keyword sorting allows us to achieve two things:
To explain the process, I will make use of the document exported by Hektor for the keyword research example.
Delete all the unwanted columns and retain the three columns: Keywords, Search volume, and Parent keyword.
The document will look something like this after the cleanup.
Here is the link to the sheet if you want to practically try it along with us – keyword sorting test.
The sheet has 413 keywords, just imagine we wrote articles for all the keywords without grouping them, it would lead to unnecessary content for the same keywords over and over again (our site would also be full of keyword cannibalization).
To avoid this, we will start with the keyword sorting.
I will demonstrate the process for one of the keyword groups and you can do the same for the rest of the sheet or your set of keywords.
The first keyword in the list is “best table saw”, let me find all other related keywords so that they are put into the same group.
To do that, I first find the parent keyword associated with the keyword chosen.
In our case, the parent keyword is “best table saw”, we now search for all other keywords with the same parent keyword.
To do that you can highlight the term using conditional formatting or simply use CTRL+F (CMD+F for Mac) and search for “best table saw”.
I will go into each of those keywords which have the parent keyword as best table saw (highlighted in the picture above) and add them to the first row.
Here is what my first keyword group looks like after having sorted all the relevant keywords.
There you go, one solid keyword group with a total monthly search volume of 20,250. You may have a question as to why “table saw reviews” is grouped under the same group?
The answer is simple, Google returns the same set of results for both the keywords. Meaning, the search intent of both the keywords is the same as per Google.
You can check that by searching for the keywords manually on Google (preferably in Incognito mode).
Also, there could be cases where some keywords having the same "parent keyword" would have a different intent. This is were manual judgment comes into play.
While sorting the first keyword group, I came across these two keywords having the parent keyword “best table saw”: "portable table saw reviews" and "best contractor table saw", by observation, it is evident that the intent is different for these two keywords (even though Ahrefs has grouped it under the same parent keyword).
To back my intuition with data, I quickly Google search these two terms and find that the SERPs aren’t similar to that of “best table saw”.
And hence they are not added to the first keyword group.
Note: All 10 results do not need to be the same as the main keyword. Even if you find 5-6 SERPs that are the same as the main keyword, then that keyword can be added to the group. This is used while doing manual evaluation like in the case above.
You can now repeat the same process for other keywords and put them into relevant keyword groups.
Once you have completed it, you have to evaluate the content competition for each of those groups. This will be covered in our next section – word counting.
Hey, it’s me, Hektor, back with you again.
After one has done the tedious task of sorting the keywords as Anish showed us, it’s time for something even more tedious – word counting.
And while the task of word counting is tedious, it is very important that you do it.
Let us quickly get into the word counting task, the why and how to do it.
Word counting is a process by which you assess the competition for a particular keyword or keyword group in terms of content.
It gives us a measure of how much content you’d need in order to have an edge over competitors while targeting a keyword or similar keywords.
In order to get the process started, all you have to do is enter the keyword with the most searches (from the keyword group) into Google.
Our focus will be on the top 10 search results (page one, because who visits page two?).
We will have to find the article with the highest number of words among the top 10 results.
Once we have the number, we add an additional 500-1000 words and add it to our sheet – usually, 10% more can be used as a general guideline.
There are three ways to do this, let me explain each one of them in detail.
For demo purpose, I will use the keyword “best table saw” from our first keyword group and find the content competition for this keyword using the word counting process.
These are two ways you can do this.
This method is the most time-consuming of the two methods, but it is completely free.
It can, however, be outsourced with minimal training required to a VA.
To start the process, run an incognito Google search for the main keyword, in our case, it is “best table saw”.
Open all the search results in separate tabs, we will only open the websites which are targeting the keyword specifically.
To check the word count using the plugin, download and activate the plugin.
Now, you will have to select the content in the opened web page, right click and then click on “count words”, this will give you the word count on that page.
This process has to be repeated for all the page so that you can find the one with the highest words.
During our tests, we found that the Chrome plugin was more accurate as we can select the content we want.
However, the deviation between the two is not much and hence you can go with any method of your choice.
This method is less tedious but comes with a monthly cost.
This is most suited for investors/affiliate marketers who already own a few websites and has some money to invest.
All you have to do is to go to SerpWorx and buy the paid version of the plugin. You could also try their free trial before opting for the paid version.
Once you have activated the add-on, just enter the main keyword on the Google like you did earlier.
You will notice a box with all the SEO metrics below each of the search result. It also includes a metric called “WC” which is the word count of that article.
Thus, you can find the article with the highest word count without even opening any of the results!
However, after thorough testing, we found that SerpWorx tends to overestimate the number of words (due to the fact that they include comments and site-wide content, as on-page content).
Hence, we’d advise you to first find the result with maximum words as per Serpworx and then check the word count of the article using the plugin or the website as in method one.
This sums up all the two methods you can use for word counting.
As you have understood, the goal here is to find the article with the highest amount of words and then add 500-1000 words to that number (or roughly 10%).
We always want to beat our competitors in every aspect possible.
Once we have understood what niche we are entering, what people search for in that niche, and the amount of articles and words required, it’s time to structure the website.
This is the most complicated and most important task at the beginning of a site.
It includes being considerative of user experience and how Google understands the topic of the website.
In my opinion, Google is your most important visitor and making sure Google understands the website and understands that it is authoritative within its field(s) should be the main objective when structuring your affiliate site.
There is no “the-best-way-of-structuring-websites”-method we can deliver here, we’re only talking from our experience and how our thoughts go when structuring a website.
Let’s get into it!
We are always looking to build scalable sites for our buyers since we want them to be able to grow the web properties further, so that they can sell it for a profit or to turn them into bigger assets in order to recoup their investment quicker – and make more money out of it (and turn into repeat customers for us).
Thus, our strategy here is to always think broad.
Ok, let’s say we have acquired an auctioned domain from an old saw-related blog, it has tons of valuable backlinks and we really believe we can make some good money promoting saws.
The most logical thing to do here would be to write a homepage listing the best saws, and then have some sub-pages talking about the best miter saws, best band saws. And then having a blog reviewing a few saws.
I am not saying this is a bad structure per se, but it is not one I would recommend.
“Why?” you might ask.
The answer is simple, we have found that when you target a specific keyword on the homepage you “lock” the site within the topic of your homepage.
When you want to broaden out to rank for drills, air compressors, and biscuit joiners, your site will be “locked” within the very specific niche of saws.
Google will then think that all your articles are in some way related to saws, and thus, your biscuit joiner article will only be ranking for “biscuit joiner + saw”-related keywords.
That’s why I always suggest to go broad in the beginning, even though your plan is to start within the niche of saws.
In this case, optimizing the homepage towards “best power tools” or simply “power tools” would probably be a good idea.
Given our homepage is targeted towards power tools, we can make sub-pages that we link to in the top menu fully focused on each specific power tool.
To not invest more resources than necessary, we can start with our first niche – saws.
We then make a category page focusing on saws. Here is where we can go two different routes.
The first route is to make the main category page a buyer’s guide for saws and then list the specific type of saws as sub-pages to the main article.
For example: johnsoldsawsite.com/best-saws/table/, where /table/ is a sub-page of the “best saws”-page (/best-saws/). This is the best route to go if your idea is to stay within a more specific niche (i.e. power tools).
The other route, if you’re trying to go into a 10Beasts and TheWirecutter-type of site, is to make category pages.
For example, you have a main category for /fitness/ where you list all fitness-related articles, and then you have /fitness/yoga/ as a sub-category where you only list the articles about yoga.
This is the way to go if you are making a big site targeting loads of keywords.
By making category pages for each specific vertical, we’re showing Google that we have loads of content related to yoga, making us a trustworthy source of information for that topic.
Something that is closely related to the site structure is internal links and a overall important part of how to create a affiliate website.
Internal links are what may make or break the overall structure.
What’s important is that Google is able to find all the pages on the website through navigating your website (following links).
Many submit a sitemap in Google Search Console and think that it is OK if they make the page itself non-accessible through navigation since Google can find the page in the sitemap.
This is not the case, and Google will deem pages that aren’t accessible via navigation as less important, and value it as low-quality content.
Thus, we recommend using internal links to link both up and down in the hierarchy. Let’s use an example once again.
Let’s say you’ve made a category page for “Fitness”, and a sub-category for “Yoga”.
On the “Fitness”-category, you should list all posts related to fitness (this includes yoga and all other sub-categories you have under that category) and a list of all sub-categories – so that Google can find the sub-categories easily.
On the subcategory for the keyword “Yoga”, you should list all posts related to yoga, as well as link up to the Fitness-category within the category text.
This makes the link juice flow up, as well as down, in the hierarchy.
On the post for “Best Yoga Mats”, you should link up to the Yoga-subcategory – fully finishing the internal linking chain.
This way, an external link to a specific post will result in juice for the Yoga-category, as well as all Yoga posts and even some juice for the Fitness-category and those posts.
Use this as a foundation of internal links, and make sure to interlink your pages wherever it seems natural.
If you have a blog or news-section, this is a perfect source of more internal links for your buyer’s guides or (sub)categories.
Something that you should keep in mind when interlinking posts and categories is that your anchor text can be quite “aggressive”.
When building external links (via guest posts, PBNs, and whatnot) one should try to use as little exact match anchors as possible to decrease the risk of getting a penalty.
When using internal links, there is no exact-match anchor limit.
Internal links can use exact match anchor text quite heavily which, in my opinion, is a great way to increase your overall ranking.
If you’re linking from a blog post about “Why Yoga Increases Your Health”, to the page about “Best Yoga Mats”, use “best yoga mats” as the anchor text.
Don’t go overboard and link solely with exact match, but don’t be afraid to sprinkle a few exact match internal links around here and there.
How often do we hear that content is king? Yes, content marketers, your job is important – but when it comes to SEO – content is at most a queen.
Content is still an important aspect but for the content to dominate SERPs, it has to be SEO-optimized.
Otherwise, it would just be another article which will get lost in the largest dustbin for text, which is Google. Why do I say so?
No matter how many articles are written for a keyword, there are only 10 spots on page one. Hence, your goal should be to reach page one and ultimately on top 3-5.
This is why the content you produce must be SEO-optimized.
The goal is to make the content suitable for both readers and Google. In this section, we will focus on some pointers you will have to keep in mind while creating the content.
These are basic very basic SEO tips, but good to reminded about.
Most SEO guides advice you to have a keyword density of 1-2%, we have a different approach, we wouldn’t advise you to keep a set percentage of density.
Our approach is to cover as many keywords as possible in the article.
As most of our articles would be long (over 3000 words), including multiple variations of keywords wouldn’t be difficult. But repeating the same keyword over and over again seems spammy to the readers, and for Google.
Hence, mention the main keywords as many times naturally possible without giving importance to the density.
We end up mentioning it 6-10 times for a 5000-word article but we cover many keywords related to the main keywords, as you can see from our keywords groups above.
Well, you do not have to take our word for it. Let us run a test for the term “best table saw”.
The top ranking page for that keyword mentions the keyword 6 times in 1900 words of text. Given the recommendations SEO gurus tell us, it should’ve been a number between 19-38 times.
This shows that keyword density really doesn’t matter for long-form articles.
As long as you have mentioned the main keyword in the title, main header (H1) and at the beginning of the article and a few times in the article, you are good to go.
You would know the importance of adding images to your articles. They help in keeping the readers engaged and sometimes allow you to explain things with a simple demonstration.
However, many still do not add alt-tags to the uploaded images. This means that there is no way in which the Google spider can recognize the images.
We advise everyone to add alt-tags related to the images, and we recommend that you have the main keywords or secondary keywords as alt-tags.
This can give a boost to on-page SEO as related images are always considered as good content practice.
You must also ensure that the file name is related to the keyword. Have a neat file name every time you download the product images or any images which you will be using on the site.
For example: If you’d be using this image product in your buyer’s guide, it makes sense to keep the file name as “SawStop-best-table-saw-under-3000” than a random file name like “image 300×400”, you can add a neat keyword-rich alt-tag like “best table saw under $3000” in this case.
I don’t know if you have noticed this, Google shows a People also ask-section for most of the keywords.
These frequently types questions, and most of the time they are related to the keyword.
This is a nice opportunity to drive more traffic to your content, make an FAQ section at the end of the article targeting these questions. The answers to these questions must be brief but specific, do not try to beat around the bush to increase the word count.
Let’s check this for “best table saw” keyword. I go to Google and search this keyword and voilá! There are a People also ask-section as seen in the picture below.
Now all you have to is, collect these questions and ask the writer to come up with brief answers to the same. And you can potentially get more visitors by doing this.
Make sure to use Schema.org markup on these FAQ's to have them shown in the SERPs.
The primary aim of any affiliate website is to achieve high click-through rates.
You may be wondering how can we achieve this when we have long-form content.
Technically, the reader has to scout through thousands of words before they come across the individual product reviews, right?
This is why many of them make use of comparison tables or lists before starting with the actual content or just after the introduction.
You may be doing this too, but I assume you haven’t thought of having a jump button which will take the reader directly to the product reviews section.
Jump buttons are simple buttons which when clicked can take the reader to a specific section on that page. This is useful if the articles are very long and if you want to draw the attention of the reader.
This also helps in driving more clicks as you can direct your readers to specific sections without them having to read the entire article.
Now that you’ve come up with the keywords you want to target, the structure of the site and produced the content for the keywords – it is time for uploading.
This is by far the easiest task and we usually let our VA team do this since it can become quite repetitive doing it ourselves.
We don’t use any magic tricks here really, it’s quite straight-forward, thus we won’t go too in-depth on this section.
However, here are some tips.
That’s it, this is our exact process of building a site.
Once you’re done with this process and have started uploading articles it is time to build some links – here you’re free to go with whatever route you prefer.
We prefer PBNs as it gives us full control of the links in case they would start to affect us negatively.
All types of link building is against Google’s ToS, which makes every method equally as risky in our opinion.
Psst, below you’ll find some common mistakes we have found ourselves doing while building a lot of affiliate sites.
Obviously, we don’t recommend you to make the same mistakes we already have.
I’ve seen many people fail right in the beginning.
They put all their time and resources into one project and hope for the best.
By doing this we’re essentially saying that our hit ratio is 100% – no matter what site we build it is going to be successful.
By minimizing the amount of time and resources you put per site (at the start), the less risky the project is.
One thing that takes time is designing a good looking site, buying themes, or even hiring someone to do this for you.
We have a rule to not put in resources (time or money) before it makes at least $500 per month.
At $500 per month it is worth roughly $15,000 at the current market price for established websites, which makes it reasonable to put a few hours, or a few hundred on making it look better and come off as more trustworthy (this can also help you sell the website for more!).
With that said, at Hekkup we don’t completely neglect the design.
Websites we sell always look sleek, come off as trustworthy and convert well before pushing them to our buyer’s list. This is because we’re perfectionists, and don’t want to deliver a half-done product for our buyers.
We mentioned prior in the guide to not start the first site in a competitive niche.
While this is true, it is important not to be afraid of competition. This will potentially make you put more time into researching for a niche, and thus make the project riskier (using the same thought process as above).
When building websites, don’t be afraid of competition.
Something to keep in mind is that if your competitors are ranking profitably, even though they probably have been, and are, investing heavily into links, on-page and content.
If they can do it profitably, why shouldn’t you be able to get in there?
Start a site, when money starts coming in, use that money to grow the asset even further and don’t take out any money the first 1-2 years to fully use the potential of the site.
Re-invest all the money into making your website better and after a while, you should be able to outrank them.
Where there is competition, there is also a lot of money to be made. Don’t be afraid of either.
The SEO game has changed, for the good, we’d say.
Ranking a website takes 10X the time it used to take a few years back, sometimes you do not rank if the quality is not up to the mark.
This weeds out non-serious people who had a site with tons of spam backlinks, making a lot of money – even though this still slips through every now and then.
Let’s face it, if you're looking for a quick get-rich-overnight answer to your question - 'how to make an affiliate website', its not possible.
If we want to make somewhat of a passive income, we must invest time into it and also provide decent content which would be useful for the readers.
Building an asset like an authority website certainly takes time. It requires you to have a process and work on the same, day in and day out. Posting content today and hoping it ranks in a couple of days not only de-motivates you but also puts you out of focus.
So, do not make the same mistake we did a few years ago, which is to expect rankings in a short period of time.
Your only aim must be to have a solid plan, set a process to achieve that plan and work towards it. Unless you make some big, big mistakes, you will see good results of it.
If you have any questions, tips or want to give your 2 cents on how to create a affiliate website, leave a comment below!