Before I introduce myself, let me ask you one simple question – do you believe in making passive income online? If the answer is “YES” then you and I wouldn’t have had much in common just a few months ago.
You see, I was also one of those people who believed that affiliate marketing is only for the incredibly talented or those who have “Lucky” as their middle name. Well, I was wrong.
I only recently made my first affiliate sale through Amazon.com and I cannot tell you how happy I am to say that all my preconceived notions have been finally put to rest.
It might not be much, but I believe the skills that I’ve acquired in the quest for my first sale, a whopping $6.40 along with the things I continue to learn as an Internet marketer, will one day make me a millionaire. Hey, I might be $ 999,993.60 away from hitting that figure, but a man can dream, can’t he?
Who am I?
Hi, my name is Sudarshan Kar, a full-time writer and content writing business owner, who is taking his baby steps into the fascinating world of internet marketing. In other words, I’m just your Average Joe.
Like everyone else, I too had my apprehensions about stepping aside from behind a steady source of income and investing time, money, and effort into something that’s outrageous as “passive income” A.K.A easy income, as some gurus like to put it.
This is not a guide on how to earn six figures online, but a case study of the things (sometimes stupid things) I did in pursuit of my first income. But should you read this?
Hell yeah, you should! The purpose of this case study is to highlight the things I did over the course of three months so that you know better what NOT to do.
I’m writing this case study on request of my good friend Deepanshu Bedi from Webminati, who has helped me tremendously along the journey. Though sometimes I wish I got to know him even before I took the plunge into the IM world.
I’m not going to reveal my niche for obvious reasons and you’ll be able to see how much money I spent towards the end of this study.
So, without spending any more time on chitchat, let’s get right into it.
Ah! The month when it all began.
After lurking around for a couple of months in multiple affiliate marketing groups on Facebook, and reading tons of content on how to build your profitable niche sites, it was finally time to try out the stuff myself.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll keep the info limited to the things I spent my time and money on. Because let’s face it, this case study would go on forever if I try to mention all the roadblocks and frustrations I encountered along the journey.
Keyword research: After looking around quite a bit, I decided to buy a month’s subscription of Kwfinder by Mangools. It’s a lot cheaper when compared to full Internet marketing suites like Semrush, Ahrefs, and likes.
Sure, using free tools were always an option, but I decided to pay for keyword research anyway after getting a couple of recommendations on Kwfinder.
Spent a good week looking through Amazon product listings and tried out the keywords on Kwfinder to find a low competition niche. Their discovery finally came, it felt nothing short of how I imagine winning a lottery would feel.
Without wasting too much time dwelling on the celebrations, we move on to the next step.
Domain name and hosting: Without too much searching, I decided to go for GoDaddy to register a domain name and HostGator for hosting for one year each.
You can probably get a domain name and hosting a lot cheaper by looking around a bit for offers and coupons.
Content: Yes, finally we arrive at the most important part of any website – it’s content. Luckily, being a writer + writing service owner myself, I got 24k words worth of content done easy. I wrote the content that’s supposed to bring the Moolah myself.
Not that I don’t trust my writers or believe they are incapable; just that I figured it would be for the best if I wrote them myself.
So, I wrote the 3 money blogs of 4000 words each while outsourcing the smaller, to-be-linked, less relevant articles to other writers. Basically, split the work 80-20.
You must be thinking “Damn! This guy has got it made. Affiliate marketing should probably be the easiest thing for someone who is in the content business.”
Now that’s where you’re wrong! February is the month things get confusing and take a turn towards south, forcing me to tone down the humble bragging I’ve been doing inside of my mind all this time.
Started February with a shit ton of problems in setting up my WordPress site, email Opt-ins, etc. Spent 2-3 sorting this stuff out and getting the website to work a decent speed.
Spent $11 on the logo from Fiverr.com and another $6 for the Facebook cover picture. Both the images are decent; got no complaints there. Since I’m just starting out with the website, figured one social media channel would be good enough.
Besides, I’m almost always strapped for time because I’ve got my own clients to tend to.
So my site is almost ready, and all that is left to do to make me some money is post the content. But wait, what’s this link building thing people talk about? More importantly, where is my money? It’s been two weeks since 3 of my money articles went live.
Well, you see, nobody told me that you don’t earn money by just publishing content and just letting it sit there. But..but.. I shared on Facebook, what about that? Turns out, SEO is more than just optimizing your on-page content. What a shocker!
Off page SEO is where the real magic happens, and it was time for me to turn all my attention to that.
After attempting to learn multiple strategies like guest posting, the skyscraper technique, infographics, etc. their implementation didn’t bring much results. 1 out of 50 Webmasters I had outreached to would reply, but he/she would also ask for money.
White Hat SEO felt like a carrot run, except the carrot would always remain out of my reach.
What did I do to build links?
By the middle of February, I decided I’d had enough. It’s time to put on the Black Hat. I discovered Franklin Hatchet’s channel on YouTube and from there came my first breakthrough.
I learned about the art of manual web 2.0 creation and how they can pass juice to money sites. So without waiting any further, I logged into fiverr once more and made an order of 5 Expired Tumblrs and 5 Expired Weeblys to create my very own PBN.
The order was delivered in three days, and the seller threw in some expired links as well (Papa bless!). I have no problem writing content on my own, so I cooked up 10×400 words content to go on those expired sites.
So, by the end of week two of February, I have 10 web2.0s in place: (5 Tumblrs, 5 Weeblys) all passing juice to my money site.
The keyword I was trying to for had difficulty of 22 and was in position 84 according to serplab.co.uk and few other SERP checker sites. Now, we wait.
After a week, I ran the SERP test once again and HOLY SHIT! The keyword jumped to rank 26. If that’s not what you call improvement, then I don’t know what is.
Overjoyed with the results, I immediately made a post on Just Started Affiliate Marketing on Facebook to let the gang know. By the way, I and my Internet marketing gang hangout on Just Started Affiliate Marketing group on Facebook. Feel free to join and say hello if you like!
So, the second week of February is gone, and I enter the third week with some knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.
My keyword, at that time, was bouncing back-and-forth in the 20s to 30s and was time to aim for the first page.
I spent rest of February looking into good Guest Posting and PBN deals while writing smaller blog posts to keep the site active.
Okay, so it’s March, and it seems my keyword has finally overcome the ever so popular Google Dance and settled at 21. Not that I don’t like to tango, but it gets really frustrating when you find your keyword ranking at 20 in the morning and over 80 at night.
It was time to diversify the links and look into Guest posts and PBNs. Being the cheapass that I am (trying not to be now), I found PBNs to be a better choice over guest posting.
Hey, they both cost almost same in terms of price, but with PBN, even the content is taken care of by the seller. Spend $ 15 buying 5 PBN posts from a seller on Konker.io.
The delivery was supposed to be in 10 days, so I decided to utilize the time to setting up a few more web2.0s. So I bought myself another pack of 15 PA 27 tumblrs for $5 on Fiverr. The seller delivered on time and I got to working on a few more articles.
By the time the second week is coming to an end, all the 5 PBN posts are in place and so are 5 of my expired PA 27 tumblrs that I bought later on.
Thanks to my friends in the Facebook group, I got to learn a lot about Anchor text ratios and how over optimizing could literally mean the end of my site.
My keyword was stable between 20 and 25 for almost the entirety of March, and I was still waiting for the PBNs to work their magic.
Yeah, I pretty much spent an entire month waiting to see some improvements in the keyword ranking. This allowed me to focus a bit more on writing for clients as well as some personal commitments.
Towards the end of March I go on a holiday, and to my surprise, I find out the keyword has finally shifted places to number 15 right after coming back. Hey! The PBNs didn’t actually go to waste after all.
I started focusing on disposing of my remaining PA 27 tumblrs by pointing them to my money site using anything apart from exact match keyword.
In hindsight, it would have definitely been better if I created a tier 2 PBN network from those expired tumblrs. But what the hell!
We don’t learn if we don’t fail, right? Ranking this keyword on my first-ever affiliate site has taught me things that no other tutorial or Mastermind groups offer to teach. And I learned the lesson that it’s always better to try and fail rather than read about failures of others.
I made my first affiliate commission on 10 April, which I only got to know two days later when I received a message on my phone saying “Your Amazon on account has been approved.”
Hoorah! So you CAN make money online, after all.
My keyword is still dancing between positions 15 and 18, and I’m trying to get it to the top by creating a tier 2 layer pumping juice to the tier 1 tumblrs.
Oh! And by the way, expired web 2.0s do work, period. Well, at least it does for low competition keywords such as mine. I’ve invested in some better tumblrs (PA 35+) and bought another 5 PBN links from a different seller.
The PBNs will be delivered in five more days, and I hope to see my keyword breakthrough the top 10 by the end of April.
Total money spent until first sale
KwFinder for keyword research: $25
GoDaddy for Domain name: $4
HostGator for Hosting: $110
WP premium theme: $59
EasyAzon plugin: $47
Content: $20 (practically nothing because I wrote myself)
Facebook Ads: $25 (gained 11 likes LOL)
Fiverr purchases: $160 (cover+logo+web2.0s+ and most other bullshit that n00bs spend money on)
Konker purchases: $15
Pictures attached for reference:
One thing I didn’t mention on purpose for the sake of simplicity is that I spent money on trying to rank 2 keywords. At this time, the other keyword is ranking at 19. So currently, I have two articles ranking on the second page of Google, which I intent to boost up to first by this month’s end.
With the things I have learnt by now, I can start up a new website and get a keyword ranked in almost half the cost. Call $200 the price for being a noob, if you will.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have $ 999,993.60 to make.