I’m going to teach you how I make an extra $500+ per month online. This is no big secret. Nor is it particularly difficult. Anyone can do it.
Now many of you have probably heard of affiliate marketing before. It’s a classic course title promising to replace your day job in less than six months.
What I’m going to tell you is completely free. The core concepts of this system are tried, tested and simple.
You don’t need much money to start although any money you can spare will help as I will tell you basic free methods as well as paid tools to accelerate the process.
I also don’t view this as a way to quit your job, but rather to build up a reliable passive income on the side with minimal investment.
The fundamental approach is blogging.
Now most people hear “blogging” and think of wholesome content around their diet or meditation routine – and these are not wrong. But if you want to comfortably reach a sustainable monthly income from blogging then you need to be product-focused. Longer term, yes, establishing yourself as an authority and brand is a great way to generate opportunities over time.
But to make an extra $500 a month all you need is this simple system:
My Easy Formula For How To Make an Extra $500 A Month
Best X for Y
That might not sound like much but it is the secret to a sustainable monthly income that took me three years to master.
My first website I started as an online niche magazine. I wrote what I thought were useful, topical articles that would interest my audience. I would then throw in a mix of banner ads and affiliate links to relevant products that could earn me a commission. Sensible enough, right? And this is how a lot of people think about building websites.
But if we take a product-centric approach, let’s consider something as mundane as leafblowers.
When building a website, you want to focus on keyword research. That means identifying the searches people are typing into Google.
There are paid tools for this – my favourites being SEMRush and Ahrefs – but you can start with free tricks like using Google’s autosuggest feature.
Remembering our best x for y formula, type “best leafblower for” and you are presented with a list of questions people are searching.
Enter one of those searches and you will see all the sites competing for that search traffic. There’s a good chance with this type of search term that you’ll encounter a lot of listicles that review the top 10 products for that question.
There’s also a very good chance that those listicles are linking mostly to Amazon. That’s because Amazon have an affiliate program that rewards you with a commission when a product you recommend sells via one of your links. Here’s Expertreviews.co.uk.
That means that of all the people searching for “best leaf blowers for gravel”, a certain percentage will click on one of those top results, click through to Amazon and make a purchase, earning that site owner a commission.
Therefore if you were to start a website based on leafblowers you could write a series of listicles based on those suggestions we got from Google autosuggest by reviewing the top products for each query in a Top 10 style list.
If you can get into the top 10 on Google for just a few queries, it is likely you will end up sending traffic to Amazon and making sales.
Now that’s the theory. But what about some numbers to back up this claim? Amazon conversion rates are typically around 5 – 10% for “best of” review lists targeting the US. That means for every 100 clicks you send to Amazon, you should get 5 – 10 sales.
Amazon has a range of commission rates depending on product category – and over the years it has consistently reduced those rates as its market share is so big it doesn’t need affiliates to promote them so much.
As of 2020, most products get a commission rate of 3 – 4%, although some are as low as 1% or as high as 10%.
Now that sounds like a con. Rather like filling in online surveys to make a few pennies, writing articles in the hope that five out of a hundred visitors buys a product to make 3% sounds foolish.
However, trust me that huge businesses have been built on this concept.
Let’s put it in a more positive way. Your article on the best leafblowers for x could generate traffic for years. In fact, Google prefers content that’s a few years old and will rank it higher – meaning your traffic should grow over time.
Once you have written the piece, there’s very little you need to think about. No customer service. No shipping. No paid advertising. That’s because we are using organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to bring traffic passively and providing the products that traffic is looking to buy.
There are free tools to help you rank highly in Google through how you write and structure your articles such as Yoast and RankMath. These are free plugins for WordPress that let you enter your target search term and optimize for it.
Personally, I use a more advanced paid tool called Surfer SEO. Surfer will analyze the top results in Google and work out all the commonalities you should try to replicate – such as word count and other keywords to mention.
How much traffic is there? Well a step up from Google autosuggest is the Google Ads Keyword Planner. You have to sign up for Google Ads to access it but you don’t have to actually pay anything. This will tell you the search volume – the number of people making that search – per month in a country.
The limitation of the Google Keyword Planner is it is designed for paid ads and so it does not give you an idea of the organic competition. I’d bet there is a hell of a lot more competition for “best blower for leaves” with up to 10,000 searches a month than “best leaf blower for wet leaves” which only gets up to 100.
Aren’t they the same query? Remember Google’s whole business model is in delivering the most relevant answer to any given search.
But this is till quite basic and so I recommend using a paid tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs for a more data-driven approach to keyword research. They use a score to determine how competitive a search term.
I simply apply my best [product] for [activity/person] formula, set a minimum search volume of 100 volume and identify the least competitive terms where there just aren’t that many websites answering that question effectively.
The coloured patches show organic competition, while the next colums are US volume and global volume. The rest isn’t important.
From this I have immediately identified that “best walk behind leaf blower” has a low competition score of 1/100 and yet an estimated 150 people per month are searching for an answer to that question.
This took me 5 minutes using the right tools. I did not have to scour for hours to find these low competition opportunities. Generating enough low competition ideas to fill a site with 100 – 200 posts is more of a challenge – and as the internet grows more of these opportunities will disappear over the years. I admit I’m not helping by sharing my methods for finding and filling them. But if you can just reach break-even with a few winning posts then you can move on to more competitive terms with higher volumes.
The best X for Y formula works across millions of products. Once you have chosen your niche you can just keep writing and growing. For that reason it pays to not go too niche – so rather than naming your website leafblowerreviews.com you should broaden it to something like loveyourgarden.com. Start off with a single category – like leafblowers – and then move on to something like lawnmowers.
One of the most fascinating aspects of affiliate marketing is that competition does not really correlate with profitability.
Think about it this way. Your costs as a website owner are the same whether you promote pencil sharpeners or lawnmowers. But selling lawnmowers will make you a lot more money than trying to sell thousands of pencil sharpeners. Doesn’t that mean the Google search results will be more competitive? Actually I’ve found this is often not the case.
In fact, remember that nice low competition search we found earlier for “best walk behind leaf blower”?
Well here’s a top pick:
If you sold one of these then with a 3% commission rate for the garden category (2020 commission rate), you would make $77.87.
Let’s have a look at the sites that are already ranking for that question. These sites are getting hundreds of hits (not just from “best walk behind leaf blower” but also the much more popular “walk behind leaf blower”. These are not big and powerful sites but small niche blogs.
If we look at the result down at number 5 they are getting 174 hits per month. It’s fair to assume that maybe 80 will click through to Amazon. Then if one in 10 clicks to Amazon results in a purchase then that is eight sales per month.
Assuming they all bought a similarly-priced product thats 8 x $77 = $616 per month.
From a single article.
And once you’ve written that article, there’s very little you have to do. You can keep writing and fill a site with posts all related to your niche and recommending products. With this system you can easily make an extra 1000 a month or even more. To help you scale you can get a freelancer abroad to write your content for you from Fiverr or Upwork.
Surfer again is very helpful for this outsourcing process as you can set up templates for them to follow and if they just follow the instructions Surfer gives then they don’t need to have any knowledge of SEO.
Often the only limit is the size of your niche – hence my recommendation that you choose a broad niche and build a smaller focus within it while leaving room to expand.
But how do you write such expert content? The internet is like the Wild West and plenty of sites are built to low standards like recycling Amazon reviews.
However, it’s fair to say that if you are writing 50 articles on leaf blowers then you will become an expert very quickly even if you never handle one. It pays to be honest and transparent and your readers will reward you for it.
Is it all legal? Yes, providing you fulfil the FTC requirement of disclosing the fact you earn a commission, which is also a requirement of the Amazon Associates program.
Now you don’t want to rely on Amazon 100% because, as we’ve seen, they are prone to cutting their commissions and you could see your earnings drop overnight.
But there are plenty of affiliate networks out there that connect shops with bloggers, often with a higher commission rate or a longer time-span to drive a sale than Amaon’s 24-hour cut off. Once you start making money you can introduce some of these products in your articles driving traffic.
Now if you’re not convinced, here’s a final perk of affiliate marketing with niche authority sites that you probably aren’t aware of.
Online businesses are typically valued at about 30 times their average monthly profit. So if you were making $616 consistently every month, that website would be worth $18,480.
That’s quite a challenge though. Let’s dial it down to where you are making just a dollar a day – a perfectly achievable target as even my first abysmal attempt at affiliate marketing attained that. That’s $30 a month and so a flip value of $900.
Now let’s assume you never get above the $500 mark. The skills you have acquired in SEO are valuable, truly driving free traffic from Google. That is a fundamental skill in digital marketing that brands are willing to pay for. You could change your day job to utilise this new skill, or keep your day job and start SEO as a side hustles so that you would have three good sources of income – your job, your freelance side hustle and your website.
Using Expired Domains
You can rank quite easily for low competition searches without many backlinks. However, you will want to move on to more competitive terms to grow your site. You also need to keep ahead of the competition so that a more powerful site doesn’t overtake you.
Acquiring backlinks is extremely tedious and the most common pitfall among website owners.
Typical methods involve reaching out to similar sites and offering to write them a guest post in return for a link.
This requires a lot of outreach work – harvesting email addresses with Hunter.io and then piteching hundreds of sites and negotiating with them, then actually creating the content and following up.
With a new website not only do you have the issue of gaining backlinks but you also face what’s called the Google Sandbox.
Google wants to deliver the best experience to its users. Therefore to make sure only quality sites get featured, Google makes it extremely difficult to rank a new site for anything but extremely low competition search.
This generally lasts about six months. After that your traffic should rocket if you have published a lot of content.
So as much as it may seem satisfying to choose your own domain name you are creating an intense uphill struggle for yourself.
No backlinks and six months or tedious sandbox.
However, there is a fascinating shortcut to both of these issues and that is using old domain names.
When a business gets acquired, goes bankrupt or changes domain name, the old domain name expires and ceases to belong to them.
However, all around the web there are websites featuring links to that old domain name.
A cunning entrepreneur can then buy that domain name and build a site on it and benefit from all those backlinks. Often if a domain name still retains some content after it expires – like a basic holding page – it will not enter the Google Sandbox when rebuilt or may suffer it for less time.
These SEO domain names are extremely valuable. A good backlink can easily cost $200 from a service, while outreach has its own time and software costs. But if you have $1000 – 3000 to invest, buying an expired domain is a great way to kickstart your niche site.