What do you do?
My name’s Adam, I’m 23, and I run a portfolio of websites (soon to be ARG Media Ltd). I make money with my websites through affiliate marketing, Adsense, CPM and media deals. I’ve also started doing some SEO consulting and brand marketing on the side.
Tell us a Bit about your Business
I manage and development a portfolio of websites across the gaming, finance, retail and student niche. I launched my first website in the UK student poker niche back in September 2009 (whilst I was in my final year of University). Nowadays, I basically sit back and manage freelance writers, coders and editors to build my websites and I negotiate media deals with operators such as BullionVault.com, Bet365, City Index and others.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a commercialized version of the “refer a friend” program. As a Webmaster, I get paid a fixed amount for sending customers or “conversions” through to a 3rd party program. The majority of ecommerce websites, businesses and gaming/trading operators run affiliate programs nowadays. Examples include WH Smith, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Bet365, City Index, John Lewis and Godaddy. Big price comparison websites such as MoneySuperMarket.com, GoCompare.com and ThisisMoney.com all make their money through affiliating marketing. When they compare programs and you click on their link to visit a 3rd party site, they get paid.
The amount you get paid in affiliate marketing depends on the industry and the program. The biggest commissions or CPAs (Cost Per Acquisition) tend to be in the gambling niche and range from $100-$300 per player. 888 will pay $200 for every active customer you send to their website. Customers are tracked to the affiliate through special tracking links or banners. The majority of users are unaware of this.
How to do you Market or Bring Traffic to your Websites?
The majority of traffic to my websites comes through organic search such as Google and Bing. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of making your website rank number one in Google and other search engines. It includes a variety of factors including PR and promotion, advertising, social media campaigns, high quality content, technical aspects of your website’s structure, your website age, the sites linking to it, plus the “anchor text” of the links pointing to your website.
Google’s ranking algorithm is largely based upon Page Rank. This algorithm analyses the number and quality of links pointing to your page in addition to the “anchor text” (this is the text which is hyperlinked). For example, if you build lots of links to a website using the anchor text “car insurance” then your site will appear more often in the search engines when someone searches for that keyword.
As you can imagine, search engine traffic can be extremely profitable for the right keywords. For example, almost half a million people search for “car insurance” in Google each month. This is just for that specific keyword. Car insurance programs such as Aviva will pay affiliates £110 for every customer they send to a car insurance firm. So if I rank no.1 in Google for car insurance and convert customers on my site to Aviva.com, then I could make upwards of £1 million per month. This is just one keyword, per month, for ranking no.1 in Google for a term like this. Just imagine how much money you can make for all of the other terms!
This is how price comparison websites such as MoneySavingExpert and MoneySuperMarket.com are able to make so much money. They invest a lot of money in SEO and try to appear highly for profitable keywords in search engines. Many affiliates in the gambling niche spend more then £1 million on SEO costs per month, just trying to rank highly in the search engines.
How long did it take you to Make Money with your Business?
They say most websites take around 6-12 months to make your first buck with online. This was actually pretty true for me. Even though I started my first student poker site in September 2009 (I was Vice President of the Manchester University Poker Society), it wasn’t really until around Spring 2010 that I started to be able to fund nights out at Uni. The great thing about affiliate marketing is that it’s essentially a form of passive income – once your website is up and running you don’t need to manage or update it. So towards the end of University I was making around £100 from week from doing nothing. One of my biggest achievements online during University was buying a website for £200, doing a little bit of SEO, and then making £300 per month on autopilot a few weeks later. Since then, the website has earned more then £10,000 and I haven’t updated or touched it in more then a year. That kind of money illustrates how simple affiliate marketing can be. The reason it was so simple was because there were so little competitors in the market and SEO was a relatively new concept.
Once I graduated from the University of Manchester in June 2010 (Economics BA), I decided to take a gap-year and just “risk it”. I figured I’d already learned a lot about Internet marketing, conversion optimization and SEO, and wanted to see what I could achieve in 12 months of working for myself. I’d also seen and spoken to others the same age as me who were making £xx,xxx per month.
By the end of the year, I was earning around £1,000 per month, and by Summer 2011 (one year after I graduated) I was earning more then a good graduate job. This was 90% passive income too. There was very little work required for updating the websites. You could literally work 1-hour workdays just to check everything is running smoothly. The income was coming in regardless.
After my “gap year” was over, I decided I might as well continue working for myself and see how far I could take my business. Albeit for a few bumps along the road, I managed to grow my income, develop websites in other markets and buy my first existing websites for high £x,xxx. I also managed to turn this website around and make an ROI within the first 6 months.
What are your Plans for the Future?
My plans at the moment are to invest a lot of money in turning Investing.co.uk into one of the UK’s leading investment advice, market commentary and news portals and turn StudentMoney.co.uk into a leading student money advice and price comparison website. I also aim to launch a gold retail site on BuyGold.co.uk and market all of these sites and some others through verticals in PPC, SEO and Social Media. I’m also planning to develop a sports betting odds comparison and news site at OddsWinner.com. All of these sites need new themes, designs and features implements, which should be completed by the end of the year.
I’ve moved down to London from Sheffield and I’ve started doing a little big of brand marketing consultancy on the side plus working with some partners in the fitness niche. Overall, I’m working pretty hard at the moment but the truth is there are so many opportunities online and the feeling of coming up with an idea, starting a brand, executing it and then marketing it online keeps me really excited.
What Advice would you have for anyone else looking to start a business, particularly in affiliate marketing?
When most people come up with an idea for a website they end up reaching for the skies but lack any sort of the experience or knowledge to do it. The simplest thing is to develop a site about something you’re both passionate and interested in. Aim to write lots of high quality content that can help others, and then hopefully build up some natural followers on both Facebook and Twitter. The next step is to contact other websites in your niche and ask if you could guest post or provide a PR article on their site. This is a great way of getting your brand out there, improving your SEO and making important contacts in the niche.
You also need to be very patient; don’t expect to earn any decent amount of money for at least 6-12 months. Once you’ve got the basics drilled down however and built a nice site with traffic, you should be able to start monetizing it with Adsense Ads, selling banner advertising or promoting a relevant affiliate program on your site. Finally, there’s tons of make money online blogs and information on the Internet for you to use at your disposal. Many of these sites promote unrealistic “get rich quick schemes”, however some of them are the real deal. You just have to be wise about who you’re taking advice from, and don’t let anyone pull you down.