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Million Dollar Niche Site Project: April 2020 Update – Dear Amazon, Why?

September 7, 2020

Ugh.

Some news dropped on April 14th that was one of the harder kicks in the pants that I’ve received in a while.

For those who didn’t hear, Amazon decided to slash their affiliate program referral fee rates.  And by slash I mean SLASH – many of the product category commission rates (including the main category of products for THIS project) were cut from 8% to 3%.  That’s over 50%!!

I’ve always known that Amazon was a big risk when it comes to these sites.  You’re pretty much relying on them in a lot of ways to sustain your level of income.  Even knowing that something like this was possible, it doesn’t make it any less jarring once it happens.

I have a handful of websites, including this one obviously, that just saw a serious reduction in income and valuation – pretty frustrating stuff, and I know many others in the digital asset community are dealing with the same frustrations and emotions.

So after leading off with that, let’s dive into what happened with the Million Dollar Niche Site Project in the rollercoaster month of April.

A Little More on the Amazon Situation

Here’s a specific breakdown of the rate cuts that went into effect on April 21st, 2020:

Table courtesy of strangesounds.org

The site I’m building for this project referred most of its sales in the “Home” and “Lawn & Garden” categories.  Ouch.  The 8% referral fees with Amazon Associates was actually one of the big reasons I chose this niche in the first place, so saying this rate cut hurts is an understatement.

Now What?

This could probably be an entire blog post on it’s own, but I’m going to revisit my high level strategy with this project over the coming weeks.  I don’t think all of my hopes and dreams of building a $1,000,000 site are shot because of this, but it’s definitely a set back.  I’m going to do some more digging over the next few days, but here are the ideas that seem to have the most potential for diversifying the site’s revenue moving forward.

Utilize Other Affiliate Programs

Other large stores like Wayfair and Target have pretty decent affiliate programs that could potentially offer higher rates and an alternative way to monetize my site’s traffic.

The other option, and better sounding one to me at the moment, is to try to work directly with the established brands in my niche.  It’s not true in all cases, but for the most part you’ll get the best affiliate fee rates working directly with a brand vs promoting the same product with a retailer.

I’ve already done some preliminary research and it looks like some of the brands I’m already promoting have programs where they pay 5-12% commissions.

So I’m definitely going to look into that and see if there are any obvious opportunities to diversify or even boost my revenue.

Display Advertising

Putting display ads on my site has always been a part of the plan, and as you’ll see below, in April I actually earned some revenue from Ezoic – which is a technology company that among other things will optimize display advertising placements on your site to maximize user experience and revenue.

Even though I was always planning on doing this, I’ll probably devote more energy to this strategy going forward than I initially planned on doing this early.

Sell Physical Products

I think there might be an opportunity to private label some products and sell under the brand of the site on Amazon FBA or maybe even on the site itself.  I’ll need to chew this one over though as I know how much time it takes to get started, and how much capital is required to get started with selling physical products.

On To the Site Update – What Got Done This Month

  • I wrote and posted 15 articles to the site, totaling 22,156 words
  • I spent $1,000 on my managed link building campaign with The Hoth to acquire links pointing to my site
  • Ezoic display ads were added throughout the site as an additional means of monetizing my site’s traffic
  • Geni.us links were implemented throughout my site to monetize international traffic

You’ll notice my word count was a lot lower this month than it has been in any other month so far.  That’s mostly because I took a week or so off of writing after the Amazon news came out, it just felt like a good time to step away for a little bit to mentally reset.

As mentioned above, I also spent a few hours brainstorming and strategizing about what’s next and the path forward for the site.

Ezoic

Ezoic is going to be a big part of my strategy moving forward.  Their platform does a lot of things, but one of the most important features of their product to me is their Ad Tester.

Essentially, the Ad Tester tries out thousands and thousands of different combinations of ad placements on your website, and it optimizes to serve relevant ads in the best places on your site to maximize both revenue and user experience.

I’ve used Ezoic before with some of my other projects so I know what their platform is capable of – and I’m excited to get that ball rolling with this project.

So far most of the content I’ve written has been geared towards product reviews like “best electric bicycle” or “best toaster oven under $200” type of articles.

The beauty of Exoic is that you can literally monetize any piece of content that receives traffic – so that opens the door for me to start writing content that doesn’t necessarily have an underlying product to promote.

GeniusLink

The other big development this month was the implementation of GeniusLinks to my site.

GeniusLink’s platform does a number of things, but what I was most interested in for this project was their link localization engine.

Most of my site’s traffic is from the United States, but it’s starting to get enough traffic that a material amount of people from other countries find their way to my site.  The problem is that all of the affiliate links I’ve built to my site point to products on Amazon US – so even if an international user were to buy a product on their local Amazon store, I wouldn’t earn a fee.

GeniusLink solves that problem.  Essentially each time somebody clicks on an Amazon link, the browser routes them through GeniusLink, GeniusLink sees where user is located, then GeniusLink routes user to their local Amazon store, with my affiliate tag attached.

Pretty cool huh?  All of that happens in less than a second too, so the user experience of clicking a link on my site is unaffected.  Hopefully this will lead to a decent amount of revenue in the future!

Revenue

  • Amazon US: $480.00
  • Amazon UK: $1.08
  • Amazon CA: $0.50
  • Amazon DE: $0.70
  • Ezoic: $59.08

Obviously I’m incredibly happy with the revenue growth this month – the site earned about 5 times the revenue it did in March!  The Amazon fee cuts are a damper of course, but the site is still looking good.

 

Traffic

Traffic just about quadrupled again this month – if that pace keeps up this project will be at stratospheric levels before the end of the year!

All around I’m pretty pumped about the continued positive traffic trend.  Part of that I think has to do with seasonality (the site’s niche is extra popular in summer months) and the other part has to do with the continued dedication to posting new content and building links.

Not that it makes much of a difference in terms of revenue, but I’ve noticed a pattern that on weekends my site usually has quite a bit more users than the preceding weekdays.  I guess people are generally more interested in the activity and niche on Saturdays and Sundays compared to the rest of the week!

 

Profit and Loss

We still aren’t cash flow positive but the PnL is definitely trending in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

April was by far the craziest month so far in this project.  From the ups of crushing revenue and traffic records to the downs of the Amazon Associates rate cuts, there was a lot going on.  Thanks for following along!

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