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Building an Amazon Affiliate Business from the Ground up – with Chris Guthrie
Chris got fired from his last job, thankfully! He was speaking with co-workers about his affiliate revenues he was making on the side and his boss found out and fired him! Fast forward almost 10 years and Chris is the host of the UpFuel Podcast and an expert in the Amazon Affiliate space. He is the owner of several businesses in the Amazon space, including affiliate, SaaS and physical product businesses. His opinions and recommendations are not theories…they are from real life experiences.
Chris is humble…you’ll get that in the Podcast. He didn’t sell or pitch anything. He just shared his experiences being an Amazon Affiliate entrepreneur. One thing he said over and over when it came to being successful within the Amazon Affiliate space is to “differentiate” your site. Make sure that whatever product line you choose to pursue, that you differentiate your site from others…there needs to be a strong reason why the end user would review products on your site versus the competition.
- Chris has been self-employed for just under 10 years.
- His Amazon Affiliate income replaced his “job” income…before he was fired.
- He owns wordpress plugins, saas, affiliate and physical product businesses.
- Each niche has its strengths.
- Choose a niche that is of interest if you are starting out.
- If you are building a portfolio of Amazon Affiliate sites, then a system and process takes precedence over passion.
- Price point matters GREATLY within the affiliate space.
- Develop a product review site, not an information site to help buyers make decisions.
- Content is still critical, and Chris outsources much of it these days.
- Amazon’s cookie length is 24 hours, allowing you to make money off products you are not reviewing.
- A long term approach is the key to long term success.
- Building links can accelerate ranking, but is no replacement for good quality content.
- When buying…beware of PBNs!
Mark: Joe how are you?
Joe: I’m doing fantastic Mr. Daoust, how about you?
Mark: Good. I’d understand you talked to a friend of Quiet Light and a friend of Brad one of our brokers here, Chris Guthrie.
Joe: Yeah Chris is from UpFuel.com and AmaSuite and I mentioned those upfront because we didn’t talk about it at all during the podcast. He’s an entrepreneur, have been self-employed for about 10 years, went off on his own after he got fired. He was actually talking to his coworkers and bragging about how much money he was making doing affiliate marketing and his boss found out and fired him; probably the best thing that ever happened to him because he’d been doing very well ever since. And the subject of the podcast is really specifically focused on the Amazon Affiliate Space. Meaning you build the site doing product reviews on say vacuum cleaners and people look at those reviews click on one that they like and it takes them to Amazon, somebody buys it on Amazon and you get paid. And it’s really Chris’s … one of his areas of expertise and I mentioned Up Fuel which is his podcast and his blog that he talks about this on so I would recommend people tune in. But also AmaSuite which is a software service that he’s built that helps people sort of narrow the path in terms of what they want to find, what products, how to … what niche, what category and he didn’t talk about it at all. He didn’t pitch. He didn’t promote so I’m doing a little bit for him because what I was trying to get was a clear path for people that want to either build one from scratch or buy one and grow it or things of that nature. And I think that he was hesitant to talk about his own product because he’s such a nice guy. He really … listen Mark I’m going to, don’t let this go to your head but he reminded me of you a little bit which is he just wants to have conversations and help people. And when he helps people it comes back around. And it was a great great great show and I think it’ll help a lot of people in terms of the Amazon Affiliate Space.
Mark: He reminded you of me huh?
Joe: Yeah just the better looking, a lot better looking.
Mark: The poor fellow.
Joe: All right well let’s get to it … I mean if you … it’s got to be good so let’s get to it then.
Mark: All right here we go.
Joe: Hey folks it’s Joe Valley from Quiet Light Brokerage and today I’ve got Chris Guthrie on the line with me. Hey Chris how are you doing?
Chris: I’m doing well thank you for having me.
Joe: Chris you’re like a … you’re a little bit of famous in my world you know. You are. You’re like a star. I know you from your podcast and we’ve run in the same circles for years but didn’t get a chance to meet each other until last October right? It’s Rhodium Event Weekend out in Vegas. It turns out you’re very good friends with one of our brokers here, Brad Wayland. You guys are in the same neck of the woods I think right?
Chris: Yeah well actually he’s an up and a little bit south to Seattle; he’s over several states but-
Joe: Okay so in the internet world I guess you’re in the same neck of the woods because you’re-
Chris: That’s right.
Joe: You should like candies; you guys don’t even if grocery’s on.
Joe: But you talk to each other often?
Chris: Definitely, yup.
Joe: Well he speaks very highly of you. And I … as I said pre intro here we don’t do fancy intros. I don’t have your bio in front of me. I know about you. I know what you do a little bit. But I think folks want to hear it directly from you. So why don’t you give us a little bit of background on how you got started in the internet space and what you do for a living these days.
Chris: Definitely. Yeah so probably the reason why I try and put myself out in the first place is just because it leads to conversations and other different types of opportunities. That’s kind of some eyesight a long time ago when I was digging into this online space that I wanted to blog about it and talk about it because it would lead to relationships and friendships that I count people out and they count me out. And that’s sort of why when you said the famous thing I think … I don’t really think that but it’s more just that’s kind of why I went with that direction. But yeah I pretty much just have been doing various online businesses now for about 8 ½ years full time. On the Amazon Affiliate Side of things that’s actually how I was able to first leave my day job. I was just fired but I left ahead that job and was able to just keep doing online stuff because my Amazon Affiliate income had replaced my day job income. And so I just basically got to work the next day working on building more sites and growing the main primary site I had at the time. But yes so other than Amazon Affiliate thing I also run WordPress plugins, a SaaS company, physical product company, and other different types of Amazon Affiliate or well regular affiliate websites as well. So a bunch of different things along the way but yeah I’ve been here right for quite a while.
Joe: So what’s your favorite in terms of running the business? Do you like the physical product space which takes working capital and things of that nature or the Amazon Affiliate Space?
Chris: It’s tough to say because each one has its benefit. With the affiliate side of things, you don’t have any … you don’t have to deal with any capital it’s just other than your initial capital to invest in the content creation and building a site out. There isn’t going to be as many costs associated with that especially once you get up in ranks and start making money. And then there is … in many cases there’s less ongoing expenses. But on the physical product side you’re constantly putting in more cash and then a lot of cases it’s just a matter of trying to lay the damage to yourself for as long as possible so you can continue to grow that business. I mean everyone has a different goal in terms of what they want to do with any business type but in the physical profit side you’ve got to do … you’ve got to re-invest so much more. So I can’t really answer I guess one way or the other I think it really comes down to what people are most interested in. For me, I like both and so that’s kind of why I still kind of have my feet in both areas; both on the physical product side and if the affiliate side and then also selling software and things like that.
Joe: Got you. Well as we talked a little bit before we started recording, I’ve sold a number of affiliate spaces, businesses where they’re selling Amazon Affiliate products and making money through Amazon Affiliates. And it’s becoming more and more prevalent in some of the event groups like Rhodium Weekend, a lot of folks getting very interested in that. I’ve always been in the physical products space, I had a couple of content sites and my physical products site was actually write good quality content and Google will reward me was my methodology. And it happened but I sold physical products. But the affiliate space is fascinating for me and I think more and more people are wanting to learn more about it. So that’s obviously why we’re chatting today and want to really get your expertise on how do you get started in this space? How do you focus on growth? Can you ramp it up? Can you do pay per click? Do you do social media? Do you do the tricks and tactics that they do with physical products on Amazon, or what’s the approach? And then maybe keep in mind that we have both buyers and sellers that listen to the podcast. So tell me from a starting point how do you begin in the Amazon Affiliate Space? Do you just simply research a product, pick one, and go with it? Do something you love? What would you recommend to those listening?
Chris: Yeah definitely. So for the way I like to do things is I like to look into … it’s more of a just general niche research. And that’s of course … you said that where there’s a lot of baggage because there’s a whole different bunch of different ways you can do this. You can use various tools to help with the research process. You can just go out to Google based on things you’re interested in and do research in that way. On the Amazon Affiliate side, that’s what I’d spent more of my time doing was focusing more on areas that I was most interested in personally. So I had a site that was focused on like smaller computers and that was something that I was interested in personally. So that’s kind of how I decided. I was looking at the various niches online and what people were ranking for and how they’re making money. And it just seemed like a lot of the content they are creating wasn’t really … in many cases at least for the niche that I was in before I sold that site, they weren’t even actually reviewing the products that they’re talking about. They are just basically writing articles and using CNET [inaudible 00:08:34.7] large conglomerates, larger websites to come up with the information they could write about. So what I did and so I was … you know contacted these companies and got them to send me products for free and I sent it back and do things like that. So with any site that I do whether it’s Amazon Affiliate or anything else it’s … for me, it’s mainly about finding a way to differentiate. So looking at any niche is just okay what can I do to be better or to better serve the audience than the existing niches that are out there? So I usually-
Joe: Okay. I would think it would matter that it’s something you’re interested in because with an Amazon Affiliate Space you’re reviewing the products. You’re writing content about it. You’re sharing your voice and your opinion. It seems like it’ll be important that is something that you like.
Chris: Yeah definitely I mean that’s … for me that was the approach. I mean I think that if the goal and this isn’t something that I’ve done personally but if the goal is to really systemize and launch dozens of sites or something like that then you would need to just … you could really do just things your interested in because you can’t potentially run out of those. But you’d be looking at different types of criteria just like what’s the average sign price of a product, that’s one of the things that you focus on as well is if you’re focusing on a niche where the price is much higher then you can make more money in Amazon’s Affiliate program because of the way they have the structure; their affiliate payouts. But that’s something to consider as well is just the price of the items that are going to be sold.
Joe: Okay so focus a little bit on something that you like but also look at the math behind it in terms of the Amazon Affiliate Payouts and the different categories that they have and the price points. Because you’re going to get a paid … you get paid a percentage of the close transaction I assume; is that right? Can you touch on that a little bit, how you make money as an affiliate? Start from scratch and assume that people are tired of physical products or tired of SaaS products and they want to maybe buy one of these. How do you make money doing it? Go right into that a little bit.
Chris: Yes, so the way that it’s done pretty much is just focusing on … actually to see and try to pull up the actual charts that I have memorized it off the side of my head but each category will have different types of payouts. And pretty much the way you can … I would say and try and pull it really quick but I have it in front of me … yeah, so the way that I would that is find-
Joe: So somebody reviews a product and let’s say they’re reviewing vacuum cleaners. And someone sells vacuum cleaners on Amazon; obviously, they do. And I’m talking about the reviews on those physical products and someone clicks on the link and goes to buy it on Amazon, I get paid a percentage of that but I never have to own the physical product that’s the upside of this right? I get a percentage of the sale but never have to purchase the inventory, correct?
Chris: Exactly yup and in pretty much the … and I was trying to find the category here, so every category is different and they’ll show you which … what the fees are like I’d give you one example, so if it’s outdoor tools for instance that’s 5.5% as a percentage that you’ll get. And the great thing too is any time that you send someone to Amazon you’ll get a commission on any product that they buy while they’re on Amazon. So even if you’re referring people to vacuum cleaners then you can get sales on other types of these accessories as well within a 24 hour window. That’s the cookie blank for Amazon.
Joe: Excellent. So I know that with physical products you can get to the top fairly fast. There’s different processes and categories and not just on Amazon but if you’re selling a physical product all that you need to do is pay some PPC ads for instance with Google Ad Words. It’s not a winning formula oddly … obviously all the time but with affiliate how are you getting traction? How are you getting up to page one of the search engines and is it a short term game or is it a long term game?
Chris: Yes, definitely more of a long term game. With any website that I’m trying to build out and rank it’s more of kind of like we say you’re creating content or someone is creating content for you. Looking at what’s ranking there and listing okay what can I do that’s better than that? And then having someone or doing it yourself. Creating out that content and creating something better. Things that you can do to accelerate the process of trying to rank would be building links and doing things like that. For me most of the time it’s more of an emphasis on the content creation side aspect but like in the case of the examples I was referring to before that I sold, I would do things like trying to … because mine was in the tactical category, I try to do things like breaking news within that niche. And I would contact larger sites to say hey this product is available on Amazon now. And like in gadget and other types of sites like that, I had a link back to my site because of doing that. So it’s like another way to try and help with getting more link authority from external sites that would help with the content that I was creating for that site. But that’s kind of the process that … and I would never do anything like pay advertising for affiliate sites. It’s … and I’m not sure if any of Amazon affiliate person out there that’s doing that. For me I just … it never [inaudible 00:13:30.0] just because I know that the margins you’re getting from the sales of the products you’re referring rather.
Chris: There’s not really enough money actually if I’d like to drive then paid traffic to try and convert that paid traffic.
Chris: Years and years ago people would do just racked paid advertising straight to Amazon’s website and you could do that before they banned it but that was like years and years ago.
Joe: Got you. Well, they get smarter every year and fix the problems and make it tougher. And the people that are doing it right, I think survive in the long run and knows that cheating to get to the top end up getting kicked to the curb hopefully anyway.
Joe: So with an Amazon affiliate site, some people have the impression that if you’ve got a physical product site that you’re constantly managing customer service, constantly managing inventory and that it’s a grind, you get to constantly churn out new skews to stay on top of the competition and then, of course, grow beyond Amazon.com to the different countries. It sounds like and some people get the impression that it sounds like, seems like Amazon Affiliate would be build it and let it grow slowly and it’s a lot less work. But from what you just said which is breaking news and staying on top of things you’re putting in the same kind of effort on a daily basis I would assume with an affiliate business as you are with that physical products business or is that not the case?
Chris: It’s not necessarily the case. I think it really depends on the niche that you’re in because you know it like before we hit recording you mentioned another mutual friend that does Amazon Affiliate things as well.
Joe: Yuan Fitzner let’s just say his name out loud. So Fitzner it’s you and he’s a great guy. For anybody who doesn’t know him, find him through Rhodium Weekend; he’s fantastic.
Chris: Yeah so he’s probably a good person at all as well but he doesn’t do any link building, right? He focuses more on just creating the content and that’s similar to the strategy that I do as well. But in the case of the niche that I was in specifically before I sold that site doing that as a strategy was … I knew there was a benefit there. Because I think one time Engadget linked to the site and they didn’t change the affiliate link. I think it was like several thousand dollar affiliate fees that they … but in that case, it was more just like here is something that fits-
Joe: You didn’t point that mistake to the under laying and good backing.
Chris: None of it, it’s just like tip line and you just say hey here’s this product that’s out now and people are probably excited about it and it’s available on Amazon now. And yes that was a nice little bonus but … so now it was more of like niche specific. I definitely think that … I’m probably more often than not actually. You’re building out affiliate sites because I had other sites as well. I have other sites that it’s not like that. Where we’re not trying to break news or do things like that. It’s just more niche specific. Even people in the technical space they don’t want to do that approach and they don’t have to. I mean that’s just kind of the style that we chose for that site.
Joe: Okay so good quality content, SEO friendly over the long run and theoretically you’ll get rewarded. Is that the basic simplified dumbed down approach?
Chris: Yeah I mean it does simplify it but that’s really kind of the core. And I think I really emphasize just the differentiation aspect. Like any site that I build it’s always like okay I don’t really want to enter this area unless I’m willing to do something multiple times better than what’s already there. So that’s the approach I take for really building any site.
Joe: What are some of the mistakes that you’ve made then in terms of doing these affiliate sites? I mean what did you learn the hard way?
Chris: Yeah. So of the some of the mistakes I made was … at least for me personally, I do better having fewer sites and just focusing on doing really well with those sites as opposed to having many sites. Like another [inaudible 00:17:09.7] can find that was Spencer he … years and years ago he used to do like hundreds of niche websites and make money from Google AdSense. For me I never … she was interested in doing that type of approach and systemizing in that way. But for me at least it was just a matter of trying to focus on two small niches and so I can … I think I had one that was on HDMI cable reviews. Which was a fail because that was … HDMI cables are inexpensive and then it’s also it’s just kind of a small niche and … well, not necessarily a small niche but it was kind of a … it was hard to do well with that one then than some of the other niches I went after.
Joe: That could seem like it would change a whole lot over the years either.
Chris: Yeah I mean it was … well, that’s the change in standards in terms like new for kay, signals and things like that. But yeah it was just like if you can go with higher price items that’s helpful right? With the part that I was doing is computers and so it’d be you know … or small laptops rather that would be more of a payout each time.
Joe: Okay, I had an example given to me maybe at December, January you know someone that was passionate about … I think it was salt water fishing and writing a blog about salt water fishing and within that doing the affiliate links on the different tackle and lures that you can get with salt water fishing. Would that be an approach that someone could take? You know if I have a passion like that whether it’s salt water fishing or basket weaving if you will, to build a site based upon that passion and then just go with that approach? And then the follow up question is all right great how do I learn about SEO as you have over the years? What resources do you have? Because it seems again really simplified to say just build a site that you really are passionate about, find great products, review them, and off you go. But you’re still got to build an SEO from this site and write good content that that the … your Google is gonna love, right?
Chris: Yeah so going back to the example, I think if you’re building out just a site that you’re passionate about and then trying to then add Amazon Affiliate as like a monetization … kind of like an add-on, I think it’s harder to make Amazon a larger portion of the revenue for that site. If the goal isn’t from the start like hey we’re going to build out like a more of a review type site as opposed to here’s something that we’re interested at about just general information and then here is while reading this article happened to may be interested in this specific lure or whatever the example is you gave.
Joe: Salt water fishing.
Chris: Yeah, so that just from what I’ve been looking at sites in the past it just seems like that’s more challenging. What usually ends up happening in those types of cases, the website owner usually ends up making a larger portion of their money just from banner ads or other types of ad platforms like that and then Amazon is more of a supplemental as opposed to the sites that I build. It’d be more … really focused around the review side of things. And so it’ll just be like people that are coming to this content are interested in reviews about this product and so then that traffic is more likely to buy something than people that are just interested in general information come to my site and then they may or may not be in a buying state.
Joe: So a clear differentiate is a content site that’s just giving information about products in general versus a review site when you’re comparing a variety of different products. And when you choose one of those products it’s going to Amazon and you get a percentage of that revenue. That’d be, right?
Chris: Yeah and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to do … really your example where you’re building out because it’s great to generate revenue from ads and just have a lot of traffic as well just from various articles you’re writing and all about salt water fishing and then also be able to make money from Amazon with the Affiliate Program. It’s just there’s two different ways that you might see sites if you’re on the buying or building or selling side of things.
Joe: Well on those three sides which do you like … do you think, let’s just talk about two; building or buying. We had Walker Deibel on the show a couple of weeks ago talking about build versus buy or buy versus build. It’s actually in a book. He’s coming on the Quiet Light team as an advisor in July. Do you personally in terms of specifically the affiliate space, Amazon Affiliate Space do you think it’s better to build or to buy?
Chris: Well I’ve done all of them. Build, buy, sell, every aspect on the Amazon Affiliate Side. I prefer now at least … I’ve been doing this for a lot longer to … or that depends right? Because it depends on for me at least where my capital might be tied up; either I just recently bought something or I’m doing other investments that are outside the online space and I want it just free of capital. And so I’m not actively looking to buy something or I’m just trying to focus on okay now that I’ve got that other thing going on but I can try and focus on scaling up all my things and as well. I prefer, if I had to pick one I’d say I prefer building and then being able to sell after that because for me at least I’d like to be able to invest less of my own personal cash. I know you mentioned [inaudible 00:22:18.3] before, [inaudible 00:22:19.4], a lot of the buyers there they don’t have access to capital that I don’t have access to through … you know people have consider with more money that they can then use as investing partners. And so I suppose if I … given the opportunity I had more capital then I would probably be doing more buying. So I guess it’s tough to say. If you don’t have cash and you want to just get started then building would make the most sense and maybe you can sell once you get to a certain point. That gives you some capital to either reinvest and build more sites or maybe build or buy other things. But if you have access to capital from … for any reason then buying would be great because you’re able to just start with something existing.
Joe: How long has it been for you from that build to sell? Do you typically hold something for 12, 24, 36 months? What have you seen? What do you try to set as a goal for yourself when you’re building something? I think okay I’m going to build this to eventually sell it if that’s your goal, how long do you like to hold it for? Or does it just depend?
Chris: Well, a lot of the times it’s more just a … it really does depend. Because half the time I do this site … well most of the time actually when I do these sites it’s more a matter of I’m building something up, I like the cash flow and that’s kind of the main goals is just building our monthly cash flow from various websites, businesses, etcetera. So that’s kind of more of what I’m after is just getting more cash flow and then rather than just trying to pull out my capital right away and just to sell. So for me, it’s all about the cash flow and I am not always interested in exactly trying to sell.
Joe: How many how many balls do you have in the inner; Amazon affiliate wise, how many sites are you juggling now?
Chris: If I were to add up all the different sites it’d probably be … I had to look-
Joe: You know it’s more than a dozen or so when you have to look.
Chris: Well, no it’s more I was trying to get a specific number. I’ll say it’s less than a dozen but I also include in that other affiliate sites that just make money from other CPA type offers opposed to Amazon.
Joe: Got you.
Chris: Because kind of once … for me, Amazon was a starting point. That was kind of how I got into the whole space was building out this Amazon Affiliate Site, I was doing it on the side outside of my working hours in a completely unrelated job and just trying to find a way to earn enough money to do this full time. And then once I started making enough money from Amazon it opened up all these different opportunities to try and do other things as well. And that’s one is going to software, creating tools for Amazon Affiliate Sellers or well affiliates rather and doing things like that.
Joe: How long has it been since you were thankfully fired from the last day job you had?
Chris: Yeah, I was looking it up. Actually, I have it on my calendar October 13th is the day and it was … it will be nine years this year, later this year rather. And then I’ll be 10 years the next year but that will be sort of, that’ll be what 2000 … I’m trying to think now what the year it is, 2018 so it’s 2009 I believe.
Joe: It’s a long time to be self-employed; it’s impressive that you pulled that off.
Chris: Yeah. And now for me at least it’s more of a matter of just further building out multiple different income streams and revenue streams from a variety of different businesses. There’s … well, that’s a whole other discussion right whether you should focus on just one thing or kind of spread it out. For me, it was more like build something out that starts making cash. And it’s like well I don’t know if I can really sell this for enough to make it worth selling. It’s not going to change my life in any meaningful way so I’ll keep it and have someone help me out to run it. Well, that’s kind of the approach I’m working with.
Joe: So if someone is listening to this and they were in your shoes, you know where you were 10 years ago and they had a day job and they want to do what you’ve done which is building Amazon Affiliate Sites and make some income on the side what should they expect? Should they … if they pick a category they like, they do a review site, they sign up, they get involved should they … would your expectations that they’re going to hit 1 out of 10 on sites that they do, 2 out of 10, 5 out of 10. What would you give them in terms of a ratio so that they can understand and of course these are all ballpark numbers and what kind of money can they really make? I mean we’re talking about on the small side a few thousand bucks a month and the people that are big and really experienced at this you know what kind of money are they making?
Chris: Yeah you know that’s a tough … it’s tough I think with the ballpark it’s a challenge to give an answer to that because the experiences that people have may lend themselves to be able to be successful more easily.
Joe: All right, well look everybody listens to me all right. And they’re like Joe you’re an idiot but I like you and you know would … I have people tell me like they feel like we’re old friends from this nude podcast. But you know me through Brad, we chatted, if I was to do this … let’s be specific. You could say … be honest say, Joe, you’re going to do 1 out of 10. Just face it, Joe, you’re not going to do well. I mean you’re the expert what would you guess if people are going to do this with some these in experience on a thing that they love and they’re smart and they’re going to do research online, they’re gonna go to your podcast, they’re going to go read everything about Chris Guthrie and figure how you do it. What are they going to do, 1 out of 10, 1 out of 5, what do you think?
Chris: Ah if they’re learning from me it’s going to be 100% right.
Joe: You’re a humble guy every time okay.
Chris: Yeah and though I’d say probably it’s … with a lot of things, you get into it and sometimes they’ll hit and they’ll do well. So for me, the best site that I have was doing over 10k a month.
Chris: Worst site would be like $300 a month. And that’s where I’ll be some of the weaker ones and then some are them between where I have a few thousand or so. Hit rate would be more like maybe 25-50% with sites that would be doing pretty well. But it … yeah, it’s just really tough to answer that question for me.
Joe: You improved that hit rate I would assume with the research that you do upfront. Is that right? I mean just like a physical products business on the web, on Amazon or Shopify whatever it is if you do your research up front; what are the competition price points, how are you going to sell it, things of that nature-
Joe: And you’re doing the same thing with Amazon Affiliate; you need to pick a product with a great margin, something that you can write about, something that has been up searches online. What tools do you use to help … even if you have a passion for something whether it’s worth it on … whether it’s worth creating an Amazon Affiliate Business? So are there certain tools that you use to help that hit rate go up?
Chris: So well tools for like the research side of things?
Joe: Yeah to help ensure that the path that you’re going down is going to be as successful as possible.
Chris: Yes, I use a lot of SEMrush actually. So I use that tool quite a bit because I just like to pull up a site, see what stuff is ranking well, where they’re getting their traffic from and-
Joe: Do you have the paid subscription for that or do you just use the free version?
Chris: So I fluctuate off and on. So from the process of building or going back to yeah I’d more than all do the paid subscription, and then if it’s okay we’ve got enough stuff on our plate let’s just focus on what we have and not create anything new then it’s like well I don’t really need to pay extra subscription right now. So I fluctuate in and out. Ahrefs is another tool I use as well although that was another one that I just was okay I got a good sense of where our competitors are in their links, where they’re getting traffic, and okay I cancel out as well. So it’s like-
Joe: I always get that one wrong, it’s A-H-refs is that right? We did a giveaway when we launched the podcast on an account on a subscription for that but it was Mark’s area of expertise. Can you spell it out for me?
Chris: Yeah, it’s A-H-R-E-F-S.com and I’m not even sure how you’re supposed to pronounce that either.
Chris: So I mean I met someone that works for the company at that conference as well. I didn’t bring that up but yeah-
Joe: Mumble what they said that’ll generally work. If you actually … the way my 16 year old does, he just speaks confidently and I believe him when he’s comp … no idea what he’s talking about but he speaks confidently. I think that’s the trick.
Joe: All right so Ahrefs-
Joe: You went through it and that one is more of what links the sites have right? Is that what you’re looking at?
Chris: Yeah, so it’d be more like looking at both viewers and the lengths for me. I was merely just trying to see where my key rankings were and so I was kind of more just tracking how it is we’re doing. For SEMrush that’s why I would use just the tool for research. And the thing is that here’s what … the thing with tools and especially the two tools I just mentioned they’ve been around for years and years and years so they have so many different things that I probably didn’t even know. Like I probably didn’t even need one or the other it’s just like when you get comfortable using one tool for one thing you’d use it for just that one thing. And then you might use this tool for the other thing. But that’s kind of what the approach I would do.
Joe: Okay. So do that research upfront and what you’re looking for is traffic, competition, links, things of that nature before you go down the path to increase success rate, any other recommendations that you’d give somebody just starting off?
Chris: Just the main thing I would say is well … I mean if you’re looking at what … just looking at larger sites that are doing well. Seeing … I try to reverse engineer a lot. So when you’re looking at starting from now that you’re doing your research process and seeing what sites are getting in the traffic beyond just like figuring out why are they getting this traffic. Is it because they have a bunch of links pointing at them? Is it because their content is much much better? That’s … I guess I keep coming back to this like but it’s always for me differentiation. What is it that they’re doing that’s really doing that is working really well for them and then how can I do better than that? And so in the process of doing that research and looking at that then you’re going to see okay it looks like they’re using AdThrive or something for their ad platform and then they’re using Amazon’s Affiliate Program and maybe they’re using LinkShare so you link to Walmart and things like that.
Joe: From a buyer’s side if somebody came to you and said “Hey look I’m looking at buying this site can you give me your opinion on it?” What things should buyers look for that maybe somebody in the Amazon Affiliate Space has done this sort of cheat and it’s not going to last, is there anything that stands out that people should be aware of or look for?
Chris: It’s not because … you want to look at where they … if they are building links you want look at where they’re doing it because there’s you know PBNs or things like that are definitely more gray area.
Joe: If I were … go ahead and say what PBN stands for, please.
Chris: Yeah, Private Blog Networks, that’s where people build out like huge networks of blogs and then they use links on those blogs and point them at the site. And then those blogs are getting traffic or links part of them as well. So that looks like you’re getting links from higher quality sites when in fact they’re just sites people would construct pretty much solely for the purpose of pointing links at properties they own or properties their clients own. And I can’t remember exactly how long ago it was but Google cracked down and quite a bit. From what I’ve seen people kind of just got it underground and so it’s kind of the [inaudible 00:33:26.3] a lot but … so looking at that is helpful in terms of how a buyer can protect themselves from that. Usually, you’re able to use some of these third party tools to help check that out. There’s also things where if you’re signing an agreement that’s saying I haven’t used a PBN and then you find out that they are because maybe you’re ranking stopped or go down because they’ve stopped in turning to run that PBN and point the links at you then that’s something that you could have legal recourse to go after them. But that might be something out of buying side that included-
Joe: Yeah, that’s what you definitely don’t want to have to do is to go after them after the fact.
Joe: Because you’re chasing them for money that you gave them which is never a good position to be in.
Joe: But certainly doing the research to see where those … where the traffic’s coming from and see if there is a PBN and trying to avoid it as much as possible. I think a lot of the times Chris getting to know the person, trusting a broker that’s involved if there is one involved, really getting to know the seller in a positive manner. I always recommend whether it’s a $35,000 site and it could apply to 3,500 as well, or a 3.5 million dollar site, if you’re buying it, it’s your money, you worked hard for it, get on a plane, spend an extra thousand dollars stay in a Holiday Inn whatever and meet the person face to face. Do a Zoom or Skype conference call so you can see them and talk to them but meet them face to face before you close the transaction. You can go under LOI in advance but I just don’t think there’s a better substitute for a handshake, having a lunch or dinner or beer and getting a better feel for them. Of course, you’ve got to do that due diligence and that research and hire experts like yourself or [inaudible 00:35:14.5] whoever might do the research if you don’t have it to protect your money. It’s something you worked hard for and I can tell you right now that when you make an investment and you blow it, it’s really really hard to pull the trigger again. I know a lot of people that have done that. I know more people that have been incredibly successful and then unsuccessful. But those that thought they knew everything and thought that everybody was kind and trustworthy like they were and they pulled the trigger and something changed in the world, there was a shift with an algorithm update or whatnot and things just fall apart. They can fall apart very quickly. So lots of research meet somebody face to face, use the tools that you’re talking about, the Ahrefs and SEMrush, check for PBN things of that nature. You know most people are good but it’s the few bad ones that you just want to avoid in my opinion, in my experience. As far as up the top line revenue you think you know if somebody that can do this maybe they’re making $10,000 a month that they do really well, how many hours a week are we talking about that is going to take to operate a business of this nature?
Chris: It’s definitely if … so for I guess it depends. For me, I’ll give … I can really only speak to my own experiences. So for that site that like my bigger site that I had before I sold it, it was probably 15 hours a week or so and then the rest of my time was on other projects. So it wasn’t like a full time thing because I was doing it outside my day job in the first place and then I only added a little bit more time because then I thought okay well I’ve got this new time. I don’t want to have all my eggs in one basket because now I have no job and just one primary site and then other sites that are also helpful but wouldn’t be enough for me to cover my bills and for … at the time I was like okay I just want to make sure I could … I don’t have to go back and get a job.
Joe: [inaudible 00:37:01.3]
Chris: And so that’s kind of the approach that I took and it worked for that site. It really depends on me and a lot of times too with Amazon Affiliate Sites especially, you’re able to hire out for a lot of aspects of the process of building; either building, maintaining, any aspect to that because it’s just content creation and there are a lot of writers that you can find. They can cover that part. And so if you’re not doing it yourself and you’re finding ways to get yourself out of that process then it can be much further reduced. Now I try and just … for me it was I try to only come up with ideas and then work with people that can help implement a lot of these or to … it’s more just about trying to really limit the amount of time I spend on actually like creating content for instance. I might like to write about something on a blog personally but if I can have someone else do it then it wouldn’t make sense for you to do that.
Joe: Yeah, content creation can take an awful lot of time. Chris, we’re running out of time. Can you share any last minute thoughts or recommendations for those that are listening that are either building, buying, or selling Amazon Affiliate Sites; any last minute advice that you would give them?
Chris: Yeah, I would just say that … well, actually I’d say if anyone is curious or has other questions feel free to … I would like to say feel free to email me.
Joe: You know without a doubt I want to … let’s talk about how they reach you. We’ll put it in the show notes as well but you know throw out whatever email address, phone number, blog sites, anything you want to share right now I’d be happy to do that. But we’ll also put it in the show notes so everybody can find it in writing and get a link there too.
Chris: Yeah so to answer your question I’d say decide on what you want to do right? If you’re trying to … and everyone probably has a different expertise or where they’re at with their life, what they want to do. If you’re limited by a capital and you have a lot of money to invest then it may make sense to just simply build something so you can build it up and then come to your brokers like you guys of course and then sell it and that can give you cash that would … you could then use to reinvest and do those things. And that might be something you would do while you’re still at your day job. If you’re already on a site where you have access to more money then buying something would make sense. And being able to then take where you’re at and growing it from there. I’d really just say that decide which focus you want to go with. Make sure you find ways to differentiate. I mean I kind of bring out that this whole time but for me, everything that I’ve done with any business is always been for me differentiation and finding ways to do much better than the competition.
Joe: That seems to be the good … best key word here is just be different. You don’t want to be like everybody else; differentiate yourself. Still do all the things right, still build something that people want to come to and trust but differentiate yourself in whatever way that you can. Excellent. Chris, how do people reach you? How do they find you? Share any information you can now so that they can get in touch with you and talk about this.
Chris: Yeah, so best place would probably just be UpFuel.com which is my site. We didn’t talk about it much but I sell the WordPress plugin that helps people with Amazon Affiliate things as well and that’s EasyAzon.com.
Chris: Yeah so if it’s … if you’re running WordPress and you know a lot of people do of course then that’s a software you can use to help with creating links and earning more money from those links as well.
Joe: Excellent. I will make sure that link is in the show notes as well. So UpFuel.com, EasyAzon.com anywhere else that you are in the world?
Chris: Twitter @chrisguthrie and yeah so that’s probably the main ones but I’m happy to … if any … if you’re on the buying side and you’re just looking for second opinion, I try and I’ve just done well with trying to provide value and people with no expectation, no return and then things work out so-
Joe: I agree. Just help people have good conversations and it comes back around. All right man listen I appreciate it Chris thanks so much for your time. Hopefully, folks that are either building buying or selling Amazon affiliate sites will get some good resources here. Thanks for your time today I appreciate it.
Upfuel.com: An up to date article with respect to the Amazon affiliate niche.
Easyazon.com: The plugin that a lot of WordPress users install as well (they have over 10,000 installs).
AMASuite.com: Discover products and how to differentiate and source them inexpensively.