How to monetise a blog with SEO and affiliate marketing

Updated: Jul 27

Monetise your blog with SEO and affiliations

In this article I would like to talk about how to combine SEO and affiliations to create a successful personal blog that also allows you to have a decent income. As a personal blog I mean a website of your own, not a business, where you can monetise the traffic and with "successful" I refer to the fact of reaching the top positions on Google in a reasonably short period of time.

In this article I explain how to earn money from a blog when you have a very low budget, without having created any product and using SEO and affiliations only.

Why Google? The organic traffic is one of the best types of traffic that an affiliate gets on his blog (if done well), it's free, targeted and can carry high volumes of visits to the site. Since affiliates must also have a good margin between revenues and costs to maintain the blog, and since PPC is expensive, SEO is a great weapon, very important for every affiliate.

In this article I will discuss, among other things, how to select the best affiliate niches .

To illustrate all this with a practical example I examine my blog as a case study.

Earning with your blog: market analysis, choice of affiliations, traffic generation

In 2014 I decided to launch my blog (Cloud Storage News) to review cloud storage solutions.

The idea for a blog came when I was looking for information on the best cloud storage (my free 5GB of Dropbox were not enough and before upgrading to Dropbox I wanted to make sure that it was really the best service).

After a brief online search, it was immediately clear that there was no website in Italy that reviewed only and exclusively cloud storage products. In short, I was not able to understand what service was right for me. This made me think, and I said to myself: "Why not launch a blog of my own?"

The term "cloud storage" exploded literally in 2012 in Italy and until 2015 there was a very strong demand. In fact, Google confirmed the trend :

After 3 years where are we? I'm very happy to say that my blog is now 3 years old and during this period I have done nothing but grow it and for this reason I would like to share with you the process that led me to this growth, what results I got and how I managed to make money with my blog using affiliations. 

At the moment, here is the situation: 

  • On the blog stands out for the keywords cloud storage and everything that interests the term;

  • 4,560 subscribers to the newsletter;

  • 950 visitors per day;

  • hundreds of backlinks.

These are not very high volumes of visits as you can see, because the topic is very niche, there are not many people who are looking for a paid cloud solution in Italy, most are satisfied with free ones. However, it should be noted that I did not do a lot of backlinking and I did not spend more than 30 euros a month promoting the site. 

Make money with a blog - Step 1: Market analysis and web competition

The first step that I usually do to start a new campaign for my blog or for a client is to analyze the target market. This includes:

  • Types of content created

  • Content promotion type

  • SEO analysis of competing websites

1. Types of content created

The first part of the market analysis is to look at the content produced by the other sites with which you could compete. In my case it was sufficient to do a search on Google to find these sites. Even big tech sites like FastWeb, Wired Italy, Tom's Hardware, to name a few, did not talk about cloud storage. I personally used the comparisons because I needed to buy online space and to put two or three services next to each other to compare the characteristics, such as: 

  • monthly and annual prices

  • technical support

  • all cloud storage functions

  • any discounts

  • the online space offered

  • reviews and opinions of users

It was immediately clear to me that there was no comparison site for cloud storage in Italy. The fact that these big sites dominated the ranking on Google for terms such as "cloud storage" and the like did not scare me, also because they were news technology sites in general, which one day had decided to talk about cloud storage and then logically they dominated the first page of Google. But more than anything else, it was due to the fact they were quite large and busy sites, not because the results on cloud storage were relevant to user queries.

If a user was looking for "Dropbox or Google Drive" or "cloud storage", for example, the results were always the same. This indicated that no relevant comparison pages existed.

Even Google did not know where to get information from.

I had guessed from this analysis two very important things:

  1. Creating a highly specialised content  for the cloud storage niche would have the potential to bypass those websites on Google. In other words, I understood that offering high quality and specialised content could result in a better ranking compared to sites with a high Domain Authority but without specialisation.

  2. Such a site would have been the first in Italy and would have had no competitors in the form and structure I wanted to give it.

Unfortunately for me I did not know much about the subject, to tell the truth I was quite ignorant on the subject. I had therefore decided to read everything that happened to me. Moreover, since I did not experience the various cloud storage, I started to try for free and test those services that offered a free trial. I downloaded the software on my PC, put various files on the cloud and compared the first 3 services. Testing the services personally without trusting what others said was the most important thing to do to create original content.

2. Method of promotion of contents  

Before starting the various Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages, I had to figure out which ones would work to attract the audience to my blog . I immediately realised that for my blog neither LinkedIn nor Facebook could solve the problem of traffic volumes.

Given the nature of my contents, technical and technological, and since, as we saw above, the results of the queries did not respond to my needs nor (very likely) to those of other users, I decided to write content related to the key words to exploit the Google potential.

Sometimes creating highly relevant content is simpler than you think, it's all about getting it aligned with Google's goals. Google only thinks about offering the best user experience and if you align this with your goal you're on the right path to gain tons of traffic.

3. SEO analysis of competing websites

The third part of the analysis is to look at the sites that linked to my competitors, that is to do a backlink analysis of the competition, and understand which keywords would bring traffic.

As mentioned above, I had only guessed that words like "cloud storage comparison" and the like had potential but I was not 100% sure. I needed to understand who and how was bringing traffic to those ranked articles.

Competitive analysis of backlinks:

I do not repeat here again how to do a competitive analysis of the backlinks, this topic has already been explored many times. If you want to have some more information you can read this article and this one.

Here is a comparison between the sites that talk about cloud storage extracted from Open Site Explorer:

In summary, all these competitors are very well established sites. As you can see, no competing site is set up as CloudStorageNews , my site, in the sense that they do not offer detailed comparisons and therefore strictly speaking they cannot be defined as direct, but indirect, competitors .

However I noticed from an analysis of their page authority for the pages that talked about cloud storage, that these pages were not as popular as the site that published them. In fact, if you read the "Page Specific Metrics" you can see that the page authority is much lower:

This situation confirmed what I said above, namely that even if the Home Page Specific Metric was very high this did not mean that the pages with content on the cloud storage, which dominated the first page of Google, were relevant to the user's query .

I had identified the weakness on which my blog could compete.

But the most interesting thing was who sent traffic on those pages and how he sent it. 

To my great surprise, I discovered that the articles that talked about cloud storage on these sites were not connected to any other site, no one sent them traffic. Using Open Site Explorer you can confirm it:

I guessed that these sites received traffic only from Google:  as I had found them with my research, so they had found the other users. Now my biggest problem was that, having not found a massive and reliable traffic link for these sites, I had a few ideas on how to orientate myself for my link building activity.

Keyword analysis:

I do not add anything else on this subject because the web is full of articles on how to do a keyword analysis. In my case, the term "cloud storage" boomed in 2012 and up to 2015. Considering the contents of my competitors there was nothing left but to build a list of words similar to cloud storage, such as "online backup" and "cloud comparison" to give two examples. Not only that, but there are hundreds of keywords that can be found associated with big brands, such as "Dropbox review", for example. All these words have brought traffic and allowed me to monetise the blog , as we will see later.

Make money with a blog - Step 2: Affiliate strategies

Starting with good affiliate programs that wou