6 Mistakes and Lessons Learned from Buying an Affiliate Website – One Year Later

NOTE: This is a guest post from Mike Ziarko . I have never accepted guest posts on wilsonusman.com, but I made an exception for him once. (and because Mike is a great person).

Mike ZiarkoWilson Usman’s recent series of posts about Readers Who Want To Know How to Earn Money Online got me thinking recently that with the arrival of August comes the 1 year anniversary of my own entrance into internet marketing and that there’s probably a lot of readers out there who are in the same boat as I was. As cliche as it might sound, it really is hard to believe that it’s been one year since I was unhappily working at my 9-5 job. I remember surfing the internet in the odd hours of the night for months on end trying to find the right kind of internet business to get into. This isn’t a post about how one year later I’ve turned an affiliate site into an empire, because that didn’t happen. This post is about the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned from having jumped into a world I knew very little about, and how you can prepare yourself for the challenges that lie ahead. We all have to start somewhere.

Did my affiliate make back what I paid for it? Nope. Do I regret having spent a good amount of money on a niche that I knew nothing about? Hell no. Did I learn a heck of a lot? Oh hell yes.

In August of 2009 I bought the domain and web site carinsurancequoter.com on Flippa.com for a price that most would be shocked at for a complete newbie to pay. I desperately wanted to get into the game and hit the ground running, so I took the plunge.

Great domain and great niche right? Wrong. If you’ve been doing this awhile you’ll know that’s one of the most highly competitive niches on the internet. That’s lesson-learned #1.


1) I got into a niche without doing the proper niche market research. Car Insurance quotes are insanely competitive because there are 11 million searches per month just for car insurance. Car insurance quotes gets close to a million. As an affiliate you’re competition with the companies your advertising for keyword ranking in Google. I’ll stop at saying its impossible, but there are much easier niches to get into. Lesson learned: Do your research and make sure your getting into a market where there is high demand and low competition.


2) I didn’t get my feet wet enough (ie. I didn’t do enough of the work myself). I outsourced everyone and wanted to be the Virtual CEO by just pulling the strings every now and then.. It doesn’t work that way. If you want to be king pin you’ve got to get into the trenches and learn about WordPress code a little (for example). Not saying you need to be a ninja, but you should be an apprentice. Get a holistic understanding of areas like web design, Google adwords, search engine optimization, and social media marketing. Why? Because having that knowledge means that when you do have the ability to hire someone, for example, you know how to call the shots because you know what to ask for. I spent hundreds on getting articles written that I could have written myself. I came close to spending thousands on SEO when my site clearly wasn’t ready for it and I had no idea what SEO really was and how it worked.


3) I didn’t really care about car insurance. Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk is about cashing in on your passion. I’m passionate about internet business and marketing but let’s just I don’t dream about car insurance at night. I’ve been told before you decide to go in any niche, even if its truly not what your passionate about, at least be mildly interested. It will payoff in the long run.


4) I decided to learn as I went along. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning by doing. I actually went knee deep and threw myself into it by naively going into an area I didn’t understand. But I knew nothing about affiliate marketing at that point. What I should have done was taken some of the excellent internet marketing courses out there so I could be better prepared. I hear great things about Internet Business Mastery and Niche Profit Classroom, and I’m currently taking part in the 30 Day Challenge.


5) There’s no such thing as turnkey. Building an affiliate site takes time, effort and patience. Over time you will get better at it and end up creating more with less time and effort, but thats not until you’ve become good at it. Don’t ever expect that you’ll be rolling in profits your first time out. That’s the mistake I made.


6) I didn’t set any limits. I didn’t set limits on how much I want to spend, so I ended up spending too much money on things like Adwords, Facebook ads, etc. Even though it was money spent on experimentation, setting limits would have kept me more focused and ensure I don’t blow my budgets out of the water. Set yourself a limit on how long it will take to profitable. If your niche is working out after 6 months, leave it and come back to it later.

Don’t get me wrong, my affiliate site is not a failure and actually does earn me more than I put into it. Looking back at my mistakes I made I’m glad I made them and I’ve learned some very powerful lessons and that’s what I came out with in the end result, I came out with an experiment (or prototype, or crash test dummy, whatever you want to call it, ) and not an extremely profitable business. And I think that’s what every person who wants to make money online should do – go out and there and build an experiment and have fun with it, without blowing the bank. Above all, just learn from it.

If you’re thinking of getting into the web business game, just take the plunge and do something. Chances are you might lose a bit of money, or build a site that doesn’t work despite having done all the research. The point is to get started, and you’ll already be halfway there.

Mike Ziarko is a full-time creative web design and marketing consultant, internet entrepreneur, and blogger. He muses about entrepreneurship and online marketing on his blog Mike Ziarko Musing, and when he’s not working he enjoys speaking in third person. If you learned something from this blog post you’ll probably learn more by subscribing to his blog.