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Affiliate Marketing Amazon Associates Company Culture Ecommerce Entrepreneurs Geo-Fragmentation

How I Acquired and Optimized a Product Review Site, and You Can Too!

One of the integral parts of successful entrepreneurship is continuously learning and honing skills that help us capitalize on opportunities. So when I noticed that many of our clients were running online affiliate businesses and optimizing them with our service, Geniuslink, I saw an opportunity to capitalize on the knowledge I had learned while working in client success. And, capitalize on it, I did. I used my knowledge to acquire and monetize a product review site that is now a reliable source of passive income.

This blog will discuss my experience acquiring an existing product review site and share my experiences optimizing its monetization. I hope my story will inspire and equip you to find my same success. Spoiler alert, it’s going spectacularly, and I’ve successfully recreated and grown my site’s original revenue. But this blog isn’t to brag. It’s to show you that you can acquire and run your own site and how you can make it happen.

My product review site, AskSound.com. AskSound.com is your source for unbiased, honest musical reviews.

Before diving into the details of how I acquired and monetized the site, I want to give some brief background to show how I found the information that exposed this opportunity. I’ll also discuss what inspired me to take the leap of faith that resulted in buying my site, Asksound.com.

I’ve always been an entrepreneur. When I was a little kid, it looked like trading a rubber ball for a Gameboy Color because my parents wouldn’t allow me to play video games. When in college, it looked like when I was a finalist in the 2019 John Ruffato Business Start-up Challenge, winning funding for my first company focused on automating lead generation. And one of the many reasons I love working for Geniuslink is that I work on the cutting edge of new technology, helping people and companies find success. I get to help our clients leverage their passions into passive income and hone my entrepreneurial skills. And it doesn’t hurt working with such talented and passionate clients and an innovative and cohesive team. 

In my time at Geniuslink, I’ve seen many clients find success with the various features we offer, such as our intelligent link localization and Choice Pages. I’ve also helped a few clients with passion projects that went beyond the scope of my regular work. Projects by clients and now friends, such as Justice Pages, a service to help people make the change they want to see in the world, inspired me to drive forward in helping others and find successes via our technology.

Specifically, my clients who own product review sites made me think about utilizing our service myself. One client who stood out told us that he would more easily decide to acquire a site with significant international traffic due to Geniuslink. This confidence came from his experience with the sites he currently owned and optimized with Geniuslink. Because of this, he knew that he’d see a substantial increase in affiliate revenue due to the new international commission our service helped him collect. 

I also worked with thought leaders like Dom Wells (you can see my blog on his journey here). Dom decided to run an affiliate business while teaching English in Taiwan. He tried and failed multiple times to create affiliate sites from scratch. But he persevered and found success and more success. Now Dom runs an entire company that helps people grow their passive income online. You can check out Onfolio, Dom’s business, here. 

I received insights on passive income and its value beyond direct financial benefit in my marketing interviews with clients. Passive income removes the direct link between time spent working and the monetary reward for that work, creating wealth and expanding free time. Through these experiences and more, I saw how valuable owning a product review site can be. I had absorbed so much of the necessary information needed to execute purchasing and running a site successfully. And I realized that acquiring a site would give me insights into how our clients operated and help me advance my company’s mission more effectively. I knew that I needed to take advantage of my knowledge and the opportunity to gain more. So, in March of 2021, I decided to acquire a product review website.

Finding Where to Purchase Your Site and What to Look For

My skill set was best suited to optimizing existing content. So I wanted a site with significant and stable international traffic and proof of both things. I also wanted to be passionate about the site’s niche and for the site to focus on a niche with room for scaling.

Through my research, I found multiple marketplaces and brokerages for existing sites. Below I’ll list a few of the ones I looked at and the pros and cons that I saw. However, I encourage you to do personal research to find what works best for your situation. 

The first brokerage I checked out was Flippa. Flippa has a wide variety of sites for sale with no minimum or maximum price points, making it excellent at any level of investment. However, I found that while there are tons of high-quality sites for sale, they don’t offer vetting services. So, unfortunately, it is possible to get ripped off. I also checked out Empire Flippers, which does an excellent job finding financially viable sites and vetting them. However, it sells sites that are typically a lot more expensive than the other brokerages I looked at, with the lowest you can find selling for about $25k and the average around $100k or more. I wasn’t interested in this cost, so Empire Flippers wasn’t suitable for my needs.

Here are some of the benefits of Motion Invest.

The sweet spot I found was a brokerage called Motion Invest. Motion Invest does the due diligence to ensure a site is legitimate. They have historical commissions and traffic information, keyword ranking scores, and much more. Additionally, I was able to talk to a representative to help clear up any of my questions, and they had tons of positive reviews. To boot, once you purchase a site, they won’t send the previous owner of the site the funds until you are fully satisfied and give them your blessing. This system ensures that you’ll get everything you paid for promptly.

Now that I had found my marketplace, it was time to find my site. Over the next three months, I checked Motion Invest every morning and Flippa every so often, just in case. The sites on Motion Invest would sometimes sell within a matter of half a day, so it was vital to quickly determine if a site was right and reach out for it as soon as I knew you wanted it. So, when I did find a site I liked, I would look at its statistics and niche to see if it was suitable for me as soon as I could. 

Flippa was similar, and they allowed me to access Google Analytics to check out their sites. Although most of the sites I checked on Flippa seemed fully legit, I found multiple that weren’t, and I was less comfortable with this than the vetting and diligence that Motion Invest did. However, you should note that this increased risk can increase rewards in better deals and is good for many. Ultimately though, I decided Flippa wasn’t for me. 

Then one afternoon, while checking out Motion Invest, I found AskSound.com. Dedicated to unbiased musical reviews and with around 150 articles primarily focused on reviews of products, each with affiliate links, AskSound immediately caught my attention. It was a robust site with significant room for optimization and scaling. The site had about 45% international traffic, hit the sweet spot of around 10k visitors per month, and ranked for about 700 keywords on the first page of Google. And as a guitar player and general music lover, I am very passionate about music, so it was a perfect match. So after doing my due diligence of checking out the site itself and its historical data, I decided to purchase AskSound.com.

Acquiring the Site

To acquire AskSound.com, I first had to make an offer, so I put one in along with a deposit to secure the purchase, about 10% of the total price. Then I waited a day for the company rep to reach out to me to begin the complete payment process. After a day, the rep gave me a routing number, which I then took to a local branch of my bank to wire the money to the company. After a couple more days, when the money had successfully transferred, they set me up with a new onboarding rep to transfer over the site’s assets. 

But before I could manage the site’s content, I needed to get a registrar to reserve the domain name and IP address for Asksound. I chose to go with Namecheap after seeing positive reviews and its recommendation by my onboarding rep. This registrar typically costs around $10 per month, depending on the deals they’re offering. However, I could use the service for free as the old owner had already paid for another half a year. 

I had received control of the AskSound domain via Namecheap via a quick transfer. Now it was time to get a hosting service to store the files for my website on a server and make them available to edit and for my audience to view. I did my due diligence and talked to representatives from multiple hosting services such as HostGator and GoDaddy. However, the one that I found to have the best support, onboarding, and service overall was Siteground. Siteground started at around $7 per month for the mid-tier plan.

They also helped set me up with SSL security which encrypts and authenticates your site’s links to ensure your customers are secure. After having the onboarding rep at Motion Invest transfer over my hosting to Siteground, I could host and make changes to the site. But first, I needed to get the passcode information for WordPress, AskSound’s content management system. Once I had the information, I changed all the login and personal information to ensure that the old owner could not access anything.

You can see how Siteground backs up a site here.

Now that I had access to WordPress and my hosting service, I could make the changes I wanted to the site. However, since I was not well versed in many of the site’s plugins, I relied on backups to help me learn by tinkering with the site. Since Siteground backs up the site’s content once a day and I could manually save a backup of the site, I could change whatever I wanted and go back to an old backup of the site if I didn’t like anything.

In summary, here is the checklist you will need to complete to take ownership of a product review site on Motion Invest. 

  1. Put in a deposit or bid on the site.
  2. Once you have the site reserved, fully pay for the site. I did so via a wire transfer from my local bank.
  3. Next, have the current owner transfer the domain to your registrar. You will need to make an account with a registrar.
  4. Then, have the current owner transfer the site to your hosting service. You will need to make an account with a hosting service. 
  5. Finally, have the current owner send you all login information for any tools or content management systems the site uses. Make sure to change all of the old login information so that no one but you can make changes to the site.

Monetizing and Optimizing the Site

Since AskSound is an affiliate website, and with all affiliate sites, it is crucial to ensure that all of the site’s product links use your affiliate IDs to earn credit when a customer purchases after clicking your links. AskSound utilized Amazon Associates affiliate links. Luckily, the team at Motion Invest had software to trade out the Amazon Associates affiliate ID on all the Amazon links on the site with my Amazon Associates ID. So before I changed all the login information so that the previous owner and broker could no longer access anything, I applied to Amazon Associates for the US Amazon Storefront. I then had the team at Motion Invest put my US Amazon ID on the site. Although, unfortunately, Motion Invest didn’t get every instance of the old ID.

Thankfully this is where my knowledge of Geniuslink first came into play. I quickly installed our Amazon Link Engine WordPress Plugin on my site. This Plugin automatically converts Amazon links on a site to geni.us links that will automatically take your customers to the correct Amazon storefront for their country. Those links will also affiliate with the proper affiliate ID for that country, assuming you have that country’s ID added to your affiliate page.

Once I installed our Amazon Link Engine, I ensured to leave the “preserve URLs” setting on so I wouldn’t need link-level disclaimers. Amazon’s terms of service require you to make it evident that you’re linking to them. Because of Preserve URLs, if someone were to mouse over any of my links, they’d see an Amazon URL, so I’d be safe. Also, as required by the FTC, there was already a site-level disclaimer to show my readers that I may earn commissions from the links on my site, so I was all good from a compliance perspective. And once I had my US Amazon associates ID added to my affiliate page on my Geniuslink dashboard. I could rely on Geniuslink to affiliate any links Motion Invest had missed with my US Amazon Associates affiliate ID. 

However, since I had only added an affiliate ID for the US, my ~45% of customers in countries that don’t use Amazon US weren’t monetized. For instance, someone in the UK wouldn’t want to buy a product from Amazon.com rather than their local Amazon storefront, Amazon.co.UK. So to resolve this issue, termed geo-fragmentation, I signed up for Amazon Associates accounts for all of the countries where I received traffic.

After this process, I made a video detailing how to quickly sign up for five Amazon Associates programs to make it easier for others. After entering those affiliate programs into my affiliate page, I had successfully monetized my international traffic. Geniuslink is a paid-for service starting at $5 per month and scaling with your quality of clicks. However, since I had significant unmonetized international traffic, Geniuslink greatly outweighs its cost with the new stream of revenue it provides. 

You can see some click and commission data for my Amazon Associates US account here. The green line is affiliate commissions.
You can see my new revenue stream for Amazon.co.UK here. new commissions and occasional spikes in commissions make a huge difference over time.

I could now see clicks for every country in my Geniuslink Dashboard and my new commissions in each of my Amazon Associates Accounts. 

You can see Ezoic’s home page here.

However, affiliate revenue, while my current favorite, isn’t the only great way to monetize a site. I also monetized through Ezoic, a machine learning based ad testing and optimization platform. They had excellent onboarding and helped me implement their service with ease. I even had a dedicated onboarding specialist to help me place ads on my site. Through Ezoic, I was also able to optimize site speed, use big data analytics to track key phrases, and work on my SEO for articles and the site. I used Google Keywords planner and Ezoics Big Data that I implemented with Google Search Console to find valuable keywords to optimize old content around.

By editing old content around SEO for specific keywords, I could take articles between 10 and 29 for their average position on a Google search for a keyword and get them on the first page of Google’s search results. This way, I could boost traffic with significantly less investment than creating brand new content. Using Ezoic’s advice, I optimized old content on Google’s second search results page around valuable keywords. I then started seeing this content move to the front page.

Ezoic has also recently granted me access to their invite-only program, Ezoic Premium. This service’s price scales with your traffic. However, like with Geniuslink, its price is greatly outweighed by its generated revenue. This revenue originates from Ezoic’s automated advertising deals with premium brands that will outbid your current ad systems to place ads on your site. This service has boosted my ad revenue significantly. 

Here are some of the premium advertisers I use.

My Results

After implementing Geniuslink, I immediately boosted the site’s existing affiliate revenue with my new international commissions. I also boosted the site’s existing ad revenue via Ezoic Premium. And, finally, I’ve seen success with my SEO efforts to start boosting traffic. Due to this terrific trio and my work so far, I have now effectively built a revenue stream projected to break even in under three years.

I based this projection on Asksound’s revenues if they hold steady at their level before optimization. This timeframe is my conservative estimate, and it does not consider my boosted revenue from Geniuslink and Ezoic. I hope and feel confident that I will see this time frame shrink considerably due to my recent optimizations and future ones. And after the time the site takes to break even, this revenue stream will continue to provide me with passive income as long as I own it. 

Additionally, the site and domain themselves are valuable assets. So if I choose, I could sell the site, likely for profit, due to my optimization of the site, assuming I see continued success. This profit would be on top of the commissions I’ve already earned, meaning that I now own an asset that simultaneously appreciates and generates income.

Where to Go From Here

While up to this point, I’ve primarily focussed on onboarding and monetizing the site, I’m currently working on new projects to continue to scale Asksound.com. Now that I’ve optimized monetization, I continue to use Google Keywords Planner to find valuable keywords that I can capitalize on with my existing content. Additionally, I intend to continue optimizing old content now that I’ve proved this method works for me and begin creating new content and further optimizing and scaling the site.

I’m also focusing on utilizing tools I am currently championing to our clients, such as Choice Pages on Geniuslink. This feature, with which so many of our clients have found success, will help me diversify and likely boost my affiliate revenue. And it will help keep me safe from an Amazon Associates Audit. It could even boost my SEO (search engine optimization) due to Google’s new algorithm updates. I’ll also continue working with Ezoic to find new opportunities to fine-tune my ads to provide my customers with an enjoyable experience and speed up my load times. 

I also plan to create new content for the site. For example, I’m currently exploring creating new articles on instruments, audio gear, interviews with musicians. And while the site is doing well, I’m also interested in working on the experience and design of the site to make it more of an independent ecosystem that customers can easily navigate. I’ll admit, there is plenty of room for scaling, which is one of the things that make me so excited to work on it. And taking a crawl, walk, run approach will be instrumental in ensuring my projects stay in practical scope.

What You Can Take Away From This

My main takeaways from the process and experiences I’ve had are as follows. 

First, there are tons of free resources to help you sort out each step of the site acquisition process. For instance, now that you’ve seen my process, you can use it to help guide you in your research in finding the best brokerage, site, registrar, hosting service, and more. And, now that you know what to search for, you can find these other resources and use them to inform how you handle this process. Search engines are your friend, so be sure to utilize them.

Second, even as you do your research, make sure to utilize client success, client support, and onboarding resources offered by the service you use. Do this as much as you can. They will significantly assist you in clearing up your questions and will sometimes directly handle tasks for you. 

And finally, if you have the drive and the resources, owning, running, and monetizing a review site is doable and reasonable. While it may seem daunting at first, if you do the research and use the resources I mentioned above, you too can find success and generate passive income. There are only two primary barriers to entry. The first is that you must have the time to take the actions to acquire and monetize the site. Suppose you’ve successfully acquired and monetized an already profitable site. In that case, the amount of time you spend on it is up to you. Your time spent will depend on whether you’re looking to optimize further and grow the site and how much time you want to mitigate potential risks.

The main risk you’ll want to watch is a downward trend in your traffic that goes beyond seasonality. Losses in traffic can happen for multiple reasons. However, let’s say you’re running things properly on the backend, and the site has reliable uptime and load speeds. In this case, a downward traffic trend is likely to occur due to competition or search engine algorithm updates pushing your articles down in position in search results.

To keep a pulse on changes in the market, I recommend subscribing to a quality newsletter such as Geniuslink’s, which updates our readers with valuable and actionable information every month. Luckily, as a client of our service, you automatically have access to our newsletter. However, if you’re not a client, you can keep up with our content on our blog. 

Suppose you, too, have the passion, resources, and willingness to accept the risk that comes with investing in a product review site. I offer my experiences to you, hoping that following a process similar to mine will help you find your desired results. Feel free to reach out to my team and me to ask us any questions. If you’re interested in affiliate marketing or boosting your existing efforts, we’ll be glad to help you reach your goals. See you next time!

 

Best of luck in your endeavors,

Isaac Maier

Sr. Client Success Specialist