Want to build a site in 2017 that pays your mortgage/rent…
When I was starting out building my portfolio I liked to think about income from my sites in terms of the freedom it would provide… what was on the monthly budget that a sites earnings would pay for!
I would think along the lines of…
In this post I am going to share several strategies I have been deploying on my sites over the last few months and the results these tests/case-studies/strategies have been able to achieve.
All of the strategies listed below are being discussed from experience and not theory. Each of the example sites are from my portfolio. For the four strategies below I highlight 5 sites that are in my portfolio that represent what these strategies are capable of.
I am certain there are many many other strategies that work but these are the 5 I have been having the most success with lately…Continue reading
This post is about how one of those ideas is now going to be seeing the light of day and the process I have followed to think through the opportunity and the execution plan for a new project/business.
Don’t want to read everything… the new project is a Done For You Content Marketing Service
In the comments I would be VERY VERY interested in hearing people tear this plan apart!
But also since I am sharing so much info about my business plan so early in the process I would be interested in feedback on if that is either…
I have been being continually asked if, since I already have a team and process, can’t I just publish content onto someones money site for a fee?
I continually said NO WAY since I believed creating great content was a core process for any money site owner and thought people should do it for their own sites!
However, what changed my mind was several discussions with people who are looking to rapidly scale their portfolio and taking the long time (which it does take) to build the internal processes/procedures and team to create great content consistently would slow them down.
Plus, there were others I talked to where their “core competency/offering” they needed to own was something else such as physical products, SAAS offering or even for someone building content sites their focus was on keyword research and monetization not on running a content team.
In short people needed a service that could act as their in house end-end content marketing team that could easily plug into newly acquired sites or existing businesses where the owners/managers wanted to focus on priorities other than content marketing!
Our new project is ContentRefined.com - Content Marketing Refined!
We will take care of all your content marketing needs from keyword research to post publishing and promotion.
We act as if we were your in house content marketing team.
note – some limited and discounted beta testers are now welcome
Currently the services offerings seem to be focused on producing content with little focus on driving the results for the business associated with that content. Many boutique content marketing agencies charge an incredible amount for publishing fairly basic content.
What I mean is most businesses come from a content first background and try to make the marketing portion of content marketing work. For us we come from the marketing side of content marketing and our core strengths are in the keyword research and promotion compared to our competition who want to focus on $/word.
With our extreme (as you will see below) focus on systematically verifying high quality articles we will be able to produce the best content but will crush our competition in terms of creating content that delivers results.
Content Marketing Companies:
As always I like to share EVERYTHING and this post is a little different where normally I don’t like to share everything so early in the process but I believe that if I am not feeling a little uncomfortable I am probably not pushing hard enough. So to that end I have decided to share almost everything VERY early in the process!
At a recent conference (RhodiumWeekend) a great presenter, very successful website portfolio manager and long-time reader of AuthorityWebsiteIncome (Daniel) showed a 1 page business model canvas that I really liked and had the opportunity to apply it here.
More Information About the Business Model Canvas – Click Here
Unfair / Competitive Advantage – Highly systematized business with talented/dedicated north American business manager providing a productized service that is nicely integrated into my existing audience and productized services AuthorityWebsiteIncome.com, LightningRank.com and BrandBuilders.io. Marketing focused first vs other content focused first content marketing services.
Following another of my favourite business books (LeanStartup) I have my list of variables/hypothesis to validate to determine how viable this business will be…
Next I have another set of variables to test and validate with the next round of beta-testers
3. We will be able to scale without losing margin
4. Customer acquisition costs will be known and stable
5. Churn rate for customers will be manageable
If you are interested in being a beta tester you can checkout the service here.
This aspect of setting up a project/business has been often overlooked by me and I have paid for it!
All my projects that have had the most success when it comes to running smoothly and realizing their full potential the most important part has been setting up the business consistent with EMyth Revisited.
Having a highly systematized business and with a clear structure on who sits in 3 key positions (Entrepreneur, Manager and Technician) has been the key for a project to realize its full potential.
For ContentRefined.com the team is clear…
Maddie will be the key person for this business. For those of you used to interacting with the very organized Kelley from LightningRank.com Maddie will fill a similar role for ContentRefined.com
Maddie will be every clients favorite person! She manages the team and each clients orders. Whether it is a one-off question or detailed explanation as to why an article title was selected she is your go-to resource.
Transparency on how we do our work is going to be key for our business and below is exactly the process that Maddie/I have developed to execute this business.
For any of my services I like to share everything I possibly can to show you how we are going to go about delivering on what we said we were.
Plus, for those that want to execute content marketing in house I hope that what we share below will be of some help!
Below is just a sampling of the procedures the team has in place.
Here is my procedure:
|1. I post a writing job on Upwork|
|2. On upwork I generally post a job with the following specifications: 1. Writer for ____+ word article 2. Writer must be native English speaker 3. Looking for bids around 7.50/article|
|3. Once the Job Posting is posted on upwork, I hire 3-5 top applicants without an interview within the fist 24 hours What I look for in a Top applicant 1. Native English Speaker (only metric “required”) 2. Good cover letter 3. High job success score 4. The more hours worked, the better|
|4. I Assign each new hire 2 articles using the Writing Instructions Template that I created for new writers|
|5. Once articles are received, I review articles for quality assessment 1. Assess grammar and language capabilities 2. Copy and paste text of the article in Copyscape to make sure there is no plagiarism|
|6. Once quality has been assessed, I use my judgment in hiring/firing decisions If the article is full of grammar and punctuation issues, I will end the contract.If the language is way too simple and it doesn’t seem like the writer is completely fluent in English, I will end the contract|
|7. As soon as the new writer is on board I will assign them batches of articles continuously as articles are returned to me. Once writers are committed to you, you then have the responsibility of keeping them busy.|
I mentioned above that once you have some writers that are committed to you, you then have the responsibility of keeping them busy. Let me elaborate on that.
My process is simple:
Google Forms and and Google Sheets are amazing resources and also an integral part of the onboarding process for new clients for this service. I have been finding success with the following procedure:
Keyword research is probably the most difficult part of this process. If the Client doesn’t give you any specifications, it might also take a long time to do it well as you’ll have to read through their site to see if they already have content around words of interest. This can take a long time! To make it easier on me, I’ve trained up a couple of my best Virtual Assistants for this task. Below is the step-by-step guide I send them to make sure I’m getting the best titles and the best keywords
|1||Log into the Keyword Research Platform of choice. (lately this has been SECockpit)|
|2||Plug in their “Seed” Keyword (*Seed keywords are simply general keywords you can plug into keyword research tools to find more specific, long-tail keywords)|
|3||Make sure that the filters on the seed keyword search include appended prepended and words in between,|
|4||Once the seed Keyword has loaded all of its associated the long tail keywords, look for the following metrics|
|5||Once a Long Tail Keyword that meets the metrics has been identified click on the long tail keyword to view the Analytics (SERP competition)|
|6||On this page look at the competitors for this long tail keyword|
|7||Check to see if the top 10 articles ranking for this long tail keyword are similar to the company site trying to rank for the keyword (if all ecommerce and your site is a content site that is not a great sign)|
|8||Check the Page Authority, the Domain Authority and the Linking. Ideally a good Long Tail Keyword would have results with both PA and DA under 20.|
|9||If competitors are in the same league as your site, and SERP table looks good, create a Post Title with that Long Tail Keyword included within the title (ideally at the start of the title). Copyblogger has great resources for creating great headlines.|
|10||Once Post title is created, add the new title to the Content Management Sheet|
I mentioned above that I have article templates that I like to send out to writers to provide them with a “shell” of what the article is expected to look like. The more guidance they have, the better and more accurate to expectations the article is going to be!
NOTE – This level of guidance only applies after the writer has been on boarded.
For this service we offer 5 different types of articles. Click on each for the template!
My procedure is the following:
These are the instructions I will send my editor to ensure consistency:
|1||When editor receives the article from the writer, the editor does a very quick review|
|2||Once the article has gone through it’s preliminary review, the editor must log into http://www.copyscape.com/|
|3||Once on on copyscape.com the editor must copy and paste sections of the article one by one into the text box and check for plagirism|
|4||If the text comes back with results on copyscape, the Editor must notify the Portfolio Manager immediately, and notify which sections were plagiarized|
|5||If no plagiarism is found, Editor must got to app.grammarly.com and paste the entire article in the text box|
|6||Grammarly will suggest grammar edits. Editor is to go through the Grammarly suggestions and edit text where he or she see fit|
|7||Once the text has been edited, Editor must open their Hemingway editor and paste the edited text in the text box|
|8||The editor will click on the sidebar and check “edit” to get a report of the article|
|9||Once the editor has pasted the text and clicked Edit, the editor much check that the word count matches the requested amount and that the “readability” of the article is a grade 5-8 level.|
|10||Once all the metrics are met, the Editor must take the edited text and create a new word document titles “ArticleTitle_Edited” Example ”bestworksocks_Edited”|
|11||Now that the article is unqiue, grammatically correct and verified to be readable the article goes through MarketMuse to ensure the article covers the topic in more depth than any competitor article (Neil Patel has a great article on using MarketMuse here)|
|12||Once the new edited version has been made, the editor must send the final edited copy back to the portfolio manager and update the Content Management sheet (Sheet 3) with the date of completion|
With the Content Refined Service, we also add value to your article by making sure that the graphic design piece is nailed down. I actually have a virtual graphic designer who does this for me. I’ll simply send off your headings and top to this designer and I’ll receive custom headings with cool images to go with your article!
Once the editor is done with the article, they will send it back to the manager. The content manager will review the edited article to make sure it reads well and then send it to the publisher to be published on the site. The article can stay in draft mode until the client has reviewed and given us the green light to publish!
Anytime we start mapping out a new process it can be a very fun process and this is no different, below is an image taken Saturday night at 10pm as I was working on mapping out the new model.
This new project will be Maddie’s #1 focus and I will continue to push it to become the best/only service online that can deliver and promote high quality content consistently!
If interested in being involved in the next round of beta-testing there are a select number of spots open at discounted pricing but you will be able to signup for a wait list when we get sold-out. Checkout ContentRefined.com.
The main purpose of this post is to put myself out there revealing an uncomfortable amount of what should be proprietary data to get feedback on the model and idea. So please...
A couple weeks ago I shared my story about my Amazon Affiliate Account getting closed and costing me a painful $100k! Read the full story here – Amazon Associate Account Closed!
After that post and sharing the very detailed affiliate site compliance audit procedure one of my employees had developed we completed audits on many readers sites (ironically the audit procedure was completed the same week I got suspended!). Building Amazon Affiliate Sites was/is a big part of my business and getting back into their program and staying approved once I am in is a high priority for me.
This post and additional research has led us to create this list of the 7 most common mistakes we are all making with our Amazon Affiliate sites that could lead to our accounts getting suspended or closed!
Option 1 – Use my teams procedure and audit your site for free – Click Here
Option 2 – Have my team complete a site audit on one of your sites – Click Here
In this post we have tried to stay on the conservative side, however, I fully realize people may choose to dial up the risk in order to generate more clicks/sales. I understand the need to try and find the right balance between risk/reward and in this post have tried to present the “ideal” scenario.
Now that we’ve had the Amazon audit process up and running for a little while, we are able to analyze the data and see the biggest problems with our sites and the sites we have reviewed. I hope this post provides you with 7 actionable items to consider regarding your sites and Amazon Associates…
See below for the 7 most frequently failed Amazon Audit questions…that could result in your associate account being suspended.
Your Amazon Affiliate Account can get shut down pretty fast if they think you’re violating their Trademark and Logo policy. The tricky thing with Amazon is that they actually own the rights to other Trademarks and logos such as Kindle. They are also very vigilant about Amazon logo colors and design schemes and will shut you down if you attempt to alter them in any way.
The disclaimer link on your site is going to look something like this:
This question comes from probably the most clear requirement on the Amazon Affiliate Program Trademark Guidelines. You can find them here, or see the snapshot below.
So basically if you have anything that looks like this on your site:
*Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates
Which you probably will since it’s an Amazon Affiliate site- then amazon could shut you down if you don’t add in that disclaimer.
We have been finding that a lot of the sites that we have audited provide incentives, especially in the form of money rebates for using their link. Most of the offers we found were clearly only to incentivize the click and had no substance to people looking to claim the “rebate” or “save addition x%”.
The clean and simple rule around this – DON’T do it! Incentivizing people to click on a link to Amazon is a slippery slope! It’s a very easy way to get your account in trouble with Amazon. Including text like “ Click here to get 10 dollars off this product” are no good.
See images of what NOT to do (not images from any sites we have reviewed):
Here is the general rule of thumb – Just don’t include pricing on your site at all. Comparison tables are great but don’t include the price on your site because Amazon products change their price all the time. Including an old promotion price without realizing that the promotion has expired could also be seen as “inaccurate or misleading advertising” which will also get your account shut down.
Example: You still have this on your site on September 20th
The Amazon Affiliate Bootcamp guys (go here for a really great step by step guide to having a successful Amazon Affiliate Website ) show a really good strategy where you can allude to pricing without actually putting a price down.
A lot of people do this! I’ve done it. Basically, Amazon doesn’t want you to make it unclear that you are sending a user to Amazon so they have words in their TOC’s that make it questionable to use link shortening/cloaking services.
This one gets a lot of people because it is very easy for Amazon to check! It is tricky because this essentially makes it impossible to do any kind of email marketing with a link in it.
Even if you are emailing just one friend be sure to not include a link in that email.
One solution if you want to make money from Amazon Associates from your email list is to funnel them through a squeeze page (for example a review post for the product on your site).
This is something we see A LOT (and did a lot!).
We see a lot of people using reviews as testimonials, which makes a lot of sense since it gives pretty true and accurate reviews on a particular product. It also seems tempting because it can add really valuable content to your site which helps your reader.
Another thing that people really like to do is use “Star Ratings’. Using star ratings on your site that look like Amazons can be perceived by Amazon as using “their” star ratings and yet another way to get your account closed.
The key if you are using any star ratings (or reviews) is to use the API from Amazon and not just pull the star rating at one moment in time.
You shouldn’t display anything that looks like this (unless it is pulled from the API) to be safe:
This is a tough one because there are some instances where you CAN share your links on social pages and some where you cannot. Personally, I recommend just to stay away from all of it.
If you really want to do it, I would go here to learn more about what is acceptable and what isn’t in terms of social sharing.
Don’t associate yourself with anyone who has had their account banned. If you associate yourself with someone who has had their account banned it can result in you becoming banned. This is what got me in trouble!
Option 1 – Use my teams procedure and audit your site for free – Click Here
Option 2 – Have my team complete a site audit on one of your sites – Click Here
This post was written to provide you with some tips and knowledge about the most common Amazon Affiliate site compliance offenses. Have a look at your site and see if you’re in violation of any of these! If you have any questions feel free to reach out!
Sometimes I believe I write a little too much about successes and don’t provide a realistic picture of all the ups/downs associated with an online business.
Today in this painful post I will shed some light on a recent failure which will ultimately cost me up to $100k!
Plus I share the process my team built to ensure this wouldn’t happen and had finished it just days getting suspended!
Also, if you have been suspended I do still have one strategy up my sleeve I can’t reveal publicly but if you have had your Amazon associate account suspended please contact me and I would be happy to share.
The irony… I had just hired a full time employee in house whose first job was to prepare a set of procedures for us to audit all of our Amazon associate sites and confirm we were 110% compliant!
I will share all of those procedures with you in this post and everything we have learned to help ensure you avoid getting your Amazon Associate Account suspended.
Want More Help?
Losing my Amazon Associate account sucked! We had just finished doing a TON of work to try and make sure we were bullet proof in terms of staying compliant with all of our sites in the eyes of Google. In order to help others I decided to make my entire audit process public so others can do their own audits or if you want help provide access to my in house project manager who studies all the TOC’s from Amazon and built the audit process.
The story of my associate account getting suspended goes back to when I sold 2/3rd of my FBA business.
The purchaser also purchased another site which had been associated with a suspended account and therefore when Amazon reviewed his accounts they suspended his personal account, our partnership account and then eventually (months later) my personal account.
Amazon seems to follow a policy of “guilt by association” even if there is nothing wrong with your account or sites you can receive a message saying…
“During our research, we have determined that an account belonging to you (or a person affiliated with you) has previously been closed for violations of the Operating Agreement or one of the other Associates Programs operated by our affiliates.”
What was odd was that my personal account remained un-suspended for a much longer time!
My Strategy – Go Stealth:
With a substantial chunk of money on the table and after some unsuccessful attempts at getting any information out of Amazon I setup a plan to go very stealth in the creation of another account. My plan I thought was bullet proof! Here are the steps I took…
However, a couple months later it was shutdown with the same message… how I do not know other than they may have physically followed the URL.
To see how a very succesful Amazon Affiliate handled this problem check out Brent Hale.
Why This Pisses Me Off:
Other than the financial loss which will likely close at around $100k!
For every site I am trying very hard to be compliant with Amazon TOC’s, we are not doing anything sneaky and are simply trying to play by Amazon’s rules.
Amazon’s unwillingness to work with their associates/affiliates to resolve small issues drives us to take all kinds of strange actions!
Like I said I hired someone full time in house to help systematize my business and had her spend a week doing the very not fun task of reading every single part of the various Terms and Conditions with Amazon associates accounts and turn it into an auditable process.
The plan was to ensure that every single one of our websites was 100% in compliant and before we could roll it out my account got suspended.
5 Steps I took to create an Amazon Audit Procedure for my Amazon Affiliate sites
Reading the Amazon Associates Programs Operating Agreement
Reading the Amazon Associates Programs Operating Agreement was probably the most challenging part of this task. You probably are not familiar with this piece of “literature”, but the Agreement is broken into about four different sections that are only accessible via a clickable in text link on the first page of the Agreement. These sections consist of the “Participation Requirements”, the “Trademark Guidelines”, the “ Linking Requirements”, and the “License Agreement”.
As you can see, these guidelines are not easily accessible, but if you have the time to read through the ten (10) thousand word document of legal gibberish (took me about 7 hours to fully understand what the heck they were talking about), then your account MIGHT not get shut down.
Creating the “Associate Program Requirements Form”
To make sure that all of our sites were compliant, I decided that an “Audit” process should be performed on every Amazon Affiliate site by an outsourced Virtual Assistant ( VA). After I read through the Operating Agreement and felt confident enough with the legal content, I starting building an Audit questionnaire based on these Requirements. I wanted to make sure that the questions were asked in a clear and simple way so that someone with little knowledge of Amazon Affiliate sites could understand and answer these questions accurately. The questionnaire allows you to also insert some images so that you can help guide the Virtual Assistant on where they can find certain website elements.
See example here:
I used Google Forms because I like that the form produces a Google Sheet where I can view all of the Audit Responses. I standardized the questions on the questionnaire so that if the Auditor had to answer “Yes”, it would mean that the question failed the Audit. This way, If I take a quick look at the responses, I’m able to see immediately which sites needed the most work based on how many “Yes” responses I got.
Creating a Standard Operating Procedure for the company
Since we have about 70+ sites, I knew this would be a gruelling task so I decided to create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which would allow me to outsource this work to a Virtual Assistant.
The SOP essentially provides a step by step guide and a clear process for all actions taken by the VA while executing the audit on our affiliate sites. The SOP also provides a clear process for how to remedy breaches of Amazon’s Terms and Conditions which, if done properly, will result in a compliant site. Check out the table below which shows the 15 steps we take to Audit and then make any necessary changes to make our sites compliant.
|Virtual Assistant||1||The VA must go to the Master List of Amazon Affiliate Sites|
|Virtual Assistant||2||The VA must select a URL and go to the site|
|Virtual Assistant||3||Once on the site, the VA must open the Associate’s Program Requirements Form and answer all questions|
|Virtual Assistant||4||If YES has been selected on the Form for any question, the VA must make corrective changes to the site for that question|
|Virtual Assistant||5||If the VA is unable to make corrective changes because the changes are Out of Scope, the VA must notify the Portfolio Manager|
|Portfolio Manager||6||The Portfolio Manager must review Out of Scope changes in conjunction with the site and create instructions for the WordPress VA|
|Portfolio Manager||7||Once the instructions are complete, the Portfolio Manager must send the instructions to the WordPress VA|
|WordPress VA||10||WordPress VA to implement all remaining Out of Scope changes and alert Portfolio Manager of changes|
|Portfolio Manager||11||Portfolio Manager to inform VA of changes and instruct a Re-Test|
|VA||12||VA to re-test the site to ensure that all questions can be answered NO in compliance with Amazon’s Terms and Conditions|
|VA||13||VA to report status and completion of audit process to Portfolio Manager|
|Portfolio Manager||14||Portfolio Manager to look over all approved sites to confirm approved status|
|Portfolio Manager||15||Portfolio Manager to collect and reporting on status of progress and completion of Audit for each Amazon Affiliate site to the CEO|
Hiring a Virtual Assistant ( VA) and Giving Great Instructions
If you read my blog regularly, you might have read my post about hiring a VA. You can find it here if you want to read in depth.
What I like to do is hire a few VA’s via Upwork, give them a test (or in this case a site to audit) and see how they do. Since I want the VA to have the ability to not only find the issues on the site, but also to fix them, I’m going to look for a VA who has experience with wordpress sites.
Two things I like to look for is speed and quality. I can generally get a fast VA who outputs good quality work within a few hires. Once you find a great VA, send them lots and lots of work and great instructions!
Giving great instructions to the VA is absolutely necessary if you want them to produce the desired outcome. I have an instructions template that is specific to the Amazon process. If is broken up into 4 sections.
Login credentials for the wordpress site
|Question number (#):||Question:
(Copy and paste from form)
|Why did you answer yes? (Short explanation)|
|#||Screenshot of BEFORE change:||Screenshot of AFTER change:|
If you want to use my audit process for your own sites, click the google doc link below and make a copy of it in Google to have your own copy with your own spreadsheet:
Associates Program Requirements From for the Public:
Don’t have time? Let us Audit your site for you: Contact me if you would like my team to Audit your Amazon Affiliate site for you.