The Affiliate Life

The Affiliate Life: The trouble with side projects

If you’re a regular reader of my story, you’ll notice I’m a little late with this month’s edition.
My apologies – the trouble with side projects is that they’re always the “side” project and not getting your full attention and that you pick up in the spare hours of your life, where you’re often the most distracted, tired or about to wind down. In case you didn’t know, I’m not yet working full-time on StatsChecker.com.

It’s still my side project. 

However, that’s about to change … 

The Side Project Dilema

I’ve been consulting for a few years now, so in essence, StatsChecker has been the side project. So I fall into that bedroom blogger stereotype, knocking out affiliate sites to earn a quick buck from that niche I’ve found with a few FTDs in it – but one thing I’ve noticed is that even at scale, the enterprise level affiliates are still doing the same thing. What we label mergers and acquisitions is no different (in my opinion) to the little guy in the bedroom throwing up a site trying to infiltrate a new market. 

Over the years I’ve seen the big buying affiliates hoovering up real estate and for the life of me, I can’t see one major acquisition where the new owners have made the existing project better. I’ve managed to speak to a number of former affiliate business owners who might say things like, “we got out at the right time” or “we made the most out of what we had”, but I’m pretty sure that’s just down to how the new owners mismanage these assets. 

This is common outside of our world, companies buy projects and improve them. What I’m seeing in the affiliate industry (especially in iGaming), is the standard multi-site scenario. The big buyers taking over successful sites and merging them into their multi-site management software and then they’re run at scale, with no attention to detail, wholesale changes are made “en mass” and they become a feeder in the funding pipeline, void of optimisation and lacking the love their previous owners gave them.

On the flip side of this, probably the biggest single affiliate in our niche in www.OddsChecker.com , who were bought by an operator (not an affiliate buying company) and they have been allowed to function independently with no real distraction from other projects – until recently when they acquired Whoscored. The objective wasn’t about market monopolies or removing competition, it was an acquisition to bring a new angle into their product offering. They mastered their craft first and then expended when they were confident they had reached a high enough standard with OddChecker to start looking at other things – 

That’s the moral here! I often see affiliates frantically buying up real estate and not giving it any attention, if they had applied their wealth of resources to their core projects, they might just have earned the same amount of success with a smaller portfolio – the curse of the side project!

Now what?

So that’s where I’m at right now.

Frustrated at my own lack of attention to my goals. 

Well, that’s about to change. 

This is what we call “S$$t or bust” time, it’s that part of the story where the hero remortgages the house, cashes in the kids college funds, takes the Disney holiday money and plows it all into the hair brained scheme that he thinks will one day transfer into a big buying affiliate coming along and offering an obscene amount to merge his project into their multi-site tool – well bring it on! Oh the irony, yeah I’ll probably take the cash one day, if I get that far down the line, we all have our price as they say and sometimes you have to accept that. 

Stagnant is the best way to describe this. I’ve built out the site with the time I had available and we’ve got this far. I haven’t been able to scale past this point, because of my lack of resource and I’ve maxed out on the traffic that I can get in my current situation. My biggest issue, I’ve hit a lull in traffic, generally down to impressions and rankings. Google has accepted that I can provide content in the areas that I’ve produced pages for – these are the standard betting stats markets and for the most part I’m on page 1. But I’m not the number 1 on the subject, owing to the fact that I’m so new. 

So I have a number of options to pursue in this scenario:

  • I’m page 1, but not position 1, something is missing. 

That’s a big endorsement from Google to be on page 1, so we know we’re doing the right things, but I need to move that needle a little more. I can’t really earn any more impressions, because I’m on page 1, so my ranking is the issue here, more on page content might cannibalise other areas of the site, or it might be content that actually deserves its own page. So I have to earn backlinks to push my current search listings up – we all know how these conversations go… so let’s just agree I need links! I need to increase the CTR rate on those impressions and rank is the most effective way to achieve that.

  • I could target new subjects, by broadening my depth of content. 

That will help grow my reach, but you really need to be sparing with this approach. Boilerplate content is murky and whilst it’s useful when you need to scale up useful content like player page stats, it can only take you so far. The new pages will oversaturate your site and you’ll find crawls to important pages of the site can reduce – so building out more unique important pages and prioritising those within your sites navigational hierarchy is a stronger option. 

  • Find new traffic – now there’s a throw away statement, but it’s true. 

I need to get smart with how I earn traffic. Organic social media, for example, there are conversations on Twitter every day that I’ve started to join. Every single interaction is an impression for my brand and whether that translates into traffic right away is not an immediate concern of mine – the exposure to my Twitter profile is enough to get that ball rolling – now I’ve dabbled over the last couple of months and this week just gone I put some effort into working those conversations on Twitter, hence the peak below.

With minimal effort, owing to the fact that my strategy up until now has been focussed purely on Organic Search, I’ve earned 100+ visits to the site since December. Now that sounds like pittance, but I can honestly say that this is from casual late night scrolling and moderate interactions alone and not much more – a side project to my SEO! These visitors come back via direct channels once they’ve seen the site, because I have a permanent product offering – and the best part, it was free! 

  • And finally, I can buy traffic. 

That’s a sure way to increase sessions on my site, but I’ll venture down that route when it’s less risky! Right now I don’t have any way of comprehensively converting paid traffic into an FTD, it would be hit and hope.

So to wrap this up, I’ve hit a lull, it’s that phase after the purple patch where you have to take stock of your previous success and work out how to go to the next level. Now for those of you screaming at the copy yelling do this, do that, this all requires some kind of additional investment, money is always the most successful marketing resource, but coming a close second is “ My Time”. 

Right now, I am the catalyst for my progress, I need to reinvest my time and make sure this is no longer a side project – more links, content and conversations. You know what I have to do, I know what I have to do, It’s all about finding the time – and it’s about time too!

Till next month….

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