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Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fast-paced and constantly changing industry. Over the past few years, Google’s search algorithm updates (like product review updates and helpful content updates) have drastically changed the landscape for content-based websites monetized with affiliate programs.
Although countless affiliate sites have experienced massive decreases in search traffic, others have survived and even thrived. In today’s world of fast, easy AI content generation, affiliate websites face more challenges than ever, but the potential rewards are also higher than they’ve ever been.
While many affiliate site owners aim to get traffic by cranking out as much content as possible, Oleg Galeev has succeeded with a much different approach.
In 2023, Oleg sold one of the websites for $600,000 and another for $500,000. This accomplishment is even more noteworthy because each of Oleg’s sites only included about 150 posts and only received about 1,500 visitors per day. These sites earned $30,000 per month (combined) before they were sold through Empire Flippers.
Describing his approach, Oleg says, “Instead of increasing traffic to boost revenue, I focused on improving the existing articles. I worked on getting higher rankings, better conversion rates, and the best commissions possible from partners. This approach was more about maximizing what I already had rather than expanding.”
Oleg’s approach to content, traffic, link building, and monetization differs from many other affiliate site owners. With such remarkable success, it’s worth exploring Oleg’s methods in more detail.
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Oleg Galeev, the SEO Lead at Vancouver-based Stigan Media, has been involved in SEO since 2014 when he created his first blog. His explorations in SEO led to the creation of his first two affiliate websites in the pet niche in 2018 (the two sites he sold in 2023). Initially, Oleg’s sites were monetized exclusively through Amazon’s affiliate program.
During the five years that Oleg ran these pet sites, he also started several other affiliate sites he currently holds in his portfolio. Oleg found value in owning and operating several different sites because he could experiment with the smaller or less significant sites and implement what he learned with his primary sites.
Both of the sites Oleg sold cover micro-niches of the pet industry. While many affiliate site owners choose a niche based strictly on competition levels and income potential, Oleg prefers to create sites on topics that interest him while also assessing the competition.
“When choosing a niche, I always start with topics that interest me personally,” Oleg says. “Then, I assess the competition level. For example, I initially considered the coffee niche but was surprised by the intense competition, even in micro-niches. Since I have several pets, I became curious about the pet industry. I dove into researching and discovered a specific pet niche that sparked my interest, especially since I could test products on my own pets.
“I don’t just look for the easiest option that doesn’t interest me. I tried that approach in the past, creating websites on topics I wasn’t passionate about. Those sites didn’t perform well because my lack of interest meant I didn’t deeply research the niche, understand the users’ needs, or know what content to cover. Passion and interest in the subject are key to my approach.”
Oleg found keywords for his niche that range from low to moderately competitive. While he aims to find low-competition keywords, he doesn’t ignore more challenging ones that naturally fit his site and audience.
Oleg’s monetization strategy also differs from many niche site creators. First, he doesn’t use display ads at all.
“I didn’t use display ads for monetization,” Oleg says. “I did try them, but they weren’t very profitable. In fact, when I added display ads, my conversion rates dropped by almost 35%, so I decided to remove them and concentrate solely on affiliate marketing.”
And while many niche sites rely heavily on Amazon’s affiliate program, Oleg prioritized other programs with higher payouts. When he launched the sites in 2018, Amazon’s affiliate commission rate for pet products was 8%. But in 2020, they reduced it to just 3%, which led Oleg to consider other options.
Speaking about the impact of the rate cuts, Oleg said, “I had focused on linking only to Amazon products, but this change prompted me to expand my approach. I was amazed by the commission rates offered by some non-Amazon products, starting high and negotiable upwards with sales.”
Oleg’s process involves identifying products to mention in his articles by searching existing posts on Reddit, creating new threads in relevant subreddits and communities, and participating in Facebook Groups and niche forums.
With these methods, Oleg discovers new products and then checks the company websites to see if they offer an affiliate program. If they don’t have an affiliate program, he reaches out about the possibility of working together.
“Once, a product that eventually accounted for 15% of my revenue didn’t even know about affiliate marketing,” Oleg said. “I explained the concept, showed them the sales I was driving to competitors (this trick works like magic), and within three months, they set up an affiliate program through Impact, offering me double the commission of their competitors.”
By the time Oleg sold his sites in 2023, only about 10% of his revenue came from Amazon, with about 90% from other affiliate programs. Oleg’s approach certainly requires more legwork than the typical niche site owner who simply searches Amazon to find products to promote, but the results speak for themselves.
Oleg’s content creation strategy is possibly the most intriguing part of his process. While many affiliate website owners have begun prioritizing first-hand experience after Google’s Helpful Content Updates, Oleg has used this approach for several years.
“I try to obtain each product to write reviews,” Oleg says, “either getting them for free from manufacturers or buying and returning them. I do this mainly to use unique images in my content.”
Oleg starts by getting his hands on the top products he found through his research. Once he has the products, he tries them out and takes his own photos to use in his content. He then creates three types of articles:
- Product reviews.
- Product vs. product comparisons.
- Best product lists.
Oleg writes an honest review. The reviews are negative for products that don’t live up to expectations. Oleg includes negative reviews for two reasons. “Firstly, it signals to Google that my site offers balanced content, enhancing the trust in my website. If all my reviews were positive with affiliate links, it would be obvious that my site is predominantly for affiliate marketing. Secondly, negative reviews give me the chance to recommend a high-earning affiliate product as an alternative.”
He writes product comparison articles for each combination, even if those keywords have no search volume. This helps with establishing topical authority.
Oleg’s “best” list posts typically only include 3-5 products, rather than 10-20 like most niche website owners. He also makes small updates to these list posts each month to show that he’s keeping up with new products.
Focus is an essential part of Oleg’s process. His sites are relatively small because he keeps them tightly focused on products in a specific micro-niche.
Speaking on the importance of this decision, he said, “When my website started doing well and ranking higher, I felt tempted to write about more general pet topics. A lot of people in SEO might do this, but I decided to stick to my specific area and keep improving the 150 articles I already had. This choice worked out well for me. It showed that staying focused on one small area can be better than trying to cover too many topics.”
Although SEO has always been Oleg’s primary focus, he also works to build traffic from other sources. In 2021, he created a faceless YouTube channel that uses AI voiceovers to convert his blog posts into video format. Some of his videos have more than 20,000 views and send website traffic.
In addition to the traffic created from YouTube, Oleg believes that having other traffic sources can help with search engine rankings. He said, “My experiments indicate that websites with a mix of traffic from various platforms tend to rank better than those relying solely on organic search traffic. It appears that Google now values seeing traffic coming from different sources. This diversified traffic seems to positively influence Google’s algorithm, potentially leading to improved search rankings.”
SEO and link building go hand-in-hand, and Oleg also takes a different approach than most niche website owners for building backlinks. Oleg used Shared.Domains to get quality links with low effort from expired domains.
Shared.Domains has a unique approach. They identify expired domains, acquire the domain, and build out a site with similar content to what was originally on the domain. A limited number of customers can purchase links from each domain.
Although some online business buyers prefer to avoid acquiring websites that have purchased links, Oleg didn’t find it to be a major obstacle when selling his sites. He said, “I addressed the buyer’s concerns by explaining how Shared.Domains selects and recovers domains, waits eight weeks before placing links, and avoids link flashing. Once they understood the process and the precautions taken, they felt more confident about the purchase.”
Selling the Sites
Although Oleg’s sites were doing very well, he decided to sell them in 2022. “Every SEO expert should remember that relying on organic search for revenue isn’t always stable,” he said. Oleg pointed out the risk of being overtaken by competitors or experiencing a significant drop in search traffic.
Unfortunately, Oleg’s journey for selling the site involved a few setbacks before ultimately finding a buyer. Speaking about the process, he said, “When my websites reached a value in the six figures, and I put them up for sale, it took over a year to find a buyer. During that time, both websites continued to grow and eventually were worth seven figures.”
Oleg unsuccessfully listed the sites for sale with two different marketplaces before eventually trying Empire Flippers. He originally avoided Empire Flippers due to the higher commission than the other marketplaces, but those other marketplaces didn’t lead to any interest from qualified buyers.
In the end, Oleg had a great experience with Empire Flippers. He said, “They have a large pool of targeted buyers, and most importantly, these buyers are verified and have the necessary funds… Initially, I set the selling price at a multiple of 42 times monthly earnings. After some negotiation, I reduced it to 39 times and eventually sold for a multiple of 38 times the monthly earnings, which I considered a successful outcome.”
After selling two websites for more than $1 million combined, you might assume that Oleg would take some time off (he does have a full-time job, after all). However, Oleg is busy working on other sites. He currently has 12 sites, including some that he shares publicly (My Trip to Ecuador and OCryptoCanada).
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