How fast can you make good money with affiliate marketing?

If you’ve followed this niche site series, you already know how to build a good site, fill it with content, and when to add affiliate links. But you probably are still wondering how long does it take to make money with affiliate marketing.

Most well-made niche sites will see their first affiliate commissions within the first 6 months. But there is a huge difference between a site that makes a few bucks and one that is contributing 4+ figures to your bank account each month.

So what you’re actually wondering is how long does it take to be successful with affiliate marketing and niche sites.

Making the transition from a few bucks to higher dollar amounts is where a lot of people run into problems. Many people build sites, start earning a small amount of money, and ultimately give up because they think they can’t figure out how to scale it.

Unfortunately, the point where most people quit is right before they would have realized significant breakthroughs in their quest to the $1000 a month mark.

In this post, we’ll talk about why this occurs and how you can avoid it. I’ll also share additional tips on scaling your niche site income beyond 4 figures at the end.

How long does it take to reach $1000 in a month, on average?

Like I said above, an unfortunate amount of people who start niche sites mistakenly abandon them as failures when they are very close to realizing significant successes (like reaching the $1000 a month threshold).

This is largely due to extremely unrealistic expectations regarding how fast a website can grow.

One of the reasons for this is that there are so many success stories out there (typically used in marketing pitches) about how people make huge amounts of money in a very short period of time after starting. Unless you get very lucky, you are not going to make 5 figures in your first 6 months – or even 4 figures for that matter.

Even stats reflecting relatively steady income and subscriber growth over a period of months can be very misleading to a new site owner.

Even my 5-year-old site has posts that spend months doing nothing before quickly gaining search traffic.

Growth in the early months – and even the first year – is sporadic and irregular for the vast majority of sites.

In my experience, a good niche site won’t achieve it’s first $1000 month until somewhere between 12 and 18 months.

Hitting that mark regularly is typically achieved between 18 and 24 months.

The interesting thing is that the jump to $1000 is frequently rather fast. A combination of factors that are typically reached between 6 and 12 months come together to allow a site that hadn’t shown any signs of success prior to that period to start growing relatively rapidly.

Three of the main factors that contribute to a niche site finally “taking off” include the site age, the age of each post, and the total amount of posts – but there are other, more nuanced factors at play as well.

The important thing to realize is that having a site that isn’t generating a ton of traffic or income is completely normal, including in the first 6- to 12-month time frame. Even if you are doing everything right, you may still find that your site is struggling to get sustained traffic and income during this time.

This is a terrible time to quit. If you are serious about being successful with niche sites, you should commit to seeing your projects through to at least 18 months before being willing to pass a judgment of failure on it.

Now let’s talk about how you can (try) to speed all this up.

The 80/20 Rule for Niche Sites

When your site is young and you want it to grow as big and fast as possible, there’s really only one thing you should be focusing on: creating more content.

At this stage in your site’s development, I would say that about 80%+ of your time should be spent on content creation. This could be in the form of articles, videos, or something else – but the general idea is that you should be offering as much great, free content as possible.

A rough idea of how you might spend your time – the important point is to focus on content creation.

Most people write an initial chunk of articles, and then get distracted doing a bunch of other stuff that they read should help them get traffic.

There is nothing – no SEO tricks, no link building exercises, no social media strategies – that will generate a better return on your time than adding to your content base.

It’s not that there aren’t other things that you can and should do to maintain your site, it’s just that that stuff shouldn’t be the focus at the beginning. A lot of this is discussed in the earlier post in this series on 11 free ways to increase traffic to your new blog. The stuff in that post is extremely valuable once you have a solid base of very high quality content built up.

That’s where the 80/20 rule comes into play. Dedicate 80% of your time to creating content, and the remaining 20% to the things mentioned in the above post, networking, and other administrative tasks.

Now let’s focus on why more content is so important.

Why You Should Focus on Content Creation

Having more content:

  • Exposes you to more search traffic
  • Makes it more likely that someone who lands on your site finds multiple posts they want to read
  • Builds your authority in the eyes of search engines

None of the additional traffic generating strategies matter at all if you don’t have good content to back it up.

A good base of content can take different forms. It may be a small amount of very long, detailed posts. It may be a larger amount of posts of varying lengths and detail levels. Or it could be a mix of posts and videos.

But regardless of the form it takes, it will probably take you 50+ hours to build that initial base. For the vast majority of niche site creators, the first year should largely be focused on content creation.

The more value you create via content, the better.

Let’s go over the points I listed above to understand why…

It exposes you to more search traffic

This is pretty straightforward. The more high-quality posts you have, the more search traffic you’ll eventually get. Not every post is going to be a winner, but that’s even more reason to keep at the content creation.

Think about it this way…

Let’s say for every 10 posts you create, on average 1 ranks really well for a high-frequency search term, 3 rank well for medium-frequency terms, and 6 either don’t rank well or only for low-frequency terms.

A site with 70 total posts is going to have:

  • 7 posts driving high traffic
  • 21 posts driving medium traffic

A site with 30 total posts is only going to have:

  • 3 posts driving high traffic
  • 9 posts driving medium traffic

The first will obviously get a lot more traffic.

It makes it more likely that someone who lands on your site finds something else they want to read

This is an extremely important point because it can be a huge factor for search engine rankings.

When a search engine displays a search result, some of the most important things it will pay attention to are whether or not people actually click the link and what people do after viewing the content.

If they test a link in a higher position but searchers don’t click it, they take that as a sign that the article shouldn’t actually rank for that term.

Similarly, if people are clicking a search result but then bouncing back to the search results quickly and clicking on other links, that’s a sign that the information may not be worthy of the position it is in.

One thing that influences this is having great, engaging content. This keeps people on your page longer.

Another is having a deep backlog of content. This allows you to link to content related to the article the person is reading, which does two important things at once:

  • It decreases the odds they bounce back to Google
  • It increases your authority in the eyes of your readers.

By offering helpful content on a wider range of topics within your niche, you signify to readers that you are an authority on the subject matter. This makes it a lot more likely that they will turn to you when they have other problems, which also makes it more likely that they will subscribe to your site or make purchases if you eventually offer products (more on this below).

Speaking of being an authority, having more content also…

Builds your authority in the eyes of search engines

It’s not just actual visitors who will take a lot of related content as a sign that you are an authority on a subject.

Google knows that searchers are looking for this, so they use the presence of other posts with related keywords on your site as a ranking factor for each individual post.

For example, my intro guide to selling on Amazon ranks very well – often only behind Amazon itself.

Ranking like this wouldn’t be possible without strong engagement and a lot of related posts.

While the post is long and detailed, it would not rank for such a competitive term if it were the only post about Amazon on this site.

The fact that I have hundreds of other articles about selling on Amazon tells Google that this site, in particular, is likely to be useful for searchers, and my strong engagement numbers back that up – therefore I keep ranking.

There are 12 pages of posts within the Amazon FBA Category on this site. Many don’t rank, but they still serve a very important role.

This is an often overlooked reason to write articles on subjects with low search frequency. Even if they only drive a small amount of search traffic on their own, they can still add a ton of value to readers and significantly support your other posts in search results.

Scaling Your Niche Site Beyond The Low 4-Figures

As we established above, traffic for the typical niche site doesn’t start to pick up until somewhere between 6 and 12 months, and it doesn’t reach a point where your affiliate earnings are over 4 figures until between 12 and 18 months.

After this point, most sites enjoy years of steady growth as long as you continue to develop the value being offered and engage with the audience you are building.

The two biggest things that will prevent that from happening are picking a bad niche and creating bad content. So if you haven’t read the guides on picking a good niche and creating good content, you should bookmark those now and make sure to read them.

If you do have a good niche and a site filled with good content, then there’s also a good chance that affiliate marketing alone can eventually get you to the point that you are earning enough to replace a job or even 5+ figures a month. But getting to this point just with affiliate marketing will usually take a long time.

If you want to maximize the earnings of your niche site, you’ll need to diversify your income streams beyond affiliate marketing. This will help you make more money earlier, and it will also protect you by not leaving all your income up to one source.

How you do this will depend on your niche, but in most cases, it means offering some sort of product or service that is related to your site. This could take the shape of:

  • A book
  • A course
  • Consulting
  • Coaching
  • A product that addresses the needs of your audience or niche

All of the above involve identifying a problem that your readers have that you are not addressing via the existing content on your site. Consulting and coaching are great ways to reach people on an individual level and help them find greater levels of success sooner than they could on their own. It’s a very rewarding path to take, and it can also be very lucrative.

Books and courses are great because they allow you to reach a larger amount of people than you can with consulting or coaching, plus it allows you to offer training at a lower price point than you could with the more direct interaction training models of consulting and coaching.

If information isn’t what will help your audience solve their problems, then you may need to look towards creating some sort of product. This could be an actual physical product that related to your niche, or it could be an app or software tool.

The best path is going to depend on the specific problems your audience faces and what you are comfortable creating.

The result – if done well – can be a huge boost to your income. A well-made niche site with a strong affiliate marketing base and additional products and services offered on top that actually add value can easily replace the income of a regular job in the 18-36 month time frame from first starting.

Stick With It And Keep Creating Content

Hopefully this post has given you a better idea of what it takes to make money with a niche site.

A very big component is going to be time, and the only thing you can do to influence this in a significant way is to keep creating more, high-value content.

An important point I’d like to make is that all of the above assumes you have actually picked a good niche. Doing this is essential to achieving success. If you get that step wrong, the results won’t follow even if you write hundreds of posts.

There is no magic way to guarantee you pick a good niche, but the second post in this series walks through how I approach niche selection so that I increase that odds that I end up with a niche that other people actually care about. You should read that post now if you are nervous about your planned niche.

If you have already built your site and are worried that it isn’t growing fast enough, keep in mind the things we talked about in this post:

  1. It’s completely normal to have low traffic (and income) through your first 6-12 months.
  2. You need a strong base of content if you ever want your traffic to grow in a significant way.

If you notice any of these signs, there might be a problem:

  • You haven’t received a single search visitor.
  • You started to get search traffic but it fell back down to nothing.

Keep in mind, the problem may not be with your niche. You may have index issues (which is why Search Console is important, as discussed in the 11 free traffic tips post), you may not be posting enough, or your content may not be good enough.

If you aren’t sure if you are on the right track, feel free to share what is going on with your site in the comments below. Please share successes as well!


Other posts in this series:

Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing

How to Pick a Good Niche

How to Build a Niche Website for as Little as $35

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