Site Build It vs Wealthy Affiliate: My ongoing dilemma

Last Update: October 18, 2016

I am both a SBI and WA member, and I'm not sure about others, but I speak from my own personal experience, success and lack of success.

I deliberated very, very, very long about the question: SBI vs WA. It was very difficult.

Even until today, this thinking doesn't go away.

You see, with SBI, I built a successful 6-figure client-generation website for my physiotherapy business in Singapore that works day in day out on autopilot. And that was amazing. Still is. At least 10% of all my revenue was patients finding us through google from our SBI website.

SBI worked really well for me for that. But of course, I built the website and added articles over the years since 2010, and have amassed a sort of monster niche site, scoring more than 500+ articles at this point in writing.

But I struggled because I wanted to build affiliate websites, and all my SBI affiliate sites didn't work. I put in 100 - 200 articles, and it didn't work. Maybe because I didn't consistently put in the effort to make it also another monster niche site with 500+ pages. Maybe I didn't have the patience beyond 1-2 years. Maybe my copywriting sucks. Maybe I picked the wrong niche. Maybe I wasn't focused and had too many products.

I don't know. So many variables and maybes.

And I still wonder of SBI vs WA: which is better.

So....I just joined both. I started with SBI in 2010, and from my understanding, both run very similarly in terms of fundamentals and philosophy. Content > Traffic > Presell > Monetize/Sales (WA has additional component focused on commenting, which SBI dont)

SBI sites I feel tend to be more old-school "authority" monster sites that looks oldish/clunky but works (like how my physiotherapy site did), a la "old is gold" and less social approach with less hassles as there is no plugins etc needed to be done: we just focus on content. All updates are done by SBI team/management. All their videos also look much, much older, but it's just their approach to business.

SBI is much more expensive in a sense that it's $299 per year PER site, whereas WA is $359 per year + domain name costs, up to 50 domains. SBI doesn't have an actual "free to try" like how WA has for members to be free basic members for life, but SBI does have a 90 days money back guarantee.

Both are nice, but when you compare, having free basic membership for life always beats limited 90 days. And I'm ok with $299 per year per site if it works, but if it doesn't, it stings. For WA, because of the price difference, a $14+ sting isn't so painful (+ $359 of course, so technically if I have just 1 WP site based on WA, then WA is MORE EXPENSIVE...but once I have 2 profitable businesses on WA, then it's SO MUCH CHEAPER than SBI), so it helps to stretch my dollars a lot more.

WA is the more spruced up, recent (with WP), more social with comments, plugins, design etc. Of course the forum and community here in WA is very super and very easy to communicate and connect with each other, making the community aspect of WA one of the strongest pillar of WA.

My struggle is (1) SBI has worked for me for my physiotherapy business and WP hadn't (to date) BUT (2) there are so many WP success stories in WA and outside of WA that I cannot ignore it.

But this (1) vs (2) thingie is quite irritating itch, and I am experimenting to see what is the outcomes with WA by also writing a monster niche site in WA, update you soonest =)

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TW2016 Premium
In terms of resources both are equally good.

The key drawback about SBI is that though they may have personal coaching and experts building up the site for you, they don't come cheap at all. The fact also that Ken has withdrawn actively in recent year, we have seen some falling of SBI compared to others.

On the face value, both annual subscription cost may look similar, I prefer WA as it comes with free WA Keyword tool. SBI does not come with free keyword search.

In my opinion, I feel more at ease with WA and its much easier to build the blog given those awesome video tutorials.
nigelchua Premium
Hi Terry, you're right: their coaching is pretty expensive so thats why I never engaged them at all, doing everything by myself (preferred so I can also learn)

They do have 50 credits for Keyword Research, which 1 credit when you use for research, you can get detailed information as well up to 1000+ keywords. I've never used more than 10 credits at any given websites with Site Build It to date.

WA is definitely more swanky and modern, though I do have a couple of websites still on SBI =D
TW2016 Premium
Absolutely right Nigel, you're on the right track with WA. As you know these things moves at very face pace and things changes in a matter of 12 months.
MPollock Premium
Thanks, for the info, let us know how it goes.
nigelchua Premium
Thanks Mike! Update soonest =D
AffTraining Premium Plus
I used to be an SBI subscriber and I had 6 websites (I think?) with them at one point. If it wasn't for SBI, I'm not sure I'd be where I am today. I was featured as SBIer of the month when they were still doing that, was very active in the forums, and I've even had private email discussions with Ken Evoy and the new guy who basically took over, but I forgot his name.

Like you, I have very conflicting feelings about SBI. The training and, at the time, the original "block builder" they had to construct the site is what was able to get me to break into this industry. I absolutely loved their training and went through it multiple times. The way they brought you from niche idea to keyword research to domain registration and training for their site block builder was absolutely perfect for me. Eventually I taught myself HTML, chose one of their templates, and began using their "upload your own" system to build my sites.

I feel so much gratitude towards SBI that it saddens me to see the direction they've gone.

For starters, much of the information I learned from SBI was bad information. As an example, they always touted getting an exact match domain name, even if that meant using dashes or using some other extension other than a .com domain. This was bad advice for so many different reasons and SBIers paid for it when Google began reducing the SEO effectiveness of exact match domains.

In the training, they said not to buy links or do anything with link building. But in the forums, it was an entirely different story. They also had a private system in place (I can't remember what it was called now) where SBIers could swap links with each other. SBI basically built up a huge private linking network and when Google came out with the Penguin update, SBI sites got absolutely hammered. Most of those sites have never recovered.

Their "Analyze It!" tool became very outdated and encouraged SBIers to keyword stuff their articles. So, when the Panda algorithm hit, once again, SBIers got hammered. Not to mention SBIers were encouraged to have as many ads above the fold as possible - another way to get slapped by Panda.

The thing is, SBI was great at one time, but they failed to keep up with the times. Even when I got started in 2011 their Block Builder made it look like the sites were straight from 1995. Even now with the new block builder, sites look so outdated and clunky. Plus, the rollout of BB2 was a complete and utter disaster.

Basically, everything is now outdated. The training has been improved, but there is still a lot of outdated stuff out there. The site builder? Clunky and outdated. Brainstorm It!? Clunky and outdated. Their atrocious email system? So outdated it's almost unusable.

Not only that, but when I started hiring freelancers, there was no way for me to set up accounts for them to log in. They would have access to my entire account. AND, freelancers don't know how to work with SBI. And it takes twice as long to build an SBI page than it does a WordPress page.

So, really, the only real thing SBI has going for it is their training course, but I believe WA is now better than them. You don't get the constantly updated live trainings at SBI like you do here, or an active chat room, or a way to write blog posts like this one and interact with the community. Their forum is pretty much dead these days which is really unfortunate because it used to be a fun active place.

I really can't believe SBI is even still in business. Check out how many people have been leaving SBI for YEARS by checking out the number of expired domains vs. new domain on Daily Changes:

SBI itself got slapped by Panda and Penguin and they have yet to even recover themselves:

On the other hand, WA was also hit slightly by the Panda and Penguin algorithms, but WA has recovered and then some:

So, who do you really want to be getting your information from? A company that has been failing for years or a company that is thriving?

The reason I ended up having personal discussions with Ken Evoy is because I started raising a fuss in the forums, which he didn't like. Myself and a bunch of others had our posts deleted constantly or even edited without our consent. The points we were raising were entirely legitimate. Ken does seem like a nice guy, but I tried warning him time and time again that if he doesn't LISTEN to his customers, bad things were going to happen. Well, he didn't listen and bad things happened.

For example, instead of embracing WordPress, he fought it. Why? Because out of greed, he wanted to keep everything proprietary and make it difficult for people to ever leave SBI. Many of us in the forums were asking for SBI to integrate WordPress for YEARS. Finally, he announced that it was coming. He was no longer fighting WordPress and SBI would start using it. The wait ended up lasting almost 2 years and when it was finally released, it ended up being a crap plugin called BizXpress. At that point, I knew I had to leave SBI.

I'm not saying SBI is a bad place or won't work for anyone, but if a close friend or family member wanted to know the best place to learn how to build an online business, I would send them to Wealthy Affiliate without any hesitation.

I am really, really saddened to see what has happened at SBI. I used to be an affiliate for them and that's the entire reason I signed up here at WA. I wanted to see if this was something I cold promote as I could no longer in good conscious promote SBI. So far I've been absolutely blown away with WA and I don't think SBI can really offer anything better than you can get right here.
nigelchua Premium
Wow, I love the depth and breadth of your input Mike!

I also have about 5 sites with them, but I'm slowly cutting it down to 3 now, and likely by end of the year, 2 at most. I've never been those profiled ones though =P

Yeah, they brought in a new CEO to try to fix things up, I also can't recall his name, but I don't see how much things has improved since then. I actually dont really participate in forums (life calls, and when one has a busy practice and a newborn, I'm not usually available hahahaah)

I absolutely LOVED the AG (action guide), and my feelings for it is like my first love in the internet world, and because it has given me so much results in my physiotherapy business, I have so much nostalgia/feelings/hopes for it, and it was the one that first brought me in.

Like you, I went through the AG again and again (the old and the new revised one that still looked old haha), and it helped me so much, but I've never fancied the Upload Your Own HTML (UYOH), I always liked the simpler BlockBuilder2.

And like you, I've so much gratitude, love and respect for SBI, but it does seem like I'm transitioning between both or perhaps I'll keep to both (though I'm a bit worried they'll wind down).

The "bad" information never did hit me because I followed their basic web building advice, but as I just did it my way in the end, I sort of complied with Google's algorithms unknowingly (or maybe because my website isn't an affiliate or MMO website, it wasn't hit) - my traffic just went up from months to months.

I also didn't use the EMD (though the topic of EMD is still ongoing if it's good or not), simply because I used my physiotherapy company name for branding purpose too. Again, compliance by luck?

I remember about the link swap thing, I think it's called something like Value Exchange. Again, unknowingly I didn't participate in it too (wow, I think I'm lucky by chance).

In the earlier years, I did use their Analyze It tool very much, but then I stopped it because I wanted it to be "more natural" BUT that being said, my website traffic did grow a lot from Analyze it. The Analyze It tool in my opinion isn't a tool to advise you to keyword stuff, it often tells me to scale back from keywords because I had "too many" keywords in some articles (no choice because physiotherapy we have many technical/clinical terms).

It does feel that they're old/outdated, and 1995 is about the right look and feel for their sites (they've updated quite a bit with nicer looking sites now though heh, but not as versatile as WP).

I can only imagine your horror with your freelancers Mike gosh, that must have been terrible! WA's sites make it so easy to create separate logins for other editors/authors. What email? I never used their email, and I preferred business Gmail anytime (their email system was horrible man).

You know what, I also agree with you that WA is a much gentler and softer way to introduce online business to people that I know, and it's so much more welcoming both in design and the community.

I'm sad to see what's been happening in SBI =(

Please, I love more of your input, and I'll like to ask your permission to help shed some light on things that bother me:

1) can I assume that your WA-powered WP sites are doing super and making good money? As I don't have enough personal data of making money using WP/WA to date (joined serious a couple of weeks back)

2) I assume you ported your SBI sites to WA to be WP sites: can I also assume that the traffic has grown and is also profitable?

3) whats a usual rule of thumb of how long it'd take to make a WA-powered WP site profitable? 6 to 12 months? I've been building one over the last few weeks, added about 100+ articles already to date, but I think/know that it takes time to build authority and maturity in Google/search engines

I'm trying my best to overcome this nagging feeling that I need to port over all/more to WA, but at the same time, I'm afraid that it wont work =(

Please advise, thank you so much!
AffTraining Premium Plus
I'm happy to answer your questions! :)

1) I don't actually have "WA-powered" sites. All of my sites are now on WordPress but I have my domain hosting through GoDaddy and due to having multiple sites that bring in thousands per day, I have a dedicated server at WPengine:

2) I have switched all of my sites over to WP and I also have purchased 2 additional SBI sites from others that I transferred over. Transferring SBI sites to WordPress is a giant pain in the butt. Every time I've outsourced having someone else do that for me I've ended up having to go in and fix a bunch of their mistakes. When I do it myself, it's done right, but it takes FOREVER and is really tedious. Every site I have switched over from SBI to WP has seen a traffic boost except for one of them, but that one site is doing poorly for what I believe to be other reasons.

3) Well, this is probably going to be an answer you don't want to hear, but I believe in being totally honest about this stuff. For starters, of course the real answer is "it depends". But I know you want solid numbers from my own personal experience. So, from my own personal experience, it is taking longer and longer for sites to become profitable. My first site I earned my first commission after 6 months and it steadily rose for years after that. I'd say at the 12 month mark is when I was really starting to earn some substantial income and around the 18 month mark you could consider it to be a full-time income.

For each new site I start, however, it seems to take longer and longer. At this point, I don't expect a site to be profitable for about 12 to 18 months and I have a site that took just over 2 years to start earning anything of real significants.

So, my answer is anywhere from 1 to 3 years, give or take, assuming you are writing at least 3 high quality keyword focused content pages each week at a minimum.

Honestly, if you are happy with your current sites at SBI, I wouldn't even move them, especially if your big motivation is to save a few bucks. SBI actually does a great job with hosting. The sites load fast, I hardly ever experienced downtime, they have great security in place to prevent hacking, spam, etc., and all in all, $29.99 per month per site isn't all that expensive for what they provide.

I really do hope that SBI sees a resurgence and starts doing well again, and their AG really IS awesome, but I'm just not able to recommend them to people at this time.
nigelchua Premium
Hi Mike, sorry I didnt realize earlier there was a reply here from you, and wow, you're on WP Engine (it's a special dedicated server for WP websites right)

Yes, its such a pain moving from SBI to WP, its so manual...I want to faint. I do have another 3 more with them, but it's because they're still working well that I'm leaving them there...for just a bit more (especially my physiotherapy website)

Actually I love your point #3 the most, because it's so relevant and it speaks to me to ease my anxiety and gives me a realistic timeline.

I'm generally ok with the 18-24 months time frame actually (as I'm also running other businesses that takes time), and it's sort of what I thought the timeline would be. But we're talking about 450 posts/pages? (assuming 3 articles a week x 52 per year x 3 years = 458)

And we're talking about the time it takes for search engine to index and rank the individual pages right?

Does it seem to be taking longer because the sites and businesses you're targeting now are larger niches? Or its a general thing despite narrow or large niches?

Yeah, I wont move anymore sites from SBI, I've already 6 in WA and I need to focus (ya I know, newbie/rookie mistake), and SBI so far works well with those still there (not going to fix what isn't broken) BUT my foray to WA is to personally test and confirm that WP sites can be profitable, and I will stay here for a minimum of 2-3 years to test it out (hearing from people like you is super duper, but I need to achieve it personally too =p)

Yes, and I love their security and zero downtime, I do recommend people there still for old-school authority and professional sites (like medical/therapy/legal sites), but for anything more recent, all goes to WA man)

Mike, thank you so much for your input and sharing, it means a lot to me. Really.

Thank you.
drjec Premium
It sounds like you are changing your business plan which will become more suitable for WA. I don't see any conflict in working both if you have the time especially if the SBI site is thriving on its own.
nigelchua Premium
Hmm, not to say that I'm changing my business plan, it's more of an experimental approach to diversifying my income sources, and I'm consciously testing and refining.

Lots of learning too! =D
nigelchua Premium
Ok let me first add to this: if you want to do anything online, I always like to be safe, and getting things for free (like Wealthy Affiliate's generous offer by Kyle and Carson's free WA basic membership for life), and learn about online business and getting your feet wet IS THE BEST WAY.

I started with SBI and it has worked for me, so I cannot ever discount that, and my SBI learning (and earning) is always appreciated, and for that I will forever thank Ken and the Site Build It team. I am still having sites with them that doesn't justify taking down/porting over because it already works very well.

But i am so curious about WA and WordPress site, and that's why I'm here: I truly want to have success here in WA and on my WP sites, and am working very diligently on it.

Update you soonest!