Affiliate Site Earns $7.1M YR and Made the Inc. 5000 - What We Can Learn
Many of us question whether affiliate marketing is a legitimate business model, or if you need dropshipping, creating your own course, or creating a physical product to "make it to the big leagues". While I can admit, affiliate marketing is no "walk in the park", I think this affiliate site case study showing an affiliate business that made it into the Inc 5000 and earns $7.1M in annual income can prove that affiliate marketing can take you to the big leagues.
What does it mean to make the Inc. 5000?
Any company can apply to be in the Inc. 5000, but it's a representation of America's fastest growing companies. In order to apply, you had to:
- Fill out an application
- Pay an application fee of $245
- Be privately-owned, based in the United States, independent (not a subsidiary or division of another company)
- Have started earning revenue by March 31st, 2016
- Had revenue no less than $100,000 in 2016
- Had revenue no less than $2,000,000 in 2019
- Revenue in 2019 exceeds revenue in 2016
This achievement is still awarded annually by Inc., but the requirement dates have probably changed for later years.
What's the Affiliate Site that Met the Inc. 5000 Criteria?
Fitsmallbusiness.com has been on the Inc. 5000 list more than once representing America's fastest growing companies and their predominant way of making money is affiliate marketing. They earn $7.1M in annual revenue and started their company in 2011.
The company was founded by David Waring and Marc Prosser, and now they have a team that helps drive the mission.
It's Rare but It's Possible to Run a Massively Successful Company with Affiliate Marketing
I don't know about you, but sometmes, I've started to think you need other income sources in addition to affiliate marketing to get past 6-figures. I see people who make it to a full-time income with affiliate marketing, but much less make it to 6 or 7 figures.
Most of the affiliate marketing I see beyond 6-figures are selling courses or other products, so I started to think, maybe that's where you have to focus on other things, but this site proved me wrong.
While it might be rare (or simply not publicly disclosed), it's possible, and I think it would be preferable for me to run a company that focuses mostly on affiliate sales because it's less customer service and less billing. At this point, I think I'd prefer that, so I'm really admiring Fitsmallbusiness.com for making the affiliate marketing business model work so well.
Lessons to Take Away from FitSmallBusiness
If you just visit Fitsmallbusiness, you'll notice alot of things they're doing that could contribute to how much their traffic has built and how much income they're bringing in.
In addition to observing, I also read an interview from David Waring that gives details about his vision for the company his background, and his theories for how he made Fit Small Business thrive. In this article, I'll share with you tips I think contribute most to the success of FitSmallBusiness.com.
1. They Created a Site Based on a Topic they Had Experience with
Both Waring and Prosser had experience working in the corporate world in a company that had massive growth. One was head of sales, and the other was the Chief Marketing Officer: two high up positions. They also both had experience in the business world.
They decided to start a blog on a topic they were knowledgeable about and they demonstrate to small businesses with their example.
2. They Chose a Specific Target Audience that had Lots of Gaps to be Filled Online
Rather than trying to target every entrepreneur, or every small business owner, they decided to target brick and mortar businesses with information that they felt wasn't covered well online.
It's important to choose a niche audience that you can serve better than what's out there so you can stick out.
3. The Pivoted their Content In Favor of What Was Working
They originally started with the goal of writing all "how to" content and tutorials, but they realized a few years in that they're reviews were the most popular and converted best, so they decided to pivot and focus more on reviews than on tutorials.
Kyle and Carson teach us to write reviews, but sometimes, every one of us wants to pivot and write other things. I'm guilty all the way! It's important to focus on what's working and amplify that rather than try to pivot away from what's working. Even if you want to pivot, it's best to test out the pivot with a small portion of your time and resources, rather than the majority otherwise, you're incurring much more risk.
4. They focused primarily on SEO and maintained low overhead as a result
Waring said SEO was their primary focus even though they knew SEO wasn't the "quick route". They knew SEO was valuable and highly targeted traffic even more than social media and alternative options, and they were right. At the time of the interview, Waring said they'd reached 300,000 monthly website visitors, and majority of their traffic came from search engines.
5. They hire experts - not Generalists (which gives them a Competitive Advantage)
They saw their competitors hiring freelancers and writers that were generalists, so they decided to make an advantage for themselves by hiring experts. For their finance content, they hire finance experts. For their legal content, they hire legal experts.
They don't go for the cheapest labor or easiest to find, they're trying to find the people that would help their content stand out most.
6. They thoroughly research before posting
They have a thorough research and writing process. David Waring said:
"The first step is to look around and get a basic understanding of the topic from whatever freely available information we can find. Once we have done this we develop a list of questions that we want a better understanding on and then talk to industry experts on the topic to get in depth answers. We also ask them what questions we should be asking that we have not yet asked.
If we are writing a product or service review, whenever possible, we use the product or service ourselves and speak to all of the companies we are reviewing directly.
The analyst then writes the article, I edit it with them, and then we post it to the site."
7. They focus on making deep connections rather than alot of connections
Waring used the example of cold email marketers and how they go around spamming people's mailboxes with copy/pasted verbiage. He said he doesn't respond to messages that clearly look like they're trying to message everyone without taking the time to see whether their pitch is relevant.
He said they focus on building relevant connections rather than alot of them, and messages where people take the time to learn about who their messaging works much better than copy/pasted spam.
8. They started monetizing early on
Some "gurus" say you shouldn't monetize until you get traffic, or you get rankings, or other criteria is met. At Wealthy Affiliate, we teach you to monetize right away.
It sounds like Waring and Prosser did exactly what WA teaches.They started monetizing at 2 months in.
9. They monetize with affiliate marketing
Waring said 90% of the FitSmallBusiness revenue comes from affiliate marketing, which is BANANAS! Many people know it's possible to earn up to $10k with affiliate marketing. Some people know it's possible to earn hundreds of thousands, but did you know you could be a multimillionaire mainly with affiliate income?
Fitsmallbusiness proves that.
10. They optimize their site for conversions
Every post you go to has a very helpful tone. The calls to action are clear. They use very relevant offers for each sub-niche and content category. They use exit pop ups that take people to affiliate offers. Their site looks very professional and clean.
There's a whole lot they're doing to increase conversions. It's a nice site to go and observe for ideas, but don't forget what works on an established site isn't always what works on a new site, so test, test, and test.
12. They've written alot of content!
I know it's no way to be 100% accurate about how many pages and posts a site has aside from logging onto their website to see, but when you type in "site:fitsmallbusiness.com" into Google, there are 6,340 indexed domains with that in it, which means it's a pretty massive site.
But, don't you think it's worthwhile to write 6,340 pages and posts in exchange for $7.1M/YR?!!! I do (especially when you can do it from anywhere in the world). Hahahaha.
6,340 = 704 posts per year
They have a team now, so 704 posts or more is doable. I've done 430 as a one-person team, so if I had a few more people duplicating my effort, it would be totally doable, and when the revenue is right, I definitely will.
It's sites like this that make me feel like a baby in the blogging world, but it gives me hope about the possibilities if I stick with it. They're 9 years into working on their blog. Most people don't see that type of income (or even close) after 9 years of effort.
His Best Advice for Other Bloggers
Make better content than what's out there, write it, and don't take shortcuts on promoting your content. He said most bloggers don't write better quality than what's out there, and they also skimp out on the promotion of their content.
Kyle, Carson, and Jay have said many of the things David Waring said in his interview, but it's cool when you can see the results of what they're saying in action.
Can you believe that many of the methods Fitsmallbusiness is using to earn $7.1M/YR are the same methods you can learn at Wealthy Affiliate, and for a limited time, you can pay $299/YR for access to an education that can have returns greater than 10,000% on your money?!!!
If you haven't already, you should absolutely, 100% go annual while the deal is on, and be grandfathered into the low price for life. If not, and you decide to go annual later, you'll pay more (still a great deal), so it's best for you to go annual now.
My Questions for You
- What do you think about this case study?
- What lessons stick out the most?
- What do you think we (WA affiliates) should take away from this case study?
- What are your thoughts on this amazing affiliate success story?
- Have you seen another affiliate success like this?