Affiliate Marketing: 8 Examples of Huge Affiliate Success (Beyond CPA Campaigns)
When you think of affiliate marketing success stories, I’m sure you think about mobile campaigns, Facebook ads etc.
Traditional CPA is a great way to make a lot of money fast, but what about when you get bored of running campaigns?
There’s a whole new level to affiliate marketing.
Have you ever heard of moneysupermarket.com?
They are one of the biggest affiliates in the world. That one website made the founder a billionaire.
Running campaigns is a great way to make a lot of money fast.
I wanna introduce you to a world where you can develop web properties and monetize using affiliate marketing.
There are millions to be made as a CPA marketer doing mobile/FB etc. But after a while you start thinking.
- Can I build the next priceline.com?
- Can I build a massive authority site that rakes in millions per year?
- Where should I take my skills so I can make the biggest impact possible?
I wanna show you a few examples of sites that do affiliate marketing, but not in the traditional sense.
Remember that affiliate marketing is simply a business model. There are multiple ways to make money through affiliate marketing.
The Points Guy
You guys know I love collecting points.
The founder of ThePointsGuy.com is 1000x more hardcore than I am.
His name is Brian Kelly and he’s got 30+ credit cards. He also has a company rule I like: “If they don’t accept credit cards, we don’t do business with them“.
Kelly started the site while he was working full time showing people how to travel for almost nothing just using points.
I couldn’t find any hard data, but check out this AMA he did.
They get 2.5 million monthly uniques, and he’s getting paid out $50-$400 per credit card someone signs up for.
He pays for Facebook Ads, but a ton of his traffic is coming in from organic / word of mouth sources.
Thepointsguy is now owned by Bankrate – a public US company, so I’m guessing he’s done pretty well for himself.
I never buy anything online without looking at the reviews.
Consumer Search is a site that analyzes reviews and aggregates them.
I don’t use this site, but a lot of people do. (I read Amazon reviews or use word of mouth referrals)
Consumer Search has found a different way to make money without charging a subscription fee – they generate revenue by pushing traffic to Amazon.
Being an Amazon affiliate is super competitive, but ConsumerSearch has found a way to make it work.
The site became so successful that the founders sold the site to the New York Times for $33 million.
Here’s how they do their review system:
Consumer Search know that there are millions of products on Amazon. They only want to provide products that are high quality so that they develop high consumer trust and word of mouth.
How did they find the best products?
They ignored the one and five star reviews on Amazon and looked at the reviews in the middle.
They felt that these reviews were more honest and usually had more to say than “awesome smartwatch!” or “This model sucks”.
This was just a part of their strategy, but it’s helped them automate their business model to a high degree, which means they can focus on the marketing side.
A lot of people love playing poker or blackjack online. (I used to play a ton of poker back in the day)
Gaming companies need new players all the time and rely heavily on affiliates to find them.
Being a gaming affiliate can be very lucrative. The competition is brutal, but a handful of big affiliates make a killing.
Cardplayer is one of the major players in this niche.
They started off as a print magazine, which has nearly 30,000 readers. According to Similar Web, the site receives over half a million visitors every month. If they can convert even a tenth of a percent of that traffic, you better believe they’re ballers.
How did they do it?
By being the best of the best online gaming publishers and review sites on the web.
They built a huge, content-rich site that’s helpful to people looking for the best games.
Here are some ways Cardplayer stands out:
- They have really good content. This helps them build trust as industry leaders and dominate the front page for search terms like “poker tournaments” and “card player.
- Their landing pages are useful. They don’t take the shotgun approach and blast their landers with a ton of affiliate links. They have long descriptions of each site. People reading call tell why each site is good.
If you knew a bit about poker, you’d be able to tell the site has some good info. It’s not super cheap outsourced content and these guys are obviously a massive affiliate marketing success story.
The Wire Cutter
Someone should write a case study on The Wire Cutter and make it mandatory reading material for everyone who wants to start an online business.
I use and trust this website religiously.
Like Consumer Search, The Wire Cutter gets affiliate sales by reviewing products. They focus specifically on gadgets and even hardcore tech geeks can tell these guys know what they’re talking about.
The Wire Cutter has a team of experts that personally test the gadgets they promote.
Their team tests many of these products for nearly 70 hours before making any conclusions.
What really stands out is their brutal honesty.
I checked out their review page on wireless headphones the other day, which made it clear that they all had flaws.
Here’s what it says:
“All of them, we found, have some flaws in fit, functionality, or convenience. Because this is the first generation of the technology, manufacturers are still working out the kinks. As a result, we can’t make an overall pick that we think would work for most people. What will work for you depends on what mobile device you have and how willing you are to put up with performance glitches in order to take advantage of a cutting-edge (but still clearly work-in-progress) convenience feature.”
You don’t see genuine reviews like this too often, so you know they stand out.
TripAdvisor makes choosing the right travel brands a lot easier, and they don’t charge you to do it.
How do they make money?
“If you’re not paying for the product, then you’re the product”
They have affiliate partnerships with some of the biggest travel companies in the world.
Since they’re such a trusted company, most people don’t even realize they are an affiliate. But travel companies pay them generously for each lead and sale, due to their high lead quality.
TripAdvisor also receives a ridiculous amount of traffic. They have an Alexa rank of 81 and Similar Web estimates that the site receives 116 million visitors a month.
Here’s a case study someone’s done on the TripAdvisor business model.
PC Magazine is a great example of a business that pivoted into the right industry.
It started as a humble print magazine back in the early 80s. It grew its reader base and eventually became one of the biggest computer news and information portals on the web.
I just checked the traffic stats for PC Magazine.
45 million visitors a month…
I can’t imagine how much those guys are making.
I bet a good chunk of the revenue comes from their affiliate commissions.
PC Magazine review computers, software and other products. They dominate for some of the biggest keywords in their niche, like “best laptops”, so you know lots of people are buying based on their recommendations.
Their conversion rates must be insane since people trust them so much. They also have relationships with Dell and other companies, since they push such huge volume to their sites.
Top 10 Reviews
The real winners find a unique angle.
Top 10 Reviews didn’t reinvent the wheel, but they did change things up a bit. They have top ten reviews of everything (the ten best dating sites, etc.), and everything is also ranked on a 10 point scale.
The functionality isn’t much differently, but it still stands out – and it shows you don’t need to be completely original to make things work.
You just gotta be a little different and appeal to people’s nature (people love ranking things in order).
They became so successful that they were able to buy out lots of other web properties, like LiveScience.com. TechMedia Network, the holding company of Top 10 Reviews, generated over $100 million in 2014, and we can assume that, since Top 10 Reviews is one of their most valuable properties, the site accounted for millions in revenue.
If you’re a 20 or 30-something man, you’ve probably visited AskMen before.
It’s one of the top online magazines for men, and it’s full of advice every man needs including dating advice, career guidance and PUA tips.
You probably didn’t know that they’re also a top affiliate site. AskMen has affiliate partnerships with a lot of different brands, like Match.com and Amazon.
These guys carved a name for themselves by being a leading voice for men. They know their stuff, so guys have no problem buying the products they recommend. Personally I don’t really read their stuff, I think there is better content out there, but they’ve done a great job on their branding and marketing.
AskMen also has phenomenal SEO.
They have over 300,000 indexed pages, great angles and a Wikipedia-style internal linking strategy, so they bring lots of buyer-ready leads to their site.
They even rank for “Match.com review”, which is pretty impressive.
The Keyword Planner tool shows this keyword gets up to 100,000 searches a month, so the odds are good they’re getting a lot of targeted, high-converting traffic from it.
I love checking out the crazy stuff they have on this site. There’s a case study here on the site that explains things in a really detailed way. It’s a good read, but I’d say they are making a bit more than 20k /month
This is super similar to the site above, but they do something kinda cool. They’re using gifs as their product description images. How good is that Millenium Falcon drone!
Affiliate Marketing Success is Not Just Individual Campaigns
There are plenty of successful affiliates out there, but these guys are crushing it. If you want to be the next eight-figure affiliate superstar, look at their business models.
Here are a couple of takeaways to get you started:
- Huge affiliate marketing success stories take time. These sites weren’t built overnight or ripped from a spy tool. CPA can make you your first few million, but then you’ll want to scale into something different.
- You gotta work with proven brands, or become one. When you’re a leading voice like PC Magazine or Ask Men, you can get awesome deals going direct with Fortune 500 brands like Dell.
- You can’t just write great content. You have to be a great marketer to make it work. There’s a ton of great content out there that never gets found because they creator can’t sell himself.
I hope this is some awesome inspiration for you.
I love affiliate marketing, but I don’t wanna be running campaigns until I’m 50 years old. It’s always great to see who else is killing it out there.
If you want more options after your Affiliate Marketing days, check out: The Next Step After Affiliate marketing