If you want to learn how to create a solid income from affiliate marketing websites, ThisIsWhyImBroke.com is one of the best examples of how to do it right.
And, the founder was kind enough to answer lots of fan questions on a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread a few years ago.
As an affiliate marketer who just accidently uncovered this valuable thread recently, I found the advice in it was too good not to share.
So, here are some of the most valuable lessons you can learn from the founder of affiliate site, ThisIsWhyImBroke.com and the exact quotes he/she used:
In the video above, I go through the Reddit thread outlining the lessons, quotes from the founder, and tools you can use for different strategies.
Lesson 1: Only do what's best for the audience
One of the first lessons the founder shares is that you should never accept payment as a means for a product listing, especially if it isn't the the audience's best interest.
You should always put the audience first.
“No, our business model is affiliate links. When someone buys something through our links, we get a commission. I'd say roughly half of the site's content isn't affiliate products, and is posted up for free/without compensation. We never accept payment as a means to get product listed on our site.”
Lesson 2: Not everything has to be an affiliate link
This goes back to having a good experience for the audience.
If you see cool products that fit what your audience likes, but you can't make money off them, post them anyway.
You audience will appreciate it and it could lead to at least more traffic that could turn into people buying related products anyway.
This goes back to the quote above, but here's the part of it for this lesson:
“I'd say roughly half of the site's content isn't affiliate products, and is posted up for free/without compensation.”
Lesson 3: Don't treat company suggestions differently than fans'
An affiliate site like this can make great use of a submissions page where people can suggest cool products for the site to post.
But, when you do this, you may want to treat all submissions equally for the sake of doing the right thing, even if companies try to compensate your or give you perks for posting their products.
“Both. But companies that approach us get the same treatment as a regular fan who wants to submit a cool product for our consideration.”
Lesson 4: Build a source database
Another interesting thing that the founder did for ThisIsWhyImBroke.com is they built a database of 100+ sources for finding products.
They actually use an RSS reader to do this.
You could use one like Feedly, for instance.
Anytime you find a cool site that finds or makes products that fit what your audience is looking for, add it to your RSS reader.
This way, you're never running low on ideas.
“We have an RSS reader with over 100 different sources. Everything from big sites like Amazon to little tumblr blogs. Whenever I find a cool site, I make sure to save it to my aggregator list.”
Lesson 5: You can build it yourself
Building an affiliate site without any training on how to do so is doable.
In fact, that's what the founder of ThisIsWhyImBroke.com did. They did pretty much everything themselves and just had a web developer do the most advanced things if they really needed help.
“Yes, I built the website all by myself. I have an awesome web developer that I met on Reddit who helps with the occasional advanced tasks like setting up scripts and such.”
Lesson 6: Learn these skills:
You or someone that's helping you will need to know:
- Social Media
- Graphic Design
“All of them. Since I started the site, I've had to learn about web servers, coding, social media, graphic design, SEO, accounting, and even how to improve my writing and grammar. I am a jack of all trades and master of none at this point.”
Lesson 7: Affiliate sites can support multiple employees
If you're wondering whether an affiliate site can make enough to actually support employees and be a legitimate full-time business, the answer is YES.
Full question and quote from the founder:
Lesson 8: Create something people need, use or want
When it comes to deciding what kind of site to make or what kind of business to start in general, you need to combine a couple of things…
First, create a site, product or service that people need, use or want.
Second, do this in an unexplored market, if you can.
“Try and create something people will truly want, need, or use. There will always be unexplored markets that are ripe for a resourceful entrepreneur, you just need to find it.”
Lesson 9: Don't hire friends
Lesson 10: You'll never be prepared enough
Lesson 11: Take breaks from work
The above three lessons came up when the founder was asked about non-tech lessons they had learned while building ThisIsWhyImBroke.com.
Here's the full quote:
Lesson 12: Advertise to get the ball rolling
One thing the founder of ThisIsWhyImBroke.com did to gain some traction with the site is advertise on Reddit.
Of course, this was back when less people were doing it and the costs were probably cheaper than they are now, but you can still find cheaper ways to advertise online and get similar results.
Once you advertise a little, just let your high quality affiliate site do the rest.
Here's the founder's quote on this:
“The beautiful thing about the website is that the marketing mostly takes care of itself. We use Reddit to get the ball rolling with our signature “Not Safe For Wallet” ad, and people share it naturally without any incentive.”
Lesson 13: Don't narrow your audience too much
Another reason the site go so popular is because it caters to an age bracket of 18-55 years old. That's a HUGE demographic!
Here's the full quote:
“I used to think that only geeky guys like myself were our audience, but as the site grew I began to realize that our demographic is much wider. Nowadays I cater the content to just a general 18-55 audience so there is a huge variety of products shown.”
Lesson 14: Think of your site like a game
Obviously, you need to put in a lot of hours to make good money and affiliate marketing needs to be treated like a serious business, but to stay motivated the founder sort of thought of it like a game.
That's what the founder said when asked how they stayed motivated working on the site in the early days.
Here's the full quote:
“I must admit, this is one of the biggest problems I had with other websites I made in the past. With this website however, there was an instant source of motivation as everyday I'd watch the affiliate earnings slowly grow. It was like playing a video game, and it easily made me want to work harder everyday.”
Lesson 15: Consider combining Adsense with affiliate links
Although the main source of income for ThisIsWhyImBroke.com is affiliate links, Google Adsense can be another great way to monetize the site.
Here's the full quote from the founder when asked what they main source of income is for the site:
“Affiliate links, but I'm experimenting with Google Adsense and it is performing quite well. The site currently has a strong emphasis on getting users to click on affiliate links and go to external websites to buy things, but it's quite possible that in the future the goal will be to get them to stay internally on the website and click on ads, and share the content via social media buttons.”
Lesson 16: You don't have to be in your target demographic
I've seen some entrepreneurs out there that tell you to be in your target audience or to make things that you would use yourself.
I still believe this is good advice, but it isn't necessarily the rule.
In fact, the founder of ThisIsWhyImBroke.com is an exception.
When asked how many of the items on the site they bought or personally use, the founder answered:
“Very little. I'm not much a impulse spender, and I get tons of freebies now. Plus most of it is overpriced anyways. =)”
Lesson 17: Sometimes you should just start and tweak
One of the biggest problems I've seen with people who want to start a business is they spend too much time getting ready to do something.
They waste too much time on the look of their website, reading business books, etc. before actually getting real experience.
In fact, Reid Hoffman, founder of Linkedin, once said:
“If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.”Reid Hoffman
Looks like the founder of ThisIsWhyImBroke.com didn't have that problem:
“No real planning went into it. I just decided to make it, and I tweaked heavily as time went on and went with the flow. There were a lot of growing pains as the site grew, actually.”
Lesson 18: It takes a lot of time and work
This might seem obvious too some, but an affiliate site takes just as much time and work to become successful as many other businesses do.
Here's what the founder said about their work schedule:
“I used to work at least 60 hours a week, but now that things have finally settled down and I've got things in a very structured routine I'd say it's just a typical 9-5 job.”
They went on to say:
“I only dedicated maybe an hour a day while it was in the “hobby” stage. When I started to realize it's potential, I started dedicating all of my free time to it. I'd literally get home from my job and work til 1 AM.”
Lesson 19: You don't need a fancy office
Many YouTubers and streamers are known for having amazon custom offices and gaming setups, but are they really necessary for success?
Well the founder of ThisIsWhyImBroke.com had a pretty basic setup for running the site at the time of their Reddit AMA:
Lesson 20: Amazon Associates can make you good money
The fact that you can only earn up to about 10% commissions max on many items from Amazon may make a lot of affiliates look for alternatives, but maybe that would be a mistake.
Because just about everyone seems to have an account with Amazon these days and because there are millions (if not billions) of products to buy on there.
Plus, if people buy just about anything on Amazon within 24 hours after visiting your affiliate link, you get a commission.
In other words, people don't even have to buy the affiliate product they clicked on for you to make money from them!
And when you make a site that's dedicated to affiliate revenue, Amazon can be great for that.
Here's what they founder of ThisIsWhyImBroke.com said when asked what percentage of the income comes from Amazon:
“About 66% comes from Amazon. The rest is other small affiliate programs and Google Adsense. The reason why we link to Amazon whenever possible is because most people are not interested in actually purchasing the things we list on the site – but if they go to Amazon there is a possibility of them buying a normal item like a book or a DVD. In fact, of the Amazon sales, over 80% of it is from products not shown on ThisIsWhyImBroke.”
Lesson 21: Don't have all your eggs in one basket
Not only do you not want to have just one affiliate program being used on your site, but you also want to consider having multiple sites to diversify your income.
Full quote from the founder:
Lesson 22: Try smaller affiliate programs too
Another thing this Reddit AMA teaches us is you don't need to rely on just the big affiliate programs with the most products.
You can also find value from smaller, private affiliate programs for specific products.
Here's the full quote about it when the founder was asked about other affiliate programs they use other than Amazon:
“Aside from Amazon there is ThinkGeek, Wicked Lasers, Hammacher, Firebox, and a few others that I can't recall off the top of my head.”
Lesson 23: Make products purchasable worldwide
If you can, you might want to make sure there are also purchase options for people outside the main country you're operating in.
When you build a website like this, you're bound to start getting traffic from all over the world if your site becomes pretty popular.
Here's a quote when the founder was asked if they were worried about lost revenue from localization:
“Yes. One of the things I want to do this upcoming year is add other purchase options to a product's information because we are constantly being asked “How can I buy this in UK/Australia/Germany/etc/”.”
Lesson 24: Know when to move on from an idea
Lesson 25: Consider starting a niche deals site
In one of the replies the founder made to a fan, they mentioned how you need to know when to move on from an idea that doesn't seem to have enough potential or traction.
In that same quote, a site called CheapShark was mentioned as a great example of an affiliate site that makes money helping people find the best prices on video games.
Here's the full quote:
“I honestly don't know enough about your niche to give you a good answer. But if the traffic isn't growing, and there doesn't seem to be any real way to make it grow, I'd move on. From the looks of it though, I don't see too much potential in it. A really awesome (business model based around video games is CheapShark, they make affiliate sales and people use the site because it provides a genuine service of finding you the lowest prices in games. It's win win.”
Lesson 26: Sometimes ads that lose money in the short term are worth it
Another great lesson from this Reddit AMA is that you may still get long term value from ads that lose money in the short term.
If this is the case, you might consider keeping the ads going if the site seems to grow as a result.
Here's the full quote:
“Well the great thing about advertising on sites like Reddit, Facebook, Stumbleupon, etc. is that you don't need to commit to a huge budget for them to consider you. It's pay as you go, so I just ran small ad campaigns and adjusted according to their results.
In terms of ROI, none of the ads ever return a profit in the short term. In fact, for every dollar we spend we usually get back $0.25 the next day, but it seems to have a huge effect on long term growth so I believe it's a good strategy.”
Lesson 27: Etsy is another great affiliate program
Here's what the founder said of Etsy:
“It's definitely possible – in fact I've had some Etsy sellers thank me endlessly because our site featuring their product got their business rolling and it's now their full time job.
The reality of it is that blogs will do all the advertising for you if you can create something really amazing. Once you get the viral traffic, you need to leverage it with the other products you have in your webstore.”
Lesson 28: Learn from failures
Did you know that the founder of ThisIsWhyImBroke.com failed quite a few times with other sites prior?
Here's the full quote when asked whether it was their first venture:
“No, it definitely wasn't the first. I made many websites before it, but all of them were failures/not worth mentioning. However the silver lining is that each failure taught me something, which I was able to use to the next idea.”
Lesson 29: Improve an existing idea
Sometimes, the most lucrative ideas are just improvements on existing ones.
That's how ThisIsWhyImBroke.com came to be, anyway.
Here's what the founder said when asked if there was a particular moment when they thought of the idea for the site:
“No, I just saw a similar site and thought it was a cool idea that had a lot of area for improvement. I never thought it would become this successful website, it just seemed like another pipe dream with low risk and high reward.”
Lesson 30: Programming knowledge that helps
Here's what the founder knew before starting the site:
Lesson 31: Where to ask questions when building the site
If you're building an affiliate site yourself, you'll probably have questions along the way and may not want to pay the money to have someone do things for you, so you need a place to go with your website questions.
Here's what the founder said about this:
“The WordPress community has to be the most indispensable tool, imo. It's such an amazing thing to be able to say “I'm not sure how to do this” and just type your request into google and find that there are dozens of blogs and message boards that already covered the topic with in-depth answers.”
Lesson 32: Don't worry about copycats
Here's what they founder said about copycats:
“At this point the only emotion I feel is flattery. I'll even help them out with tips if they e-mail me and are nice. Perhaps when someone makes a better website I'll worry though.”
Lesson 33: Affiliate sites are pretty solid business models
While the founder won't share the revenue or traffic numbers of ThisIsWhyImBroke.com, they do explain why it does very well:
“I'm afraid to publicly release how much the site is earning for a variety of reasons. But I will say that it is a very lucrative business model – it's a an extremely low cost site full of affiliate links that gets shared at viral traffic levels.”
Lesson 34: How to pick the right products to list
This is a great and simple lesson!
Here's how the founder picks what products to list on the site:
“At this point I just have a good understanding of what the readers like. But when in doubt, I just ask myself “would this product get a strong reaction from me if I saw it for the first time?””
Lesson 35: Sometimes just one post on can make you go viral
Some sites take a long time to start picking up steam.
This is why a lot of people get discouraged when trying to build a site from scratch.
But, ThisIsWhyImBroke.com got pretty lucky.
Here's how fast it started gaining traction and how it happened:
“I think it was a month into the site when someone posted it as a comment on a front page Reddit thread. It went viral all over the web that day and has been growing ever since then.”
Lesson 36: Where their highest converting traffic came from
At the time of this AMA, someone asked the founder about their most valuable/highest converting traffic.
Here was the response:
“Surprisingly the best converting traffic is from a link exchange network we are apart of, called Knowd. It doesn't bring us that much traffic, but the traffic it does seems to be very high converting click happy users.”
Knowd doesn't seem to be around anymore, but this quote might make you want to look into link exchange networks.
Lesson 37: Use your existing brand to branch out
If you become pretty successful at selling other people's products with your brand and are considering branching out into selling your own products, you might want to use the same site.
Here's what the founder said when asked whether they would consider using Godaddy to create a site to sell simple items:
“No. If we were to sell things, we'd just use our site and have a purchase link to a PayPal checkout page. That way we get the benefit of selling stuff while still building our already existent brand name.”
Lesson 38: What to do if product pictures aren't good
Here's what the founder does with pictures of products on ThisIsWhyImBroke.com:
“I creatively photoshop it most of the time.”
Lesson 39: Should you post non-purchasable products?
Here's what the founder said when asked about posting products that are concepts and can't actually be purchased yet:
“It's a grey area of the site. We have an extremely low affiliate conversion rate and most people are only on the site for entertainment value. So most people are not annoyed when we post up concept items, and they typically have larger than normal traffic. I try to post concept items sparingly though as I know some people hate when it's not a purchasable item.”
Lesson 40: Success has a lot to do with luck and timing
Many successful people attribute a lot of their success to getting lucky or coming out with an idea at the perfect time.
ThisIsWhyImBroke.com seems to have had a similar experience:
“I think a huge part to the success of the site is timing. The existence of social media was key to our rise, and I started advertising on reddit at a time when few were doing it. Not to mention that the site runs off WordPress, a platform that hasn't even been around for that long. If I tried to start this site in 2001 it definitely would've never worked.”
Lesson 41: You don't need a degree to succeed
Here's what the founder said about his/her education:
“I'm a college dropout =)
I was an IT major though. It helped a tiny bit, but I think web development classes would've been the most useful thing to have taken in college.”
Lesson 42: Use similar content on Facebook to the blog
To get over 200,000+ likes pretty quickly, apparently the founder didn't really do anything special, but just posted similar things to the website.
Here's what they said about whether they did anything special to grow the Facebook page:
“No, just the viral content of the site helped the Facebook page grow so rapidly.”
Lesson 43: SEO isn't always necessary for success
Here's what the founder said about the impact of SEO on the success of the site:
“SEO really hasn't done much for the site. Though the focus this upcoming year will be breaking into the 1st page results for “gifts for X” search queries.”
Lesson 44: Growing your site to account for traffic spikes isn't that bad
Lesson 45: Taxes aren't that hard for an affiliate site
Lesson 46: Use tools like Sucuri, Pingdom to protect your site
Here's the full quote covering questions about growth, taxes, compensation for freelancers, site protection and highlights/lowlights of the business:
“1- Growth was a really good headache to have. In hindsight it wasn't really all that difficult, but not having proper knowledge on many things (such as webservers) just made it a very stressful learning period. But still do-able.
2- Taxes are easy, as is accounting. We don't carry inventory, and we don't have to account for individual sales since we just receive one check at the end of the month from Amazon (well, and other checks from other programs, but you get the idea).
3- A fair rate =)
5- Highlight was when I was still at my day job, I had already put in my two weeks, and I just knew that I finally had did it, and prosperous times were ahead. I nearly cried a few tears of joy. Low point, without a doubt, was having to fire a really good friend who started working with me from the beginning. It really sucked, but it had to be done.”
Lesson 47: Having an affiliate site can be very worthwhile
Here's how the founder feels about what he/she does and their work/life balance:
“It's a truly amazing thing. I know that I'm not curing cancer, but I feel like I'm finally doing something worthwhile since I've always wanted to have my own online business, and I'm really grateful for the entire thing. If for some reason the site becomes obsolete tomorrow, I'll die happy knowing I accomplished something big in my life that I always wanted to do.
My work-life balance is much better now, but in the first year I was an insane work horse. I couldn't get away from the computer, and it was really unhealthy. I gained about 15 lbs, developed social anxiety, and neglected many basic areas of my life. I'm working now to fully restore the balance, but it's still a struggle at times.”