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Hey all, it’s Ivan here.

I’m delivering you another case study which I announced around three months ago.

It’s a bit longer than I expected, but still, we wanted to monitor the website to see what’s happening with rankings and organic traffic.

There were Google updates in December 2019 and January 2020 (Google January 2020 Broad Core Algorithm Update – content related).

However, this one is not about another money site built on an expired domain.

It’s about the affiliate website built from scratch on a brand-new domain which made $166.000 in a single month.

More precisely, from November 20, 2019, to December 20, 2019, and still making significant income.

Update • The affiliate website stats from June 2022

301-expired-domain-redirect-affiliate-website-updated-2022

The website stats from December 2019:

affiliate website stats 2019

Amazon revenue from November 20, 2019 – December 20, 2019:

NET sales November - December 2019

Introduction

Who’s the man behind the project?

The owner asked to stay anonymous at the beginning, but eventually, he changed his mind.

The man and the name behind this successful affiliate project is Rasmus Haxholm, a web programmer by profession.

So, let’s see what’s all about.

Can you tell us when did you start?

I’ve started in early April 2019.

Did you know the niche before you decided to start?

Of course! I can say I knew the niche pretty well.

For me, there’s no point to start a website in the niche you don’t understand. It’s a total waste of time.

I like the niche, and that’s why I’ve decided to start this time and create a more serious affiliate website and monetize it.

Why did you decide to start on a brand-new domain?

My idea was to start the website on a brandable domain name.

I wanted a catchy domain name and that the domain name itself sounds related to the niche.

At first, I was thinking to start my affiliate website on the expired domain to avoid sandbox and to start rank ASAP, but couldn’t find a domain name that I like.

The niche itself is not so old, and there were also issues with finding an expired domain with the domain metrics I wanted and which will give me an advantage over competitors.

Therefore, I finally decided to go with a brand-new domain and the domain name I like.

I registered the domain in March and started with the project a few weeks later in April.

Maybe you’ll say I’m crazy, but the priority to me was the domain name.

What strategy did you use to get out of Google sandbox?

To get out of the sandbox and start ranking, I used Matt Digitty’s blueprint.

Although I didn’t follow the blueprint 100% and did some alterations on my own, I managed to get out of the sandbox in less than 6 weeks with few keywords up in the SERPs.

What kind of website is your site?

I’ve built an authority site with niche category pages.

How competitive is your niche?

The niche is relatively new, and I would say it’s already a medium competitive niche.

Three of the hardest competitors I’m facing are high-authority websites like TechRadar.com, Wired.com and CNET.com.

What is the price range of products?

The price range is from $100 to $2,000.00.

Which products convert the best?

From the beginning until now, statistically, those from $100 – $500 convert the best.

Let’s say around $250 is the sweet spot as the products are more affordable to a broader audience, and there’s more interest.

On-page SEO

Can you tell us about the site structure?

Site structure has not been planned.

I’ve just made “best” type affiliate pages according to what my competitors did and built supporting content afterwards (product reviews, informational blog posts).

What was your main focus?

I’ve focused on pushing a lot of supporting content to my main money pages.

These are all terms with actual search volume though it doesn’t have to be much and plenty of individual product reviews as well.

All supporting content link back to my money pages. That way, I funnel link juice to them.

What was your keyword strategy?

As I said, I already knew the niche to an extent as I have another smaller site within it, but it’s nothing significant.

I’ve mainly done keyword research via competitor analysis by identifying my most successful competitors and tried to replicate what they’ve done.

Used Ahrefs almost exclusively for this and a bit of on KWFinder as well as I find it very useful.

What’s the search volume for target keywords?

My main keywords go all the way up to 18k volume per month according to multiple tools.

Main competitors are ranking in up to 50k visitors per month, according to Ahrefs.

For now, my best „best“ keyword with the most traffic is 12k searches per month.

The website stats from March 2020:

site's stats march-2020

What’s the average article length?

It depends on the given search query I want to rank for.

I look at the best-performing piece and go about the same word count – maybe a little more sometimes.

I don’t go too overboard as it may even hurt my rankings to have an 8000-word piece for a 1000-word query even though my pieces are the most comprehensive with the latest technical information about the products.

It should be said I never go under 700 words and on average, with 2500-3000 words depending on the type of article.

What’s the article upload frequency?

In the beginning, I uploaded up to 15 pieces of content every month, but as I focus on other affiliate projects now too, I try to get at least two pieces of fresh content out every month.

How does your article structure look?

My „best“ keyword articles are structured as following:

    • Article title – H1
    • Introduction – H2
    • Main keyword – H2
    • Product title – H3
    • Specifications – H4
    • Product title – H3
    • Specifications – H4
    • Buying considerations – H2
    • Conclusion – H2

How much articles you have on your website?

There are around 90 articles on the website at this point.

Did you use any guides for internal linking structure?

Yes, I’ve also used one of Matt’s guides, A Complete SEO Guide to Anchor Text Optimization for 2020.

I know that internal linking is essential for on-page optimization and didn’t want to take any chance to kill the site’s potential with random internal linking.

Also, what I want to mention is that I never linked between category pages.

What pages perform the best?

Currently, the top 10 pages with the most traffic are:

    • 4 comparison pages (up to 10 products)
    • 5 review pages (a single product)
    • 1 informational blog post

I’m also using review pages to link to comparison pages if I find it relevant and I never link just to connect pages.

top pages with most traffic

Off-page SEO

Can you tell us about your link building strategy?

The fact I’ve built the affiliate website on a brand-new domain, the most important thing at the beginning was to get out of the sandbox.

As soon as the website was live, first I created social profiles and then business citations. No need to wait very much for that, really. That was in the first weeks.

I was thinking to follow social signal blast too but skipped it. Simply, I didn’t consider it as necessary.

Did you also use PBN links at the beginning?

Yes. PBNs are still a valuable part of any link building strategy. I’ve done around 20-25 PBN links, all drip-fed with around 15 links per approximately 50 days.

My provider does not share the live URLs, but I believe they’re of the general type and not niche specific.

I started with PBN links when I had around 10 informational blog posts (supporting content) available.

Links were only to the homepage and informational content, not money pages. My idea was to funnel link juice to money pages.

I was surprised that rankings first really kicked into top #5 after I introduced PBNs, let’s say around July.

Though they were for low-volume traffic keywords from informational blog posts, still it gave me a psychological boost to go harder with the project.

Did you use guest post outreach?

Yes, I’ve started with guest posts in late October 2019. Although I had a traffic breakdown from mid-November, I didn’t stop using guest posts.

What anchor type did you use?

I used mainly brand anchors.

When did you start receiving natural links from other websites?

I remember very well that the website received the first natural link in October 2019. It was a contextual link with the brand anchor.

The reason is that the website ranked for at least 100+ keywords from #1-3 and around 1K+ from #4-10.

The most valuable links my website received so far are from Tetongravity, ValueWalk, and BestLife, which is a high-volume traffic website with over 5 million visits per month.

What’s the percentage of websites which link to your site?

Honestly, I didn’t count the number, but I would say it’s 40%-50% of the total number of referring domains as we speak.

How did you decide to go with 301 expired domain redirection?

I’m familiar with the 301 method but never used it before and I was missing practical information.

301 redirect seo

On first thought about possibly doing 301 redirection with an expired domain, Ivan’s name crossed my mind.

He’s a friend of mine, and we met online at least 2 years ago.

I knew very well that he’s working in the domain industry and that his field of expertise are expired domains.

Considering we’re enjoying mutual trust, I reached to him and showed him my website instantly and explained what I would like to do, but wasn’t sure how to do it.

After discussing strategy and what would be the best for my site, I decided to go with expired domain redirection method too.

What was your expired domain metrics criteria for 301?

Before I reached to Ivan, I found some information about what’s working, what to be careful about when picking expired domain for 301; a number of RD, link quality, relevancy, how to do it technically and other relevant/irrelevant metrics.

What I wasn’t sure about was how strong the domain should be considering my site is new and If I redirect „too strong“ or „too weak“ expired (auction) domain I could get into some kind of trouble and affect search rankings.

However, my first idea was to get an expired domain with at least 300 RD and DR, not under 30.

Of course, not spammy, with clean anchors, clean Wayback history, with niche-relevant links and, preferably, with links from high-DA media sites.

Can you share metrics of the expired domain you used for 301 redirect?

Considering the niche is relatively new, I was explained that there could be issues with finding such expired domain in a reasonable time frame because of relevancy.

But, I guess, I just got lucky, and after about 2-3 weeks Ivan messaged me that he found the domain.

301 redirect expired domain

The metrics are the following:

    • DR 43 / DA 52
    • 575 RD (live) / 1.14K (historical)
    • Pretty decent DNS history with few changes from 2013
    • Redirected once before (niche-relevant 301 redirect)
    • Niche-relevant domain

When did you 301 redirect the expired domain to your website?

I 301 redirected the expired domain to my affiliate site on July 5, 2019.

301 redirect placed

Is there any specific reason why did you do it on that particular date?

There’s no particular reason, besides the fact that site started to rank. I wanted to see keywords up before 301.

Can you explain how did you do 301 redirection?

All is done from my server.

I decided to hide 301 redirect from Ahrefs, Majestic and other crawlers through .htaccess file and that’s the reason why I did 301 redirection using „Redirects“ from cPanel.

How did you hide 301 redirection?

I hid redirect by copy/pasting and saving following code inside .htaccess file:

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent .*rogerbot.* bad_bot

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent .*exabot.* bad_bot

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent .*mj12bot.* bad_bot

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent .*dotbot.* bad_bot

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent .*gigabot.* bad_bot

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent .*ahrefsbot.* bad_bot

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent .*sitebot.* bad_bot

<Limit GET POST HEAD>

Order Allow,Deny

Allow from all

Deny from env=bad_bot

</Limit>

For those who doesn’t know, the .htaccess file is often hidden in the root of your server and you need to hit the option “show hidden files” in order to get access to .htaccess.

Click on the “Settings” from public_html:

public-html-root-settings

Check the box “Show Hidden Files” and Save:

show hidden files

You are copy/pasting and saving the CODE in .htaccess file in the root of the domain you are redirecting.

Technical SEO

What WP theme and plugins do you use?

As always, I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible as not to waste resources or cause bad load speeds.

I use Elementor for this affiliate site on top of a WordPress theme from Envato Elements (great value here).

As I’m not happy to the page speed, however, I am currently reworking my entire site to use Oxygen Builder which is more lightweight. In essence, I’ve already migrated a few sites to Oxygen with positive results.

What hosting do you use for the affiliate website?

I’m using A2 Hosting for all of my websites and so for this site too.

Monetization

Which affiliate programs you use?

Affiliate programs I use are:

    • Amazon
    • ShareASale
    • Individual affiliate websites

Investment vs Revenue

What’s your ROI so far from the project?

Although I don’t track the exact numbers in an organized way, I can say that we’re looking at around 600% ROI at this point.

In numbers, I would say around $50,000 all-time earnings so far, no matter on traffic drop after December.

What are the main expenses? Can you give us some numbers?

Main expenses have been content, expired domain and link building (PBN links and guest posts). I’m not going to include hosting, because I’m paying it $200 per year for all my sites.

    1. Content: ~ $4,000
    2. Expired domain: $3,600
    3. Guest posting: ~ $1,600
    4. PBN links: ~ $300

Can you share screenshots of revenue?

Here are Amazon screenshots from November 20, 2019 – March 20, 2020, and one from ShareASale from November 20, 2019 – December 20, 2019.

Nov. 20, 2019 – Dec. 20, 2019 (ShareASale revenue):

shareasale nov 20 - dec 20

Aug. 20, 2019 – Sep. 20, 2019 (Amazon revenue):

aug - sep amazon revenue

Sep. 20, 2019 – Oct. 20, 2019 (Amazon revenue):

sep - oct amazon revenue

Oct. 20, 2019 – Nov. 20, 2019 (Amazon revenue):

oct - nov amazon revenue

Nov. 20, 2019 – Dec. 20, 2019 (Amazon revenue):

NET sales November - December 2019

Dec. 20, 2019 – Jan. 20, 2020 (Amazon revenue):

dec-jan amazon revenue

Jan. 20, 2020 – Feb. 20, 2020 (Amazon revenue):

jan-feb amazon revenue

Feb. 20, 2020 – Mar. 20, 2020 (Amazon revenue):

feb-march amazon revenue

Conclusion

Can you tell us did you face any issues from the beginning until now?

Honestly, I would say no. It seems that everything ran smoothly, and it was going as planned. Only thing I was not sure about was traffic drop in November, but rankings and traffic are returning on the track.

There was Google update in November too according to my findings, and my guess is it affected the rankings some way, but obviously not enough.

What are your thoughts now about 301 expired domain redirection?

I was never suspicious about 301 redirect to give my site an SEO boost, only careful. But like everything else, you must know what you’re doing. The most important part is to find the right asset (an expired domain).

If you use this method as the part of off-page SEO to increase your rankings, traffic and finally revenue, the very first rule is – stick to the relevancy!

What’s also necessary is on-page SEO. The combination of on-page and off-page is the key to rank even if you’re competing with high-DA websites.

You can’t expect to put a few 500-words articles on a website without knowing a niche, with barely any kind of keyword/niche research and then blame that something is not working.

I can say that on-page optimization I’ve done is the reason that 301 expired domain redirection did the job very nicely.

And finally, I want to thank to Ivan who helped me with everything.

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