Today’s guest on the Niche Pursuits podcast is Monica Lent.
Monica’s runs a travel blog that enabled her to quit her job, but then the pandemic hit seven months later, and things took a nosedive.
Her traffic plummeted by 90% because no one was traveling, and her ad revenue became non-existent.
And today, she chats to Jared about how she turned a negative situation into a positive one.
She not only bounced back and grew her travel site to the triumphant highs it sees today, but she also started several other projects that are generating a decent amount of monthly revenue.
The travel site now earns $10,000 per month. And her other projects like Affilimate, which is also featured during the interview is quickly gaining traction.
To give you a quick rundown – Affilimate is an affiliate tracking software that gives you data on where your affiliate income monetization is and isn’t working. It sounds like a great tool so it’s cool to hear her share more details about it.
A large chunk of the interview focuses on the different strategies, tips, and tactics she uses to build and monetize websites. She has a unique style and steers away from the conventional methods most of us are using today on our websites.
Finally, Monica shares her number one tip for affiliates from the data received from Affilimate.
Some of the other things discussed include:
- How she creates content for her websites
- The key reasons why her content is successful
- How to better monetize
- Strategies to earn more money per visitor
- Affilimate and the benefits of using the software
- Her software development background
- Amazon income and the content produced to earn from Amazon Associates.
- Keyword research
- Seasonal content
- Amazon Associates alternatives
- The best type of content for affiliate income
- Link building
The travel niche is super competitive, so listening to Monica is fascinating and inspiring because she uses a unique approach, and yet still manages to rank and bank.
It’s another excellent episode on the Niche Pursuits podcast. So, as always, please sit back, enjoy and make sure to take notes!
Links & Resources Monica Lent Mentions During The Podcast:
This Episode is Sponsored by: Rank IQ & AHREFS
Watch the full interview:
Read the full Monica Lent interview transcription:
Jared: Welcome back to the niche pursuits podcast. My name is Jared, and today we are joined by Monica lent from Affilimate. Welcome Monica.
Monica: Hey Jared. Thanks for having me.
Jared: Yeah, welcome you. Um, I have to say so far, uh, and the bar is not very high to be clear, but you’re winning the fashion award in most recent podcasts because you’ve got these red headphones dialed in and everything else is a nice black muted color.
It’s it’s a shame for those just listening on the podcast. They can’t see how, uh, how stylish. Well,
Monica: thanks so much. I appreciate that.
Jared: So we’re not going to be talking fashion today, though. We’re going to be talking to websites and your journey into website building. You have a lot of different things going on.
And I, I having reviewed and talked with you about your story ahead of time. It’s really, uh, it’s a really fun story because it’s, it’s got a lot of ups and downs in it. I think a lot of people are going to get some inspiration out of it, along with all that kind of tips you’re going to share. Why don’t you bring us up to speed on where you’re at right now and maybe some of the different things that led you here at Philomena is not the only thing that you have going on.
So kind of catch us up to last couple years. Yeah,
Monica: for sure. So I used to work at a FinTech company here in Berlin. Uh, quit my job thinking I was going to use the income from a travel blog that I’d been building for the previous couple of years, kind of fund me as I started a SAS business called the Philomena.
As you mentioned, turns out at that point, we had a global pandemic. All of the revenue went completely to zero in a matter of weeks. And the last two years have been kind of coming back from that. Uh, I’m sure we will get into a lot of those, uh, things that have happened during that time, uh, in the course of this discussion.
But, uh, you know, thankfully in the meantime, uh, I’ve managed to recover the sites as I just shared with you, Jared, like. Just reached 10 K revenue in the last 30 days. So that is an incredible turnaround from where it was, uh, you know, a year or two ago, uh, when it was less than a grand a month. Uh, so that’s, that’s wonderful, but yeah, it has not been smooth.
Uh, there have definitely been some financial difficulties, um, but super, super excited to be here and to share kind of what I’ve learned along the way.
Jared: Yeah. I mean, you just emailed me, I think last night saying, oh my goodness. You know, we just got kind of the numbers in and we just broke 10 K for the month.
I’m so glad we’re recording right now, you know, as opposed to maybe a month ago, I mean, you would have been close a month ago, but there’s something so profound about hitting. I mean, what is that? That’s five figures a month now. So that’s, that’s, I mean, that’s a huge.
Monica: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, uh, I guess this is particularly relevant right now because, uh, as you mentioned, the sites in the travel space, so travel is exploding at the moment.
I’ve never seen the amount of demand, uh, you know, February, March, April, uh, that I have seen even before the pandemic. So it is pretty wild to kind of be watching those kinds of global events play out on your website. And of course, at least this time, the impact on revenue is a positive one.
Jared: Well, so let’s go back, uh, to the months leading up to when the pandemic hit.
It sounds like, I mean, obviously no one could have predicted something like that. You were pretty confident given your backs, your background, that you had something going with this travel blog. What was your background in FinTech? What were you doing at a, at a, at a FinTech. Yeah,
Monica: I’ve worked in software development.
So I’ve been a software developer for like 10 plus years and I was working there as a front end engineering lead. And so kind of had the ability to build up some savings. I told myself, you know, by the time I turned 30, I don’t want to have a boss anymore. And, uh, let’s just say I got dangerously close to that personal deadline.
Uh, and with the blog and the savings, I thought, like, it was definitely kind of in the bag that I could quit, you know, and not have any, you know, serious financial issues. Uh, but obviously the world had different plans at that point, but yeah, software development. So that has obviously helped a lot when growing my site.
Cause I can do, I can do everything
Jared: myself. Yeah. So you feel like that has had a positive, a really positive impact on your site in terms of what you’ve been able to do for it, with your backup.
Monica: Yeah, totally. I mean, I don’t use WordPress for one. So sometimes people are pretty surprised that I, I’m not like a WordPress guru.
I do different kinds of software development than that. So that just kept things simple. You know, you don’t have to deal with as many performance issues if you’re just coding it yourself. Like you have a lot of control over the experience. And so, yeah, that’s, that’s definitely helped and I guess keeps costs low.
You know, the only thing I pay for is hosting that’s about
Jared: it. I love it. A hard-coded website. This is, uh, this is, uh, this is sophisticated to say the least. Um, what gave you the impetus while you’re working at this, this job to start a site? I mean, and I guess the second question would be is this travel site that we’re talking about today?
Is it your first website that you’ve really started on, on your own and, and monetize them?
Monica: Yeah. So the kind of background story of this site is that, you know, I’m originally from the U S moved to Germany when I was like 23, maybe. And, uh, you know, had a lot of dreams, like going to go to Europe, going to go to all these countries and have my European lifestyle and, you know, whatever.
Um, and so bought a camera and started blogging, you know, just talking about this is what I did today. Um, and one day I kind of like, you know, looked at the site and saw that the traffic was like 30,000 visitors a month. And I was like, is that a lot? I don’t know. Like, you know, I was listening to a little bit of pat Flynn and I was like, Hey, I could put some affiliate links on this website.
Like, that sounds cool. And then it was like doing one of these kind of annual reviews for like tax reasons. And I was like, wait a second. This website made like two grand and like hotel affiliate bookings this year. Like, Hey, that’s kind of like a lot of money at the time, you know? Um, and yeah, I thought, okay, what if I just did this on purpose?
And, uh, it kind of went from there. So it’s my first site. Uh, it’s technically really the only meaningful site. I have a little like test WordPress, uh, website that I just used to learn WordPress, but. It makes like 500 bucks a month. It’s not, it’s not really serious in comparison to the travel site. Well, I feel
Jared: like you’re glossing over the, kind of the beginnings of this site.
I mean, it’s, it’s, uh, so many of us, I would say, and we talk about a lot in the podcast, perhaps overthink, starting a site. You know, we spend so much time, uh, maybe listening to every niche pursuits podcast that’s ever been available before we, you know, go out there or we, you know, spend so much time on due diligence on the niche.
And then so much time on researching what articles to write and then slowly, but it almost sounds like you went the exact opposite approach. You, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but you had an idea. You started a site about. You all of a sudden, I mean, surely there’s more to it than just one day you woke up and realized you had traffic through some affiliate links on and you’re making 25 grand a year off of it.
Monica: No, I mean, at that point it was like more like a couple of grand a year. Um, and no, I mean, the thing was, I never started the site with the goal of monetizing it. I really started as like the most traditional blog. Like when you think that this is a blog I’m writing about myself, like of course, while I was writing about myself, nobody cared.
Uh, it was only, you know, once I started to write a content that was actually useful for other people kind of documenting the places that I went, the experiences that I had and, you know, making it more reader oriented. But I wouldn’t say that, you know, I, I actually did that knowing SEO at the time, It’s almost a little bit of luck.
Let’s say that it started to pick up and kind of get my attention. And of course watching it, you know, start to really grow, uh, implementing some like basic on-page stuff. Like instead of using bold texts for the subheadings, like actual subheadings, uh, and just seeing like, oh, I did that. And suddenly now I like ranking for this, like, you know, getting a lot of traffic to this page.
Okay. So it was definitely not, uh, so strategic with like a whole plan or anything like that. It’s more, it just kinda happened, uh, as a result of just creating stuff that I thought would be useful for other people, which I realize sounds very cheesy and, uh, overly rosy, but that’s, that’s what happened. And now the site is like six years old.
So I’m sure that if I had like a plan and a strategy from the beginning, obviously I could have reached, you know, a 10 pay milestone way sooner, but that’s, that’s not how it worked out for.
Jared: Yeah, your story reminded me. Um, just recently I run a marketing agency for, for my day job and, uh, we just took on, uh, onboard a new client.
And one of the things we flagged is that their header structures on all their articles on the whole site we’re way off. And so we asked them about it in our, in our review and they said, what do you mean about headers? And so we kind of showed them what we’re talking about. They said, oh, I just thought that was for different sizes of fonts.
And so, um, you know, no, it’s not that there’s actually a, you know, their headers and that they actually help out telling Google what your article is about. So, um, I’m just fascinated by the story, because again, like, um, we spend a lot of time at, in the SEO community trying to make sure we get every little jot and tittle.
Correct. When was it that you realized that, oh, if I put some SEO focus on this side, if I actually focus on some of the basics and the on-page works and the optimization, maybe some research into what types of articles to write. When did you come across this? Like, what was it a milestone and what did you do as a result?
Like, what are some of the first steps you took to implement some of these strategies on your.
Monica: Yeah. So I think this was like 20, 20 18, 20 19 that I kind of saw because I wasn’t doing a ton of link building. So I think it took a long time for Google to care about the site and really think that this is a legit resource.
Um, so it was kind of around that time that I started to notice the traffic really grow going up. Um, and I’m like, you know, there are those, those time periods where you’re like, okay, Google is just really loving me right now. So it’s kind of showering me with this traffic. Eventually you kind of like plateau again and you’re like, oh, okay.
Like I gotta get some more links or whatever you have to do. But that was kind of like, okay, watching this, just going up and up. And, uh, I started to rank specifically for, um, things to do in Berlin. So I live in Berlin. Right. And, um, When I saw like gifts getting all of this traffic, now that I faced my headings from being bold into like H twos.
It’s so ridiculous, but that’s what did it, and just, it was really just like this kind of virtuous cycle, you know, you see you’re getting traffic, this motivates you to write more. And so during that timeframe, like, I really. You know, started to publish a lot of content. Uh, I was also traveling a lot, so all of the articles on my site, I wrote them myself.
They’re based on my own experiences with my own, uh, images, everything like that. And so I would just kinda, you know, it was just kind of compounding and, uh, yeah, right before, before the pandemic, I think was when I had the first month that 5k. Um, and that’s when I was like feeling pretty confident, like, ah, it was 5k in December.
And the thing about travel as you can imagine is like your winter revenue is like peanuts compared to how much you make, like in the, in the summer season. So I was like, okay, if I’m making 5k now, like definitely gonna more than double this over the summer. So that was kind of like what happened. It was really just saying, okay, where are you being rewarded with traffic?
That’s amazing. Uh, let me just kind of like feed the beast more, more content, um, and slowly. It worked. It worked enough. Uh, I would
Jared: say, yeah, clearly, clearly, uh, I was going to ask you next, like, so it was about 5k a month as we entered into this season where you were leaving your job and your full-time job in FinTech and, and going full-time and then several months in it, just the world kind of took a nosedive when it comes to travel, we’ll say in terms of the pandemic, um, what, what, what kind of changes happened to your traffic?
I mean, was it, was it like an overnight effect or, I mean, this is your full-time job at that point. I mean, I can’t even imagine the feelings that must’ve been going through your mind.
Monica: Yeah. I mean, the thing was that I, the idea was to kind of run the site passively while I built up my software business.
So it was a little bit concerning because at the time my software business. You know, was making it like a thousand dollars a month. It wasn’t huge. So I was relying on that money to like, you know, pay for bills and stuff. But yeah, it was like a three, three week period of time where the traffic was down to 10% of its previous levels.
And then of course the ad revenue, you know, also went down because people were not like, I don’t know, I’m not like an expert on ads, but like clearly they were not paying money for relevant ads on travel content cause nobody was going to travel anymore. So like during that kind of first part of the pandemic, the sites started to make, you know, maybe a thousand dollars a month, maybe less.
And it was almost exclusively just the Amazon links because people still bought stuff from Amazon. If anything, they bought. Even more from Amazon. Exactly. But, but Amazon has never been like my focus or something that I really cared like hugely about. So, and I think people also had less disposable income.
And the only content that I really wrote that was monetized was Amazon was about, uh, photography gear. And a lot of photographers were also just not getting gigs at that time. So kind of like a cumulation of everything. It went very flat. And luckily I had savings to fall back on, which is what I ultimately did for a good part of 2018.
Jared: So 2020 became about, uh, you know, relying on savings, but what were like, what did you do in it throughout 2020 as you have this happening? And by the way, I say this, it’s so funny. Um, you know, this wasn’t planned, but a lot of the interviews we’ve been doing of late and we’re recording in kind of early 20, 22, or, you know, kind of first quarter, second quarter of 20, 22.
It’s funny. Cause a lot of the interviews are stories that are coming out of. The start of COVID and then what people did during that time, we’re about two years removed now from when COVID first hit and we’re getting all these success stories of what people did. And they’re oftentimes on the back of really somebody having their back up against the wall, because of this situation, maybe somebody discovering that they want to make a change in their life because of what happened.
Maybe somebody discovering free time because of what happened. But this is another one of those stories where in this case, your back was up against the wall. Uh, what did you, you know, what did you end up doing with 2020, uh, as it relates to maybe this side, but some of the other endeavors you have.
So after playing a lot of video games and just like soaking and being sad and like whatever other emotions, uh, that kind of came up at this time, um, I, I ultimately kind of pivoted away from what I was, what I was doing. I realized. Travel is not going to come back anytime soon. Actually, there were a lot of people trying to snap up travel websites.
Uh, if anyone owns them, they were trying to get a bargain at the time. I’m glad I did not sell, but I got a lot of emails, um, about that. Um, and so what I did was I, I had an audience on Twitter, uh, of software developers because I’ve done conference speaking and blogging in the software development space.
And so I launched a newsletter and leader, a paid community for developers to learn blogging and SEO was kind of like a way to combine, you know, the audience I already had. Like I could reach them on Twitter. I didn’t have to rely on search demand. Um, and so I built an email list today. It’s like over, over 12,000, I think 13,000.
I’m not sure how much, um, and built that up with an email course. So that converted like crazy. So launch it on Twitter. I don’t know how much it got shared, but then I also launched on product hunt, uh, and it got to number one product of the day. So this like really picked up quite a bit and then was able to basically turn the free core subscription and newsletter into a paid community, uh, which I run using a tool called circle.
And that’s cool. So I do like virtual events, um, and like free kind of like material for, for the paid members. So yeah, at the end of it, that’s kind of how I turned it around. And since then the community has done, I don’t know, 50, 60 K in revenue. So at least. I did not completely lose all of my money in 2020, but it was very haphazard.
Like I had my 30th birthday and I was doing my accounting and I saw, I made like $500 for all of June. And I, like, I kinda lost it at that moment. It was really stressful. Um, but of course, like, yeah, managed to break even by the end of the year. That’s kinda how that
Jared: careful what you wish for. You want it to be your own boss by 30 and you got it.
But, but, but maybe at a
Jared: page. Yeah, boy, I mean, I guess you, you know, you get what you get, what you ask for. Sometimes you just forget that you didn’t ask for everything. I suppose that’s a good, that’s a, you know, it’s, it’s interesting, but I mean, I think a lot of us have those, um, Opportunities that we miss in our lives, where there’s an opportunity to take advantage of something that we’re maybe an expert in, or that would be related to what we’re currently doing, but miss that opportunity.
So that’s a very interesting success. Did you ever think about going back or trying to go back to a full-time job? Um, during all that
Monica: I did, but I think probably like a lot of listeners to this podcast, the idea of reentering employment just sounded so terrible. I w I would rather spend like all the money in my bank account that I have to do that.
Um, not because like, I didn’t like my job, but because I like being in control of my day and no one being able to tell me what to do and just knowing there’s no. You know, if you’re in charge. And so I think, yeah, it was not really an option I thought about it. And, uh, by the way, if you’re not familiar, developer salaries are outrageous today, especially with the rise of remote work.
So all of those American salaries are kind of like trickling into the rest of the world. And, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s very difficult sometimes to say that building your own business as a software developer is actually a positive ROI in comparison, to like trying to get a job at Netflix where they’re going to pay you, you know, half a million dollars a year as an individual contributor.
Uh, I try not to think about that honestly, but yeah. Some, you know, hopefully hopefully made the right choice.
Jared: Well, you’re doing well. Let’s talk about where the site’s at now. I mean, I want to dig into this travel set yet. Obviously there’s a lot of stuff you have going on. We could fill probably several podcasts worth talking about what you’re doing at a FilmAid, just your whole paid community and how you started that, your travel blog.
I mean, but I think for today, let’s, let’s focus on this travel blog and kind of its story of recovery. Um, I think, maybe tell us where it’s at today, any metrics you’re comfortable sharing you shared at the outset that you just broke $10,000 a month in terms of revenue, but you know, uh, how many articles is the site have?
Um, what kind of traffic does it get? Uh, where do you have it monetized on the, yeah, totally.
Monica: Absolutely. I mean, I’m pretty open about my travel site. Like actually it’s linked on my website. It’s not a secret website. And I do like, you know, because I run this, this SAS product, which does affiliate analytics.
I use my own website in all of the examples. So like, there are a lot of cases where if you want to see more detailed metrics, like the information is, is out there. If you look for it, uh, The site. I mean, it’s growing quite a lot at the moment in terms of traffic, just because the demand is so outrageous, uh, right now.
Uh, so I think the latest thing I looked at it was like 110,000 sessions or so, um, in Google analytics for the last 28 days. Um, I think this is like 15 or 20% over the previous 28 days. Like, it’s just like really kind of going up. Um, typically this doesn’t happen until like may, most of the time people procrastinate travel until like may early June, but this year it’s really, really quite a bit more.
And, uh, I’m on media vine in addition to, um, in addition to affiliate revenue that I get from a variety of sources, which I’m happy to also discuss further, but, um, then from media vine, it’s like, I don’t have the ads on that high and I don’t have a sidebar and I don’t play the videos. So it’s like, I don’t know, 2.7 pay 2.5 somewhere in there in terms of the media vine, monthly revenue or last 30 days.
And then, uh, the rest is from affiliate. So that’s like seven and a half. Thousand dollars in the last 30 days. Um, so that is what combines to make the 10 K so yeah, that’s, those are the two places where it’s monetized. Um, I don’t really do any other monetization every once in a while. I get like people asking for like photo licensing.
So sometimes I do that, but it’s like, If they don’t pay you very, very much money for that, it’s more just like, oh, cool. Uh, yes, you can like publish these photos for some money, but yeah, those are the main two
Jared: things. So when you talked about, I mean about 75% of your is affiliate income, what, how much of that is Amazon?
You talked about having some other flight programs.
Monica: Yeah. So I think the aim is on it the last, in the last 30 days or so it’s like a thousand dollars, like 900, a thousand dollars. So it’s really not a lot. Um, you know, I, I mostly write about like a little bit of camera gear, um, because that’s like, one of the main draws of the website is I take all the photos.
Um, I use Fujifilm cameras, which was like a very niche, like kind of like photography community. That’s very passionate. So I get a lot of emails asking me, you know, for camera gear recommendations and stuff like that, but it’s not the major driver of revenue for sure. Um, it’s more like a nice to have. I don’t like to share what I get.
Uh, so yeah, that’s only about a, a thousand dollars out of that. Um, and the rest is kind of a combination of hotels and, uh, like travels and tours, um, and just experiences in general. So typically what I’ll do is like next week, I’m going to go to Lisbon and, uh, I want to write some content about Lisbon, so I will go and like book some things that I want to experience and be able to write about on the site.
So I’m going to take a food tour. I will try to like find some other things and then, you know, afterwards, or while I’m there, I’ll try to write an article about things to do enlist. And if some of that works out, then I will promote them. And the commissions for these kinds of things are pretty good. And they’re very competitive right now because they’re all kind of vying with each other.
Like all of the different tour providers are fighting over the recovery trial. So they’re like offering better deals and like trying to get you to replace your links and everything. But it’s like 8% commission, which is obviously way better than Amazon. Um, and yeah, people, people spend more, I think on experiences when they’re going somewhere special, like visiting Europe compared to like a typical Amazon hall and then you’d get 8%.
Jared: So I don’t know something you said earlier, I had a feeling that probably most of your affiliate income wasn’t Amazon. I mean, how do you find all these. Affiliate programs. I mean, I I’m just, I’m blown away that there’s so many private tour affiliate programs. I had no idea where did, how did you start discovering this?
How do you go about, you know, finding them and inserting them. And again, I think maybe the root of the question is a lot of people listening, probably have traffic where they might be able to take some of these tips you have for finding other affiliate programs to use beyond maybe just a standard Amazon.
Monica: Totally. I mean, yeah. So, you know, I see a lot of websites, uh, in my line of work, let’s say. And the thing about Amazon is that with Amazon, the more money you want to make, you just need a lot of traffic. Like, you know, like if my site is doing a hundred thousand visitors, the amount of money that I can make from Amazon from that traffic is substantially lower than, you know, even if I’m promoting like expensive stuff, like the commissions are still quite low.
So. In order to efficiently kind of leverage the traffic. It just doesn’t make sense to send, you know, however many let’s say I send a thousand clicks a day. I have no, I don’t know, actually off the top of my head, how many outbound clicks I’m sending to affiliate networks, but, um, makes no sense to send all that to Amazon every day because they will, the ROI is just bad.
And if you measure it, you can see the earnings per click is not nearly as good as, as all of these others. Um, and so the thing is, is that what I’m doing is I’m not working like let’s say directly with a small tour operator. So there are in the case of tours in with hotels, you know, there are aggregators out there.
So. For example, here in Berlin, we have a company called get your guide. Um, and they basically kind of make available a lot of different tours that you can possibly take. And yeah, so the person can come search through their entire like database of tours and then be able to pick something like, like 30 day cookie period and.
Yeah. I mean, if you’re in the travel space, they will reach out to you. But there are also of course, a lot of other programs out there besides Amazon, I encourage everyone to diversify away from Amazon, but yeah. So I, I mostly try to pick stuff. And when I travel, I try to actually do things which surprises, sometimes the affiliate managers that I’m talking to, that like, I promote stuff that I have done, but it’s true.
And it converts with well, so yeah, that’s kind of it. Yeah.
Jared: Now let’s, let’s look at how you kind of come up with the concepts for the articles you have. Are you doing keyword research or. Yeah, because you make it sound like you’re just like, well, just show up in Lisbon and a month later, I’m ranking for everything.
Monica: I wish I made the problem with the problem with travel and having like a broad travel site like I have is that like, you know, let’s say I have no Lisbon content yet. My first article that I read about Lisbon is probably not going to rank right away. Like I have the feeling that it takes kind of a long time when you’re not already an authority on a specific destination for them to promote content.
So I have articles that, you know, they just start to rank after, you know, one or two years. And I don’t really like put in the effort of building links. So that’s probably why, but like the way that I, and again, or actually something to be clear about is I don’t operate this site full-time as a job, like it’s, uh, I update it these days pretty much just quarterly.
So it’s very passive for me. Um, But yeah, in, in essence, what I do is I try to think seasonally. So let’s say winter is coming up. I want to make sure that all of the winter content is at least updated and refreshed by the time people are going to be starting to search for that. And because freshness is so important in Google for travel content, especially these days, you really want to get up to date information then doing that regular refresh, uh, is super important.
So for Lisbon, for example, a friend of mine who I’m, who I’m meeting in Lisbon and he told me, oh, like, I bet you can totally cash in on Lisbon this year. Everyone’s going to be going. It’s like very hot destination, at least in Europe right now. Everyone’s like, Lisbon’s the new digital nomad capital or whatever.
Um, and I’m like, no, like probably not going to rank for this until like next season because people go to Lisbon more, this. And if let’s say it takes three months to rank, but people aren’t searching for it at the end of those three months, then I don’t get meaningful traffic for it until the destination picks up interest the following year.
So it’s definitely like a very long term thought process in terms of how I, how I do content for new destinations, but for existing ones, then I’ll definitely be like, oh, this destination is doing well. This tour is doing well. Or this particular region, let’s say people are visiting this a lot. Then I will definitely like branch out and like take those sections and write supporting content, interlink it to the original content.
So if you have things to do, then maybe you also want to support that with content about where to stay, uh, Let’s see, I don’t know, specific activities or things like that. So definitely like supporting the stuff that’s already ranking because that will go faster. In my opinion, I don’t really like measure this like that much, but I have the feeling that okay, interlink it, it’s already ranking on that topic and, uh, that’s a faster way to.
Add additional streams from some kind of a destination or strategy that’s already working.
Jared: Right, right. Yeah. There’s clearly a, I mean, a pretty large seasonality component. I’m sure to what you do. It sounds like summer is the peak travel time by far.
Monica: Absolutely. It’s huge. Yeah. August, August is when I’m going to have all the money right now.
Not as much. Uh, so I’m just like waiting for all of the like August, August, and September payouts were going to be really nice.
Jared: So great. That’s great. Yeah. So many, so many people thrive in maybe Q4, right? Especially if they’re selling heavily on like, uh, products or Amazon stuff, stuff. Some are traffic and some are income.
That’s, that’s a, that’s a different season for many. Well, at the risk of diving too deep. Let me ask you a bit more about Lisbon. So what would this process look like for Lisbon? Like, let’s say that you’re going to make a go of, of, of Lisbon and ranking for it. You talked about right. About things to do.
Like where do you come up with some of the, the content that you’ll write and then, um, how to build out the supporting content and, and drive that traffic back to where you want.
Monica: Yeah. And so what I like to do and kind of what I recommend to a lot of people who are writing, I mean, any kind of affiliate content is like list style.
Content does really well in general, right? We all know that like best product roundups are very popular. In my opinion and experience, they often work better than individual reviews, just because of the buyer persona of the person that goes to list out content. So things to do in Lisbon is not really that different than best product review, like best cameras for 20, 22 or whatever.
Like it’s kind of the same thing. People want a list of options. Maybe some of them, they will buy maybe something won’t. And so what I like to do is write something in kind of a list format and use this as a way to test out. Different products. So for example, in Lisbon, I saw there were these like electric tuck tech tours.
I don’t know if anyone really does that, but like they have like five star reviews and a lot of really positive comments and they cost like 150 euros per person. So 8% like the commission is pretty decent. Like if you can actually get, let’s say on page one of things to do in Lisbon, which is probably pretty competitive, but, you know, go big or go home, then, you know, you can kind of say, all right, I can picture maybe how we would make a reasonable amount of money, uh, from something like that.
So if I want to do that, then maybe I’ll go try it myself. And if it’s good, then I also have all like original images to include in the content. Um, and this is so key, like for people really also trusting that you are not just like making stuff up and you’re just like, Hey, I actually did this. I went there.
This was my experience builds a lot of trust, improves the conversion rate, of course. And then if something like that goes, well, then maybe I would write a piece of support supporting content that is like best Lisbon. Something like that. And then maybe I can also rank for these other things so you can get more specific.
Um, and I think it’s really about, you know, uh, hopefully eventually finding those keywords that don’t have the word best maybe, but actually have that commercial intent. There’s so, so much opportunity in that space. And that’s kinda just how I would do it, test it out in the list. See what I learned from, you know, collecting the heat, maps, the click data, the EPC data for the affiliates, and then, you know, branching out into supporting content and just thinking, how else could I promote.
This food tour that I’m going to go on. What, you know, once you have a product that converts, you can write a lot of different kinds of content about that. Um, and so that’s kind of how I would work backwards, but you need somewhere to speak in testing. And so, um, things to do is a great, a great way to do that.
I think Lisbon is going to be really competitive, but if I write it and it’s really excellent and I do like 50 things then maybe by next summer, it will be somewhere on page one. That would be my like long-term vision. Let’s say for this article. Okay,
Jared: well, you talked about not link-building much, if at all.
Um, do you do any link-building do you, because there’s some pretty competitive players in the travel space. And so, um, I’m just curious to learn more about your approach to their,
Monica: I mean, we all, I mean, the thing is like, you know, everybody who runs a travel site, we all have these sites, you know, it’s like in the, in the health niche, everyone hates on health line and the travel niche.
We like all kinds of like, hate on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is the worst. Uh, or, um, oh, what is it called? Like a culture, culture trip. I don’t remember. Like, I, I’m not in the SERPs as much for this as I used to be, but, uh, yeah, I mean, there are a fair number of link building groups on Facebook. You can do like link swaps.
Um, and that’s kinda how I started, but I find these very tedious. To do. And also, I think a lot of bloggers are very, let’s say suspicious or, uh, you know, paranoid maybe about like, oh, what are the rules from Google? And like, if I break a Google rule, like as though it is actually a crime or has some kind of like an ethical component.
And so I just find like, okay, I’m not, I don’t want to deal with this. I don’t have time to. Negotiate with like people in Facebook. So, um, I mean, I do a lot of link building for like filaments website, you know, cause it’s in the affiliate marketing niche, there is absolutely no way to rank for that stuff.
I think without it, but in travel, I really focus more on beautiful original images that people just can’t stop scrolling through, you know, actually copywriting sharing, personal experience. And so far it works well enough. I’m not trying to make the website into a million dollar website. If this gives me like a six figure salary this year and I work on it five to 10 times a year, I’m like super happy with that.
That’s like, how could I possibly complain? So. As fuelings as possible. Cause that’s just too tedious, I think.
Jared: Yeah. Well, clearly you’ve gotten the monetization, right. In terms of your affiliate income being, um, you know, really good. What are some other tips you have for people in terms of how to, how to better monetize?
Uh, you’ve talked about just to recap from, from my notes, some of the things I’ve taken. Uh, obviously the authenticity of you actually experiencing the product and then writing from that position, you know, uh, backing up. Well, that’s probably why maybe some of the affiliate managers you talk with are a little surprised.
I tend to think it is a bit of a novel idea for a lot of people, but what are the components do you think contribute to proper monetization or better monetization that you might a share?
Monica: Yeah, I mean, I think at the end of eight, you have a couple of like key metrics that are important to track and a lot of affiliate solutions.
Maybe don’t surface this information for you. I don’t know. Or I have a suspicion that sometimes they may not do this because they don’t like the idea of you comparing it to other. Uh, platforms. Um, that’s definitely something that gets a little bit dicey. Um, if you talk to Tufts, talk to some of these networks about that, but, uh, you know, if you have the exact same experience on two different platforms, let’s say for example, you have the scene tour and it’s offered by actually the same company, but it’s on, uh, one is on get your guide or buy a tour for example, or let’s see you have the same hotel and it’s on hotels.com versus booking.com.
Like there is a very high probability that yes, there’s a certain amount of conversion that is attributable to the product experience itself. But there’s also a huge part is like how easy is the checkout flow? How much social proof did they manage to like, you know, cram into the landing page. You’re sending people to, uh, how good are the images.
All of these things about the actual product that you’re promoting, you can measure them with metrics like earnings per click, where you can say, okay, this, you know, this is clearly earning me more money. So I’m going to swap this out, um, and swapping out stuff that is like low performing. It makes a big difference.
You just have to have the metrics to look at it and say, Hey, I’m sending these people, you know, 5,000 clicks a month. And I made 200 bucks. Like, is that really, is that, is that okay? Like, I mean, I, I’m better at mental math, so I don’t really know off the top of my head if these numbers are good or bad, but you know, if you’re looking on an EPC, uh, level and you’re like, okay, I’m getting like 5 cents a click.
If I send someone to Amazon versus like, I send someone to booking.com and maybe this is like closer to 25 cents a click, which I certainly have content that is like, you know, on that level or higher than it makes, you know, like I have content for example, where I have like packing lists. Right where it’s saying, okay.
Yeah, you want to go here? Here are the things to buy on Amazon, then it makes no sense. Like it would be better to take out the Amazon links altogether and put in something else that is going to, that is earning better on another piece of content, you know, test that in there and see do the metrics for this particular article increase.
So I take, I take a somewhat analytical approach to that, and I think it’s just so clear, you know, when you look at the numbers, whether something is earning or not, um, and this is also an important thing for like maintaining the links, right? Like I had one of my, like top selling products go out of style.
And so I had to find an equivalent on another website and, you know, this definitely caused probably six, six to $800 because I just wasn’t like paying attention. And then, you know, when I saw, oh, this particular link is like not earning as much anymore, you know, test it out, swapped it out. And now, you know, is there any way more, so I think that’s kind of like what it comes down to is like, you have to like track stuff and pay attention and, uh, and test things.
And don’t be like, so afraid that you will lose the monetization you have, that you don’t try something new. Um, because hanging onto like the pennies from Amazon or from wherever you’re getting it from now, or like all of these, like where you get a few cents for sending a click, like, to me, this is like totally worthless.
I would rather. You know, focus on converting the user to something really awesome that they’re going to spend like a higher amount of money and then get like a proper commission
Jared: and get the right commission. That’s great tips. So you’ve mentioned, this is actually not even your full-time job and you started to fill a mate with the, what is what’s what’s behind a filament.
How does it tie in for affiliate, you know, style website? Yeah.
Monica: So it’s affiliate, uh, publisher tracking. So basically you are, let’s say part of 10 or 20 different dashboards and different networks and whatever, and your metrics and all of your commissions are spread across all of these different places.
You probably even have like dashboards, you forget about that. You’re like even a member of. Um, and so basically what we do is like combine all of that data into one place. And then we help through sub ID tracking, just basically like campaign parameters goes by a lot of different names. We like automate the creation of that on your affiliate link so that when those commissions come in, we can tell you exactly what pages and links that came from.
Um, and this is really powerful because like, we have a lot of people, you know, they join, join the platform they have. I mean, we have people with millions of page views and traffic and they don’t have this kind of information or they are kind of like. Doing this in spreadsheets twice a year, because it’s so painful and yeah, basically like automates all of that and allows you to understand like, okay, what’s your, my pieces of content is the most valuable, you know, which of my links are earning me the most.
And this is like, I mean, a really clear way. So make a content strategy for affiliates that uses data. That’s what it
Jared: is. It’s interesting to hear you talk is throughout the entire interview. I’ve heard you talk more about monetization that I have heard you talk about traffic. Like consistently your focus, your focus is really on like what pages make me the most money?
What content makes me the most money? What affiliate programs make me the most money? What type of, uh, trips or, uh, activities make me the most money? I think you mentioned page views once. Don’t think about it at all. Right. I think a lot of us look at well, what content is doing well by what page? How many pages is.
And which content is generating those page views. And we don’t look at it from a standpoint of which content is generates the most money or monetize the best or so forth. And so, yeah.
Monica: No a hundred percent. I mean, so one question you asked, which I completely forgot to answer earlier is how many articles does this website has?
And it has about 120, so last 30 days. About 10 cane generated revenue. Like one thing to know about travel is like, there are cancellations, so like people book in advance. So I do expect that the actual revenue generate is going to be a bit lower, but you know, we’re in April at the moment. So I am very confident.
We will be comfortably past that, uh, later in the summer. But yeah, it’s 120 articles, which I wrote personally myself. I haven’t written a new article this year. I think I published four new posts maybe during 2021. ’cause I just only work on improving the site’s existing monetization, uh, and maintaining it.
And that’s, I’m kind of like happy with that. And when I see people who are like, ah, going for the ad revenue and they’re like, I’ve published 300 articles and now I’m making $2,000. I’m like, oh my goodness, this sounds exhausting.
Jared: And the ad revenue sites they’re big right now. Right? Like a lot of people are getting frustrated.
Yeah. They’re getting frustrated with Amazon’s rates. As you talked about, they’re getting frustrated with, uh, all these affiliate focused, you know, algorithm updates. And so a lot of you are going that route, but I wonder if a lot of people are going that route also because they just don’t have enough transparency into the type of stuff that’s making the money and then therefore focusing on better monetizing it and doubling down on that.
Monica: It could very well be the case. I mean, the thing is. If you just stick with Amazon. As I said before, revenue clicks and traffic have a very strong correlation on the Amazon website, where in order to make more money from Amazon, you need to send more traffic to Amazon. You can only get so many clicks to Amazon with the traffic that you have.
So you need to get more and like your site ends up at huge. Um, and this is like, you know, all of the publishers on our platform that are using Amazon, they have big sites, but that does not necessarily mean that they are making more money per visitor. Like this is a metric I think about a lot is like revenue per visitor, RPM from an affiliate standpoint.
Um, And like, yeah, you, you can have a website with 30,000 monthly visitors. That’s doing to pay a month in revenue for, from affiliate revenue. If, if you want to do that, um, you can’t do that with Amazon though. I’ve never seen, I’ve never seen an Amazon site with 30,000 page views doing 10 grand a month.
Probably doesn’t exist. I, I hesitate to make that claim. Oh,
Jared: there’s always going to be one. Right. And that person will comment on the, uh, in the YouTube comments by the way. Yeah.
Monica: Well, good for them. Um, I have not seen it in like lots and lots and lots of websites. And so I think that’s kind of like, that’s kind of like my approach.
It’s really, how can I do this efficiently? They don’t want to make as much content as possible. Actually. It’s a lot of work.
Jared: Well, you’re right. I don’t remember who we had on it. It was probably a year or so ago where we, I think they actually kind of highlighted that. Really the majority. And I think a lot of affiliate website owners could say this, the majority of their Amazon earnings are actually not the products they recommend.
You know, like, I don’t know. I, again, I’m not always going to say that I’m sure there’s sites where it’s very tightly aligned, but you know, I constantly will go in and see like, oh, I just had a big commission day. I wonder what, uh, what I sold. And it’s like, I sold a TV, but my website has nothing to do with electronics, you know, and stuff.
So in many ways, the strategy with an Amazon site could look totally different. You’re just trying to get traffic to Amazon and hope that they have a big, uh, a big expenditure versus a more laser laser focused approach, which is the one you take, which is again, just going back and looking at which articles, which topics are better monetize and then how to make them more monetized.
Um, does it fill a mate work with them? Does it work with Amazon or does it work, uh, only with other types of Amazon or have a affiliate.
Monica: Yeah, no, you can use Amazon. There’s like a couple of different integration methods and kind of what’s available to you depends a little bit on how important you are to Amazon.
So like most people, they just they’re going to be uploading files because there is no, no automateable option, but like what we encourage people to do and what a lot of people do, who kind of move to us with an existing Amazon site or portfolio is they set up page level, Amazon tracking IDs. Um, and then we basically let them link all the commissions with that tracking ID to a piece of content.
So then we can do all the calculations for them in terms of like how many clicks they sent on that page. You know, how much they’re earning per click from Amazon on that page. Um, And also how this changes over time. So you edit the page and you can see how the revenue per visitor, you know, increases over time.
And so this is kind of like the best you can do with Amazon, but obviously like it’s way better
Jared: when right. With like booking.com or one of these places. Yeah. Yeah.
Monica: I mean, um, because the thing is, is that those dynamics of IDs that you can add, like we can encode really rich information in there. So like, we can tell you, okay, this is the button on your website that is making the most money, for instance.
And like, you know, I have a button on my website where you can say, okay, this button made me $400 in the last 30 days. And like, with our customers, like, we’ve also seen like, okay, this is, this is your $6,000 a month button. Like now you know that, and you are never going to touch it because you might be tempted to think, oh, what if I, you know, what if I do something a little bit above the fold or whatever, and it’s like, okay, now you’re no, you know, this, this button is your money maker.
Maybe you want to put that button on other pages, you know, once you kind of know what on page strategies are driving conversions, like. You have a way to move forward, actually. And of course with Amazon, this is just like, it’s totally not possible. Like, you can understand the types of like content and what’s generating the most money, but it’s, it’s not as scientific.
Let’s say you’re really just doing on page and trying to get more like say Amazon, like, which is why it’s great for beginners. Like it’s a great program for beginners, for sure. I just, I don’t think there are exceptions, but eventually any everybody, I do recommend finding some Amazon alternatives, um, because yeah, we all know the next rate cut is going to come in one day.
It will be gone, I guess. I don’t know, maybe at least in America, I think they have so many affiliates in America. That’s, that’s my take, my hot take one day will be gone
Jared: or they will give you one.
Monica: I mean, there are a lot of people these days who say affiliate marketing is dead. Like now it’s only ads. Um, and my other hot take is that I don’t know if ad revenue is going to survive privacy regulations. So I also treat that as like a nice to have, uh, as someone based in Europe.
Jared: So we’re in, right? Yeah.
We talked about that here. Yeah. Last question. You have access to see a lot of, you know, monetization data and you have access to see what works, not just across your site, but across probably a whole plethora of sites. Like just some really high level things you see that typically work more often than not that maybe that people are missing or people could take advantage of again, just really high level.
Um, couple of things you might see, um, quite, uh, quite a bit.
Monica: I mean, the number one thing is, uh, you know, exploring outside of Amazon. I realized that that’s not so easy. Um, my like top tip for that is like, uh, so we produced a lot of content about like the best affiliate programs and various niches. And what we do is we take a lot of the monetized websites in that niche.
And we have like a kind of specialized tool that finds the affiliate links, categorizes them, and basically lets us see what are the top merchants being promoted within that niche. And we, you know, obviously Amazon for a lot of them is like a big chunk of that, but you can see all of the other options, um, and you can kind of do something similar if you’re using something like a trust, um, you know, link domains, a report.
So you can put in your competitor’s website and kind of see what are the, uh, affiliate tracking domains that they’re linking to. I would look for niches where you see, okay, This person just so happens to be sending even more links to share a sale than Amazon. For example, that’s very interesting, right?
Because if somebody is, has linked to share a sale, I don’t know, let’s say a thousand times on their website and Amazon 500 times, like it’s a good sign that they have something that’s working there and you can dig further. Um, so getting out of Amazon, I think is the main way to kind of free yourself from just chasing, uh, traffic and competing over the same keywords as everyone else, like best vacuum best blender is also like not fun content to write if you’re doing it on your own.
Other than that, you know, I think, I think the big thing is paying attention to the on page conversion rate optimization and just not looking so spammy, like the top performing websites, you know, that are on our platform. They have, like, you know, they’re written by subject matter experts, people who are passionate about the topic, they often have their own images, you know, it doesn’t look like, oh, here’s my, you know, Amazon table that every other affiliate website has with this kind of like screaming, you know, button at you.
And, you know, you really read it and you think, okay, this is like very thoughtfully written. Um, and I know it’s not popular to say because people are upset about the idea that they might have to like try products before reviewing them. But like at some point, like I would say. That would help a lot. Um, so, and then, you know, it’s the basic stuff like improving your comparison tables, having comparison tables in the first place, you know, visual design, they don’t need to be 500 different colors, make it clear.
This is a big one. Make it clear. What is your number one choice? Like number one, the one and only best, because I think a lot of people are like, oh, I just want them to click on everything. And then, you know, there’s, you’re not telling the reader like, look, I tried the best five vacuum cleaners. And like, this is the one in my home, you know, here’s my portrait with the vacuum and like, okay, not that, not that extreme, but you know what I mean?
Like really making it clear. This is the one I recommend. If you’re a beginner, pick this one for this reason, if you’re more advanced this one for this reason, like segmenting people out. Um, but making it clear, like what is once you’ve established your authority as a reviewer, which one do you pick? Um, And also not wasting your time on a product reviews that only have like a search volume of 20, because like the search volume for a blog review is going to be way less than best blah, like a hundred percent.
So like, I don’t know. I’m sure if you review like, you know, dream host review, I’m just imagining, I’m sure you make a lot of money with that. Just because like it’s in the web hosting niche, which is like a lot of money, but most of the time I think individual reviews are like, can be a bit dicey. Um, if the search volume is really low, you have to make up for that with like high commissions or high average order value.
Uh, and not the case with Amazon. So you can’t do that with Amazon products. That’s for sure I could go on, but like, these are some of the things that like I see the most and I’m like, and I recommend them all the time to people. Cause these are just best practices on page. You know, you want to make it clear what you want people to click and why they should believe your recommendation.
And hopefully it’s a good reason, but
Jared: love it. I think I poke, I think I poked the bear enough on the Amazon topic and, uh, and I got your real, got your real feelings on it.
Monica: I love it. Oh, he’s so much traffic sent to Amazon. Don’t they have enough? I don’t know.
Jared: I love it. These are great tips. Thank your speaking.
Uh, the thoughts of a lot of people, um, uh, this has been wonderful. I’d like I said, we could probably talk about. All sorts of affiliate things and the things you’re seeing there and how you built that company. I mean, we only briefly touched on your, your paid newsletter and that whole community started of software developers.
Um, congratulations on the success of your, uh, your, your travel blog. And, uh, hopefully we’ll, we’ll be able to see at the top of the, the, the SERPs for Lisbon next year, around this time, and many other places you’ve traveled. Where can people follow along with you? Where, where, where do you want to direct people to keep in touch with you?
If they want to learn more, um, about a Philomena.
Monica: Yeah. So I’m on Twitter. This is probably my God where you can find me the easiest it’s at Monica lent is my Twitter handle. Uh, so if I am procrastinating something, I will probably be tweeting otherwise, not that much. Um, but yeah, there, you can find all the links to all my projects.
Um, last year I also did a series of income reports. I’m not doing these anymore, but like, you know, everybody loves reading income reports. So if you were kind of curious to see, let’s say the recovery of the travel side a little bit, and kind of the earlier stages of building the SAS business, um, then those are also published on my personal website.
So all of that is in my Twitter bio. Um, but yeah, depending on what you’re interested in, that’s where you can find
Jared: me. Well, thank you so much for joining us and thank you so much for, um, telling your story. Uh, and all the tips you shared and you’ve given me and I’m sure anybody else listening to quite a bit to think about.
So thank you again. We’ll have to catch up and see what I’m really curious to see what, you know, your June, July and August for this travel site specifically are going to look like, uh, I’m glad we caught you right now, but man, I would love to hear from you in September, October to hear how well it went.
So congratulations again.
Monica: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. Jared was fun. Chatting with you. Yeah,
Jared: you got it. All right. We’ll talk.
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