[AUCTION DOMAIN CASE STUDY] Rise and fall of Amazon website – 0 to 45 k $/month ruined by 1 mistake

Hello! It’s been an awesome feedback on my previous post about affliliate website bringing 5-10 k $ just by using 267 $ domain + 155 $ redirect domain for backlinks. I was inspired to continue.

This case is about rise and fall of a music affiliate website. I put it first in the line, because BHW member is struggling with his affiliate website in this niche. Hope it will help him. 

The previous case showed 3 main conclusions for me

  • Key to success for rebirth on auction domain as well as redirect is relevancy. Dog products shop in past was sucessfully adapted to dogs product review website. Relevancy can even compensate average quality links.

  • Renewing old URL structure is must-do for both redirect and money site.

  • Content strategy is unique for each niche. The website can have 80 articles published, but only 2 of them brings 90 % of money.The new case confirmed my assumptions, but in a different way.

Let’s get to it

Established - April 2018
Niche - Amazon affiliate reviewing musical instruments and equipment
Previously - website reviewing new music releases

DR, traffic, then and now

08.04.2018 - 866 RD; 300 traffic
Price - 520 $
Now - 54k traffic; 2670 RD. Current number of RD is not correct as the redirect with all these links was turned off. Will get back to it later
The peak of organic traffic was in September 2019 - 141 k/month

Link and URL structure

It’s hard to track the link and url structure 2 years ago because the redirect messed it up, but from what I see it was approximately 50/50. 50 % to home page and 50 % to internal pages with albums reviews.As internal pages weren’t exactly relevant to the future review content, the owner decided to redirect all of them to homepage. It's not the best idea, but in this case it was okay.

The current picture looks like this because of the redirect and there are 49,297 internal pages, it makes tracking down the real numbers impossible, so 50/50 % ratio after the purchase is my estimate.

Content strategy

It was launched right away after the purchase in April 2018. And from the start content speed was impressive - 10-15 articles/month for the first months.
And it worked - the traffic had been rising quickly.


May 2018 - 500/month
June 2018 - 2000/month
July 2018 - 3500/month

The first spike in traffic happened after 4 months - in 30 days it rose from 3500 to 21k in the end of August

Why it happened?

Comparing 2 graphics - rise of organic traffic and organic keywords answers that.

In the first months (April-July) the new articles were just gaining the authority 

31st July - 6500 keywords
Top 11-100 positions - 5800 (90 %)
Top 10 - 623 (10 %)

31st August - 12700 keywords
Top 11-100 positions - 10000 (78 %)
Top 10 - 2700 (22 %)

31st October - 23000 keywords
Top 11-100 - 15000 (65 %)
Top 10 - 8000 (35 %)

Lesson 1 - Within 3 months percentage of top-10 keywords in total ranking keywords rose by 3.5 times - from 10 to 35 % and their number rised from 623 to 8000. The traffic exploded when articles gained authourity and keywords that ranked in top-100 moved to top-10.

Content is the king!

Banal thing to say, right? Especially in blackhat section. But content was the key to success in this case

The website has 2 main categories - musical instruments and home recording equipment
Started to upload content fast from the start. Its hard to track how many articles per month because the dates of publishing are being changed every year in order to keep the content fresh.
Now the number of articles is 449... With 100 weeks since the April 2018 until March 2020, the content speed was 4.4 articles per week! And on the start the speed was higher, that’s why we see the significant and fast rise in organic traffic.
Another assumption - silo power. 

Lesson 2 - More articles = more keywords + silo power. Basically, the more articles website has on a specific topic, the more relevant and authoritative it becomes in eyes of Google. Just like scientists are experts because they wrote a lot on a specific topic.

It’s important also because the traffic is spread among many top pages. Unlike in the previous study where 2 pages out of 100 were getting 70 % of traffic and 90 % of money traffic, this case shows the opposite.

I thought it might be connected with the niche itself - and it’s right - other competiting domains have the same situation - the traffic is dispersed among many pages.

Lesson 3 - the content strategy should depend on the competitor and niche analysis.

In music niche - there are lots of keywords like best accoustic guitar, for beginners under 200, for beginners under 200 etc
Plus many articles are reviewing exact models of instruments.
In this niche affiliate you will need to invest lots of money in content. However, it’s more stable as you doesn’t depend on 1-2 pages bringing all the money.

Lesson 4 - invest in content and don’t put all eggs in one basket is a long term strategy.

Backlink efforts
How to kill rankings with redirect?

Traffic was rising steadily - since April 2018 to September 2019 it increased from 0 to 141 000 organic traffic per month. 17 months of awesome rise. On the peak the website was earning around 40-50 k $ per month according to my estimate. But humans always want more.

So, on September 2019 the owner decided to set up a redirect. Everything seemed fine - both domains were relevant to music, the redirect was an established music player website with 100-200 k/traffic per month with natural and authoritive backlink profile.

What happened next?

The picture is worthy millions of words.The traffic felt 3 times - from 141 to 58 k within 3 months.

Why it was a terrible idea?

The redirect previously was a music streaming website, it had hundreds of thousands of songs with links to them.

Ahrefs shows that it has 161 k pages with links to them. There were only 1 way to handle it right - upload all songs with links to the new website and make page by page redirect. Sounds nearly impossible, right? So, the owner decided to simply redirect all internal pages of the domain to homepage of target website. That’s when the drop in rankings begins.

Why?

To answer that remember why the redirect was invented at the first place? To move the websites from the old name to a new one for example, for rebranding or to more beautiful name. For instance, Facebook initially used thefacebook.com domain, but then moved to facebook.com and put 301-redirect.


Logic behind redirect is still the same, it’s all about relevancy. But not only in terms of niche relevancy - music, but more broad - the link structure, content, function. If we look from this point, the ranking drop was expected - redirect from streaming website (intented to play music) to review website (intended to provide content for buyers) - just couldn’t work the other way. It was unnatural.

Lesson 5 - For blackhat SEO Redirect should imitate it’s original purpose - move the website and it’s content to a new better name. Meaning imitating and keeping the URL structure as much as possible.

Lesson 6 - Perception of relevancy ONLY in narrow “niche relevancy” sense is wrong. In this case, music just doesn’t stick to music, because the redirect and target had different user relevancy and formats - music streaming and music products reviews.

Lesson (assumption 7) - the more powerful redirect is comparing to the target website (in this case 3000 k RD against 600 RD), the higher risk of “relevancy erosion”. If we consider redirect how it’s designed to work in google - it is meant to pass relevancy and positions to the new website. Links are just indicating that relevancy. Then, the target domain has 3600 RD, 3000 of them are showing google that the domain isn’t about instrument reviews, but about music streaming. Mathematically, it’s 6 times less relevant to reviews than to music streaming.

No wonder why the rankings for reviews dropped. Theoretically, they could rise for music streaming keywords, but there were simply no content to be ranked.
So, after the drop in rankings from 150k to 50 k, the redirect was turned off.
It’s hard to say if it worked yet, because it’s been not a long time and google didn’t have time to reindex the redirect domain and all links again. Google index shows that 391 pages are still redirected in google cache.

Other backlink efforts
from the purchase date right until the redirect the number or RD was the same - 866 in the start, 858 before redirect. Some could appear organically, some be lost, but no real backlinking efforts seen in ahrefs were done.We can suppose that PBNs were used, but I don’t think so. Usually, PBNs are part of linkbuilding process - they appear with new forum, comments, guest posts and other links to keep it natural for google.
 But in this case, literally no backlink efforts can be seen. So I suppose, that the rankings were achieved on the old domain authority + extensive content work.

Money
Investments

Domain - 520 $
Links - no signs of linkbuilding; the redirect domain isn’t displayed on namebio and we don’t know whether it was bought, rented or previously belonged to the same person.

Content - 449 articles. Let’s take 3000 words per article (more on top-10 articles, less on exact model reviews). 70 $ per article * 449 = 31400 $ over 2 years.

Earnings - it’s hard to estimate the average cost of product as there are many of them (from 50 to 1000+ $) promoted on the website

On peak website was having 150 k/traffic. Ahrefs doesn’t see long tail traffic, so let’s multiply the number by 2 - 300 k/month
Let’s average it to 300 $. Commission for musical instruments is 6 %, for electronics - 4 %, let’s take 5 % for reference.15 $/commission per product CTR - 25 %Conversion - 4 % as the products are expensive.

Peak earnings - 300 000*0.25*0.04*15= 45000 $/month.
Needless to say, that 30 k invested in content were returned pretty quickly.
Now as the traffic fell 3 times - it brings 15000 $/month.

Conclusions

The main conclusion here is to learn from other mistakes and appreciate what you already have in rankings and don't take unnecessary risks.
Other conclusions were put along the post. Here is their summary

1) Within 3 months percentage of top-10 keywords in total ranking keywords rose by 3.5 times - from 10 to 35 % and their number rised from 623 to 8000. The traffic exploded when articles gained authourity and keywords that ranked in top-100 moved to top-10.

2) More articles = more keywords + silo power. Basically, the more articles website has on a specific topic, the more relevant and authoritative it becomes in eyes of Google. Just like scientists are experts because they wrote a lot on a specific topic.

3) The content strategy should depend on the competitor and niche analysis.

4) Invest in content and don’t put all eggs in one basket is a long term strategy.

5) For blackhat SEO redirect should imitate it’s original purpose - move the website and it’s content to a new better name. Meaning imitating and keeping the URL structure as much as possible.

6) Perception of relevancy ONLY in narrow “niche relevancy” sense is wrong. In this case, music just doesn’t stick to music, because the redirect and target had different user relevancy and formats - music streaming and music products reviews.

7) the more powerful redirect is comparing to the target website (in this case 3000 k RD against 600 RD), the higher risk of “relevancy erosion"