That you have to avoid markets with big competitors, with gigantic capital and human resources.
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I’m the founder & CEO of Array Internet which is a media company located in Frankfurt am Main (Germany). We mostly do web development, online marketing and SEO for international clients. Our most successful venture is MH Themes, which is a popular brand for magazine WordPress themes that are suitable for online magazines, news websites and advanced blogs. With MH Themes we cover more than 20,000 customers from over 110 countries around the world.
A few years ago I was getting more and more interested in affiliate marketing. While I was running various online magazines at that time, I didn’t have much experience with affiliate sites. However, one day I stumbled upon a gaming site which was promoting several online games. I liked the idea and did some research. I noticed that various affiliate programs were paying good commission just for leads where users would sign up to play an online game for free (the companies were monetizing the games by selling in-game items or other goodies). I thought if I would be able to scale my own gaming site to a reasonable amount of traffic, then this could pay off very well. At least that’s what I thought.
First of all, I hired various writers to create a lot of content. I coded functionality so that we could easily add online games into a database and list these games based on various criteria including screenshots and play buttons with affiliate links. I was hoping that if we create enough content and did some SEO, then we would be able to get organic traffic from Google.
I also reached out to various game production companies in order to cooperate and get additional exposure. This worked better than expected, but since the site was very new without a reliable track record, many companies weren’t interested in doing business with us. As always, doing business is much easier if you’re already established and successful.
In addition, I started building social channels, launched various giveaways and also tried to get some additional traffic through PPC advertising.
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The main issue was that the site didn’t take off, although I’d put quite some time and money in the project. Publishing all the content, preparing screenshots, etc... we did this all manually as we didn’t want to import data via APIs in order to have truly unique content.
However, except a few successful affiliate transactions, a few dollars from Google AdSense and some sponsored posts from gaming companies the site didn’t generate any revenue. The traffic was stuck as well as a few hundred visitors per month. If I remember correctly, the record was around 900 unique visits per month. Unfortunately, with this low traffic, you’ll usually have a hard time to monetize an affiliate site, at least if you’re covering a niche where the affiliate commission is not very high.
I think the biggest disadvantage was that the market was already saturated with this kind of gaming affiliate sites. There were some very large and popular competitors and it was incredibly difficult to rank well for good keywords. I definitely should have done more research before starting the site. My mistake was that I simply wanted to start this out of fun, without doing research if it would be a good and reliable business idea. Today I wouldn’t make this mistake again, except if I wanted to start such a site as a hobby.
I definitely would do thorough research before starting an online business. It’s crucial to have a look at the competition and analyze keywords to determine if you have a chance to compete with reasonable resources. The benefit of an online business is that you have valuable data available before you even get started. I absolutely would work with that data and then make a decision.
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Even if starting an online business is quite easy, you shouldn’t make it an easy decision. If you make a wrong decision at the start, it can become a huge waste of time and money. This can be avoided by doing your homework before you get started.
Another advice I have is to always stay focused. If you’re smarter than I was when I started the gaming affiliate site and if you’ve done your homework, it’s crucial to stay focused on your main business objectives. Stick to your plan and don’t get lost in details or unprofitable tasks.
You can follow me on Twitter, check out our WordPress themes and on Array Internet we’ve recently started a blog where we’ll soon publish editorial content about online marketing, social media marketing and other topics that could be helpful for digital entrepreneurs.
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