Teardown Analysis of 35 Best Affiliate Marketing Sites

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Modeling your niche affiliate website against more successful sites is a no-brainer. Each industry has a select few affiliate marketing sites that are top-notch.

In this write-up, I cover the following:

  1. Data on 35 successful affiliate sites in every industry
  2. Brief overview of each site
  3. Easy win opportunities that they missed
  4. What makes a site successful
  5. High-level insights

After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of how to spot easy wins and the fact that even the best affiliate sites miss the obvious ways to increase revenues.

Let’s get into it!

Raw Data on Successful Affiliate Sites


If you would like access to a Google Sheet with a breakdown of all of the data, check it out below:

Easy Win Breakdowns for 35 Affiliate Marketing Sites

Many of these sites are large enough to have their own in-house CRO specialists. I am sure they are constantly tweaking their pages to see what converts best. With that said, I am sharing what I’ve learned over 12+ years. Your mileage may vary when applying these tactics.

Methodology: My team analyzed the SERPs to find high-ranking affiliate sites in each industry. They collected raw data from AHREFs and other third-party tools. I then did a manual review of each site to spot easy wins.

In no particulate order, here are the site details, metrics, and teardowns:

Embora Pets [Pets]

  • Niche: Pets
  • AHREFS Traffic: 99,600
  • Pages: 806
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 4,311
  • Pagespeed Score: 88
  • Year Started: 2019

Embora Pets was created in 2019 by the Income School team and was sold for a list price of $60,000 with earnings of over $2,000 per month. This animal-focused site does a great job creating a ton of really good, in-depth content that focuses on specific questions or topics.

They make use of display ads while each post links to specific affiliate products that directly tie into the topic of the blog post.

They are using the Trellis WordPress theme by Mediavine which helps them achieve a high Google Page Insights score and has an optimized layout for display ad placement. 

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Low commercial content; can add buying guides and link to them from informational articles.
  2. Add infinite scroll to increase page views and time on site which would increase ad impressions.

Own The Yard

  • Niche: Outdoor
  • AHREFS Traffic: 59,400
  • Pages: 637
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 8,091
  • Pagespeed Score: 54
  • Year Started: 2018

Own The Yard was started late in 2018 by Spencer Haws of Niche Pursuits as his fourth public niche site project. This was to prove that building affiliate sites from scratch still worked.

Own the Yard does a great job of featuring their best work on the home page, as well as mixing up content between large buying guides, product guides, and informational blog posts. They also do a good job of adding a lot of good internal links (since Spencer is the owner of the Link Whisper internal linking WordPress plugin). 

They monetize their website with a combination of Ezoic display ads and affiliate links (mostly Amazon).

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add video ads to articles.
  2. Consider infinite scroll to load the next page automatically and increase page views.
  3. Change CTA text “Buy Now on Amazon” to “Check Price on Amazon” to increase CTR.
  4. Remove dates on posts (especially older dates).

Check out the video review I did for Own The Yard where I shared my suggestions for increasing revenue:

Survival Life

  • Niche: Survival
  • AHREFS Traffic: 1,200
  • Pages: 552
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 5,993
  • Pagespeed Score: 52
  • Year Started: 2009

Survival Life was started in 2009 and focuses on survival, prepping, and related DIY topics. 

According to AHREFs, it appears to have been hit by a Google update or penalty and lost over 98% of it’s traffic starting around June 2019. It went from around 80k monthly organic visitors in June 2019 to about 1k monthly organic visitors by the end of 2019.

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Affiliate sales come from a variety of programs, as well as a solid email list funnel that turns visitors into potential long-term customers.

Although this site was successful in the past, it is an example of a site that lost most of its traffic because Google didn’t like something they were doing.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Primary earnings come from email list and product funnels; can utilize website to sell sponsored posts since it’s not utilized.
  2. For email opt-ins, use “Yes/No” optin as that has higher opt-in rates.

Baby Gear Lab

  • Niche: Baby Products
  • AHREFS Traffic: 290,000
  • Pages: 1,057
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 941
  • Pagespeed Score: 35
  • Year Started: 2012

Founded in 2012 by a certified pediatrician, Baby Gear Lab did a great job of using the professional credentials of the founder well before EAT was a thing.

Content switches between reviews of baby gear and answering specific gear-related questions that still allow for a potential affiliate sale even when veering into the informational side of things.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Comparison tables on buying guides are not mobile responsive and are extremely populated with data. Solution: create a simpler table to be placed above the fold, and keep the detailed table lower in the article.
  2. Call-to-action buttons do not stick out; change to a red/yellow color scheme.
  3. Break up blocks of text to shorter sentences for easier reading.
  4. Add call-to-action buttons within individual product reviews.
  5. Add a call-to-action button after each individual review in buying guides.
  6. Add display advertisements for a boost in revenues (and trust).

Based on the list of easy wins, it’s clear that the Baby Gear Lab is managed by a group of experts in their niche; not in affiliate marketing. They could squeeze out more revenue from their existing traffic by implementing some of these easy wins.

Gear Lab

  • Niche: Outdoor
  • AHREFS Traffic: 2,000,000
  • Pages: 6,822
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 3,838
  • Pagespeed Score: 49
  • Year Started: 2015

Started in 2015, Gear Lab (which rebranded from Outdoor Gear Lab) stood out from most other outdoor affiliate sites by having first-hand reviews of outdoor gear. Most sites didn’t personally review the gear being pitched.

This trust, and “mega-posts” sometimes comparing dozens of items in-depth in one post helped them shoot up Google’s rankings.

Easy Win Opportunities

The easy wins for Baby Gear Lab and this one are the same. They are owned by the same company.

  1. Comparison tables on buying guides are not mobile responsive and are extremely populated with data. Solution: create a simpler table to be placed above the fold, and keep the detailed table lower in the article.
  2. Call-to-action buttons do not stick out; change to a red/yellow color scheme.
  3. Break up blocks of text to shorter sentences for easier reading.
  4. Add call-to-action buttons within individual product reviews.
  5. Add a call-to-action button after each individual review in buying guides.
  6. Add display advertisements for a boost in revenues (and trust).

Nerd Wallet

  • Niche: Personal Finance
  • AHREFS Traffic: 17,100,000
  • Pages: 17,775
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 120,118
  • Pagespeed Score: 49
  • Year Started: 2009

Founded in 2009, Nerd Wallet went through several iterations before settling on a content site. The detailed breakdowns of sometimes confusing or hype-heavy financial topics into easy to understand terms for financial newbies led to explosive growth.

These articles have attracted high rankings and good backlinks, allowing them to tackle high competition terms and rank for them.

Recently, Nerd Wallet went public and sold 7.25 million shares to raise $130.5 million, valuing the company at $1.2 billion.

Easy Win Opportunities

The buying guides on NerdWallet feature high-paying credit card offers. Most offers are incorporated within a call-to-action product box. The major improvement here is to make the buttons a drastic color as opposed to the same color as the theme of the site. 

See example:

image 21

The Penny Hoarder

  • Niche: Personal Finance
  • AHREFS Traffic: 496,000
  • Pages: 6,003
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 11,167
  • Pagespeed Score: 46
  • Year Started: 2010

The Penny Hoarder started in 2010 as a personal finance blog about whittling away debt. This relatable content found plenty of fans thanks to the relatability, step-by-step details of how the founder pulled out of debt, and the growth towards other savings topics to help guide others out of debt.

The Penny Hoarder does a great job even as a huge affiliate site of staying focused on its specific area of finance to maintain its authority on financial topics in Google’s eyes.

One of the biggest niche site success stories in 2020, they were acquired by Sykes Enterprise for $own the 102.5M. Read the story here.

Easy Win Opportunities

Upon reviewing their site, Penny Hoarder does a great job of taking care of the major wins. One that caught my eye was that in buying guides, they do not link the main product/service image to their partners.

For example:

image 20

A large portion of visitors will try to click the image and thus linking the image would increase clickthrough-rates.

Tom’s Hardware

  • Niche: Technology
  • AHREFS Traffic: 3,500,000
  • Pages: 34,227
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 56,959
  • Pagespeed Score: 22
  • Year Started: 1996

Tom’s Hardware is an ancient site as far as the modern Internet goes. Founded in April 1996, this was a site about the best computer hardware. 

This is still the site’s strength. While many sites start narrow in focus then widen out, Tom’s Hardware is still about the best computer parts and hardware 25 years later. 

This has allowed it to stay strong and be a massive earner in its field.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Missing comparison tables at the top of articles (they include one at bottom).
  2. Missing distinct call-to-actions (large buttons, distinct colors). Currently, CTAs are somewhat “hidden”.
  3. Product images are not linked to affiliates.

The Spruce

  • Niche: Home Decor
  • AHREFS Traffic: 19,500,000
  • Pages: 15,770
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 324,930
  • Pagespeed Score: 74
  • Year Started: 2017

The Spruce is a home decor and home remodeling blog that started in 2017 focusing on experience from nearly 20 years of home remodels. 

How were they able to grow to nearly 20 million visitors per month in 4 short years? Parent company DotDash split up About.com into vertically focused niche sites and used 301 redirects to pass authority to spin-off websites like The Spruce, The Balance, and Lifewire. They also published thousands of pages of keyword-focused content written by professional writers or subject matter experts.

Interior design, home decor, DIY projects, and gardening are all popular topics that this site explores in-depth. A “What to Buy” page in an uncluttered header means every single visitor has a direct link to finding a page directed at selling to them to meet their needs.

Easy Win Opportunities

The Spruce has excellent room for improvement. Some include:

  1. Adding comparison tables instead of best picks (see screenshot below).
  2. No call-to-action at the end of each product review in buying guides.
  3. Use “Check Price at X” CTA buttons instead of showing the price will improve CTR.

The Spruce likes to use a list of products towards the top of the article. However, transforming this into a visual table, with pictures of the product will result in higher CTR and sales. See the example below:

image 19

Pickleball Kitchen

  • Niche: Sports
  • AHREFS Traffic: 6,000
  • Pages: 133
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 707
  • Pagespeed Score: 37
  • Year Started: 2017

Pickleball Kitchen is an example of a very niche affiliate site that focuses on a narrow area and makes it extremely beginner-friendly.

This leads to a great opportunity for affiliate sales to complete beginners who read the content and feel comfortable getting started with pickleball.

This site is one of the largest pickleball sites out there. Their Youtube channel has 31,000+ subscribers and videos are uploaded weekly reviewing products, and providing tips on how to improve your game.

The sidebar author photo and bio does a great job establishing credibility with Barrett’s credentials as a “IPTPA Level 2 instructor”.

With that, their site is extremely neglected.

Easy Win Opportunities

The site has a lot of room for improvement. They include:

  1. Add affiliate links, and CTAs within existing product reviews.
  2. Add comparison tables to buying guides.
  3. Adding affiliate links within information articles.

The owners of the site could be making 2-3X what they are today from their site alone. They added Mediavine but failed to properly do CRO on the site.

This is a prime example of a hobby blogger running an affiliate site; many opportunities!

Apartment Therapy

  • Niche: Home Decor
  • AHREFS Traffic: 3,700,000
  • Pages: 45,093
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 84,967
  • Pagespeed Score: 37
  • Year Started: 2017

Started in 2001 as an online interior design newsletter, apartment therapy used a great name and solid design focus to keep expanding to related verticals in the interior design and decor space to grow into an authority site.

In general, most of their pages are “listicles” with 10 or so products and a description. With their authority, adding more content on the page would easily let them bring in more organic traffic.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Change “buy now” call-to-action links into a button and a different color (e.g., red).
  2. Minimal content in buying guides; adding FAQs, how to choose, would let them rank for more keywords.

New Middle Class Dad

  • Niche: Lifestyle
  • AHREFS Traffic: 15,600
  • Pages: 384
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 2,527
  • Pagespeed Score: 80
  • Year Started: 2016

New Middle Class Dad is published by Jeff Campbell, an Income School student who shares his story on YouTube. While the focus is on the general “dad topics” niche, the breakdown of pages opens up many topics to write that have great affiliate offers.

He also publishes great income reports that break down the income from his portfolio of niche websites. He earns over $25k per month from his website portfolio and earned $7,870 from display ads and $432 from Amazon Associates in Q3 of 2021 for New Middle Class Dad.

Sub-pages on this site include topics on travel, home, making money blogging, Disney, relationships, and more.

This site also does a great job at trying to win featured snippets by including a brief summary at the beginning of articles:

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Interestingly, he recently switched from Mediavine to Raptive because they guarantee to increase revenue by 20%, but he’s only seen a 2-6% increase in revenues so far.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add product comparison table above the fold on product review pages.
  2. On product review pages, add a featured product box with a CTA button.
  3. Consider infinite scroll to increase pageviews.

Hot Tub Owner HQ

  • Niche: Outdoor
  • AHREFS Traffic: 16,200
  • Pages: 174
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 844
  • Pagespeed Score: 88
  • Year Started: 2019

This is another site owned by Jeff Campbell. Founded in July 2019, Hot Tub Owner HQ does a great job of getting affiliate sales by answering very specific informational questions hot tub owners have based on first-hand experience and offering the best options via affiliate links in informational articles.

This site shows that an information-first approach can work for affiliate sites when designed correctly.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add comparison tables to buying guides.
  2. Add call-to-action buttons to product reviews.
  3. Add featured product boxes.

It’s clear this site is heavily focused on information content monetized by Mediavine. However, there is a selection of buying guides and reviews that are under-monetized.

Tree Hugger

  • Niche: Green Living
  • AHREFS Traffic: 1,600,000
  • Pages: 16,623
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 167,604
  • Pagespeed Score: 65
  • Year Started: 2004

An affiliate site that expanded into an authority site as it grew, despite the now large staff and strong expertise, the types of posts will look familiar to anyone who creates affiliate sites or niche sites optimized for display ads.

TreeHugger is part of the DotDash network of sites that also owns The Spruce.

Easy Win Opportunities

The site primarily ranks for informational content monetized by their own display advertising network. DotDash network of sites has their own ad partners with much more lucrative payouts.

TreeHugger does rank for buying guides that bring in good traffic. 

Here is an example of their summary of products below. This could be transformed into a small tight-knit comparison table with images of the product. Images get high CTR and they are potentially missing out on that above the fold where this is located.

image 18

In addition, within each review, they have CTA buttons that are the same color-scheme as the main site (i.e., light blue). This makes the CTAs blend in with the remainder of the site. Changing this to a drastic color, e.g., red, would increase CTR.

image 17

Camper Report

  • Niche: Outdoor
  • AHREFS Traffic: 200,000
  • Pages: 897
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 8,147
  • Pagespeed Score: 63
  • Year Started: 2016

Created in 2016, it doesn’t take long to realize the articles on here are written by individuals who actually own campers and have been through these issues first-hand, building trust with readers and Google alike. 

This was an Income School project that was sold for a list price of $321,236 with about 300k page views per month and $8,684 display ad earnings per month (a 37x multiple).

The new owner has done a good job of adding content by nearly doubling the number of pages to about 897 according to AHREFs (477 posts were published at the time of sale). They have also added a lot of good affiliate content like product reviews to take advantage of the strong authority of the site (over 8,100 followed linking domains).

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add comparison tables to product review articles.
  2. Add CTA buttons on product review articles.
  3. Adding video ads with Raptive would increase earnings.

Dirt Bike Planet

  • Niche: Outdoor
  • AHREFS Traffic: 51,800
  • Pages: 246
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 266
  • Pagespeed Score: 93
  • Year Started: 2017

Founded late 2017 to early 2018, this hobby niche site is a labor of love with topics clearly marked for beginning riders, advanced riders, and specific product reviews. They also redirected another website and content which was established in 2006.

This Income School site was sold at a list price of $37,721 with 94,474 page views per month and $1,019 earnings per month at the time of sale (37x multiple). 

Their product reviews focus on the top 1-3 choices based on situation, ignoring the more traditional “Top 10” or “Top 20” lists to focus on specific products to sell as affiliates.

A third of their top 15 pages according to AHREFs are about dirt bikes for a specific age (e.g., “best dirt bikes for 6 year old”). This could be a good keyword formula that will work in other niches.

Dirt Bike Planet is a successful niche site that has grown to 48k organic traffic according to AHREFs with only about 240 pages. In reality, it may have over 100,000 monthly page views because it uses the Raptive premium display network. 

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add CTA buttons on buying guides.
  2. Add featured product boxes on buying guides with the AAWP plugin or similar plugin.
  3. Add comparison tables above the fold on buying guides.
  4. Add video ads.
  5. Consider infinite scroll to increase page views and display ad impressions.

Outdoor Troop

  • Niche: Outdoor
  • AHREFS Traffic: 79,700
  • Pages: 1,003
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 2,916
  • Pagespeed Score: 21
  • Year Started: 2018

Another affiliate site founded in 2018 by Income School and sold for a list price of $62,520 (40x multiple). It was earning $1,563 per month on 80,000 pageviews per month at the time of sale. It had 719 published articles at the time of sale, so the buyer has done a great job expanding the content with buying guides and informational articles.

This sticks out from a very crowded niche for affiliate sites with in-depth content and focusing on some less competitive niches. A focus on outdoor activities in all four seasons helps to lessen seasonal impact.

They use the Raptive network for display ads and Amazon Associates for their product review pages (they also use other affiliate programs like Clickbank, CJ, and ShareASale). 

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add comparison tables at top of buying guides.
  2. Add a CTA button for each product in buying guides.
  3. Add video ads for higher RPM.
  4. Consider infinite scroll to increase pageviews.

Making Sense of Cents

  • Niche: Personal Finance
  • AHREFS Traffic: 35,900
  • Pages: 876
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 8,498
  • Pagespeed Score: 61
  • Year Started: 2011

This blog was started in 2011 as a personal finance blog by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner who was able to grow the blog to over $100,000 per month in earnings (about $50,000 per month from affiliate earnings). Upon financial independence, the gears shifted to going more in-depth on paying debt, making money, and other financial topics to ramp up earnings through affiliate and course sales.

Her organic traffic experienced a downward trend starting in May 2020 according to AHREFs with monthly traffic decreasing from about 146k visitors per month to around 30k visitors per month today. It is notable that such a high authority site (DR 72 and nearly 10k referring domains) has relatively low search traffic of around 30k visitors. 

image 16

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Don’t include the date in the URL as this makes older posts look dated if the URL is a few years old (her third most popular article has “2016” in the URL).
  2. Add display ads to articles (she has the text “An Elite Cafemedia Lifestyle Publisher” in her footer so she has been accepted to Raptive but there are no display ads found). 
  3. Add featured product boxes for affiliate offers with CTA buttons (most of the affiliate links are text links in the article).
  4. Publish more content around topics that are already ranking well (recent posts are heavy on guest posts).

This site does a great job with internal links with several links to related posts in most articles that we reviewed.

Dog Food Advisor

  • Niche: Pets
  • AHREFS Traffic: 974,000
  • Pages: 4,238
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 11,572
  • Pagespeed Score: 90
  • Year Started: 2009

Dog Food Advisor was created by Mike Sagman in 2009 and has grown to over 900k monthly visitors as of October 2021 according to AHREFs. It stays on top of its section of the pet niche by providing articles that are a mix of detailed reviews, informational articles, news, and recent recall information.

What started as a simple personal blog about dogs using a basic Thesis WordPress theme has grown into a popular authority website with over 4,000 pages and 13,000 referring domains according to Ahrefs.

A simple product review article titled “The Best Dry Dog Foods” ranks #1 for “best dog food” and gets over 144k traffic per month according to Ahrefs (imagine the revenue from this one page).  

This site has great readability with short sentences and paragraphs and the content is informative without adding unnecessary fluff. 

Dog Food Advisor frequently includes quotes from top customer reviews from Chewy.com which adds useful information to their buying guides. However this can not be done with Amazon reviews because it is against the Associates Program Policies to display reviews. 

Here’s an example of a customer review embedded into the buying guide:

image 15

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add comparison tables to buying guide pages.
  2. Add affiliate links to product images.
  3. Add display ads to articles.
  4. Add trust signals like author name on posts with author photo.

Minimalist Baker

  • Niche: Food & Beverage
  • AHREFS Traffic: 2,900,000
  • Pages: 2,162
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 101,706
  • Pagespeed Score: 18
  • Year Started: 2012

The recipes niche is an extremely competitive niche to break into. Minimalist Baker has broken in with the smart use of sub-niches like vegan recipes, gluten-free recipes, and recipes that are more narrow and specific.

They have a huge amount of traffic, peaking at about 6.5 million organic visitors per month in April 2020 before trending down to around 3 million organic visitors in October 2021 (according to AHREFs). As a social media-friendly niche, the total traffic is probably much higher. Their top page gets 96k organic visitors per month according to AHREFs.

Monetization includes display ads and video ads using Raptive’s premium ad network as well as affiliate links on their “Blogger Resources” page. They also sell a physical cookbook. 

They do a good job of collecting emails with multiple email forms in articles and with a pop-up that offers a valuable lead magnet of an e-book with 20 fan-favorite recipes.

image 14
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They also include a lot of internal links in their articles including a list of complementary and similar recipes.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add more affiliate links in the text of the ingredients list (they do link sparingly to ingredients on Amazon). 
  2. Consider converting JPEG images to WebP to improve website speed.
  3. Consider infinite scroll to increase pageviews and time on site.

Here is an example of a recipe list that could include more affiliate links.

image 11

Map Happy

  • Niche: Travel
  • AHREFS Traffic: 8,500
  • Pages: 1,081
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 957
  • Pagespeed Score: 80
  • Year Started: 2012

A helpful travel tips site founded in 2012 by Erica Ho, who previously worked for TIME, Gizmodo, and Lifehacker. This site does a good job of mixing up their affiliate reviews with informational articles. It uses Raptive for display ad monetization.

Map Happy differentiates from the average affiliate site by focusing on detailed reviews of individual products with high quality photos of the actual product. 

Erica is not afraid to be critical of products that fail to meet her expectations. Here is an example:

image 10

Map Happy does a great job at internal linking with multiple internal links in articles. I also like how they add trust signals with a photo of the author and bio in the sidebar of articles. 

Map Happy is an example of an expert author who is passionate about the topic but chooses not to optimize for maximum conversions and revenues. If you can purchase sites like this there can be a great ROI by implementing easy wins.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add comparison tables above the fold on product review articles.
  2. Add featured product boxes with CTA buttons.
  3. Remove dates on articles because older dates make the article look outdated.
  4. Consider infinite scroll to increase pageviews.
  5. Add FAQs to articles to add content targeting related questions.

Pinch of Yum

  • Niche: Food & Beverage
  • AHREFS Traffic: 995,000
  • Pages: 1,492
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 57,585
  • Pagespeed Score: 21
  • Year Started: 2009

Pinch of Yum started as Lindsay’s hobby blog back in 2009-2010 and grew into a major food blog that now features a team of professional cooking bloggers. Lindsay and her husband Bjork also run a course and community at Food Blogger Pro which costs $350 per year. 

The organization of the site is excellent. It provides lots of information and EAT indicators while also guiding new visitors to the blog or top articles by topic with clearly marked links on the home page.

With their high number of linking domains, they rank highly for competitive recipe keywords like “shrimp tacos” which brings in an estimated 45k traffic per month from one page. 

image 9

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add affiliate links in the ingredients list (especially non-perishable products).
  2. Consider infinite scroll to increase pageviews.
  3. Consider converting JPEG images to WebP as a Google study found that WebP images are 25%-34% smaller.
  4. Expand content into product buying guides for cooking equipment. They could leverage their high DA to rank highly for lucrative keywords (kitchen products have a relatively high 4.5% commission on Amazon).

Hair Romance

  • Niche: Hairstyles
  • AHREFS Traffic: 29,600
  • Pages: 1,466
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 22,056
  • Pagespeed Score: 21
  • Year Started: 2010

Started in 2010, Hair Romance did a great job of building long-term authority by producing extremely shareable content all related to hair care. It is monetized primarily with display ads using Raptive and info products (eBooks).

The author provides her own photos of hairstyles which creates connection and trust with the reader. This also helps the website naturally earn links and shares on social media.   

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Remove dates since older dates may lower CTR in search results.
  2. Most of the content is informational; leverage high domain rating to expand into buying guides and product reviews.
  3. Since Google Page Insight scores are low and articles are image heavy, consider converting JPEG images to WebP with a plugin like Short Pixel.
  4. Add a featured product box to recommend relevant products in hair styling tutorials (e.g., straighteners, hair pins, etc.). 

Headphones Addict

  • Niche: Technology
  • AHREFS Traffic: 69,500
  • Pages: 364
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 1,118
  • Pagespeed Score: 83
  • Year Started: 2015

A very niche affiliate site looking at headphones of all types. Recognizing the competition, even product reviews are structured to be aimed at answering more specific longtail queries.

This is a great model of an affiliate site that was built very well and achieved great traffic numbers. The high traffic allowed it to be accepted to Mediavine’s premium display ad network and earn additional revenue from product reviews with minimal impact on conversion rate. 

It has good EAT signals for an affiliate website with several staff photos and bios on the about page and even a phone number and address in the footer (which is rare for affiliate sites).

Their Google PageSpeed Insights score is excellent at 83 for a website that runs display ads. The site appears to use a custom WordPress theme and not a popular theme. 

They also do a good job of making the CTA buttons a drastically different color than the main website colors which makes it stand out and attract the eye of the reader. 

image 8

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Change CTA button text to “Check Price on Amazon” to increase CTR.
  2. Add affiliate links to product images.
  3. Add more informational content since most of the articles are affiliate reviews.
  4. Add a sticky sidebar ad because this ad unit gets a high RPM.
  5. Add video ads to informational articles.

Gaming Edit

  • Niche: Technology
  • AHREFS Traffic: 8,500
  • Pages: 170
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 118
  • Pagespeed Score: 29
  • Year Started: 2020

Founded in 2020, Gaming Edit looks at the cords, cables, computer parts, controls, and gaming accessories that video game fans are looking for.

With most people making money focused on streaming games or YouTube videos, this affiliate site did a great job of making detailed posts on the accessories and gear.  

The buying guides are well-written and optimized for conversions with a comparison table at the top and multiple featured product boxes. There is also a frequently asked questions section to add additional useful content that can help the article rank for long tail keywords and questions.

They are also targeting low competition keywords around specific video games like League of Legends. This strategy seems to be working well to increase traffic, however RPMs for display ads in the video game niche are typically on the low end. 

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add related posts at the end of articles to keep readers on the site and increase internal linking.
  2. One author on the site has a blank photo in their bio. To increase trust, this could be replaced with a caricature drawing of the person if they don’t want to share their photo.
  3. The header image is large and pushes the comparison table down the page; consider editing the layout to make the header image height smaller.
  4. Add video ads to increase RPM once accepted by a display ad network that offers this (such as Mediavine or Raptive).

Anika’s DIY Life

  • Niche: DIY
  • AHREFS Traffic: 73,000
  • Pages: 420
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 20,365
  • Pagespeed Score: 57
  • Year Started: 2016

Anika’s DIY was started in 2016. The site makes good on its slogan of “Helping beginners make pro level projects.” She monetizes her blog with a combination of Raptive display ads and affiliate links for DIY products.

This DIY site does a great job of making things very step by step in each article, linking to reviews of necessary equipment, and providing recommendations. She also shares lots of great photos of her project that can be shared on Pinterest to increase referral traffic.

Some of her most popular articles are listicle roundups like 22 [Project Name] Ideas where she features projects from her blog and other blogs in the DIY niche. This is a smart tactic that can generate links and social shares. 

Her product review articles include her own photos and experience from testing the products on her DIY projects. 

I also like how the email form pop-up provides a lead magnet that matches the article you are on (see screenshots below). This is a great way to increase conversions for email newsletter signups.

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Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Remove dates from posts because older dates show up in search results and could lower CTR.
  2. Add comparison tables at top of product review articles.
  3. Add CTA buttons and featured product boxes on product review articles.

Dirt Wheel Rider

  • Niche: Outdoor
  • AHREFS Traffic: 6,400
  • Pages: 50
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 53
  • Pagespeed Score: 39
  • Year Started: 2019

Started in 2019, Dirt Wheel Rider is an affiliate site rapidly climbing Google’s rankings when it comes to ATV-related keywords. It monetizes traffic using Ezoic display ads and Amazon Associate links. 

Some of the best content includes an excellent About page establishing EAT, very shareable long-form articles, and direct answer posts to very specific questions. 

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add comparison tables at top of product review articles.
  2. Few internal links found; add more internal links in articles.
  3. Most articles are informational; expand product review content.

Graying with Grace

  • Niche: Senior Living
  • AHREFS Traffic: 30,500
  • Pages: 475
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 754
  • Pagespeed Score: 29
  • Year Started: 2018

Aimed at being a resource for the elderly and the aging, Graying with Grace was founded in 2018. 

This affiliate site is based around a niche audience that eventually includes everyone, and is an age group with needs and money to spend. Very good niche setup for an affiliate site.

The owner of the site does a great job with EAT signals with a sidebar photo that includes the author’s bio with his credentials as an “Assistive Technology Professional”. 

This site uses the Lasso plugin to recommend sellers outside of Amazon, which is a good idea because Amazon has a low 1% commission on health products.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add comparison tables at top of product review articles.
  2. Add an “Editor’s Choice” or “Our Pick” featured product box to buying guide articles.

Ally Travels

  • Niche: Travel
  • AHREFS Traffic: 15,700
  • Pages: 81
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 378
  • Pagespeed Score: 18
  • Year Started: 2020

This personal travel blog was started in 2020 and shows strong promise as an affiliate site. A lot of the content is focused on things to do in New York City. The site does a great job of using great photographs, strong guides, and a solid personal voice with her writing style that is attracting traffic from Google and social media alike.

This site is monetized with display ads including Outbrain’s recommended content at the end of articles and affiliate links using the Lasso WordPress plugin.

Her website uses full screen pop up that links to a list of best gifts for travelers. This may be a good alternative to collecting emails if the niche is not a good fit for email marketing.

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Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add comparison tables at top of product review articles where applicable.
  2. Add a sticky sidebar ad on desktop because it has a high RPM.
  3. Add video ads to articles.

Sarah Maker

  • Niche: Crafts
  • AHREFS Traffic: 518,000
  • Pages: 156
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 10,378
  • Pagespeed Score: 84
  • Year Started: 2018

Sarah founded her arts & crafts blog in 2018. Focusing on a variety of crafts that she practices herself, the expertise and authority on topic shows with each article answering questions that only someone starting or learning these hobbies would know to ask. For a relatively new website with relatively few pages, traffic has grown impressively to over 500,000 monthly organic visitors according to AHREFs..

Pictures for blog posts are very eye-catching with bright colors against neutral color backgrounds.

Sarah monetizes her website with Mediavine and is using the Mediavine WordPress theme called Trellis, which is optimized for speed and showing display ads.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add product comparison tables at top of product review articles.
  2. Add featured product boxes labeled with “Top Pick” or “Editor’s Choice”.
  3. Consider infinite scroll to increase pageviews and time on site.

Crafts by Amanda

  • Niche: Crafts
  • AHREFS Traffic: 77,900
  • Pages: 1,087
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 16,972
  • Pagespeed Score: 79
  • Year Started: 2008

A crafts blog started in 2008, the unique crafts articles stick out for providing crafts and ideas that are definitely unique and stand out from the “standard array” of crafting topics that are found on many other art blogs.

The About page creates EAT and the home page displays a great variety of pictures and topics to spark interest.

Interestingly, her top trafficked page is a category page with little unique content (however it did have 209 linking root domains). Several other category pages receive a lot of organic traffic as well which shows the power of the domain.

She uses the WP Recipe Maker plugin to collect star ratings from readers and add schema markup to instruction steps. This data can then be included in Google search results to help her site stand out and get a higher CTR.

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Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add featured product boxes with CTA button in addition to text links in tutorial articles.
  2. Consider infinite scroll to increase pageviews.
  3. Modify category page design to include more space for display ads (such as a sticky sidebar). She can also include more unique content on category pages to try to increase Google rankings.

The Prairie Homestead

  • Niche: Homesteading
  • AHREFS Traffic: 158,000
  • Pages: 719
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 24,253
  • Pagespeed Score: 54
  • Year Started: 2011

This blog started in 2011 to track the journey of learning how to become self-sufficient and create a country homestead. The articles are mainly informational with a focus on recipes and DIY tutorials.

The home page is eye-catching with good pictures and colors and has links to the most affiliate-friendly topics and main questions new homesteaders are likely to ask.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Don’t use dates in the URLs because it makes older articles look dated.
  2. Add featured product boxes with CTA buttons on review articles.
  3. Instead of listing price, add a “Check Price” button.

Runner Click

  • Niche: Running
  • AHREFS Traffic: 201,000
  • Pages: 2,752
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 7,223
  • Pagespeed Score: 23
  • Year Started: 2015

Founded in 2015 this site is all about runners, running, and running accessories.

The focus on staying up to date with gear and trends, and large buying guides, set the site up for excellent affiliate sales. There are also informational articles that answer specific questions about running.

The traffic is very well diversified with only one page getting more than 1% of the organic traffic. 

Their product review pages are highly optimized and provide a great example to follow for high conversions. 

An example of their excellent CRO is a sticky CTA bar at the top of the product review pages with a CTA button.

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Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add video ads on informational articles.
  2. A high percentage of the articles are product reviews; add more informational content to balance the website, attract natural links, and leverage the high domain authority.
  3. Consider converting JPEG images to WebP to improve website speed.

The Curiously Creative

  • Niche: Crafts
  • AHREFS Traffic: 39,900
  • Pages: 164
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 586
  • Pagespeed Score: 45
  • Year Started: 2016

Started in 2016, this site does a great job of giving beginner and in-depth guides to many creative arts, hobbies, and pursuits.

Monetizing is not only done with affiliate offers to support trying these new habits, but with in-depth guides.

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add links to affiliate products in lists of materials.
  2. Add featured product boxes with CTA buttons in tutorial articles.
  3. Add display ads with a premium network like Raptive.
  4. Add some EAT signals like author photos and bios because it is not clear who is behind the website.

My OT Spot

  • Niche: Health
  • AHREFS Traffic: 33,200
  • Pages: 283
  • Ref. Domains (dofollow): 1,277
  • Pagespeed Score: 90
  • Year Started: 2016

My OT Spot was created by Sarah Stromsdorfer in 2016 when she found a lack of good content online for occupational therapy students. 

On the Niche Pursuits Podcast in September 2021, it was revealed that the site receives about 100k to 125k pageviews per month and earns an average of $5,000 per month. This has allowed Sarah to quit her job to work on niche websites full-time. 

The site has good EAT signals with Sarah’s photo and credentials displayed on the about page and most articles are written by an expert in the field of occupational therapy.

They do a great job with keyword research to find topics and questions that their main target audience of occupational therapy students are searching for. 

Easy Win Opportunities

  1. Add featured product boxes and CTA buttons on product review pages.
  2. Call to action buttons match the website’s main colors; use a drastically different color like red to make them stand out.
  3. Consider infinite scroll to increase page views and time on site.

6 Aspects That Make a Successful Affiliate Site

1. 100+ Pages of Keyword Targeted Content

Most websites on this list had at least a couple hundred pages that answer specific questions or provide information on a specific keyword phrase that people are searching for. 

The largest sites have thousands of pages which help to show authority in the niche and gives them more chances to rank highly in Google for popular keywords. 

The saying, “content is king”, is true.

2. Hundreds of Linking Root Domains

While it is possible to have a high-traffic website without many links, most of our examples had hundreds or thousands of linking root domains. Some of these links are built and many of these links are acquired naturally by ranking high for popular keywords.

3. Balanced Informational vs Commercial Content 

These niche site examples typically have a mix of informational and commercial content. Diversification of the content type may lower the risk of getting hit by a Google algorithm update that explicitly targets affiliate sites.

4. Diversification of Income Sources

Successful affiliate sites don’t rely on a single source of income like Amazon. They offer alternative affiliate programs which typically offer better commission rates. They also have display ads with a premium ad network like Mediavine or Raptive. If it makes sense, they collect email addresses by offering a lead magnet in order to develop an ongoing relationship through email.

5. Strong Google EAT Signals

Most of these successful sites prominently display the author or owner of the website, often on the sidebar of every page. Strong EAT signals can help a site rank better in Google, especially for YMYL queries.

It also helps visitors trust the site more so they may be more likely to link to articles or share articles on social media.

6. Brandable Domain Name 

Most of our example affiliate sites had a good brandable domain name rather than a generic exact match domain.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, “Brands are the solution, not the problem” and having a good brand can boost your site’s SEO and increase direct traffic.

Google tends to favor brands because it is a signal that the content can be trusted. A good example is Nerd Wallet which has 130,000 monthly searches for its brand name according to AHREFs. 

5 Actionable Takeaways From Analyzing 35 Sites

1. Low Google PageSpeed Insights Scores

Several sites on this list have scores in the red when checked with the Google PageSpeed Insights checker. Page speed is currently a small SEO factor and it is evident in the case of these 35 sites that rank well without focusing on improving PageSpeed metrics.

However, in general, it cannot hurt to take some time to improve your metrics because if any of these sites are your competition, then optimizing for PageSpeed could give you that small edge.

2. Analyzing High Traffic Sites Can Generate Keyword Ideas

Reviewing the top traffic pages of high traffic sites can reveal a lot of keyword ideas that can be applied on your own websites (we recommend AHREFs for this).

You can discover keyword formulas that earn lots of traffic but may not have been written about in other niches. Some examples include: 

  • X for 10 year-olds
  • Average X cost (with 30 example prices)
  • X for beginners
  • 25 [type of project] ideas
  • 15 gift ideas for X

3. Add More CTAs

Many of the sites we reviewed were missing out on a lot of additional clicks on affiliate links because they did not have enough CTAs on their pages. CTAs like a featured product box with a “Check Price” button and linked images are a must to optimize earnings.

4. Add Comparison Tables Above the Fold

A common missed opportunity of these successful affiliate sites is that they were missing a comparison table at the top of their articles. This is one of the best ways to increase clicks to affiliate offers. 

5. Consider Infinite Scroll

Few of these example sites utilize infinite scroll which can significantly increase page views and result in more earnings from display ads. Several large publishers, including Bustle.com and Search Engine Journal, use infinite scroll to keep readers on their site longer.

Wrap Up

This sample of successful affiliate websites provides lots of examples of what is working well today and you can learn a lot from their content strategy and CRO tactics.

Additionally, you can be inspired by the great success achieved by small teams or solo operators and see what is possible as an affiliate site or niche site builder.

mushfiq sarker

Analyzed by Mushfiq Sarker

Mushfiq has been buying, growing, and selling website assets since 2008. His first exit was in 2010. Since then, he has done 218+ website flips with multiple 6-figure exits. He is the founder of The Website Flip. Check out all Mushfiq's articles, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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