What if I had to start again?

By Mark Ling
What if I had to start again?


Hi everyone,

I recently received a question from one of my students and I thought I'd answer it here as a blog post.

"What would you do if you had to start all over again?"

Well, to answer that question in detail, I'll give you some background on what worked when I first started, what I'm doing now, and then what I would do if I had to start over from scratch....

When I first started in affiliate marketing back in 1999, it was almost too easy. You'd put a webpage online, put the keywords you wanted to target in the title and headline of the page, submit it to yahoo, excite, etc, and bam... a week or 2 later you were ranking #1 in yahoo, and top 10 in excite for that search term.

Earning money as an affiliate was easy, so long as you picked the right search terms and a profitable affiliate program.

Nowadays I'm doing extremely well in affiliate marketing, but not in the same way.

I've had to do more than just be the middle man. Unless you have a big budget for doing media buys and driving traffic directly to CPA offers, then you'll need to do what I do, which is build authority sites, and build a newsletter mailing list.

An authority site is where you build a website that has a substantial amount of great quality content on your niche, and one that you keep building on over time to make it better and better (as opposed to a tiny set-and-forget website).

In niches where I'm doing really well, I usually have chosen to create my own products too. That way I can bring higher quality products to the niche and affiliates can also promote my products.

Right now, I'm working on entering the Paleo niche (it's basically a raw food diet). This is a project that we're working on, on the side, so it doesn't take up too much time each day.

A few of my staff and I have been filming ourselves cooking a lot of different Paleo friendly dishes, our intention is to launch a website with 100+ different recipes, videos etc. And later monetize the website with affiliate weight loss offers and also eventually with our own Paleo products, including kindle books.

In fact, the plan is to launch our first Paleo kindle book in a couple of weeks from now, even before the site itself is online in its fullest form.
We have already been filming a lot of these recipes etc, so we plan on releasing a kindle book that has 25 of these recipes, this book will be on Paleo Smoothie Recipes, and then we'll sell it for say $2.99.

People will then be able to go and opt in to our mailing list in order to get access to the video versions of these recipes.

We'll then build a relationship by releasing great quality free recipes and weight loss tips in our newsletter, and we'll monetize the newsletter with affiliate promotions of high quality weight loss offers, and also the occasional promotion of our own kindle book(s).

Later we'll create and sell our own larger Paleo related digital product, that affiliates can also promote.

I've mentioned the Paleo example because it relates to the initial question of what I'd do if I had to start all over again.

I do already own some really high performing websites, particularly in personal development related niches such as dating and relationships e.g. www.meetyoursweet.com

However that kind of website would be tricky to build right away if I had to start again from scratch.

Starting from scratch, I'd plan out an authority site in a niche that I was interested in. In this case, I am starting from scratch in the Paleo niche.

I'd then look to create a 30-60 page book for release on Amazon Kindle, at the same time as planning and making content for the website.

I'd make some sort of 'opt in bribe' to encourage people to opt in to my newsletter series.

Then I'd produce an autoresponder series that included a lot of high quality relevant content, and promotions of relevant products.

If anyone bought my kindle book, then I'd hope that maybe 30-40% of them would opt in to my mailing list (as I'd link people to the opt in bribe).

I'd also be doing a lot of guest blogging, and participating on forums and the like in order to spread word about my website and the kindle book, to get it off the ground.

If I had the money I may even buy traffic to start building that mailing list faster.

If things were going well, I would either grow the website to get more natural organic traffic and/or make more kindle books.

And at some point I'd make a product that other affiliates can sell and earn commissions from promoting.

The real money is in the list, the key is to build a strong relationship with that list by providing great quality content, and then to promote products that will enhance their lives.

I hope this answers the question and that I haven't blabbed on for too long here :)

I look forward to your comments and suggestions!

All the best to your success,

Mark Ling


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francis_oneill 11 years ago
Thanks for this Mark - great question and really helpful nuggets of advice. Really much appreciated - and great timing too as I needed to hear that advice...
Gordon Youd 11 years ago
" filming ourselves cooking a lot of different Paleo friendly dishes"
I thought they were "raw"
SORRY just had to get that said to prove I read your great article.
You have come a long way since 1999, I think it is quite hard to start afresh today.
Mark Ling 11 years ago
Raw ingredients is what I meant, non processed foods. You then cook it, blend it or whatever yourself :)
Scott Branden 11 years ago
This is great Mark, thank you! I have done a lot of ad-hock IM training over the last 2 years and the various courses have taken me all over the place and gotten me almost nowhere, but none have outlined the process clearly like this. I had stared out looking for just this quick overview but never found it. Thanks, I will keep this and make my own list of to dos based on this, then draw on pieces of relevant training and then get stuff done. To be fair to the other course I do have some sites up and on the first page of G, but no income as yet. The pipstrr dot com site is an example but I really wish I had found the correct guidance in the first place . . . and guess what! All I had to do was find Affilorama! I am just starting to see if I can use Affilotheme on my sites. I won it in a comp you had late last year but I have only now had time to see what it can do, looks awesome so this is this months side job. Again my thanks for making the ridiculously complex stupidly simple, kind regards Scott! : D
Eric 11 years ago
Hi Scott,
I know there are training courses out there on the market, but no one worked for me until I learn Forever affiliate. This video course teach me step by step into affiliate market. From finding products, analysis product to build up sites and do SEO. it is really useful and pratical, especially for new to IM. Click my name to check out.
Floyd Rudolph 11 years ago
Hi Mark, cheers for the blog. Great info. If I built an authority site based on my current night time job and created a database of best travel routes a to b in Christchurch and the current locations of roadworks with a timeframe for completion of works. Is my thinking on track?

I drive lots of different cars some more expensive than my house. Could I create a blog on my authority site about how for example a 2011 Aston Martin DB 9 drives or a 2012 AMG G6 Mercedes handles?.


David Withington 11 years ago
Thanks Mark. Very interesting how things have changed over the years, and as a result the different approach.

After going on our first cruise, I created a website called How To Cruise. It was aimed specifically at people who had never been on a cruise before and were looking for basic information on cruising.

It's now in position 1 on Google for a number of keywords.

Learning how to monetise it is still a learning curve though....
Joey 11 years ago
Hey, Mark. This is a great post. I, for one, am always curious what big guys like you would do if you had to start from the bottom, again -- especially with lots of people say that this and that doesn't work, anymore (because of the search engines usually).

I, too, am a fan of larger, authority sites. With that said, I'm also in the process of building a micro-niche site (never done it before) just to see how well it works out. I've heard that they take less time to get ranked and can still work as long as you're providing value and what not.

If it does work out, my plan would be to put up a few micro-niche sites while building at larger, authority site at the same time, so I would have all my bases covered. In these days and times, I think it's just important to have a plan of attack -- whatever it is.
Michael Johnson 11 years ago
Hi Mark
I have been looking at making a ebook to sell on kindle with recipes. I was just wondering, where do you find recipes to put in these books? Do you have to make them up on your own, or can you use recipes from sites on the internet?
I know that recipes are a very grey area in copyright law and I was wondering what you do.
Thanks, Michael.
Mark Ling 11 years ago
We actually make up our own recipes, experiment with them and if they taste good, we then film them etc for our website.

E.g. I made a thai chili chicken recipe, what I did was I took a recipe for Thai Chili Chicken, and I replaced the sugar with putting an orange in a blender, and I changed a few other things around too, and though I used fish sauce which isn't strictly Paleo, I mentioned that in the video that it's still much more natural than say 'soy sauce' which is normally in Thai Chili chicken but is very processed.

Yeah it's a grey area, but it's not hard to get creative with food and start to figure out what goes with what and what tastes good given your limit on ingredients (e.g. in our case we are limited to Paleo ingredients). Smoothies were easier I guess in a lot of ways. We did our research so we always know what is good for you in each ingredient that we used, and I think we achieved a better result by making up the recipes ourselves. A lot of recipes you'll find online have never been cooked by the person who made the recipe up, so it's a risk if you are to copy them verbatim. You don't know till you've cooked it if it actually is spot on.
barbsaffilorama 11 years ago
I've been following you and your growing Affilorama company since 2005. It's your integrity and honest information that has led me over and over again to refer others to your company and the creative products your team produces. Keep up the good work, Mark. So many of us truly appreciate you and how you've helped others create profitable businesses online.
Anthony 11 years ago
Nice one Mark,

What would be - or what is - your traffic strategy for these sites? Purely SEO? What are you bigest traffic sources and how long would it take you to get uniques of: 100, 500 or 1000 per day?

thomas raj 11 years ago
Great post! I wish I had met you and heard you a decade earlier. You would have made 'making-online-so-easy' then. Ranking a website is becoming hard with competition and ranking algorithms undergoing constant changes with the google updates. However, hope is not lost when we have educating blog posts and unselfish webmasters like you willing to help others with their experience and advice. . Thanks mate
Jerry Smather 11 years ago
I created a website that has been very successful in its niche. I created it because I saw that it wasn't represented in the marketplace and I wanted to capitalize on that. Many years later, and much success, I hate this freakin niche. I did it on a whim and had low expectations, but now I stick with it b/c it is making money. But man I hate it. I now have someone doing the majority of the work on it b/c I'm too burned out and I give him a big percent. Anyway, the point is to stress what you said earlier, find something you like and want to work on. Don't start something just because it might make a few bucks because if it is successful you are stuck with it. Do what you love so you can keep on doing it for the long term.
Ellen Jackson 11 years ago
Hey Mark,
I have read your article (What if i had to start again). and i have just received your mail.So i thought what are you telling.This is an amazing article.I have also check your dating tips site.Nice Post.I hope you will post again these kind posting.
Thank You!
Ana Jackson
shalisha 11 years ago
As always Mark, you put out amazing stuff.
Jimmy Carini 11 years ago
Thanks Mark for your initial post. Giving us a great outline and vision to follow. I am not quite there yet. I am still working on my first website. I am sure that after I get this one done many more will come easier as I rinse and repeat, and build my list. I have a vision for a niche more of a social site for that niche. Thats maybe a few years down the road. I will tell you the knowledge I have gained since being with Affilorama has been incredible. I may not understand all the terms yet. Something tells me if I keep at it I'll succeed! Thank you for your support and the great team of support that you have in Affilorama. You are all amazing!!!
Beatrix Tuffy 11 years ago
Incredible stuff Mark it will definitely help to get a fundamental understanding about affiliate marketing and in my view it's great direction for me.

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Amelia 11 years ago
Thanks Mark, very interesting. I started to learn about affiliation with one of your products roughly 2 years ago. In January this year I lost my job and started a few weeks ago with actually building my first website. It's a lot of fun and stress because this time I really need to succeed. Thanks for your support and please stay in touch with your followers.
Ryan K 11 years ago
Very solid outline and structure. I think that is deffinately the most serious trouble that most will face is the lack of being able to buy targeted traffic.

Instead, we buy a crapload of useless products that keep us confused and bewildered for months or years so that we don't have to spend the money on paid traffic, all the while we could have used that money on paid traffic and grew our lists...

Thanks for the post Mark!
Ryan K
Josephf Gaita 11 years ago
Reading this blog has started putting me off ''Affiliates'' marketing because of the inherent cost in time and money. What happened to ''Affiliate'' help we used to have?
Alan Wayne Browning 11 years ago
I'm using an e-machines desktop computer that was manufactured in 2005. Do I need to upgrade to a more powerful unit, or buy a more powerful hard-drive, that will allow me to download your materials from the internet? What kind of computer system are you using, Mark?
Ben Doyle 11 years ago
Hi Mark,

Great post!

In response to Josephf Gaita - Affiliate marketing doesn't have to be expensive but remember, this is a BUSINESS and 99.9% of businesses take time and money to set up.

There are far too many people on the web looking for to 'Get Rich Quick' which is why there are so many scams happening online on a daily basis.



Dani Montoya 11 years ago
Hi Mark

I just started to follow you so forgive me if this question has been answered already. I have three highly niched blogs. It is difficult (and tiring!) to be the authority myself on everything so I have started to look for guest bloggers. I would have thought that would be easy but the "guest blogger sites" don't have bloggers who write about my niches (Pottery and automobile tools).

How do I go about finding guest bloggers?

David Gough 11 years ago
I'd be interested to know why you say your dating site would be hard to do now. Is it the niche that's difficult now, or the actual website?
Kash 11 years ago
Excellent insight on how to start an authority site from scratch. I was toying with the idea of starting authority sites some of the niches I prefer so this post was really heaven sent for me.
Russ 11 years ago
Mark to really start out again you wouldn't have your backing team and as you said initially it is nowhere nearly as easy as it was in 1999,

I have to restart post Google algos last year and with no spare money it is akin to climbing a wall with a 100 kg pack on my back.

Some days I wonder if there is a chance for starters to break in to AM or is it only the established operators who will survive.
neil stewart 11 years ago
Hi Mark and other, it seems like a while since I posted here...

1. I've been in the local niches (krav maga, teeth whitening, moving, locksmith, plumbing)
2. I'm struggling with finding product upsells. Especially with moving and locksmith and plumbing
3. For teeth whitening I could upsell to dentist looking for patients
4. Anyone, including Mark has any ideas?
John Hoff 11 years ago
Thanks for the insights, Mark. Question....

Do you think it's necessary to create big authority sites for smaller local businesses? For example, if I'm a painter in a state in the USA, how big of a site do you think I should build?

The thing is, people who are looking for painters in, say New York, aren't looking to share your content on Twitter or Facebook... or join a forum about painting, they are just looking for someone to paint their house.

I'm good with offsite and onsite SEO, but to what extent I should build my site to be "authority" is the question.

Just curious if this was you how you might approach it.

James 11 years ago
When I started consulting people who tried, but were failing, at making money online the biggest thing I heard was them mentioning things along the line of not planning. I started, and had my hiccups - but one thing I had to fall back on was a plan. I'd alter my plan depending on trends, new information, etc. Since then I have ghost written over 50 courses, consulted with products launches, and really found a sense of enjoyment in an otherwise dreary environment full of failure - and too little planning.
Awesome post as usual Mark, great food for thought.
Karen A 11 years ago
Hi Mark, thanks for a wonderful post and a good post for todays world of online businesses. I'm sure many people have suffered at the changes with Google Panda & penguin and other google changes. The changes on SEO post Panda/Penguin and how to not "over optimise" your website. That alone - is another form of starting all over again with our SEO Marketing and Traffic generation models.

I have had to start over again with my online business and in personal and financial matters loosing everything. - ouch it hurts! Its a character building exercise to say the least. But you cannot let these life challenges push you below the line for too long, you need to pick yourself up and keep going and strive to be better. (sometimes I feel like I need to create a robot to follow me around to keep me permanently dusted off hee hee).

This is what I'm now doing, and I keep learning. I have now gone down the path of building authority sites, as I like the quality of an authority site. try and see what other authority sites are doing and model yourself off them and some of the things that they do to make their site interesting. I have gone with a subject matter tthat I know people are searching for (based on keyword research), so I know there is a market for my niche. I also check that there are a number of affiliate products available in that niche, as well as the ebook/kindle-amazon products. I have most of the content on my pages from 750-1000 pages and it is high quality research information. Also I think it is good to make your authority site interesting, adding video (or youtube videos relevant to your niche), infographics, great images, quizes, surveys, optin mailing list, slideshows etc. cheatsheet PDF downloads. Give away stuff that for free that will allow create people wanting to share your stuff on social media and the like. thin about creating a youtube channel about your niche that will drive traffic back to your website.

I wish I could believe that set and forget type of websites would work, but I have my doubts. I believe that you have to treat your authority website with respect, and treat yourself as a publishing business giving your readers valuable content that will enrich or assist them in their lives. Outsource some of your writing to save you time.

Make sure you have a post Panda/penguin traffic building, link building, seo strategy that is current in today timeframe (don't get caught up in the old ways of doing things that is frowned upon by google or don't work anymore). and stay up-to-date with changes in the marketplace. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, meaning just don't rely on google for your traffic generation.

It also helps if you like the niche that you write about. I tend to choose 'evergreen' niches. Also make sure you are keeping an eye on your Google Analytics so that you know if you are getting traffic to your website or not so you can take massive action to fix that.

oh and a good place for continuing your learning for software, video and other stuff is lyndaDotCom, its cheap $25 a month for access to thousands of video training courses.

I hope my tips have been helpful
thanks again, good luck to everone, take care, Karen

PS. Mark Link is a great educator and has share so much with his students and is of great character - I have done all his courses. There are many students out there who have copied his ideas and had success.
Rob Kutch 11 years ago
Thank you Mark. Appreciate your insight.
Suresh 11 years ago
I think you have pretty much listed everything that you can do with an authority site. But it only shows that you can handle probably 2 to 3 sites now, if you were doing it all alone. For many, it would mean choosing a few from the list of several sites that they may have, and focusing only on those.
Ian Clarke 11 years ago
Inspirational post Mark. You hear that 95% fail online so its great to get a detailed insight of a success story. I have been working on my blog/website for a year and I am just about happy with it.......but having read your post I now realise that I am only halfway there....I need to think about newsletters, a kindle book, forums etc.. to get my message delivered to my target audience.
Joyce Knake 11 years ago
I am amazed the you people keep coming up with new ideas to market. I struggle with one. I am glad that you did clarify that thing about the raw food, I can't imagine eating raw meat could be good for you. I do have an Affilorana account.
michael keating 11 years ago
Hi Mark,

Thanks so much for the information. Love this like all your other stuff. You finally billed me for my Affilo Tools premium ;) Loving it so far! I had a question, when you say buy traffic, do you mean paid advertisements like Google Adwords or some other method? The reason I ask is because getting quality traffic to my website is turning out to be the biggest obstacle for me currently.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Mandy 11 years ago
Hi Mark,
Just wondering where you are getting your recipes from? I am following a cooking line, but am concerned about the copyright of using other's recipes....
Ose Thomas 11 years ago
Yes, starting all over, it is important that one learn
internet marketing basics, how to build relationship
with your readers through email marketing software,
how to exchange great value over and above the price
you are charging, etc.

Understanding the above is critical to success for anyone
who wants to start an online business.

Locksmith Bellevue 11 years ago
Great post! There are some sites mentioned here which are new to me, so I’m looking forward to checking them out. Thanks for this info.
kinni 11 years ago
Mark Hi- Simply... its SUPERB, indeed, very inspiring- Congrats...Thanks for teaching me....
Brian Edmondson 11 years ago

Awsome post, always interesting to here what you'd do differently today as far as getting started.

As you mentioned, I think right now the Kindle marketplace as a great traffic source to tap into to generate traffic and build a list of buyers into your business.

Hope to see more posts from you!

asafaffiliate 11 years ago
Hi Mark
The site looks amazing but i'm wondering about a few things
1. The site has about 10-15 prox articles and you said to have at list 20-30 articles for a new site (affiloblueprint)??
2. The products there are yours (not from clickbank)! does it mean that the old way (redirect links) is much harder this days?
3. How can we create our own products
Gerry Fox 11 years ago
Hi Mark,

Is the post a potted version of what is contained in AffilioBluePrint?

... Gerry
Mark Tulloch 11 years ago

Why do you send us so many JV products. After getting to know your methods it's pretty obvious you are just cross promoting to get more revenue from your list (us).

Shouldn't we really just keep things simple and focus on the basics. If I took time to learn and use every JV product you recommend I'd never get anything done.
Tyler 11 years ago
Hi Mark,
Thanks for your insightful post. Do you have more information about the process of publishing a Kindle book? Is this something that you've added to the AffilloBlueprint course? I don't believe this was addressed in AffiloBlueprint unless the course has been updated.
TJM Philpott 11 years ago

Great tips you offered that serve as a 'check list' of things I need to review! My blogs are coming along however I need to focus more on the affiliate side of things! Your tips were a reminder to do so!

Thanks for your insights

Brett Slansky 11 years ago
Hi Mark,
you are pure awesomeness :-)! For over 6 years I made only affiliate mini sites as many internet marketers preached. I make some money, but I only found myself trying to keep them alive...then all the Google updates came and I would say 70% of them were wiped out of the Google kingdom. After I got hit, I realised that sometimes you need not to do what other tell you, but find out what works for you in your own niche. So I decided to focus only on one topic at a time and try to give as much information as I can. For this, there is no way I can pull it off if I did not enjoy the topic. So I believe that the authority site model is the best way to go.
Nguyen Huu Hoc 11 years ago
thank you , verry nice. i like it. I think it’s generated for one person only, fix it with this one friv2.org
Jim 11 years ago
Great article, letting folks especially beginners know what you would do to start over again is a gem. You go into great detail especially for what you feel is needed in today's world. The real power is in the list and building a strong relationship and I couldn't agree more. Keep it up! Really enjoyed this very informative post from a guy who's been there and done that.
Jim Coe 11 years ago
Another great post Mark! As mentioned above, your integrity, teaching ability and straight-forward approach make all the difference. It's so refreshing to witness that in truth "honesty pays" online.

I encourage your readers to do some research and study on the search term "list building". As you note, it's critical to online success these days and there' a lot to know for the fastest and highest quality lists.

For example it's easy to do a bad job of list building and end up with lots of faked email addresses, etc.

I'm experimenting with developing a secondary list of only those primary list members who actually buy. Such a "Buyers List" should have a high conversion ratio and deserve special relationship building.
Matt LaHood 11 years ago
Mark, great post! I'm really new to niche marketing, and frankly this is really intimidating. I wish I were back there with you in 1999 so I could "grow up" sort of naturally in Affiliate marketing instead of the crash course I'm trying to put myself through now.

My take home point for the day is the making of some real good quality, original content, and rolling it into a paid ebook. Off to Google to see how to start up that machine next. My mind's buzzing, thanks for your guidance here!
John Gibb 11 years ago
hi Mark,

we share a similar story... article is right on time! :)

I started with affiliate marketing more than a decade ago... I've been into niche site building and blogging for several years now, and had my share of "luck", wins and failures.

I haven't created my own info products yet, I just focus on my health network of niche sites, and coaching my students. Yes, I use autoresponders, and plan to turn HWA into an authority blog, and you could call my coaching a product, isn't it?

Anyway, authority site building is no joke. There are many other variables you need to take into account when creating the "go to resource" site in a niche compared with starting a mini site. Principles are alike, but the time and outsourcing tasks required are tenfold.

What I'd suggest is to NEVER quit your day job, and work on your mini site(s) part time, with sheer determination and lack of fear of failure. This is super important. Quitters never win, winners never quit.

Once you are earning enough income ans save enough funds to be able to live comfortable for 5-6 months, without any other incoming money, then you could probably quit the job, and build more sites, or start your authority blog.

Sadly, too many people do it exactly the opposite, and make lots of silly and costly mistakes due to lack of knowledge and ignorance. At least, hopefully they'll learn from their own faults and make something good out of it (as most of us did)

Hope it helps...

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