7 of the Most-Difficult Affiliate SEO Niches: What Does it Take to Rank?

Ever wonder what it’s like to compete in some of the most difficult affiliate SEO niches?

  • How much money can be made?
  • What kind of budget needs to be allocated?
  • What kind of links are the best to build?

I sat down with 6 of the world’s top affiliate SEO experts to discuss what it takes to rank in various difficult niches, from CBD to Pharma.

You’re about to learn about the potential earnings, necessary budget, team requirements, content and backlink plans involved in each of them.

Pharma Cover image

Pharma – James Upjohn, Serpify

How much monthly recurring revenue can someone expect to make, ranking in the top spots in this niche?
This really depends on the number of products and route to market. Affiliates will earn smaller commissions, drop shippers significantly more.

We’ve done SEO rankings for a pharma client that was having their own pills produced in India and the profit was huge. Their revenue x4 within 3 months.

What kind of budget does it take to compete in this niche?
Surprisingly not a huge one! So many SEOs that use PBNs are tackling local keywords! There’s probably 10 SEOs trying to rank and rent lead gen / local seo for Plumbing Miami but hardly any PBN specialists ranking for terms like Viagra!

How big of a team (if any) do you need to tackle this niche?
When we were ranking in this niche we were a team of two. We did the SEO to make the pharma sites look like legit local businesses. Address, phone, map, schema etc and just a few pbns were needed.

There’s so much spam in pharma that our attempt to look as legit as possible was rewarded big by Google.

Is there a specific content plan you’d recommend?
We didn’t focus too much on supporting content. We probably had 2-3 blog posts with internal links to our product pages.

What kind of backlinks would you recommend for this niche?
PBNs 100%. I had this exact conversation with a UK SEO living in Australia. I told them to charge $250 per month per keyword and ONLY send pbn links. They came back to me a month later and said they could not believe how much PBNs moved the needle in pharma.

Is negative SEO prevalent in this niche? What kinds? How do you deal with it?
Not so much negative SEO but a LOT of hacked sites ranking and expect to go up against SEOs with 100s of sites interlinking and tier 2/3 with Xrumer type links. You are competing against the blackest of black hat SEOs in this niche but just do what you know works in local SEO (like these 9 things) and you’ll do perfectly fine.

Any parting words for those considering getting into this niche?
Be mindful of the laws. My client got shut down by the FTC and lost the whole business overnight.

Some of the pharma products were banned and he shouldn’t have been making them sell into the USA.

Stick to legit products, maybe partner with a reputable pharma company on search on well-known pharma offers. This is a great niche to get into that still seems wide open.

 

CBD image cover

CBD – Vithurs (V for short), Rankfluence

How much monthly recurring revenue can someone expect to make, ranking in the top spots in this niche?
There are a handful of affiliate sites in the CBD niche that are absolutely crushing it right now.

Let’s talk numbers. If you were ranking in the #1 position for all main search terms - especially the ones with high buyer-intent (“product + review” keywords for ALL major brands, “best” keywords, “where to buy” keywords, etc), there is no reason why you can’t do at least $1million/m in commissions.

The CBD industry is, without doubt, a very lucrative market, and it’s touted to become a $20B industry by 2020.

The lack of current regulation makes it an enticing opportunity for those who want to explore the niche (whether as an affiliate or as a direct supplier of CBD products).

Although there is currently somewhat of a monopoly in this industry (more on this later), there is still a viable opportunity for newer, smaller sites to grab a fair share of search traffic. This means there is plenty of money to be made, even if you’re not ranking at #1.

What kind of budget does it take to compete in this niche?
Your biggest expense in this niche will be link building (followed by content).

Taking into account the average link velocity (number of new links being built on a weekly/monthly basis) of the top affiliate sites in the niche and the type of links being built (regular link placements? guest posts? editorials? hacked links?) you should be able to roughly calculate how much an identical link building campaign will cost you.

Link velocity of a high-ranking CBD affiliate site

As a general guideline, you’d probably need several thousand ($x,xxx) per month (with at least a 9-month commitment) at the VERY minimum to compete in the CBD niche.

The current affiliate sites at the forefront of the industry are heavily investing in links, with some easily spending high 5 figures per month just to maintain their existing link velocity levels. This is the sort of budget you’re looking at if you want to make a real impact in this niche.

How big of a team (if any) do you need to tackle this niche?
If your SEO strategy is primarily based around link building (such as outreach), then having a large team can prove beneficial as you can delegate individual tasks to certain members to handle.

On the other hand, you don’t really NEED a team in order to tackle the CBD niche. Would it help? Probably. But with the SEO industry also growing fast on a yearly basis, there are thousands of choices on the market for link building services and vendors.

In my case, I have a team of 3 who handle my outreach activities (they land anywhere from 50–150 links per month per site) and I outsource all my content. In some cases (such as when I need double the links, but don’t have the immediate resources), I’ll also outsource the link building.

Is there a specific content plan you’d recommend?
Your content strategy will depend entirely on what exactly your site is about. With my CBD affiliate sites, I try to review every single popular brand. Since the CBD industry is growing at a quick rate, you’ll always find new companies setting up shop, and most of them will have an affiliate program you can join. If you hit a roadblock, this is where competitor analysis comes handy. More than likely, your competitors are ranking better than you for a reason. Clearly they’re doing something right. Why waste time trying to figure out what content will work, when you already have the answers in front of you? Tools like Ahrefs make spying on your competitors SEO efforts easy. If you’re running out of ideas or need help identifying content gaps and topics, just audit your competition to look for opportunities.

What kind of backlinks would you recommend for this niche?
You’re going to need the very best. The backlinks I’d recommend for this niche are guest posts, link placements (contextual), and PBN links.

Some of you might have expected a huge list of backlink types, but simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. This applies to every niche: the backlinks you build should ALWAYS have some level of relevancy.

Acquiring CBD-relevant links isn’t easy though. For example, when doing outreach, you’ll notice that some webmasters aren’t comfortable linking to CBD-related properties. This makes link building in this niche challenging, but you know what they say about challenges…

Is negative SEO prevalent in this niche? What kinds? How do you deal with it?
I believe there is an element of negative SEO/unethicalness in every competitive niche. It’s only to be expected since you’ll always have haters and jealous people envious of your success.

Any parting words for those considering getting into this niche?
There is money to be made in the CBD niche. Just like there is money to be made in payday, finance, adult, and casino.

If you have the budget, mindset, and persistence, I’d suggest dipping your toes into this niche and giving it a go. If you’re considering entering this niche, I’d suggest doing your research and due diligence first - properly. I’m guilty of this myself, but it’s important not to let your excitement cloud your judgment.

If a niche doesn’t seem practical, it’s probably best to explore other options. Don’t waste your time chasing rankings you’ll never likely achieve. If you’re considering getting into the CBD niche: Good luck! ?

 

casino

Casino – James Dooley, FatRank

How much monthly recurring revenue can someone expect to make, ranking in the top spots in this niche?
$1,500,000

What kind of budget does it take to compete in this niche?
$25,000 a month

How big of a team (if any) do you need to tackle this niche?
30

Is there a specific content plan you’d recommend?
If you are not prepared to cover the whole topic, you are not ambitious enough.

What kind of backlinks would you recommend for this niche?
PBNs, Guest Posts, Niche Edits, Relevant Directories and anything else you can get your hands on (haha).

Is negative SEO prevalent in this niche?  What kinds?  How do you deal with it?
Yes, it is constant. Bulk spam links, DDOS attacks, and Click Fraud.

Any parting words for those considering getting into this niche?
You need a big team. Ranking the sites is 30% of the battle as you need to manage hundreds of affiliate accounts and it is not like Amazon having one account to deal with. Constant changes in bonuses to update and compliance keeps my team on their toes because if you don’t respond quickly your accounts can be shut.

 

Medical Lead Gen Image Cover

Medical Lead Generation – Max Meyer, Skyline Health Group

How much monthly recurring revenue can someone expect to make, ranking in the top spots in this niche?
Top players can average between $200k and $400k / month for large websites, some can generate north of seven figures. It all depends on your arrangements with the advertisers.

Often you can negotiate higher commissions if you are able to deliver predictable lead volumes on a monthly basis.

What kind of budget does it take to compete in this niche?
Mid six figures to start seeing the results. Sometimes more. For example, in mesothelioma lead gen niche, you’ll be competing against the established websites that are, in most cases, backed/owned by large healthcare corporations with almost unlimited resources and budgets.

So money isn’t everything, you need to have proven and scalable processes, otherwise, your competition might simply outspend you.

How big of a team (if any) do you need to tackle this niche?
Based on our experience, an effective team for the project is anywhere between 20 to 50 people, but it all boils down to how good your standard operating procedures are as well as organizational culture and management efficiency.

Quantity doesn’t necessarily translate into quality, but if you’re trying to outrank a website with 15k ref domains, you just can’t avoid paying link builders/content creators/managers/ etc.

Is there a specific content plan you’d recommend?
Here’s something that worked for us, and can help you get returns on your investment quicker: prioritize lower competition keywords at the beginning. Most of the companies are competing for “money keywords”, and it will take you some time to rank for them.

Our strategy is to start building links and get as much traffic as possible to the “informational” pages (example “mesothelioma life expectancy” vs “mesothelioma lawyer”) and conducting in-depth CRO to capitalize on the keyword groups that are often overlooked.

What kind of backlinks would you recommend for this niche?
1. “Non-profit” outreach (resource page links) Example – create a page about lung cancer in the military and reach out to all military-related websites asking them to help raise awareness and link to your article. This is a surprisingly good source of links if done right.
2. PBNs work pretty well
3. Regular guest posting / outreach
4. Forums/Comments/Social Signals to make your link profile look as natural as possible

Is negative SEO prevalent in this niche?  What kinds?  How do you deal with it?
Yes, link-based negative SEO is very prevalent. Our strategy is to maintain our link inventory and assess each link we get.

Any parting words for those considering getting into this niche?
You need to be very realistic about your budget and processes, there are some easier niches out there that can deliver results quicker and require smaller investments in both time and resources.

 

adult cover image

Adult – Adrian Borg, Aphex Media

How much monthly recurring revenue can someone expect to make, ranking in the top spots in this niche?
Some time ago I remember reading that over 30% of the global internet traffic is adult traffic.

Towards the end of 2018 we where approached by a group to develop, maintain and promote a tube network. My initial naive assumption was to compare these sheer volumes to the niches I was working mostly in (still am) back then which were gambling and payday and using a 1 to 1 comparison, horribly wrong.

The trickiest part in adult is probably not getting the users to the site but it`s the building up of the various funnels and monetization.

Since we are still relatively new I will share some figures which I have handy, an average 1-year-old tube site getting an average of 50k daily users through seo can generate anything between 2 and 10k through tier 2 countries.

A tier 1 tube site will expect the same amount of revenue with 25% of that if not less.

What kind of budget does it take to compete in this niche?
One of the challenges with adult sites is their huge amounts of content and pages these sites require.

Most of these pages are video pages, add to that all the tags and categories you end up with one big ball of unoptimized clutter. Getting your site set up for decent crawling and setting a basic onpage optimization process is one of the challenging parts I would say.

The industry is reliant heavily on links and a bit less reliant on your usual TFIDF/content optimization.

Page speed and bounce rates have a higher impact.

When it comes to link building one of the main differences, we noticed was the lack of filtering with completely obscure or unrelated links showing a positive impact. This has allowed us to be more aggressive and more links to more silos and subcategories.

A monthly budget of 3k for link building plus 2 seos should get a tier 2(non-English) site in a good place. For tier 1 countries you would require at least to double all your efforts and be more patient.

How big of a team (if any) do you need to tackle this niche?
The minimum amount of people I would suggest to manage a small network would be 2, this excludes any product facing tasks.

Is there a specific content plan you’d recommend?
This is probably the only thing that works in a similar way to other niches. The only difference is that you need to include a system for removed pages (videos in this case).

Funneling users through blog posts works well and is less of a headache however the real volumes lie within the video categories and pages.

Niche it down, Niche it down, Niche it down!

Nothing new here aim for the stars but start with your neighborhood. Find 15 to 20 clusters and build content towards them. Focus your efforts and resources within those clusters, your user dwell time will improve and Google will also reward you for it.

What kind of backlinks would you recommend for this niche?
Once a site is sitting on a growth path you can rely more on general seo metrics and a less (in comparison to other niches) to topical relevancy.

Since it’s a volumes game and you are covering a wide array of pages you probably won’t be building many tier 2 links. We use a mix of niche edits, Pbns and 3 way linking.

Is negative SEO prevalent in this niche?  What kinds?  How do you deal with it?
So far our biggest headache was more related to DDoS and maybe a bit less on negative seo.

Keep your homepage ratios vs rest of site in check and redirect any non-image links (deleted videos) to the homepage. Referencing my previous comment (most links will work) there is very little you can do to directly hurt your site in terms of link building and Google will fix the rest for you.

For image links load all through a CDN and do not redirect images to the page if you want to segregate image span which is rife through crawler bots. Invest in a solid server and CDN and ensure your passwords and plugins are constantly updated as that is one area you will be tested thoroughly.

Any parting words for those considering getting into this niche?
Before you get too excited and saying yes to an adult project take a breather to avoid waffling it up down the line.

Make sure to have your staff in place. Finding decent staff willing to work in the niche has been challenging for obvious reasons.

Niching it down to macro topics and build up towards your targets. Parallel traffic is vital, this will not only increase your crawl budget but will also spare you a lot of headaches with setting up enough signals.

If this is your first time getting into adult, avoid English Serps. I hope this was of use to some of you and if you have any questions feel free to message me directly on facebook or through my email at adrian@aphexmedia.com. Lastly thanks so much for this opportunity Matt Diggity.

 

dating

Dating – Victor Karpenko, SEO Profy

How much monthly recurring revenue can someone expect to make, ranking in the top spots in this niche?
5-500k/month

What kind of budget does it take to compete in this niche?
Depends, from 1k/month to a lot.

How big of a team (if any) do you need to tackle this niche?
In the beginning 1-3 people, when projects grow, 10+

Is there a specific content plan you’d recommend?
Research first and according to your resources, then plan what to do.

What kind of backlinks would you recommend for this niche?
Different, from outreach and PBN to all others you can place on trusted web sites.

Is negative SEO prevalent in this niche? What kinds? How do you deal with it?
Yes, in this niche it can be a pain in the ass. Disavow often, and sometimes you need to fight back with your competitors.

Any parting words for those considering getting into this niche?
It’s not going to be super fast, if you are ready to strive long run, it’s possible to get good results.

 

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Weight Loss – Matt Diggity, Leadspring

How much monthly recurring revenue can someone expect to make, ranking in the top spots in this niche?
$200k-500k+ per month

What kind of budget does it take to compete in this niche?
Depends on the timing. For example, if you catch a fad weight loss pill right when it gets popular, you can rank for pretty cheap with an EMD.

I’ve gotten to #1 multiple times with under a $10k budget. But if you’re going the long play and trying to rank for ‘best weight loss pills”, you’re going to need a larger budget, of course. Mid 5-figures for sure.

How big of a team (if any) do you need to tackle this niche?
You can pull it off with a boutique level affiliate team: 2-4 people.

Is there a specific content plan you’d recommend?
It’s all about keeping the correct balance between the amount of money (commercial) content on your site vs supporting (informational).

Too much commercial content and you’ll lose your trust. Too much informational content and you’ll get theme’d as a resource site and will have trouble ranking for commercial (review) keywords.

Finding that sweet spot requires tracking and testing.  This applies to all niches.

What kind of backlinks would you recommend for this niche?
If you’re going the EMD route, then definitely PBNs.

That’s what everyone else does, so it’s a race to see who has better PBNs and more of them. For the long play, outreach (guest posts and resource outreach) and PBNs for sniping target anchor text and tier 2.

Is negative SEO prevalent in this niche?  What kinds?  How do you deal with it?
Absolutely. I don’t even want to shed light on some of the techniques I often see.

But one that often comes up is stealing content. People will watch your RSS feeds to see if you post something new, steal it, then index it before you… You need to be quick on this.

Any parting words for those considering getting into this niche?
If you can get ranking, it’s a fun niche to be in.

Weight loss is one of those timeless niches that will be important to people, even in the middle of a financial recession.

Make sure to keep up on the new diets and products that are always coming out.