Many of you who have been following along with my early retirement journey know that I bought an affiliate website nearly two years ago.
The entire point of the website was to bring in some additional cash flow to help me manage our cash better so that we didn’t have to draw down our investments in the critical sequence of return risk years.
On top of that, I also believed that a Website investment (though clearly more of an active activity) would yield a far greater 5-year return than any piece of real estate.
I knew full well what I was getting into…but even so, it has been far more stressful and tiring than I ever could have imagined.
Let The Roller Coaster Ride Begin
Just two months into owning the site, a Google Product Review Update was rolled out that started the game of whack-a-mole that Google and many have been playing for the past two years.
Thankfully, with plenty of hard work and a strategy change, I was able to recover the website and get it growing again.
But then again, yet another hit came with another Google Product Review update in August of 2022.
I wrote about the disappointment, but also how I found some positives in it.
These were the things I thought about at that moment.
Thankfully, that update was largely rolled back, and the site began humming again by October.
In fact, thanks to my strategy changes and the impact of new content on the website, it was beginning to grow and show some real gains!
The first four months of 2023, were going great!
Revenue was up big year-over-year, and I began to build a content system with ClickUp (BTW, I highly recommend this product, and have no affiliation).
So anyway, things were clicking on all cylinders. I was able to spend more time on new revenue-generating activities, going on day hikes, snowboarding for the first time in years, you name it.
It was great, the way early retirement should be.
But then revenue then began to edge down ever so slightly year-over-year.
It was hard to tell where exactly the bleeding was coming from.
By all measures, the website was growing, the content was better, we were ranking for more keywords, and systems were in place to make it easier to manage.
Yet, the growth stagnated.
And as it turns out, our competitors had overtaken us on our key terms.
So I began to re-strategize, and I analyzed what the competition was doing better.
I noticed some seemingly minor things that they were doing better at.
Mostly it was strategy. Our competitors had focused on one or two very specific topics within the niche itself.
By mid-summer, I made a shift and finally started to see some gains again.
But I’d made up my mind.
Even before this most recent Helpful Content Update, that has now obliterated the internet as we know it.
I can no longer in good conscience recommend investing, buying, or even owning an affiliate/niche website.
They just aren’t worth it!
It’s like a game of hot potato, where ALL the players end up with potatoes.
Top 6 Reasons Why Owning an Affiliate or Niche Site No Longer Makes Sense
1. There Are Too Many Frequent Google Algorithm Updates
Google’s algorithm updates are rolling out faster than websites can adapt to them.
This is the issue that I ran into.
By the time I went back and fixed everything that needed fixing, a new update was out that required a different and/or new fix.
2. AI Content is Soooo Easy to Make
AI content is becoming easier than ever to make, meaning long-tail content is now a commodity.
In fact, I heavily use ChatGPT to brainstorm, write titles, meta, and other ideation tasks that I then edit to my liking and publish.
And there are already many, many SEOs who are creating AI-only sites to build-to-sell.
3. Google’s New Search Generative Experience Might Well Replace ALL Search
Google is already rolling out its new “Search Generative Experience” – using AI capabilities to help you browse for information online.
Imagine not having to do a Google search at all, but being able to simply chat back and forth until you find the information you need.
It is real, and it is here!
If users like it and use it, I can imagine a world in which there is no more Google search, and therefore there are no more affiliate or niche websites.
Websites as we know it may not even be needed at all.
4. Authenticity is All That Matters Now
No matter how smart you are, or how good you are at producing great content, authenticity is the only thing that matters now.
- Have you been using and recommending these products for years?
- Can you test and review things yourself in a more thorough manner than the competition?
- Can you add new information to the topic that has not already been covered 5 times over?
The winners going forward will be the people who walk the talk.
These are travel bloggers who live in their location and that is all they blog about.
Or it might be a site like this one, where you have an actual early retiree talking about being retired.
If you can’t be authentic, you’re site is dead in the water.
5. It Takes Far, Far, Too Much Time
The bottom line is that running an affiliate website is a full-time job – it’s not an investment.
There is no way to farm it out or do it passively.
Maybe in the past you could, but you can no longer do it without putting in the work.
Sure, you could hire someone else to run it, but then your profits dry up completely, and given the volatility, you may not even be able to do that.
In the past year, I’ve worked on my affiliate website for 702 total hours. That is 33.8% of a normal job! Assuming I’ve tracked my time correctly.
Yet, this site, which I’ve spent significantly less time on, grows.
6. You Take on Too Much Stress
Finally, running an affiliate website like this is taking on too much unnecessary stress.
Even if I had tripled my investment and, therefore secured my retirement I still would probably not say it has been worth it stress-wise.
It’s been on my mind too much. I’m drained. Some days, I have decision fatigue.
Owning a website is just not worth the hype.
I know I have been someone who has hyped it, but no longer!
Right now, I still own my affiliate website.
But I can no longer in good conscience recommend it to anyone else.
My goal right now is to see how the holiday season and Q4 play out, and then put up the site for sale in January.
Even if I sell the site for a loss, I’ll make the most of it, take all of my learnings, and apply them to this site.
This is a site that I am very passionate about, and can be authentic with.
This is a site that is not reliant on Google, nor on any product reviews.
This is a site that I enjoy writing on and exploring how to make the most of this wild world.
This site is where it is at!
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