PICTURED: Amazon offices. Sadly the location is unknown for this purchased stock photo. Emoji Alien may be photoshopped.
In an analysis of 10,000 search results populated by sites promoting products as an affiliate, the youngest ranking domain was just 31 days old.
Three brands control 40 of the top 100 domains overall, and the fifth most popular domain extension was .co, just ahead of .io and .digital.
This is just a teaser for what we really wanted to see: Are ‘general’ sites like Forbes completely taking over, or do single-niche affiliate sites still rank well?
We first performed this analysis for 1,000 keyphrases back in 2019, quickly becoming one of our most popular blog posts ever.
We analysed search results again in March and May of 2021, but this time for 10,000 keyphrases. The insights became a semi-viral Twitter thread (400+ likes), but we never published a full analysis as ~100 keyphrases weren’t up to our standards.
Now in February of 2023 we’re back with a brand new report and more insights than we’ve ever shared before.
Now where’s that confetti?
It’s easy to put the phrase ‘best 2023’ into your favourite keyword research tool and export the results, but they aren’t always going to return queries where product affiliates are present.
Highly-searched phrases like ‘best careers for 2023’ or ‘best medicare plans 2023’ wouldn’t fit the bill.
For that reason, we had to hand-pick the 10,000 different queries and verify some results were focused on recommending the physical products of others, primarily through affiliate links.
Our finalised list of keyphrases included the likes of:
…and literally 9,995 more.
We didn’t just focus on the tech space but also on beauty, automotive, kids, home and so on.
We required that each keyphrase had at least 400 searches per month in the US, according to Ahrefs.
There’s a supplemental Google Doc to go with this report which goes into more detail on the keywords we chose (and those we ignored) for our findings.
Of the top 100 domains ranked by how many search results they appeared in, 95 of them were part of news organisations, public companies or large site networks.
After checking multiple times to verify, we concluded that just 5 of the top 100 websites overall were independent brands.
If I had to relax my definition of a large site network I could increase that number to 10 independent brands ranking, but that would be five new additions which are still part of successful networks and not the owners’ only site.
IAC’s DotdashMeredith had 16 websites in the top 100. Hearst and Future both had 12.
That’s 40 of the top 100 ranking domains owned by just three different companies. And they have many more just outside of the top 100 as well.
Below you can see those 40 sites. You probably recognise a few of them…
Note: HGTV is technically owned by Warner Bros Discovery, but they have a deal with Hearst to produce a magazine together. On the Hearst website they link to HGTV’s product review area as if it’s their own content. I don’t know the financial arrangement here so you could remove this and say Hearst “only” have 11 sites ranking in the top 100 domains, rather than 12.
For many search results, independent affiliates are nowhere to be found:
The above screenshot is heavily modified in the sense that I removed Ads, the People Also Ask feature, and the Popular Products feature, but I did not change any organic listings or their order.
It might look even worse if I added the Vox Media (NY Mag) and Condé Nast (Glamour) logos, but nothing is worse than me revealing my search history there.
As I discussed in my 16 companies dominating Google article, I have no problem with what these big brands are doing in terms of having multiple sites targeting the same terms. I also don’t think sites shouldn’t rank just because they’re part of a network.
Brands like Elle and Cosmopolitan are probably what people curious about bikini trimmers are looking for.
I think Google still have a lot of improvements to make in these SERPs, but for now I just wanted to give you an idea of the current situation.
I’m working on the 2023 update to that article – it has taken months of work so far – so please subscribe to our newsletter (free) at the end of this post if you don’t want to miss it. I’m planning to launch it in the next few weeks.
The ten individual domains that appeared most often in the 10,000 search results (in order) were:
It looks like the NYTimes’ acquisition of Wirecutter for $30M back in 2016 has paid off massively. It may also be the case that outside of public companies, Forbes.com is the most successful domain on the English-speaking web promoting products as an affiliate.
Forbes had first-page rankings for 2,047 of the 10,000 keyphrases we analysed. 259 of which were first-place rankings.
The top 100 domains in our analysis – ranked by how many search results they appeared in – took 7,079 first-place rankings.
That’s 1.1% of the sites, with 70% of the first-place rankings.
The rate drops massively from there, with the next 900 domains only taking up the next ~20% of first-place rankings.
Note: We’re talking about the first organic ranking that appears, which includes Featured Snippets if they were present.
Across the top 500 domains ranked by how many search results they appeared in, 190 were independent brands not connected to any kind of larger network (Future, Red Ventures, Hearst, etc.).
After removing those that were primarily eCommerce stores, news sites or service businesses, we were left with 157 content-focused sites where some articles (often a large %) have a clear goal of making product sales as an affiliate.
Verifying this was a lot of manual work, though it helps that tracking site networks and gaining insights without “outing” anyone is pretty much the promise of our homepage.
141 of these independent affiliate sites receive more than 100,000 visitors per month from Google, according to estimates from Ahrefs.
47 independent affiliates receive more than 1 million visitors per month from search.
Across the 157 content-focused sites, from the top 500 domains we found, the average number of visitors each received from Google was around 1.3M per month. The median traffic was 427,000 visitors per month (meaning half receive more visitors than that, and half receive fewer).
Just two independent websites passed the 10 million visitors per month from Google mark. I say ‘just’, but I know that’s a ton of traffic.
I don’t think it’s fair to talk about every independent website because I have an SEO-focused audience who are going to want to compete with them.
I say this fully aware you can know how successful a brand is and have an insanely hard time outranking them. It’s no secret how successful NerdWallet are and it’s all on the table now that they’re a public company, but I wouldn’t dream of targeting most of their top terms.
That said, as we get further down the rankings there are definitely some independent sites you could compete with. Not all of them have what could be defined as ‘strong’ domains, and many would surprise you with how well they’re ranking.
Two sites I will mention are Gear Patrol and MindBodyGreen.
Both were one of only 5 independent sites in the top 100 overall, and the reason I’m choosing to mention them is because they’ve publicly talked about their success in the past.
Gear Patrol founder Eric Yang has done interviews with the likes of Digiday and similarly, MindBodyGreen founder Jason Wachbo has done several interviews about his site.
Gear Patrol primarily reviews products like backpacks, watches and motorcycle boots. MindBodyGreen primarily reviews shoes for different occasions, supplements and anything more health-focused.
I’m not going to break down their link building tactics and keyword focus any further than that, just to be respectful.
I should add that even Gear Patrol are not entirely independent, as Hearst purchased a minority stake in them in 2018. That’s how much of a hold just a few brands have on product-focused search results.
There seems to be a growing trend of “outing” websites on Twitter for likes & retweets but the truth is, 99 times out of 100 those websites would not want to be mentioned in the SEO world, let alone torn down in the way they are.
And the thread creators are well aware of this.
To reiterate what I said above, there are independent websites ranking well that would make you very confident you could compete with them. I don’t think it’s my place – at least in the context of this article – to mention those cases.
I contacted six websites asking if they’re OK with me mentioning them here, promising I wouldn’t publicly analyse their backlinks, top rankings, or similar. I received three Yes’, two No’s, and one didn’t respond.
Here’s an email from one independent webmaster in the top 500:
And here’s another:
Just to make something clear: I am not perfect here. I’ve mentioned sites in the past that are doing well with SEO that might not have wanted the world to know (especially in front of an SEO-focused audience).
Still, as I’m producing more content here this year than I ever have, I want to up my game when it comes to being respectful.
I’m not going to derail this report but wanted to explain why I’m not just listing out all of the top affiliate sites here. I’m working on some personal guidelines I’ll put up on our behind the scenes section, but let’s get back to the topic at hand.
You already know what a site that has affiliate recommendations on it looks like, but it’s nice to highlight some independent examples from our own research, so thanks to the three sites below for allowing me to share them.
LivingCozy is focused on helping you discover the best home and furniture brands, ran by someone I consider a friend, Ash Read.
The site was founded after Ash moved house in 2019 and struggled to find furniture to match his tastes in the absolute sea of options online.
Those in the internet marketing world may recognise him as the previous head of content at Buffer.
Being a barbecue fanatic himself, SmokedBBQSource founder Joe Clements created the website to document his journey learning more about grilling and smoking meat.
SBS is primarily a blog-style website, but having their own online store and dedicated YouTube channel shows they’re smart about diversifying their focus (and it’s a passionate subject for them).
I’m not just saying this because Retro Dodo’s founder gave me permission to talk about the site, but it’s the kind of website I would want to rank if I had a search engine.
Founder Brandon Saltalamacchia is clearly all-in on the topic of retro handheld gaming. They’ve even published a physical book on the topic, and are working on another.
(And We Manually Categorised Every Single One)
For the 2023 version of this analysis we found 8,833 individual domains ranking.
That’s down from 11,042 domains ranking in March of 2021, and 10,955 domains ranking in May of 2021.
That’s a 19.3% decrease in the number of individual sites across all top 10 search results.
It’s important to note that we didn’t check the exact same keywords as in 2021, but we did check the same number of search results.
These results also contained 4,985 domains we’ve never seen (or categorised) before. That was more than double what we expected.
We analysed the 10,000 search results over 48 hours, from the 13th of January to the 15th of January, 2023. Crucially, we took our SERP snapshot after December’s helpful content and link spam updates had finished rolling out.
This could probably be improved in future updates, but our categorisation was as follows:
Something I should be honest about upfront is that our definitions will never be perfect.
In some cases we had to make a tough call.
For example, a large section of NYMag is entirely product-focused whereas the rest of the website covers news. A similar comment could be made about Business Insider.
We defined them as news sites since that’s what they produce the most of and what they’re known for, though I accept not everyone would agree.
The primary focus of our analysis was on general review sites vs. niche affiliate sites vs. hyperniche affiliate sites, so let’s define those in a little more detail.
A general reviews site is a site focused on reviewing products but covers a broad range of niches from fashion and beauty to kitchen and car products. BestProducts would be a great example.
A niche site is a site that covers a lot of products in a particular space (such as automotive) but not only one specific item, like tires. TechRadar would be a good example in the tech space.
A hyperniche site covers a tighter scope of products, so they might only review running shoes, or might only review power washers or chainsaws, with few exceptions.
Sometimes it was tough to define a site but as we were looking for insights for ourselves, we made sure we were at least consistent.
Let’s start with how many times each type of site was present in the first 10 results of an affiliate-populated SERP.
The winner was clearly niche sites, with niche news sites not too far behind.
Note: Some site types had numbers too low to show on the graph above, but were present in at least one SERP, such as App Store results, PDFs and Job boards.
One clear change we’ve noticed in 2023 is that sites which primarily monetise with product reviews are now far more prone to supplementing their websites with news updates and informative guides than they were with our first report in 2019.
Four years ago it was much easier to quickly say, “This is a site built to make money as an affiliate”. Nowadays that intent may still be the case, but you might not see a single product review on a sites’ homepage to help you come to that conclusion.
In other words, categorisation is far harder than before, so while we have done our best to be accurate, I can’t claim we are perfect here.
One nice surprise was to see niche news sites doing so well. Active news sites do tend to pick up a lot of links naturally which doesn’t hurt.
💡 Let me clearly explain niche news, just so there’s no confusion here.
One site we found ranking covers football news (I’m English so it’s illegal to type soccer). Multiple times per day they share transfer updates, commentary about upcoming fixtures and interviews with players.
On occasion they also happen to review things like the best football boots for kids of certain ages.
It’s not technically right to call them a product review site because that’s less than 1% of the content they’re producing.
Lots of niche news sites review products as an additional revenue stream and sometimes they rank really well.
Since only around ten sites we categorised as niche news are focused on a very specific topic (e.g. hyperniche) you could combine all ‘niche news’ stats with ‘niche affiliate’ if you really wanted to.
We’ve seen how present each site type is, but who actually ranks well?
Here’s the numbers for first-place organic rankings by site-type. Note that this also includes featured snippets if one is present (which they were for 13% of queries).
Niche news sites might be present in more search results than hyperniche sites, but hyperniche sites took more first-place rankings.
Non-Amazon eCommerce sites appeared in fewer search results than Amazon but took more first place rankings than them.
Featured snippets were present in 1,356 of our 10,000 search results pages, so let’s break those down separately. Who is actually doing well taking one of these coveted search features?
Once again, despite being present in fewer search results than niche news sites, hyperniche sites were more likely to take the featured snippet.
Does it mean if you want to stand the best chance of ranking with an affiliate site, you should build a niche-focused or hyperniche-focused brand?
There’s a lot more to succeeding online than just the niche that you choose.
That said, our admittedly simplistic viewpoint does suggest having some kind of niche element to your affiliate review website will help you rank more often, and higher, than a general review site or general news site.
Even more so when you consider that theoretically, general review sites had a higher chance of appearing in our tests as they cover a broader variety of search terms, though there are very likely fewer of them across the web as a whole.
Some people reading this might even be tempted to start a news site, but news sites are historically one of the toughest spaces to make consistent profits. Deciding to start a news site to rank for product reviews down the line is definitely getting your priorities wrong.
Create a news site because you’re deeply passionate about covering news in your industry and could see yourself doing it many years from now.
I know it’s boring to read but passion, consistency and budget are far more important no matter which approach you take.
As I said back in our 2019 report, consider this analysis as a mission of professional curiosity, rather than a recommended direction you should follow.
Finally, keep in mind that a large part of doing this analysis is so we can monitor Google algorithm updates going forward and whether certain site types win out at scale.
If Google makes another product review focused update (which they likely will) we have a great base now to make comparisons.
In our analysis which brought back 8,883 individual websites, at least 450 of them (5%) were less than two years old.
I say at least because our count is solely based on domains that were registered for the first time in the last two years, and domains that were dropped and then reregistered.
This means that we miss sites where someone had been sitting on a domain for a while and only just recently built out a site on it.
In other words, it’s fair to say that more than 450 sites were under two years old in terms of how long they’ve been actively worked on.
The youngest ranking domain overall was just 31 days old.
It might seem inspiring that you can rank a website a month after registering the domain, but can you pick up any kind of decent traction?
That 31-day-old domain currently receives an estimated 13,800 visitors per month from Google, according to Ahrefs.
Across every domain that ranked on the first page of a search result, our analysis found exactly 100 domains that were registered in the past year.
Out of those, the highest-trafficked site reached 842,000 monthly visitors, with the average count at 26,428 monthly visitors.
These numbers are all estimates provided by Ahrefs (homepage link).
Let’s chart the traffic for all one hundred domains (pretty amazing it was exactly one hundred) registered in the past 12 months.
The vast majority of newly registered domains reach fewer than 50,000 visitors per month, even when they rank on the first page for at least one term. Some sites receive so little traffic that you can’t even see their lines at the start of the chart (I promise they’re being counted).
There are some really impressive figures towards the right, but…
How does a 31-day-old website pass 10,000+ monthly visitors from Google?
You take another website that’s ranking and / or has links and redirect it there.
The site getting 842,000 monthly visitors from Google in less than a year? That’s also the product of redirects.
Instead, here are the top 10 domains and the niche they’re in – registered in the past year – that (from what I can tell) did not rely on any kind of redirect to get their results.
These numbers aren’t that impressive for the best of the best new sites…
…and I’m about to make them look even worse.
The number one site on this list is part of a very successful, very established brand. After a quick analysis it appears they took years of offline content and put it all on their website at once — it’s pretty odd as there’s no hint of Ahrefs stats or Archive.org saves until 2022, but they have content tagged as much older than that.
They also have established connections with some of the biggest names in their industry (think: A music blogger getting to interview Beyonce and the links that might pick up) which makes their success insanely hard to replicate.
The second site on the list is primarily targeting French speakers, with France being where the majority of their traffic is coming from, and site #9 is primarily written in Spanish and appears to be using scraped content from other sites.
While there will be some new sites doing well that I wasn’t able to identify (because they weren’t using a brand new or dropped domain), it looks like it’s incredibly rare to receive a lot of traffic in product search results quickly.
Literally the best example I could find after looking at ten thousand search results, where I think you have a chance of replicating their same less-than-a-year success, gets 53,000 visitors per month from Google.
It’s a respectable and even impressive number based on their competitors, but I think this is less than what most people would assume is possible.
Of course, I hope this doesn’t deter anyone from starting a site that reviews products or services. You can still rank for some terms quickly — I just wouldn’t quit your job expecting to see huge numbers in your first year.
This SEO thing takes time.
Around 48 hours after we collected data from search results, one website received a nice domain upgrade.
AllAboutCats.com became Cats.com.
I couldn’t find anyone reporting this – nor any kind of press release – but as far as I can tell the website has the same owner; just a nicer domain.
Founder Doron Woffberg has been on domaining podcasts and shared website acquisition case studies in the past so he’s no stranger to sharing his internet marketing success.
I had nothing more to add than saying I thought this was pretty cool.
Good luck with the rebrand, Doron. As someone who likes keyword .com’s (many of you know we also run Gaps.com which is currently being redesigned), I’m pretty jealous.
If you’re subscribed to the Detailed newsletter (homepage link) you’ll know that one affiliate site I enjoy watching is Reviewed.com.
They’re owned by a public company (Gannett) and have a few quirky elements about their design that I refer to as ‘Superpixels’.
As we were putting together this article I noticed that they’ve now redirected their entire domain to a subdomain on USAToday.
The subdomain vs subfolder debate is one of the most discussed topics in SEO, but more often than not you’ll see a traffic increase from moving content from a subdomain to a subdirectory.
It’s interesting that they’ve basically done the opposite.
(There are lots of variables here, so please don’t just take the above sentence as something you should do, or have to do, yourself.)
I would love to know their internal motivations for making a move like this. A subfolder on USAToday would have made a bit more sense, but this feels odd.
And it’s not like they’re trying to free up the Reviewed domain (surely?) because they’re going to be relying on the redirect for all those links it has.
Purchased back in 2016 for $30M, it took a few years before they moved the Wirecutter website to a subfolder at nytimes.com/wirecutter/.
As the New York Times are a public company I often read their earnings reports, and they just said something pretty interesting about Wirecutter.
Our fourth quarter results also underscore the power and benefit of having diverse sources of revenue even beyond subscriptions and advertising, as we enjoyed a record quarter for affiliate revenue to Wirecutter, driven by a highly successful holiday shopping season.
This is literally a quote from now (February of 2023).
They mentioned it being part of their ‘Other revenue’ which came out to be $72M, but unfortunately didn’t say how much of that was from Wirecutter.
Launched by Verizon in February of 2020, In the Know primarily covers entertainment trends and beauty product updates, but they also have pages covering things like the most affordable knife sets on Amazon (pictured below).
Just a few months after its launch, Verizon seemingly sold the site along with Yahoo and AOL to Apollo Global Management.
As you can see from the logo, they make no secret that this is a Yahoo property.
It’s not prolific in terms of ranking for review terms, as Ahrefs reports they “only” rank for 2,384 keywords with ‘review’ in them (in the US 🇺🇸).
Still, a lot of their product recommendation pieces don’t tend to use review keywords in them, as you can see from the headline in the screenshot above.
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that all of the sites we analysed were pointing their affiliate links to Amazon, but the vast majority of them certainly were.
Amazon, as you may know, actually “competes” with their affiliates, as they have their own guides and category pages on what the best products of a particular type are.
Because of that, we thought it would be insightful to see how well Amazon saturate product review search results.
Here’s the chart that could have been a sentence but I appreciate skim readers being here as well.
In 10,000 individual keyphrases analysed, Amazon ranked on the first page of search results for 3,146 (31.4%) of them.
I don’t know about you, but that number is higher than I expected.
Though they might not be as dominant as they first appear. Out of those 3,146 first-page rankings, Amazon achieved:
In other words, when Amazon was present on the first page of rankings, it secured a number one ranking just 3% of the time.
It secured a number two ranking 5.6% of the time, and a third place ranking 7.7% of the time.
Those numbers drop to 0.95%, 1.78% and 2.43% respectively when you ignore whether Amazon was present or not.
As we plan to monitor the same keyphrases going forward, Amazon’s growth or decline in these search results should be one of the most interesting things to keep track of.
Domain Rating, an Ahrefs metric, is essentially their own scoring of the quality of backlinks to a website on a scale of 0-100.
Out of the 500 domains which appeared in the most search results, the average Domain Rating (DR) was 78.
For some context, eCommerce giant Amazon has a DR of 96 and some SEO blog you may know called Detailed has a DR of 71.
We can chart DR and a website’s place in our top 500 rankings but it’s really not the best chart to make. After all, we’re ranking domains by how many search results they appeared in, and some websites might have simply covered more topics than other sites so they appear higher, but have “weaker” domains.
Just keep that in mind before reading too much into the following graph:
What I was more curious about is whether there were any domains that Ahrefs class as low quality (or, at least, give a low Domain Rating) but still rank well and get a lot of search traffic.
The lowest-rated domain in our top 500 domains overall has a DR of just 20. Ahrefs estimates it reaches 105,000 people each month from search.
They primarily review a particular type of PC hardware and it looks like a great resource with real people behind it, but that’s all I’ll say here (there’s an additional report coming mentioned at the end of this article).
Of the 42 sites which had a Domain Rating of 50 or less, the one with the most traffic is estimated to reach 1.9 million (!) people from Google each month.
It’s in the fitness niche, but I don’t think it’s fair to mention the URL.
There were more sites in the 81-90 DR range than any other ‘block of 10’ results. Meaning, more 81-90 DR sites than 71-80 or even 61-70 DR sites.
It shouldn’t be surprising but – at least according to Ahrefs metrics – the vast majority of affiliate sites ranking well have backlink profiles they rate highly.
Referring Domains refers to how many individual websites currently link to one of our top 500 domains. Referring Domains is not an Ahrefs metric, but we are using Ahrefs to determine the count.
The site with the most referring domains was YouTube, with over 7 million.
Once again I can chart Referring Domains compared to a websites’ position in our top 500 domains but it’s not the smartest comparison to make. As we’re ranking sites by how many search results they appeared in, some sites cover more topics than others so it’s not a fair analysis.
Note that YouTube was removed to give more granular detail to sites lower on the chart.
The real reason I actually wanted to check this was to see if any low authority domains stood out.
The site with the least referring domains has links from 717 sites and a DR of 33. Ahrefs estimates it currently picks up around 176,000 visitors per month from Google.
It’s a site in the BBQ niche.
Just four websites had fewer than 1,000 other websites currently linking to them.
It should be no surprise that internal pages are far more likely to rank than a homepage for a popular keyphrase.
After all, a website can have an unlimited number of internal pages, but only one homepage.
Still, I thought it would be fascinating to look at homepages as a whole, to see if anything stood out.
Overall, a homepage ranked on the first page of Google in 303 individual SERPs (3% of the total).
A homepage ranked first 31 times, second 26 times and third 23 times.
Overall, for the most part, it looks like it makes more sense to try to optimise an individual page to rank for a specific keyphrase, rather than your homepage.
As someone who has owned more domain names than I would like to admit, I couldn’t look at this data without being curious about which extensions were the most common.
Here’s the numbers:
Other extensions we came across, ranked by their number of placements, include:
I can keep going but the entire list is enormous. There were 31 extensions alone which had just one listing (.ninja, .store, .studio, etc.).
Our research found just 24 exact match domains ranking across 10,000 search results for 2023.
An exact match domain would be something like BestBudgetMicrowave.com or FastestExternalSSD.net (we allowed for any domain extension).
When we ran the numbers way back in 2019, looking at just 1,000 search results, only 4 exact match domains were ranking.
So the number of search results has increased by 10X, but the number of exact match domains only increased by 6X.
These numbers are far too small to say anything conclusive, but I still thought it was interesting.
Exact match domains took the number one spot in just 12 of 10,000 search results. They ranked 2nd once, and 3rd three times.
In my opinion, only a single one of the 24 exact match domains ranking is brandable. Maybe four if I’m pushing it (they were pretty short).
The rest just sound spammy and look like they were chosen in the hope of getting some nicely targeted anchor text backlinks.
If you read the Detailed newsletter then you’ll know that I’m putting my all into content here for 2023. This year we’ve already gone live with a $3.8M affiliate success story, a list of the world’s most successful blogs and a huge (100+ hours) update to our guide to the SEO industry and how much money companies are making.
I like to think this report was the best update from us yet, and I hope you agree, but there is lots more on the way.
I’ve been writing about SEO for over 17 years now and I couldn’t do that if I didn’t love this topic. If I can financially support this free research with more insights on a private offering then I get to help people who are just getting started and those who already have a website and want to take things to the next level.
With that said, members of SEO Blueprint (literally the only thing I sell on this website) are going to get an exclusive report based on more insights I had from the independent affiliate sites ranking well.
I’m not going to “out” any of the sites but I don’t need to. I’m 20+ hours into the report and some of the things I’ve found have never been shared elsewhere (at least to my knowledge).
It’s also set up so that I can update it every year with what’s working right now. We’ve been adding to SEO Blueprint for over 3 years now, and every member gets free updates for life.
There’s a waiting list on that link so there’s nothing you can buy right now. This is just a heads-up.
Alright, there’s my pitch over with. ✓
If you’re not already on the Detailed newsletter (there are two opt-in forms below) then it would be great to have you. I respond to every message and only send emails when I have something worth emailing you about.
Thank you so much for being here. I really hope you got a lot of value out of this.
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When I first launched this analysis back in 2019 I never thought I would back here in 2023 with an update 10x bigger.
I know change is constant in the world of SEO but I’ve wanted to do this new analysis for a really long time so I’m super happy to finally share it with the world.
Thank you for being here!
P.S. We’re going to have some more insights exclusive for SEO Blueprint members (that’s a waiting list link with nothing you can buy) in a couple of weeks.
Thank you for posting this, Glen. You’re one of the only SEOs still publishing unique, actionable industry info. This one is gold, thank you so much for sharing it.
Great to see you here, TJ.
Thanks for the kind words!
I have gotten serious data from you in this post alone Glen. Thanks a lot for this detailed and advance post content, i really appreciate
Tremendous article. Thanks for putting so much effort into this, I have skimmed it and will probably read fully over a few sessions
Thanks a lot Ronnie!
This is a brilliant stuff. Thanks a lot for the insights.
I wonder how many of you guys have worked to come up with this absolutely stunning stats.
Keep up the great work and keep inspiring.
Three of us in total, Vikram. It was a big job.
Appreciate the comment!
So good, Glen…I really appreciate the data-driven approach, which cuts through the noise so commonly found in anecdotal posts on other sites…looking forward to more in 2020!
Oh that’s a brilliant effort Glen!
I am actually bookmarking this page and it will be exciting to see how each update is shifting the sections you covered. Better if you can add sections post each update based on your tracking system.
Also, I understand that the 1000 key-phrases were a mixed bag. Can you also just pick Health & Finance keywords(from the 1000s) and share if EAT is really playing the roll.
Overall, Fantastic Article
I’m not really sure how I would be able to say anything about E-A-T to be honest, but I do like the idea of honing in on specific niches next.
Thanks for stopping by!
I am one of the people that is still sat on the sidelines when it comes to affiliates and I am super keen to get into it. It was helpful to see the data on how niche to go and I am now not going to go super niche.
I particularly found this part interesting! > “is not something I’m sure I should talk about in the open” Oh man sounds like an absolute gem of a find!
Glad you found this useful!
Just keep my caveats in mind: What you’re interested in covering is probably far more important than how much of it you cover 🙂
Appreciate the comment
Thanks Glen, always share interesting data. Your websites are an inspiration to me, I hope to meet you personally in the future. Have a great day.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Giovanni.
Have a good one!
Incredible work, Glen and team. I thought it would be a much more depressing situation for smaller sites — glad to see they can still compete.
I’m super interested to see future updates to get a sense of trend lines!
Yep, I think the next few graphs should be pretty cool.
Appreciate the RT, sir!
Well done your article. In your opinion, we all got to learn something or something. Give us some help too.
Any chance you looked into the newer sites to see what kind of link building they did to see this success? Blog comments, SEO Autopilot, GSA, etc?
You can get a pretty good idea of what is going on, yeah. Especially on really young sites.
I don’t think I want to be the person to share that though. Check out the link to the keyword research article.
You can do it for free and find some really, really interesting stuff.
Thanks for putting so much time, I would keep all these stats in my mind while creating my next affiliate site.
Also, it would be great if you can do such posts more often. Thanks
I’ve not been following SEO as much recently and from the outside now assumed that it was all gone to pot. But looks like there are opportunities still out there for anyone to get going (not that you should just have an SEO centric marketing plan). Excellent read.
Another next level post, because of your strong data analysis, keep sharing
Thanks a lot Rahul!
Loved this, Glen! Thanks for always killing it with the analytical approach to answering these types of questions. Really interesting to see your results with the partial match domain name correlation too 🙏
Great to see you here, Ryan (and thanks a lot for the RT as well)!
Amazing job, Glen! Looking forward to the 10x!
Would love to get your thoughts on Honey and the effect of affiliate driven extensions on this space also.
Will be interesting to see how the distribution and major media presence changes over time in transactional SERP’s.
Starting to see affiliate subfolders popping up on tons of big finance sites as well (forbes.com, fool.com, CNBC.com, ect). Seems like a no brainer for all existing high DA properties to do this as there’s little downside or risk of penalty if the content remains topically relevant.
Maybe an opportunity to JV with existing players and work on a rev share (seeing BestReviews.guide, ConumersAdvocate.org, ConsumerAffairs.com already doing this)
Still a lot of opportunity out there for the little guy, but the arbitrage is definitely beginning to close.
I have been making notes for an extension-focused article for Gaps, but wasn’t going to really cover the affiliate side of things.
Will see if I can throw that in.
I think you know more about this space than anyone 🙂
Excellent study Man! Busted so many myths, cleared so many questions..
Thanks a TON!
You’re very welcome, Hamza.
Appreciate the comment!
Awesome stuff. A much needed study!
Amazing insights, great to see niche sites doing well.
You hinted at it, but I don’t see any commentary on the Nov 2019 update with your takeaways of what elements may have been factors in the winners/losers of that update?
That report was just for members of SEO Blueprint (won’t link here as the program isn’t open again yet and I don’t want to do a pitch in the comments here) and a few people who submitted their sites for an analysis.
I’m really proud of the document we put together but in all honesty there are no real secrets in there that I’m holding back.
Wow. Great work, Glen. Thank you for sharing this information.
Hey Glen, great article.
You have me on the edge of my seat now pondering on this statement: “It’s a bit like talking about PBNs before PBNs were popular.”
Hmm part of me wish you had shared what exactly they did and then the other part thinking then whatever it is, it would stop working after you share it. lol
I actually edited it out just before publishing. A few other SEOs have blogged about it already. Welcome to email me if you like 🙂
Awesome Glen, I just did 🙂
That statement got me thinking too. Nice article Glen. Can I send an email too? 😁
I really don’t want it to turn into some big thing, so I would prefer to just leave it in all honesty.
Awesome stuff, it will be interesting to see the numbers change going forward to see if niche sites really are being phased out or not.
Incredible work, love this article and your effort. Learned a lot and cleared so many question.
Thanks Glen for sharing.
Thank you both!
Great read Glen! I was surprised that micro-niche sites still performed as well as they did..it has felt in recent years that big publisher with endless domain authority were completely dominating SERPs. This gives me hope. Viva le resistance!
Curious, did you see many “parasite” pages pop up when processing your data? Only reason I ask is I feel like I still see them pretty regularly, and you had that cryptic “The final reason a number of URLs no longer exist – though the website that was hosting them still does – is not something I’m sure I should talk about in the open.”
I know those types of pages do tend to have pretty short lifespans, but can burn quite bright while alive..
Appreciate the comment.
In all honesty, while I didn’t look at every URL myself, I can’t say I recall seeing that to be honest, no.
Will definitely look for it in the next check!
As soon as I saw this link going around on the Affiliate groups I’m in on Facebook, I knew there had to be some good insights on here.
This is really good information Glen. Out of curiosity, did you find or were able to pick something off affiliate sites built on expired domains, I have a couple planned and I’d like to know if there are some data on it.
Solid stuff man,
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Nice to hear it’s being shared on FB.
Thanks for this Glen. This gives some hope to smaller sites and those looking to enter the affiliate game like me!
Also re-reading that comment about the interesting link building tactic you noticed…Totally need to learn more!
Haha, cheers Ahmed!
Interesting stuff Glen —
Not sure if you’re able to get your hands on any historical data (pre/post update) but it would be interesting to see the shift in terms of whether or not niche/hyperniche sites lost ground to generic review/news publishers. (Or we can reference this particular study later to see, if in fact, that’s legitimately happening. Especially with the emergence of affiliate subfolders like Chris was talking about).
Also interesting to see how zero-click features/featured snippets are so widely prominent on high-volume queries. (i.e. FS and Also Asked on 83 and 81% of queries respectively.) That’s…astonishing.
Great data here, and a great read. I’m a big fan of niche and hyper niche blogs. I’d say that my main site is niche.
But, I’m curious how you classified all these blogs termed “lifestyle” blogs. Blog that may cover 5 or more topics. Topics which in my mind are not related (e.g. food, budget, travel, mom life, organization, etc.). They are not general review sites.
How did you classify those? Or did you not analyze them. I’m curious because it may imply that it seems to be more challenging for these blogs to do well on SEO and I’m wondering about affiliate marketing (and yes, I get that the two may go hand in hand).
Thanks for the kind words!
If you want to email me a specific site, I’m happy to tell you how we would have classified it.
Very likely they were put in the ‘niche’ section, but that wouldn’t apply to all of them.
I did dream of having some kind of crowd-sourced defining – “Help us define these sites and you get the data before anyone else” – but not sure how well that would work.
Okay glenn, as you have the URLs and all the data of 1k+ sites; can we request you to update this post with some other closely related data like Average Lengths (no. of words) of top performing articles, whether any external link (outgoing) exists or not, whether internal linking exists or not or what about their on page….optimized or not?
Thats too much to ask…but Thank you for your data Glenn. Its awesome. 🙂
It’s pretty easy to do, but the numbers would be super inaccurate. They take into account sidebars, footers, headers and all that jazz. I just didn’t want to be so “wrong” with the numbers.
Awesome stuff. so many questions are clear now. Thanks
Thanks Glen for posting a really great post like this one. From your article I can now confirm that my affiliate team is doing the right thing that matched with your data.
It’s a right article in the right time for us.
Amazing💕😍 article, enjoyed ❤ reading 🙂 Even I have seen this site many times in serp but read any article carefully today I came across to this website when kulwant nagi shares to his Facebook 😛📖 Group 👥.
Amazing Stuff..! Thanks for sharing this great piece of information. It’s really very useful for one who is doing Amazon affiliate marketing. Let me share this epic 👍😻👍 content 😊
This was really an insightful post, Glen! Would love to see its Next edition with a larger data set.
Already on it!
Really Awesome article, I did learn new something. Thanks for share this valuable article.
It was an amazing article Glen. Now so many of questions are being answered by you in this article. Thank you for providing such a fantastic information.
Thanks a lot Ramesh!
You are a champion. Really an eye opener for me!
Learn something new every time, no matter how long you’ve been in the business.
Just a heads up but I actually found this comment in spam.
Might want to shoot Akismet an email to get whitelisted.
This is a great Article.
I don’t need to Procrastinate again I wanted to start Affiliate site since last year and I don’t even now what is stopping me.
I will need to act on it now.
Thanks for this Glen
Thanks for the really interesting analysis and insight Glen. One limitation to the results – it could be that there is just way more niche sites out there making content about these affiliate keywords than there are hyperniche and general review sites. And if this is the case you would expect to see more niche sites taking the top spot and top 3 positions as a result – it doesn’t necessarily mean that the niche sites are inherently better at ranking.
I’m not sure how to get around this limitation, without undertaking some further analysis into how much content there is as a whole being created by the different site types – perhaps looking at the top 100 results to get a rough % of how much content is being created by the different site types and using this to weight the results. But this would be alot of effort!
Sure, that’s possible. I did alude to that earlier
There are definitely many other factors you would have to keep in mind, such as the size of the websites, their overall domain authority, links to individual pages, whether they covered a specific topic
Though I think I’m right in saying that general review sites should also stand a chance of ranking for more terms since we didn’t just cover one niche.
I tried to show coverage by showing the SERP-presence reports (so general sites were actually in more SERPs than hyperniche sites) but I appreciate your way of looking at it 🙂
Great article Glen. Could you give me some pointers to do this for a particular country, let’s say the Netherlands? I’d love to run such a big exploration in SEO data. And if you need any help with yours, let me know!
Happy to help if I can. Maybe we could do it together?
The challenge for another language is basically: Picking the right phrases and properly defining what a site is about.
I’ve not been following SEO as much recently and from the outside now assumed that it was all gone to pot. But looks like there are opportunities still out there for anyone to get going (not that you should just have an SEO centric marketing plan). Excellent read.
Great to see you here. It has been a while.
I have just started new affiliate site….this well researched post will surely help me to understand many new things. Thanks a lot for sharing such valuable information.
Good luck with the site, Hardip.
Thanks for the comment!
Thanks for sharing such great information. I just started first affiliate website and started posting content. Hope your information will help me in my domain.
Best of luck Mariya 🙂
Great analysis and write-up, Glen. Always enjoyable to read your work.
I’ve run some similar but off-the-record analysis myself, but segregated by niche. Would love to see a niche-split in future analysis, especially for YMYL niches.
Would also be interested in reading about which affiliate programs the ranking pages are promoting.
Final thought: I’d imagine most news sites get a good chunk of affiliate article traffic through non-organic search channels, so they’re not suffering by ranking lower on average than niche/hyperniche sites. They have to appeal to a wider audience by default, so they can never target the long-tail demand niche sites can.
A nice surprise to see you here.
“Would love to see a niche-split in future analysis, especially for YMYL niches.”
You’re not the only one who suggested that – and I had been thinking it – so I’ll see what I can do.
Appreciate the comment!
Thanks Glenn for the usual but unique content
For the record. By the end of this year, there will be my case study based on this write up.
Looking forward to it!
Great insights as always. Quick question though – is there any reason you don’t add ToC to your posts? I find it really helpful as I often bookmark your articles as there’s always something I’d like to come back to and it would make it a lot easier to get where I’d like to be 🙂
Or is there some benefit SEO-wise to not having it? Curious!
Definitely not an SEO-thing. Just me not really thinking to add it (though I did to a private report recently, so should probably repeat that).
Appreciate the suggestion!
Thank you Glen! Great info!
I just had a chance to read this. Awesome breakdown, Glen!
Your findings about niche sites reminds me of About.com. As a “general” site, they got hammered by various updates (like Panda and Penguin). Once they split their sites up into more focused brands, traffic went up.
I wasn’t surprised to see Amazon rank for so many product-related terms. But I WAS surprised to see Amazon ranking for “best X” keywords. Yes, they have insane domain authority. But it’s not that great of a search intent match (at least to me).
So yeah, good stuff as always man!
Super cool to see you here. Appreciate you taking the time out!
Nowaday they are creating best X kind of pages. So that might be a reason?
I am sure I’m over-generalizing but I had one mentor tell me the way of making any significant money on specialized niche websites is over. Amazon, Google and Facebook are where everything and everyone will go.
Does it seem that this study props up the use of niche sites and the income they might bring in still a viable business? Dependent on a lot but still not impossible?
It is awesome!thanks.
Glen, thanks for another excellent post. Why did you stop writing on Viperchill?
Bit of a long story, but felt like I was covering too many topics (SEO, blogging, PPC, niche ideas) and wasn’t really known for any, so split things up between Detailed and Gaps 🙂
Wow – this is a great read – lot of gold in this article.
I’m curious if you analyzed the word count for the top sites? Would love to see the correlation with site’s age, content, and word count.
Thanks for putting this together.
It’s really easy to do, but it’s also really inaccurate. Even with quite a few filters in place I would be pulling back word counts which aren’t just from the article.
Awesome break down Glen and your U/I U/X on your blog and sites make it so much easier to read, dissect and understand. Love the colors/fonts you use. Niche sites beating everything else seems like relevancy is more important than authority in most cases even with sites that are less than a year old as you showed ranking and links/referring domains in most cases not mattering by the amount just the quality/relevancy of those links. The www vs non www is really interesting wondering if going www vs non www would give site a boost even in the local SEO space.
Having www in your URL should do absolutely nothing at all, but I was surprised by the numbers personally, yeah.
Thanks for the kind words about the design as well. Still a few improvements I need to make but I do spend a bit too much time on it ;).
Appreciate the comment TJ!
I will apply these methods to my affiliate site. Thanks for sharing detail researched guide.
This is what we call a… THE BEAST MODE GUIDE OF SEO !
omg lad, you always over delivery.
Haha, thanks man!
I like to think I know stuff about stuff, but I didn’t understand this paragraph:
“The final reason a number of URLs no longer exist – though the website that was hosting them still does – is not something I’m sure I should talk about in the open.
It’s a bit like talking about PBNs before PBNs were popular. That last sentence should be enough.”
You should be safe hiding the info in the comments 🙂
Oh man, I am getting battered by that sentence ;).
Basically the URLs no longer exist where they used to…and it involves link building. Welcome to email me if it’s killing you, but it’s not a big thing.
Great article, Glen! Thanks for sharing.
I am new to this so still learning. What I have seen recently is that big sites have started dominating my niche and the search localization is not really working as searching for best led tvs type queries in India have 4-5 URLs of US websites which is not relevant for Indian users.
One thing that would be interesting to see is how many indexed pages each position have. My feeling is under 50 is not present in top 3 and probably not many top 10.
Thank you for detailed information. I have followed your site to know new thing. Hope you will do it continuously and enlighten us.
Great read! It inspired me to keep focusing on my niche site. Sometimes I felt like what is the point when bigger authority sites will just rank higher than my web pages.
Hey Glen,I am in your Facebook group. I am a Chinese guy.
Can you imagine how haaaard for a Chinese guy to read this university paper?
Your English seems great, Jack, but I understand the struggle (I have to read a lot in another language also).
This is no doubt one of the best case studies Glen. It shows clearly that niche sites still have good chance to get ranked if done with proper SEO and Content strategy. Eagerly waiting for an updated case study of 10k keywords to get more brief ideas of this horizon.
Thanks for this Glen.
Hey Glen, great info as usual! As everybody would think, .com dominates!
Would it be possible to do this kind of research for local Seo sites?
Did you mean for domain extensions or overall?
Appreciate the comment!
I mean overall. Like, I guess the big brands could be home advisor type sites, angie’s list type sites and local company sites would be the niche sites.
Glen! The article is really awesome and Big Thanks for putting so much effort into this article and sharing with us great data.
Was really expecting this to be the end of niche sites and affiliate keyword ranking. Glad to hear it’s quite the opposite. Would really love to reverse engineer those young sites getting so much traffic. Traffic is always something I have struggled with. Perhaps this is the year to fix that too.
Thanks for this master piece Glen! Can i have the urls of 9,7 and 3 months old Ranking site? Just for research purposes :p
Either way, keep up the good work Glen!
That wouldn’t be fair to them, but I don’t think you were serious anyways 🙂
Really enjoyed reading this. Looking forward to the next test!
You are awesome man -as usual you have provided the secret things that enlighten us. Thanks
An absolute treat to read this one. What an effort by the team. Appreciate it, Glen. Thanks for your insight to help you out the Amazon Affiliate Game for this year. I was wondering how long it took to complete the whole process? Anyways looking forward to the next one 🙂
A few weeks overall, though part of that is because I kept coming back to our developer with new ideas of what I wanted to check 🙂
Thanks for this detailed analysis, Glen.
First time coming across your blog and I’m really impressed.
Keep up the good work, man!
Man you are a beast when it comes to SEO. Great work and amazing detail.
Glen, thank you for sharing.
Do you think niche and hyper niche sites are still winning after the January update?
I’ll be able to see pretty soon 🙂
Thank you sooooooo much for the great insights. I have been a fan of your thought-provoking writings ever since I discovered you.
Just a question. I own several Japan-related domains. I want to run an affiliate site for at least a couple of them. However, the problem is the products I want to make affiliate sites for all belong to the sites which are in Japanese ONLY. Even Amazon japan is in Japanese language. Any suggestions on how to sell Japanese products as an affiliate?
Thanks for the kind words!
Either get a translator or accept that you’ll be aiming to rank in the English-speaking portion of Google Japan (when people search with English keyphrases).
Glen, language is a non-issue for me. However, the problem I am having is that, although, Japan has so many amazing products to offer. But, my target customers (foreigners living out of Japan) can not buy them from Amazon japan due to the language issue.
Ah I understand.
Not sure what the best solution would be there to be honest, but you’re welcome to join us over here: https://facebook.com/groups/detailedcom/ and ask in the open 🙂
Great Work Glen Allsopp . The article was worth reading. Hatsoff to your efforts.
Hey really great post.
What I think is, the number of hyperniche sites might have been bit lower because of no sites.
I think there are not so many hyperniche sites for every keyword you might have tested.
What’s your take on this?
Thanks for this awesome post.
For me there were definitely a lot more hyperniche sites than I expected.
Thanks for the insights Glen, great work as always.
Hope you’re doing well!
Very impressive study. Many takeaway for me.
And good to see that there is some future for the hyper niche websites.
Awesome research. I found this so useful to verify that I’m not doing anything terribly wrong yet. It’ll be interesting to see how things changed after the January update.
Appreciate it, Ryan!
Worth a read! You cleared my some assumptions , and misconceptions.
Thanks for your hard work man! I just bookmarked the page and will sure help me to improve my and client sites as well.
Glad it helped you Emma 🙂
Awesome stuff Glen. Appreciate you & your team putting this together!
Much appreciated, Eddie!
So good that I’m gonna feel like a BOSS just by sharing it.
You are a beast! Cheers Miles
A lot of insights to learn from. Great great job
Much appreciated, Alvaro.
I hope you’re well!
You are the real hero on the SEO industry..
I have read all of your blog post..
This is really helpful post that will encourage many new blogger to start super-niche affiliate blog..and im also thinking to start one…
Thanks a lot Kamal!
Wow! This article will go straight to my kindle to be analyzed point by point 🙂
First time I’ve heard that, Eloy!
Super cool 🙂
Hey Glen, you know what? I actually wait for your posts, as they are so insightful.
This one is also pretty interesting, and I can relate to it as a lot of times I am also doing small studies but only in my brain lol 😀
So do you feel that these “General Sites” are or will get an unfair advantage because of the frequency of content being published, their vanity metrics such as DA, DR etc ?
Wow that’s a lot of effort there.
Awesome analysis as always Glen!
Wow, superb article on Affiliate marketing stats, would definitely gonna help me strategizing affiliate marketing 2020 strategy. Thank you for sharing.
Beyond helpful data. Thanks, Glen and team.
Glad to help, Jason!
Thanks for the outstanding article. It took four hours to complete the article reading. This analysis will definitely help my upcoming affiliate programs.
Now imagine how long it took to write it 😉
Haha, cheers Emma!
Good analysis, many thanks. A piece of good work!
You are a champion. Really an eye opener for me!Thank you for sharing so much information.
Thanks for the comment, Pau!
this is insane,,, just like the name of website… detailed…
i was amaze by your works bro…
this is nuts…. i will be nice if i share it with my community in indonesia
terrific brain food once again…
i felt alot went over my head, yet read your article with great interest and intrigue.
can’t wait till the day i use one of my 460 registered domains names ive collected over the last 20 years.. i too am slightly obseessed wih them.
much respect to you..
Hey Glen, what a post (in fact it’s a seminar) with tons of info.
I need to read the whole article at least another two times.
Not to mention that I was stuck for several minutes at the 7-month and 9-month websites results.
OMG! Reading this post is like reading a chapter of affiliate bible. Thank you! Do you think using a fresh brand new domain give more benefit than relevant aged domain even if the latter one has clean backlinks?
There’s no perfect answer to that I’m afraid, Lisa.
It’s definitely possible to use an aged domain and get no benefit from it though.
Great stuff! Thanks for sharing, Glen!
Thank you for an excellent article.
It would be interesting to deepen the analysis of the presence on the snakes of the generalist news sites and the durability of their positioning on the snakes. Indeed, the authority of the site seems to be a preponderant factor on their presence with regard to the internal network or the deepening of the treated subject.
Great, thanks for sharing us.
Great content. I am very interested to see how the Jan & Feb algo changes affected affiliate serps. Been seeing more big box stores going after these sort of keywords, so hoping that they don’t swallow too much of it up anytime soon. Thanks 🙂
Wow! Amazing work Glen! You give the affiliate model hope with your REAL stats – even as the big ‘branded’ mega-publishers continue to eat into traffic opportunities.
One question: Was there a link to your actual list of queries. I loved your examples, but was wondering if you are sharing more samples. Some of your phrases looked worthy of our own keyword research for our sites. Thanks again Glen
Unfortunately not, just to protect any sites that may have been mentioned above.
Glen Allsopp Greetings,
The post is really helpful and informative I enjoyed reading it and collected so much information from this post. Thank you for such a motivational post.
Miles Becker shared this in one of his emails and it surely you make him look good.
This is a gem of a post.
Very well done, and I ‘m starting yo think that maybe it could be a hood idea to start an affiliate site in spanish.
Glen in the last part of your article, URL features, are underscores the same as hyphens in your study? I am curious as to how hyphens did. Thanks
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