Using The Affiliate Business Model for Local Businesses

A Special Article: affiliate business model for local businesses

[Guide + Case Study] Using The Affiliate Business Model for Local Businesses
What's up guys! This week I decided to start a new business. It's very similar to what everyone else is doing here, but with a unique twist.

First, here's a little background on me. I started building affiliate sites about three years ago, and this has been my only job for about a year. I've got one site making about $7k a month, and a couple new sites that are still waiting to break out of the sandbox. So I'll be putting a little work into growing these sites, but in the meantime I want to launch something new.

My next project is building a regional lead generation website. To explain how this works, let's pretend that I was going into the pizza delivery niche. I'll start by coming up with a somewhat generic name – let's call it "Toronto Pizza Delivery." The first step is to build a website for this business. It will be designed as if I owned my own pizza restaurant – not like the typical independant blog we do with affiliate. After a few months of marketing, the site should show up in a Google search for my keywords. Once I've got people calling me up to order pizzas, I'll approach local restaurants offering to send them all of my business for a fixed fee per call. With luck, it will be an easy sale. If a business owner could flip a switch and get an extra couple orders per day, why wouldn't they spend a few bucks per client?

Why I Want to Go Local:

with affiliate sites, my marketing plan has always been pretty simple. I look and see what the competition is doing to rank, then I try to build something better. I'll write a more in-depth article, build a better back-link profile, and create a more engaging layout. But the affiliate space is pretty competitive. If I find a decent keyword that doesn't have any good affiliate sites ranking on the first page, my natural assumption is that the keyword is shit.

With regional keywords, there is WAY less competition. I've seen construction companies with millions of dollars in billings that are still using < year >-era websites. When doing niche research, I reviewed the websites of about 130 different businesses. Only half of them had a website that I'd describe as passable. Less than 30% had put any visible effort into online marketing, with Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising being the most common option.

For me, a good online marketing campaign includes a properly optimized website, decent conversion rate optimization, and link building. And I only found about 15 companies that met those criteria. So if this is the standard, I should have no problem ranking at all.

Of course, the landscape is different in major urban centers. I'm looking at cities that have a population of 50-250k. But I want to start small and expand upwards.

Choosing a Niche & Doing Keyword Research

This was the hardest part. For starters, I needed a product that's fairly generic. So pizza wouldn't actually work as a niche because people are going to want to see photos, and maybe a menu. If they ended up receiving dominoes when they thought they were getting something local, they might feel like they were misled. I also thought about doing legal services or counselling, but I figured that there could be privacy issues with those industries since I'm essentially a middleman that would be privy to customers requests.

Eventually, I settled on something in the professional home services niche. Think cleaners, window washers, roofers. That sort of thing. The best part about this niche is that it's something you can find in every single city around the country. It's a professional service that requires both certification and specialized equipment. I believe that consumers will be indifferent to the brand of the company, and more concerned about the quality & speed of the work. This is also a product where the service provider comes to you, so I don't have to worry about what address I use on my website.

I usually use Ahrefs for keyword research, but that doesn't work for regional terms. Fortunately, I have and adwords account from another project so I used their keyword planner to figure out volume. The only pain with adwords is that they won't show you actual search volume unless you have active ads running. So if you want to try this yourself, just start a new campaign for a couple bucks a day. After your ads get a few clicks, you'll be able to see exact search volumes in the keyword planner.

I restricted the region to the specific cities I wanted to target, and just ran through a bunch of niches until I found the one I wanted. Then I made a spreadsheet with the keywords and their search volume. Luckily, there is one specific term that has most volume, so the site will be built around that. For the 20 or so other keywords that get between 10 and 50 searches per month, I'll just try and shove those into the content where appropriate.

In total, there are 10 total cities I'll be targeting with a total of 500k population. There is also a handful of small municipalities within the area. I'm hoping that by targeting the larger centers I'll also pop up in these locations, but if not I can always add them later. In total, my keywords have about 10k per month in search volume, so I think that 3k a month in traffic is easily attainable. With affiliate, this isn't really enough traffic to make anything significant. But I've built websites for local businesses before that have 30 to 40% conversion rate from unique visitor to lead. So at $10 a call, I think there is huge potential here.

Site Structure & Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

I'm going to create three main sections on the site: the homepage, locations, and services.

The homepage isn't designed to make money – the main objective here is to build a brand identity and give my company a professional appearance. The main focus is going to be the "locations" tier on my site. Under this category, I'll have 10 different pages each of which target the main "{city} Pizza Delivery" keywords. These are going to be the main landing pages, so they'll have a huge phone and a nice big form visitors can fill out – all above the fold. All of the written content below the fold has two goals: improve onpage optimization, and provide the key information that visitors might want before they make a purchasing decision.

The services page will stand on it's own. It will provide more detailed information than what you can find on the locations page. The main goal here is to improve the sites conversion rate by handling objections. Basically, I don't expect anyone to land on this page. But they can be referred over from the location pages if they need more information before buying. I may also throw in a couple longtail keywords that don't have enough regional traffic to justify placement on a location page.

Finally, I'll have a few basic pages in the footer for the sake of completion: about us, privacy policy, terms of service, and contact us.

Outside of the website itself, there is one other key asset I need to develop: a set of Google My Business profiles. Many local keywords have a large map that ranks above the organic results, and they only way to get my site in these results is to have a Google My Biz (GMB). I'll have to build one for each location, and there is an entirely different set of rules for optimizing your GMB. So I'll have to do that in addition to the usual SEO stuff.


Generally, I just use WordPress to build sites. But I bought this SEO course a while back, and one of the coaches just launched a beta of a new lead-gen platform. It looks pretty slick, and honestly is one of the main reasons I decided to try out this business model. Although the design is a little more limited than WordPress, it allows you to throw sites up very quickly. Since this is a local industry, I think that even a somewhat generic site will work fine. But the main reason I'm excited to test this platform out is the fact that it has a whole client dashboard built into it. I can create a login for the companies I affiliate with, and they can see a list and hear a recording of every single lead I send them. They can reject low quality leads, and I can integrate it with stripe to handle all of my billing. I'll give you guys more information about it once I've had a chance to actually use it, and once it's open to the public.

I need a local address for each of my GMB profiles. For the large cities, I'm using a virtual office service at a cost of about $25 per month. In smaller towns, I've got craigslist ads up hoping to find somebody that will let me use their address for a fee.

I also need local phone numbers for each location. For this I'll be using sonetel. The numbers are cheap, they've got lots of locations, and it's easy to forward calls to whoever I choose. They've also got some PBX features that let me play recordings before the call is connected – this is key as I I have to notify people in order to record the call.

Lastly, I'm going to use Fiverr to get a slick looking logo.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

For the website itself, the onpage is going to be pretty similar to what you'd do with an affiliate site. Proper title tags, keyword in the heading, and partial-match longtails in the content. But with local, I'm also going to need to put my address on the bottom of every page and embed a map.

The GMB profiles also need to be optimized a certain way, but I haven't worked this out yet so I'll have to revisit this as I go.

Links are going to be much less complicated than affiliate sites. The first thing I'll build is the core social media profiles: Facebook, twitter, Instagram, gravatar, etc. These will point to the home page. I'll also want to create something the industry refers to as "citations." This seems to be mostly business directories like yelp. The citations are location specific, so I'll have to build a set for every single city I target and point the links at both the Google My Biz (GMB) and the location page. Initially, I'm going to keep this as simple as possible. All of it will be done manually. Once I've got these core links up, I'll start going through all of my competitors sites and duplicating any decent links I find in their profile.

If I need more links in the future, I'll build them in this order: Citations > Extra social profiles (knowem) > Private Blog Networks (PBN)s. I don't think I'll need any PBNs, but I might throw a couple up to snipe any keywords I'm having trouble ranking. For the Google My Biz (GMB), I may need to build links that include an embedded map. I will likely use a press release for that.

Short & Long Term Goals

Initially, this will just be an experiment. I'll focus on a few key cities and try to rank those. Once I've got the traffic, I'll have to do some outreach to see if any local businesses want to sign up to buy my leads. I'll probably provide the leads free of charge for the first little while just to work out any kinks in the system before I fully launch.

If this model proves to be successful, I'll start outsourcing the link building and focus on ranking all 10 regional cities. Then in the long term, I may repeat this process and launch new websites in different regions of the country.

Finally, my ultra-long term goal / pipe dream is to sell the whole business. Right now there are very few major players in this industry. Outside of major cities, it's usually only small regional companies that offer this service. If I eventually own sites that cover the entire province / country, I could offer the business to a large provide who wants to expand his service area. They'd be able to open up a location in every city and start making money from day one, so I figure it could be worth quite a bit. Unfortunately the cost to do so would probably be excessive, so who knows if this is even remotely realistic.


Really, this is just a huge experiment. I'm sure that I'll learn some tough lessons and have to adjust my strategy as I go. If you guys are interested in hearing what happens, let me know and I'll make this a monthly case study. If anyone else has run this kind of business before, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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