You've made up your mind and want to start a VPN affiliate website to earn some extra cash.
Good for you!
But make no mistake about it: it's not easy. However, it can be very satisfying and rewarding.
If you haven't already, check out our Quick Start Guide to get an overview of the entire process. If you have, then read on about how to plan your VPN website.
First Steps (the “Chicken and Egg” Problem)
Should you have some content first or should you go straight to setting up your website?
In my opinion and experience, you should at least have a handful of key posts ready (including at least one so-called cornerstone post) before you start forging ahead with your blog’s technical side.
For this reason, most people should first check out my Writing VPN Content and Publishing VPN Blog Posts materials and then the Setting Up Your VPN Website materials. If your own situation justifies reversing that order, that's OK too.
You should also consider signing up for a few VPN affiliate programs. In most cases, the signup process is automatic and you will not first have to demonstrate to the VPN partner that you have an existing site. This way, you can get your affiliate links early on and incorporate them right away onto your content materials.
Choosing a Specific Topic for Your VPN Blog
In an ideal world you would blog about something related to VPN services that:
- you know a lot about
- has a lot of demand and
- has little to no competition
However, that ideal combination rarely exists.
VPN topics in big demand also usually mean there is already some stiff competition.
But the good news is that you don't need hundreds of thousands of visitors to make $1,000 to $5,000 a month from your VPN website. There are plenty of niches and even sub-niches you can carve out your own little space and make some money in the process.
Write What You Know or Care About
As mentioned, subjects you know a lot about when it comes to VPNs may not have a lot of potential profit-making demand (but you’d be surprised!).
While it is true that subjects with a lot of demand may already have a lot of competition, that doesn’t automatically translate into there being no opportunity for you.
The main topic of my website is VPN reviews. If you type “VPN reviews” in your favorite search engine, you’ll see just how competitive and crowded the field is!
But I was able to carve out enough space for myself to generate about $1k per month within the first 6 months and about $4k per month within 2 years. These days, the monthly figure is even higher.
In my case, I turned a fiercely competitive field into a success story for my site. Sometimes even in a very competitive field there are enough visitors to go around, especially if you can exploit a niche within it.
OK, I’ll admit that I was also very lucky. My timing was good as the demand for VPNs really took off after the revelations of Edward Snowden. But that said, the demand for VPN services keeps growing and will be worth $35.7 billion by 2022.
Write What People Want to Know About (and Will Act On)
Even if you are not an “expert” in a particular VPN topic, you could learn to be and become one.
But here’s a secret: the fact is, you don't need to be an expert. You just need to be ”better” than some of the existing VPN websites covering the same topic. This does not always mean knowing the topic better. It can simply mean being able to explain it better or more clearly or with humour or from a different angle.
However, it is usually best to pursue a topic and approach that fits your interests and personality. If you don’t know anything about how to use a VPN with Kodi, don't write about it. Or, if you are not funny, don’t try to be. 🙂
In my case, my approach was to be a lot less “hard sell” than my competitors. My posts explain things to readers in detail but also in an accessible way which seemed to win readers’ trust compared to my competitors who were ramming Buy this VPN Now! messages down their visitors’ throats.
Don't Take on the Big Players
But pick a niche. Don't try to cover everything VPN-related.
Otherwise you will be competing with the likes of BestVPN (now ProPrivacy), vpnMentor and dozens of additional big players. Good luck competing with them!
As a solopreneur, don't even try to take them head on.
VPN Niche Ideas
Need an idea for a VPN website? Here are some:
- Sports event streaming, either country- or sport-specific
- Country/region specific guide(s) (for example, Africa and South America are woefully underserved markets when it comes to VPN guides and information)
- Unblocking content such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer or their equivalents in other countries/regions and/or languages
- Price shifting with a VPN (save money by buying stuff in other virtual locations)
- Identity theft prevention with a VPN
- Language-specific VPN guides
- Gaming VPN guides
- Gambling VPN guides
- XXX VPN guides
- and many more!
Researching the Potential Interest in your VPN Topic(s)
Whatever topic(s) you are intending to blog about, a little research is in order.
Your research should inform you about the potential of your topic, how to plan your site as well as the overall level of competition.
1) Google Around
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential visitor to your site.
- What words or phrases would you search?
- Which sites come up?
- How would you rate the quality of the results?
- Could you do it better or make your materials stand out from the competition?
2) Check Google’s Suggested ‘Related Searches’
When doing the searches above, scroll to the bottom of the Google search engine results page (called SERP for short) and copy paste the "related searches" into an empty document. In fact, save this document as it may come in handy later.
Then use these related search terms to perform further Google searches. After a few rounds of this you should be quite informed about the landscape of your topic and will have learned about its sub-topics.
3) Research your Competitors and Keep Notes
If certain websites keep coming up in these results, make a note of them too. These are your competitors.
As you discover more sites you consider the competition (or even just sites to learn from), take note of them with your impressions, and save it as a living document. I recommend you call it Competitor Analysis.
Scroll a little further down in the Alexa results and you will see that it lists similar sites under the heading, ‘Similar Websites by Audience Overlap’. This is a neat feature which lets you find other competitors you may not even have been aware of.
For even more sources of information like this, you can use Google’s search for related sites parameter. As per Google’s help pages,
Put "related:" in front of a web address you already know.
For example, related:vpnmentor.com
Google’s Similar Pages extension for the Chrome web browser can also help you find websites with content similar to yours.
How to Find Even More Competitors
You may think you know who your competitors are but best to always be on your guard. Plus, you may unearth some you were not aware of.
Go to Alexa's Find Similar Sites Tool, https://www.alexa.com/find-similar-sites, and enter your website.
Alexa will present a list of websites along with an 'overlap score'. Open a new tab and check these websites to see if they actually compete for the same audience as you. For those that do, add them to your Competitor Analysis research.
Next, use the same Alexa tool to find sites similar to those sites. After all, competitors of your competitors are probably competing with you too. Add any relevant discoveries to your Competitor Analysis research.
Then periodically keep an eye on these websites. See my other techniques about how to find out what keywords are driving traffic to these sites and try to divert some of those visitors to your site with my cherry-picking technique. 🙂
4) Google Trends
You always see Google Trends recommended for research but I think this is a bit overblown (and this is why I list it last here).
For example, there's a certain subtopic on my site which does pretty well. According to Google Trends, the interest in this topic peaked more than 10 years ago. Anyone researching this topic in Google Trends would assume it’s not a worthwhile topic to blog about. Yet, this topic earns me a tidy sum per month on average.
In fact, tools like Google Trends can be counter-productive because if you focus only on the “big topics” or those going “viral” you will be competing head-to-head with much bigger players.
Always keep in mind that we are small (yet nimble): therefore, it’s all about the niches for VPN bloggers like us.
Staying on Top of New Developments in the VPN Industry
One constant you will see on this site is that I don't believe it is necessary to churn out posts daily. If you can, great, but it’s simply not possible for time-starved, solopreneur VPN bloggers.
However, something you can do daily is read some news items, skim through a newsletter or pursue some other time-productive way to keep up with your website’s topic.
As you see elements of interest (e.g., items to share on social media or inspiration for future posts) you can make a quick note of it on your To Do Lists or Content Pipeline or save and tag the entire piece in archiving software such as Evern. ote
Here are some good ways to stay up to speed in your topic.
Use Google News Alerts
Ever done a search in Google News about your topic? Sure you have. If not, you should.
In the displayed results you’ll see the prompt, “Stay up to date on results for …” (see screenshot).
Select Create alert, choose your preferences and you will automatically start to receive press clippings about your topic directly to your Inbox.
It is an easy thing to skim these Google News Alerts, click on those of interest and then take whatever follow-up action may be appropriate.
For example, in two clicks you could share the story on your Facebook page, post it as a comment to one of your blog posts to keep it fresh and get a nice SEO boost, or capture it as a source of research for a future post.
Subscribe to Competitor Websites
I shouldn't have to tell you to keep an eye on the websites of your competitors, no matter how big or small they may be. I’ve already recommended you keep track of some basic information on your competitors, such as their Alexa rank and their top-ranking keywords.
If a competitor’s website has a newsletter you can subscribe to, sign up to receive updates.
For the subscription, consider using a forwarding email service rather than your primary email address. It’s probably best that your competitors don't realize you are keeping tabs on them. This could just draw their attention and, if they are much bigger players, they could turn their sights on you, target your top posts and attempt to wrestle away some of your traffic. Plus, using an email forwarding service is a good way to keep your email address out of spam databases.
Subscribe to Related Feeds
Like Google News Alerts, a number of News Feed services exist. Usually through an app, they deliver news items or blog posts on topics you select much like receiving emails in an Inbox.
Regularly Update Your Competitor Analysis Research
Early in your preparations, I have already recommended that you note down the sites you come across in your research that strike you as your potential competitors and to keep this information in Google Docs or Google Sheets and keep track over time of their Alexa ranking and top 5 keywords (the ones you can see for free on Alexa).
This is a good way of following competitive trends and developments. If a competitor website’s top keywords are attracting visitors, that’s something you want to know.
Why, you wonder?
Competitors with an Alexa rank similar to yours represent an excellent cherry-picking opportunity. Writing posts using the keywords of competitors that are ranked about the same as your website can be an effective way to redirect some of their traffic to your site.
But don’t be tempted to take on the big boys (or girls).
Treat your growth strategy like a marathon. Keep your eye on those just ahead of you and try to make gains. Once you pass them, then concentrate on the next one and keep making progress in this way.
Planning the Structure of your Website
It is deceptive to think the structure of your website will be rather straightforward and easy.
Without proper advance thought, the structure will come about in an organic or even random way. This usually won’t be optimal.
Aim for a structure that is straightforward and that will help you write the materials in the first place. In fact, it’s great to start with an outline of your website and then use the top level headings as your likely menu items.
Go back to the initial research you did for your topic. For example, your structure can be well informed from the structure of your competitor’s sites should also be studied carefully.
Then think about how your materials would be organized in a book. Each chapter or part could be a main menu item. Each section or sub-section should contain a key post (sometimes called cornerstone content).
A common site structure you see for VPN sites is something like this:
- VPN How-to Guides
- How to Use a VPN for Topic A
- Best VPNs for Topic B
- What’s the Safest VPN for Topic C
- VPN Reviews
- Review of VPN #1
- Review of VPN #2
- Review of VPN #3
- VPN Comparisons
- VPN #1 vs VPN #2
- VPN #1 vs VPN #3
- VPN #2 vs VPN #3
- VPN Coupon
- Coupon Code for VPN#1
- Coupon Code for VPN#2
- Coupon Code for VPN#3
- VPN News
- VPN Blog
Make use of the Outline feature in Word, PowerPoint, Google Docs or your favourite Mind Mapping tool to brainstorm the structure of your site until you are happy with it.
Spend some time on your site structure because it will have a big impact on your site going forward. If you get the structure “wrong” or even if it’s “off” it can be a real pain to fix in the future.
Nothing earth shattering here: just pay attention to structure early. Plan, think, revisit and then revise your plans before you start implementing menus.
Think About How You Will “Monetize” your VPN Website
Blogging about VPNs and getting visitors is great but you want to make money doing it! Therefore, you have to do all of your planning, research and strategy with this in mind.
Always ask, "OK, how would I make money from this topic?"
Keep notes of your ideas about the potential sources of income from your topic in general and from the individual posts you plan to write and publish.
Examining the websites of your competitors will also provide clues about possible sources of income. Ask yourself, “What products or services are they recommending and why?”
VPN websites make money by belonging to affiliate programs. These programs pay you a commission when you refer a visitor though your website to the VPN website and the visitor signs up for a VPN subscription. You get paid for referring the visitor that turned into a paying customer of that VPN.
Top Tip - Once you are ready to start researching potential VPN affiliate programs to sign up with, see our detailed Tips on Dealing with VPN Affiliate Programs.
VPN Affiliate Marketing the Easy Way?
If you just want to concentrate on writing (maybe especially at the start), you could use a free service like these that do all the affiliate “stuff” automatically and in the background.
Essentially, you install a plugin on your website and the service scans the content of your posts and adds affiliate links to appropriate products, brand names and keywords that it finds.
How easy is that?
But many affiliates – myself included – prefer to maintain control of which affiliate links to use and where to place them in content.
Then again, who knows? Maybe I would have made more money to date by using one of these services.
What about Running Ads on My Site? (Google Ad Sense)
Many would-be bloggers get the idea that they can make money from visitors clicking on ads on their website, Google AdSense being the most well-known ad serving platform. Well …
Once you realize that you would need 400,000 pageviews a month on your website to generate something in the order of $250 per month in Google AdSense revenue, you quickly see the challenges of that business model.
Unless you are getting paid for direct product placements on your website, affiliate income is usually the only realistic way to go.
The more you prepare now, the better your VPN website will be.
As keen as you may be to get started, it is important to plan, sleep on things and further revise your plans. And repeat.
If you get fundamental things wrong, like your VPN topic niche or website structure, these things will be painful to correct months down the road.
Planning all done?
set up your vpn website