Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I am Pau and I am the guy behind Una Vida Online. I started this website in 2018 as a side gig to share my experience and knowledge in blogging and affiliate marketing, and since then it has grown to become a business that also employs a full-time assistant and many other freelancers who help me in content creation and customer service.
We have several products and services which all revolve around the main topic of the website. We started with an online course and a newsletter, and since then we have diversified to sell WordPress templates and plugins for affiliate marketers. We have recently launched a tokenized private community for people interested in generating income via blogging or affiliate marketing.
Something that makes me very proud is that many students are doing great with their websites and they have even been able to quit their full-time jobs.
Although managing all this means a lot of work, we are currently making about 18K per month with a good profit margin. Our revenue comes from selling online courses and WordPress themes/plugins, as well as community memberships.
Also, around 50% of our total revenue comes from our affiliate sites which are very well-positioned in the Spanish market. So we have created a 360º business around blogging and affiliate marketing!
This long journey has allowed us to become digital nomads. We have been traveling around the world for quite a long time (until the pandemic came), which was the reason why I started this project in the first place. Freedom is my main motivation.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started becoming interested in blogging and affiliate marketing around 2014 when I was employed in the marketing department of a pharmaceutical company. We were amidst an economic and financial crisis which had a big impact on my professional career, so as a result, I was underpaid and there weren’t any interesting job opportunities around.
I started looking for ways to make an extra income online. That is how I heard about affiliate marketing, which back then was not such a competitive market as it is today.
I also considered drop shipping, but affiliate marketing sounded much simpler, there was no initial investment required and I enjoyed writing, so I decided to give it a try.
I joined the Amazon Associates program and created a couple of affiliate websites. I also started a personal blog about social skills, habilidadsocial.com, which was one of my main areas of interest.
The beginnings were tough and I almost gave up. I could only work on my websites at night and I didn’t make any money in the first 8 months.
But one day, a friend called me because he had googled my main keyword and my website was appearing on the first page of Google. That was the spark I needed to continue, and two weeks later I earned my first commission. That was a moment I will remember forever!
After two years I was making more money with affiliate commissions than with my salary as a full-time employee, so I took the step to quit the job and focus entirely on my online projects.
My websites kept growing and I was starting to become a well-known affiliate marketer and blogger in the Spanish community, and I finally decided to create an online course to teach affiliate marketing.
There were already some online courses about affiliate marketing in Spanish but they were created by people who weren't being successful with that system, so I saw a huge opportunity there to create a program based on my strategy and proven results.
Our secret sauce for SEO has been to focus on creating the most complete, in-depth, and researched pieces of content, putting quality above quantity.
By that time the biggest editorial company in the country had also offered me to write a book about social and emotional intelligence (this opportunity came thanks to my personal blog), but as I believe that one of the key success factors is staying focused on a niche, I decided to concentrate on the online business market first.
So, after getting hundreds of students in my course, I hired a team of developers and launched a SaaS which sells a WordPress theme and plugins specifically designed for affiliate sites. This allowed me to diversify my products while staying in the niche.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
The first product I launched, if we don’t take into account my affiliate websites, was this online course in which I taught all the strategies I had learned while growing my affiliate sites.
Creating the course took me almost 9 months, and when I launched it, it was not even finished. Honestly, I was expecting around 10-15 sales (my email list was around 1.000 people by then) but more than 150 people ended up purchasing the course, which took me by surprise and put a lot of pressure on me.
I hosted the course on a WordPress site and used OptimizePress and Memberpress to protect the content. I like how easy it is to use Memberpress, and I love having full control of the content and sales process —that is why I didn’t host it in any third-party course hosting services, which take a cut of your sales.
To sell the course, I used a classical Product Launch Formula sequence of 4 videos, in which I provided lots of value, and a final masterclass where I sold the course.
Since the first launch, I have launched several editions of the course and all of them have achieved conversion rates ranging from 5-12%, which is quite impressive for its price point. Therefore, this launch method has become my favorite (although it is losing its effectiveness due to market saturation).
Something that makes me very proud is that many students are doing great with their websites and they have even been able to quit their full-time jobs.
We have gradually added more exclusive features for our students. For example, we give them for free our WordPress template Immune Theme, which is specifically designed to accelerate the process of creating an affiliate website and increasing conversions. We also give them several custom-made calculators to identify Amazon products and categories with good income potential.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The initial launch of the online course was fairly simple. We created content for the main blog, unavidaonline.com, around affiliate marketing and making money online. Once we reached an email list of 1000 people, we launched the course using a 4-video product launch formula sequence, which became a success reaching a conversion rate of more than 10%. Since then we have kept adding new features such as a knowledge base and custom calculators and tools to help our clients speed up their projects.
Now the email list has grown up to 35,000 people and the business is much more complex than it used to be. Our SaaS, in which we previously sold only the theme, has grown and we have just launched a plugin that adds forms that answer the reader’s questions using artificial intelligence, GPT Forms, and also a mobile-first table of contents plugin.
Although it is not our main source of revenue, the SaaS makes a nice addition to the overall income of the business and allows us to offer our customers everything they need to start blogging and affiliate marketing (except for hosting).
We are still learning how to market and promote this type of product and achieve the correct balance between effort and results because we are used to big course launches which do not pay off for these products.
Recently we also have tapped into the blockchain. We have created a tokenized online community, metadigitales, which is still in beta. People can only become members of the community if they own the non-fungible access token, thus creating a kind of stock market in which members can sell their membership to non-members interested in entering the community.
This incentivizes current members to add value to the community as it will increase the demand for their tokens.
Our philosophy has shifted since the initial stages of our business. As you can see, we now try to launch as many different products or services revolving around several technologies and then see what sticks. Once we are sure we have a winning hand, we redirect our efforts there. But our main focus (helping people to build their internet business) is still the same.
So, to sum up, our business model revolves around helping affiliate marketers and bloggers via content (with our blog and newsletter), training, and WordPress tools, as well as managing our portfolio of affiliate websites.
And, as we also had some requests from our customers and we felt we could improve the interaction between them, we have just launched the tokenized community.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our main growth engine has been, without any doubt, SEO. We have neglected almost any other channels to concentrate our efforts on improving Google’s organic rankings.
When I started creating Amazon affiliate websites, search marketing was the only profitable traffic source for them, so I tried to learn as much as I could. I feel comfortable with it, so I have been using it to grow every website I have created since then.
SEO requires a lot of effort and time to deliver results, but later it becomes a quite passive source of traffic, leads, and sales. We publish ultra-detailed content about blogging, affiliate marketing, and making money online in our main blog and we constantly update it to become the reference source in its niche.
Currently, it is getting around 70K visitors per month, which is not bad considering we are focused on the Spanish market. Numbers used to be higher, but since the pandemic, we are seeing that lead magnets are not as effective as they used to be and Google keeps getting more and more traffic for itself via featured snippets, etc.
We do not publish any content on our product/service websites. They are just there for the sake of selling. Other businesses own several websites and publish content on each one of them, but we believe that dilutes the effort. Each website should have a unique and concrete objective.
Our secret sauce for SEO has been to focus on creating the most complete, in-depth, and researched pieces of content, putting quality above quantity. Also, 5 years ago, while no one was talking about search intent and just concentrated on link building, we understood that content ranking on the first page was something that Google liked, so we focused on improving it. That gave us a nice competitive advantage.
We have identified and learned more about our target customers mapping them in a CustomerJourney Map and researching the keywords he/she may use in search engines at every step of the journey.
We also use Facebook Ads analytics to know more about our avatar, such as demographics and other web pages or related interests he/she may have. If we identify other web pages, we study them to know more about their content and lead-generation strategies.
We don’t do much more than that. Our objective is to make the user spend as much time as possible on our blog. For that, we look for keywords that match each one of the customer journey’s steps, then we try to nail the search intent and finally, we investigate what other questions may arise to the visitor when he or she is reading that content.
Then, we solve that in our content as well or offer him/her a link to some other post on our blog in which we answer that.
Today, we are still focusing on SEO but we keep a close eye on social media because, even though SEO will never die, traffic to websites will probably continue to decline due to featured snippets and chatbots. This is why half of our leads now come from Facebook and Instagram Ads.
In our Ads, we offer a free guide to finding a profitable blog idea
To keep customers, we try to deliver the best courses and products out there. We have a very clear customer avatar and, while we offer him different products, we never target other audiences.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today the business is quite profitable as we don’t have heavy fixed costs. We pay for content, hosting, custom developments, and freelancers because almost everything can be outsourced in an online business.
However, revenue has flattened after the pandemic. Affiliate websites are suffering and the traditional model of attracting traffic from search engines, capturing email leads, and then marketing to your audience with a webinar or series of videos is becoming more inefficient as the market saturates. We need to improve this, so we plan to explore new social media traffic channels.
We currently reinvest 50% of our monthly profit into the business, and almost every penny goes to content and new developments such as tools or plugins. We also take our affiliate websites very seriously, and we purchase the products we review to test them for real and have original photos.
Our plans for the future are to grow our tokenized community, as it is a predictable and recurring income source (and we still enjoy very much connecting with other like-minded people).
We also want to start selling our products via Amazon FBA. Working on different niches in our affiliate sites has given us a good understanding of those markets, and our websites can also help in achieving initial traction.
This would be a way to protect our affiliate business as commissions are getting lower every time. We are currently looking for reliable and competitive product manufacturers.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think that our biggest blessing has also been our main mistake. We have greatly diversified the business with our affiliate websites, online courses, WordPress products, and paid membership.
This can make you lose your focus, which is very bad, and it also means a lot of work, but it gives you peace of mind as if one pillar of the business fails, you still have the others to keep you safe.
Another big mistake has been devoting too much time to every product, trying to make it perfect before launching, as well as creating long and complex sales funnels.
For example, to sell our WordPress theme we created a series of emails and a 90-minutes webinar packed with content, but it didn’t move the needle. We would probably have achieved the same results with a much simpler sales funnel.
Having such a large email list, we should also have listened more to our community. On some occasions, we launched a product that we would enjoy using instead of the service that our community was demanding. This is a consequence of the curse of knowledge —when you are successful in something, you start believing you are the only one that possesses the truth.
Fortunately, we have learned from all of this. I think that, for people that are starting, it is ok to become fully invested in one product. This will help them learn from their mistakes, and they can also be successful. But once they reach success, it is time for diversification. In that case, try to launch related products as fast as you can and quickly identify which one has more potential.
Anyhow, I am immensely grateful for the long way we have gone, as it is a constant source of wisdom and experience. Also, getting surrounded by the right people, honest and hard-working, is crucial. I would rather work with someone with no prior experience but a positive and resolute attitude, than a very experienced person with no passion at all.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our non-affiliated websites are all built with WordPress. The older ones are still using a Genesis Theme, while the newer ones use Astra + Elementor as it gives us a lot of flexibility in the design.
Regarding the email marketing platform, I started with Mailchimp, then switched to Active Campaign as it has the most powerful automation platform, and just recently we moved to Sendinblue because our email marketing expenses were getting too high (Active Campaign is really expensive once you start managing tens of thousands of subscribers). And honestly, we didn’t need all those fancy automation features.
To sell our courses we use MemberPress, which is a fantastic plugin. Our SaaS works with Easy Digital Downloads as we need to manage license activations for WordPress plugins and themes. I am very happy with these tools and I cannot think right now of working without them.
To manage our team we use Trello (we like keeping things simple) and Notion for SoPs, guides, and content repositories. For invoicing and tax compliance, we use Quaderno, which has excellent integrations with Easy Digital Downloads and Zapier.
Finally, our most recent and crucial decision has been the platform on which we should build our paid membership community. We liked Discord, but we have finally chosen Discourse because it has a built-in trust level system and it is an asynchronous communication platform, instead of a continuous chat like Discord or Slack.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I have not read that many general business books as I prefer to read about specific skills, such as marketing or copywriting. I think those are essential skills for any entrepreneur.
In that regard, the books I recommend are Influence, a best-selling and very popular marketing book from Robert B. Cialdini, and On Writing Well by Willam Zinsser, one of the few copywriting books that are not solely focused on writing sales pages.
I have recently read The Psychology of Money and I liked it, although it is an investment and personal finance book. But having some general knowledge about money is also an important skill for business owners.
I don’t follow blogs or podcasts because my time is limited and I prefer being informed via Twitter. I used to enjoy Backlinko, but nowadays the only one I read when a new post is out is Matt Diggity’s blog.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Just start. I still cannot believe how many people would like to start a side business but they don’t because they believe everything has to be perfect to launch.
That makes starting an online business look like a lot of effort. Therefore, they never take the first step.
When you start, make a list of your interests and what you are good at, and try to solve a very specific problem in the most practical way possible. Don’t be afraid of not being an expert. Even if you are not an expert now, you’ll have to research to create content for your website or channel, so you will likely have become one by the time your business starts getting some visibility.
Once things are rolling, diversify your income sources. Ask and listen to your community, and launch new projects quickly. Do not depend on a sole traffic or business source as it will make you anxious and you won’t fully enjoy what you are doing.
And we are here to have fun 😀
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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