Hi 👋, Siddharth here.
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Welcome to our new series about Side Hustles! Every two weeks we'll do a deep dive into a side hustle that YOU can build for some extra 🤑🤑🤑.
In this first edition, we’re going to explore the opportunities to build content & affiliate marketing websites.
But first, what the hell is a Side Hustle?
I didn't even hear the term side hustle until a year ago. Looking at the the Google Trends chart for India, I clearly wasn't the only one. ‘Side Hustle’ was completely missing from the Indian vocabulary until Covid hit but people can’t get enough of it now.
So what is a Side Hustle?
Quite simply, a side hustle is any form of work that you do in addition to your main source of income. Side hustles are an American millennial phenomenon, a step-child of the gig economy, where the option of quick cash from driving for Uber, delivering food for Postmates, working on UpWork, etc. tempted people to work on the side.
With the rise of No Code tools like Shopify, these side jobs have turned into people building online businesses. People are building:
Ecommerce stores based on Shopify,
Automation tools using Zapier,
Podcasts & Newsletters using Anchor & Substack,
Content & Affiliate Marketing Websites
so much more,
Covid just accelerated this global movement as people had more time and mental space to start building things on the side.
The Indian Dream started as a Covid Side Hustle.
Do Side Hustles make sense in India?
Yes. Definitely. You can:
Get Guaranteed Side Incomes
Indians love job stability over anything else. If you’re able to build an internet business with solid SEO and thus guaranteed income every month, why wouldn’t you do it?
Follow Your Passion
A lot of young Indians were also pressured by their parents to become Engineers, Doctors, MBA’s, etc. without any space to follow their passions.
Finally, you can become an artist, writer or fashion designer and join the passion economy while still being a good child with the corporate job.
Get Better at Your Main Job & Understand Entrepreneurship
Indian corporate culture impedes innovation - those in the junior-most roles have to follow SOP’s set from the top without any room for experimentation. Side hustles allow young people to test the full range of their skills with a full fledged business.
An additional source of steady income means that you can be more flexible about your choice of job, choosing work life balance instead of more cash. You can even take longer vacations between jobs, a luxury not many Indians can boast.
Content Websites & Affiliate Marketing
Sorry for the digression - back to the main point of this newsletter. When you get the chance, listen to this podcast episode by ‘The Passion People Podcast’.
What are they?
Content websites are websites built entirely around providing information & content around a (usually niche) topic. Here’s a list of 31 highly successful content websites. The Better India started off as a content website which eventually became a D2C company.
Content websites can easily be built by a single person who has the knowledge (or ability to research) on the chosen niche topic. The primary purpose of these sites is to drive traffic which can always be monetised later.
Affiliate Marketing is a form of monetisation for anyone who has an audience or traffic on their website - you get paid a commision for every sale that you drive.
Affiliate marketing these days is quite sophisticated - for example, you can sign up to Amazon’s affiliate marketing programme where you can earn anywhere from 2.5% to 10% for any sales that take place within 24 hours of someone clicking your link.
Content + Affiliate Marketing
Taken together, affiliate marketing is a fantastic tool to monetise a content website that you build as a side hustle.
Depending on your particular niche - you can join affiliate programmes that provide value to your audience. The Indian Dream focuses on Business education - we could join an affiliate programme with Udemy and earn money by directing our audience to high quality business courses on the platform.
Why should I build a Content Website?
Easily Built by a Single Person - With no code tools, anyone can build a content website. All you need is an interest in the subject and the ability to regularly make content.
To Explore Your Curiosity/Passion - Siddharth and I started building The Indian Dream to solve our own curiosities on SME entrepreneurship. I am extremely passionate about Rock Climbing and when I have more time, I want to build a content website around Rock Climbing in India.
Low Overheads -> High Profits - This is an advantage & disadvantage. The ease of starting a content website means that anyone can & will start one. This is where researching & picking a niche becomes so important. An online poll of how much various bloggers earn from affiliate marketing, worth reading the full article.
Passive & Sustainable over the Long Run - Content websites run on SEO - if you do it well, you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to get next week’s visitors, your SEO will take care of it. SEO is also a long run game that compounds over time as you invest more into it - you don’t have to worry about suddenly losing all your hard work.
You can build a Portfolio - Once your first site is successful, there’s no reason you can’t build a second or third content website. The skills are transferable.
You can sell them for a lot of MoneyPretty interesting to see content site multiples so detached from e-com and SaaS. I think some of this has to do with Flippa deals being smaller than other places, but Empire Flippers and others are reporting similar multiples
Below is a screenshot of random affiliate marketing websites for sale on Empire Flippers.
Why Should I not build Content Websites?
It takes a long time to start seeing the results of all your efforts. You need to wait at least 6 months to start getting consistent hits from Google.
How can I build a Content Website/Affiliate Marketing Empire?
Step 1: Pick Your Niche
The most important step of the process.
What interests you? Let’s take Rock Climbing for example.
Dig Deeper. Google Trends shows interest in the sport has been rising in India over the past year.
More digging shows that ‘rock climbing’ is searched for 12,100 times per month in India and is already a pretty easy term to rank for in India.
However, I want to find a niche within this niche where it will be even easier to rank for my content website. I’ve noticed that city specific keywords have hundreds of people searching for them every month but with Search Difficulty (column SD) being extremely low.
None of the websites that rank for these keywords are high quality websites or websites focused on this niche. They would probably write one article and then forget about it. The fact that the average website in the top 10 has 0 backlinks means that they’re not focused on this keyword and these pages.
Climbingindia.com is a potential competitor but it hasn’t been updated since 2015.
Make sure that there are brands who are advertising for these keywords.
Conclusion: I should build a website focused on local rock climbing content built around all the major Indian metros. (who wants to do it with me?)
Step 2: Pick Your Topics
The AIDA model is a popular framework which “describes the four stages a consumer goes through before making a purchasing decision”. We talked about the AIDA model in detail during our D2C Playbook episode and how D2C companies think about it.
If you’re able to rank for keywords at the bottom of the pyramid (eg. buy rock climbing shoes), that would be extremely valuable. Brands would be tearing down your door to get you to advertise their products on your pages.
Because of this, these keywords are the most competitive & difficult. It’s much easier to rank for keywords at the top of the funnel, such as:
I’ve put a list of Keyword Research Tools at the end of the article.
Step 3: Drive Traffic Using SEO & Social Media
There are thousands of articles written about SEO & Social Media - there’s nothing unique I can add to this.
The only thing I will say is that SEO needs to be at the front of your mind at all times. Consider spending time & money on various SEO courses before starting down your content website journey.
Step 4: Monetise Your Website
There are several ways you can monetise your content website.
Google AdSense or Banner Ads - those annoying ads that people without ad-blockers see on the sides of websites.
Audience First Products - Courses, e-books, other services & products. We’ve written about this extensively in the past - we’re big fans of this approach for passive income.
Affiliate Marketing Networks
Commission Junction - now called CJ Affiliate.
The largest global Affiliate Marketing network with a wide selection of products you can sell.
A homegrown Indian network.
18% commision if you get a new customer to buy groceries.
Opportunities for Content Websites
Build content websites about:
Hemp - It’s a quick growing market in India with a lot of misinformation.
IoT - Highly technical, $10 billion market in India growing at double digit rates.
Pick a specific niche within IoT where you can provide value.
Many IoT based keywords are still very easy to rank on in India.
High Tech / New Age Farming - while researching for this newsletter, I wasn’t able to find a lot of reliable information.
Rock Climbing or other adventure sports in India.
Some other verticals:
Most content websites are started & operated by individuals who may only have knowledge about the subject without SEO, Social Media & other optimisations.
Technology Stack For Your Content Website
WordPress - the OG website builder for bloggers. Large ecosystem of plugins & other tools for bloggers.
SquareSpace - more templates, better looking, more expensive. Ecommerce features lets you convert your blog to a shop.
Jimdo - Quick & easy
Duda - the most expensive but has some of the most beautiful templates.
Weebly - affordable, basic, owned by Stripe & thus ecommerce capable.
Keyword Research Tools
Neil Patel Ubersuggest - this is the tool I use. I paid $290 for lifetime access and I am definitely getting my money’s worth.
Google Keyword Planner - 100% free and great for beginners. Lacks tools for competitor research.
Similar Web - useful for competitor research.
Ahrefs - the tool used by professional SEO agencies. Not cheap - starts at $99/mo.
Moz - another professional tool.
SEMRush - another professional tool.
Other Blogging Tools
Grammarly - Grammar checker and overall writing assistant.
Canva - Free tool to create graphics for your blog.
Sumo - “The #1 FREE email capture tool powering 894,811 sites. FREE Forever.”
Yoast SEO - WordPress Plugin that’s super useful to optimise the SEO for your website.
Unsplash - Beautiful, copyright-free stock images.
Fyrebox - Free tool that helps you build quizzes. Quizzes, think buzzfeed, allow you to capture emails much better.
Nichness - Really useful AI Powered tool that gives you blog topics and even generates the first paragraph for your blog.