Travel Affiliate Website Owner Makes $100K From Free Traffic

– Getting anything for free
can seem pretty attractive, and there are plenty of build your own website
for free deals online that can really trip you up. But there is one thing, when you’re wanting to make
money from an online business, that you are going to
love getting for free, every day, all the time: Visitors to your website. Hello, I’m Paul Buckingham, roving ambassador for Solo Build It!. And in this Solopreneur profile we discover how Elyssa Bernard
has attracted free traffic of over 100,000 visitors a month to her travel affiliate
website,, and how much money she made online. If you’d like to know
how to get free traffic to your website, allowing you to monetize your hobby or passion, this is for you. – I have never paid for an ad. I’ve never paid for traffic,
or visitors, or views, or anything. It’s from Google Search, basically. – The icing on the cake
is that Elyssa’s income exceeds $100,000 a year, and is growing. If Elyssa can do it, with
travel affiliate marketing, you can too, because all
she had was her idea, her passion, commitment,
and Solo Build It! How did she do it? We’ll discover that right after this. (gentle music) So how is it that a girl from Florida ends up in Rome, with a site, really, as if you’re a resident
of Rome, and an expert? – Well, I met my husband
traveling, with a backpack, back in 1997. We got married in 1999, and
were living in the States, and in 2001 we decided
to move back to Rome and open a bed and breakfast. And we were doing that, and
at one point a friend of mine said to me, “You know,
you could put Google ads “on your hotel website and
make a little bit of money.” And I thought, oh, that’s a terrible idea. You don’t do that, you
know, on a hotel website. So, I thought, hmm, we have
this FAQ page on the website. Maybe I could expand that and make another little informational site,
and put Google ads there? So I did a little Google search, “How to make a website”. ‘Cause I didn’t wanna hire
the guys that had done our hotel site. I kinda wanted to do it myself. And what popped up? The first thing that popped
up was another SBI! user, with her website, “How
to build a website”. She talked about SBI! I watched the video’s, I knew immediately this was the product for me. It was amazing, and I started
building my website in 2009. And it’s been 10 years, and here we are. To be honest I didn’t
do the kind of research that I do today, to see what
other sites were out there. I was just sort of on my own, autopilot, thinking let me just take those FAQ’s, and make its own site, so I can put some Google ads on there, and maybe make a little bit of money. But as it grew, and I grew to realize there was a big demand for
this kind of information, you know, this kind of help, the real stuff people wanna know. It’s just how to skip the
line, but it’s things like, are there Citibank ATMs in Rome? I mean I knew these little
nitty gritty questions that people had.
– And where are the toilets, and things like that.
– Yeah, where are the toilets? But not just where are the toilets. Why aren’t there toilet seats? And how do I wash my hands? Where’s the pedal to turn the water on? You know, tipping. How not to get ripped off by taxis. So, all the good fun stuff, like how to visit the Sistine Chapel and not wait in line. That’s pretty obvious, but even just the little things, you know, how to order in a restaurant,
and things like that. I knew that people wanted to know that. – Did you kind of think, oh, I’ve just got all this information, I’m just going to go thomp, or did you follow some process to actually make it make sense? – Well, one of the
first things you realize when you sign up with
SBI! is, like they say, this is not some quick, you
know, get rich quick scheme. There is a process. And following in the “Action Guide”, which is absolutely key, and I even still re-watch it sometimes, because it’s so well laid out, I understood that I needed to have a plan. I needed to map out what
the site was going to be. I used the tools that SBI! gave me to help figure out how I
was gonna structure it, and all the tools SBI!
gave me to figure out how I would monetize, and then it would start to come together. – That’s actually a lovely answer. And you’ve actually segued perfectly into what I actually wanna focus on most. There are two areas that I
particularly want to focus on in this interview. One of them is your traffic
and how you get your traffic. And the other one is monetization. How you monetize the online business. So let’s look at traffic first, because it probably
comes before making any money comes. You have somewhere between
about 100 to 140,000 visitors a month. Which is pretty amazing. Is that organic free traffic, or are you paying for ads for anything? – I have never paid for an ad. For some reason I have this in my head that I… I feel very strongly that my
traffic should be organic. I feel that way about social media. I want growth to be organic, I’ve never paid for traffic,
or visitors, or views or anything. I hope the content speaks for itself. I am aware that there’s
nothing wrong really with sort of boosting,
you know, your visibility. Maybe paying a little bit of something just to get seen more. But I like the idea that
all of my traffic is real. It’s organic. And I get a little bit of
traffic from some of the, shall we say, social sites. Very much from Pinterest,
which is not a social site, as SBI! taught me. It’s more of a graphic, it’s a visual search engine,
– Search site. – but I’ve learned a lot about that from SBI! And some of the social sites, but mostly it’s organic. It’s from Google Search, basically. – So I noticed with Pinterest, you have 69,000 views per
month, which is no mean feat. Does that actually translate to traffic or do people just come and
look at the pretty pictures and go away? – Well, I try to, again,
learning from SBI!, to be relevant. You know, think things out. You don’t wanna have just a Pinterest pin that doesn’t do anything. So, I try to make relevant
pins that go to relevant pages, and I’m trying to pin
them in the right way. I learned a lot of this from
the “Pinterest Action Guide”, that SBI! created. And it’s been a huge help. And yes, it does mean traffic. Looking at my Google
Analytics, I can see that much of my, let’s say social traffic, traffic not from organic search is coming from Facebook
and Pinterest foremost. So yes, it does translate
into actual traffic. – [Paul] Right. And so, you talked about
Facebook and Pinterest. Any other social platforms
that you’re working with? – Well, I do post regularly on Twitter, and that’s actually been
pretty good for traffic, and I’m actually doing
a little bit more now with some automated posts
on Twitter, using Buffer. And that surprisingly brings traffic. I don’t like doing things like that. I don’t like being, you know, sort of one-to-one, personable, but I do realize that sometimes, you know, I’ve grown a lot, and since I’ve grown, the website has grown, I need
to do some automated things. So there are some
automated posts on Twitter that are bringing traffic. I do use Instagram, just
because it’s popular with people who follow me. It doesn’t actually translate
that much into traffic, so I use it sparingly. – [Paul] And you’re going
this all by yourself? – Well, I will say, and I
think this is a good thing, that since we began 10 years ago, and I say we ’cause now my husband’s
doing this with me, we sold our B&B last year and now he’s working on it with me. This is a full-time job and we have staff, (laughs) in the form of virtual assistants. So, yeah, one person is
helping me put together the YouTube video’s. I’ve got another virtual
assistant in Serbia. And another virtual assistant in the UK. Yes, so we’ve started
farming out some of the work because we’re growing,
and we wanna grow more and it just makes sense to pay people to do the things that they’re good at, and free us up to do more of
the creating original content. – It’s interesting, because
what this must be doing is freeing you up to be more
creative, and more productive, and actually drive the
business further forward? – Exactly, because I think that the things that are really important here are A, to be constantly creating
new, original content. That is really important, because visitors to your website, when you go to an info
website, they want information. And I have so many ideas about pages that I still need to write. Fixing old content, you’re not supposed to tweak your pages but there are things that are old, that are no longer relevant,
so I wanna fix those. So yes, creating original content, and the other thing
it’s freeing me up to do is to work on continuing
to expand the business, so new ideas for things to make, not just Ebooks, but now a calendar. And there will be more
products down the line as well. So, it frees you up,
the virtual assistants free me up to do both of those things. Create content and also
work on the business itself and making it a good
business, improving it. Because it is a business. You’ve got to treat it like
a business, it is a business. It’s not just, you know, writing a blog or creating sort of a journal. It’s a real, full on business. – I think what you’re
really proving is that a site where you’ve got the passion and you’ve got the
content, has the capacity to sort of infinitely grow. You know, there’s really
nowhere you can’t go with it. – Absolutely, for a
travel site I would say, but probably for other
kinds of sites as well. I mean, I know that SBI! has very successful SBI!ers that have brick and mortar businesses, and that have virtual businesses, and not just travel but coaching, photography, building porch decks, You know, all kinds of things. So I think, depending on your niche, yes, there is probably
infinite capacity to grow in terms of things that you can offer, whether it’s courses,
Ebooks, products, services. So it’s gonna depend on your niche. It’s gonna depend on
what you want to offer, what you can offer, and how you study this in the “Action Guide” and on the forums, and make it come true. – So, the $64,000 question is how do you pay for all of this, which means how do you monetize
a travel site successfully? – Yeah, so there are
Google ads on the website, and I do get people say to
me, every once in a while, “Oh, you have ads on your site. “Can’t you remove them?” I have seen that plenty of sites out there live without ads, and maybe
we’ll get there one day, but at the moment I’m using
a product called Ezoic, which is a official Google
partner or something like this, and they basically take
bids from companies that feed ads to your website. And they bid because they
wanna be on your site because it’s got high visibility. Or on my site anyway. And the money there is just
too good at this moment to take those ads down. Right now, one of the biggest
ways that we monetize, and I think this is true for
just about any travel website, is affiliate marketing. So, if you’re on the page about how to skip the line at the Colosseum, I give you all this information
that’s really relevant, which is what people want. I’m bringing, warm traffic
is coming to my site. They’re feeling warm and
fuzzy about being on my site because they’re getting free information. I give it away. But while you’re there, if
you decide to book a ticket or a tour through my page, I
will make a small commission. The user gets to pay the same exact price they would pay no matter
where they booked, but booking it through
a website like mine, we get commission, and that adds up. – Are you able to quantify
how much we’re talking? – Sure. With Ezoic, the income is between, it varies. But it is between two and a half to $4,000 a month. The affiliates, I have
several different ones, because they do different things. Some of them overlap, but I also think that
sometimes some visual things appeal to some people and some to others so I mix them up a little bit. I work with GetYourGuide, which is a really big
tour umbrella company. I also work with Viator, it’s another. They compete. They are sort of tour umbrella companies that sell tours locally. So Viator and GetYourGuide sell the local tour companies tours, so if you look up
Colosseum underground tours they each have about 10 of them, because there are 10 different
companies selling that tour. And I work with some others like Ticketbar and,
and some things like that. Train travel, et cetera, et cetera. So the affiliate income,
across all of those, all together, again it ranges, month-to-month, but I would say minimum,
so like in very low season, we’re looking at about maybe $4,000 a month? And in high season it could
go as high as 10,000 a month. – Way back when you first started working on the online business, was
there a point when you sort of sat down one day and went, wow, I actually think this
could work? (chuckles) I’m on the right track. – That day was the day that my sister made me
put Google ads on the site and I earned $11. You know, I felt like I had
barely scratched the surface, I’d barely begun. And in fact, writing
30 pages was hard work. You know, to do it right,
and to put them together. None of those 30 pages look
today like they did back then, but at the moment I felt like I had done you know, some work, but not a lot, and here I was already earning money. All I did, it was so easy. I just put Google AdSense on there and I earned $11 in a month, and I thought, this has
nowhere to go but up. You know, as pages grow, as traffic grows. So yeah, that was my first
sort of light bulb moment that it could really grow. – When you meet your friends
from Florida, you know, and they go, “What have you been doing
for the last 10 years?” what do you say to them? (laughs) How do you explain yourself? – You know, honestly,
every time I meet anybody and say that I have a website, of course people call it
a blog, which is okay. It’s not really a blog but… I always get, “Well, how do
you make money from that?” You know, people are
curious, they wanna know. So, I’m writing that Ebook. “How to Make a Successful Travel Website”. But yeah, it’s not hard, it’s just you have to
be prepared to study, and I recommend SBI! for this because SBI! gives you
all the tools, you know, in the right order. You have be prepared to study. Continuously learn, and
put in the time and effort. And you’ve got to want to do it. If you don’t love it, you know, it’s like anything. If you’re not inspired
to do it you won’t do it. So all those elements have to be there and I think if you’ve got the
passion, you have the tools, you have the will to
work hard, and to study, and keep learning, you cannot fail. (typewriter keys clacking)

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One thought on “Travel Affiliate Website Owner Makes $100K From Free Traffic

  1. A brilliant example of how SBI! teaches step-by-step how to grow from a hobby into a business using some of the best tools in the business. The Action Guide and Pinterest Action Guide alone are worth their weight in gold! Thanks for a great story, Elyssa – we should meet for coffee in Rome one day!

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