Earn With Authority Case Study – How We Built a 40+ Website Portfolio and Scaled to 7-figures in Revenue Within 5 Years

Steven
| Last Updated: August 18, 2021

This case study aims to serve as a comprehensive breakdown of how we built Earn With Authority, a content marketing company, into a 40+ affiliate website portfolio and scaled to 7-figures per year in revenue within five years. 

Some information below, such as domain names, has purposefully been left out to protect the integrity of the websites and brands.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

As the internet grew in popularity around the turn of the century, it was only a matter of time until people learned how to leverage the network to make money. Give it a decade or two, and here we are, thrown into the middle of a multi-trillion dollar e-commerce era.  

While companies like Amazon quickly capitalized on this opportunity, they also saw another vantage point- affiliate marketing: the act of having others market your goods or services for you in exchange for a piece of the pie at the end of the sale. Win-win if you ask me. 

Affiliate marketing quickly caught on as techies leveraged search engine optimization (SEO) and started driving consumers to their blogs. When looking for this year’s best digital camera, who better to ask than Google?

About Earn With Authority

Before we get too far, here is a quick overview of Earn With Authority. Below are some data about the business’s portfolio and the team working behind the scenes.  

Portfolio & Company Overview

Portfolio and company as of August 1, 2021:

  • Active Websites: 23
  • Inactive: 23
  • Sold Websites: 5
  • Unique Niches: 33

Active Websites: These are the sites that we are actively working on and growing. They require monthly maintenance, upkeep and have an ongoing content strategy. 

Inactive Websites: Ones that are now on the back burner, not producing content, or have no immediate desire to grow. 

Unique Niches: The number of niches across the portfolio. In some cases, we may have multiple websites in one niche. 

Here is a breakdown of the type of websites, as well as the number of YouTube channels:

  • Blogs: 40
    • Affiliate: 34
    • Education: 4
    • Lead Generation: 2
  • E-Commerce: 6
  • YouTube Channels: 11

Here is a timeline of the number of assets in the portfolio since starting the company. 

Below is a snapshot of our team:

  • Owners: 3
  • U.S. Full-Time Employees: 1
  • U.S. Contractors: 1
  • Non-U.S. Employees: 16

Financials

Below is an overview of Earn With Authority’s financial history from 2016-2020.

The first 2 years were not profitable. We re-invested every dollar made with the goal of breaking even or making a small loss/profit (<$1k/year).

Only from the third year (2018), did we start to make a decent profit. From 2018 and beyond, revenue started growing fast and outpaced our ability to re-invest.

Partnership Background

Josh Shogren was one of many around 2010 learning how to play the game of affiliate marketing. He began building websites in high school and knew there was a massive opportunity to come from this space.   

Once in college, his self-made business continued to grow, but he lacked one critical skill to scale further: building systems that automated his business. 

Throughout his journey, Josh occasionally published case studies on his blog, Passion Into Paychecks, about the growth of his online businesses. These started to gain traction amongst entrepreneurs in the affiliate marketing community, and one person who found Josh’s blog of interest was Rohit Gandrakota

Rohit reached out to Josh, and they eventually became partners. With Rohit’s background in manufacturing operations, he saw a fair amount of overlap between the manufacturing world and online business. 

Both goals were reasonably similar: get the product (or consumer) along the assembly line (or to the information) as efficiently as possible.    

The two soon began working together and formed Earn With Authority

As part of Rohit’s systemization theory, one component of success was to delegate when necessary.

When EWA needed a content manager to oversee monthly production, Josh brought me in, Steven Schneider, a college friend familiar with affiliate websites. 

After working with Josh and Rohit for some time, the three of us entered a partnership and began scaling. 

However, our existing model needed several integral parts: 

  • A content management system that could withstand several layers of complexity
  • A method for creating and uploading articles at scale
  • Team members to assist with production demands

Here is the story of how we scaled our company through the power of elimination, automation, and delegation. 

Eliminate, Automate, Delegate – How We Scaled

When we initially decided to scale the company, we could only climb as far as our systems permitted.

Even with the necessary resources, infrastructure is a vital puzzle piece that can’t be overlooked. 

Applications 

One of the most important aspects needed to scale was to evolve our applications. 

Trello

In year one, we primarily used Trello to track content production, to-do lists, sprint goals, and other miscellaneous items. Trello worked like a charm until we operated a handful of websites. However, Trello wasn’t designed for complex maneuvers, and we struggled to keep up with longer task lists. 

What we learned from Trello

If you’re looking to manage a small portfolio (probably 2-3 websites), Trello is a fantastic tool. It’s also free, which is a significant advantage when operating on a smaller scale. 

Airtable

When we discovered Airtable, our entire strategy shifted. This was the app that changed the game for our business.

Airtable allowed us to scale exponentially faster than if we had stuck to platforms like Trello or Google Sheets

For those unfamiliar with Airtable, it’s like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel on steroids. It’s an absolute powerhouse. 

Team Organization

Airtable is designed in such a way that users have designated “bases.” Within each base, you can tailor everything to your specific needs. 

When designing our content base, we incorporated essential parts of our content strategy. When planning yours, it’s best to ask, “What are the most important aspects we need to track?” 

Each base can be divided into separate tabs, which houses unique data. Below is a picture of how ours is set up. 

We have: 

  • Content
  • Products
  • Websites
  • Team
  • Content Hubs
  • Tags
  • Instructions
  • Calculators
  • Design
  • Hiring

Users can optimize fields (columns) within each tab to align with the project they are managing. 

For example, when it comes to Content, some of the fields in our base are: 

  • Topic Name
  • Content Status
  • Month 
  • Website
  • Content Hub
  • Content-Type
  • Content Manager
  • Google Doc (link)
  • Budget
  • Writer
  • Permalink (to published article)
  • And so on. 

Here’s a breakdown of some more fields. Keep in mind this is not all of them. You can see we have a total of 83, but only about 20 are shown. 

One very underrated aspect of Airtable is the ability to have personal views to manage tasks. Here, team members, or specific projects, can have a workspace that’s tailored to them. From a manager’s perspective, this is excellent. 

Here are some of the ones I’ve been using:

  • All statuses
  • Data Sorting
  • Monthly Content
  • Monthly Content (Writers)
  • Recently Published
  • Upload View
  • And so on. 

The advantage of having multiple views is that I can quickly capture where the team is at any point in the process. 

For example, the Recently Published view is a date filter that I can adjust weekly or monthly. Every Monday, I see a quick rundown of what we published the previous week and across what websites. 

Although I don’t upload articles to sites anymore, I primarily use the Upload View to see who’s working on what and ensure we don’t encounter any bottlenecks. 

Since each view can be set to a custom filter, the possibilities are endless.    

Ease of Use

For someone who’s working with Airtable for the first time, it can seem overwhelming. There are two scenarios this is likely to occur: 

  1. You are thrown into an Airtable base that’s 100% operational (like ours). New team members may feel like a lot is going on, and it’s challenging to grasp. Or,
  2. You are building an Airtable, and you don’t know how to design it to fit your needs. You’re overwhelmed by the number of options and don’t know where to begin. 

Both suck. But luckily, once you learn how to use Airtable, it’s incredibly straightforward. 

For example, if you want to customize a field type (column), you can choose from a list of options and go from there. Additionally, users can manipulate fields and apply filters in seconds.    

One aspect we found incredibly useful is creating “a shareable grid view link,” which anyone can use even if they are not added to your Airtable base. This is a massive advantage if you are working with multiple writers. 

Why? Because writers can access their content, and 1) you don’t have to pay for an additional team member to be added to your base, and 2) writers don’t have access to private information on Airtable. Here’s an example view if you’d like to see how this works in action.

Versatility

Airtable is a blank canvas, which means it will only operate as well as it’s designed. 

One of the most significant upsides of moving to Airtable was using it to manage so many aspects of EWA, aside from the content. 

We have Airtable bases for: 

  • YouTube Content Production
  • Social Media
  • High-level Sprint Tasks & Goal Tracking
  • Manager Tasks
  • Link Building
  • Acquisitions
  • E-commerce   

Moreover, within the last 6-months, Airtable released an update that allows bases to communicate with one another. So if you have a base for Social Media and another for Content, you can sync them and automatically push all of your recently published content to social media posts. 

At this point, someone may be thinking, “why wouldn’t you just have all of this on one base?” 

Our answer: simplicity. 

As a system evolves, it becomes bogged down with data and is messy to work with. Keep it simple. Why mix something like acquisitions and YouTube content production? It doesn’t make sense.     

Production Capacity & Complexity

Without Airtable’s ability to handle complex systems, its production capacity would be severely limited. 

When we moved away from Trello, it was clear that Airtable would have no issues managing multiple websites. 

Upon making the “Websites” tab in our base, we leveraged that data to track which article was assigned to each site. 

Through Airtable’s “Lookup” field, you can pull data over from other tabs and have it connect with the primary record. In our case, we linked the article name to the website.   

In addition to the websites tab, we also created a team and writers tab to collect info about each person. For writers, some critical areas to note are: 

  • Areas of expertise 
  • Niches they won’t write about
  • Cost per word (CPW)
  • Preferred contact method
  • Max capacity per month 

Like the websites tab, we brought data over to the main content tab and integrated writers into each article. This way, we could assign writers to a specific article and ensure everything was tracked correctly. 

What significantly increased content production was thinking about everything in terms of an assembly line.

Since Airtable allows for drop-down fields, we broke down each part of the process into a step-by-step status. 

By doing so, managers can effectively oversee various steps while allowing team members to have personal views. For example, people making outlines didn’t need to see uploads. 

Everything mentioned up to this point is what can be considered “entry-level” Airtable usage. Below are a few ways we leveraged Airtable to the max and incorporated advanced functions: 

  • Product data tracking for affiliate articles
  • Using product data to create HTML comparison table layouts
  • Setting up Zapier to create outline templates based on content statuses
  • Using Zapier to send graphic design requests to Design Pickle 

Google Drive and Other Apps Like Slack

Google Applications

From day one, we had always used Google Drive, Docs, and Sheets. So it made sense to keep on that path. 

Google Drive essentially acted as a mega dump for all articles, spreadsheets, and misc items. What needed to be organized within the Drive was organized, otherwise, we leveraged Airtable to keep track of everything. 

Airtable’s URL field was an excellent way for us to use Google Drive as a safe while keeping things organized on an article-by-article basis. We created an Instructions tab, a standard operating procedure (SOP) library for tasks and projects.

Aside from the incredibly affordable storage plan Google offers, one of the advantages of using Drive, Docs, Sheets, etc., is the ability to work in real-time and track edits. 

Yes, we are aware Microsoft Office does this as well, but as mentioned, we stuck with Google because of switching barriers and the sake of ease.

Slack

We needed an app to communicate when we moved away from Trello, and Slack was the golden ticket. Looking back, we wish we had transitioned sooner.

Slack is by far one of the best tools to stay in touch. 

Equipped with a variety of built-in tools and apps, managers can also create private channels and groups. Here are a few of ours. The lock icon indicates a private channel (invite only), whereas the # symbol is an open chat. 

Slack is consistently updating its offerings as well. We don’t have enough good things to say about this app.    

Hiring Virtual Assistants

It all started when we weren’t in a position to be spending $4,000/month on a second content manager. At the time, this was the most inefficient use of resources. We needed to eliminate this cost so we could allocate those funds elsewhere.

Around that time, Rohit had introduced Josh and me to the power of virtual assistants (VAs).

This “big brain” idea of hiring team members online from Upwork or OnlineJobs.ph was brilliant and straightforward: create a job posting and SOP for a task, train them, then move to the next item on the to-do list and manage their progress in the meantime. 

Here are a few places where we leveraged virtual team members:

  • Creating Outlines for Writers
  • Uploading Articles to WordPress
  • Product Research
  • Assisting With Portfolio-Wide Miscellaneous Tasks
  • Managing Acquisition Outreach Campaigns
  • Managing Link Building Campaigns
  • Internally Linking Published Articles
  • Designing Custom Infographics & Illustrations

Creating Outlines for Writers

Early on, we had a mental barrier that certain people with tons of experience needed to do some tasks. The job to delegate this time was creating article outlines for writers, and it was a massive bottleneck to scaling.

Creating outlines wasn’t extremely difficult, but it also wasn’t a black and white set of directions to follow every time… Or so we thought. Each outline had to be tailored to the topic and equipped with a decent amount of SEO knowledge to rank the article on Google. 

Outlines are a prime example of garbage in, garbage out. If you make an imperfect outline, the writers will deliver poor content, and you’ve effectively shot yourself in the foot from the start.

Not to mention that the average time to rank well on Google is anywhere from 4-9 months, so your feedback loop is prolonged.

However, after creating hundreds of outlines, we recognized patterns and realized that we could build a tool for VAs to develop outlines at scale. Once someone had made the outline, a manager could review and polish the final copy before sending it off to a writer. 

We created an “Outline Template Tool” (yes, that’s the technical term we coined) that essentially scaled outlines by 5x.

Before, it would take two people a month to prepare the upcoming month’s content, which was about 60 articles at the time. A year later, we were doing 300+ articles per month, and multiple team members could use the tool at once.

The overall design worked flawlessly- think of an online menu where you select your order from a list of items. At the end of your order, you receive your food, or in this case, a completed outline. 

The tool would take selected items and generate a copy based on the inputs. From there, it was a matter of copy and paste or swapping out pieces of information and tailoring minor parts to align better with the topic. 

We finally automated the outline process and delegated it to team members, freeing our time to focus on the next bottleneck.

Uploading Articles to WordPress

By now, it was clear that virtual assistants were a vital part of our business.

We adopted a “hire fast, fire fast” mentality to find talent. Nearly anyone can almost perform a task, but we sought out people who excelled and could grow with the company. 

After we learned how to scale outlines, the next bottleneck was uploading articles to WordPress. 

Because we weren’t using custom HTML to create comparison tables at the time, we used Thrive Architect, a front-end content builder, to design UX-friendly layouts and templates. Using Thrive helped quite a bit as we could automate the process via premade templates and inserts.

Once we moved to HTML tables and layouts, we built this into Airtable and leveraged its power to auto-populate everything in seconds. 

Product Research

So at this point, we were able to delegate two things: outlines and uploads, two out of three major pieces to the puzzle. The third was product selection. 

While the affiliate model lends itself to various goods and services, our bread and butter was the Amazon Associates program, which meant we were targeting “Best XYZ” articles that showcased a round-up of the top 5 to 10 products per topic. 

A few examples include: 

  • Best Off-Road Lights For Jeeps 
  • Best RV Tires
  • Best Fishing Reels

But, as with most affiliate sites, we didn’t have the time or resources to test all products physically. Spoiler alert: most affiliate sites don’t. 

Our process consisted of in-depth research across Amazon reviews, forums, other websites, social media, and any other channels we could get our hands-on. 

Now, as you can imagine, this is a highly exhaustive process.

Each time we created an article, product research was required, and from January 2018 to December 2020 alone, we published 4,091 articles. Lots of products!

To streamline this process, we created a comprehensive guide on doing product research for affiliate articles. 

The SOP included: 

  • What to look for when reading through reviews and forums,
  • Where to scout reliable information, and 
  • How to eliminate excess noise from the process. 

In test trials, we found that many people who performed the task were overwhelmed by the amount of information online. Over time, we refined this process and built a team solely dedicated to product research. 

At our peak, the EWA product selection team consisted of 6 people, and they researched over 2,000 products for one month’s production (350 articles with an average of 5 products per article).

This figure does not include the number of products they researched to conclude that they were inferior to the final list.    

Assisting With Portfolio-Wide Miscellaneous Tasks

As we scaled, so did the amount of data within the company. Managing one or two websites was simple, but once our portfolio grew to 40+, each site came with a fair amount of housekeeping items. 

For example, when we learned how to improve a particular aspect of an article that boosted the visitor conversion rate by 10-15%, this now meant that it was in our best interest to do so on a portfolio-wide scale, which was roughly 4,000+ articles. 

In addition to our existing teams that kept the machine fully operational, we hired a handful of miscellaneous task managers who could spearhead projects at scale. 

Some of these tasks included: 

  • Updating product comparison tables 
  • Updating article layouts
  • Updating affiliate links
  • Running out of stock inventory checks
  • Scouting and testing new affiliate programs

Having at least one “misc task guru” on the team was one of the biggest blessings in disguise. 

While the outlines and uploads team kept pace with our content strategy, we could effectively tackle multiple projects at once without moving people around. 

Managing Acquisition Outreach Campaigns 

We quickly learned that our revenue was capped by the number of streams within the company. 

Sure, you can have one significant revenue stream, but diversification is risk management 101. So we decided to scale acquisitions in year three. 

There were two bottlenecks when it came to acquisitions: 

  1. Finding an industry with enough volume to build a decent-sized site ($1-2k+/month), and 
  2. Finding a website in the space that was in an excellent spot to grow.

You might ask, “Isn’t capital a bottleneck?” 

Yes, but we weren’t looking to buy a big site. We searched for ones under $10,000, preferably under $5,000, making a few hundred bucks per month. 

This price told us that it was A) likely not “maxed” in terms of its content strategy (there was room to grow), and B) it was out of the Google sandbox for starter sites. Meaning, we didn’t have to wait for Google to index the site from the ground up.  

So, where do the VAs come into play?

Once we found a niche that was worth pursuing, it was time to delegate. Josh and I built an in-depth guide on scraping sites in Ahrefs and began filtering them on a “buyable” criteria. 

With this SOP, we tested the process with one VA and one niche. It was a success. 

We saw this as a numbers game, similar to cold calling, and sent emails to hundreds of sites. 

This screenshot is from a smaller campaign we sent on June 27, 2019, in the “Drums” niche.

In general, here’s how the process went:

  1. Scout a range of keywords in Ahrefs for the niche.
  2. Export all the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) data. This is what’s on the first page of Google.
  3. Filter out duplicates and all sites with less than 1,000 visitors per month, traffic over 30,000 per month, or DR 50+. Likely, you won’t be getting these websites cheap unless the owner doesn’t actively use the site.
  4. Refine the list and manually filter out anything unrelated to the niche. 
  5. Once you’re happy with the list, run the domains through Hunter.io and collect some emails. 
  6. Review each website manually to see if they have a preferred contact email. While there, collect a link to the contact form. 
  7. Create an outreach template. We also leveraged spreadsheets to personalize emails. For example, in the template, you can add “Hi, {name}” and it will autofill the name from the CSV file (assuming there is one). Always be sure to do at least one follow-up email 5-7 days later. 
  8. Set up a campaign in Mailshake and upload the spreadsheet.  
  9. Launch that campaign.
  10. Once the follow-up emails have been sent, circle back to contact box outreach and manually send messages. You’d be surprised how many people don’t check admin emails but set up push notifications for their contact boxes.  

We had a 55% open rate and 26% reply rate, and yes, we ended up buying a site. 

Acquisition outreach was automated because of a great team and detailed SOP. 

Here are some quick stats of that project: 

  • Timeline: 22 months
  • Websites Purchased: 8
  • Team Members: 1
  • Campaigns: 21
  • Emails Sent: 1,227 (excluding follow-ups)
  • Contact Boxes Messaged: 1,150

From June 26, 2019, to April 13th, 2020, we ran 23 campaigns (about 2 per month) and purchased 8 sites. Additionally, we found opportunities in other niches but didn’t find a good website to buy, so we started 13 sites from scratch within that same timeframe. 

Managing Link Building Campaigns

Link building has never been our strength.

Traditional forms of link building such as guest posting, infographics, and skyscraper outreach are a great way to build links but are not the best ROI per link (in regards to resources invested). 

In the first few years of Earn With Authority, we ran guest post campaigns at least a few times per quarter. 

But after a while, we decided that our time was better spent on other activities and eliminated it from our list of priorities. 

Year four is when things changed. 

We had the idea to run a link-building campaign that targeted companies featured in our review articles. 

So if XYZ company is mentioned as the top brand in a list of 5-10 other products, we’d contact their sales and marketing department with a message like this: 

“Hi there,

We have rated {{brand}} as {{category}} in our article, {{topic name}} so I wanted to reach out and introduce myself. My name is Steven and I’m the brand manager of {{affiliate site}}, an {{site background}}. 

Our article is performing well, and to maintain its rankings, I’ve been focused on building links and recognizing those featured. 

Would you mind linking our article to a page on your website?”

Because we kept track of all product data, we had a lot of the hard work done in advance. 

In Airtable, each article we published was grouped with its mentioned products. 

From there, it was as simple as exporting the data and doing a bit of email collection, similar to what we did in the acquisition outreach process. 

The technical part that did take a bit of reworking was the {{category}} piece mentioned above. 

We knew people ranked first would be much easier to work with than someone ranked last. As a result, we applied varied category structures for the following: 

  • Best Product – Category = “the #1 option”
  • 2nd or 3rd Product – Category = “one of the top 3 picks”
  • Outside of the top 3 – Category = “one of the best models”

The last thing to note here is that our outreach email would highlight the best rating if a brand was included in multiple articles. 

However, we noted they were mentioned in other articles as well and that we would be happy to provide links to those articles as well 🙂   

So, where do the VAs come into play?

We designed an automated system like acquisition outreach and provided a detailed set of instructions on operating the process from start to finish.

The process was extremely straightforward and we delegated everything from start to finish: 

  1. Export all brands from Airtable
  2. Remove duplicates and organize categories
  3. Collect emails and contact boxes
  4. Set up and send campaign
  5. Perform contact box outreach
  6. Wait for replies 

In general, we learned a lot from this process. Not only did this open the door to future collaboration, but it also paved the way for brands to help us refine articles. 

A few people mentioned that a writer either added an incorrect piece or used the wrong image on several occasions. This was an excellent opportunity for us to correct the article straight from the source and get a link in return in most cases. 

We also learned that if people are hesitant to link to an article where their competitors are mentioned (which is fair), they are typically open to us doing a single product, a one-page review of their choosing. They got a full-page write-up and we got a link. Win-win. 

However, the biggest downside to this strategy is that there’s a limit on the number of campaigns you can run. We have a finite number of sites and articles.

In general, this strategy provided a hefty boost to a majority of the sites in the portfolio.       

Here are some quick stats of that project:

  • Timeline: 10 months
  • Team Members: 4
  • Campaigns: 14
  • Websites: 11
  • Links Gained: 145 
  • Average Domain Rating (DR): 24
  • Highest DR: 77   
  • Average Number of Emails Exchanged Per Target: 7     

Internally Linking Published Articles

Similar to creating outlines, internal linking was another task that seemed like we would never be able to pass off to someone else. It was always going to be this looming task that took time away from higher-priority projects. 

As the portfolio grew in size, it became too much for Josh and me to handle. The team was publishing upwards of 300 articles per month and each one had to be internally linked. 

For those unfamiliar with the internal linking process, it’s the act of linking one article to another (on the same site) via natural text in the article. It should also be noted that the text should also be related to the link. The article “Best Spinning Reels” is linked to another article about fishing reels in the image here.

So when it came to outsourcing this task, it was overwhelming because of the SEO knowledge needed to do it properly. But thankfully, we were wrong and internal linking ended up being very trainable. 

We started by training one of our content managers, who eventually helped us develop a well-rounded SOP so that others could learn. 

By delegating internal linking, our time was freed up once again. The beauty here was that our content manager was improving her skills by helping us create SOPs. 

Once the time came to scale, we automated the process by bringing in more VAs and leveraging Airtable. 

With Airtable, we created individualized views for not only each team member but each website also. This way, no one was stepping on anyone’s toes. 

Since this task required more critical thinking, it was necessary to have multiple managers and review checkpoints. 

Each time a manager reviewed someone’s work, they would leave notes in a Google Doc to learn from their mistakes. This dramatically speeds up the feedback loop since some managers were in US time zones and VAs are in the Philippines, so we worked on a 24-hour operation schedule.      

Designing Custom Infographics & Illustrations

In my opinion, a good design and user experience (UX) builds trust.

A poorly designed website that’s hard to navigate, or looks like it was built in 1994, will likely turn away many visitors. 

When designing our websites, we’ve always prioritized the look, feel, and UX. 

Creating a nice product comparison table at scale is pretty straightforward with code, but having unique infographics across thousands of articles requires brainstorming. 

There were two reasons we wanted to circle back to high-ranking articles and add custom designs: 

  1. They add a lot to the user’s experience, and  
  2. Act as a passive link building strategy   

To scale design, our first idea was to go with an agency such as Design Pickle.

Design Pickle is excellent because:

  • They offer Zapier integrations with Airtable
  • Have fantastic customer service and designers
  • Offer A+ design quality
  • Users can create “brand profiles” with saved logos, color schemes, etc.

After working with them for two months, we decided to rethink our approach and get back to the drawing board.

Here’s what we learned: 

  • Most designers (we worked with) are on PH time, so the feedback loop for designs took longer than anticipated. However, we saw great results after moving a VA manager to oversee this project on PH time. This way, she could communicate with designers and work with them while we were asleep. 
  • Directions for designs had to be top-notch. Meaning, if we delivered poor directions, the designers were reaching for ideas—our bad, definitely not theirs. Good lesson 🙂 
  • The output was not as expected, given the number of messages back and forth to work on edits. Granted, had our directions been crystal clear from the start, I’m sure this would have improved the turnaround time. Given the cost per month, there was definitely an investment that came with the learning curve. 

From this, we decided to bring the designs in-house. The manager overseeing Design Pickle had experience with Canva, so we knew it was possible to automate this with the help of a VA.  

We decided to leverage Design Pickle for one more month to help us build unique “design assets.” 

These were specially designed products that touched on various content categories or significant areas of our sites. In the image below, you’ll see some fishing reels they made. 

Once Design Pickle made the assets, we began to templatize the design pieces. 

Like the outline template tool, we used the patterns within articles to build “plug-and-chug” templates in Canva. 

Because most readers skim articles, we knew a great use of a graphic would be at the major headings in an article. Such as: 

  • How to Choose XYZ
  • What Should I Look For When Buying XYZ?
  • How Does an XYZ Work?
  • Types of XYZ
  • How to Use XYZ

Some major wins of using this approach are: 

  1. We have uniquely designed graphics that complement the content within the article
  2. They improve the user’s experience when skimming
  3. The article and the image ranks for those keywords  
  4. Certain products are used in more than just that specific category of content. For example, when you’re discussing fishing rods, chances are you’ll stumble upon some aspects of fishing reels. Now assets aren’t limited to just one “hub” of content. 

Invest In Your Team   

We learned through this journey that our ability to scale was contingent on having an A+ team. 

Previously, I mentioned that when hiring, we adopted (and still live by) a “hire fast and fire fast” mentality. Many people can do a task with average skill, but those who outperform others and are agile will be the driving force for success.

As we scaled, editing articles became too much of a bottleneck for one person to manage, but we knew our editor was highly talented and could perform tasks outside of their initial scope of hire. 

Throughout 3 years, that same person has evolved into one of the most reliable content managers within the company. She is thorough, hardworking, and is always ready to spearhead new projects. Having someone like this on the team is an absolute must.    

The next person we chose to invest in was our second content manager.

He was brought on board as our first full-time US-based employee, a massive milestone for the company, and he oversees a great deal of the portfolio. 

In addition to overseeing affiliate websites, he has also been the catalyst for exploring E-commerce. Since E-commerce is an entirely different can of worms than affiliate websites, a struggle eroded with routinely managing the portfolio and developing a sound E-commerce strategy. 

By allowing him to tackle that department and experiment, the learning curve has been dramatically decreased. EWA is now in a great position to continue building E-commerce assets and expand that area of the portfolio. 

With the help of these people, we effectively delegated nearly all aspects of content management. A huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders. 

Always invest in your team. They are, without a doubt, a critical aspect of scaling a company. 

Why We Started AutomationEngineer.io

Now that we are to the point where most of our content portfolio is automated and self-sufficient, we are on the hunt for something else. 

When the discussion came up of how we could leverage our skillset, it became clear that we could do so by helping others eliminate, automate, and delegate within their own business.  

Automation Engineer is our way of giving back to the world of online business owners and showing them how to scale their systems with ease. 

While some people may only need a YouTube video or walkthrough guide, others might be interested in a hired consultation, and that’s perfectly fine. 

Some of the aspects of Automation Engineer you can expect to see in the coming months are: 

  • Airtable guides and how-tos
  • Articles about hiring virtual assistants
  • Tips and Tricks for scaling content
  • YouTube automation
  • And more!  

If you would like to chat about ways we can help you scale your company, feel free to contact us. We are happy to do so via a video call, email, whatever works best for you. 

Conclusion

Well, if you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you for taking the time to read about how we scaled Earn With Authority. Through the ups and downs, it’s been quite the ride filled with nothing but fun. 

Regardless if you are interested in our services, we would love to hear your thoughts about our journey or any tips and tricks you possibly have to share. The world of online automation is constantly evolving, and we need to stick together as automation engineers. 

Cheers!