How I Built An Affiliate Site On An Auction Domain That Hit 64K Monthly Users In 7 Months

Building an affiliate site from scratch can take a long time.

You need to do keyword research, find products to promote, set your site up, publish lots of good quality content, and build links back to your site.

On top of that, you also have to wait for your site to gain authority and trust with the search engines.

Google just doesn’t trust new sites very much.

This typically means going through a sandbox phase, which can be anything from 3-12 months on average before the site gains traction.

But there’s so much potential to making money with an authority site.  You are building an asset that you could sell one day for 6 or even 7 figures.

Fortunately, there is a quicker way to get traction with an authority site and start making money.

In this article, I’m going to show you how I built a site using an auction domain that reached 64,000 monthly users in its first 7 months.

While there are several things to get right to make this method work (which I’ll cover in this article), here are the main benefits of using this method:

  • Save time and bypass the sandbox phase
  • Get a head start on the trust and authority of your site
  • Save a lot of time and money building backlinks
  • Redirect power from old pages that still have links pointing to them

Finding A Good Domain At Auction

One of the most important things to making this work is finding a good domain at auction.

If you start with a bad domain, then one of two things will happen:

  1. You’ll spend a considerable amount of time (and possibly also money depending on your approach) building the site and it will have a hard time ranking.
  2. It will rank for a while but then it’s rankings will eventually tank.

Starting with a good domain for your target niche will be one of the biggest differences between success and failure.

Fortunately, there are a few specific things to look for that will give the domain a high chance of ranking well in your niche.

For this particular case study, I had already found a niche and did some keyword and product research before I went to the trouble of finding a good auction domain,

The method can also work in reverse. I’ve also had success by spending time looking through the auctions for good domains that meet my criteria (see below) and then doing keyword and product research afterward to see if I have a good chance of monetizing the site.

A Quick Keyword Research Method

So, for this particular site, I had already identified a niche by finding a large number of long-tail keywords that I felt I could rank for without too much trouble.

While it would be ideal to also have a large number of buyer intent keywords, unfortunately, there are very few in this niche.

I still decided to go for it because a lot of the keywords in this niche have high emotive intent, which I thought I could monetize.

This niche is not product orientated, but the majority of the keywords are how-to type keywords.

However, the niche does have a huge number of people with a range of problems they are looking to solve, many of which are motivated by emotion.

  1. First, I made a list of my top ten competitors in the space and then used Ahrefs to see which keywords they were ranking for.
  2. I then downloaded the keyword lists in a CSV file
  3. Then, I took a look at the Top Pages tab in Ahrefs for each competitor and made a note of which pages were bringing them the most traffic
  4. I then analyzed the keyword lists and sorted them into different topic categories
  5. From these topic categories, I made a note of the long-tail keywords that I would stand the best chance to rank for and also had some kind of buyer or emotive intent. I planned to start with these easier keywords first to give myself the best chance of getting traction

Finding Good Affiliate Offers To Promote

I first started off looking at the competitors in this niche to see what they were promoting. I then did some research to find out if these products were their own or if they were promoting them as an affiliate.

If they were their own products then I contacted the owners to see if they had an affiliate program.

If they were affiliate offers then I dug a little deeper to find out how I could also sign up for the same affiliate programs.

Then, with a good idea of the kinds of products that people are selling in this niche, I checked other popular marketplaces like ClickBank, Shareasale, and CommissionJunction for other offers that might work.

For this site, I was able to find a few good offers on Clickbank.

Below are my results after 7 months. Bear in mind at the time of writing this, these are the results during the Coronavirus pandemic and sales are still coming in. If things were normal I think the sales would be even higher:

The site is currently averaging about $1,750 per month from ClickBank. I am also in the process of adding more monetization methods to scale things up even more.

So, back to getting this done…

Finding An Auction Domain For A Money Site

Here are a few key factors to look at to give you the best chance of success with an auction domain:

  1. Keyword in the domain (is not necessary, but it helps)
  2. Topical Trust Flow (TTF) in the same niche you want to build the domain for (important)
  3. The majority of the backlinks are from niche relevant sites (very important)
  4. The majority of the backlinks contain some kind of niche relevant keyword in the page title and/or the URL of the page that is linking to the domain (preferably both – very important)
  5. No spammy links
  6. A high percentage of branded anchor text
  7. No spam anchor text
  8. Site age of at least 3-5 years+

Let me break this down…

Keyword in domain

Now, this is not essential, but it can certainly help.

Since Google is a relevance-based search engine, it primarily works on relevance and also domain authority (PR, DA, link juice from backlinks, or whatever you want to call it).

The more relevant your domain is to your target niche the better.

Since you can’t change the name of your domain, if it has a niche relevant keyword in it then the search engines know that it is likely to be about that topic.

Having a more random domain name will just mean you will have to do a bit more work to bring relevance to the site.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find a domain at auction that meets all the above criteria AND has a niche-relevant keyword in the domain. But if you can find one then it’s a nice bonus.

When searching the auctions for a domain that is already relevant to your niche, there will be considerably fewer domains that also have a niche relevant keyword in the name AND are also good, so this is where to start.

The best auction domain tool I’ve used so far is RegisterCompass. So I’ll be showing you how to find a domain with this platform.

If you want to use a different platform then the process is the same, but the features available might be slightly different.

As an example, let’s say I want to build a site in the camping niche and want to find a relevant auction domain.

To start, I would do two different types of searches.

First Search – a keyword in the domain

Search for the following:

Register Compass auction domain search - keyword in domain

These are the settings I use for the first search. I try to keep it simple to give you a better chance of finding more domains.

These settings are:

1. Keyword In Domain

The domain contains – “camp”, “camping” (you can put more keywords in here. You get up to 30 characters per search)

2. Domain Extension

You’re likely to find a better quality site if you stick to .com .net and .org domains

3. Google Indexed

Check the “Google Indexed” box. You definitely want the domain to have at least one page still indexed in Google

4. Trust Flow

I set the Trust Flow (TF) to greater than 0.  Although TF is a fairly important metric, it’s way overrated IMO. The reason I say this is based on my own experience when I have bought some domains that had a low TF but they have ranked very well.

So, while domains with a high TF will often be better quality, you can find some great domains that will rank well that have a lower TF.

One reason for this is, if a site has been abandoned for a long time and has not been getting much traffic then the TF metric usually starts to drop over time. This alone doesn’t mean it’s a bad site.

If everything else with the site is good then breathing life into the domain with fresh content and backlinks often raises the TF over time and the site will start to rank.

Secondly, there are a lot of people on the auctions who think TF is the end-all-be-all and will only look at domains with a high TF. This gives us a great chance to find a good domain at a lower price.

Having said that, if you’re not very experienced at buying domains at auction then it will be safer to focus on domains with a higher TF.

5. Trust Flow (TF) vs Citation Flow (CF)

When you are checking the Trust Flow of the domain, you also want to make sure that there is not a big gap between the Trust Flow and the Citation Flow.  If there is then this indicates that the domain has a high number of low-quality links.

A good ratio between the TF and CF is between 1 and 2.  So regardless of if the Trust Flow of a site is high or not, if this ratio is higher than 2 then this is a sign of spam links and I would recommend looking at another domain.

6. Referring Domains

I like to start with referring domains greater than 20 and then move up from there. This is how many referring domains backlinks are pointing at the site.

Since camping is not overly competitive, finding a domain with at least 20 referring domains can bring enough power to give us a good head start on the site without spending too much money, providing those referring domains are average to decent quality.

If you have a higher budget or if you’re in a more competitive niche then you’ll likely want to find a domain that has a higher number of referring domains, so adjust this to suit yourself.

If you bid on auction domain with a higher number of referring domains pointing to it then expect to pay a higher price.

7. Start With GoDaddy Public Auction

I like to start by checking the GoDaddy Public auctions first. Although there’ll usually be a higher number of lower quality domains in here, you can also find some great deal that is considerably cheaper than the other auctions

My second choice of auction registrar after that is NameJet PreRelease and thirdly, SnapNames PreRelease. You’ll likely find better domains here but you’ll have to pay $69 just to get in on the bidding. However, if you don’t win the domain then you won’t lose your $69.

With GoDaddy Public auctions, there’s no fee to get in on the bidding, and domains start as low as $12.

Once you’ve made your selections, the next step is to click, “find domains”.Register Compass auction domain search

This particular search brought back 10 results. As I am looking to create a money site, I’m only interested in the auction domains so I don’t worry about the expiring or the expired domains.

The reason for this is, although expired domains will still have their backlink profile, the age resets when you buy the domain. This doesn’t happen when you buy an auction domain.

Clicking on the number 10 (screenshot below) lets me see the results:

Register Compass results


Register Compass analyzing results page

When you’re on the auction page, if you scroll to the right you will see a load more metrics for each domain including trust flow, citation flow, domain authority, page authority, site age, and so on.

The first thing to pay attention to is the Topical Trust Flow shown in the first column labeled, “Majestic Main Topic”.

Since I’m looking for a domain to be used as a money site I want the Majestic MainTopic to match my niche.

The only one in the list that has a relevant topic is the fourth one down,, so this is the only one I’d consider on this search.

At this stage, you also need to consider if this is a good brand name for your new business. If not, then move on. It would be a good idea to do a little research to find out what “Tiber” is/means if you don’t know.

Let’s say for example’s sake, I like the domain name and would be happy to use that as my brand. There are few other things I want to check to see if the domain is good or not.

Domain Age

I can see from the auction listing that the domain age is 2000, which is great.

Trust Flow

This domain has a Trust Flow is 24, which is also very good.

Any Indexed Pages

I can see that the domain still has one page indexed in Google when I search If there were no pages indexed then I wouldn’t be interested

checking if a domain is indexed in Google

Domain Rank

Next, I go to to check the Domain Rank.

Ahrefs showing the DR of a site and number of backlinks

The domain rank (DR) for this site is 15. Not bad to get started in the camping niche.

If the above picture showed the site was still ranking for keywords then this would also be a good sign.

If any of those keywords are still on page 1 or 2 then this is a great sign and also shows that the domain is highly unlikely to have a penalty.

Still, it’s not a problem if organic keywords are showing 0, which this example is.

Check the anchor text

From the picture below, the anchor text looks good as it is mostly branded.

I won’t show the whole list of anchor text here, but at the time of running this check, I didn’t see any spammy anchor text in the results, so things look good there.

Also, make sure that most of the anchor text is in the language of the country you primarily want to rank in.

Checking anchor text in Ahrefs

Check the backlinks

The next step is to check the quality of the backlinks.

In my opinion, it’s important that the majority of the backlinks (left-hand column) are either from camping or outdoor-related sites and/or have some kind of niche keyword (like camping, hiking, tents, etc) in the title and/or the URL of the backlink.

Since I’m looking for a site to be used as a money site I’d only go for sites that have 90%+ of their backlinks that fit these criteria.

I can see from these backlinks that a lot of the links are from Italian sites.

It’d probably be great for a camping site for the Italian market, but I wouldn’t use it for a site that I primarily intended to rank in English speaking countries.

The majority of the backlinks also still need to be live.

Checking the backlinks of a site in Ahrefs

WayBack Machine

The last check is to throw the domain into the WayBack Machine at and check several of the screenshots at different dates.

The WayBack Machine

By looking at the images over time you can see if the site has always been used as a camping site and you can get an idea if it might have changed hands or not.

More importantly, you can see if the site has ever been changed into a PBN, been hacked, or anything else that may indicate spam.

These are all red flags and would mean you’re probably better off not buying the domain to turn it into a money site.

There are several other checks you could also do if you wanted to dive deeper, but in most cases, these are the things I check for.

Second Search – Topical Trust Flow

This search is almost the same as the first, except I don’t search for a keyword in the domain.

Instead, I set the Topical Trust Flow to be the niche I want to rank in (in this case, the camping niche is in the Outdoors/Recreation category), and I increase the number of referring domains slightly.

Second domain auction search using Register Compass

Then, do the same checks on the domains mentioned above.

These two methods will give you a solid chance at finding a good domain that has the potential to be used as a money site.

If you don’t find one the first time round then just keep checking again in a few days or so until you find one.

How should you pay for the domain?

How much to pay for the domain depends on several factors besides the metrics.

If the site has good metrics then it will, of course, be worth more. However, you need to consider how much the domain is worth to you personally.

If you’ve already done your keyword research, found good products that you know convert well and you feel you can rank in the niche without too much of a fight then the domain will be worth a lot more to you.

It then comes down to your budget and how much you are willing to pay.

If this is your first crack at this method then I would strongly advise not investing a lot of money into a domain.

While you certainly might have success on your first try, it took me a couple of attempts to get it right.

For this particular case study domain, I was lucky and got it for a good price. I paid in the $200 range.

Setting Up The Site

Once you’ve bought the domain and it’s cleared in your registrar account, you should move forward and set your site up as soon as possible.

Since the site has been used before, it is important to look at the backlink profile to see where most of the links are pointing to.

Most sites have the majority of their backlinks pointing to the homepage. However, you need to find out if they are pointing to the www version or the non-www version of the site.

To check this, go to Ahrefs and enter your domain name. In the sidebar, you will see an option called, “Best by links”.

Ahrefs best by links function

Click that option.

Then, on the next page you will see something that looks like this:

Ahrefs best by links report

I grayed out my domain on the left because I don’t want to reveal my niche, but I can see that most of the referring domains are pointing to the www version of the site. I’m particularly interested where the Dofollow links are pointing.

Since most of them are pointing to the www version, that is the version I set for my new site as well.

Getting the site indexed

At this stage, I didn’t know how well the site would perform. So I set up a very basic version of the site and published one article around 500 words long.  I then submitted the new post URL to the Google Search Console URL inspection tool.

I also added a relevant YouTube video to the article and created a video sitemap using the XML Sitemaps For Videos plugin.

Sitemaps make it easier for the search engines to crawl your content. Besides, Google also loves YouTube since it owns it, and it is one more opportunity for people to see their ads via the video.

Once you’ve created the video sitemap you can ping Google to come to crawl your site via the plugin. In my experience, Google spiders usually come within 24-48 hours when I use this plugin.

If for some reason the site doesn’t get indexed within a few days to a week then add a couple more articles and interlink them, then resubmit the site to Google one more time.

Checking for a spam penalty

If there’s no manual action against the site showing in the Google Search Console then that’s a good thing. However, nowadays, Google doesn’t always tell you if there is a manual action on the site.

So, once the site is indexed you can do a simple test to check if the domain has a spam penalty.

Unfortunately, you can’t do this before you buy the site at auction because it needs to be set up and indexed first.

But running this test will still save you a lot of time and money if there is an issue with the domain.

To do this test, simply go to Google search and type in your domain name and hit return.

Below I’ve used screenshots of a different domain that I know is indexed so I can show you how this works.

Your site should show up on page one and usually at number one if it is indexed.

first step checking if a domain has a penguin penalty

Then, delete the period and leave a space between the domain name and the extension and hit return.

Checking is a domain has a penguin penalty step 2

Ideally, you should still be on page one, but as long as your site is on one of the first three pages then you should be good to go.

Basically, Google won’t show a site on the first three pages when you do this search if the site has a spam penalty.

If your site doesn’t show up when you do this or if it is on page three or beyond then you can add part of your title to the search, like this:

Checking if a domain has a penguin penalty step 3

If your site shows on page one or two then it’s highly unlikely the site does not have a spam penalty and you’re good to move ahead with the site.

Start publishing content

Now that I know the site has been indexed and it hasn’t got a spam penalty, it’s worth investing time and money into the site.

So I start by publishing articles on a regular basis.

For this particular case study site, I used the following posting schedule:

  • Month 1 – 5: One new post every other day
  • Month 6 – 8: Two to three new posts per week

Having a steady posting schedule seems to help with consistent ranking improvements.

As the site matures and gains more authority, we’ll probably continue moving forwards with a steady posting schedule of one to two new posts per week.

This should help to still maintain the site at a steady growth and will also give us time to work on new sites.

Using a Social auto poster

When I set up this site I used a free social media auto-poster plugin called Nextscripts. There are several other ones out there such as Buffer that you could also use.

When you publish your articles on your site the auto-poster plugin will repost them on your social media platforms for you on autopilot.

Each time it does this it creates another social backlink to each post. Although these links don’t bring any power to the site, they can help with the relevance of your articles. Some people also say that doing this can raise the trust factor of your site over time, which may be true.

Since it won’t hurt the site and doesn’t take too long to set up, it’s worth doing this step.

On-page SEO

I’m not going to go into detail about on-page SEO in this article but I do want to mention a couple of things I did on this site which made a big difference to the rankings.

They are:

  • URL structure
  • SEO post title
  • Interlinking

Generally, for most articles I used the primary keyword for each article in the post URL, then a very close variation of the primary keyword as the SEO post title.

I also made sure that each article received at least 3 internal links from other relevant articles. For those links, I used LSI keywords as the anchor text.

As the site grew I monitored which articles were performing well and which ones not so well using Ahrefs and SemRush. The articles that needed a boost got a few more internal links.


Honestly, for this particular site, I didn’t spend much time at all building backlinks because it already had a decent number of good links when I bought it. The site started with around 170 referring domains when I bought the site.

Besides that, I built out the main social profiles and did a bit of outreach, that’s it. No private blog networks (PBN) or other grey or black hat methods were used.

Monitoring the performance

There are loads of great tools out there to monitor the performance of your site and you may already have tools you like to work with.

Personally, I use (as well as Google Analytics and Search Console) the following:

You absolutely don’t need all these tools. For example, you can use either Ahrefs or SemRush and do away with the other one. I only use both because I have access to them. My first choice out of the two would be Ahrefs.

You need some kind of rank tracker and in my opinion, ProRankTracker is a good and affordable one.

WP Statistics, Google Analytics, and Search Console are free.

Results After 7 Months

Here’s a screenshot of where the site is currently at according to Ahrefs:

Domain overview in Ahrefs

Here’s a screenshot of the organic growth of the site since I bought it, according to Ahrefs:

The organic rankings of my site according to Ahrefs

Here’s a screenshot of the metrics overview in Google Analytics:

Site metrics in Google Alalytics

I need to work on the bounce rate, but the site is making good progress with organic traffic.

Here’s a screenshot showing where the site’s currently at via the WP Statistics plugin:

Organic traffic according to WP Statistics

These are only the daily organic referrals from Google.

The site also does receive traffic from other search engines as well

Final Thoughts

Building an authority site that makes money by using an auction domain is absolutely possible if you follow the right steps.

If this is your first time trying this method then it’s advisable not to invest too much money into buying your auction domain in case it doesn’t work out the first time.

Make sure the niche is profitable and you’ve found several decent products you can promote before you buy the domain.

Checking if the site has a penalty once it’s indexed will save you a lot of time and money building out the site if it does. It will also give you peace of mind that you are working on a decent site if your site passes.

Have you built an authority site on an auction domain? What were your experiences? Let me know in the comments below.

About Steve West

Steve is a blogger and affiliate marketer with a passion for SEO. He began his affiliate marketing journey in 2013 and hasn't looked back since. When he's not blogging he enjoys spending time with his friends, hiking and working out. He also loves cookies, which is why he needs to work out. You can read more of his articles on his website over at Entrepreneur Nut.