The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Affiliate Marketing Success: Adam Connell Shares Insider Tips

Last updated on May 30th, 2023 | 6 min

Are you currently stuck in an office dreaming of being your own boss?

This was Adam Connell’s situation over 12 years ago. And If his name doesn’t ring a bell, his alter ego as Blogging Wizard surely will.

Adam is not only one of our key affiliate partners who has generated close to 5K NitroPack referrals – he has grown from a handful of affiliate partnerships to over 350 while making millions of dollars in the process.

Today we’ve sat him down for an interview to give you insider knowledge on: 

  • Key lessons he’s learned and the one mishap he looks back on fondly
  • How to go about failure and make the most out of it in real-world situations
  • Top 5 tips for beginners and his 4 key elements of a successful campaign
  • His need-based approach to content that is a win-win for both author and the readers
  • His journey in one of his most successful programs to date as a NitroPack affiliate
  • Must-have sections for a good product review
  • The importance of posting  content repeatedly

Whether you’re just starting out with affiliate marketing or you’re further down the line in your journey, Adam Connell’s tips are your go-to on how to launch or transform your online business through affiliate marketing.

Adam, your main business is teaching your audience about proven strategies to accelerate blog growth and how to monetize it successfully. How long have you been running BloggingWizard and how did affiliate marketing first come into the picture?

Blogging Wizard was launched in December 2012, and it's changed a lot since then thanks to various pivots and redesigns. 

But my foray into affiliate marketing started a couple of years before that and for a different website entirely. Prior to 2012, I was working in a customer service role, and the nature of customers (and management) created a work environment that wasn’t rewarding. 

It was one of those “get in a hole and stay there” types of jobs. It wasn’t a good environment to work in at all. And managers would occasionally performance manage people out of the business if they didn’t like them.

So, while job hunting, I decided to launch a side hustle. I had experience building websites with WordPress thanks to a record label I ran in college.

And affiliate marketing seemed like an easy way to monetize it. Looking back, I wasn’t all that confident I could make any money doing it. But I suspended disbelief, put the time in, and built up the website.

When did you realize the potential of affiliate marketing? 

It was the day my first commission cheque from Clickbank arrived in the mail. 

This was a turning point. The time and effort paid off. And it taught me that it was actually possible to earn money with affiliate marketing.

It was a few hundred dollars. Given the time I’d sunk into the project, it wasn’t much, but that didn’t matter. I had a “pinch myself” moment and ramped up my efforts. I had the motivation I needed to continue so I continued growing the site and my commissions.

The only problem? I paid attention to some terrible SEO advice at the start of building that site.

Google pulled down the hammer with their Penguin update in May 2012.

That can’t have been easy. How did you recover?

It was a tough time. Years of work wiped out overnight.

Working on this specific site taught me a lot of difficult lessons about building a business, SEO, and content marketing in general. The SEO and content marketing side of things being quite useful moving forward but that didn’t help me with my side project.

My initial plan was to scale the site to a point where I could leave my job and do something that I enjoyed. 

So, I did the next best thing and applied for a job at a local marketing agency that focused on SEO & content marketing.

My chances were slim. I was up against qualified marketers. People who went to university and studied how to do marketing. And to top it off, I couldn’t attend the group interview. 

But as it turns out, they needed someone who didn’t learn about SEO in a textbook. They needed someone with hands-on experience that wouldn’t risk their clients getting hammered by Google’s ranging penguin. 

I got the job, and it was damned hard work. The learning curve was intense and extremely fulfilling.

However, I still had the blogging bug, I guess we could say. And given the experience of losing everything I’d built previously due to some shonky SEO advice from a marketer I trusted - I wanted to help others start their blogging journey right.

And this is where Blogging Wizard came to be.

Yes, this is where the idea of Blogging Wizard was born.

My priority was to simply share everything I knew. And everything I was learning from my day job working on content & SEO for clients.

Affiliate marketing was the lowest-friction option out there. And it helped me to avoid running display ads.

So, I monetized with affiliate links where it was relevant and whenever I found a useful product that was relevant to my audience.

Fast forward more than a decade and the initial handful of affiliate partners has grown to over 350. And I’ve made millions of dollars for the brands I’ve partnered with.

But it nearly never happened. So here are a few key takeaways from this experience:

  • Modern society gives the impression that failure is the end of the journey. It isn’t. The reality is that it’s just part of the learning process. And what we sometimes perceive to be a failure isn’t. It’s just one of many steps that we need to take to learn something.
  • When something goes wrong in your business, or a tactic/strategy doesn’t work, you’ve got to approach it in a particular way. Don’t just try something for a few weeks and say “This doesn’t work” - you’ve got to work to understand the reasons. Why didn’t it work? Did you give it enough time? Could you have improved your strategy? How can you adjust your approach to make it work?  

Being one of our best-performing affiliates, can you share some tips on what you did to generate close to 5K of referrals? What would you say are the key elements of a successful affiliate campaign? 

Success with affiliate marketing comes down to these key components; the audience, product, traffic, and content.

But you’re going to need all four components in perfect alignment for the magic to happen.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Audience - You need to build an audience around a specific niche. This is the first and most important part because it informs the rest of your affiliate strategy.
  • Product - Once you have an audience and understand their needs, you need to select products that solve their core challenges. The product(s) you choose need to be great products, but there is a bit more to it. The brands behind them need to be capable of actually making sales. There are some brands with great products, but their websites and sales funnels won’t convert. As good as a product is, if the website & sales funnel looks like it was created by amateurs, it probably won’t convert. Or you’ll have to work 10x as hard to send traffic before you get anything.
  • Traffic - Next, you need to know how you’re going to drive traffic to your content. This is critical because it will determine the type of content that will be most effective. For example, if you publish review articles, social media generally won’t convert that well. For buyer-intent content, you need buyer-intent traffic which means organic search will be your best option. Naturally, you’ll need multiple traffic sources, but it works best to focus on one at first, then add in additional traffic sources as your site grows.
  • Content - Now, you need to create the type of content that aligns best with your chosen traffic source(s), your audience, and the product(s) you’ve selected. Ideally, you need quality and quantity, but quality should be your main focus. It’s important to care about the details and create the best content you possibly can. The effort you put into your content will determine your audience’s perception of your brand.  

Of course, there’s a bit more to it than this, but this should provide you with a decent top-level overview of how to get started on your affiliate marketing strategy.

Your strategy for success is centered around posting NitroPack-related content repeatedly, as opposed to a one-off review. What makes going the extra mile so important? 

There are two parts to my thinking behind this approach.

Firstly, most of my audience is at different stages of their journey, and as such, they have varying needs from one moment to the next.

For example, they may have looked at tools to speed up WordPress before NitroPack existed and chosen a specific plugin.

But now, they may simply be looking for alternatives to that plugin. A general top-level roundup may not be too relevant. But an article on alternatives to their current plugin? That’s a lot more relevant and serves their needs better.

This is why I place such a strong focus on need-based content - it puts me in a better position to provide content to my audience that’s as relevant as possible.

The second part is risk aversion. The last thing any affiliate marketer should do is rely on a small amount of content to provide their entire income. 

For instance, in the early days, my income was reliant on a handful of articles that drove all of my revenue. That wasn’t a good strategy. 

So the benefit of adopting a need-based approach to content is that my affiliate revenue is spread out amongst a large number of articles. And I’m always looking to expand that content.

It’s a win for my audience, and it’s a win for me.

Going back to basics, what are your 5 tips for someone who is just starting with affiliate marketing?

  • Don’t promote a product just because an affiliate manager asks you to. Promote a product because it’s right for your audience.
  • Don’t rely on a single affiliate program or piece of content to provide most of your affiliate income. Expand and diversify at all costs.
  • Have a solution in place for checking to make sure your affiliate links are always working. I’ve had some experiences where a WordPress update has broken ALL of my links. It’s a good idea to have a tool that can check for broken links and other issues (I use Hexometer) and it’s worth doing some manual checks after each WordPress update.
  • Use affiliate platforms like ShareASale to get access to a large volume of programs easily. But in some niches, you’ll need to go direct to access the best ones (as is the case with NitroPack).

When planning your content strategy, consider not only your audience but also traffic sources and the products you’ll be promoting. All these components need to be fully aligned.

We've all had our fair share of trial and error. What's one mishap you look back on with a smile?

I had a bit of a facepalm moment.

It was quite a few years ago now, but I’ll always remember it because it was one of the most potentially catastrophic mistakes I’ve ever made.

I’d rebuilt one of my sites on a new server and chose a Friday evening to push the changes live.

The only problem? I left the "Discourage search engines from indexing this site" button ticked in the back end of WordPress.

And I temporarily bounced my site out of Google’s index.

I wasn’t smiling at the time. Quite the opposite haha. But I do look back at it with a smile. It’s the last time I ever made that mistake.

So, take it from me. Never push site changes live at the end of a day and never do it on a Friday evening. And it’s a good idea to have a checklist for these types of things.

What are the key lessons you’ve learned from your 12+ year-long affiliate marketing journey? 

It’s been a long journey with a lot of significant lessons. But here are some of the most prevalent:

  • Take your expectations and ignore them completely. Affiliate marketing is no get-rich-quick scheme. You’ll make more money quicker doing a regular job, at least in the early days. But with a smart strategy and determination, it can be incredibly rewarding. It’ll just take a while to get there. Keep your day job and make affiliate marketing your side hustle.
  • You need a plan but don't be afraid to throw it out of the window entirely if it helps you escape chronic perfectionism. I spent months planning a complex launch strategy for Blogging Wizard. In December 2012, I threw out my plan and went live with the content I had. With a better launch strategy, I would have grown the blog quicker, but I probably would have had to delay the launch by 6-12 months. Done is better than perfect because perfect is never done, or so the saying goes.

When searching for a review of a site speed optimization tool on Google, what do you think people look for? What are the must-have sections and how do you write reviews people want to read? 

People want to read reviews based on actual testing. For a speed optimization tool, performance gains are super important.

For other types of products, you usually don’t have the luxury of showing hard data that justifies the product because it’s usually so subjective.

Fortunately, with speed optimization tools, you can show hard data on exactly what the end user will get from it. This makes the purchase easier to justify and make sense of.

In addition, you’ll have all of the typical sections like a walkthrough of how the product works, key features, pros and cons, pricing, alternatives, and some sort of verdict. But it’s the all-important performance gains that are so important for a review like this.

Finally, can you tell our readers a bit more about your journey with NitroPack? What made you decide to promote it in the first place?

Website performance has always been a challenge, particularly for those using the self-hosted version of WordPress.

Advances in hosting technology have helped in this regard, but there’s only so much a web host can do. They can’t fix performance problems that are introduced by themes, plugins, and lack of optimization.

I’ve always built websites myself. I enjoy the process, and over the years I’ve developed a tech stack that I’m comfortable with.

I had go-to recommendations for performance, but they required more technical know-how than some of my audience had. And the problems my audience was trying to solve with performance weren’t easy to solve without a lot of tinkering.

For example, I’d get readers coming to me with bloated themes and page builders that were introducing 5-10+ seconds of extra load time. They’d want a solution that would essentially solve all of their WordPress performance woes with zero technical know-how. And typically hiring a third-party developer wasn’t an option due to the cost.

Then I found NitroPack. I tested it out on one of my sites and was blown away by the performance gains. And it quickly became my go-to recommendation for my readers that needed a way to dramatically speed up slow websites with a few clicks.


Svilena Peneva
Affiliate Partnerships Manager

As part of the marketing team, Svilena helps our affiliates make the most of their relationship with NitroPack.