$10K Challenge Update #7

Welcome to the 7th update of my $10K Challenge. If this is your first time reading, check out what this challenge is all about here.

Below are the things that happened since the last update (August 2016):

Key Successes

  • Hit 150,000+ visits a month.
  • Hit $5,000+ in revenue.
  • Acquired 66 new backlinks.

Key Failures

  • Haven’t got much traction with building an email list.

Website Stats as of August 1st, 2016


Domain Profile

I used Ahrefs (paid) and Open Site Explorer (free) to help measure the effectiveness of my promotional efforts by tracking these metrics:

  • Domain Rating: 45 (+3)
  • Referring Domains: 172 (+66)
  • Organic Keywords: 37,239 (+7,000)



With all the new links and contents that we’ve produced, traffic kept growing. We’ve reached a new milestone of 156,804 visits in September.

Traffic last 3 months:








Pages / Session




Bounce Rate




Traffic growth rate




New article published




Referring Domains




Organic Keywords (US)






Good news! TYS finally had a breakthrough and made $5,259.53 in September after being stuck at $3,000 monthly for 7 months straight while traffic have tripled since February!

Earnings last 3 months:




Amazon Affiliate Commission








Ordered Items








Shipped Items Revenue




Earning per Click (EPC)




Average Order Size




Amazon Affiliate % Total Revenue




New Affiliate Offer Commission



New Affiliate Offer % Total Revenue



Gross Monthly Revenue




Month-to-Month Revenue growth rate




Gross 2016 Revenue




Here’s what we did to achieve that significant growth:

Remove Geni.us - If you don’t know yet, Geni.us is a platform that allows you to generate links that can automatically localize based on your visitor’s location. This enables you to earn from Amazon stores in other countries as well.

They also have a WordPress plugin which makes implementation process go very smoothly.

In theory, the service would help you make more money from your current traffic. Unfortunately, in my case, I would have potentially lost a few thousand dollars by having Geni.us’ WordPress plugin installed on my sites for 7 months.

The short story is that towards the end of August I discovered that a lot of my affiliate links were not working properly. Visitors were being sent to Amazon with Geni.us’ default tracking tag instead of my own tracking IDs.

That means Geni.us’ Amazon associate account was getting credited with sales that were supposed to be mine.

After investigating, I figured that there was a bug between Thrive Content Builder and Geni.us’ plugin that messed up the links and caused the problem.

This issue was first ​raised by a member of Authority Hacker Pro:

I immediately disabled Geni.us plugin and had to manually go through every article to fix my affiliate links.

It was a long and boring Sunday.

But I’m glad I did that because over the next few days I immediately saw a significant increase in clicks and earnings.

So, if you’re using Geni.us with Thrive Content Builder, you should definitely check to make sure your links are working properly.

Even if you’re not using Thrive Content Builder, it’s still a good idea to test. You can switch Geni.us off for a week to see if there’s any difference. I actually sensed that something weird or shady was going on with their service so I checked.

I did some tests using VPNs and noticed that sometimes the links were not localized properly.

I’m not really sure the real reasons and I need more data before I can make any claim. But, you should definitely test and see for yourself.

If you do find something, please share with me via email or comments.

UPDATE: Geniuslink's CEO has quickly reached out via email and explained the problems in detail. I see that as a positive sign of a good service. Check out the email below:

Hi Tung,

I wanted to follow up on your mention of Geniuslink / geni.us above to sincerely apologize, thank you for your help, and share a few more details for your readers.

First and foremost, we are truly sorry for the bugs that cost you time, frustration and lost commissions. Our goal is to make things easy for affiliates and help them increase their commissions so when the exact opposite happens it really rattles us.

As Taylor (from my team that you were working with) mentioned we’d like to try and make it right for you (but we completely understand your hesitancy).

Second, I wanted to sincerely thank you for your help in working with us to find those bugs. While we try really hard not to mess up, unfortunately these things do happen and it makes such a massive difference in our lives when we are working with a client and they have a professional attitude than when they don’t. Again, thank you.

I also wanted to echo a comment you made in your post that I couldn’t agree with more - ALWAYS TEST YOUR LINKS! This is so important in marketing, and especially affiliate marketing, where even one wrong character in the URL can be the difference in your links tracking or not.

Testing has been an integral part of our service since the beginning. To aid in testing we’ve created a parameter that easily allows you to see how a click would perform if clicked from a different region (or device, OS, etc.) to save you from having to figure out how to set up an international proxy or spoof your user agent.

We then put this information in all of our communication mediums (dashboard, blog, knowledge base, and it’s the topic of the second email we send during a new account onboarding) to help ensure our clients make use of it.

Finally, I wanted to share some details about the bugs we found (and squashed) as well as the issues with Thrive Content Builder that we are still trying to get to the bottom of.

#1 - Honor Existing - Our plugin has the ability to use the affiliate tracking ID that you already have added to a link when the link doesn’t require translation (instead of using the tracking IDs that you add / manage through the dashboard).

Unfortunately, we had a bug for links without Associate IDs already added that were suppose to “Honor Existing.” When that link was clicked from the same country as the link was suppose to go (Eg. US click on an Amazon.com link) then we woudn’t check to see if the link had a Associate ID, and we just passed it through the service without one.

We now check every link coming through to ensure that it’s affiliated. From reviewing your clicks it appears that this was likely the biggest factor on your missed affiliate commissions and unfortunately no one benefited from it but Amazon.

#2 - Return To Original - We use a series of steps when we globalize a product link to ensure the best possible user experience. In short we first try to send the user to the correct item in their local Amazon storefront (even when the ASIN changes) and if we can’t do that we try to find the right search terms to ensure that they are seeing a search results page that is relevant to the link they clicked.

Finally, If we aren’t confident in any of those results (not sure it’s the right item or don’t think the search results are good) then we will send the international user to the original link.

Unfortunately we also found a bug in that when a click came from a country that our client hadn’t added their affiliate tracking IDs, and when we couldn’t find a good match in that storefront, we then did the “Return to Original” and used the original URL but we still thought it was getting sent to a storefront where the client hadn’t provided an Amazon tracking ID, and as a result we used our own tracking ID.

This appears to be the issue that you noticed in your testing, and I can understand why you felt this was “shady.” It was definitely not our intention to affiliate those link with our own IDs, it was just a screw up with our globalization logic and has been fixed.

Thrive Content Builder - As also mentioned, there seem to be some issues around using (or rather “removing”) our plugin when using TCB (and it appears W3 Total Cache might also play a part in this).

In short, an Amazon link that is transformed into a buy.geni.us link (what our plugin does so that it can leverage our service) stays as a buy.geni.us link even after the plugin is uninstalled.

Although we’re not entirely sure, we believe that Thrive Content Builder is caching your website (along with W3 Total Cache), including the buy.geni.us links, then showing the static copy of the page for your users.

While this makes the page super fast to load for your users, it doesn’t re-load all of the resources that were fired when the page first runs (like our ALE plugin).

Instead, it just fires the same page with the same information as the first time it loaded that page until the cache is “busted.”

Unfortunately, we’re not sure how to force the cache to completely re-grab the page without the ALE installed after it’s been removed. However, once that’s figured out, the plugin will be gone for good, unless you reinstall.

The issue mentioned in the Facebook screenshot around our change in URL structure from target.georiot.com to buy.geni.us, is likely unrelated. The old format is still supported (and will be indefinitely) so links that didn’t update (related to the first TCB issue that likely has something to do with caching) should still send users to their local storefront.

Our plugin isn’t adding any additional UTF info to the link and our service ignores unknown parameters on a link. What may be happening is that you have another plugin (might also be related to TCB caching) that is adding additional stuff to the link, but the info is not properly encoded.

Instead, it’s passed to our service and when our service doesn’t recognize the link, we attempt to simply pass it through. Bad data in, bad data out.

If anyone else is seeing any other issues like these, PLEASE let us know so we can ensure that they get resolved.

Regardless of the causes, we are deeply sorry for the issues that arose and the lost commissions because of them.

So, thank you for giving our service a try and for working through this with us - this was not the experience we intended, and hope that we might eventually rebuild that trust that we lost.

Jesse Lakes

CEO / Co-Founder

Geniuslink / GeoRiot

Added affiliate links to product subheadings - I’ve run some heatmap tests over the last few months and it was clear that subheadings with product names got quite a bit of clicks.

Here’s what I mean:

Found a new converting affiliate offer with higher payout - This is what we’re focusing on more over the next few months. Basically, for every affiliate content that is doing well, you search around and try to find offers that pay a lot more than the usual 4 - 8% you get with Amazon.

There are 2 main ways to search for affiliate program:

  • Search for KEYWORD + “affiliate program”
  • Search on offervault.com

Content & Promotion

We’ve produced 27 new articles and built 66 new links.

We’re having a lot of success with the following link building methods:

  • Epic Content
  • Guest Posting
  • You can learn about all the working backlink strategies in my flagship training course AMZ Affiliate Bootcamp.

One scholarship campaign was launched as an experiment, but we were not happy with the results. I’m not recommending it as it’s getting over-saturated right now.


That’s it for my 7th update.

If you have any question for me, feel free to leave a comment below or post in our Facebook community.

You can also join my online course AMZ Affiliate Bootcamp, if you want to fast-track your way to success with building Amazon affiliate websites.

People are getting great results following the program and I expect to show you a few success stories over the next few months.

Tung Tran

Tung Tran is the founder of CloudLiving.com.
  • Hey Tung,

    Thanks for the awesome breakdown.

    One thing about individual affiliate programs is that they are highly unreliable. It could be running today, then the merchant decide to halt it all of a sudden.

    I recently had that happen to a CJ offer I was promoting. So, while the payout of such a product would be high, it can also be very unreliable.

  • Since When you started the Link Building and also making the title as a affiliate Link, Dosen’t it affected the Serp Ranking? Thanks and Congs for Great achievement.

  • Congrats on hitting $5k!

    Are those the only conversion optimization you did?

  • Nice job mate, and that’s a real bugger about the genius links thing. At least you caught it early on.

    Interesting to see you branching out into other affiliate programs outside of Amazon. I noticed you were using ads a while ago, but I presume you didn’t get much success with them?

    • I hate ads 🙂 they made my site ugly. and yes they were not doing well.

  • I thought of integrating genius links. But what you have mentioned is a bit alarming. Is it because you reached the number of clicks allowed as per your plan? Did you contact them about this? Which plan were you in genius pricing plan? They only offer 10,000 clicks for the basic plan and you seem to have more than 20,000 clicks.

    • I was paying $30 a month for 30,000 clicks. No problem with that.

  • Excellent post Tung. I guess if you wouldnt have used genius, you would have earned much more over the previous months too. Great going. Would it be fine if I share this post on my Facebook Group, Grow your Niche? It has 4,000 members and since this is the best case study for growing a niche, I guess its a perfect match. Thanks 🙂

  • Halas Salah says:

    Nice Tung! You are on the right way.

  • Hey Tung,
    Congrats on your well deserved achievement 🙂 !

    I have one quick question.
    What did you use to replace Geni.us and still geolocate affiliate links?

    Like you I’m using Thrive, and never wanted to use an external service for links, mainly to avoid bad surprises, like in your case.

    Thanks as always for your precious updates.

      • Exactly. Localizinf takes a lot of time and not worthy of time for me.

  • Hey Tung. Incredible update! Been following along since the beginning. Happy for you –keep crushing it!

  • Omer Digner says:

    Are you sure you didn’t got results with scholarship links I mean luqman is booming with it, is google unfair?…And Yes I have heard from Neil patel that scholarship links are spam links and he has advised to not build it what’s your take on it tung ?

    • Every site is different. Probably it helped a little bit but overall I’m still not recommending it to people without an established link profile.

  • Vaughn Scriven says:

    Hi Tung, thank you as usual for a very informative post. I only have one question. Is the high bounce rate normal? It doesn’t seem to be affecting your earnings so, I was curious about that.

    • I think that’s because of my affiliate content. People come and click right away 😀

      • Vaughn Scriven says:

        Okay, that makes sense.

  • Tung, Congrats to see you hitting your traffic and income goal. I’m very impressed with your dedication and success.

    Would I know your cost for Sept? How much would it be to produce those Epic content and VA cost for outreaching?

    Sure that your Q4 will be killing. Congrats!


    • It was $1500. Epic content only costs like $200 to produce and then my SEO manager just sends emails.

      • Tung,

        Do you think I can get epic content writer from fiverr ? or should i look from other sites ?

        • I never tried so I dont know. But you can’t get anything “epic” for $5 🙂 But sure there are good sellers on Fiverr but do expect to pay a lot more.

  • Wichly Cazeau says:

    Congrats Tung! Your updates are certainly motivated. I wonder whether these strategies would workout with any niche. Thanks!

  • Gavin Jackson says:

    Keep up the good work Tung!

  • Tung, congrates.

    Same as geniu.us, do you use ever another WP plugin associate goliath? Thanks.

  • Great article, nice development. soon you will touch the $10k.. Hope you will succeed and great tracking of your improvements.

  • Congrats on your success! I see a lot of skin care sites now popping up that kind of look like Thank Your Skin and using the same theme and targeting the same keywords (for example Fix Your Skin and Kayleebeauty). Are these yours and if not does it bother you that people are copying you and even competing in the same niche with the same keywords?

    Also, after your experience so far do you building an authority site like Thank Your Skin more rewarding financially in terms of cost and time vs small niche sites with mostly PBN links?

    Do you wish you picked a niche with a higher price point instead of an average of $20 because you are going to need so much volume to make $10k now whereas I know people who have much less traffic than you but have hit closer to $10k because the average price of their sale is much higher. With skin care I feel like you need crazy volume because you have people buying $5 face washes etc; it can get annoying.

    • Thanks John! I don’t care about the copycats. They just can’t keep up with the original 🙂

      Authority sites are always better.

      I’m happy with my current niche. I didn’t choose it because of money. I chose the niche because I knew it well and I knew I could add value in the long run. It’s not hard to make $10k in this niche. Affiliate revenue is just the start. Once I add my own products, I could see this becoming a 7-figure site. We’ll see 🙂

  • Hi Tung,

    Looks like you are doing some great work with your website. I ma trying to do the same. I have to ask though, where are you getting your VAs for that price. I would love to find VAs for that kind of monthly price. I could do so much more.



  • Hey Tung, thank goodness you got that link stuff straightened out! Any recommendations on a reliable, efficient way to test links to make sure nothing like that is happening to me?

  • I had a similar experience with EasyAzon. I thought I wasn’t getting credit for every click so I removed the plugin.

    • Chris Guthrie says:

      Hey Tim, we’ve definitely never had reports of this in the past but if this was something you were concerned about definitely hope you reached out to our support team.

      Perhaps you’ll give us a try again later.

  • Hey Tung what an update, congrats on passing $5k/m that’s epic and so inspiring. And damn one in three people click through to AMZ, your content is super strong buddy! Wonder if you’re gonna flip this on empire when reach $10k/m – will be a nice $200k+ payday 🙂

    • Haha thanks Richard! My initial plan was flipping it when it’s at $30,000/m to get $1M but now it’s all about growing the next million dollar brand. I’m gonna release my own product line soon and that is gonna help take the site to the next level.

      • Marcin Chruszcz says:

        Product line on amazon fba or open ecomerce with Your product line ,or start digital products. You can do both

  • Is your VA looking for guest post the traditional way via searches in google like “submit a guest post” skin care etc or do you have any secret tools or ways you are using to find these?

    Scholarships seems like a good idea but it seems like the bare minimum is $500, I don’t think anyone will list a $100 scholarship… lol $500 is a lot for me right now.

    Do you really seriously end up having to give the scholarship money in the end??

    Also, curious if you use any tracking software to keep track of your VA’s like programs that take screenshots of their desktop to make sure they are working?

    • We just use basic queries and a lot of manual prospecting.

      Yes definitely I pick a student and give $1000. Not a fan of scamming people for links here.

      Asana is the center of my business. We do all task management there. And having trust in your people is important. You can’t build a great team micromanaging everyone.

  • Also curious what your quota is for your team in regards to guest posts… so if it’s 66 links for the month is it fair to say you expect your writers to write around 3 articles a day (for guest posting) and then find 3 sites to post on per day?

    I also noticed that some of the sites that you post on don’t have a “write for us” link. So do you have your outreach person actually contact these sites and ask them if they accept submissions even if it’s not listed on their site that they accept submissions?

    • Not all links are from guest posting. A bulk of that came from epic content and scholarship.

      Build the relationship first the ask for the link. That’s how we get links on sites that don’t advertise guest post.

  • thanks for the case study. on your Skin site….do those Amazon related product ads at the bottom of the posts convert well for you ? Do you add those through manually for each post or use a wordpress ad widget.

  • You get all this traffic and yet you get no comments on your articles?

  • Does it make you mad when people post at the same blogs that accept guest posts as you? Some of my competitors are copying me as in posting at the same places I discovered first for guest posts. They aren’t copying my articles but just posting at the same places. How do you deal with this?

  • Anes Amrani says:

    hi Tang thanks for the update, just wanted to ask you about the Geni.us service, do you think its legal to do any type of link cloacking, even though amazon states clearly that its aginst terms of use to do that to their affliate links ??

  • Hi Tung, Your site is providing me with quite an education. I have been wanting to build an authority site for over 10 years but do not know anything about getting started. one big source of confusion is how to actually build the site. Is there a software platform that allows me to build the site and deploy all the methods and strategies that you discuss on your site? I have a 30 yr knowledge base and expertise in my industry and want to leverage it. I have the time, money and interest but lack the “how to”. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • Are you able to rank easy keywords, (KD 0-2) in Ahrefs without building links, like for example all of those acne articles and really obscure stuff with 0 KD like “best freckle cream” (feel free to remove the keyword) without building links?

    My DA is only a bit lower than yours at 24 (yours is 28) and my PA is higher than yours at 36 (yours is 34) but I can’t rank for anything including 0 KD in Ahrefs unless I build links and my on-page work is tight without under or over optimization!

    You have wayyy more authority links though from more high DA sites and tons of EDU links which I don’t have but my DA is not THAT much lower and stuff won’t rank in the top 5 unless I build links and guest post. Is this normal?

    I wonder if it’s just me or if all my competitors are having to build links to all their pages just to get some traction going. It’s very depressing; it will rank on page 2 or 3 sometimes if I am lucky but you know that’s completely useless.

    How much more authority does one need in order to start ranking for 0 KD supposedly “easy” keywords without building links?

    • It’s not science. It’s different for every niche and every site. The only way to know it to test. Just put an article out there and see what happens. If it’s not ranking, then build links. I don’t waste time asking questions like that honestly. But generally you can’t rank high without links. DA is such an outdated metric.

  • This is some great stuff, wish you best of luck in achieving your goals! By the looks of it, you’re only a couple months away from it.

  • Perfect Tung, I am following your progress.
    Put some tips to get backlinks for free?

  • Congrats on your success so far Tung! I’m interested to see where the site’s going to be in the next 2 years. Any plans on selling in the future?



    • Thanks David! No I don’t plan to sell as I don’t really need a big chunk of cash.

  • When you do outreach is your team just copying and pasting in gmail? Or are you using buzzsumo or mass gmailer or anything to make it more efficient?

  • Thanks for the info Tuan! I really appreciate you sharing. Do you find the free version good enough or do you use the paid version of Gmass?

  • For infographic and outreach in general will you bother to write a post for no follow or mainly just do follow only?

  • First of all, well done on building such an authoritative website Tung Tran, honestly you have done a fantastic job with the rankings for sure. With the sort of traffic you are getting and with the type of keywords you are ranking for, you should honestly be pushing $30k-$50k a month right now, no bs. Amazon is good and all but they should honestly just be a part of your monetising and not your main monetising method. Many of the products you can promote for the keywords you rank for offer 30-40% commissions.

    • Yeah I agree. Do you have more specific advice on what I should do? 😀

  • Tung,

    What are you using to build those beautiful tables and review boxes?

  • Hey Tung,

    Great work! When you planning on posting the next update? I can’t wait!

  • Hi Tung,

    I am very impressed with the result so far.
    I feel like just a few months ago you started this project and already crossed the 5k/month landmark – that’s incredible. Congratulations! I’m sure you are going to hit 10k/month very soon.

    I just have a question, How do you do the link building part? I’m really interested to know not only the strategy but also your actions steps and resource arrangement how you are doing the link building for this site? Do you have any blog post on this topic?


  • U don’t use silo structure, right?

  • Nice work! Out of curiosity how much have you spent on the project now?

  • I agree with the guy who said you should be making over 10k a month with all that traffic. TYS has massive amount of traffic, ranking in the top 3 for everything. It’s incredible and income should be higher. I really think it’s because of the lower skin care products; I feel like a good niche should have a few products around $100 at least to push and that’s hard with skin care. I think maybe you could make more with the email list. I know Authority Hacker does Ebooks selling recipes etc. It’s hard to make a lot of money selling $15-$20 serums.

    I think you need to make a few product review pages pushing expensive items like the Tria Age Defying (costs like $400 each) or some kind of lasers that can be used on the skin to reduce wrinkles etc. They sell em on Amazon. Once you sell lots of these expensive products you’ll make a lot because you’re probably at 8% commission because of all the volume you do selling cheap products. Now you need to sell some expensive products. It’s still skin care related but skin care devices and electronics. Maybe make a page promoting best facial cleansing brushes and push the Clarisonic etc. They have one for the body too which can be used for acne etc

  • xin ciao Tung,

    just came back from a month long trip to Vietnam and I already miss my Pho Bo in the morning 🙂
    Anyways, do you have an idea of how much you’ve spent in total since Aug last year ?!

    Thanks and I’ll keep following !

  • Hi Tung.

    Congrats on your success.

    Wondering if you build white hat second tier links to give power to your links.


  • Hi Tung and CloudLiving.com readers,

    I wanted to provide a quick update to let everyone know that after working directly with the team at Thrive we got to the bottom of the elusive bug that was mentioned earlier in this post (using Geniuslink’s JS Snippet / Amazon Link Engine with Thrive Content Builder) and pushed a fix in mid December!

    It was a tricky one but the gist of the bug was that when using the “Visual Editor” that Thrive Content Builder provides, the Amazon links within the page content were being updated by our plugin then saved in this new format (instead of only being converted on page load).

    Additional details about the issue and how we fixed it can be found here: http://blog.geni.us/2016/12/19/geniuslink-thrive-content-builder/. I’m also happy to tackle any questions / comments / concerns.

    A huge thanks again to those that helped us identify this issue and get to the bottom of it and another heart felt apology to all those that were negatively impacted by this.


    Jesse Lakes
    CEO / Co-Founder
    GeoRiot / Geniuslink

  • Congratulation Tung for nice progress..

    I have little question, as you have removed Geni.us for amazon affiliate link… then do amazon count the sales if that made to other counties from your reference? i mean, you send visitor to amazon USA but visitor are from other country and amazon redirect to those country specific page and visitor brought product then do you get those commission even you are maily affiliated for amazon.com?

    Thanks in advanced.

  • Hi Tung,

    This is good progress.

    As i have reviewed your website TYS. I have little question, how do you find the product to recommend and give priority of recommendation? i mean your product selection criteria & idea.


      • okay… so many product has really good number of good reviews & ratings and even similar price range then how we select to give #1 recommendation and then 2nd to 10 listing number?


        • My editor usually does a lot of research then pick that. I don’t even be involved in this anymore. But usually its based on ratings. Higher ratings with more reviews = better

          • okay that is good…. higher rating & more number of reviews…. thanks for this idea.

            I have little more question;
            1] as amazon affiliate site has lot of product affiliate links so are you using any amazon affiliate plugin to get it from WordPress dashboard or taking each affiliate links manually from amazon?

            2] how do you get those images from amazon?

            Thanks for your advice.


          • 1) All manually.
            2) Right click and copy the imgae link.

          • Thanks for your advice Tung.

  • Hi Tugn – I just thought I would give you post and let you know that your 10k challenge inspired me to start my first blog. At this moment I am only making $750 a month but it taking off : )

    Love your blog keep it up cant wait to see what you have next

    • That’s awesome! It’s a good start. Thanks for sharing your success Sam. Feel free to reach out if you need any help.

  • When’s the next update for this site? It seems long overdue now.

  • Great update! Are you using anything to localize your links?
    Also what about clocking the affiliate links? I had a site ranking really well and when I added my amazon links it totally fell out. 🙁

  • Amazing progress Tung!

    Hoping to catch up to you very soon 🙂

  • Hi Tung,

    Which email service provider are you using for cloudliving for email autoresponder or new post updates?


  • How do you run the heatmap tests ?
    Awesome post ! 🙂

  • Hardip Koradia says:


    is there any update on this challenge? OR you have stopped work on it?

    • I sold the site. So there’s no new update on it. I’m kinda lazy to do an update as I’m busy with other projects right now.

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