Meet Tom Dupuis, a popular blogger who writes on WordPress SEO and speed optimization. He has been persistent and today his online tutorials generate 75,000 monthly visitors.
In this interview, he explains the tactics that brought him success and how he is able to generate such a high volume of traffic on his blog.
Cloudways: Hi Tom, let’s start with a traditional question – who is Tom Dupuis? What’s his story?
Tom Dupuis: I blog about all things WordPress SEO and speed optimization.
I started my first blog after college and realized how impractical and “wrong” blogging advice was out there.
I decided to write these tutorials myself, but even after several months, I had pretty much zero traffic. I eventually narrowed my focus (niche) to WordPress speed optimization, helping people fix their slow WordPress site. dropped all my clients, and started taking affiliate marketing more seriously.
Google eventually decided they “liked my content” and tripled my traffic in about 3 days. Commissions started to grow and I immediately moved out of my parent’s house to Denver and have been living financially free since. I still maintain my blog which now has around 75,000 monthly visitors.
Cloudways: How did you triple your website traffic in 2017? Did you get lucky or was there a method you followed?
Tom Dupuis: Writing comprehensive content was a huge part of it. Instead of pumping out 5 mediocre articles a week, I started writing 1 killer article every week. These articles became my babies, or what people call their cornerstone or pillar content. I take this strategy for most articles I write now. If you’re going to write something, it better be 5x better than whoever’s in the top search results.
Google explicitly says how affiliate sites should add value, be original, and that affiliate content should only be a minor part of your articles. Of course, you should monetize content, but it should be helpful first and foremost.
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Cloudways: What value does OnlineMediaMasters offer to bloggers?
Tom Dupuis: OnlineMediaMasters offers free tutorials on WordPress SEO and speed optimization. You can learn about WordPress hosting, how to configure cache plugins, optimize images, and optimize third party requests. For SEO, there are tutorials about keyword research, SEO plugins, on-page SEO, YouTube SEO, and more. Even people experienced in these topics can learn a lot, as the topics are covered extensively.
We’re also in the middle of redesigning the blog and partnering with Revealize to offer WordPress design, SEO, and speed services.
Cloudways: How did you get involved in affiliate marketing? What challenges did you face in the beginning?
Tom Dupuis: The biggest challenge was finding my niche which just takes time and refining. I also struggled with SEO in the beginning. One thing that helped me was adding a table of contents to every post I write, which encourages you to write longer, more comprehensive content and in turn, does a better job at ranking.
My first attempt at affiliate marketing was “list posts” with affiliate links to different types of WordPress themes. But those were boring to write and didn’t generate much income.
My first popular tutorial was on configuring the W3 Total Cache settings. Part of the process of setting up the plugin was adding a CDN, so I joined MaxCDN (now StackPath)’s affiliate program and dropped a couple of affiliate links.
Things started to pick up, but the commissions weren’t enough.
That’s when I started recommending people to hosting, which is very lucrative but also very competitive. But I gave it a shot and started generating some sales. Speed optimization is also a lucrative topic: you can make commissions by referring people to hosting, CDNs, cache plugins, and more.
Cloudways: Affiliate marketing has witnessed massive growth over the years. In your opinion, what are the reasons behind this?
Tom Dupuis: It’s one of the easiest ways to work for yourself, earn passive income, and create a lifestyle of freedom. You really can’t ask for a better job. More companies are also offering competitive affiliate programs because even if just a couple super affiliates pick it up, it could make their business boom.
Cloudways: How would you compare the affiliate marketing practices of today and say, two years back? What is the one thing you would like to change about the current affiliate industry?
Tom Dupuis: SEO has become quite a bit harder since there is more competition. Google is also doing a better job of separating low-value “thin” affiliate content and content that is genuinely helpful. Many Facebook Groups have evolved and people who are looking to stay on top of the game will be active in those groups. The old affiliate you promoted 2 years ago might not be your reader’s best choice anymore, and you will need to change your content to reflect that.
Two years ago, I felt like I was on top of the industry. Now, since many competitors have come into the space (and newer, better companies have created a better product or service with similar commissions), there are many transitions to be made. This is why yes, affiliate marketing can be passive income. But if you don’t evolve with the industry and create new content, you’ll be left in the dust.
Cloudways: What strategies are a must-follow for the affiliate marketing beginners to be successful? How can they imitate your success of $150k per year?
Choose a reputable affiliate with high commissions.
It’s much easier to make 1-2 sales/day than 10 sales/day. Also, watch out for affiliates with high reversal rates (if the customer cancels, you don’t get a commission). Look for growing companies who are doing a great job at what they do (eg. Cloudways), not necessarily mature companies who are primarily interested in profits (eg. EIG). If you join some Facebook Groups, you will quickly learn the products/services that are the flavor of the month.
Start making YouTube videos.
I strongly recommend YouTube for new affiliates looking to make the most commissions in the least amount of time. The SEO competition is so much lower on YouTube than Google, simply because many of us are camera shy, and there aren’t as many videos out there as there are blog posts.
It also takes much less time to create a YouTube channel than a blog, and you don’t have to “build domain authority” like you would with a blog.
A combination of YouTube and blogging is great: embedding videos on your blog improves your blog’s content while giving your video more engagement. That means a better “average time on site” for your blog and more engagement signals for your videos – it’s a win-win.
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Cloudways: Niche selection has always been a challenge for beginners. What are your three tips for selecting the right niche for affiliate marketing?
1). Don’t delay starting because you haven’t found a niche. Choosing a niche doesn’t happen overnight. You have to dive into it something and gain experience, knowledge of the industry, and constant Googling of keywords to see what content is already out there (or ideally, not there). Once you find a niche you’re passionate about and have relatively low competition, you’re on the right track. But that usually doesn’t come until after a few years of experience. You just have to start somewhere, because otherwise, you’ll be like everyone else who has always wanted to start a blog or YouTube channel, but never did.
I went from web design > WordPress design > WordPress seo > WordPress speed optimization until I settled on my niche. Just because you start somewhere, doesn’t mean you’ll end there too. Learn, evolve, and keep your eyes open.
2). Follow the trends, not other affiliates. Promote companies who are growing, not who other affiliates are promoting. If most bloggers are recommending Bluehost but Cloudways is top 3 in most Facebook polls (while Bluehost is usually nowhere) and Cloudways has much better Trustpilot reviews, who will you promote? By recommending the actual better company, your audience will trust you, which is key in affiliate marketing.
3). Get better at researching a keyword’s competition. Searching for a keyword on Google or YouTube and recognizing opportunities takes training. But that is how you identify good keyword opportunities and what the competition is like. Before choosing a niche, there should be quite a bit of initial research on your competition and which keywords you’re targeting. Have a plan and know some good articles/videos you’re going to create. Find a balance between keywords with good search volume and low competition.
Cloudways: What are the top two mistakes affiliate marketers make, and what’s your advice for avoiding them?
1). Not understand the required skill set.
Affiliate marketing usually requires knowledge of maintaining a blog, SEO, writing, maybe a little PPC and video editing, and many different types of skills. Besides choosing a niche, affiliate marketing itself doesn’t take much time to learn, but these skills do. That’s why creating a YouTube channel might be a good alternative to blogging. Otherwise, you will need to be patient and learn some of these skills before expecting results.
2). Not using YouTube.
As I mentioned earlier, getting started on YouTube can take much less time than starting a blog. And it’s usually easier to rank simply because many people are camera shy. Suck it up and create some videos.
Cloudways: Hosting is an essential aspect of Affiliate Marketing. How crucial is the role of Managed Cloud Hosting providers for the online marketing and blogging industry?
Tom Dupuis: Choosing the wrong host is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make when starting a blog. They try to save money by buying cheap shared hosting on a 3-year plan usually from an EIG brand. Then, they’re stuck with a slow website, downtimes, bad support, and frequent “random” errors that can be lead back to their hosting provider.
Managed cloud hosting can prevent a lot of headaches and get you on track faster. Hosts like Cloudways can save you a lot of time not having to worry about these problems. They are like a silent partner, working effectively in the background so you can focus more time on content creation and your business.
Cloudways: Highly optimized content OR more focus on PPC Ads. What do you recommend? What is the role of content redo/repurposing in the context of the growth in a blog’s performance?
Tom Dupuis: Highly optimized content all the way. Who wants to pay Google for traffic? I’m sure there are great PPC managers out there, but most blogs and YouTube channels rely more on SEO.
Without content repurposing, your rankings will eventually sink. As you said, affiliate marketing is growing and competitors will be trying to outrank you with newer, better content. You need to revisit your articles and keep them updated, making sure that “last modified date” stays current, and that you’re keeping your content up to date and better than whoever’s in the top results. I only have about 125 articles on my blog, but I am constantly revisiting them and keeping them updated. You need to do this to maintain your rankings, and try to create evergreen content when possible.
Cloudways: What tools or techniques retailer (affiliate) should use to keep track of each sale so that they don’t miss the commission?
Tom Dupuis: Most reputable affiliates have a dashboard that tracks links, clicks, conversions, and other metrics. Especially if they’re part of a marketplace like ShareASale or Impact. I also use the Thirsty Affiliates plugin for tracking.
I like to keep track of my landing page performance on Google Search Console, then track how each affiliate link is performing on a sitewide basis (talking about conversion rates). Analytics aren’t my specialty, but these two tools are a great start and have been sufficient for me.
Cloudways: Let’s step away from work. What are your hobbies? What do you do to relax and unwind?
Tom Dupuis: I live in Colorado and love going out to the mountains. Just the other day, I went on a horse sled ride in Breckenridge during the day and Blossoms Of The Light at Botanic Gardens during the night. I also grow my own microgreens which is super fun and keeps me eating healthy. Lastly and definitely not least, I play way too much Rocket League and Overwatch with my 2 brothers. I love the beauty in Denver, but I miss being around family and friends in Chicago.
Cloudways: What are the names of your two cute kitties? Can we have a pic?
Tom Dupuis: Sonic and Valencio! If you work from home, you need pets!
Cloudways: Can you please send us an image of what your desk or workspace looks like!
Cloudways: Last question. Who should we interview next in this series on Affiliate Marketing Experts?
Tom Dupuis: Darrel Wilson and Tyler Moore are both killing it on YouTube.
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Usman is a Digital Marketer at Cloudways- A Managed Cloud Hosting Platform, where he looks after affiliate partnerships and helps digital nomads in generating passive income. He is a foodie by heart, who loves to explore new eateries around his vicinity.