How to build two successful projects in CIS within a year

How to build two successful projects in CIS within a year: An affiliate’s experience

This year, you’ll receive a double commission on  flight ticket sales, if a client books on the Aviasales.kz platform within Kazakhstan, or pays in tenge. Alexey has two main projects in the CIS market: ticket.by for Belarus and eBilet.kz for Kazakhstan. In this interview, he discusses how to find a domain name that sounds nice, and why the CIS market is particularly attractive for affiliate marketing.

Launching ticket.by and eBilet.kz

I am 33 years old and am originally from Belarus, but I’ve lived in Moscow (Russia) for 10 years. I’ve been working closely with Travelpayouts for about one year, but I started cooperating with them two years ago. The company’s name came up in Facebook. I found it on my friend’s page. At that time, I was a regular employee at a firm, making side money on domain names. They say I have an eye for beautiful domains, because I manage to buy a cheap domains for my own projects, or for sales, quite often.

Last year, I sold a good .com domain for a cryptocurrency project. I bought it in March 2017 for $79 and sold it in January 2018 for $25,000.

To date, I have 2,000 domains which are either being prolonged or sold by the end of each year. I had a beautiful domain called ticket.by, and I put a link to a partner’s website on it. It was brought to my attention that I could make money doing this, but I didn’t take it seriously at that time.

I’ve been working closely on affiliate programs since May 2018, and it is essentially my main job now. I quit my previous job in January 2018. I was a supervisor at a financial organization in Moscow, but I got tired of the office routine and rush at some point. It was quite a stressful job to say the least. I realized that my life was just passing by, and I wouldn’t enjoy it sitting at a computer at work. By that time, I had already started earning side money and decided to commit myself to self-employment.

I registered the domain eBilet.kz in 2016, but I didn’t start working closely on it until 2018. The Kazakhstan market has a lot of potential. I believe that CIS countries are underestimated by Russian webmasters. As I sell domains, I know that Russian companies buy domains in the CIS and enter the markets of Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and Baltic countries more and more often.

The Russian market has already been saturated by the big players, so you’ll have to poach clients in order to enter it. On the contrary, the CIS travel services market is in its infancy. For me, it doesn’t make any sense to fight for every client. I wouldn’t get involved with affiliate marketing at all if I had to steal customers from big projects, because it would require much more money.

To date, I have seven projects. I actively develop ticket.by and eBilet.kz. Some domains are important to simply pass through search filters. For example, I registered a Latvian domain called flights.lv right after I started working on the Kazakhstan and Belarus markets. It took a while to get indexed and start earning host factors.

I use White Label for such domains. Before, I would resort to Aviasales landings, but they didn’t improve website rankings among search engines results. Once, I came up with an idea to use White Label as a substitute for landings and write unique headings, and domains started to rise the ranks to the top of search-engine results.

I have a project in Polish. I translated it myself, because I speak Polish. Regarding the websites for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, I used Google Translate and then hired an editor to check the texts (I resorted to a freelance platform such as fiverr.com to find an editor).

Some of my domains have traffic from Germany, which is high quality traffic, by the way. The average price for tickets is much higher, because Germans buy them quite often. For Europe and the United States, it is no big deal to purchase a ticket worth 1,300 euro. We have recently started working on a project called  holidayprice.com for the international market, and it is going to launch in a couple of months.

The technical side of projects

When I started working on these projects, I did everything manually, including writing all the headlines and titles myself. At some point I understood how inefficient it was and found a professional developer on the freelance platform kwork.ru. This was surprising, as I normally couldn’t find quality experts. Now this developer works in-house for me.

This guy helped me come up with a different system of working. We ordered a customized theme for WordPress in a studio and rewrote the WordPress core, so now we have a page that is taking variables from the database.

This approach helped us immensely. Now we have over 200,000 pages indexed and about 30 pages in WordPress admin.

Project promotion

Every month, I have around 20,000 flight-ticket searches made on ticket.by and eBilet.kz. Both of them have a very high conversion rate, and we do our best to get it even higher. One of the widgets that is most often converted is a lowest price calendar, as well as a schedules widget that has recently been added to other Travelpayouts tools.

A type-in traffic constitutes approximately 10% of the incoming traffic. Sometimes people confuse it with tickets.by. The main traffic comes from search engines.

In the picture below, you can see positions of the website ticket.by on Yandex.by (Russian search engine) according to 252 average-search-frequency enquiries. We promote landing pages and more than just the main page of a website.

Yandex.by

100% of eBilet.kz traffic comes from search engines. We don’t resort to contextual advertising. Below, you can see positions from the website eBilet.kz on the search engine yandex.kz according to 285 average-search-frequency enquiries that we track.

eBilet.kz

SEO promotion

It is very important to make a high-quality product with a well-developed structure from the beginning. The rest will fall into place. If a website is designed in the right way, it rises in rank to the top of search-engine results on yandex.by or yandex.kz within a couple of months.

How it works

When we embark on a project for a new country, we already know what behavioral factors a good page should have. We only index pages with small number of refusals. Within two weeks, 100,000 pages of these projects get into the Russian search engine’s index. During the first three days the Yandex bot runs the test and sees that there were only a few refusals, meaning that people are clicking on it because the website is useful. In a couple of months this website reaches the top of search-engine results without additional effort.

As for the CIS Yandex, it is easy to rise in rank for average-search-frequency enquiries. For example, “flight tickets from Minsk to Batumi.” To me, the reason behind this is due to low market competition.

It is more complicated in the case of Google, though. It takes up to 65% of the search traffic when Yandex only accounts for about 30%. For this very reason, we are working on promoting ticket.by and eBilet.kz on Google. One way to do it is by purchasing links. Some people consider this approach outdated, while others still believe in it. The truth is, that its effectiveness depends on many factors, such as the region. It’s important to give it a try to test things. This is what our competitors do, and if we don’t do it, we’ll get left behind.

Content and design

My projects don’t depend on content too much. We have a blog, and we post every now and then. We take content mostly from a web-archive of internet pages saved over time. There is material on travel, and search engines consider this type of content to be unique. However, there is always a chance that someone will find a domain where our article was originally published, restore it from the archive, and register it one more time. Then, these articles will appear within searches once again, and our content will become nothing but plagiarism.

A good design requires A/B testing and finding out which buttons function better than others. I normally don’t have time for this. However, the market leaders run this kind of testing, and I try to learn where and how to place blocks from them. I never copy their design, but it serves me to understand what works best.

How long it takes to reach an income of $500 a month

If a new domain is unknown to search engines, it might take a year to get a decent amount of traffic (over 3,000 people a day) and get paid. If you launch a quality project with a low refusal number, it gets to the top pretty fast. In a couple of months, it is possible to get good site attendance, which is about 1,000 people per day.

To promote your website faster, you’ll need to purchase a domain that was registered at least two years ago. Webmasters tend to believe that search engines take into account the registration date of the website, with its age being counted from this date, which is not true. A project’s age is counted from the date the project was indexed for the first time and not from its registration date.

It is important to analyze the history of a domain. There are some useful services such as expireddomains.net and web.archive.org.

For me, a brand is more important than project’s age, which is why I would prefer a domain with a nice-sounding name even if I had to promote it longer.

How to choose a domain for a project

A domain is an important aspect when building a brand. If I create a project, I do my best to choose a catchy and beautiful domain name.

Much more could be said about the question of where you can find a good domain name, but the short answer lies with domain auctions. Last August, I bought the bilety.by domain for $380, which is a decent price.

The website ps.kz/domains/lists/freez holds a list of expiring domains for the Kazakhstan market. I saw a domain there called travels.kz not long ago. Now, there are still some domains relevant to what we do, for quite a good price, but things change.

If I need a domain for Russia, Baltic countries and Poland, I look it up on the website expireddomains.net. It is a useful resource with many interesting domains and tons of information available. Not long ago, I found the goldtickets.ru domain there, which is a great name for a brand. When I stumble upon such a treasure, I buy it from the auction.

Other affiliate programs

In the field of travel, I work for Omio (originally called GoEuro) and Roomguru (a hotel booking website) through the Admitad marketing platform. Roomguru is a better option than Hotellook, as its name is now well-known thanks to a TV commercial. The biggest commission I’ve received for a booking is $170.

I deal directly with Kiwitaxi. It is a great partnership, and I am very excited about it – specifically its commission and conversion. The average commission for a Kiwi transfer is several times higher than the average commission on air tickets. I have a website exclusively for Kiwitaxi, and its commission is only two times less in comparison to my overall air ticket commission. Giving figures, my income from Aviasales is 10,000 rubles ($153) a month, while income from Kiwitaxi is 5,000 rubles ($77).

I also started participating in some dating affiliate programs and sports betting, but it will take time to see results from those.

Project revenues

I started working closely with Travelpayouts in May 2018, and I made almost three times more money in July than in June. In August, my income was two times bigger than July. I only lacked 20,000 rubles ($307) to reach the level of my previous salary. This income includes commissions from both Aviasales and Kiwitaxi, and doesn’t take into account other affiliate programs, because it was more of an odd job.

Further plans

I want to build a huge network focused on air tickets sales and tourism-related services within the CIS, and I plan to code an app for this network. Right now, our websites only have desktop versions, and icons from App Store and Google Play direct clients to the Aviasales application.

In two months, we are launching an international project called Holidayprice.com aimed at air ticket search and booking. Now, we are making a website and translating the content. It has been argued that getting to the top of search-engine results in the international market is hard, but our promotional strategy will be different from what we do in the CIS market.

Post author
Andrey Novoselov
Editor