Online Success Story: Peter Lawlor

Online Success Story: Peter Lawlor

I always wanted to find a business I loved. I stumbled on affiliate marketing about 20 months ago and knew I found something I could have a lot of fun doing.  I didn't realize the learning curve would be steep and the number of failures high. Fortunately I like it and keep plugging away.

Website Template Reviews is about website templates with an emphasis on WordPress Themes. It also publishes articles related to small businesses such as marketing tips, small business software, and incorporating a business. 

My tagline is "Get Your Business Online" which sums up my site's theme. My target audience is offline business owners looking to inexpensively market their businesses online...

1. When did you set up your website?

I launched it in May 2010. I only had about 6 articles published on it from May to October 2010. I usually test new websites with a handful of articles to see how it performs. Website Template Reviews tested pretty well and I liked the topic.

Also, I received a purchase offer from someone. I figured if someone else saw value in it, then I should build it up further. I declined the purchase offer in October 2010 and started building it up in earnest. Now it's my main project.

2. What gave you the idea for this particular niche & website?

I own an offline business serving a local market. I started in this business in 2006. I was doing okay, but wanted to grow it. I decided to focus marketing online to get more clients. At that time I knew nothing about building a website, let alone SEO and online marketing.

From October 2009 to October 2010 I worked like crazy building and promoting my offline business on the Internet doing the following:

  • learned how to build websites on a variety of platforms,
  • built several websites for my business,
  • did tons of SEO, lead generation,
  • rolled out 3 E-books (2 free for lead generation and 1 that sells for $47),
  • wrote many free mini-reports for lead generation,
  • published articles off-site, and
  • created and published videos.

At first I built 1 website for my entire offline business. Although it attracted traffic, it wasn't converting very well.  That's when I decided that I needed separate websites for each service I offer (I offer 3 distinct services). Presently I have 8 websites promoting my offline business and they work very well, growing my offline business 400 percent in 20 months.

I realized that what I had learned would be worth sharing with other business owners on Website Template Reviews.  After Website Template Reviews tested well with a few posts, I set out to write dozens of articles on website templates.  From there I expanded into writing about marketing offline businesses on the Web.

3. Did you have any experience with online business prior to creating this website?

Yes. I had built and promoted websites for my offline business. I continue being very hands-on with my offline business websites while working on Website Template Reviews on the side.

4. What did you do for work prior to setting up an online business?

I work in a profession serving a local area (i.e. a small local business). I've been doing this since 2006 and continue in this profession. Website Template Reviews may turn into a full time endeavor, and that would be great; but I'll see how things progress.

5. How did you initially promote your website, and if different – how do you promote it now?

I initially promoted Website Template Reviews primarily with organic SEO. I focused on SEO for my offline business sites, and so that is what I knew and did. I do keyword research, write the best content I can, and build backlinks.

Since then, I've added article marketing, some video (not as much as I'd like), and I feed my posts to Twitter and Facebook (admittedly I don't focus too much on social media). I'm working on guest blog posting in the future. The search engines are still my primary traffic source by far.

6. Is your website profitable? Can you share some basic traffic & profit stats with us?

Website Template Reviews has 330 published posts.

It receives 350 to 550 unique daily visitors (10,500 to 16,500 monthly). On weekends traffic dips. I'm working to hit my next goal of 1,500 daily average unique visitors by the end of 2011. I know other sites in my market attract many thousands of daily unique visitors, so the growth potential is excellent.

With respect to profits, Website Template Reviews earns $2,000 to $4,000 per month from affiliate commissions. I promote website templates, WordPress themes, and a variety of small business related products.

I took this site from about $200 per month in October 2010 to an average of $3,000 per month in less than a year. However, I worked quite hard at it adding more than 300 posts during that time. My point is it's possible to create a decent income with only affiliate marketing relatively quickly.

I love affiliate marketing. In addition to promoting templates and other fixed commission products, I promote a few subscriber-based software services that generate recurring commissions.

If you're into affiliate marketing, recurring commissions are fantastic. It takes a little while to build up a large number of referred subscribers, but in time you can generate a healthy passive income. My goal is that my recurring commission income matches my fixed commission income in 2 years.

The site earns more than I ever expected when I started it. Now my goals are loftier, but I'm delighted so far.

The following are some things I've learned about developing affiliate commission income:

  • Choose a niche you like. I know some people say this is hogwash. I've created sites on topics I don't care about. In the end I wasn't motivated to turn them into profitable projects. The sites I love are the sites end up earning more money. They're much more fun and provide much more value to readers.I love trying new templates and themes - often buying them just to give them a test drive to see what's out there. I also love writing about what I'm doing to market my offline business. Hence, Website Template Reviews is a passion project that earns a nice income.
  • Promote products you like and use. This way you can write superb reviews and in-depth articles. Write the best reviews you can and show proof with screenshots that you use the product. For example, my best reviews include screenshots of the backend of templates and themes demonstrating its features.
  • Do keyword research. Don't guess. Every published web page is an opportunity to go after a keyword.
  • Use buying keywords whenever possible. A buying keyword is a word someone uses to search for something specific they want to buy. For example, people search with the word "buy" in the phrase. The phrase could be "buy WordPress themes." It's easy to add buying keywords to your posts and they can convert well.
  • Get your affiliate promotion pages on page 1 of the search engines. The bulk of my traffic is from the search engines. I have dozens of blog posts that rank on page 1. These are the pages that generate revenue.
  • I focus my backlinking to my "money pages" so they rank. A number 1 listing on a well written preselling article can result in hundreds or thousands of dollars each month in revenue.
  • Publish tons of content. I've tested micro-niche websites, and they simply don't convert as well and don't get as much traffic. Since Website Template Reviews is large and trusted reasonably well by the search engines, I get new posts ranking on page 1 of the search engines within days of publishing (depending on the level of competition for the keyword).
  • Promote some recurring commission products/software/membership sites if possible. In the long run you'll enjoy the truly passive income.
  • Avoid promoting products in every post. I used to do this. Now I write more articles with no affiliate links than articles with affiliate links.
  • Don't sound desperate. Point, refer, suggest; don't sell. As an affiliate marketer, your goal is to presell and get your visitor to click the links. Let the vendors' websites do the selling.
  • Offer options: Some of my most successful posts are product comparison charts where I set out pros, cons, features, pricing, etc. for a group of related products (i.e. premium WordPress themes).
  • Make your links noticeable. I tested a website once to determine whether underlined links received more clicks than non-underlined links. The click-through rates for the underlined links more than tripled the links not underlined. Although I avoid selling, I ensure my links are noticeable. I usually place a link at the beginning of an article and then at the end in a large font and underlined.
  • Test different types of articles. I don't restrict my content to reviews. I write tutorials, comparison charts, general information articles, and list articles (i.e. 57 Ways to ...).
  • Leverage your content. Now that I have more than 300 posts, I constantly link among my posts directing traffic to the preselling articles.
  • Be the first in your niche to review and write about a new product. I've done this several times with outstanding results. My articles ranked in the top spot in the search engines and still do to this day.
  • Expand the range of your product promotion. Website Template Reviews promotes more than just templates. It also promotes all kinds of related products and services.
  • For example, I have a portal within the site about incorporating a business. It's related to small businesses, and so I write about it and promote online incorporation services. I incorporated a company with an online service and it was fantastic. I write about that experience and the options available.
  • In any niche you can find related products to promote easily - whether physical, digital, software, or membership sites. The more affiliate links and traffic you get, the more money your site will earn.
  • Be patient. Don't publish 5 articles and expect to get rich. I was this naive once upon a time. Think about and plan your online business in terms of years, not weeks or months. Set short and long-term goals. This tip hit home when I read from a poster on a marketing forum "imagine the type of website you could build if you publish 1 great article every day for 5 years. That site would have 1,825 posts in 5 years." I'm paraphrasing, but I can tell you that when I read that, I decided that a website with 1,825 posts attracting traffic would be awesome and could be a great earner. That's my long term goal with Website Template Reviews.
  • Write long articles chock full of information. I find my longer articles (1,000 words plus) rank better in the search engines and presell better. That said, don't write a bunch of filler. My point is to exhaust the topic better than any other article on the web.

My biggest weakness:

Despite decent affiliate marketing success on my site, I don't have a sizable subscribership for Website Template Reviews ... yet. I offer subscribership options through Feedburner and have an opt-in list for various free reports.

Frankly, I've had a hard time building a subscribership. I suspect because the site is broad in topic my incentives don't resonate as acutely as they would on a more focused site.

Although I've struggled building a subscribership given the traffic volume, publishing a broad website has advantages such as decent traffic volume, growth potential, and plenty of topics on which to develop content. I like the freedom to write on a variety of topics.

I'm pretty happy with Website Template Reviews so far, but its earnings are a drop in the bucket compared to many other affiliate marketers. Sure, some people exaggerate, but there are affiliate marketers earning thousands of dollars every day with fantastic websites. The sky is the limit with this business model.

Moreover, a website attracting targeted traffic creates business opportunities other than simply earning affiliate commissions. I'm sometimes asked to consult, provide SEO and web design services, and recently was asked to speak at a conference. I never expected being a website publisher would create these opportunities.

7. What are your plans for the site going forward?

  • Continue publishing the best content I can to help small business owners reporting my successes and failures marketing my offline business.
  • Continue working on building a subscribership.
  • I'm considering rolling out affordable website design services, Web hosting, SEO services and web marketing consulting for small businesses.

I love affiliate marketing, but I receive requests every month from readers to assist them, and so I can't ignore this potential business opportunity. I have teams in place helping me market my offline business, so it's not a stretch to help other business owners with the systems I use.

8. What ONE piece of advice would you give someone interested in starting their own niche site or blog?

Get as much targeted traffic to your website as possible. Always be building traffic. Without targeted traffic you can’t monetize. SEO is only one way to get traffic; but an excellent source.  I use PPC when I need a quick surge of traffic for testing.

Targeted traffic is the be all and end all of building an online business. Everything I do on the site is about attracting targeted traffic and developing loyal readers.  Set traffic volume goals and work toward it relentlessly. When you have traffic, you can test offers and monetize.

When I started marketing my offline business on the Web, I focused like crazy on targeted traffic because I needed clients. It worked.  It goes without saying to ensure your content is great. All the traffic in the world won't benefit your website if you publish lousy content.

Peter Lawlor

-Thank you, Peter and congratulations on your success!

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. Peter,

    This is a great success story! I am just starting out, but have been trying to get each article I publish close to 1000 words like you mentioned. It definitely makes the writing process take longer, but I'd rather publish one good article than several mediocre articles. I need to focus on getting traffic to my site too.


    • Peter Lawlor says

      Hi Ashley,

      In my view your chosen niche is excellent with huge growth and monetization potential. Keep at it. I went through the entire SBI course. It's excellent. More and more I come to realize the SBI suggestions and approach makes excellent sense. It's one of the best online business courses available as far as I'm concerned.

      I often see SBI sites ranking at the top of the search engines. They know their SEO. Thanks for you kind comment!

  2. Hi, Peter:

    Congrats on your successful niche site. You've provided a series of excellent tips on your story above, and you seem to agree with many others (myself included) to pick a niche one has interest in or the site won't work. It won't sustain you over a period of time, say two years down the road. And one does have to think about their niche site that far in advance, because if the site is successful - it will be around for a long time.

    Congrats again.


    • Peter Lawlor says

      Hi Missy,

      Thank you for your comment. Thinking about an online business in years rather than weeks or months is important if you want to build an authority site. In my view an authority site is an excellent online business foundation and that's my aim. I'm certainly not an authority yet, but aspire toward it. Thanks again for your comment and your online success story submission not too far back. Congrats to you as well.

  3. Great to see more success stories - it does help.


    Is there a resource that you would recommend to lead lead gen for local businesses? I know you mentioned you have an ebook on this subject, do you mind posting a link to it?

    This is really great - Thanks!

    • Peter Lawlor says

      Hi Sakana,

      I fear I may not have been clear in my post. My lead gen books are for my offline business. They are informative guides for my offline customers. They work very well for lead gen. I also had them printed and give them out.

      Although I need work on building my subscribership on Website Template Reviews, my lead gen for my offline business is excellent as a result of writing books and mini-reports for prospective customers.

      I find that writing a variety of mini-reports works best. Then place the reports on pages with an opt in on the relevant posts and pages in your site. I'm doing this on Website Template Reviews now and my subscribership rate has grown nicely since I did this about a week ago.

      Essentially, understand the key questions your readers and customers have and then write thorough books/mini-reports on those topics. Then give them away in exchange for them subscribing to your list/e-newsletter.

      • Thanks for your response.

        Great idea to generate new leads. I will be doing the same on my local market as well. I'm sure that this will work just fine.

  4. Your website is great and you have earned the success you are experiencing. I never did quite get why so many people push micro sites - - they seem so limiting. I guess too many people like the idea of creating a 5 page site and being done with it, but I'd rather manage 3 good 500 page sites than try and manage 300 5 page sites. Even with 300 good keyword rich domain names, you're going to get a lot more traffic from a lot of unpredictable long tails that naturally occur in a solid content rich authority site. I know I get more traffic from keyword combinations I never actively targeted than I do from the ones I purposely promoted.

    • Peter Lawlor says

      I too am surprised with keywords that people use to find my site. Your point is an excellent one and is best taken advantage of with quality content. It sounds like a cliche, but it's based on my experience.

      One situation where having a few sites works well is for offline businesses (or any business) that offers distinct services. For my offline business I used to have all my services under one umbrella site. The conversion wasn't good. I built several sites splitting up the services so each site was dedicated to a service and the resulting combined traffic and conversion rate increased. That said, I added a fair amount of content to each site, so again it supports a larger site.

  5. Austin Music Diva says

    Peter.. Excellent!

    FYI, several of your ActualRank links are broken:

  6. Peter Lawlor says

    Austin Music Diva,

    Thank you so much for alerting me to the broken links. I fixed them all. I may have been in the dark for a long time. That could
    have been costly. Talk about irony - me writing about online success while having posts with broken links losing money. Amateur hour anyone?

    I'm amazed at how nice readers are. I've had typos that kind readers let me know about. I mean they, like you, take the time to contact me and let me know. I'm very grateful.

    Also, I'm glad you liked the post above. Thanks for you comment.

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the great interview. Really inspiring. I'm still thinking of an idea for a long-term income generating site which will provide residual income. Already did some seo research on a few subjects and have to make a decision which way i will go.

      I just read the comment of Austin Music Diva about the 404 error. There is a really easy to use WP plugin called Redirection from John Godley. This will monitor all your 404 errors and you can use it to redirect old pages to new ones.

      Hope this will help.

      Where else did you learn more about online marketing? I'm a webdesigner / webdeveloper and know a lot about the technical parts of building a website but lack information about the online marketing part.
      I'm really looking for some good blogs about this subject. One for example is this website of Lynn and yours, but where did you learn what you know today?

      Looking forward to your reply.

      Good luck with your business, Frank

  7. Charlene says

    Love your suggestions and I am going to change some things on my site asap. I agree also that you must build a site on a subject that you love and you will never run out of things to write about. I have never had any success with sites I started in niches I had no interest in. There is no passion and unless you have money to hire someone do all the work, you will never find time to write about it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Peter Lawlor says

      Charlene, I'm glad you found some of my suggestions helpful. I'm certainly not a pioneer, but distilled some useful approaches from plugging along.

      I have sites where I outsource the content. They make some money, but I devote no time to them. They aren't a passion and I use them for testing. They simply aren't fulfilling and in the long run won't be as profitable because unless I keep pumping money into them, they'll eventually flounder. They formed my education in this online work we do, which in itself is valuable.

      I have much more fun generating content on topics I like. It's fun work and doing what I like is about as good as it gets.

  8. You hit on a key point for me, which is having a somewhat wider topic than I could have. My problem with getting too narrow a niche is that I often can't think beyond one idea at a time. Plus my target market is looking for more than just one thing within my area of service.

    I'll be referring to your site often though, because my clients will be looking for new wordpress templates too. I am stuck on the one I really love, but offering choices is good too.

    • Peter Lawlor says


      I also publish a site that is in an extremely narrow niche and it works very well for building a list. I devote MUCH less time to it than Website Template Reviews. I publish maybe 2 posts a month, yet the subscriber rate is good. It's a different model than Website Template Reviews.

      As you can tell from the Website Template Reviews domain, the site started as a website template review site, but it's expanded into many other loosely related topics. Sometimes I consider changing domain names but don't want to run the risk of losing search engine rankings (even if 301 redirects apparently prevent this).

      For now I'll keep it as is. In my experience, topic expansion doesn't hurt a blog unless you venture into a totally unrelated topic. Even then it could work. Take Tim Ferriss for example - his blog covers business, internet marketing, health, lifestyle, philosophy, and more. His readers, me being one of them, enjoy his posts.

      Thank you for your referrals, that is very kind of you.

  9. Great story. Really enjoy reading about success of others from nothing.

    • Peter Lawlor says

      Thanks John. I see you went the e-commerce route. I'd be interested in hearing how that works for you. Nice site and definitely a current product offering. One advantage to e-commerce is you can bid on any keywords you like with PPC to drive traffic. Affiliate marketers are generally prohibited from bidding on a product's and/or company's name.

  10. james samy says

    Thank you Peter for sharing your journey of success, hardwork and plans. Your insight has make me to improve my own site. I am learning from people like you. I love affiliate marketing after reading about it at Lynn Terry n Rosalind Gardner blogs.

    It will be a great insight for me from your advice to move on site. Once again thank you for your trips, advice and suggestions.

  11. Peter Lawlor says

    Thanks James,

    Your niche offers great potential and monetization options. The key is establishing credibility in your market. Once you do that, the sky is the limit. I believe fantastic content will do it and persistence.

    Thanks for your kind comment.

  12. Hi Peter

    Great article and the key learning for me is the sheer number of posts you have - time to get back down to writing!


    • Peter Lawlor says


      I'm afraid my earnings to number of posts is all that great. One would hope that 330 plus posts would result in more income. When I started I naively believed 5 or 10 articles would result in raining money. Now I recognize building an online business requires a ton of work and passion, just like building an offline business. Now it's not about post count (I included that so readers understood the amount of effort that went into the blog so far) but about quality content and ranking well for well searched buying keywords for the money posts.

      That said, I don't believe one must publish 330 posts to create a successful blog. I'm sure many have done it with much less.

      Thanks for your comment.

  13. Great job, Peter! Thanks for the post. You had mentioned SBI. When doing a blog, do you think doing a site in posts, or pages would be better?

    • Peter Lawlor says

      Hi Joel,

      The vast majority of my articles are posts. I wrote an article on this very subject called "WordPress Posts vs. Pages – How Do You Choose?" which you can visit at:

      Thanks for your comment; much appreciated.

      • Thanks for the reply! lol, I should have just looked at your homepage under Writer and Author Marketing and Promotion Tips before asking, but thank you very much for the link!

        I really like how you use pages for your offers to your mailing list. I just finished up going through the course at SBI. Amazing info on SEO and site structure! Like the look and feel of Genesis better though 😉

        Have a great weekend!

        • Peter Lawlor says

          I agree SBI is a fantastic course and that Genesis themes look better. I don't regret a single dime I spent on SBI (I went through the entire course), but the look and feel of WordPress inspired me to make the change.

          Regarding pages for opt in pages, I recently added these to my site and my subscribership rate has increased nicely.

          For a long time I toyed with creating custom page templates for landing pages, but couldn't get a look and feel I liked. I started investigating products for this. While there are some great landing page themes, I wanted a plugin so that my landing pages would be in a subdirectory rather than subdomain for SEO purposes.

          Copyblogger media offers a landing page plugin called Premise which I decided to buy. That's what I now use for my landing pages. I wrote an article on the Premise plugin at:

          Premise is quite good, but has a few limitations which I discuss. I put those limitations to Premise who told me they are looking into addressing them in future updates. Whether they do or not is anyone's guess.

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