Welcome to my Wealthy Affiliate vs SiteSell analysis, where I take an honest look at a thorough attack on Wealthy Affiliate by one of their most significant competitors.
UPDATE November 2017:
Since this was written, some significant things have happened. You can read all about it in I Lost My Wealthy Affiiate Write Access.
Recently, the owner of SiteSell, which owns Solo Build It (formerly known as Site Built It, and often abbreviated to SBI), wrote a very thorough review of Wealthy Affiliate. It’s in 3 very long parts and consists of a study of all the websites hosted at WA and SBI, and an analysis of the traffic those websites receive, and therefore how likely those websites are to be successful businesses.
I first heard about this review when a member at Wealthy Affiliate posted that they had seen a Facebook advert for it. Very quickly, many WA members read the review and posted negative comments about it. Many of them were outraged that someone would attack WA so viciously.
Not wanting to simply take other people’s words for it, I wanted to investigate it for myself. I set myself the goal of reading every word of all 3 parts of the dauntingly thorough review and then writing about what I read. This is what I found…
The 3 Parts
SiteSell’s review of Wealthy Affiliate was so thorough and in-depth it had to be split into 3 separate parts. If you want to, you can read these for yourself by clicking the following links:
- Part 1: Fake Reviews, Our Response and A Peek At The Truth
- Part 2: The Study: Objective, Rigorous, Statistically Significant & Reproducible
- Part 3: Full Results and Final Summary & Conclusion
I have read all through every part, and below I give my responses to the key points raised. I have structured it by setting out each of the main points made by SiteSell and then giving my own honest response to each point.
You can skip to specific parts of my article by clicking the links below:
SiteSell Claim: WA Affiliates Write Fake Reviews of Other Products
One really good point they make is that many WA affiliates write reviews of other MMO (Make Money Online) products in order to funnel them towards their Wealthy Affiliate reviews in which they will recommend WA as their #1 product.
This is true. If you do the bootcamp course on Wealthy Affiliate, they advise you to write reviews of other opportunities in order to conclude that WA is the best. They even give you a long list of products to write reviews for.
The Wealthy Affiliate training doesn’t explicitly tell affiliates to write fake reviews. In fact, it says:
The problem here, though, is that most beginners will not be able to afford to actually pay for the products they are reviewing. This means they will base their “reviews” on what other websites say, and/or guesswork.
Basing your review on what other reviews say is a bad idea because it’s very difficult to find unbiased reviews of MMO products. Most are either overly positive reviews written by affiliates to gain commissions (just as the Wealthy Affiliate reviews will be) or they will be overly negative reviews designed to funnel readers towards their #1 recommendation (Wealthy Affiliate).
Because the goal is to funnel people towards Wealthy Affiliate, they will always conclude that the other products are inferior to WA. Even when they give a product a high score, they will say that WA is even better. This may in fact be true a lot of the time, but how would you know for sure unless you had thoroughly tried both Wealthy Affiliate and the other product?
In the Wealthy Affiliate bootcamp training, they say this:
So, the training tells beginners that Wealthy Affiliate is the best, and that your goal as an affiliate is to write reviews of other products, expecting them to be inferior to Wealthy Affiliate, and then funnelling your reader towards WA. I myself fell into the trap of doing this for a long time. I would churn out loads of reviews of any MMO products I could find and funnel the traffic towards my WA review.
Keep in mind, if you are a new member of Wealthy Affiliate who decides to do the bootcamp course and promote WA, you won’t know WA well enough yet to know for sure that it’s the best. You won’t have earned any money with WA yet, so how can you know for sure it’s the best way to learn how to make money online?
Sure, you can know that the lessons are great, the community is very helpful, the web hosting is powerful, and the tools are very useful. But those are just the means to the end. What really matters is the end result, and you can’t know that for absolute certain unless you have tried to succeed with the methods taught by WA.
For example, Wealthy Affiliate says it’s best to choose a passion or interest as your niche for your business. How do you know that’s the best approach unless you have tried it and either succeeded or failed? You don’t. You’re just taking WA’s word for it that their way is the best way.
It’s a case of “fake it till you make it”. Tell everyone that Wealthy Affiliate is the best so that you can refer lots of new members to WA and get lots of commissions, and therefore succeed. Then it becomes true for you because lots of new members have joined under you. But if you had not been promoting Wealthy Affiliate, would you have been successful? There’s no way of knowing for sure.
SiteSell Claim: Wealthy Affiliate’s Training Hasn’t Evolved Substantially
They say WA’s content hadn’t evolved substantially, but that’s not true. I was previously a member in 2009 before re-joining in 2015, and I can tell you that it has evolved a lot. Even in the time I have been back at WA since 2015, many improvements have been made, and they continue to evolve.
SiteSell Claim: WA’s “Success” Information Doesn’t Prove Success
The Wealthy Affiliate sales page claims that WA’s members are successful, but offers no proof of this. It also has a line which says “We have never seen someone fail at Wealthy Affiliate that didn’t quit.”
As the SiteSell review points out, this line sounds great but doesn’t actually say anything valuable. If you say that those who quit aren’t failures (because it’s their own fault for quitting), and those who haven’t yet succeeded but still haven’t quit are also not failures (because they just haven’t succeeded YET), that doesn’t leave anyone, does it?
How is it possible to fail if you don’t quit at some point? In fact, it’s important to know when to quit something, so you don’t waste your whole life trying something that’s never going to work.
However, Wealthy Affiliate does have a “Success” category in the members’ area where members can post their success stories. The problem is, the vast majority of them seem to be minor successes rather than anything significant. Things like creating a new website or getting indexed in Google. These are parts of the route towards success, yes, but they are not really the ultimate definition of success.
Of course, everyone defines success differently, but let’s not forget the name of the website here – WEALTHY Affiliate. The clue is in the name. Wealthy means rich. The goal of Wealthy Affiliate is to make its members rich through affiliate marketing. It’s why people join Wealthy Affiliate, and it’s how success should be defined.
It’s no good to then turn it around and say that success can be anything you want, that you’ve succeeded if you have created a website and helped people. Again, helping people is the means to the end, not the end itself. The definition of business success is money. Without financial success, it’s just a hobby or a charity.
People don’t tend to join Wealthy Affiliate because they want to help people. They join because they are looking for a way to make money online, and they get told by WA that the best way to make money is to help people. That’s fine, but let’s not forget that money is the ultimate goal. We should not be shy of admitting that. It’s what business is all about. Money.
I mean, WA affiliates are told to write reviews of other “make money online” products and then tell their readers that Wealthy Affiliate is the best way to make money online. So earning money is the main goal. I know I’m repeating myself here, but it’s a point that’s worth repeating because it’s important.
So why aren’t most of the posts in the “Success” section of Wealthy Affiliate about people earning lots of money? Some are, but most aren’t. Part of it is because people get shy about revealing their earnings. But maybe part of it is because not many people actually get WEALTHY at Wealthy Affiliate?
SiteSell Claim: Wealthy Affiliate Does Not Provide Domains as Proof of Success
They may have a good point here. However, maybe WA wants to keep members websites secret? Maybe they think it would be some type of violation of their members’ privacy if they were to display their websites as proof? Or it could be that the percentage of truly successful websites is so low that it would be embarrassing.
SiteSell Claim: WA Members are Encouraged to Waste Time Posting Content to WA Itself
They definitely have a good point about members being encouraged to post content to the WA website. Each member at WA is given a rank, and they can improve this rank by being active on the WA website. What better way for an owner of a website to fill their website with tons of content than to encourage their members to write it for them?
These pages of content on the WA website get indexed by Google, which means WA will continually get many visitors from Google, all without the owners of Wealthy Affiliate actually having to post much content themselves.
However, it’s worth pointing out that writing content on the Wealthy Affiliate website can lead to WA referrals. If someone was to find one of your posts in Google, click through to WA, and end up joining WA, you would get credited with referring them and would, therefore, earn a commission if they became a premium member.
But SiteSell has a good point about it being a suboptimal use of members time. Many members spend far too much of their time posting to Wealthy Affiliate itself rather than working on their businesses.
And if you look at many these posts on WA, you will see that they are rather pointless. Many of them are personal updates or light motivational posts without much real substance. In that sense, for many people, it seems like they are using WA as a paid version of Facebook that just keeps them busy for the sake of being busy.
I find it sad when I see members doing that. They come to Wealthy Affiliate looking to earn lots of money through affiliate marketing but instead end up wasting a lot of their time using it like Facebook.
SiteSell Claim: The Website Feedback System is a Waste of Time
They missed the point about the 2 for 1 site feedback system. They seem to think it’s another pointless waste of time, but that’s not really true. Members at Wealthy Affiliate can use the SiteFeedback tool to get opinions and advice on their websites. It operates on a credit system where you write feedback for 2 websites and this allows you to get 1 feedback on your website.
The only downside to this is that it is mainly beginners using this tool, so it’s rare that you will get a real internet marketing expert giving feedback on your website. But it can still be a useful way to gauge what other people think of your website, even just from a normal user viewpoint.
SiteSell Claim: WA’s Free Membership and Free Websites Will Not Lead to Success
They have a point about the free membership and free websites. Although the free starter membership is a great way to test out Wealthy Affiliate, it is not itself a path to success. To succeed with WA you need to upgrade to premium.
And there is a problem with some WA members promoting WA as a free way to learn how to build a business. If you promote Wealthy Affiliate as a free way to learn how to make money online, you are lying. The first 10 lessons that are available to the free starter membership are just an introduction. You won’t learn anything groundbreaking in those first 10 lessons. They are there just to give you taster of what the lessons are like.
SiteSell Claim: a Third of WA Members Choose the MMO Niche
The SiteSell review focuses a lot on WA’s affiliate bootcamp course which encourages members to write reviews of other products to funnel readers towards Wealthy Affiliate. However, they don’t mention the Certification Course, which encourages members to choose a passion for their niche.
Are they right about ⅓ of WA members choosing MMO niche rather than their own passion or interest? I don’t know. I don’t have the time to find out what the ratio is myself.
SiteSell Claim: Wealthy Affiliate’s Niche Advice is Bad
The SiteSell review makes a valid point that Wealthy Affiliate encourages members to not spend too long choosing a niche. I’ve always thought this was too much of a “shoot in any direction and see whether you hit anything” approach.
The niche advice at Wealthy Affiliate hasn’t always been like this. When I was first a member back in 2009, they had a specific list of known profitable niches, and each month you could get access to a special information pack about one of these profitable niches.
But somewhere along the line, they abandoned this in favour of just telling people to create a website about whatever they are most interested in. This broadens Wealthy Affiliate so that it suits anyone. Everyone has interests, so everyone has the ability to create a website about whatever they are most interested in.
The problem here is that not every passion or interest is a profitable niche. But the approach WA takes to deciding on a niche is too much a case of choosing whatever you are interested in and then seeing if it makes you any money.
Members will only know whether they chose the right niche once they have been at it for a good number of months. By that point, they might not have the time, money, or enthusiasm, to try again with a different interest. They might leave. Many do.
But from the point of view of the owners and affiliates of WA, it doesn’t really matter. By the time a disgruntled member leaves WA, they will have paid several months of premium membership fees which can’t be refunded, therefore having earned some money for WA and the affiliate that referred that member.
Of course, any members that really cannot decide on which niche to choose, they are advised to do the WA bootcamp course and promote Wealthy Affiliate instead. So you can see how it makes sense for WA to not be too good at helping new members decide on a niche because anyone who can’t decide will just fall into the bootcamp course and start promoting WA.
So, the SiteSell review makes a valid point that it’s better to spend longer deciding on a niche. It saves wasting time later on something that’s not going to be profitable. It also means far fewer people will choose the “make money online” niche, which is notoriously difficult to succeed in unless you take the easy route of writing loads of fake reviews for other products and then funnelling people towards your #1 product, which is what I did for a long time.
The Lure of a Trip to Las Vegas
This is all true, actually. They lure members into promoting WA with the recurring high commissions and the promise of a trip to Las Vegas if they get 300 sales in a year. But it’s clear that out of all the members who attempt to promote WA, only a tiny percentage actually end up going to Las Vegas.
Each year we are told that anyone has the ability to make it to Las Vegas. Really? Well how come so few members end up going there? My educated guess is because it’s actually very hard to get 300 premium referrals to WA in a year unless you have money to spend on PPC ads or a lot of experience of how best to promote WA. The vast majority of new members are just not going to get anywhere near 300 sales in a year.
This is true. The Wealthy Affiliate bootcamp course is a trap for beginners. They are told that WA is the best, but they don’t have enough experience to know whether this is actually true.
This is true. While there is nothing wrong in getting affiliates to promote your product, WA does encourage beginners to do so before they have had time to fully explore the MMO niche. If they are promoting WA because they have not been able to decide on a niche of their own, how do they know WA really works as advertised?
Sure, they can know that it has a great community, website hosting, and tools; but how can they know that the training leads to creating a successful online business? They can’t. They are just saying WA is the best because they’ve been told to say it.
But I wonder whether it would be dangerous for Wealthy Affiliate to encourage their affiliate to actually try out other MMO products. Although many MMO products are indeed a waste of time and money, there’s always the possibility that one might turn out to be really good.
I mean, imagine if WA encouraged their affiliates to actually join Solo Built It and try to make money with it. They might actually succeed, and so they might leave Wealthy Affiliate in favour of Solo Built It.
So maybe there is no way for WA to keep hold of their affiliates while telling them to try other MMO products. It would be a bit like a car salesman telling you to go to a different car salesman to try out a different car.
Readers Comments on Part 1
I was interested to read many the comments on Part 1 of the SiteSell review of Wealthy Affiliate. There are some valid points made there, mainly by the owner of SBI, but also by other people, some even by members of Wealthy Affiliate. There are some people who have been members of both WA and SBI who say SBI is better.
One WA member commented that it’s difficult to get a refund from WA if you want to leave. If you have paid for a yearly membership, you won’t get that money back.
Also, there is a tendency to get banned if you speak out too much. All it takes it for 10 members to click the “Report spam” button if they don’t like what you have written, and you get banned from writing anything on WA.
This is probably true if my own referrals are anything to go by. Most of them do tend to leave after a few months, even though I try to help them.
Absolutely spot on. There are loads of people just posting loads of pointless things on WA.
They’re right about negative posts being suppressed, too:
This is true. However, I have heard exactly the same thing about SBI.
Very true. It’s very easy to get sucked into the trap of wasting time posting content to WA rather than working on your own business.
A lot of Part 2 seems to just be reiterating what was said in Part 1 – explaining the reasons why the review exists. It was some way down the page before it actually got to “The Study”.
Even once it did get to “The Study”, it did not contain the study results, but rather a long-winded explanation of the methodology of the study. However, the author did point out at the beginning of Part 1 that Part 2 is boring to read but important for those wanting a full understanding of “The Study”.
In summary, the study involves:
- Discovering all the active websites hosted by WA.
- Discovering all the active websites hosted by SBI.
- Using website analytic tools to determine the traffic ranking of each website.
- Comparing the traffic rankings of WA and SBI websites.
Once again, there is a lot of text explaining the reasons behind this study, so he seems to be repeating himself a lot. Maybe he is doing this to make sure the message gets through?
But eventually we get to the chart of Alexa rankings:
So, this means that SBI’s websites make up all the high to medium traffic websites in the study, whereas WA’s websites make up the low-to-non-existent traffic websites.
This tells us that SBI websites bring in a lot more traffic than WA websites. However, it does not say anything about the money earned by the owners of those websites. This means it does not tell us how good the SBI members are at running online businesses. It only tells us that they are good at getting traffic to their websites.
But, as the SBI review says, you can’t get financial data about websites, so it’s impossible to do a study that compares that.
So anyway, I read all the way through Part 3. As with the other two parts, it was long and detailed, but I stuck with it.
To be honest, I think they may actually have a point here, and I am starting to wonder whether I originally made the right decision in joining WA, or sticking with it once I had joined it. I definitely think it was a mistake for me to write all those negative reviews of other MMO products just to funnel people towards WA.
I think my next step is to see if I can try out Solo Built It. It looks like there is a 30 day trial of “SBI for WordPress”, so I will probably give that a go. Then I can hopefully write a real review of SBI based on my real experience of it.
Readers Comments on Part 3
Someone said they got a comment on their own SBI review saying they wanted to try SBI after trying Wealthy Affiliate and feeling lost.
Another couple of comments pointed out websites of two extremely successful WA affiliates that were not hosted with Wealthy Affiliate. I did a bit more investigating myself and found several more websites of WA affiliates who had recently gone to Las Vegas (which means they were super successful) but did not use the WA domain name servers.
However, after doing a bit of an investigation, it’s clear to see why this is the case. Some of these members joined before Wealthy Affiliate provided web hosting. Also, these members are so active that their hosting demands probably exceed the hosting provided by WA.
This means that WA’s hosting is great for beginners through to intermediate members, but once you get more advanced and your hosting needs become heavier, it might be a good idea to get external hosting. But by that point, you will have spare money to be able to pay for that anyway. That’s just all part of scaling up a business.
So, I first heard about SiteSell’s thorough review of Wealthy Affiliate from a post on WA. Due to all the outrage it caused in the comments on WA, I went into this expecting to read a load of nonsense.
Actually, a lot of it made sense to me. Much what the SiteSell review says about Wealthy Affiliate is true:
- New members are not given adequate niche training.
- Anyone unsure about what niche to choose is encouraged to promote Wealthy Affiliate.
- They are encouraged to write reviews that favour WA as the best way to make money online, without knowing for themselves whether this is actually true.
- This leads to many lazy affiliates just writing fake negative reviews of other products just to funnel people towards WA to get commissions.
- They are encouraged to fill the WA website itself with pointless content, thus wasting their time (and other people’s).
- There is very little actual proof that WA leads to success for most people.
- If you are too negative about WA on WA itself, it gets suppressed.
While I still think there are many great things at Wealthy Affiliate (e.g. the easy way to build and manage websites, the training, the website support, the helpful community, the various tools and resources), this has got me thinking.
Actually, it’s got me a bit worried. What have I been doing for the past 2.5 years? Most of the money I’ve made from Wealthy Affiliate has come from referring new members to WA itself, rather than the other websites I’ve tried to make money from.
It leaves me with some serious thinking to do. I’ve yet to find out whether Solo Built It would be right for me. That will have to wait until I have tried it out. But I’m left with a feeling that Wealthy Affiliate may not have been the best use of my time for the past 2.5 years…
Of course, this could be unnecessary worrying and fault finding. It’s quite possible that Wealthy Affiliate is still the best way for me to build an affiliate marketing business. Maybe I just need to find the right niche? But first I need to try out SBI to see for myself what that’s actually like in comparison to WA…
Anyway, I hope you found this Wealthy Affiliate vs SiteSell analysis interesting. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.
All the best,