A lot of affiliates worry about how to make their affiliate websites work for both SEO and affiliate marketing. If your rankings drop, it can be all too easy to blame your affiliate links. However, there’s no reason why SEO and affiliate marketing can’t go hand in hand.
Nearly 70% of traffic to affiliate sites comes from SEO (according to Statista). And SEO even has a conversion rate that’s seven times higher than any other traffic source in affiliate marketing (according to Profit Social). Clearly, successful affiliates have learned to make the two work together in harmony. Follow our five top tips to nail it too.
1. Put your audience first
We cannot stress this enough – if you put your audience first rather than your pocket, the rest will usually follow.
Search engines are all about helping users to find the most relevant and useful information for their queries. So, although there are some technical elements to SEO, the overriding idea is to create valuable content that is going to be genuinely useful to users. If you do that, then search engines are naturally going to want to make your content easy to find!
The same principle applies to affiliate marketing. Yes, you want to promote products that are going to earn you money. But your users are more likely to click on your affiliate links and buy your affiliate products if you’re making recommendations that are going to be genuinely useful to them and that are relevant to their search queries.
In summary, by putting your users first and feeding them what they want, you’re more likely to rank highly in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and your users are also more likely to convert. It’s not rocket science!
2. Narrow down your niche
Next, we’d recommend making sure that you’re operating within a relatively small and well-defined niche.
Why? Well, by focusing on doing one thing really well, you can much more quickly rise to the top of your field.
Think about it: if you’re trying to appeal to anyone and everyone, how will users or search engines know what your expertise is? On the other hand, by finding a niche and having the confidence to narrow it right down, you can make yourself the go-to source for anything related to it. This will make it easier for you to compete for top spots in the SERPs, as well as helping you to develop a loyal following, crucial if you want to become a successful affiliate marketer.
By concentrating on a small niche, it’ll also be easier to find longtail keywords. These are keywords that are less competitive, which makes it easier for you to compete for higher rankings in the SERPs. At the same time, these keywords convert more highly as they help you drive a truly targeted audience to your website. Again, great for SEO and affiliate marketing both!
3. Promote relevant products
One of the reasons affiliates worry about whether they can balance SEO and affiliate marketing is because affiliate links count as paid links to search engines. Basically, because you have a financial interest in posting an affiliate link, they’re not seen to have natural authority.
That said, contrary to what you might think, this doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to get penalised for posting affiliate links. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: search engines want to help their users find the best information on the web, wherever that may be.
So, what does it mean? Well, we’d recommend making sure that any affiliate links you post are relevant to your niche, useful to your readers (given their search queries), and trustworthy (in other words, avoid linking to dodgy brands or low-quality items).
If you were to include affiliate links to every product under the sun, you’d probably be sending signals to search engines that you’re prioritising your promotions over your audience. But if you make sure you’re only linking to products that are relevant to your niche and, even more importantly, relevant to users’ search queries, you’re demonstrating that you’re putting users’ needs first.
You could even take a leaf out of Money Saving Expert’s book and make your recommendations completely editorially independent. Money Saving Expert will always recommend what they believe to be the best products, even if they’re not able to use an affiliate link for them.
4. Be honest
You know how we said that search engines won’t usually see paid links as having natural authority? Well, you might think that the answer would be to try and disguise your affiliate links. But actually, the opposite is true.
Google asks that you tag any paid links (which includes affiliate links) as ‘nofollow.’ By doing so, you’re telling Google that these links shouldn’t be taken into account when they’re calculating your organic link authority (read our guide to content marketing partnerships to learn more). And, although you might think that declaring your links as paid would harm your page’s reputation (at least in Google’s eyes), it’s actually been shown to improve a campaign’s performance.
Google is pretty clever and it will usually tag links from popular affiliate programs, like Amazon Associates, as nofollow automatically. But this might not be the case with less popular programs, so we’d recommend tagging your affiliate links as nofollow manually just in case. Honesty is the best policy after all!
The same principle applies when it comes to your audience’s experience. Legally, you’re required to disclose your affiliate links so that users know that you may be compensated for your recommendations. And, although you might think this would put users off, it can actually help you to build trust. This in turn is crucial for building a loyal following.
Interestingly, in an experiment designed to test consumers’ attitudes to affiliate links, affiliate marketer Jonathan Fields provided his readers with a choice between an affiliate link and a plain link, both clearly labelled and leading to the same place. 76% of his readers knowingly chose to click the affiliate link, while only 24% chose the plain link, demonstrating their willingness to let him benefit financially from their actions.
Aside from affiliate link disclosure, it’s also important to make honest recommendations. If you’re promoting products that you couldn’t care less about, that’s likely to show to your users and they’re less likely to trust your recommendation or click your links. However, if you’re promoting products you genuinely believe in, you’ll be well on your way to making money with affiliate marketing!
5. Feed users what they’re looking for
Remember that search engines want to help users find the most valuable content for their queries. Without knowing what users are searching for, how can you give them the information they’re after?
That’s where keyword research comes in. By finding out what users are typing into search engines, you can make sure that your content plan is geared towards feeding your users what they’re looking for.
Not only will optimising your content for these keywords help you to appear higher up the SERPs, but by having an awareness of what your users will find valuable, you’ll also be able to vastly hugely improve the user experience (which in turn will help you to appear higher up the SERPs… you get the idea!).
However, this is an article about balancing SEO with affiliate marketing after all, so there’s no point in ranking first for a keyword if it’s not going to bring you traffic that you can convert. For that reason, beware of just looking at keyword volume. Instead, consider search intent and whether a user is likely to be looking for products to buy.
Lewis Ogden, author of the blog Cloud Income, came across the perfect example early in his career as an affiliate. He spent ages trying to get his blog to rank for the keyword ‘how to make French toast.’ Yet when he got to the top three positions in the SERPs, he realised nobody typing in the query had any intention to buy French-toast related products. They just wanted to know how to make it!
What this shows is that you need to pick keywords that lend themselves to product recommendations. If users are looking for products to buy and you have great products you want to promote, that’s a win for everyone involved!
As you can see, when it comes to affiliate marketing and SEO, the two have more in common than what divides them. They both require honesty, relevance, a carefully defined niche and, most importantly, a real focus on your users. Once you focus on creating content and making product recommendations that are truly valuable to consumers, you’ll soon see your rankings in the SERPs and your affiliate income climb.
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