“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” — Zen Shin.
Competitors keep us on our toes. Imagine content marketing without competition and how that would impact content quality. No one would read another blog article again.
If you’re an affiliate marketer whose revenue relies on attracting targeted traffic to your website, SEO should be the cornerstone of your marketing strategy. Knowing how to improve your ability to rank for relevant keywords can make the difference between success and failure. Especially if you’re promoting affiliate products in a saturated market.
Let’s first go through how to take SEO into consideration when choosing affiliate products. Then, you’ll find some useful tips for improving your ranking ability and outperforming your competitors.
How to choose affiliate products with SEO in mind
When selecting your affiliate products, take your time to evaluate each product carefully. Going for the highest-priced items in the hope of earning higher profit from fewer sales is not the best strategy. Unless there’s demand for that product among your audience and you have something valuable to say.
So, add factors such as commission rate and type, demand, competition, program management and additional incentives (promo codes, bonuses, and marketing materials) to your assessment.
Adding SEO to the mix makes sense if you’re a content-based affiliate marketer focused on driving traffic to your affiliate website. SEO is all about optimizing your entire website and content so that it ranks higher in the organic search results for your desired keywords. And in the context of choosing affiliate products, this means you have to choose products based on your ability to rank for relevant keywords.
Keyword research: evaluate your ranking ability
The three main factors in keyword research are search intent, search volume, and keyword difficulty.
Search intent is your most important piece of the keyword puzzle. Intent determines the monetary potential of your topic. Ideally, you want to focus on keywords with purchase intent. For example, someone searching for reviews and comparisons of tools in a certain niche is more likely to purchase one of the tools than someone looking for more generic information about topics in that niche.
Guides and tutorials are good sources of information and help you build authority and traffic. But targeting people who will not only read your content but also click your referral link and buy the product requires some purchase intent. Review and comparison keywords are best for targeting such traffic.
With branded keywords such as “supermetrics review,” you can target the bottom of the funnel with high purchase intent. These prospects need only little persuasion to complete the final step.
The volume is lower, which means that your pool of potential referrals is also smaller. But you’re much more likely to attract visitors with purchase intent and close the sale with these keywords.
Non-branded keywords such as “best seo reporting software” will also generate targeted traffic to your website with the desired intent if you’re promoting products like Supermetrics.
But when the search volume is higher, you have to keep a close eye on the difficulty score. Look at the domain rating of the websites that currently rank on the first page for that keyword and the number of backlinks pointing to their pages. And evaluate your chances of competing with them.
Now, let’s focus on factors that directly impact your affiliate website’s authority and relevance. By improving them, you improve your ability to rank for keywords and compete with other affiliates.
How to improve your rankings and outrank competing affiliates
Authoritative websites and pages that users find relevant are rewarded with better rankings. As part of a good user experience, you need to provide relevant content that matches users’ intent. But your user experience also goes beyond the mere words on your page, covering factors such as your website’s trustworthiness, navigation and speed, and mobile friendliness.
Here’s a list of SEO tips that you can start implementing on your affiliate marketing website right away. They’re grouped into three categories: on-page, off-page, and technical optimization.
On-page SEO refers to all activities that can be carried out within the website to improve its ranking ability. Mostly it deals with keywords and other components of your page content.
1. Title and header tags
After you’ve decided on your target keywords, it’s a good practice to insert them into your title and header tags. These tags help web crawlers understand what your page is about and index it accordingly. Just keep in mind that there’s no need to stuff keywords in an unnatural way.
2. Content freshness
Your content is fresh when it’s recently published, updated, or rewritten. The reason why both users and search engines favor fresh content is because it’s more likely to be accurate. But freshness is not equally relevant to all search queries.
To evaluate if your target keyword needs frequent updates, check the publication dates of the top results. For example, look at the first 10 or 20 search results for your query and calculate their average age. But remember that simply changing the published date and the year in your blog title is not helpful for signalling freshness to Google. You have to spend a little more time and update the core content of your page. That is, if freshness is important for your keyword.
Updates are also rarely enough to outrank others if your page didn’t rank in the first place. For more about content freshness, check this article about what freshness means to Google.
3. Image alt-texts
Alternative text, known as alt-text, is a short description of an image that serves several purposes:
- It helps visually impaired people who use screen readers to make sense of your page.
- It helps web crawlers to understand the image and index it properly.
- It’s displayed as a replacement in cases where the image file cannot be loaded.
When you add an alt text, describe the appearance and function of the image on your page. Give enough context to convey the meaning of the image but try to keep it relatively short.
Here’s an example:
alt=”trigger form for segmenting customers in email campaign based on cta clicks”
4. Meta description
As an HTML element that describes the contents of your page to users and search engines, a meta description should accurately summarize what your page is about. The main reason why your meta description matters for SEO is because it shows in the search results and it can thus impact your CTR. A good meta description can attract more users to your page.
5. URL path
A concise URL that follows a logical structure is friendly for both users and search engines. So, don’t make your URL longer than it needs to be and be sure to include your target keyword.
Any activities outside of your own website that improve your ranking ability are called off-page optimization techniques. It mainly refers to backlinks but also includes brand mentions and endorsements on social media platforms and forums.
The quantity and quality of external links pointing to your page remain a strong indicator of your page’s quality to Google. While PageRank is not the only algorithm Google uses to organize search results, backlinks still are one of the key metrics impacting your ranking ability.
Good content is the starting point
Good content attracts backlinks organically. But putting some extra effort into expanding your backlink profile is worthwhile, especially if you promote affiliate products in a competitive niche.
To get backlinks, you need to produce high-quality content that satisfies your visitors’ intent. Long-form and detailed content with fresh perspectives and practical tips is what tends to perform best in the organic search.
But it would be silly to rely on content quality alone. Many merchants can rely on their brand power to get backlinks organically. But as an affiliate, you don’t usually possess such luxury. It’s the same if you’re not counting cards in blackjack, then the dealer has an advantage and the playing field is not even.
Aside from great content, the best strategies to build backlinks are guest posting and content or link collaborations. You can also, for example, submit your insights to a HARO query and get them published in a roundup article that also links back to your website.
Your website’s DR and traffic are what determines how much bargaining power you have in those collaborations. But the better your content, the higher your chances of getting published on authoritative websites. And if you have the ability to conduct original research in your niche, that’s one of the best ways of building your personal brand and becoming a thought leader.
SEO tools such as Ahrefs also offer many useful backlink features like this Link Intersect:
It shows you what websites are linking to your competitors but not to your website—a good opportunity for you to identify potential link collaborators. Then you can also look for link building communities on social media or communication platforms, for example Facebook and Slack.
For more about how to build backlinks to your affiliate website, check our article on link building.
Fixing and improving technical elements on your website that help search engines crawl and index your website more effectively is called technical SEO. In the ranking process, the bots scour the index they have stored and organized during crawling and order the search results based on how well the pages serve their visitors.
While the relevance and quality of your content are key factors, there are also technical factors that impact visitors’ page experience. These include but are not limited to loading speed and other core web vitals, non-core web vitals such as mobile friendliness, HTTPS, and having no intrusive interstitials, as well as internal links, layout, and other navigation-related factors.
Here’s how you can optimize these technical elements:
7. Site and page speed
Core Web Vitals are part of Google’s page experience signals that deal with loading, interactivity, and visual stability. Site and page speed belong to this category. These metrics are used for measuring how quickly users can see and interact with the content on your pages.
A page that takes forever (or more than 3 seconds) to load will damage your ranking because it’s not user-friendly. In fact, 53% of mobile site visitors abandon your page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Page speed is a direct ranking factor but slow loading speed also impacts your ranking ability indirectly by increasing your bounce rate and reducing your dwell time.
Start by testing your website speed. Free tools you can use include Google’s PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom’s Website Speed Test, and GTmetrix. These tools provide you with valuable data about your current speed on both mobile and desktop and give you tips for improvement.
Below is a performance report example from GTmetrix. You get a summary of the top issues affecting your performance, which helps you narrow down the elements on your website that require optimization.
To see how browsers construct your page, these tools give you a waterfall chart that shows a timeline of how all of your page elements are loaded into the visitor’s browser.
As an affiliate marketer, it’s often the case that you’re alone responsible for all of these technical improvements. So, you have to wear several hats by being a web designer, content marketer, SEO expert, and a graphic designer all at once.
8. Mobile friendliness
Maybe you’ve heard of the term “mobile-first indexing.” It means when Google crawls your page, it primarily uses the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking purposes.
If you’re new to analyzing website data, you’ll be surprised how many visitors read blog content on mobile devices.
Test your page’s mobile usability with the URL Inspection feature on Google Search Console.
And make sure to preview the mobile version of your new page before publishing it. WordPress and most CMS platforms have a built-in feature that allows you to see how your page renders on mobile.
Or simply open developer tools on your browser to get a mobile preview of your page. In your HTML source code, change your view to mobile by clicking the Toggle Device Toolbar button.
Your goal is to structure your entire website in a way that makes it easy for visitors to navigate between pages and different sections and complete their actions on the mobile version.
The extra “s” in the “http” part of a URL signals that the website is secure. HTTPS (Hypertext Transport Protocol Security) websites have an SSL certificate that enables an encrypted connection between a web server and a browser. The SSL certificate activates the padlock and the HTTPS protocol allows a secure connection.
If your page is not served over HTTPS, it signals to users and search engines that your site’s connection is not as secure as it could be. Announced as a ranking signal by Google already in 2014, HTTPS is an essential part of your page experience.
Even if the correlation between HTTPS and higher rankings is not significant, HTTPS can serve as a tie-breaker if all the other trust signals for two different search results are equal. Users may also not be willing to make a purchase or insert other data on a website without HTTPS.
So, to avoid an unnecessarily high bounce rate or even a lower ranking due to having no HTTPS on your website, learn about HTTP to HTTPS migration to make your site secure.
10. Intrusive interstitials
Having no intrusive interstitials, which refers to avoiding those annoying pop-up ads we’re all familiar with, is a page experience signal to Google. Using a lot of pop-ups that block most or all of your page leads to a poor user experience by making your content less accessible to users. That’s why it’s important to your SEO.
It’s not uncommon for affiliate marketers to monetize their website with ads, especially after reaching a good monthly traffic volume. But together with affiliate links sprinkled around your content, there’s always a risk of overpromotion. And that certainly has its impact on user experience. Inappropriate use of pop-ups can also trigger a penalty from Google.
Instead of using action- or time-based overlays that block your entire page, the solution is to use only non-intrusive advertising and keep it to a bare minimum. That is, if you want to make use of paid advertising at all.
The images below are examples from Google Search Central. The image on the left is an example of an intrusive pop-up ad, whereas the one on the right is an example of a banner that uses a reasonable amount of screen space.
11. Internal links
With internal links, you’re able to build contextual relevance and establish a logical site hierarchy. And this hierarchy helps users and search engines find the right pages more easily, thus improving the overall experience for all of your pages. For web crawlers, internal links are a signal that helps them analyze and index your content properly.
A popular way of keeping your internal linking structure organized is to create topic clusters. You create pillar articles on the most important topics in your niche and then other articles on subtopics that fall under one of those pillar topics. This way, you get several topic clusters and within each cluster you have many interlinked articles. And your pillar articles, which for affiliates should be the biggest moneymakers, get more link value than other articles.
In our Supermetrics blog, we have an affiliate marketing category with four main topic clusters. Each of these clusters has an extensive pillar article that touches on many of the subtopics within each pillar topic. And each subtopic article only links to the pillar article and other articles in the same cluster.
Maintaining a site hierarchy where all of your links are organized around the same topic is user-friendly. And anything that’s friendly to users is also friendly to Google. But remember to carry out regular site audits, where you check for any broken links or unnecessary redirects, for example.
12. Site navigation and layout
The way you design your affiliate website affects your visitors’ behavior. Unattractive design can drive away prospects and damage important engagement-related metrics such as bounce rate, average time on page, scrolled depth, clicks, and conversions.
Keeping tabs on those metrics allows you to analyze current performance and evaluate the impact of important changes such as revamping your site design. There are multiple ways of tracking activity on your pages. And with Google Tag Manager, you can always create new tags for tracking specific events.
Let’s say you’re interested in finding out which articles your visitors are actually reading. So, you can choose a variable for your scrolled depth trigger, for example 75% vertical scroll depth. And when an event matching that trigger definition is detected, i.e. someone scrolls down 75% of your blog post, the trigger tells the tag to fire and your tag sends the data to Google Analytics.
Scrolled depth along with time on page are good metrics for measuring how sticky your content is. Other key events such as outbound link clicks and form submissions are obviously worth tracking, too.
In general, streamlined navigation where your links help both visitors and web crawlers find pages and different sections on your page with ease is ideal for SEO. Keep your main menu simple and don’t overwhelm your visitors with too many links.
If you’re a content-focused affiliate marketer whose success relies on driving traffic to your website, you should take SEO into account already when choosing your affiliate products. And just like affiliate marketing is a long-term game, so is SEO.
Climbing to the top of the search results for your targeted keywords doesn’t happen overnight. Being on the grind and enhancing your affiliate website one aspect at a time is what drives long-term results. It’s an ongoing effort that requires constant updates and improvements. But with the tips presented here, covering all three aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical optimization, you’re off to a good start.
About Johannes Rastas
A Partner Marketing Manager at Supermetrics, Johannes focuses on expanding the Supermetrics partner program and collaborating with their existing partners. He also works with SEO and content on a daily basis. Feel free to contact him on LinkedIn.