Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate Guide
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Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

This is a complete guide to affiliate marketing.

In this all-new guide you’ll learn all about:

  • Basics of affiliate marketing.
  • Overview of payment models.
  • Niche identification and mastery.
  • Effective website creation.
  • SEO and CRO strategies.

So, let’s jump right in and turn these key points into your blueprint for affiliate marketing success!

Affiliate Marketing Guide – Blog post header

Chapter 1: Grasping the Basics

Chapter 1 – Grasping the basics

Let’s kick things off with a chapter on the basics of affiliate marketing, setting the stage for your success. Here’s what’s in store:

  • Defining affiliate marketing and its mechanics.
  • The roles of key players: merchants, affiliates, networks, and consumers.
  • Benefits and appeal of affiliate marketing.
  • Understanding different payment models: PPC, PPS, PPL, and PPA.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a revenue-sharing strategy, where businesses team up with content creators and influencers (affiliates) to promote their products or services.

Affiliates connect their audiences with products or services they’ll love, and earn a cut of each sale they generate.

It’s a win-win-win scenario: businesses gain wider reach, affiliates earn income, and customers discover valuable products.

How Affiliate Marketing Works

After you sign up for an affiliate program, the merchant who created the program provides you with a unique affiliate link or tracking code. These links are placed on your website, blogs, social media platforms, or email marketing campaigns to direct users to the merchant’s site so that they can make a purchase. The links are used to monitor sales that come from your affiliate marketing efforts and provide you with a percentage of the sale.

When a consumer clicks on the unique link, a cookie, a web tracker, is stored on their browser for a period of time. If they decide to make a purchase during that time, even if they leave the site and come back later, the cookie lets the merchant know who sold the product and earns the affiliate a commission.

How affiliate marketing works

If done right, affiliate marketing can be super profitable for both the merchant and the affiliate.

Key Players

The affiliate marketing ecosystem can be broken down into four parts:

Key players in affiliate marketing

Merchant

Also known as the “creator”, the merchant is the business selling a product or service. Their job is to identify and recruit the right affiliates for their affiliate marketing program and supply them with promotional materials like discounts and banners. It’s also their responsibility to motivate affiliates by keeping them up to date on deals, product features, and their top converting products.

They also have to supply the affiliate with an affiliate link to track the sales that the affiliate makes. Merchants can range from solo entrepreneurs to startups and Fortune 500 companies.

Affiliate

Also known as the “publisher”, is a person (or people) that promotes the merchant’s products or services on their platform and drives their audience to the merchant’s site.

The affiliate usually comes up with a marketing strategy and content to leverage the product/service. This could be in the form of videos, blogs, paid ads, and email campaigns.

The success of an affiliate marketing program relies heavily on the affiliates’ ability to effectively market and promote the merchant’s offerings to their audience.

Network

The network is the middleman between the merchant and the affiliate. These networks provide a platform where merchants can list their products and services and affiliates can find suitable products and services to promote. They also handle important tasks such as tracking sales and commissions.

Essentially, they speed up the affiliate marketing process for both merchants and affiliates.

Consumer

Also known as the “customer”, the consumer is the end-point of the ecosystem. These are the people the affiliate is trying to target and convert into customers. They are the ones who ultimately decide whether to click on an affiliate link, make a purchase, or engage with the promoted products or services.

Understanding how they behave and what they prefer is essential for successful affiliate marketing strategies.

Why You Should Get Into Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a popular marketing strategy for individuals because of the fact that payment is performance-based.

Benefits of affiliate marketing

Here are the four main benefits of affiliate marketing.

It’s Easy to Get Into

Affiliate marketing doesn’t require your to create your own product, worry about inventory, or handle customer support. Your job is to market to your users and get them to take an action. All you need to do to get started is create an engaging website and appeal to your audience. Once you’ve done that, the merchant handles the rest.

It’s Low-Cost

Unlike other business ventures that require a lot of investment for website and project development, all you need to start earning money in affiliate marketing is a website or social media platform.

It’s Low-Risk

On top of being cost-effective, affiliate marketing is also low risk. Since there is no large upfront investment, if it doesn’t work out, you’ve only spent some time and a small amount of money.

It’s Easy to Scale

Part of the beauty of affiliate marketing is the fact that everything can be done from the web. There’s no need for a physical space or inventory. That means there’s no limit to how many products or services you can promote.

With the right strategies and techniques, you can quickly scale your affiliate marketing business and increase your earning potential. Plus, you have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world.

How Affiliates Get Paid

Affiliate marketing is driven by results. That’s what makes it such a cost-effective marketing method for merchants and a great source of passive income for affiliates. However, as commission is based on performance, if you don’t get people to convert, you won’t earn money.

Here are the main payment models you need to know.

Affiliate payment models

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

The PPC model means affiliates earn a commission every time someone clicks on a link that leads to the merchant’s site. This model is great because getting a user to click on a link is a LOT easier than making a sale.

Pay-Per-Sale (PPS)

PPS stands as the most commonly used payment model in affiliate marketing. Simply put, with PPS, affiliates get paid for each sale they bring in.

Pay-Per-Lead (PPL)

In the PPL model, affiliates are paid for every lead they bring in. Leads can range from email sign-ups to consultation calls. The PPL model usually has a higher commission rate than the PPC model because the leads you bring in are more qualified.

That being said, this method does require more work, and some merchants evaluate every lead you bring in, which means commissions can be delayed.

Pay-Per-Action (PPA)

Also known as “Cost-Per-Action” (CPA), the PPA model is very similar to the PPL model. The biggest difference is that the user is usually much further down the marketing funnel, which means they’re done researching different products and are closer to making a specific purchase.

If you want to learn more about this model, you should take a look at our article on CPA marketing.

Chapter 2: Setting the Right Foundations

Chapter 2 – Setting the right foundations

To ensure you get the most out of your affiliate marketing efforts, you’ve got to set the right foundations.

A huge part of this is identifying and qualifying your niche. But it also includes building a website that engages your users, understanding your audience, and performing keyword research to ensure you’re creating high-quality, valuable content for your audience.

For this chapter, we’re going to focus our explanations primarily on SEO, but the same rules apply across other traffic mechanisms.

Identifying Your Niche

Choosing a niche is usually the most difficult part of affiliate marketing since you need to find a balance between market demand, personal interest, and the potential for profitability.

Find Your Passions

As mentioned above, it’s important to enter a niche that you’re interested in. After all, if you’re going to invest time, effort, and money into building a long-lasting business, it’s important to invest it in a niche you’re interested in. Entering a niche purely for profit is the biggest mistake a beginner can make.

Start by identifying your passions, hobbies, and interests. For example, let’s say you enjoy running.

You feel like you’ve got a lot of knowledge to share on the topic and decided that it’s the niche you want to enter into. The next step is to qualify your niche.

Qualifying Your Niche

Before you invest time and energy into a niche, you’ll need to look at its competitiveness, as well as the breadth of search interest and, of course, profitability.

How to qualify your niche

These are the factors you’ll need to assess when qualifying your niche.

Step 1: Identify Search Trends

The first thing you should do when qualifying a niche is to identify whether or not there is consistent interest in the niche. You can identify this by looking at the search interest over the period of a year or more.

Search trends that experience frequent fluctuations suggest that a niche isn’t consistently popular. Therefore, you might not generate a stable and reliable income from it.

Here’s how to identify search trends.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a free tool that allows you to analyze the search trends for keywords.

Here’s an example.

In the search bar, enter your topic and hit “Explore”. We’re going to use “running shoes”.

Google Trends – Search

Next, click on “Past day” and change it to “Past 12 months”. The most effective way to gauge search trends is by analyzing data over a year or even two.

Google Trends – Filter – Past 12 months

This will give you a much better idea of how popular the niche is:

Google Trends – Running shoes – Chart

As you can see, the interest in “running shoes” fluctuates throughout the year. However, by analyzing the timeline at the bottom of the graph, you’ll notice a consistent level of interest in this topic throughout the year.

Another place to look for search trends is by looking into the fastest growing subreddits or even looking at what’s trending on TikTok.

Step 2: Identify and Assess Competitors

The next step in qualifying a niche is to identify and assess the competition. These are sites already ranking for the keywords and topics you aim to target. By understanding what types of sites they are, you can determine whether or not you will be able to compete in the niche.

Let’s take a look at the most important steps for identifying and assessing competitors in your niche. If you want a more comprehensive guide on SEO Competitor Analysis, then check out our guide which we’ve linked to.

First things first, you want to search for your keyword and have a look at the search engine results page (SERP).

Next you’ll want to check out the site’s that are ranking. Then you’ll want to have a look at the Authority Score (AS) of each site (to determine if they’re authority sites or not).

Before we go any further, let’s differentiate between authority sites and non-authority affiliate sites:

  • Authority site: A site with an AS of 40+. Authority sites cover broad niches like “running” and contain content that deals with all aspects of the niche (not just affiliate content).
  • Non-authority affiliate site: A site with an AS of less than 40. These are websites that don’t possess the same level of trust and credibility as authority sites. These sites often have fewer backlinks and may not be well-recognized within their niche.

With that being said, let’s jump into the competitor analysis.

Assess Your Competitors’ Authority Scores

To check a site’s AS, you can use Semrush’s Bulk Backlink Analysis tool. All you need to do is paste the URLs of the sites that are ranking for your primary keyword and click “Compare”.

Semrush – Bulk Backlink Analysis

Then, you’ll be able to see the AS for each URL.

Bulk Backlink Analysis – Results

Identify Affiliate Sites

The next thing you need to check is if the top-ranking site is an affiliate site. If so, then that’s good news because it indicates that Google is choosing to rank affiliate sites for the keyword.

How do you identify affiliate sites? First, click through to the page.

Then check for the following:

  • A clear disclaimer stating the site earns commission from product links in the articles
  • Product review posts, often identifiable through keyword modifiers like:
    • “Best”(Best 15 Airfryers of 2023)
    • “Top” (Top Texas Tours)
    • “vs” (Adidas vs Nike Running Shoes)
    • “Roundup” (Best Laptop for Video Editing Roundup)
    • “Reviews” (Pink Gaming Chairs Reviewed)
  • Buttons with CTA’s like “Book Now” or “Buy on Amazon”

Here’s a real world example.

Runners World has a clear disclaimer indicating that it’s an affiliate site.

Runner's World – Disclaimer

Analyze Your Competitors’ Backlinks

The next thing you need to check is the number of backlinks directed to each top-ranking page.

If a domain has a low number of backlinks (eg. fewer than 10), then there is a chance that you could overtake the site by outlinking them. But, you need to acquire quality backlinks from high authority sites that are relevant to your niche.

To check up on your competitors’ backlink profile, you can use Semrush’s Backlink Analytics Tool.

Copy and paste the top-ranking competitor’s page URL into the tool’s search bar. Then,

  • go to “Referring Domains” tab
  • select “Active”
  • set the Authority Score to 30-100, so you only see referring domains with a high AS score
  • and select “follow” to see links passing link juice as they carry the most weight
Semrush – Backlink Analytics – Referring Domains

Looking at the results for the Runners World page that is ranking in the top spot, you can see that they have a total of 28 high-quality backlinks pointing to their page. This will take some beating but can be done through formulating an effective link building strategy.

Analyze Your Competitors Traffic and Traffic Value

It’s crucial to take a look at your competitors’ traffic and traffic value to determine if there’s commercial value and search interest for the topics they cover.

To do this, you can use Semrush’s Organic Research Tool. Simply copy and paste your competitor’s domain into the tool.

You’ll then get an overview of their site:

Semrush – Organic Research – Overview

In this example, you can see that Runners World is getting over 1.4M in monthly traffic. This gives us a pretty good idea of the breadth of the search market.

Plus, you can see that their traffic is worth almost $1.1M. That means advertisers are willing to pay a lot of money for this traffic, which tells us the keywords they’re targeting have commercial value.

Analyzing these factors will give you an indication of whether or not there’s potential in this niche. But you’ll also have to look at affiliate programs and their commission structures to find out if they are programs that you’d benefit from.

Step 3: Assess Profitability

Several factors come into play when evaluating the profitability of a niche. First and foremost, it’s crucial to identify the revenue generated by sites within your niche.

One way to do this is to work out some basic forecasting. For example, let’s say an affiliate is paying a 10% commission and the average order value for their site is $50.

This means each sale is worth $5. If you can get your page to rank number one in the SERPs with a 33% click-through rate (CTR) for a keyword with a search volume of 1,000, then that equates to 333 clicks per month.

If your conversion rate for this page was 3%, then that’s ten $5 sales a month, which works out at $50 per month in revenue just from that page.

Another way of assessing profitability is to use Flippa, a platform dedicated to buying and selling domains.

After you land on the homepage, click on “Browse”.

Flippa – Homepage

Next, select “Websites” > “Content” > “Review”.

Flippa – Browse websites

Scroll down to the “Industry” filter and select your niche. We went with “Electronics”.

Flippa – Industry filter

Here, you can see that this site is generating $1,330 per month from affiliate sales.

Flippa – Result

While this provides a general insight into the profitability of your niche, it’s crucial to factor in the cost of content creation and site maintenance.

Next, you need to find and analyze affiliate programs and their commission structures.

Step 4: Find Affiliate Programs

Now that you’ve established that there are sites in your niche making money off of affiliate marketing, the last thing you need to do is look for relevant affiliate programs.

Once you’ve found them, you have to determine if those programs have commission structures that you’d be able to benefit from. But if you’re looking for something more niche, here are three ways to find affiliate programs.

1. Google

Perform a simple Google search.

For example, if you’re looking for affiliate programs in the running shoes niche, type in “running shoes affiliate programs” and hit search.

You’ll get a list of sites you can check out:

Google SERP – Running shoes affiliate program

2. Look at your competitors’ sites

Another way to find affiliate marketing programs is by looking at your competitors’ sites.

Some sites have their disclosures placed in the footer menu — this is usually the case if they’ve only partnered with one merchant, like Amazon.

Here’s an example:

Territory Supply – Disclaimer

Other sites maintain a dedicated affiliate disclaimer page where they outline all the affiliate programs they have joined.

Marathon Handbook – Terms of Use

3. Analyze your competitor’s backlinks

Analyzing your competitors’ outbound links can help you identify which affiliate programs they’re signed up to. To do this, you can use Semrush’s Backlink Analytics tool.

Simply copy and paste your competitor’s domain into the tool and hit “Analyze”. For this example, let’s use Runners World (runnerworld.com).

Semrush – Backlink Analytics – Referring Domains

On the “Overview” page, click on “Outbond Domains”:

Backlink Analytics – Outbound Domains

Set the “Category” filter to “Shopping” or “Internet & Telecom”. We went with “Shopping”.

Outbound Domains – Shopping filter

You’ll now see the affiliate programs your competitor is signed up to.

Outbound Domains – Results

In this image, you can see the competitor has signed up to a few affiliate programs, for example Amazon, Walmart, and Awin.

The next step is to research the affiliate programs you found. You’ll need to identify if they offer products or services that are related to your niche and that you would want to promote.

Additionally, you’ll need to look at their commission structures and rates to assess if the ROI is worthwhile.

After you’ve gone through all of the steps needed to qualify your niche, it’s time to find topics you can create content around.

Understanding Your Audience’s Needs

Understanding your audience’s needs is fundamental for a successful affiliate marketing strategy.

Understanding your audience

It goes beyond identifying demographics.

It involves delving into their interests, challenges, and preferences. This understanding is crucial for various reasons that contribute to the effectiveness and sustainability of your affiliate marketing efforts.

Here are the key aspects that highlight the importance of grasping your audience’s needs:

  • Relevance: Knowing what your audience is interested in allows you to choose and promote products that are relevant to them, increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversions.
  • Trust Building: When you address your audience’s specific needs or pain points, it builds trust. Users are more likely to trust recommendations from a source that understands their challenges and provides solutions.
  • Effective Communication: Knowing your audience enables you to communicate in a way that resonates with them.
  • Long-term Relationships: Affiliate marketing isn’t just about one-time transactions. Understanding their needs helps in consistently delivering value and encouraging repeat business.
  • Adaptability: Audience needs can change over time. Keeping a pulse on your audience allows you to adapt your marketing strategies and product/service promotions accordingly.
  • Tailoring Your Content: When you understand your audience, you can customize your content to match their preferences. Whether it’s adjusting the tone, format, or type of content, aligning with your audience’s preferences enhances engagement.

Building an Engaging Website

Building an engaging website is crucial for attracting and retaining visitors and fostering trust. It entices your readers to explore further and interact with your content. This can enhance your chances of improving conversions.

First, let’s start off with creating engaging content

Create Engaging Content

Providing high-quality, engaging content will capture your audience’s attention and encourage them to spend more time on your site and ultimately convert. By creating valuable and relevant content that caters to their interests and needs, you can become the go-to source for the information they seek. This can establish your authority in your niche.

Creating great content can be easier than you think. Just keep these factors in mind:

Be Honest and Provide Value

When reviewing products or services, don’t be afraid to give your honest opinion. Just because you’re earning a commission from an affiliate link doesn’t mean you need to tell the user the product or service is great if it’s not.

Users are more likely to find you relatable if you’re honest with them about any issues with a product or service. This will help to enhance your credibility. Additionally, you need to write original content that provides value to your readers.

This is SUPER important in growing your user base and gaining trust with your audience. Here’s what Nabil Al-Baidhani (Affiliate Marketer, KRA Marketing) says about providing value:

“Money will follow if you focus on helping potential buyers get the information they want. When I understood and implemented this, my business took a positive turn.”

Tell a Story

Telling a story instead of just trying to push a product can make the product seem more desirable and can help establish a deeper relationship with your audience.

Write from Experience

Great content comes from a place of experience. That means your reviews and articles should be centered around products or services that you’ve actually had experience with.

For example, GearJunkie does lots of reviews on pocket knives.

They test each knife to meet a bunch of criteria that most knife fans are looking for, and break down their choices in detail.

They also have a section at the end of their articles explaining why you should trust their reviews:

Gear Junkie – Trust the authors

By doing this, they signal to both users and Google that they know what they’re talking about, and they’ve got experience and expertise.

Embrace Their Frustrations

Don’t sugarcoat it. Dig deep into what’s bugging them from the get-go. If you can vocalize the reader’s problem, they’ll trust you to give them a solution. Here’s an example from Wirecutter. Notice how they immediately recognize the problem (bulky wallets in a cashless society) and offer a solution (a slim wallet):

NYTimes – Slim wallet article

Use Eye-Catching Visuals

Incorporating compelling visuals like high-quality images and videos enhances the overall visual appeal of your web pages. This not only captures visitors’ attention but also creates a more engaging and visually pleasing user experience (UX).

Visual element displays are a great way to showcase a product and provide concise information about it. If used right, they can be eye-catching and make it easier for users to skim through your content.

Here’s an example from Lasso:

Lasso – Visual

As you can see, this product is inserted into a table that not only makes it easier to spot, but provides the core information like the rating and pros and cons. The table format also features a link to the review and a link to try (or buy) the product.

On top of that, using product comparison tables helps users to compare products at a glance.

Lasso – Comparison tables

Send Strong Trust signals

Trust signals convey to users that your site is trustworthy. In the realm of affiliate marketing, establishing this trust is crucial. Users need to have confidence in the information you provide about the products or services you’re linking to in order to make a conversion.

In addition to establishing user trust, trust signals also convey to search engines that your site is credible.

Trust signals are sent from on-site and off-site features.

On-site trust signals include:

  • Disclosure Statements: Clearly disclosing your affiliate relationships and any potential commissions (This is often required by law and ethical standards.)
  • User Reviews and Testimonials: Including genuine user reviews and testimonials about the products or services you promote
  • Affiliate Program Selection: Choosing reputable and well-known affiliate programs
  • Privacy and Data Protection: Clearly outlining your website’s privacy policy and how user data is handled
  • SSL Certificate and HTTPS: Implementing an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate (This is indicated by the presence of “https://” in the URL.)
  • Clear Contact Information: Providing clear and easily accessible contact information, including a physical address, phone number, and email addresses

Off site trust signals include:

  • Backlinks from Reputable Sources: Acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable and authoritative websites in your niche
  • Social Proof and Engagement: Positive engagement and social proof on social media platforms, such as likes, shares, and positive comments

Additional Tips for Building an Effective Site

Creating engaging content and establishing trust are vital, but there are plenty of other elements that go into building an effective site, such as:

Consistent Branding

It’s SUPER important to maintain a consistent brand identity across your website to establish a cohesive and recognizable online presence. This helps build trust and ensures a unified experience for your audience. Additionally, a consistent brand image conveys professionalism and credibility.

Interactive Elements

Include interactive elements, such as polls or comment sections, to encourage user engagement.

Embrace the User Experience

No one enjoys a sluggish or confusing website. Prioritize items that allow for easy use of your site like mobile friendliness, lightning-fast loading times, intuitive menus, and clear CTAs.

Chapter 3: Joining an Affiliate Network or Program

Chapter 3 – Joining an affiliate network or program

Once you’ve picked your niche and set up a reputable site, it’s time to decide which company you want to partner with and start the process to become an affiliate.

In this chapter, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to join an affiliate program or network, as well as some top options to look into.

Discover the Ideal Program for You

Take a closer look at each network and assess the industries the merchants cater to. For example, if they operate in the B2B sector, it might not be suitable for a B2C affiliate marketer to promote their products or services.

If you decide to work directly with a merchant, make sure they offer a product or service that is relevant to your niche you chose earlier.

Read Up On the Terms & Conditions

Prior to enrolling in an affiliate network or program, carefully review their terms and conditions. It is crucial to understand the commission structure and the prerequisites required for registration. Additionally, assess the regulations as they may vary among different merchants.

Complete the Application

After you’ve read the terms and conditions and are happy to proceed, it’s time to complete the application. You will need to provide accurate and relevant information. This may include details about your website, marketing methods, and payment preferences.

Wait for Approval

After submitting your application, the merchant will review your information.

Approval times vary, but you will typically receive an email notification once your application is processed.

Top Affiliate Networks to Consider

With your target audience in mind, here are some affiliate networks to consider.

Top Affiliate Programs to Consider

Here are some affiliate programs to consider.

Chapter 4: SEO and Traffic Generation

Chapter 4 – SEO and traffic generation

In affiliate marketing, revenue is closely tied to the amount of targeted traffic you can drive to your site, and SEO is an absolutely vital part of doing so. By leveraging the power of SEO, you can get your site ranking higher in the SERPs and attract more potential customers.

Since the goals of a successful affiliate marketing campaign usually include things like lead generation, sales conversion, and customer acquisition, SEO strategies integrate seamlessly, creating a synergy between the two.

Simply put, if you can nail your SEO strategy, then you have a very good chance of achieving your affiliate marketing objectives.

Keyword Research for Affiliate Content

Keyword research is one of the foundations of any SEO strategy, as understanding what your audience searches for can guide you in creating content that will draw them in.

Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool is helpful to find the most relevant keywords for affiliate marketing campaigns. It’s easy to use and provides you with a ton of keyword suggestions.

We’ll give you a quick example of how to use Semrush’s tool to carry out your research. If you’d like more comprehensive advice, check out our full guide to keyword research.

To start, type in your seed keyword and hit “Search”.

For this example, we’ll use “running shoes”:

Keyword Magic Tool – Search – Running shoes

As you can see, the search volume is almost 4.9 million. This indicates a substantial interest in this niche.

Keyword Magic Tool – Running shoes

There’s also over 248K relevant keywords, but not all of these will be relevant to your site.

You’ll need to narrow down this list to help you target keywords that are both easy to rank for and beneficial for affiliate marketing.

First, use the “KD%” filter and select “Very easy” to find low competition keywords.

Keyword Magic Tool – KD filter

Next, you’ll need to include keyword modifiers in your search. Modifiers are words that you append to your base keywords. This ensures that the results you receive are specifically tailored to meet your affiliate marketing needs. Some go-to modifiers for affiliate marketing include:

  • “best”,
  • “vs”,
  • and “review”.

You’ll also want to look for branded keywords, for example, Nike.

Click the “Include keywords” filter and type in your modifiers and hit “Apply”:

Keyword Magic Tool – Include keywords filter

Then, click the “Intent” filter and choose “Commercial” to filter and display only keywords with commercial intent:

Keyword Magic Tool – Intent filter

Focusing on search queries with commercial intent will enhance your chances of attracting relevant traffic to your site and achieving your affiliate marketing goals.

Here’s what Harry Boxhall (Squarespace SEO Consultant, Boxhall Marketing Ltd) had to say about understanding and addressing search intent:

“By tailoring articles to answer specific questions or solve problems that users were actively searching for, I noticed significant improvements in engagement rates and time spent on the page. More importantly, this nuanced approach led to higher conversion rates for affiliate links. Understanding and addressing search intent turned out to be the game-changer, leading not only to better search rankings but also to a considerable increase in affiliate revenue.”

After applying all the filters, we’ve narrowed down the results from 247,000 to 213. This trimmed-down list is more manageable, and the keywords are now more specific.

And, they’re WAY easier to rank for:

Keyword Magic Tool – Filtered keyword list

Content Creation: The Foundation of SEO and Traffic

Once you’ve identified your keywords, it’s time to start creating an optimized content marketing strategy that supports your SEO goals and engages your target audience. You need to focus on creating valuable content that’s highly relevant to user intent and entices them to convert.

As outlined in Google’s Helpful Content Update, the primary aim of your content should be to help the user resolve their issue, rather than solely trying to improve your rankings.

There are many different types of content that have proven to be successful for affiliate marketers, such as how-to guides, product reviews, and comparison posts.

Let’s take a look at some of the most effective types of content marketing that you should incorporate into your SEO strategy.

How-To Guides

How-to guides are a great way of establishing trust and transparency with your target audience. As the name suggests, they show users how to use a product or service.

This is crucial as you want users to feel confident they’ll be able to use the service or product you’re promoting. Plus, if a user understands how something works, then they tend to be more inclined to make a purchase.

These guides typically target queries with informational search intent like “how to use an air fryer”. You could also consider targeting search terms related to errors like “air fryer not working”, and then lay out the steps for solving the issue.

Another good strategy is to target queries where you can position your product or service as the solution. For example, let’s say you identify the keyword “how to roast potatoes” during your keyword research. You could create an article called “How To Make Perfect Roast Potatoes With An Air Fryer”, where you demonstrate how users can use the product you’re promoting to achieve their desired outcome.

This is an excellent way to match search intent and ensure your guides rank highly in the SERPs, leading to more user engagement and higher volumes of targeted traffic to your affiliate site.

Product Reviews

Users search for reviews to give them the information they need to make an informed buying decision. They’re a go-to source for potential customers, and they should form a key part of your SEO content strategy.

Your reviews should be transparent, honest, and well-rounded. Make sure you mention the downsides of products as well as the upsides. No product is perfect, and if you try to make the products you’re promoting seem perfect, your audience won’t trust you.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a review of a new Lenovo laptop. You have several sections covering its powerful graphics card, awesome resolution, and massive amount of RAM. To build trust with your audience, you should also include a section called something like “Where It Falls Short”. Here you can give users your honest opinion about any cons, like its short battery life.

This gives the review balance and means your audience will be fully informed before making a purchasing decision—which is exactly what they’re looking for. Users are then more likely to return to your site for reviews in the future, which can lead to a sustained increase in targeted traffic.

Comparison Guides

Comparison guides are similar to reviews but give users even more information by comparing similar products or services to each other. They’re great for driving targeted traffic to your site as you can use them to address long tail keywords like “Specialized bikes vs Giant bikes” or “is Specialized better than Giant”.

Users who search for queries like this are in the consideration stage of the buying process, and they have high purchase intent and specific product preferences. By creating engaging content, you can move them further along the sales funnel (and hopefully boost your affiliate income).

Your guides should include detailed comparisons of the products that show how their different features stack up against each other and give users your honest opinion about which product best suits their needs.

You can improve user experience by creating tables that list things like the price and specs of each product you’re comparing.

Building Quality Backlinks

Backlinks are simply hyperlinks from one site to another, and they’re one of the many trust signals used by search engine algorithms when they’re ranking pages. It’s important to bear in mind that not all backlinks are the same, and some are more high quality than others.

Building high-quality backlinks can help your affiliate site rank higher for your targeted keywords, leading to more traffic and increased affiliate sales. In order to rank well and increase organic traffic, the backlinks should be from relevant and authoritative sources and earned naturally.

Links like these help your site grow as an authority within your industry, and acquiring them will form a fundamental part of your SEO strategy.

Some of the best ways to build high-quality backlinks to an affiliate site include:

  • Guest posting: This involves creating posts on other sites relevant to your niche,and placing links back to your site within the content.
  • Linkable content ideas: Content like case studies, videos, tools, and infographics are great for attracting backlinks to your site and showcasing your platform as a reputable source.
  • Broken link building: If you identify broken links on other sites within your niche, reach out to the site owners and suggest they replace it with a link to relevant content on your site.

These are just a handful of the ways you can build backlinks to your affiliate site and give both your traffic and authority a boost. If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide, check out our guide on link-building strategies.

Chapter 5: Converting Traffic Into Sales

Chapter 5 – Converting traffic into sales

While it’s great to drive traffic to your site, that’s only half the battle. Now, you’ve got to optimize your webpages to maximize the amount of conversions you get from your visitors.

This is known as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), and it’s something that’s absolutely vital if you want to succeed as an affiliate marketer. The good news? Effective CRO doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s what you need to know.

CRO Best Practices

CRO requires gathering data on your current user behaviors, for example:

  • How they’re navigating a site
  • Which pages they spend the most time on
  • When users are dropping off

Using that data, you focus on streamlining their experience on your landing pages to make it as easy as possible for the user to convert.

Ideally, you should always follow these best practices:

Add a Table of Contents

A table of contents provides a super quick overview of the article and is an easy way to give your users the option to jump straight to what they’re looking for. By doing that, you help cut out all of the information they weren’t looking for and give them the answers they want immediately.

Here’s an example of the table of contents we’ve created for our large guides here at Backlinko:

Backlinko – Table of Contents

When it comes to affiliate marketing, you’ll often end up reviewing a lot of products to cover all the relevant keywords.

This can lead to huge walls of text and long articles, which can be daunting for readers. With a table of contents, you can make it easy for them to navigate the page.

Include a Comparison Table

Comparison tables are a great way to give your reader a quick overview of your article. They are especially useful if you’re writing an article comparing different products.

For example, if you’re writing a review on the best bluetooth headphones, you can use a comparison table at the start of the article with a round-up of all the products. You can then use various columns, such as “price” and “features”, to give your reader a quick overview.

Make it Easy to Skim

Every paragraph should highlight your key points, so that readers can easily skim through if they’re looking for a specific section or an answer to a particular question. Subheadings are great for quick skimming. They help users quickly find what they’re looking for, giving them the answers they want and bringing them closer to a conversion.

Here’s an example from PCMag:

PCMag – Skimmable content

As you can see, they’ve broken down each product by why they’ve chosen it, who it’s ideal for, and the pros and cons.

This makes it super easy for a reader to skim through and find the exact information they’re looking for.

Use CTA Buttons

It’s no secret that a good CTA can increase conversions. But you’ve got to make sure they’re easy to find. While in-text links are great, buttons are eye-catching and worth implementing into your content.

Here’s how to make sure your CTA buttons effectively contribute to your overall CRO strategy:

  • Clarity: Ensure the text you use is compelling and clear. It should tell the user exactly what action you want them to take, such as “Sign Up” or “Buy Now”.
  • Placement: Place your buttons strategically, they should be near the products your promoting (either under or next to). Ideally, add them near an image or text describing the product. You can also add them to an overview table.
  • Colors: The color of a CTA button should contrast with the background color of the page to make it eye-catching for the user.
  • Size: Your buttons should be big enough to be noticeable and clickable. However, they shouldn’t be so large that they overwhelm the page.
  • Whitespace: You can prevent visual clutter by surrounding the button with whitespace. This also helps it to stand out.
  • Urgency: If you have limited-time offers, use text that conveys a sense of urgency to the user, like “Sale Ends Soon” and “While Stocks Last”.
  • Mobile optimization: CTA buttons need to be tappable on mobile screens, and the text should remain easily readable. Browsing and shopping on mobile devices is very common, so optimizing for mobile is vital for CRO.
  • A/B testing: Use A/B testing to test various placements, colors, and text for your CTA buttons. You can see which ones lead to higher conversion rates and use this info to refine your approach.
  • Benefit-oriented language: Use language like “Get My Free eBook” instead of “Submit” to clearly emphasize the benefits of taking an action.
  • Security icons: Include trust signals like SSL certificates and secure payment icons near your CTA buttons, where applicable. They help to increase trust in the security of your site, which can improve conversion rates.

Here’s an example of a CTA button from Lasso:

Lasso – CTA button

Keep an Eye on Your Top Performing Products

It’s important to monitor how many clicks you get on each product.

If you’ve posted a top 10 list, your 4th product shouldn’t be getting more clicks than your 2nd.

But if it is, then you should reevaluate whether or not your list should be ordered the way that it is.

Utilize Video Content

While written content has its place, more and more people are turning to video content to inform their purchasing decisions. YouTube used to be king of this arena, but the rise of TikTok has made short-form video content an essential. Plus, videos are often more engaging than the written word.

Nowadays, consumers spend their free time scrolling through various social media platforms in search of some easy hits of dopamine. So, why not take advantage of that?

Utilizing videos to help break down complex concepts into digestible content is a great way to boost your conversion. It’ll also make it easier for viewers to understand your message.

Creating videos (and starring in them) can also help position you as a source of authority and add a human touch to your content.

Then, you can take these videos and embed them into your content, giving readers a reason to stick around on your site. Additionally, including them may even boost your SERP rankings. To learn more about this, check out our video SEO guide.

Monitoring and Analyzing Performance

Monitoring and analyzing your performance is absolutely vital if you want to succeed as an affiliate.

When joining an affiliate program, each affiliate gets access to a dashboard which allows them to track the performance of their links.

There are also plenty of third-party tools you can use to keep tabs on your performance. Let’s take a look at some of them and the types of data you need to track.

User Behavior Metrics

User behavior data refers to information gathered on how individuals interact with your content and navigate your website. This data provides insights into users’ actions, preferences, and engagement patterns.

User behavior metrics include:

  • Page Views and click-through rate: Tracking the pages users visit and the specific elements such as links and buttons they interact with.
  • Bounce rate: Insights into the percentage of users who leave a webpage shortly after landing on it without further interaction. High bounce rates on your pages may indicate that users aren’t finding your content useful or that your pages lack a good user experience in terms of page load speed and responsiveness to user inputs.
  • Dwell time: This refers to the amount of time a user spends actively engaging with a particular page. A longer dwell time suggests that users find the content valuable, engaging, and relevant to their search queries.
  • Device and browser: Analyzing information about the devices (desktop, mobile, tablet) and browsers people use to access your website. For instance, if you notice that a majority of visitors use mobile devices to access your site, it’s essential to focus on making your site more user-friendly for mobile users.
  • Conversions: This metric measures the rate at which users complete desired actions, such as clicking on your links or signing up to your email list.

Tools You Can Use to Monitor Your Analytics:

GA4

You can use GA4 to measure metrics like bounce rate and dwell time and to track the performance of on-page elements like CTAs. To learn all about how to use GA4, check out this comprehensive GA4 guide.

Google Search Console (GSC)

GSC is also useful as it allows you to track your Google keyword ranking, measure your CTR and page indexing, and identify your most popular pages. Our in-depth GSC guide tells you everything you need to know about harnessing the power of this tool.

Reviews and Surveys

Harnessing the power of customer feedback through reviews and surveys is a strategic move to gain valuable insights into the performance of your affiliate marketing efforts. When combined with the traditional analytics mentioned above, you can gain valuable insights into what’s performing well and identify areas that might need improvement.

You need to encourage your users to leave reviews of the products or services you promote and participate in surveys. This will provide you with a deeper understanding of:

  • Your Audience: Through customer reviews, you will be able to analyze common themes, positive aspects, and pain points mentioned by users.
  • Product Relevance: Through surveys, you’ll get insights into the relevance and appeal of the products you link to from specific pages. The feedback will allow you to identify whether the promoted products or services match your audience’s needs and preferences.
  • User Experience Assessment: You can use surveys to gauge the overall user experience on your website. This feedback can guide improvements in your site’s layout and functionality.
  • Identifying Trending Products: Monitor reviews and survey responses to identify trending products within your niche. This can inform your content strategy and promotional efforts.
  • Content Evaluation: Use surveys to inquire about the effectiveness of your content. This will allow you to identify which types of content resonate most with your audience and contribute to successful conversions.

Heatmap Analysis

Heatmaps visually display where visitors are clicking, moving, and spending the most time on your website. This helps you understand their behavior patterns and preferences.

Here’s the super cool part, heatmaps use color gradients to highlight “hotspots” where user activity is concentrated.

These areas often indicate high engagement.

By identifying popular sections of your site, you can strategically place affiliate links, CTAs, or important content.

Monitoring your Links

Most affiliate programs don’t have evergreen links, meaning you’ll need to keep track of which links are broken or expired.

Lasso is a great tool you can use to find and add affiliate links, as well as to monitor and track existing ones:

Lasso – Dashboard

At the top, you can see three icons in red, yellow, and green:

  • The red icon tells you how many broken or expired affiliate links you have.
  • The yellow icon tells you which products you’re linking to are out of stock.
  • The green icon tells you when there’s an opportunity for another affiliate link.

You can also connect it to GA4 to identify how affiliate links perform on specific posts and pages. This allows you to identify what kind of content is getting the most conversions on your site.

If you click on the “Performance” tab, you can see what your revenue is for a selected timeframe, as well as which networks and programs on your site are getting the most clicks from your affiliate link:

Lasso – Performance Tab

Provide Disclosures

As well as being a trust signal, disclosures are a primary and crucial obligation for any affiliate. It’s essential to clarify that any purchases made through your links will result in you earning a commission.

In most countries, including the United States, this is a legal requirement.

Respect Intellectual Property Rights

Both merchants and affiliates have to make sure that they’re not infringing on anybody’s intellectual property if they’re showcasing a product or using promotional content.

Abide by Consumer Protection Rules

There are rules and regulations put in place to safeguard customers from dubious dealings or exploitation. These include the CAN-SPAM and Federal Trade Commission Act. It’s crucial to stay well-informed about these guidelines because failing to adhere to them can lead to serious consequences.

Maintain Honesty & Transparency

It’s important that affiliates are honest with their customers. That means no false claims or any marketing efforts that could be misleading.

Privacy

Maintaining consumer privacy is a cornerstone of successful affiliate marketing. It not only ensures legal compliance but also builds trust, fosters long-term relationships, and instills confidence in users. Adhering to privacy regulations such as GDPR and CCPA is essential to avoid legal consequences and maintain a reputable business.

Here are a few steps you can take to ensure you stay up to date with the guidelines:

  • Ask other affiliates how they’re following these rules and regulations.
  • Check your affiliate programs regularly to see if there are any changes in rules.
  • Look at the rules and regulations listed on your government’s official website.
  • Subscribe to newsletters, blogs, and websites that focus on affiliate marketing news and compliance. Lots of industry experts publish articles covering these topics.
  • Attend webinars and seminars dedicated to affiliate marketing. Many of these have sections dedicated to discussing legal and ethical regulations.
  • Consult legal experts who specialize in affiliate marketing and advertising law.