Keyword Research for Affiliate Marketing: Tools, Tips, & Process
Choosing the right keywords is vital to the success of your affiliate website.
If you target the search terms your audience is using and create great content, you can drive free organic traffic to your website and your affiliate offers.
Organic traffic from search engines is the most effective way for new affiliates to generate sales…
...Traffic from search engines often converts higher than social media.
The reason for this is that when someone is 'actively' searching for something...
...They are more likely to make a purchase, than when they are 'interrupted' with a particular targeted offer.
In addition, 70% of marketers claim that SEO is a more effective tactic than pay-per-click (PPC):
But how do you know which keywords to target?
To maximize your impact in the search results, you need to have a strategic process to find the best keyword opportunities.
That’s where keyword research comes in.
- What is Keyword Research?
- Why Is Keyword Research Important?
- How to Do Keyword Research
- Keyword Research Tools
- Keyword Research Tips
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying the keyword phrases that your audience is searching for…
…You can use this information to understand your audience better and provide the content they are searching for online.
Why Is Keyword Research Important?
Keyword research shows you the topics in your niche that people are interested in, and how much demand there is for information on the topic.
By identifying the keywords that receive a high Search Volume every month, you can create content on the topics that people want to read.
When you target buyer intent keywords, you can attract an audience that is ready to convert and close to making a purchase...
...And when you create high-quality content that offers the best information for a search query, you will climb the rankings and drive traffic from search engines.
While an engaging social media or PPC campaign can generate traffic in the short term…
...A quality blog post that achieves a top-ranking can generate a flood of traffic for months and even years to come.
How to Do Keyword Research
Step 1: Identify Common Problems in Your Niche
The best way to find keywords for information products is to think about the common problems that people are looking to overcome.
For example, if you’re in the dog training niche, dog owners often experience problems like:
- Dog digging
- Dog barking
- Dog aggression
People search for solutions online…
...But they use more words to describe their problem when they enter a search term into Google.
They use long-tail keywords like:
- Stop cocker spaniel digging
- Stop golden retriever barking
- Stop Weimaraner aggression
These long-tail keywords are much more specific and easier to rank for in search results.
To uncover these problems, you can use keyword research tools, but also visit forums, online communities, and blogs.
Step 2: Find Forums in Your Niche
Forums are an excellent resource for keyword research and identifying common problems you can target in your content.
You can find forums in your niche by heading over to google and searching for “your niche” forum.
Sticking with dog training as an example, you can see that “dog training forum” returns several niche forums.
You can explore each site in the SERP, checking out the categories and subcategories.
Step 3: Find Popular Forum Posts
The majority of forums list threads in a table, with columns for the number of views and the number of replies.
A lot of forum sites enable you to order the threads according to these metrics.
To find the common problems in your niche, you want to look at the topics people are discussing within the forum, identifying the threads with the most views and replies.
If we look at one of the dog training forums, we can see several common problems that people encounter:
These topics have received a lot of views and engagement, so there’s a good chance they discuss a problem that lots of people face.
You can use this information to create content that helps people overcome their problems, with your affiliate products providing the solution that people need.
Step 1: Brainstorm Topic Ideas
For physical products, the best way to conduct keyword research is to start with broad topics within your niche.
Step into the shoes of your target audience, and try to come up with around 6 or 7 topics.
These aren’t the specific keyword phrases you want to rank for; they’re the broader topics your audience is interested in.
Let’s say you are creating an affiliate site in the prepper niche. This is a hot niche, with lots of different topics.
You could have a list of topics that looks something like this:
- First aid
- Financial planning
- Survival skills
- Food storage
Think about the main topics within your niche, and what your target audience is interested in.
These topics will help you to narrow down and find specific keywords later.
Step 2: Create a List of Seed Keywords for Each Topic and Problem
Now you have a list of topics, it’s time to break them down and identify seed keywords within each topic.
This isn’t your finalized list of keywords.
These are the sub-topics and product categories you think your audience is searching for, and that you want to rank for in the search results.
Seed keywords usually only consist of one or two words. You will use these seed keywords to find long-tail, low-competition keyword opportunities.
You don’t need to worry about exact phrases, you just want to fill in the topic with seed keyword ideas.
You can use keyword research tools to narrow down this list later and identify the best keyword opportunities.
Fill in each sub-topic with the seed keywords that you think your audience is using to search for information related to your niche.
For example, if we take the hunting topic for the prepper niche, you could end up with a list of seed keywords that looks something like this:
- Bug out bags
- Hunting knives
- Shooting mats
- Rifle cases
- Bench bags
- Rifle scopes
- Hearing protection
- Tactical clothing
- Hunting courses
If you need some help thinking of seed keywords and product categories, you can head over to Amazon and see what they have to offer in your niche.
Step 3: Use Amazon to Find Seed Keywords and Product Categories
Go to Amazon and click on the “All” dropdown menu next to the search bar and find your niche.
For the hunting topic in the prepper niche, you would click on “Sports & Outdoors,” and leaving the search bar empty, click on the magnifying glass.
From here, you would click on the “Hunting.”
You can now see several hunting product categories that you can explore to find different types of products and identify seed keywords.
Remember that you’re not looking for specific products to promote…
...You’re looking for the types of products that your audience will find appealing.
Step into the shoes of your audience and think about the products they would be interested in.
How To Find Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are longer phrases that generally contain three or more words.
These phrases are more specific and generate less Search Volume, but are easier to rank for in search results.
Head terms are shorter phrases and more general search terms. They receive a higher Search Volume but are more competitive and harder to rank for.
Let’s take a look at the stats for a long-tail keyword and head term in the prepper niche as an example.
Best hunting knife for deer
The long-tail keyword receives a lot fewer searches…
...But the SEO Difficulty is much lower.
Not only is the long-tail keyword much less competitive, but the type of traffic it attracts to your website could be much more profitable.
When someone is searching for a long-tail keyword like “best hunting knife for deer”, it’s easier to identify the specific answer or information they are looking for.
If they search for a generic head term like “hunting knife”, they could be looking for a number of different related things.
If you promote hunting knives on your website, the searcher using the long-tail keyword is much more likely to be interested in your affiliate products than the head term searcher.
Finding long-tail keywords is much faster if you leverage paid keyword research tools…
...But there are free ways to find profitable keyword opportunities.
3 Ways to Find Long Tail Keywords for Free
Head over to Google and search for your seed keyword.
From the search engine results page (SERP), scroll down to the “people also ask” section…
...and to the bottom of the page and check out the related search queries.
These two sections of the SERP should help you think of long-tail keywords you can target.
If we stick with “hunting knife” as an example, you can see that Google provides a bunch of potential long-tail keywords in the “people also ask” section:
And in the related search section:
This is a great way to find long-tail search terms that are related to your seed keywords.
Ubersuggest is a free keyword research tool that uses Google’s autocomplete to provide keyword suggestions.
Head over to Ubersuggest and enter your seed keyword.
Click on keyword ideas:
Ubersuggest will offer a bunch of keyword ideas that can be used as long-tail keywords for your content:
You can even download the results and upload them to your keyword research tool.
AnswerThePublic is an excellent tool for finding common questions and long-tail queries related to your seed keywords.
When you enter your seed keyword, AnswerThePublic will return a page of visualized question results:
And comparison results:
This is valuable information to help you find less competitive long-tail keywords.
You can even change the format from the visualization to a list and work your way through the results.
Work out the Search Intent
To create content that ranks high in search results and attract the right audience to your website, you need to understand the intent behind a search phrase.
Search intent is the reason why people are searching for specific keywords and search terms.
There can be several motivations behind a search:
- Is the user searching for an answer to a question?
- Do they want to purchase a product?
- Are they looking for information on a product or service?
- Do they want to compare different products?
- Are they seeking a solution to a specific problem?
Step into the shoes of your audience and try to identify the intent behind the search.
You want to focus most of your attention on the long-tail keywords that show buyer intent.
These are the search terms people use when they are close to making a purchase.
Anybody searching for “best of” product lists, reviews of products, or product comparisons is in the final stages of the buyer’s journey and close to making a purchase decision.
It’s much easier to convert this type of traffic and generate sales of your affiliate products.
However, you can also target more informational long-tail keywords and work your affiliate products into the content.
For example, if you create a guide that helps people to overcome a specific challenge or problem, you can link to your affiliate product as an additional tool or resource that helps your audience achieve their desired outcome.
How to Choose Your Final Keyword Selections
You should now have a good list of long-tail keywords for each topic within your niche.
But you need to narrow down your list even further, identifying the most profitable long tail keywords opportunities.
For a new affiliate website, you want to identify a minimum of 40 profitable long-tail keyword opportunities.
You can use the free keyword research tool Ubersuggest to help you finalize your keyword selections.
There are two metrics you want to pay special attention to:
It doesn’t matter how good your content is, if you’re targeting a keyword that people aren’t typing into search engines, you won’t drive any organic traffic.
Ubersuggest can show you the Search Volume for the keywords on your list…
...You want to eliminate the long-tail keywords that don’t receive enough Search Volume to be viable.
For example, “best hunting knife under $50” is a buyer intent long-tail keyword.
However, if we check on Ubersuggest, we can see that it only receives a monthly Search Volume of 10.
This long-tail keyword doesn’t receive enough Search Volume to be viable.
Even if you create high quality that ranks in the top spot of the SERP, you will struggle to generate any sales with such a low Search Volume.
Try to target long-tail keywords that have a Search Volume of at least 500 per month.
Before you decide to scrap any long-tail keywords from your list, you should consider whether it is likely to increase in Search Volume in the future.
You can head over to Google Trends and enter the long-tail keyword…
...This will show you if the keyword is likely to increase in Search Volume.
If it’s on an upward projection, it might be worth jumping on the keyword now and taking advantage of the low competition.
The next step is to filter out the keywords that are too competitive.
When you enter your keyword into Ubersuggest, you’ll notice it returns an SEO Difficulty metric.
This tells you how difficult it is to rank in the search results for the keyword.
The higher the rating, the more competition, and the harder it will be to achieve a high ranking.
The best keywords opportunities have a high Search Volume and low SEO Difficulty.
These are the keywords lots of people are entering into search engines, but where the competition isn’t too high, and you have a chance of ranking in the top spots of the SERP.
Identify the keywords with a Search Volume of 500 plus and an SEO Difficulty of 45 or less.
Create a Balanced Keyword Strategy
A lot of affiliates make the mistake of only targeting long-tail buyer intent keywords.
You want to target long-tail keywords that can bring you short term wins and the chance of commission…
...But you should also focus on a few head terms to create a balanced website and keyword strategy.
If some of your head terms at the top end of the SEO Difficulty range, you might want to include them as part of your long term SEO strategy.
When you go over your list of keywords, you want to balance long-tail keywords and head terms.
Long-tail keywords can quickly bring in traffic and result in a quick commission…
...But you don’t want to neglect the more competitive head terms completely.
You want to be the go-to source for people interested in your niche.
If you focus entirely on long-tail keywords, you might attract sporadic traffic from google…
...But you’ll struggle to build a regular audience and make progress on your long term SEO goals.
Keyword Research Tools
As you can see from the process above, conducting high-quality keyword research takes time.
You need to step into the shoes of your audience and identify the search terms they are using to find information online.
After you’ve created a list of search terms, you need to analyze your keywords to see if they offer a viable opportunity for organic traffic.
All of this takes time.
Fortunately, there are lots of keyword research tools you can use to speed up the process and make the process a whole lot easier.
Google Keyword Planner
Formerly known as Google Keyword Tool, the Google Keyword Planner has been a goto tool for keyword research for decades.
Although Google has reduced the amount of data you can access over the years, it’s still a great free tool to access keyword information.
You can see the average monthly Search Volume for your keywords, and a low, medium, or high ranking for the level of competition.
While it doesn’t offer keyword suggestions, it does provide keyword variations and synonyms.
You need to create a Google Ads account, but it’s entirely free to use Google Keyword Planner.
We’ve used Ubersuggest throughout the keyword research process above, and for a good reason.
This free keyword research tool is a great way to find keyword suggestions, judge SEO Difficulty, and find out the estimated Search Volume of your keyword list.
You can see a massive list of variations of your seed keywords, which can be downloaded and exported.
It’s free to use but is restricted to a set number of queries per day.
Google Trends is a great tool to help you determine the Search Volume of a keyword over time.
You can see if a keyword is gaining popularity, if it receives a seasonal increase in Search Volume, and whether it is worth investing your time and resources creating content targeting the search term.
If you find a keyword with a low but increasing Search Volume, it may be a good idea to capitalize early and gain an advantage over your competitors.
The related queries section is another great feature.
This will provide a set of queries that are related to your keyword, offering more potential keyword opportunities for your content.
If you’re looking for low competition long-tail keywords, AnswerThePublic is the free tool you need.
When you enter your seed keyword, AnswerThePublic returns a visualized page of questions, prepositions, and comparison search queries.
This information is great for sparking ideas for content and keyword opportunities.
You can export your data in a CSV file, and you also have the option of saving the visualization results as a PNG.
It’s completely free to use, but there’s an option of a premium membership if you want to filter results according to location.
If you want to get in-depth information on your keywords and your competitors, you’ll need to purchase a paid keyword research tool.
SEMRush is one of the leading all in one SEO tools.
It can save you a load of time and offer insight into your competitor’s keyword strategy.
You can see the keywords that your competitors are ranking for, helping you to identify any keyword opportunities you’ve missed.
Enter the URL of your competitor, and SEMRush will provide you with a breakdown of all the keywords they are currently ranking for.
You can then create better content to outrank them in search results.
As well as keyword research SEMRush offers a bunch of features to monitor your site’s ranking, the ranking of your competitors, and the estimated value of the traffic they attract.
Pricing: From $99.95 per month
KWFinder is a beginner-friendly, paid keyword research tool.
It helps you to find long-tail keywords and shows you the estimated Search Volume and competition for the search term.
Enter your seed keyword, and KWFinder will return a bunch of keyword ideas, including questions, suggestions, and autocomplete search terms.
The interface is intuitive and straightforward, making it an ideal solution for beginner affiliates looking to make the step up to a paid keyword tool.
It’s easy to filter your results, see the keyword difficulty, and Search Volume for your keywords.
The data comes from MOZ, so it’s reasonably reliable and accurate.
You can use KWFinder for free, but it’s limited to three searches per day, and you can only access the basic features and limited data.
Pricing: From $29.90 per month
Keyword Research Tips
Now you know the process for keyword research and the tools that make it easier to find keyword opportunities.
But we're not done yet.
Here are some bonus tips to help you create a keyword strategy that drives traffic to your website and generates sales for your affiliate business.
1. Know Your Audience
Before you start creating topics and building your keyword list, you need to have an in-depth knowledge of your target audience.
Not only will this help you with your keyword research, but it will also help you to identify the affiliate products that are most appealing to your audience.
It will also help you to create content that is more engaging and valuable.
Creating a buyer persona is a great way to get to know your audience.
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your target audience.
It usually includes the following information:
- Homeowner situation
- Household size
Once you've defined the key characteristics of your buyer persona, think about what that fictional person searches to find information that helps them make informed purchasing decisions.
You’ll also want to think about how much your buyer persona is willing to spend on a product or service.
You don't want to waste your time promoting a product that is out of your target audience's price range.
Pay close attention to buyer intent keywords.
If you are in the photography niche and targeting an audience with a limited budget, you could target a keyword like, “best DSLR camera under $300”.
The searcher is looking for budget camera models and is close to making a purchase.
As an affiliate, these are the types of keywords that can be most profitable and generate the most commission.
2. Research the Content Published in Your Niche
You can find topics and keywords your audience is interested in by researching the content that they are already consuming online.
Once you have created a buyer persona, you can determine the social media platforms where your audience spends their time.
Check out what people are saying in groups and forums.
Are there any common questions and debates between people?
Take a look at the types of videos, webinars, and content your target audience engages with and shares online.
This should give you a good idea of the types of content people are looking for in your niche and help spark ideas for keywords.
3. Use Synonyms and Related Keywords
Every piece of content you publish on your site should target one of your keywords.
But you can further optimize your content to attract more traffic from search engines by including related search terms and synonyms.
For example, if you create a piece of content targeting the keyword "best camera for beginners," you could target synonyms and related search terms like:
- "what's the best entry-level camera?"
- "How to choose your first camera?"
- "best camera for beginner photographers"
By including these similar long-tail keywords, you can rank for your main keyword and your related and synonym keywords.
4. Analyze Your Competitor's Keyword Strategy
Checking out what your competitors are up to is a great way to highlight any keyword opportunities you might have overlooked.
This is where paid keyword research tools come into their own, but you can use some free tools and techniques.
Screaming Frog is an SEO tool, but it can be utilized to get an overview of your competitor's website and keyword strategy.
Once you have downloaded the free software, enter the URL of your competitor's website and click on crawl:
Let's say that you are in the photography niche, and Snapsort is one of your competitors.
Once Screaming Frog has completed the crawl, you will a results page like this:
This meta title information can help you to get an idea of the keywords your competitor is targeting.
Snapsort does a great job of targeting comparison keyword phrases and best-of lists.
After seeing the keywords your competitors are targeting, you need to work out a way to produce content that is better and even more valuable to your target audience.
5. Voice Search Keywords
Voice search is an increasingly important factor in keyword research and SEO.
With Alexa, Google Home, and Amazon Echo leading the way, more and more people are using voice-activated devices and smart speakers.
Juniper Research predicts that 55% of US households will own a voice-activated smart speaker by 2022...
...And ComScore estimates that 50% of all searches in 2020 will be conducted by voice.
How does voice search impact your keyword research?
The vast majority of voice searches begin with a "how," "what," and "where."
To target voice search keywords in your niche, you should identify the common questions related to your niche topics and affiliate products.
AnswerThePublic is a great tool to help you find questions and voice search long-tail keywords.
Enter your seed keywords to identify the types of questions people are searching for.
Voice search results usually use the featured snippet in the search results to provide instant answers to searchers.
You can target the snippet box by providing concise and easy to understand 30 to 50-word answers to questions…
...And expand on your concise answer in the rest of your content.
Making your answer as easy to understand for a broad audience is crucial for voice search optimization.
According to SEMRush, the majority of featured snippets rank at 8 on the Flesch Kincaid Grade system.
You can analyze the readability of your text by using the free tool Hemingway App.
Copy and paste your text, and Hemingway App will provide a Flesch Kincaid Grade, as well as suggestions to make your writing more straightforward and easy to understand.
6. Problem-Solving Keywords
If you're in a competitive niche, a great way to target less competitive long-tail keywords is to think about the common problems that your target audience might encounter.
When your audience faces a specific problem, what will they type into a search engine?
People look for solutions online.
But if they don't know about the product or service that offers the solution, they will search for keywords related to the symptoms of the problem.
Let's stick with the photography niche as an example.
A beginner photographer might want to take detailed close-up photos…
...But they don't yet know that they need a macro lense to do so.
They won't be searching for comparisons of macro lenses or product reviews because they are unaware that's the product they need.
As an affiliate, you can target the keywords that somebody encountering this problem will be searching for.
Long-tail keywords like:
- “How to get detailed close-up photos?”
- “How to take close up pictures with a DSLR?”
- “How to shoot close up photos?”
Once you've attracted visitors to your site, you educate them about their problem and provide the solution through your affiliate products.
Don't Keyword Stuff
Here's the thing.
Google is in the business of search.
They want to provide the best and most relevant information to a user's search query.
Every Google algorithm update is to make the search results more relevant and useful to searchers.
Simply stuffing your content with exact keyword matches and hoping you will make it onto the first page is a strategy that is doomed to fail.
Google doesn't like content stuffed with keywords, and you could find that your website is penalized if you cram in keywords without offering any value.
In simple terms, if you stuff keywords into your content, it won't help you to rank higher in search results.
Only include your target keyword two or three times in your content.
Keyword research isn't an easy task that you can autopilot through.
It takes time and requires attention to detail.
To run a successful affiliate marketing website, you need to target the right keywords.
If you neglect keyword research, you won't attract any visitors to your site, and you won't make any money promoting your affiliate products.
There are lots of tools to help you with your keyword research…
...Even if you can't afford a paid tool, there are plenty of free options that can be a real time saver.
Here are the key takeaways you should remember for researching keywords for your affiliate website:
- Create a list of topic categories and common problems in your niche.
- Fill out each topic category and problem with seed keywords.
- Use your seed keywords to identify long-tail and product-related keywords.
- Determine the intent behind the search - focus on buyer intent keywords related to your affiliate products.
- Evaluate the Search Volume and SEO Difficulty of the keyword to determine if it is a viable keyword target.
- If the Search Volume is too low, or the SEO Difficulty is too high, don't target the keyword.
Keyword research is one of the most critical tasks for creating an affiliate website.
If you put in the work and create high-quality content, you will attract traffic from search engines and make sales and earn commission.