Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital to the success of your affiliate website.
Back in the days before the Google Penguin update, you could stuff keywords, purchase poor quality backlinks, and use other black hat SEO tactics to trick Google’s algorithm to rank your content high in the search results.
Google now penalizes all of these dodgy tactics…
…And that’s a good thing.
With each algorithm update, Google gets better at spotting great content and rewarding the websites that offer the best experiences to their visitors.
SEO isn’t about tricking search engines into ranking your pages higher in search results.
It’s about making your site more appealing to real people and providing a great experience to your visitors.
If you do that, you’ll rank well.
In this guide, we’re going to cover how to use SEO for affiliate marketing and the tactics you can use to outrank your competitors and earn more commission.
Let’s get started.
- What is Search Engine Optimization?
- How Does SEO Work?
- Why Is SEO Important for Affiliate Marketing?
- Do Affiliate Links Damage Your Website SEO?
- Affiliate Link Disclosures
- How to Disclose Your Affiliate Links
- 15 SEO Tips for Affiliate Sites
- Use Internal Links to Help Search Engines Find Your New Content
- Keep Bounce Rate Low
- Target the Featured Snippet and “People Also Ask” Sections of the SERP
- Improve on Your Competitor’s Top Content
- Focus on Long Tail Keywords
- Work on Seasonal Deals Pages Six Months in Advance
- Monitor and Improve Your Clickthrough Rate
- Make Your Site as Fast as Possible
- Update Your Old Content
- Optimize For Mobile Users
- Make Your URLs Memorable and Easy to Type
- Build a Solid Backlink Profile
- Don’t Neglect Technical SEO
- Use Social Signals
- Measure Your SEO Performance
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making improvements to your website and content to offer a better experience to visitors and increase visibility in search results.
The more visibility you have in search results, the more people you will attract to your website, and the more chances you’ll have to make affiliate sales.
How Does SEO Work?
Google, Bing, and other search engines use spider bots to crawl the internet and collect information about web pages.
This information is indexed before being analyzed by search engine algorithms.
The algorithms assign the web page a ranking for a specific search query.
Only Google knows exactly how many factors influence its algorithm, but most SEO experts believe there are at least 200 factors that determine where a web page ranks.
But not all ranking factors have the same value.
According to a SparkToro survey of SEO professionals, content relevance and quality backlinks are considered the most influential search engine ranking factors:
There are hundreds of ranking factors that influence where your web pages rank…
…But they all serve the same purpose.
To provide users with the best and most relevant results for a search query.
By optimizing your website with this goal in mind, you can climb the search rankings and drive more traffic to your affiliate offers.
Why Is SEO Important for Affiliate Marketing?
SEO is fundamental to affiliate marketing.
While some affiliates can generate decent income streams from social media promotion, it’s much easier and more profitable to create a website and drive free traffic to your website using SEO.
Google processes 3.5 billion searches every day.
A huge number of those searches are people looking for advice, recommendations, and reviews of products and services.
Despite major publishers like Business Insider and The Guardian turning to affiliate marketing as an additional source of revenue, you can still create a new affiliate site and carve out a reputation as the go-to source of information in your niche.
Detailed conducted a study of 1,000 search engine results pages (SERPs) to see how niche affiliate sites competed in the rankings.
They analyzed the SERPs for affiliate-focused keyword queries like:
- Best electric toothbrush
- Cheap mascara 2020
- Best portable AC
The study results showed that a niche affiliate site ranked in the top 10 results for nearly every query.
In comparison, news-style publisher sites were only present in half of the 1,000 SERPs.
A niche affiliate website ranked first for 53.4% of the search queries…
…And smaller hyper-niche affiliate sites ranked in the first place 33% more than general review websites.
Big-name publisher news sites only achieved first place in the rankings for 8.3% of the search queries.
With quality content and SEO optimization, you can outrank major publishers and drive free traffic to your site from search engines.
Do Affiliate Links Damage Your Website SEO?
No, affiliate links do not hurt your website’s ability to rank high in search results.
However, affiliate websites have been hit pretty hard by algorithm updates over the years.
But that’s not because of affiliate links or because Google doesn’t like affiliate sites.
Low-quality affiliate sites that have thin content, spammy backlinks, and black hat SEO tactics are penalized.
Google wants to show users the best results for a search query.
If your content is really helpful and well-researched, there’s no reason you can’t rank high in search results.
Here’s how Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller explains it:
“Of course, affiliate sites can be really useful. They can have a lot of really useful information on them, and we like showing them in search. But at the same time, we see a lot of affiliates who are basically just lazy people who copy and paste the feeds that they get and publish them on their website. It’s not something where we say that an affiliate site is bad, we just see a lot of bad affiliate sites. If you have affiliate links on a website, that’s great, and that’s not going to be something that we would count against a website.”
Google doesn’t have a problem with affiliates…
...It has an issue with low-quality websites.
Affiliate Link Disclosures
Search engines won’t penalize you for using affiliate links, but you do need to stay on the right side of the FTC guidelines.
That means you need to disclose your affiliate links.
Use affiliate link disclosures to tell your visitors about your relationship with the merchant and how you will earn a commission when they make a purchase.
Here’s an example from The Wirecutter:
Disclosing your affiliate links is a mandatory FTC requirement.
Whenever you place an affiliate link, make sure you include a disclosure somewhere on the page.
This is a requirement for affiliate links, sponsorships, product endorsements, etc.
How to Disclose Your Affiliate Links
Your affiliate link disclosure should be in a visible place and easy to understand.
Here’s an example of how Lucie’s List includes an affiliate disclosure on its homepage.
There’s an affiliate disclosure on the homepage, and every blog post containing affiliate links.
Being transparent with your audience helps to build trust.
If you hide your affiliate disclosure on a separate page or don’t reveal your affiliate relationship at all, you’ll lose a lot of conversions…
...And you could run into trouble with the FTC.
Use clear and direct language that is easy to understand.
Don’t use confusing or ambiguous terms…
...You’ll come off as deceptive and risk losing your audience’s trust.
Once you’ve created an affiliate disclosure, you can use it as a template and include it on every page containing affiliate links.
15 SEO Tips for Affiliate Sites
We’ve covered why SEO is important for affiliate websites, but how do you optimize your site and improve your ranking?
Here are 15 actionable tips you can implement to make your site more appealing to search engines and your website visitors.
1. Use Internal Links to Help Search Engines Find Your New Content
Internal links are hyperlinks that point to another web page on your website.
They help your visitors to navigate around your site…
...And they help search engines to find your new web pages.
Google’s spider bots use internal links to crawl sites and index new pages.
If you create a new web page and don’t have any internal links pointing to it, search engines won’t know that the page exists.
To help search engines find your new page, add internal links on your existing pages.
You can find linking opportunities by using Google to search your website.
Go to Google and search for:
This will show all the pages on your website that include the keyword.
Here’s an example so you can see how it works in practice.
Let’s say we just published a new post about using Twitter for affiliate marketing on the Affilorama blog.
To find linking opportunities in our existing pages, we would search for something like:
As you can see in the results above, Google returns results from the Affilorama website containing the keyword “Twitter.”
All of these results are good internal opportunities to help Google find the new article.
2. Keep Bounce Rate Low
Bounce rate is when a user lands on your web page and leaves without clicking on any of your internal links or engaging with your website.
The user arrived and then immediately left.
Bounce rate can have a significant impact on your ranking.
If the user arrives on your page and bounces back to the search results, it sends a signal to Google that your page doesn’t provide the information people are looking for or offer a good experience.
If Google thinks your page doesn’t provide useful, relevant information for the search query, it will move you lower in the rankings.
How can you make your content more engaging and encourage users to stick around?
Here’s a quick rundown of how to optimize your content to reduce bounce rate:
Really get to know the topics you write about.
You want to be the go-to source of information in your niche and offer more value than your competitors.
If your content is well-researched and in-depth, people will stick around.
Easy to Read
Internet users have shorter attention spans than most goldfish.
Break up blocks of text into shorter paragraphs, use subheadings, and make use of bulleted lists to make your content easy to read and scan.
Use relevant, high-quality images to break up text and make your content more appealing visually.
If you’re covering lots of statistics or “dry” information, consider creating an infographic or video to make the content more engaging.
Your visitors won’t click on your affiliate links or your internal links if you don’t tell your visitors what to do next.
If you want people to click on a link and visit another page on your site, tell people what the page is about and why they should care.
The same goes for your affiliate links.
Tell people what they should do next.
You can include calls-to-action (CTAs) like:
- “read more”
- “check price here”
- “buy now”
- “click here”
A well-crafted and well-placed CTA can keep your visitors on your site for longer or direct them to your merchant’s landing page.
3. Target the Featured Snippet and “People Also Ask” Sections of the SERP
According to data from Ahrefs, 12.29% of search queries have a Featured Snippet in the SERP.
Here’s an example of a Featured Snippet in the Google search results:
In the SERPs that contain a Featured Snippet, 8.6% of clicks go to the Featured Snippet.
That’s a huge number of clicks…
...And a lot of traffic.
There are two tactics you can use to target the Featured Snippet:
Create Short Summaries
The majority of Featured Snippets are shown for long tail keywords and question search queries.
If you create a long-form piece of content on a particular question or topic, write a short and concise paragraph to sum up the main points of the content…
…And include the central question of the content as a subheading above the summary paragraph.
SEMRush conducted a study of Featured Snippets and discovered that the average Featured Snippet was 46 words in length.
Keep your summary paragraph less than 50 words to increase your chances of ranking in the Featured Snippet.
Along with the Featured Snippet, Google also displays a “People also ask” box halfway down the SERP for some search queries.
Here’s an example for the search query “how to build a backyard shed?”:
The section contains questions similar to the original search query.
When you create content targeting a long tail keyword, check the Google search results for related question queries, and create a summary paragraph for each relevant question.
Adding an FAQ section to each article can be a great way to attract more visitors to your site and increase your share of the SERP.
4. Improve on Your Competitor’s Top Content
Outranking your competitors is key to making affiliate sales and increasing the amount of organic traffic you send to your site.
You can use the free tool Ubersuggest to spy on your competitor’s best performing content and identify opportunities to outrank them.
Go to Ubersuggest and enter your competitor’s domain name into the search bar.
In the left-hand menu, click on the “Top Pages” option.
This will return a page that looks like the one below:
You can see your competitor’s best-performing pages and estimates for the amount of organic traffic that page attracts from search engines.
Take a look at your competitor’s top pages and identify the ones you could outrank by creating more in-depth and valuable content.
Evaluate your competitor’s top pages looking for:
- Thin content that could easily be expanded on and covered in more depth.
- Content that doesn’t contain actionable tips or advice.
- Pages with few backlinks.
When you find a page that you could outrank, create content on the same topic, and include more in-depth and actionable information.
If you find a page with a weak backlink profile, create better content than your competitor and focus on acquiring backlinks pointing to the page.
5. Focus on Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords are search queries that are longer, less competitive, and more conversion-focused than shorter and broader keyword searches.
Long tail keywords account for the majority of searches:
Because long tail keywords are longer, they are also more specific…
…And somebody searching for a long tail keyword is usually closer to making a purchase.
For example, if somebody searches for the short head term “snowboarding,” there’s a bunch of possibilities for what they could be looking for.
They could be looking for news about the sport, basic facts and information about the topic, video compilations, etc.
They probably aren’t looking to make a purchase.
If somebody searches for the long tail keyword “best snowboard under $250”, they are looking for product recommendations.
The people you attract to your website through long tail keyword searches are much more likely to convert.
When it comes to your content, you should write with your long tail keywords as the focus of your article…
... Don’t write your content and try to shoehorn keywords in during the editing stage.
6. Work on Seasonal Deals Pages Six Months in Advance
The last months of the year are a period of peak earnings for affiliate marketers.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the run-up to Christmas generate a massive amount of online sales…
...And that means plenty of opportunities for affiliates to earn a commission.
According to Awin’s Black Friday 2019 report, the commission paid to affiliates on Black Friday increased by 24% year over year.
To take advantage of this opportunity, you need to work on ranking your deals and seasonal sales pages early.
Create deals pages targeting your keywords six months in advance.
This will give you time to work on improving your SEO and ranking your pages before the peak sales season.
7. Monitor and Improve Your Clickthrough Rate
Let’s say your content ranks on the first page of Google, but you don’t get many organic visitors.
You’re ranking high, but nobody clicks on your site in the SERP.
That means your title and meta description might be failing to attract much attention.
You can check your average clickthrough rate (CTR) on Google Search Console.
Log in to Google Search Console and click on “Performance”...
...And use the filter option to narrow your results to queries featuring your keyword.
You’ll see a chart that looks something like this:
It shows you your average position in the SERP, how many people clicked on your page, and how many times your page was viewed for the search query.
It also shows you your average clickthrough rate.
This is the percentage of people that have seen your result in the SERP and clicked on it.
The next step is to compare your clickthrough rate to the average for web pages ranking in the same position.
Here’s a breakdown of the average clickthrough rate for each position in the SERP:
For example, if your page has an average position of 7th and a clickthrough rate of 2%, you would be able to determine that your page is performing below the average of 4.1%.
Once you’ve identified an underperforming page, optimize your page title and meta description to make them more appealing and compelling to searchers.
You can test different variations to see what works best.
This should help you to increase your clickthrough rate and drive more traffic to your page.
8. Make Your Site as Fast as Possible
Internet users are impatient.
If your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, 40% of people will abandon your web page.
Google has also announced plans to introduce speed badges for Chrome users…
...Websites that take a long time to load will be assigned a slow badge in the search results to warn users before they click.
If your website is branded with a slow badge, you can expect your clickthrough rate to fall off a cliff and your organic traffic to plummet.
To check the speed of your website, you can use the free tool Page Speed Insights:
The tool will assign your website a rating and provide recommendations to help you improve your page speed.
For a quick boost to your website speed, you can use a plugin like W3 Total Cache.
You should also choose a lightweight WordPress theme and make sure your images are compressed and saved in a file format for the web.
9. Update Your Old Content
Use Google Analytics to identify which pages are already ranking well and driving traffic to your site.
Take a look at these pages and see if the content can be updated and expanded to generate even more traffic.
For example, if you have a page on “10 Best Gifts For A Dog Owner”, see if the details for each product could be expanded.
Check to see if any new products should be featured or if any of the content is outdated and needs to be replaced.
If you use any statistics, are they still relevant, or is there a new study that could be referenced?
Are there any outbound links to authoritative third party websites?
Google loves fresh content, but that doesn’t mean you need to publish a completely new piece of content.
Updating your popular old posts can be an effective way to boost your ranking and generate more traffic.
10. Optimize For Mobile Users
More and more people are using their smartphones to research and purchase products online.
U.S. mobile retail commerce sales as a percentage of retail e-commerce sales from 2017 to 2021:
If your website isn’t easy to use and navigate using a mobile device, you’re missing out on conversions and commission...
...And you’ll also find it hard to rank high in search results.
Since the rollout of mobile-first indexing, Google uses the mobile version of your site to determine where you rank in the SERPs.
Optimizing for mobile users is essential.
You can use Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test to analyze your web pages and see if they are mobile-friendly:
There are a few things you should keep in mind when optimizing your site for mobile users:
Flash plugins aren’t available on a large number of smartphones.
Use HTML5 if you want to include animations and special effects.
Popups can be a great way to boost conversions, but you should only use them for desktop users.
It can be challenging to close a popup on mobile devices, and you risk frustrating your visitors and causing them to bounce.
Make Buttons Easy to Tap
Using a touch screen device, it can be all too easy to accidentally tap on an option while scrolling down a page.
Make sure your buttons and navigation are easy to tap and avoid grouping options together to reduce the chances of accidental clicks.
11. Make Your URLs Memorable and Easy to Type
Internet users and search engines use your URL to determine what your webpage is about.
Here’s an example of a URL for the Affilorama blog:
Just from looking at the URL, it’s easy to understand exactly what the article is about.
You want to make your URL as easy as possible for both search engines and users to understand.
Here’s an example of what not to do:
Entrepreneur publishes a tremendous amount of content, so they use an automated numbered system to create URLs.
But this neglects an opportunity to include a keyword, and it’s impossible for anyone to understand what the page is about from the URL.
For your affiliate website pages, try to limit your URL to 5 words or less and include your target keyword to increase the chances of ranking high in search results.
A shorter URL is more memorable, easier to type, and SEO friendly.
12. Build a Solid Backlink Profile
A backlink is a hyperlink on a third-party website that points to your site.
Google uses backlinks as a key factor in its ranking algorithm.
The more backlinks you have from authoritative and relevant websites, the higher you will rank in the search results.
According to a Backlinko study of 11.8 million SERPs, pages ranking in the top spots have more backlinks than lower-ranking pages.
In simple terms, you need backlinks if you are going to rank high in search results.
By creating high-quality content, you can attract backlinks organically.
However, you can speed up the process by guest blogging.
When you submit a guest post to a relevant third party website, the site owner will usually allow you to include a backlink to your site in the article or your author bio.
Guest blogging can help you build backlinks, but it can also be an effective way to gain exposure and increase your reputation online.
Lot’s of affiliates use the logos of the publications where they have been featured or had a guest post published on their websites.
It’s a great way to establish credibility with your website visitors.
13. Don’t Neglect Technical SEO
Technical SEO focuses on making it easy for search engines to crawl and index your website.
Issues like broken links, missing title tags, etc. can interfere with Google’s spider bots and stop your site from being indexed correctly.
The easiest way to spot these errors is to run a technical SEO audit using a free tool like Screaming Frog.
You can use Screaming Frog to crawl your website and identify common technical SEO errors.
Google Search Console can also provide regular updates and alerts about any technical issues with your website.
You can receive email alerts for any 404 errors, indexing issues, or security problems.
Affiliates often overlook technical SEO, but you should make a habit of regularly checking for any issues that might prevent you from ranking in the high SERP.
14. Use Social Signals
You may have heard that Google doesn’t use social signals as a factor in its ranking algorithm.
However, numerous studies prove social signals do have an impact on where pages rank in the SERP.
While Google might not use social signals, including shares, tweets, pins, and likes as a ranking factor, they clearly have some SEO value.
If your content reaches a wide audience on social media, you’ll drive traffic to your site, and there’s a good chance people will link to your content.
That’s why social signals can be useful.
The more traffic your page gets and the more people that link to it, the more likely it is to climb the rankings.
You can increase social signals by promoting your content on social media and making it easy for people on your website to share your content.
Social Media Share Buttons & Social Sharing Icons is a free plugin that enables you to add sharing buttons to your web pages.
Encourage your visitors to share your content, and have a social media strategy in place to drive engagement and attract new followers.
15. Measure Your SEO Performance
Just like any marketing campaign or tactic, it’s vital that you measure your SEO performance and make continual improvements.
That means using the right monitoring tools.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two of the most advanced SEO tools you can access.
They are also both free.
Lot’s of affiliates are impatient when they publish new content or launch an affiliate site…
…But it takes time for things to settle in the search engine results.
It’s important to be patient and measure your results over the long term.
It can sometimes take months for Google to index a new website and rank pages in the SERP.
Any improvements you make won’t result in an instant boost to your search ranking.
Success comes from measuring performance and making continual improvements to climb the rankings and stay there.
SEO is continually evolving.
What worked ten years ago doesn’t work now.
Affiliate marketers need to keep up with trends and adapt fast to stay ahead in the rankings.
If you want to avoid being wiped out by Google algorithm updates, stick to the fundamentals of SEO.
Create great content, keep your technical SEO up to date and error-free, and keep working to make your site user friendly and helpful to visitors.
There’s a lot that goes into SEO, but it’s well worth the time investment to learn the basics.
You’ll see your affiliate site climb the rankings and attract more visitors.
That means more eyes on your affiliate offers and more money in commissions.