When you first started out in affiliate marketing it probably took no time at all for you to realize that, if you wanted to build a sustainable long-term business online, SEO was something you needed to take a closer look at. In fact, if you overlook the importance of SEO you cannot expect your affiliate marketing to have a sustainable future, at all.
Why is this?
Online search is by far the biggest traffic source in affiliate marketing, with 93% of online experiences starting with a search engine. In affiliate marketing, it’s this traffic that ends up engaging with your content, your affiliate links and ultimately buying your products. So, it’s safe to say that, if you don’t get your SEO game on, you are going to have a tough time making money online.
In this article series, I’m going to break down SEO techniques for successful affiliate marketing, for you. In this post, part 1, we are going to cover the basics. In parts 2 to 4 we’ll be covering the following:
- Part 2: Technical SEO
- Part 3: On-page SEO
- Part 4: Off-page SEO
SEO Optimization Part 1: What Are Search Engines And How Do They Work?
To start off, let's cover the basics of SEO by defining it.
A web search engine is a software system that is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web. The search results are generally presented in a line of results often referred to as search engine results pages (SERPs). The information may be a mix of web pages, images, and other types of files.
So, put simply, a search engine's job is to present the best information relevant to your search query.
To achieve this search engines carry out two basic functions: crawling and indexing. Search engine crawlers, a.k.a. robots are programs that are used to find every page on the web. Once they crawl a page, they convert all this data into unique code that is then stored in a massive database.
Now, because all of this information has been placed into an index, it’s easy to serve up information for a search term query when someone makes a search.
Search engines return data based on two factors: 1. relevancy and 2. popularity.
Relevancy: a search engine won't associate the search term "chicken coupes" with web pages based on “how to make easy money - totally different.
Popularity: search engine will not return web pages that fail to offer any value and as indicated by low popularity.
To decide what information is relevant and popular to the user, the search engine deploys an "algorithm" to return the data that's calculated to be the most relevant, and ordered by most to least popular.
These are based on several ranking algorithmic factors. Each factor covers a number of micro areas that can be optimized for the algorithms favour.
If your site is better optimized than your competitors based on a search query, the algorithm will rank your page higher because the search engines would assume it to be more valuable to the user. And, consequently, the higher your site is ranked on the search results. REMEMBER, the more organic (free) traffic you receive the more money you make.
The difference between the level of traffic received by sites that are ranked #1 on Google, compared to those ranked #5 and below, is huge.
According to SlingShot, a site with a number #1 ranking on Google’s search engine receives 18.2% of all traffic, compared to as little as 2% of the search traffic received by the #5 ranking. This demonstrates how important ranking high on Google is for online marketers.
The above statistic explains exactly why more than $50 billion is being spent on online marketing every year.
For marketers, SEOing your website’s pages and posts content means taking small action steps that better your site rankings by systematically skewing the algorithm in your favour. In parts 2 to 4 of this series, we are going to cover the areas you need to act on, to do just that.
Technical optimization (part 2) covers using the right resources, resources that are compatible with search engines and targets ranking factors.
On-page (part 3) optimization involves formatting your pages to optimize for a better user experience. By adjusting the design of your site to be more user-friendly you increase engagement and users become repeat visitors.
Off-page (part 3) optimization covers building sufficient links from other authority sites back to your site. This builds trust with search engines and increases the popularity of your site.
In a Nutshell
Search engines and their algorithms work to provide answers to search queries by presenting selective data from their database. This selective data is based on the relevance and popularity of the site, as calculated by these algorithms, to the user's search query.
The main goal of search engines is to rank the most relevant and popular sites first because they are believed to be the most valuable thus providing the best user experience.
This is why ranking higher on search engines is vital for affiliate marketers, because the higher you rank the more free traffic you gain.
Learning strategies to gain favour with the search engine algorithm will help to better optimize your site for results, increasing your search rankings.
In the next part of this series, you'll learn some technical steps you can take to optimize your site.
SEO Optimization Part 2: Handling the Technical SEO First
Now that we have covered the function of a search engine and how its algorithm shaped the need for SEO we are going to speak more specifically about how you can optimize your site with technical SEO. Because technical SEO can get very complex quickly we are to take the 80/20 rule route to understanding the ins and outs of the process.
This topic can get very deep, but knowing everything isn't necessary for you as a marketer. To be successful you simply need to focus on and become good at, the main fundamentals of website performance.
- Page Speeds
- File Sizes
If you want to dramatically influence your rankings with search engines here are some very powerful action steps that get straight to the point. Because google accounts for up to 90% of all online search traffic the majority of these actions will apply directly to it.
1. Choose A Reliable Web Hosting Service
Before even optimizing your site, it’s important have a good hosting service. You want to use a hosting service that has a good uptime and good servers. A bad hosting with frequent downtimes can have a negative impact on your site's ranking.
There are two ways to go here:
a. If you are a beginner, and you are concerned that you may have a few false starts along the way, go for a quality service that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Initially, your website will not have the number of page views that will cause your site to slow, so a cheaper alternative is quite acceptable.
For this kind of site, I recommend this company.
b. If your site is expecting more than 30,000 page views per month it would be more prudent to go with a web hosting company that will give you the bandwidth and server to handle the extra traffic.
One of the very best for WordPress hosting is a company called WPX. It’s a hosting service second to none! At the time of writing they had, according to LiveChat Inc, the world's fastest hosting support.
2. Use A Whitelisted Web Hosting Service
You want to ensure that your hosting service hasn’t allocated you a server that's blacklisted – this is especially true if you have a shared hosting plan. A blacklisted server is a huge turnoff for Google's algorithm and will put your ranking at risk, no matter how much SEO you do.
Checkup your domain on a tool like MXToolBox. Simply enter your site's domain in the search bar to see your results.
If your domain is detected as blacklisted, evaluate the hosting service you're currently using and switch to a reliable one like Bluehost.
3. Install WordPress
WordPress is the best content management system (CMS), not only for its great customer service but its adaptation to on-page SEO. WordPress powers around 27% of all sites on the net. For this reason, WordPress is preferred as a CMS - due to its profusion of resources for better managing SEO.
SEO is a very complex subject and, as marketers, we shouldn’t invest too much of our time trying to master every element. So, without having to learn any coding, WordPress provides several plugins devoted to making SEOing and optimizing your blog easier.
4. Use Well Structured Links To Help Search Engines Index Your Website
Are your website URL link (permalinks) search engine friendly?
Google’s search engine bots crawl your website to gather data to store in its database (indexing), and their ability to crawl your site depends on whether or not it's able to understand your URL data.
So, what's the difference between a crawlable URL link and one that is not?
If your URL string contains the main keyword that relates to the content of the page or post, it can then be crawled and indexed. If you use WordPress, here are steps to correct how your URL structure is displayed:
- WordPress left menu >> Settings >> Permalinks
- Then choose the "Post Name" radio button
- Don't forget to "Save"
5. Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
It should come as no surprise that googles algorithm takes into account whether or not your site is mobile friendly, or not. Websites that once ranked and never made the transition have no doubt now gone the way of the Dodo.
Now that mobile usage has overtaken that of desktops it is clear that the future of the internet and internet marketing is going to be directed at mobile devices; this is where most of the google searches are going to take place and Google has responded accordingly.
Because more and more searches are being made via tablets and smartphones a mobile-friendly website is no longer a luxury… it’s the norm, and it’s imperative to offer a user-friendly experience to googles users.
Google has provided a tool for website owners to check their sites with. Go here to find Google Mobile-Friendly Test. Once you have passed the mobile test Google gives you the option to submit your site for indexing.
Alternatively, you can use Bing's Mobile Friendliness Tool or Hubspot's Marketing Grader to get feedback on how you can improve the mobile-friendliness of your site.
Personally, I would strongly recommend you use themes that make it super easy to design your website for desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. The best themes allow you to tweak your pages for each version of your site, page by page. To see examples of fully responsive themes that allow you to adjust each page for all three versions right from its page-builder, go see what this extremely impressive company called Thrive is producing.
6. Test Your Page Speed
For Google, page load speed is a very important factor in determining a sites ranking factor. If your page load is sluggish Google will penalize you. Even if everything else is optimized on your site and your page speed load time doesn't meet Google criteria, your site will not rank high.
Nearly half of all web users expect your site’s pages to load in 3 seconds, or less! A page that loads just a fraction of a second could be hurting your rankings and 79% of visitors are abandoning your page because wait times are just too long at around that 3-second mark.
Tweaks to increase your page load speeds:
a. Optimize image files:
- For the smallest image sizes save, convert, or download images in JPG or GIF file formats.
- Next, use a photo editing software to crop your images to the exact size you’ll require, anything larger and you’ll be delaying page load time unnecessarily. If you don’t want to use an image manipulation program – like Photoshop or Gimp 2 (Gimp is free) – use an image cropping website service like Imageresize.
- Now that your image is in JPG or GIF format and your image is no larger than what is required for its purpose, use the tool found at Kraken to compress your images to their smallest size, without losing any of the current image quality.
An alternative to Kraken, if you use WordPress, is Smush Image Compression and Optimization plugin. This plugin will automatically compress images on your site.
If you really want to save as much time as possible, I'd recommend also installing BJ Lazy Load. It delays image and iframe loads until the user reaches it on the page, saving bandwidth.
Again, for all this and more, I recommend using a Thrive theme for all the above. All their themes have image compression built in. In fact, Thrive uses Kraken's compression engine to do the job, which means you get the Kraken service for free. If you are curious you can find their themes here.
In any of the Thrive themes, you can choose between 3 compression types…
- No Compression
- Lossy Compression
- Lossless Images
Choose option 2 or 3 and you’re good to go.
b. Minimize HTTP requests:
Your total page load time is the total sum of all elements on your page being downloaded. Each element requires an HTTP request, so the more elements you have on your page the longer it takes to load.
Reduce HTTP Requests
Google will reward a site that has a response time below 200ms. HTTP requests are requests that get sent to the server whenever someone visits a webpage. These requests can contain a variety of information for the server to process and act upon, and a lot of files loading one after the other will produce longer loading times.
Fortunately, there are a few techniques and advancements in browser technology that can help you with this... For an entire article on ins and outs of this topic see Yoast’s very excellent post on this very subject.
Generally, to prevent too many page loads the best thing to do is simplify your site:
- Use CSS instead of images
- Keep scripts at the bottom of your page
- Reduce or streamline the elements on your page
7. Eliminate Crawl Errors
Crawl errors indicate that something on your site is blocking bots from crawling and indexing your pages, this will hurt your sites ability to rank.
How to remove crawl errors:
- Go to Google Webmaster Tools and log into your search console with a Gmail address. If you don't have one, create one.
- Once you have logged in to your Google search console you will need to “add a property” (your website). If you need further instructions, go here.
- Once you have added the website you want to crawl go to Crawl >> Fetch as Google >> Fetch >> Request indexing. More details on this process here.
If there are any issues Google will inform you. Ans, it is recommended that you periodically check for these errors using Googles Search Console for better maintenance.
8: Canonical URL's To Prevent Duplicate Content
Duplicate content makes it difficult for Google to choose which piece of content to serve up to users. Using canonical URLs is a way to define the same content as two different pieces of writing. This is an easy fix if you use the WordPress plugin Yoast to fix this issue for you.
This will come in handy if you are a blogger and have guest posts on another blog that you want to upload on to your website. This is also relevant to you if you have an eCommerce store and you have products that exist in more than one category.
With the Yoast SEO plugin you can eliminate duplicate content by using the meta robots tag: "noindex/follow"
The "noindex" value tells the search engine not to index the page, whilst the "follow" value allows it to still freely crawl links on the page.
- On the “Edit” page of your post/page; scroll down till you get to the Yoast SEO section.
- Then click on the “Advanced” gear on the left-hand side.
- Then, under “Meta robots index”, choose the “Noindex” option in the drop-down menu. Leave “Meta robots follow” radio button to “Follow”.
For more information, click this way.
9. To Measure SEO Performance Set Up Google Analytics
There's no point in working on SEO and other improvements if you can't track progress. Google Analytics collects all the data necessary to track and display your site's performance.
This is best practice if you're committed to a long-term traffic generation strategy with your website, and it’s completely free. Start tracking your website immediately… track your site visits, page views, bounce rate, visitors average time on site, and more.
All you need to do is sign into Google Analytics with the Gmail account your website is registered with, then copy the unique tracking code to your website’s header.
If you have a Thrive theme it’s as easy as dropping the code into Thrive Dashboard >> Thrive Options >> Analytics/Scripts
Alternatively, if you have the WordPress Google Analytics Plugin you can set it all up using that.
Remember, a sure fire way to slow your site down is through adding too many plugins to your WordPress installation (20 or more). Use a quality theme from Thrive because it's feature set precludes the need for additional plugins. These are exquisitely coded themes.
Those are the 9 Steps for you to immediately handling the technical SEO. Now it's time take action on each of the 9 steps, if you haven't already.
Follow the above steps and you’ll have well-optimized pages and posts that search engine spiders can crawl through and, all else being equal, get favoured in the rankings.
Next, we'll discuss "On and off page" SEO. It's only a little more different and a longer practice. Don't worry though, we’ll get you through it.