There’s a rumor in the affiliate marketing world that search engines “hate” affiliate websites. This viewpoint is somewhat accurate, since search engines such as Google have been designed to spot spammy, repetitive content or web pages that don’t provide a lot of value to their users. In the past, affiliate marketers with a small amount of search engine optimization (SEO) knowledge could get top rankings for competitive phrases, or use advanced black-hat techniques to bring in a torrent of visitor traffic. Given the large amount of money that was made with well-run campaigns, the temptation to move over to the “dark side” brought a proliferation of copycat sites which presented almost no value for the consumer.
As a result, affiliate websites generally have more hoops to jump through if they want to get competitive spots on search engines. Google, Bing, and Yahoo have put safeguards in place to spot obvious abuse patterns. New sites with direct links to affiliates like CJ and ShareASale make big targets for search engine spiders, and the stigma of being an affiliate can put your site in the back of the rankings. While there are several tricks of the trade for camouflaging affiliate links, it is still important to make sure the rest of your site doesn’t look like one big red flag. The following are some SEO guidelines that affiliate marketers can use that will bring them a better long-term presence on natural search engine listings:
1. Learn Today’s SEO Rules.
Most webmasters fail in their SEO efforts because they believe they can just add a few metatags to their site and get results. Others cling to yesterday’s SEO tricks, like link exchanges and cheap directory submissions. Some of these tactics will work in emerging fields or non-competitive arenas, but they won’t be sustainable if anyone else tries to move into your field.
2. Be Original.
You aren’t going to get anywhere in the non-paid search results if you just copy someone else’s website. All of your content should be your own material. If you aren’t a good writer, there are plenty of freelancers who can give you 500 words on a page for a few dollars, but well written content (that will cost more) is even better.
3. Offer Value.
In this case “value” goes beyond the offer you’re making. If you create a site that solves a problem, offers a free tool that you can only use on the site, or has interesting content, the search engines will see you in a better light. If you’re marketing a supplement, discuss its pros and cons. If you’re getting paid for mortgage leads, have a rate calculator and guidance on what lenders are looking for. When you have a site that people genuinely want to visit, they bookmark it and refer it to their friends.
4. Build A Presence.
If you play your cards right, you can have one well-made website that brings in income for a variety of similar product offerings. If you sell automotive accessories, most of your affiliate links can even go to the same provider. When you build on to one main site, all of the work you do to drive traffic to it will contribute to the search engine presence of the site as a whole. Considering that many e-book and lead generation sites have about 10 pages, you will also be outside the profile of the average affiliate website. A secondary advantage of having a single trusted site is that new product pages will rank in search engines within a few weeks.
5. Be Patient.
Few things are worse than people who brag that they’re going to retire next month because they found a “guaranteed moneymaking opportunity” today. SEO takes time, but the rewards can be substantial. There is a learning curve with SEO, and some of the setbacks will test your patience. If you can roll with the changes, you will outlast 95% of the people who were only in it for a quick buck.
Unfortunately, there are no longer any good shortcuts to SEO. Even when people do find a way to short-circuit the search engine algorithms, a fix is usually in place within a couple of months. Still, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful in the affiliate marketing field by using natural search engine traffic. Considering that the cost of PPC traffic is often higher than your commission, a creative SEO campaign can bring you an income stream that lasts a long time, and leads to better incentives from established channels. While most people who are new to the field don’t want to hear that SEO takes time, patience, and energy, the results are almost always better in the long run.