8 SEO Tips for Affiliate Marketers

This is a guest post written by affiliate marketer, Jason Lancaster.

For many affiliates, search engine optimization (SEO) is like a license to print money. If your affiliate site ranks number one for a money-making search term, the financial rewards can be tremendous. As a result, many affiliates attack SEO by slapping together a TAS (thin affiliate site) and banging away at link building using some sort of cheap automated tool that promises to “have your site ranking overnight.”

Unfortunately for these well-meaning affiliates, this approach usually doesn’t work. Instead of following this path, here are eight sure-fire SEO tips that will help get you good results with 6 to 12 months of honest effort:

1. Use a keyword rich domain name, but avoid looking spammy. The best domain names are short, contain your most important keyword(s), are easy to remember, and easy to spell. Bing in particular places a lot of emphasis on sites that have keywords in the domain name.

2. Invest in quality, unique content. Too many affiliates try to optimize a website that uses poor quality content pasted directly from a private label article, an offer landing page, etc. Unique content is a quality signal, and well-written content is much more likely to spontaneously generate links…which means it’s much easier to optimize a website with good content.

3. Add new content to your site on a regular basis. Adding blog posts to your affiliate site on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis is a great way to increase the size and scope of your affiliate site over time, ensure that search engine bots return to your site on a regular basis, and build an audience.

4. Beware of automated link building tools, cheap link building services, and other link building schemes. Google and Bing are pretty good at ignoring cheap links – automated or otherwise – and as a result automated tools, cheap directory submissions, bulk article submissions, etc. are rarely worth investing in. If you do find an automated tool, trick, or scheme that seems to work, keep in mind that Google or Bing will eventually figure out what’s going on and devalue those links. Therefore, work on building good quality links and leave the junk alone.

5. Follow these standard on-site optimization guidelines:

    -Make sure the HTML title tag of each page uses 2-4 keywords, is less than 65 characters in length, and doesn’t contain stop words like “and, of, is,” etc.

    -Use HTML header tags (H1, H2, H3), short paragraphs, and lists (UL or OL) to make your written content easy for readers to scan, and be sure to use keywords in these elements (just don’t stuff keywords where they don’t belong).

    -In content links are the most powerful links on a page – footer and sidebar links have fairly low value. Therefore, some of your most powerful on-site links are from in-text links in your website’s articles or blogs.

    -Use keywords in every page’s file name or URL, every image file name, etc.

    -When you add an image to a page, be sure to use an alt tag that contains appropriate keyword(s) relevant to the surrounding content.

    -Link images to pages – the “anchor text” of an image link is the text you place in the alt tag.

    -Don’t place important content in IFRAMEs, Javascript tags, or as text inside an image.

    -Don’t use javascript or CSS tricks to try and “hide” text from the user for the purposes of fooling the search engines – this is a great way to get your site penalized by Google or Bing.

    -When you name files, avoid using underscores, capital letters, or spaces – these characters can lead to broken links and/or crawling issues. Instead, use a dash to separate keywords in file names (just-like-this.html).

      6. Promote your affiliate site as if it were a big brand. Big brands maintain active profiles on important social networks relative to their products, they send out press releases using premium distribution networks, they create product videos, etc. While it’s often hard for affiliate marketers to match big brands in all of these aspects, that doesn’t mean that an independent affiliate can’t get close. Pay for a quality press release submission service instead of using some spam-ridden free service. Invest some time in creating videos and uploading them to your own YouTube channel. Create profiles for your affiliate site on Twitter, Facebook, and forums relative to your niche…and then take the time to keep these profiles active. These tasks are time consuming and somewhat costly – but that’s why they work.

      7. Focus your SEO efforts on creating great content, and then promote that content one link at a time. Use some creativity to come up with a guide, resource, online tool, etc., that your niche might find really useful. Then, once that piece of content is created, focus on promoting that content by contacting bloggers, other site owners, etc., and asking them to review your content. If the quality is high and the content is useful, it WILL get you links.

      8. Site speed matters. Increasing site speed is a great way to boost search engine traffic to an existing site. Most sites can experience dramatic speed improvements by utilizing browser caching, gzip compression, file entity and expires tags, and the Smush.it image compression tool. There are also some inexpensive content delivery network (CDN) options available from Amazon and Rackspace that can dramatically reduce site load time…especially if you rely upon cheap shared hosting for your affiliate site. [Note: If you don’t know what these things are, check out Yahoo’s best practices for site performance.]

      Finally, when you think about SEO, think about the tortoise and the hair. While quick tricks might seem like the easiest way to get the search engine results you want, the reality is that slow and steady efforts will win the race. If you want your affiliate site to rank first overall for a money-making term, you’ve got to come up with a site that’s better than all the rest. Quality counts.

      Author Jason Lancaster is President of Spork Marketing, a Denver Internet marketing company that specializes in search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and web development.

      • Off-white: I wholeheartedly agree that automated links can make a difference, but only in the short term. The problem with using them is that:

        1) they are often used by spammers, so they can cause penalties due to 'guilt by association' and

        2) they are eventually devalued

        If an affiliate wants to balance good link-building strategy with automated links so be it, but relying exclusively upon automated tools is a bad strategy.

      • Thanks for the advice. I will plug away.

      • Sharron – Thanks! I agree that content is cheaper than ever, but I would urge caution when buying content as if it were a commodity. Content lives forever – a good blog post has just as much value two years from now as it does today, so there’s no reason to skimp. While Odesk can be a great resource, I would advocate hiring a professional writer and paying $50-$75 per page of content. It’s pricey, but in the long run it’s worth it.

      • Pingback: AM Affiliate: Microsoft and NYC Get Hitched, Digging for SEO Gold, + More()

      • I can more or less agree with all of the above except for the disregarding of automated link building. Sure, it can hurt new sites and in some cases even make aged sites take a big hit in the SERPs, but those sites will come back stronger than ever, we've seen that happen time after time.

        The point has been made so much that it sort of feels like beating a dead horse now, but if you could destroy a site with automated link building, it would cause SE chaos as people started maliciously link blasting the sites of their competitors.

        As much as I'm sure Google would like to find a solution to this particular conundrum, doing so is much easier said than done. For the time being, automated link building still gives you a serious edge over your competition (especially if they're too cautious to engage in the same practices).

      • Your picture above is not showing in my view. Thanks for the tips.

      • Content – quality content is king. With quality content, the links will come. There's too much crap content on line as it is. Spend a little extra for a competent professional writer, and reap the benefits of quality content.

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          Hmmm your website shows only 1 link.. and I'm presuming that you think your content is good. So does having good content always mean the links will come?

      • This is a great article for helping out the newbies looking to get into SEO. It is an ever changing landscape so you have to keep on top of the trends.

      • To the idea that content isn't king, I would agree that links are critical. There's no denying that a great piece of web content is nothing without a bunch of links. HOWEVER, it's incredibly hard to get good quality, relevant links with low quality content.

        It's sort of like dating – it's a lot harder to get digits when you forget to shower and wear a smelly, wrinkled old shirt.

        • kjlkjlkj

          I know the issue isnt as black and white as this, but given a choice between an page with average content with 1000 links, and a page with quality content and 0 links, i will always take the former.

          Great content can certainly aid in getting quality links, but for most affiliates the majority of links they acquire are from what people perceive as low quality sources, ie article directories, general directories, videos, social bookmarking, blog commenting etc. These "low quality" links (which can often be automated) has brought me a decent level of success so far in the 3 years Ive been doing affiliate marketing!

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        Content isnt king. Its all about the links.

      • Jason has it so right – content, content, CONTENT. As the processes for disseminating content get easier and easier, and the cost per word to buy content gets cheaper and cheaper (don't believe me, check out odesk sometime!), the value of real, compelling, intelligent, human-written content rises

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