SEO for Affiliate Websites: Increase Your Web Traffic For Free
What does an affiliate mean?
Affiliate marketing is a method for a company to sell its products by subscribing to individuals or companies (“affiliates”) that market the company’s products in exchange for a commission. The customer is found by the affiliate and the product is sold on the company website.
SEO for Affiliate sites
The Google Webmaster Instructions recommend creating websites with original content that adds value to users. This is especially important for sites that participate in affiliate programs.
Generally, affiliate websites have product descriptions that appear on other sites, usually, the contents are not original.
As a result, sites that mainly have content from affiliate networks can struggle to get good Google rankings because they don’t have enough value-added content that differentiates them from other sites on the Web. Added value means more meaningful content or functionality, such as information additional on price, features, purchase position or product category.
Google believes that pure or too “broad” affiliate sites do not provide added value for Web users, in particular (but not only) if they are part of a program that distributes its contents through a network of affiliates.
These sites often reproduce identical or similar content replicated within the same site or across multiple domains or languages. Because a search results page can return many of these sites, all with the same content, the user experience is compromised.
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Examples of low-value affiliates:
- Pages with product affiliate links on which product descriptions and reviews are copied directly from the original merchant without any original content or added value.
- Affiliate pages of products in which most of the site has been created for affiliation purposes and contains a small number of original or added value content for users.
Not all sites participating in an affiliate program are low-quality affiliates. Affiliate coupons add value, for example by offering original product reviews, ratings, product or category browsing and product comparisons. If you participate in an affiliate program, there are some steps you can follow to help your site stand out and differentiate:
- The content of the affiliate program should constitute only a small part of the content of your site if the content does not add additional features.
- Ask yourself why a user would like to visit your site before visiting the original merchant directly. Make sure your site adds substantial value beyond just re-publishing the content available from the original merchant.
- When selecting an affiliate program, choose a product category appropriate for your target audience. The more the affiliate program is targeted to the contents of your site, the greater the added value and the greater the likelihood of better ranking in Google search results and earning with the program. For example, a well-maintained site on hiking in the Alps could consider an affiliate partnership with a supplier that sells hiking books rather than office supplies.
- Use your website to create a community among your users. This will help build a loyal audience and can also create a source of information on the topic you are writing about. For example, discussion forums, user reviews and blogs all offer exclusive content and provide value to users.
- Keep your content updated and relevant. New information on the subject increases the likelihood that your content will be crawled by Googlebot and clicked by users.
It is highly unlikely that pure affiliate sites, consisting of content on many other websites, will work properly in Google’s search results. In general, this type of website is perceived negatively by search engines. Unique and relevant content offers value to users and distinguishes your site from other affiliates, which makes it more likely to get good placements in Google search results.
What Mistakes to Avoid When building an affiliate site.
Affiliate marketing can be really powerful when its goals and SEO drives everyone in the same direction. However, it is easy to lose traffic by ignoring SEO or making mistakes that damage the effectiveness of affiliate campaigns. To help you avoid these common mistakes I have compiled this list of the 10 SEO errors that affiliates often commit.
Mistake 1 – focus on keywords rather than solutions
Many affiliate sites put keywords on their landing pages without stopping to think about how their products can benefit their customers. The biggest SEO side error I see is that many affiliate sites focus on the keywords and don’t provide solutions.
Keywords are important because they are what generate traffic, so they should always be used but as a starting point. Once you know the critical terms you need to create solutions that provide value and help solve a problem.
Don’t just list your product features just to fill in the text of related keywords. Show your potential customers how much they will improve their lives after buying your product.
Mistake 2 – Affiliate Marketing as the only revenue stream
Another common mistake that affiliates make is considering affiliate marketing as a business model instead of a revenue channel.
There is nothing wrong with affiliation but don’t consider this source as your only channel.
Affiliate marketing is a revenue channel, if it’s the only channel you use to monetize your traffic, you’re in a risky situation. Any problem with that channel clears all your revenue, diversifies your income channels and not put all your hopes on affiliation.
Mistake 3 – do not produce original content
Too many affiliate sites appear as mere product lists without original texts and content. You can drive traffic to these sites with PPC ads, but what happens when your advertising budget runs out? Your site will die.
A “real” site has a real value perceived by users and unique content for visitors. Why should a search engine reward your site if it offers nothing new compared to what Google has already indexed? In rare cases, it can happen that a poor site gets relevant placements, but they are unique cases and usually, these results last very little. You must add value to allow the search engine to better position your site.
Turn your affiliate site into a useful information centre that will allow you to earn organic backlinks and get customers back for more information.
Mistake 4 – sites that are poorly optimized and insecure
Today you have to pay close attention to computer security and customer privacy, which means that one of the worst mistakes you could make is forgetting to delete obsolete and inactive themes and plug-ins.
If you’re like most people, you probably won’t update the inactive themes that remain unused on your site. You may not even worry about deleting them. Unfortunately, this represents a significant threat to the computer security of your site and your registered users.
Themes and plug-ins that remain inactive on your site are easy targets for hackers. Regular updates help keep hackers at bay; when you forget or don’t worry about updating the software, they often find ways to exploit the old code and create a backdoor on your site by hiding malicious code inside. Hackers can also hide the malicious code in your upload directory, in the wp-config.php file and your wp-includes directory.
So make sure you regularly fix your website to find suspicious code, update everything you use with the latest versions and remove any inactive themes and plug-ins as soon as possible.
Make sure all themes and plug-ins are up to date and, if you don’t use certain themes and plug-ins, delete them.
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Mistake 5 – duplicate or missing meta information
Here is a simple recommendation that many affiliate sites don’t follow: make sure that titles and meta descriptions of your product sheets are relevant and unique. These meta-data appear as snippets in the SERPs and help your website stand out from the competition.
If you don’t have the resources to write unique descriptions for each of your products, here is a simple trick: use the first paragraph of each page. It may not be perfect or optimized, but it’s better than nothing.
You can also use popular plugins like Yoast SEO to create custom templates for meta descriptions, which makes the whole process much easier.
Optimizing your products with unique meta descriptions will help affiliate pages increase traffic from SERPs and distinguish you from your competitors. I would suggest learning how to install sitemaps on the server manually.
Mistake 6 – ignore mobile users
Most affiliate sites look horrible on mobile devices. This aspect is not to be overlooked because a non-mobile friendly site loses an enormous opportunity to make traffic in mobile SERPs.
As for mobile devices and SEO, the most important problems are the speed of the site, especially due to images, unused plug-ins and the lack of navigation from the AMP pages to the classic pages of the site.
If you are an affiliate and compete with major brands, these large companies often have a bureaucracy that prevents them from being “smart” and operating quickly.
For example, a large company might be forced to use certain types of images, or they may have many excess tracking scripts that slow down their sites. By creating a faster user experience that also gives value, you may be able to overcome them.
Mistake 7 – use low-quality hosting
Don’t use Wix or free hosting services, that’s not how you build a real company website. These services can modify their TOS or even cease their activity overnight. On these services, you are not the owner of the design or architecture of the site and you have less control over the elements that will help the positioning. Use a professional hosting service, manage your site, your content and your data forever.
Affiliates must take hosting solutions seriously. Reducing the cost of a hosting solution could compromise the control on your site or, worse, endanger your customers.
Backlinks are the bread of affiliate sites, but irrelevant backlinks can get you into trouble with Google. The unnatural backlink could also be considered as link schemes, which do more harm than good.
The best way to avoid this problem? Make sure your affiliate pages add significant value to all those who rely on it. Try to get affiliate links hosted on sites with a minimum of authority. You can use SEO tools to judge the quality of your backlinks and identify those that could devalue your site.
When contacting sites to host affiliate links make sure they are relevant to your niche.
Mistake 9 – Undefined canonical rel
Using canonical URLs will help you improve link signals and possibly place your content. The canonical tag rel makes life easier for search engines as each content is defined as one and only one representative URL.
I had included the best internal linking practices to follow in this guide on optimizing internal links. Organize your site in silos and introduce the categories in the structure of your site.
Mistake 10 – do not correct errors
It is not a good idea to ignore SEO errors on your site that are reported in the Google Search Console. Broken links, 404 errors, duplicate content, low-quality content and too many redirects are all problems that need to be eliminated.
Use a complete suite of SEO tools that can monitor the health of your site, for example, I use Screaming Frog and Website Auditor. These tools help you find and eliminate errors that can affect crawling, such as broken links, and at the same time identify and resolve technical problems that are best corrected.
Correcting SEO problems takes a long time, but it’s worth it. Not only will you clean your site internally, but you will also improve your budget crawl, make browsing easier and faster for your customers.
Doing SEO on affiliate sites is no different than doing it for eCommerce sites or any other site. Search engines don’t care which CMS is used, your site is rated for what you provide to your users.
Don’t underestimate the impact that SEO will have on affiliate marketing in the long run. PPC ads are a great way to generate leads and draw attention to your site, but if you want to boost your conversions and grow your affiliate site in the long term, then there’s nothing better than SEO.