If you do affiliate marketing and were looking for some SEO tricks to get you better rankings, this post is definitely for you. It is, however, more of “what not to do” then it is a set bunch of tricks. If you haven’t figured it out just yet – Google doesn’t exactly take too kindly to you trying to trick them (or game the rankings). Your best bet is to play it safe and do more of what they want you to do (for better rankings). The real trick is – knowing what they expect you to do (and keeping up on those expectations and rules).
Before you get started, if you haven’t already – you should immediately register your website with Google Webmaster Tools. Why? Google has all kinds of information that they can give you about your website, from what your top organic search keywords are – to how often you’re being crawled, and if you have any issues (like duplicate titles or meta info). You can also register an XML sitemap in your webmaster account as well, which tells Google the location of all your pages, and when they were last updated.
So, now let’s get started on some SEO tricks…that will be useful for affiliate marketing websites.
Affiliate SEO Trick #1
Ad Placement and Frequency is Key: One of the things Google said in early 2012 was that they were paying more attention to the frequency and location of ad placement on websites. This includes Adsense, as well as affiliate links, banner ads, ebay auctions, etc.
Google is interested in what’s “above the fold”. An old affiliate website marketing trick was to place Adsense (or other ads) above the fold so it was the first thing visitors saw (rather than the content). The hope was the reader might be enticed into clicking an ad before reading your content. Google wants your website to be known, found, and used for it’s content (not it’s ads). Even if your website has great content, and lots of readers and engagement – if you have one or multiple ads “above the fold” (before the webpage scrolls), you are at risk of either getting a Google penalty or deindexed (and losing your traffic).
If you want to keep your rankings, as well as potentially improve your rankings (as other sites get penalties), you want to make sure that the “above the fold” section of your webpages lead with content (not ads). Move your ads down below the fold, and make sure the search crawlers find and index the content first.
Affiliate SEO Trick #2
Don’t “Over SEO” your pages on-site: another classic SEO trick is to find some great keyword phrase, and then use it in your HTML title, your meta description, your meta keywords, your h1 heading(s), and then a crap load of times in your content (depending on how many words were on your page). Now that Google has figured out how much easier it is to “game the engine” – they very things that used to get you better rankings can now get you penalized and thrown to the back of the index (or thrown out).
Good content will get you far, but not very far is you’re going keyword happy all over the place. It’s too obvious, and too much like the used car sales man jumping on you within 5 seconds of pulling into the lot.
What you really want to do is use your keywords in the HTML title, and maybe your meta description (in the same or different order). Then just be prudent about how and where you use them within your post or page. If it looks like you’re using the keywords too much or too many times, you probably are.
Affiliate SEO Trick #3
Use your images for SEO: something that has worked for years (and still works when you don’t abuse it) is image SEO. For every page or post you create have any image you can use that’s relevant (a featured image). Instead of image.jpg, rename the image using your target keywords. If your target is “gold widgets” then the file name might be “gold-widgets.jpg” or “gold-widgets-for-sale.jpg”. Again – don’t over SEO, you usually just want one image, and the keywords don’t have to be by themselves or the same exact order as your target.
Also, don’t lead with your images, lead with your content (at least a few sentences or a paragraph), and then add your image, and continue with the rest of the content. When you add the image, be sure to use the keywords in some fashion in the alt and title tags. Making sure you don’t “over SEO” you might not to have the exact same alt and title text for an image. Maybe one is “gold widgets” and another is “best review of widgets that are gold”.
Keyword combinations that are different (and in different orders) help you rank for more broad match phrases in search, and also keep you out of hot water and penalties for trying too hard.
Why are these 3 tricks so important to SEO as it pertains to affiliate websites?
Here’s a graphic to illustrate:
I want you to pay close attention to the trend over 30 days in this graphic. In the span of a month the trend of traffic is pretty much the same (and very low). But for 3 days out of the month it’s nearly 4x as much. You might not be aware of this recurring trend if you haven’t seen it before “in the wild”.
We own dozens of affiliate blogs and websites, some get updated regularly – and some we just don’t have time for. Most have a mix of Amazon affiliate links, ebay links, Adsense, or other affiliate offers. Some we’ve had time to upgrade for Google’s new rules regarding SEO, and some we haven’t touched at all.
The ones that still have “SEO issues” (over-SEO, over-placement of ads, above the fold issues), we see have trends like the one above. For a few days out of the month, Google seems to run a “test” to see if the website should be indexed better (or not). They give you some traffic, and it seems like they’re looking for factors like bounce rate and time spent on pages, to determine if people are finding what they’re looking for (or not). If your numbers aren’t any better (than before), they “re-penalize” your site, and then revisit it at a future date (again).
We’ve watched sites go through this phase for months and months, and usually they traffic lasts 3-7 days, and then goes away (anywhere from 1-3 months). Consider this the new trendy version of “the modern Google penalty”. If you don’t want this to start happening to your websites, take the 3 SEO tricks listed above to heart – and start making changes to your affiliate websites (to stay indexed).