You’ve built your site and it looks great. You’ve already added your affiliate products or you’re drawing them in from a product feed or widget. You’ve even built some links, but for some reason, you just can’t get any love from Google.
Unfortunately for many affiliate marketers, gone are the days when simply having a better keyword ratio than the next person and one extra link would do it. Fortunately, there’s something you can do about it. Build great content with a purpose.
Ugh… Another ‘Content Is King’ Piece
Nope. Content is not king. There was a time the statement was true when simply producing and hosting content on your site would help you rank. That day is past. Yes, content is required to rank simply because for now Google needs it and users expect it but without purpose, there will be no ranking. And no, you wanting to rank your site is not a purpose for your content, what we’re talking about is purpose to the visitor and by extension, to Google.
Let’s take a moment and think not about your goals but about Google’s. Have you forgotten about your bills, the time and money you’ve invested in your site, and how you’re hoping to quit your job or not be forced to return to a 9-to-5? Excellent, because perhaps the most important thing to understand about SEO is this:
Google is a probability machine.
Their goal is to maximize the odds that the results they display will fulfill the user’s intent. If I query ‘blue widgets’ Google’s goal is to provide me with a list of sites or other data format that will get me the information I’m seeking as quickly as possible. And the problem with queries is that we don’t know 100% what information the user wants.
If the user queries ‘blue widgets’ they may be looking to purchase blue widgets, they may be writing a paper on blue widgets and need information on the history, or they may be a marketer who uses blue widgets as a generic product example for an article. The user may also prefer any of a variety of different content formats.
If you want to rank you need to fulfill as many of these possible intents and preferences as possible, or at least more than your competitors
But I Only Care About ‘Buy’ Phrases
Let’s think about what happens if you’re willing to jettison your quest for the more generic terms and focus only on conversion terms like ‘buy blue widgets’. All you should need then is a page that makes it easy to buy a product, right? Wrong.
Of course, making the core data easy to find is important. Whether it’s product information, concert dates or ISBN numbers your users expect this and so does Google. So why isn’t this enough? Because you and everyone else has the same stock information and you’re answering the same user intent with it. And worse, as an affiliate, you’ll always be up against the manufacturer or a site like Amazon or iTunes that had the content first and are stronger than you probably are.
So even for ‘buy’ phrases you need more to set yourself apart and answer the unspoken questions those visitors may have. Questions not answered by others. But what?
Prioritizing Content Generation
I wrote a detailed piece on some methods for mathematically determining which types of content are going to increase the percentages of possible user intents you will meet. If you’d like to dive in that deeply you can read it on Search Engine Land here however this may be overkill if you’re just getting started.
At its core, all you need is a keyword tool. While they all have their pros-and-cons you can use whichever you prefer, be it Google’s Keyword Planner, Moz’s Keyword Explorer, SEM Rush’s Keyword Magic Tool or another.
Search for the broadest term for a product or category, download the keywords into a spreadsheet and begin grouping them together. If you want things a little simpler, using SEM Rush’s Keyword Magic Tool and querying a category term for ‘msi laptops’ (inspired by some research I was doing for my own purchasing research) I get the following:
One of the things I like about SEM Rush for this is that you’ll notice the groupings of phrases on the left. They pre-group terms by common additional keywords and list the number of words in that group making it a bit more intuitive for shortcutting to your conclusions.
What To Consider
When looking at data like this, not all phrases and phrase grouping are considered equal. We need to think hard about two things:
- Which phrase groupings hold the largest search volume, and
- Which phrase groupings contain the content that a searcher for our category is likely to have
For example, if we’re targeting ‘msi laptops’ as a term we want to make sure that whatever the user might be looking for, that we have it. We might rule out terms related to Windows or replacement parts but focus on queries related to reviews, accessories and perhaps drivers. Combined these make up a lot of the query volume and while they don’t all lend themselves to selling laptops, they do lend themselves to fulfilling the user intent of someone who Googles ‘msi laptop’.
What you need to be thinking about when you’re pondering content is not just what you want the user to see to drive them to a sale but also what content Google needs to understand that the probability of you fulfilling the user’s intent for a query is higher than the next site.
You Will Lose…
When it comes to product listings alone you will very rarely if ever win. You will never have more links than Amazon. You will never have more links that iTunes. And you will likely never have better root product information than the manufacturer. Sorry, but it’s true.
So, it’s through producing the content that will set you apart, that will fulfill a greater number of searcher intents and hopefully do so in whatever format the searchers prefer that the battle is waged. This is the ticket to success in search as an affiliate marketer. It’s not easy, but it is lucrative.
Dave Davies founded Beanstalk Internet Marketing in 2004 with his wife Mary after spending three years making his living via affiliate programs. He is a well-published author, host of a weekly radio show on Internet Marketing and has spoken on the subject of organic SEO at a number of conferences.