We've invited Alejandro back to the blog after his last article (on keyword research) was so successful. This time, we wanted to know more about the experiments he's running and what he's learnt so far about affiliate SEO.
Earning over $1,000 a month in such a short time is no joke. Tons of insight in this post and there will definitely be some tasks you'll want to add onto your to-do list.
Hey guys! I'm so happy to be back at the HPD blog.
Last time, I spoke about the way I decide what keywords to pursue first based on the revenue I expect from ranking them.
If you haven't read that article I recommend you to do so because, well, it's on keyword research and there's no content marketing, no SEO, no Ferraris and no fancy luxurious parties sponsored by your Amazon Associates account without proper keyword research.
A memified summary of the previous article. Yes, I just made that word up.
Finished reading that? Good.
Now, that's all fine and dandy but we still have to rank for those keywords so that we make a profit. That means SEO (both on- and off-page) and it's simple if you have a plan.
But what happens when you don't have a clear plan? You do dumb stuff. Some dumb stuff is just expensive, some other may land you a penalty.
I mean, I did dumb stuff. A bit. I did some other stuff that worked well. And also stuff that was kind of "meh".
So, I thought I could share with you what I've learnt about SEO for Amazon Affiliate sites, what works, what doesn't and what I guess that sort of maybe kinda works but not sure lol?.
The goal? That you can put SEO in a straight Revenue On Investment oriented manner and get the most out of the money you invest in ranking your site.
Let's get started:
What You'll Learn Today
I know this is the last on the above list. But it's the first thing you should engrave in your forehead.
We do this for the long term. Repeat with me: we do this for the long term.
What do I mean by long term? And, didn't that guy from 10Bubaloos.com make 7 bajillions in the first 4 months?
I mean that hitting a few hundred a month (even a couple grand) isn't the real goal here. Yes, that's really cool and we must start somewhere, but here's the thing:
You want to build an asset you can sell and buy a house in cash with what you get. You want a thick check every month to travel all around the globe like a boss. To help your parents retire. To quit a job that crushes your soul, or so that you can spend more time with the ones you love.
You want MORE from life.
Hence, you must think long term.
Why? Because otherwise you'll be all in a rush for a few bucks, buying s**t links from Konker (or, God forbid, Fiverr) that will get your site penalized, posting on 15 different Facebook groups "my site is 0.75 months old and my keyword is still on position 80? help guys I NEED to make this work" all desperate.
And maybe you'll even quit, call affiliate marketing a lie and go back to your financially unsatisfied life.
Hey, dont get offended if you've done that. So have I, twice (losing a friend on the way).
But then I changed my mindset.
I mean, these two books did for me: The 4 Hour Workweek and The One Thing.
When you think long term, you make smarter financial decisions. You invest with a plan. You put extra effort on a single piece of content or in picking the right anchor text for your links. You do things right. And that always pays off.
Alright then. Long term it is. Now, how do we make it work?
2. The basics must be in place for things to work.
There's a certain number of things your site must have in place so that your off-site SEO efforts compound.
Your content must be of good quality and have its on-page SEO polished.
For the first thing, follow the previous article to craft a solid guideline with the right product recommendations and get Dom's writing team to write the articles. They write mine and I'm a happy man.
For the second one, click this big badass orange button to get the guide I follow:
Then, HTTPS certificate if you can do (some of my sites don't have it though and there's no drama), good hosting and a clean theme for good user experience and sitespeed. Thrive is my choice here. That's it so far.
3. Increasing trust
One of the most effective ways to get out of the sandbox, rank over other affiliate sites and even get away with murder, is to build trust.
(What do I mean with murder here? Try doing a GSA blast to Forbes or Entrepreneur. It may help them rank higher. Try doing it to your site and say hello to the Titanic on your way to the deep, deep depths of page 700)
Now let's have a little look at things that build trust and how to get them done.
HTTPS Certificate: Your visitor's data is secure when they browse your site. Your hosting will provide.
NAP info: Name Address and Phone, shown clear both in the footer, contact page and social properties. You're a legit business operation right? Why would you not show your detailed contact information?
Best part? It doesn't even have to be true. (Follow this guide to do it right)
Wikipedia, .gov and .edu links: Here's the guide I've followed.
Press Release: Any legit business would get a press release to let people on their area of business know that they offer XYZ services and that they should check them out. Why would you not get such PR? Your business is a legitimate one in any case.
HumanProofDesigns offers Press Releases, so check them out.
Copyright: Sites like DMCA and Copyrighted will allow you to both protect your content and get a link back from them. Those are high DA, trusted sources. Nice little extra. Simply sign up and you'll get a link. Piece of cake.
4. The backlinks that help the most
Disclaimer: I'm about to drop a sentence that has been repeated uncountable times all over every single SEO blog there is. Given the lack of originality, have some minions with it.
The best backlinks to get are highly authoritative, contextual and niche relevant dofollow backlinks.
Now, thats quite a mouthful and the majority of the links you'll be getting won't be of that kind.
Those are the kind of links that you get doing white hat outreach to blogs in your space, and with PBN links. However, meeting every single requirement quoted on that sentence tends to be damn expensive. Recap:
Highly authoritative. (not your average DA 20+ blog) Niche relevant. Contextual. Do follow.
Not written yet ideal: With the right anchor text.
But, do you know that if you remove one or two elements from that equation, things get a lot cheaper and still work? Here's what I mean:
You can get a highly authoritative backlink from an unrelated site and it'll work.
You can get a highly relevant backlink from a weak site and it'll work.
The key? The referring site must be clean. Why? Because spammed or untrustworthy sites will most likely pass their spaminess or untrustworthiness to your site. And that's bad, because we're on this for the long term.
Which backlinks do I recommend then?
Here's a list of links I've got on my sites that have worked very well for me.
- Blog Comments from niche-relevant blogs. (They're easy to get, so keep 'em relevant). Try and build a relationship with the owner. Use it to get the next ones.
- Guest posts links (wherever the hell you land them. Niche relevant or not)
Scholarship links.[UPDATE 2018] I no longer recommend scholarship link building. It's now a sureway to get a manual penalty.
- PBN Links: Only use highly trusted PBN sellers or build your own one. Ensure the 'outbound link count' is low. Try to get permanent links over rentals (because of long term expense and ROI). Don't buy from sellers who provide samples (network is exposed). Don't buy links that are $5 a pop (unless it's a rental). Building a PBN is expensive, no one will sell you a link inside their expensive PBN for cheap unless it's goat crap.
- Press Release links: Besides trust, they help with link velocity and building pillow links (more on this on 7) How to gain momentum and never lose it)
- Citations: Exactly as above.
- Infographic links. Here's Brian Dean's guide on guestographics.
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5. Internal structure and topical relevance.
Having the right structure will help you pass juice from one page inside your site to another one. Hence, throwing a link to one page will benefit multiple pages.
A properly structured and internally linked site is like a tree, water it and the whole thing will grow.
A poorly structured site with no internal links is like a boiled egg. You water it, it wobbles a bit and does nothing.
Now, if you've been a reader for a while you'll recognize this image:
I'll take it borrowed from Dom to explain topical relevance. The above called silo pages are your money articles. Your "Best xyz" money making posts.
The support posts are your "Z product vs A product", "How to use XYZ" and other such informational pieces of content. Variations of the top level "best xyz" post are also good , such as "best xyz with abc" if that keyword gets a big enough search volume, you may decide to dedicate an article solely for that "with abc" variation.
All those pages increase your relevance on the main topic "xyz". You do this by building internal links pointing to the main article (called Pillar Article on the above image).
Here's a very interesting video from Charles Floate where he explains how to leverage topical relevance and supporting pages to build links like crazy with 0 chances of getting penalized:
Charles mentions silo structure (and so does the image at the beginning on this section). While URL silos (architecture) require planning in advance (you must know how the site will look and what keywords you'll pursue before you build), topically interlinking in a Silo fashion you can do at any time.
In fact, in one of my sites, I had internal links a gogo. Like, I would be talking about sausages and link to a cabbage juice recipe. Because internal links right? Wrong.
I did a cleanup of one my silos and kept the links strictly relevant. Sausages posts were now only linking to other sausage related posts. I gained a few spots for every single keyword inside my test silo, and the posts that "lost" internal backlinks weren't affected at all.
Are you mixing your pinneaples with your bananas? Get your fruity silos straight and you'll see the benefits.
Do you struggle to rank your cabbage juice? Build more pages around cabbages. Link them internally. Build links to those pages. The sort of links I talked on the previous.
Your cabbage will rank very nicely.
6. Dumb stuff to avoid. (My mistakes)
One of the worst illnesses from our time is called shortterminitus and its effects on the aspiring website mogul entrepreneur are:
- Buying $10 "Niche Guest Posts" on Fiverr.
- Paying $5 per 1,000 words and complaining the article doesn't rank.
- Buying $8 PBN links in Konker
- Buying 20 PBN links and sending all exact match anchor to the same page thinking brute forcing the keyword will make Google surrender and rank you on top.
- Buying glorified $250 per link PBN links disguised as "Guest Posts" because one isn't able to conduct due dilligence (alas, look for reviews on the service)
- Paying $60 for a DA stack when it's actually the biggest BS in SEO since "Guest Blogging is Dead" back in 2014
- Paying $45 for Entity Stacking BS.
- Spending the money the site makes because "It's so cool my website paid for this pair of sneakers" instead of re-investing 100% of it.
- Not building a PBN sooner because of higher initial investment and longer time to get done yet paying for s**t PBN links from the above mentioned sources.
If you feel yourself any of the aforementioned symptoms, please, go back to section 1: Mindset, read it through, download this Chrome extension and block Fiverr and Konker forever.
Not doing so on time did cost me over $600. I'm Spanish and used to free medicare, $600 for short term thinking treatment is a lot of money to me, but I know others have paid bigger tolls. Google algo updates may have cute animal names but they aren't cute at all.
Then, I suggest you go ahead, do a backlink audit and disavow every single link you don't like. It'll take you maybe two hours of your time, but It will probably save your business.
Things I'm confused about.
- The Hoth: I bought a package (a classic Hoth Platinum with filipino content) at $150 because I had a coupon. The 2.0s they created were nice and legit and haven't been deindexed ever since they were created back in October last year, but I'm not sure they've provided much of a push. 2/3 articles I targeted are ranking on top 3, one is on page 2, but so are another 385 and 1.600 keywords respectively for the whole site, so I couldn't tell it was because of Hoth.
- Expired 2.0s: I've got around 10 different expired tumblrs that I bought and linked to my site. However, 5 of them were de-indexed and the other half don't seem to be adding much power.
- Social signals: I spent probably around $90 in different orders from PBN butler and other sellers. Besides the possible help in getting out of the sandbox quicker, I don't think further sent signals have added any value.
7. How to gain momentum and never lose it.
Ever worked on a task for a while, started getting in a deep state of focus where you start thinking quicker each second that passes, swiftly getting every bit in place and getting so absorbed on it that you forgot the rest of the world outside, beginning to get something real good done; just for an interruption to come and get you out of that marvellous focus?
When you come back to the task, you're cold. You lost your momentum.
Now think about your site. You're growing the content, you're sending links to it, at some point it takes off and starts doubling revenue each month, you get comfortable and you think that momentum is going to carry on forever so you relax on the link building. You stop publishing 2-3 times a week because you deserve a break, you've finally made it, let's do twice a month.
Then a few months (or years) later your income drops. You check in ahrefs and you see a lot of orange bars.
Introducing link velocity
Link velocity is quite an important factor. It essentially refers to the speed to which you're gaining new links. Too fast, you'll get penalized, too slow, your competitors will eat you. But, do you stop building links when you reach your goals?
Lets see: You'll naturally lose links, and you'll naturally win some links (although the majority can be image and content scraping sites, the ones you should disavow).
If you enter a period where you're losing more links than you're gaining, you're losing your momentum.
To make sure you never lose your momentum, dedicate a % of your revenue to link building, religiously, each month. Build links the smart way (as shown above) and never stop, even if every single keyword you're targeting is right at #1.
Do you know why? Because there's a kid on his grandma's basement working 12h a day building a site in your niche, stealing 100% of your keywords and looking to dethrone you from your comfy #1 spot.
The three kind of links that provide the best cost per link ratio are blog comments, local citations and press release links. Image directory links are also cool. Make sure to be always gaining links. Cheap links like those three if you need, but don't lose momentum.
8. Tools you must master.
For you to be able to take car of your SEO needs, you'll need some tools.
Ahrefs is my tool of choice to analyze some competitor's backlink profile.
Majestic is what you'll need to come with the anchor text ratios your niche or keyword asks for.
I suggest you create a "changelog" spreadsheet in google drive and make a quick note of every single change you do on your site, such as adding new support content, cleaning a silo, editing some over optimized page with 30x repetitions of your keyword to some LSI keywords, placing new links, etc. This way, when you see an uptick in rankings, you can go back and see what recent changes you've done to that page.
9. Wrapping up
I'd like to finish this article with an uplifting note.
Even if we make mistakes. Even if we sometimes fall pray of the short term monkey mind, we can make this work.
Amazon affiliate sites are great because it's a proven model. They consist of a very specific a-b-c anyone can replicate. We don't need to be very bright to make them work. We just need to educate ourselves to do things the right way (thinking long term) and stick with it long enough until it gets momentum.
That way, we'll end up owners of 5, 6 even 7 figure assets and then all the discipline, work and mistakes will be worth it.
To your success.