How Do You Plan Out Content for Affiliate Sites?

Planning Affiliate Content

Do you LOVE writing 3,000 words long product reviews?

Do you get turned on by formatting posts on your site and spending hours making sure it looks fab? (Even if that piece that took you an entire night to put together ends up getting like 50 hits a month and makes like no money)

Lemme guess, the answer to both questions was “not really”.

But hey when you’re on a shoestring budget and trying to get your first site up and running, there’s plenty of that involved. Writing your own articles, making your own fancy color boxes and pros/cons columns inside Thrive Architect…

But that stuff takes time! And it’s definitely NOT the task of highest return for you to be working on as a niche/authority site owner. You should be researching keywords, checking out for high-paying offers, building a list and some funnels, ranking the S out of the site, creating checklists for your VAs to do all the grunt work…

So how do you plan out content in a way that comes in-and-out fast and smooth, solid every time, without breaking the bank or having “dry periods” in which you don’t publish? And most importantly, how do you set up a system so the content gets done and running WITHOUT your input?

You need to plan it out, outsource, and create a simple system.

And on today’s post, I’m going to show you the exact content planning, writing and publishing system I use as a manager of 14 money making blogs in COMPLETELY different niches.

Let’s get started.

1. What Keywords To Focus On

This is crucial to get right. If you focus on the wrong keywords, 1st you’re not going to see any results and 2nd, it’s impossible to systematize. You want to focus on just these:

  • Best [Product] (i.e. Best Straight Razor)
  • star
    [Product A] vs [Product B] (This can be done with single products, with product types or with brands)
  • star
    [Brand] [Product] Review
  • star
    Info keywords (What, when, how, why, which, ways, types, sizes, can I, is it possible, get rid of, etc)

So the way I suggest you plan out your content is: Select a product, let’s say Straight Razors, and then try and find as many other keywords with the format above talking about straight razors. On the next step, I’ll show you how to organize them.

2. Mapping Out The Keywords

Once you know which set of keywords you’ll be working with  you need to know how they work together to make a site that makes sense. Here’s a capture from an example mindmap to illustrate this (which is the way we build out HPD sites) and how I expand the portfolio:

This is a concept we coined as “cluster” which essentially means, a group of keywords revolving around a specific type of product (the top level product, in this image “straight razors”) and cover multiple angles of it. Such as different brands, sizes, types, and then some single products, some VS articles, and some info articles serving as support for the money ones.

We took the overly-complicated concept of silos and gave it a spin for adaptability and scalability.

3. Having a Template to Produce Consistent Results

Ok cool, so you know the, let’s say, 20 keywords you’ll work with and you have a nice split of money and info articles (I suggest 60/40 Money/Info.) Now, you are ready to pull the trigger and outsource it because it’s a hell of a lot of work to write all that and you’d rather be efficient (aham). How do you make sure they all come using the same structure, headings, layout, style, pros and cons…? By using templates.

Worry not, you don’t need to figure this out by yourself. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you.

Here are the exact same templates our writers use to create content in a consistent manner. Click the button below to get them.

4. Batch Ordering to Save Monehs...

Now, the most cost & time efficient way to get that content done is by using a content agency.

Of course, I’m absolutely biased here because HPD provides this type of service, so let me show you real quick why I recommend this (then you’re free to write it yourself or hire a writer on UpWork if you feel that’s a better way)

<sales pitch>

Let’s say you want to get 20 articles done. Let’s say this is how your spreadsheet looks like:

That’s about 26k words. You may need a little bit of perspective so I hope this other image helps:

60 damn pages for about just 23 articles, and many of them are short, info ones.

Now imagine you are aiming for 50 articles which is what I recommend you have up in your site to have a chance in 2018 to make some real money.

So I think, unless you’re a terrifically talented and prolific copywriter or you’ve got ZERO money to invest (which then I suggest you save some before diving into this because you NEED hosting and plugins and tools and even though the money is minimum, you need some) you have to outsource it.  That’s out of the question.

Then it comes a bit to your personal preference.

If you’re good at vetting writers, knowing who’s serious and who is jumping from a dead dog to a sick brother in the hospital to a bike crash to a wedding and not producing a single piece, you know how to effectively find them on UpWork, what to state on the Job Listing, and how much to pay, then go for it do the hiring yourself because you're going to get a better rate.

But you better hire a few writers at a same time b/c it’ll take them just as long to produce as you may now be aware of.

Or, you can use an agency.

Will it cost you maybe $2-3 usd per 1,000 words more than a freelancer? Yeah sure.

Do you need to do ANY work besides submitting your spreadsheet and a copy of the templates? Nope. (And if you use us you don’t even need the templates lol)

It is time efficient.

And here’s the key. When you bulk order (be it with us or any other content provider, it’s a free marketplace you know) you get bulk prices.

It’s cost-efficient.

</sales pitch>

5. Having the Same Template on Your Site for a Plug-and-Play Operation

So once you’ve submitted your order to your writer/agency, you can breathe and prepare the rest of the elements so you DON’T have to publish it all yourself.

What I suggest you do, is to create a replica of those content templates you downloaded above (Skim reading the article and you missed the link? Get them here) with Thrive Architect and save the page as a “content template”

Protip: wrap everything inside a “content box” and save that box as a content template. It’s the easiest way

Then you only need to load the content template, and copy-paste the text from the writer in the appropriate sections. You’re left with a scalable, outsourceable operation (imagine putting up each article FROM scratch every time! Suicidal)

6. Having an SOP For Your VA

If you have templates that model the exact piece of content you’re getting from your writers (like shown above) then you only need to record yourself using some screen capture software (you can use screencast-o-matic or Active Presenter for instance) uploading one article of each type yourself. When you do it, explain all the steps youre doing “Ok here goes the intro” “we change all the headings and then update the table of contents” “you pull images for the products with SiteStripe clicking here, then here, selecting the ID whatever-20 and then click here” etc.

Explain EVERY detail. Are the affiliate links on your “Check Price” nofollow? (They should) Then explain they need to add the link in this field and then click on this box to make it nofollow etc.

If every video takes you like 40 minutes to do THAT’S OK. Break it down into multiple videos if you need to. The key is that the training is clear and thorough so a VA with basic WordPress knowledge can follow and do it.

Go to Onlinejobs.ph and post a job there.

Find a VA, share access to anything they need through LastPass, and have them upload 1 article of each kind. Review their work thoroughly, give them feedback, repeat until they execute flawlessly. Have them create a checklist that covers the entire proccess.

That’s additional SOP/Training material that you'll need to hire another VA in the future to do the same task.

Then my friend, you’re off to the content races.

7. Final Touches to Your Content Machine.

If you’ve read the entire article, you probably saw the name of the spreadsheet we embedded above. It’s a real one from a portfolio site. You’ll see the name I gave it is “content push” and that’s what we do. Every month, on each of the top performing sites, we push a bunch of content.

Here’s what we do.

  • Decide what niche to go for. One month we may do teeth whiteners another month we may do power tools, doesn’t matter. We may be attacking a brand new niche or complementing an existing cluster to add more depth (more articles)
  • If we’re going for a brand new niche (say we have a site about patio furniture and we want to add a section about fireplaces) we want to find keywords to fulfill this checklist
    • 1 Top level (i.e. best patio fireplace)
    • 2-3 Second level (i.e. best gas patio fireplace, best log patio fireplace…)
    • 2-4 Third level (i.e. best gas fireplaces for semi-open terraces)
    • 6-9x Product Reviews (i.e. two or three top products for each second level)
    • 1-2x VS keywords (i.e. gas vs charcoal patio fireplaces)
    • 6-8 KGR info keywords (i.e. what is the best type of wood to use on a patio fireplace. May not actually be KGR compliant, haven’t checked)

We keep it flexible because it’s not always easy to find some of these. That leaves us with about 20-24 articles covering the new niche. This ensures sufficient topical relevance (a huge SEO factor) and that we’re covering plenty of angles.

If you’re wondering what KGR stands for or whether your info keywords do necessarily need to be KGR ones, I suggest you read this other article we published a few days ago “Does the Keyword Golden Ratio really work?

  • Create a spreadsheet with the keyword, style (top, second, info) and the desired length. I recommend the following split as a rule of thumb A.K.A. “I’m too lazy to manually analyze the average competitor’s length for every single keyword because that takes forever”
    • Top level: 2,500-3,000 words
    • Second level: 2,000 words
    • Third level: 1,200 words (these are typically KGR or close to, no need for long form articles)
    • VS: 1,200 words
    • KGR info: 400-800 words (depends on whether it’s easy or not to answer the question)
  • Send to your writer/agency
  • Repeat the previous steps (picking a niche, researching keywords, selecting products if you want to do that yourself, creating your order, etc) and place another order.
  • At some point, your writer will start delivering. Then you assign to your content VA and you do the final editorial check before publishing.

That’s it.

Keep repeating:

A) Research and order and

B) Publish at a consistent pace and at the volume your budget allows to and you will effectively have a content machine that requires little to no input from your part (because you can also train someone to do keyword research so you only have to manage other people’s work and ensure the operation works as planned)

In terms of how much content you push, it’s entirely budget-dependent, as the system should be clean enough to be able to scale by simply adding more content VAs, albeit a full-time content VA should be able to publish dozens of articles per week.

That’s why you use an agency, it’s their problem to find  more writers if you start ordering 400 articles per month, not yours.

Alright! I hope this not-so-short article has helped you get an understanding on how to plan out content for affiliate sites and the content creation framework we use.

Questions, doubts, kudos, and angry comments, leave them down below!

To your success,

Alex

17 Comments

  1. Alejandro, thank you for sharing this article! Full of some good information! Really opens your eyes into the world of affiliate site content and how important it is to have a system in place. Templates make it so much more productive also!

  2. a very useful article for content affiliate sites

  3. Would the Top level content include sections and products from the Second level content, and Second level content include those from Third level content? Since they are all subsets of the previous categories. In this case, how do you deal with KW cannibalization?

    • Alejandro

      hey Owen good question, and it’s a tricky one.

      What I like to do (but not always possible as you need to do more research in advance and kind of order clusters in bulk) is to include the best 1 or 2 from the third level in the second level, and then the 1-2 best of the second level in the top level post.

      Example: Running shoes, budget running shoes, running shoes for long distance running and flat foot (top, 2nd, 3rd)

      The best budget shoes from the “long distance and flat foot” ones could make it into the top 5 for “best budget” and the best budget ones could make it into the “best running shoes” top level article. And what I’d do is simply mention in the appropriate article “by the way these were rated n1 in our review of the best budget running shoes” and link the entire sentence one level deeper, and so on and so forth.

      I have done sub-sections in the past and what happens is that articles end up being stupidly long (12k words) which isn’t as good as it sounds (if everyone ranks with 2k words, dunno, maybe thats what the end user wants and 12k is overkill. Matt Diggity calls it “black sheep effect”) and also some cannibalization occurs. (because you also get the 2nd/3rd level keyword into an H2 to name the section right?)

      Whereas the other approach, the “just a quick mention w/link” seems to have the best effect into bringin users down the rabbit hole, less cannibalization scenarios and sparing a few thousand words. Some niches are gigantic, and if you were to mention the top choice of each sub section, brand, size… the top level page ends up being just impossible to digest.

      Hope that solves your doubt!

      • Thanks for you detailed reply. If I understand correctly, you simply include 1 or 2 of the products from the next level, but do not use the level keyword in the H2? So just a mention, not a sub-section with heading kinda like how 10beasts does it (best value 3d pen, best ergonomic 3d pen, best 3d pen for professional use etc)?

        Cool, thanks!

        • Alejandro

          yes that’s correct. 10B does it that way bc it doesn’t have any 2nd or 3rd level pages. Which is another valid angle (just harder to crack – a lot harder) just doing top level pages and trying to rank for everything with it.

          But this days id Rather do more pages, target lower comp stuff, fly under most competitor’s radars, be uber-specific answering the particular query of the end user, etc.

          • I used to do it the 10B way too. Will be trying this method on my new site. Thanks again!

            Cheers

  4. Very nice article. Thank you, Alejandro.

    I think the problem I have (well, as it seems like, as a relative newcomer) is that so far writers can’t match my writing style. For me, that seems to be a part of why both of my sites are picking up clicks & traffic: my quality of content and friendly, informational, and “I’m here to help you” style of content.

    Any ideas about what to do when one seems to be getting rather “generic” content from writers? I’ve all but given up on the idea of hiring writers. However I do want to get to 50 posts for site #1 (I’m on 34 or so now).

    Perhaps I can just go back to re-writing what I get from them? I don’t know the answer.

    Thanks.

  5. GREAT WORK QUIET EDUCATIONAL AND RICHLY INFORMATIVE

  6. Very useful article. Thank you for sharing your content planning strategy. Question for you. “You say Every month, on each of the top performing sites, we push a bunch of content.” I only have 1 site, how would the content push work here? Thanks!

    • Alejandro

      If you’re only working on one site, create as much content as you can possibly afford to produce. The only reason we focus on top performers mostly is because when running multiple sites, you need to think “which hole in the wall to punch” first. When there is only one hole, you punch that one until you break through.

  7. Alejandro,
    Informative article that I’m certain many will find revealing. As a writer, we tend to express our product in terms of the number of words committed to a particular work. What is lost in the flood of information expounding upon the task at hand is the shear bulk of pages to which this equates. Stating that “50 pages” is the target to have an opportunity for income in 2018 is similar to saying you must write a novella. By the time you have equipped your site with a well stocked stable of money and information articles you have written…a novel.

    I enjoyed the article. Thanks!
    Dino

    • Alejandro

      No kidding man, it is a lot of content! 😀 It can be done with less of course, but more pages gives you more internal anchors, more topical relevance… higher chances to succeed.

      It don’t mean a short novel can’t succeed tho! 😀

  8. Thanks for the information , since I’m about to blog about affiliate marketing online , this is an eye opener for me.

  9. Hi, very nice article. Keep up the good work.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *