How Social Media Can Help A Niche Affiliate Site (Especially at the Beginning!)

I must confess, I'm not a huge user of social media for my niche sites. The more niche sites you have, the less time you are likely to spend on social media with each one. It can be hard to keep track of them and adopt different personas all the time.

Aside from sharing your sites' new posts on their social accounts, and trying to get some followers to those accounts, is there much more you need to do on social media though?

​Is it one of those things that has a negative ROI when it comes to time spend vs money or rankings gained?

Is it something that only big brands and authority sites need to bother with?

Or is it actually a great way of getting traction in the search engines and something more affiliate marketers should be paying attention to?

​In this post, I'm going to talk about how to make money on social media with even the smallest niche site, so you'll no longer be wondering if it's worth your time.

You'll even see the good things about social media when it comes to your niche sites growth at the beginning, which is always nice.​

What You'll Learn Today

  • How Social Media Can Help Organic Rankings
  • How Social Media Can Get You Sales
  • Which Networks You Should Pay Attention To
  • How To Assess The Traffic Quality From Social
  • How Much Time You Should Invest Into Social

Do Social Signals Help Rankings?

​A social signal comes in several forms, so let's start by defining what I mean when I say social signal.

  1. A link to your site from a social profile, such as in your Twitter profile.
  2. A link to your site from a social post, such as a Twitter share, a Facebook status, or similar.
  3. ​When someone "likes" your website using the share buttons.
  4. Less directly, when someone "likes" or "re-tweets" a post that has a link to your website.​

When you break social signals down like this, it's much easier to answer. For instance, type 1 almost definitely helps your SEO.

For a start, you're building "brand links" which not only helps your site look more credible, but also helps diversify your link profile so it doesn't look like all your backlinks are spammy.​ These are usually the first links I build to a new site, and should be the first you build as well.

On top of that, I suspect that Google expects to see these links....

If a site doesn't have links from a Twitter profile or Facebook page, will Google trust it as much?​

Right off the bat, social media can help boost our website's trust, authority, and is the foundation to any link profile.

From the 2nd type of social signal:

You will also get SEO benefits. For a start, sharing your new posts on social media is a great way of helping them get indexed faster and keeping Google aware of your site's growth. If a lot of people are sharing and re-sharing your posts on their own profiles, then that is likely to further help build your trust and authority as well.

These also count as brand "mentions", which are similar to links, and act as evidence to Google that your site is a real brand, rather than just a hobby blog.

Some people will also point out that this is the natural path any new business goes down. Set up your social accounts, and then start sharing content. People then start sharing your content themselves, before later, other sites start linking to you.

Matt Diggity has mentioned this is a good tactic for helping reduce the sandbox, although I'm not sure how effective it really is compared to just letting time pass.

Either way, it doesn't take a lot of effort to share your own posts on your profiles, and if you can get others to share your posts too, that likely takes even less effort. Why not go ahead and do it?

As far as social signal 3 and 4, these are generally more controversial. Some people will say that a lot of social signals like this will definitely improve your ranking all by themselves, whereas others will say they are necessary to justify your backlink profile. After all, it would look weird if you have a bunch of backlinks but no social signals.​

For me, I think that while they might be useful for brand building and perhaps justifying backlinks, I don't believe there is a specific part of the Google algorithm that looks at number of shares. It's such an intangible metric anyway, how could they know if 10 shares is a lot or a little?

Overall though, we can safely say that links from social media can help build brand, trust, authority, possibly reduce the sandbox, and may count as credible backlinks too, but I am sceptical that your like/tweet/pin count has an overly positive effect on your rankings.

Remember, Google does crawl these networks, so any link from a social network is a quality, relevant backlink.​

I wouldn't use social media as a sole link building or ranking strategy at all, but there are definitely some quick, easy wins to be had.​

How to Make Money on Social Media With Your Niche Site

I recently recorded a training video for my customers that is aimed at helping them get their first sale online. It actually works for getting lots of sales too, not just the first.

The core of the strategy is using Forums (they count as social media in my book) and Facebook groups to send traffic to your site's review pages, and this can naturally lead to sales.

social media icons on screen

The basic gist of the strategy is to post questions in niche "groups" and ask people for their opinions on products. You link to an article on your site as a reference, and people naturally visit your site to check it out. Some of those people will ultimately click through and buy something as well.

This isn't a hugely scalable strategy and does require a fair bit of time, but it can be good to get some sales in the early days while your site is still ranking, especially if you're keen to see some results.​

If you were to really embrace this strategy, you could look for common questions people are asking in forums or Facebook groups, and even write content aimed at answering those questions. Reddit is a great place and at this point is the worlds biggest forum, Kelvin ran an experiment on Reddit and gained 2,200 page views in two days from it.

Then, next time someone asks the question, you can help them out with an answer and link to your post for further reading. If it's got affiliate links, who knows what might happen.

The worst case scenario here is that you're going to get more people aware of your site and brand, and will get to see how your content performs with relevant traffic as well.​

​Which Networks You Should Pay Attention To

Now this really depends on your niche, and I'm going to quote Stuart Walker here when I say that...

Your job is to find out where your audience hangs out online.

For example, I currently spend most of my time in Facebook Groups when promoting HPD, because there are a lot of very active and engaged discussions within this niche going on there.

In other niches, you might want to just hang out on forums, or in LinkedIn, or Pinterest, or Twitter.

There's no exact answer either, because there are probably groups in all niches that prefer certain platforms over others.

For this, my advice would be to start with 1 or 2 platforms and see what you find. If lot's of people in there are discussing your niche and it looks like you can join in quite easily, then you may have found your platform!

I wouldn't go as far as saying that one network is superior to another. It boils down to which ones you prefer and where you can find people to hang out with.

My final tip on this matter is to not try to be everywhere all at once.

Just start out with one or two places and if you get time or a lot of success with one, start branching out. In most cases though you may find it better to just double down on the same network though.

For example, if one or two Facebook Groups are sending you traffic, then maybe it's better to find more FB groups to join rather than looking for groups on other platforms.

It really is just a case of exploring and testing, and you'll figure it out soon enough.

Remember, social media isn't so much a strategy where you can say "Do this on that platform, and do that on this platform," it's more a case of being social and seeing what the dynamics are in your niche.

How To Assess The Traffic Quality From Social Media

Does social media traffic spend more money than organic traffic? Is someone looking to buy something when they are browsing Facebook, compared to when they are searching in Google?

This is something that is worth considering.

A lot of people will tell you that organic traffic is always better than social. People use Facebook when they want to relax and don't exactly have their wallet in their hand. You are better off using Facebook to build traffic instead.

But that's not really true though either...

Personally, I'm experienced enough to know that there is no way you can make a sweeping generalization about an entire traffic channel like that.

There is one point that I agree with though from Eric Enge (of Stone Temple Consulting), "the real power comes from the synergy [of SEO and social signals]"

Additionally, Facebook ads are fast becoming the traffic source of choice for eCommerce sites, which suggests that people are clearly ready to spend money after coming from Facebook. It's just one growing example of how to make money with social media.

I've done experiments of my own and know that people will buy something from an ad or an article on Facebook or Pinterest or anywhere if it appeals to them.​

So let's just put away the "Organic is better than social" argument for today and instead say this. 

It depends. As always.

So what you have to do is analyze if this social traffic really is worth it, and that's not necessarily an easy task.

There are lots of things you can measure to give you insights, such as time on page, bounce rate, pages per visit, new subscribers, affiliate link clicks, even earnings, but there are also intangibles that you should pay attention to, and these are naturally harder to measure.​

Let's look at a few things I recommend you analyze when looking at social traffic. For this, make sure you have installed Google Analytics on your site and have spent a reasonable amount of days tracking​ it.

Things to measure:

  • General traffic metrics
  • Affiliate links clicked
  • Commissions earned
  • New subscribers
  • Feedback in the social networks where you posted the links

​General Traffic

​I'm not going to give you exact metrics because it's pretty hard to define, but you want to see that your bounce rate is reasonable (actually anything under 80% is fine, but the lower the better), you also want to see a good time on page, which again is subjective.

If people are visiting more than 1 page per visit, that is also a good sign, but not visiting other pages doesn't necessarily mean your content is a failure.

If someone reads your article, enjoys it, then clicks an affiliate link or subscribes, the article definitely did its job.

So one thing you have to think about is...

What do you want your readers to do on the page and are they doing it?​

Everything else is arbitrary.

The reason a lot of people call engagement stats "Vanity metrics" is because it's very easy to get distracted by things like bounce rate or time on page, but the only metrics ​that really matter are revenue and expenses.

So you can use these general metrics to give you insight into whether or not your social traffic likes your content. But don't worry too much about it if things are going well or if your rankings are climbing. Just keep pushing out optimized content and promoting it.

​Affiliate Link Clicks And Commissions

How you track affiliate links depends on the nature of your affiliate program. In some places it's easier than others. For example, with Clickbank, it's pretty easy to add tracking ID's to your affiliate ID and use different links on different pages.

The same is true for Amazon links, although it is a bit more fiddly.​

The only real difficulty with all of this is knowing whether those clicks came from social traffic or elsewhere.​

If your site is getting 1,000 visits per month and they are ALL from social media, then it's easy for you to know that all those clicks are a result of your social media efforts, but how do you track clicks when you have many different sources of traffic?

In this case, I like to create an exact copy of a page (and set it to no-index) and then use that page for social media sharing. If I make sure that copy page has a different set of tracking ID's, I can see how well it performs.

This method only really works in the short term or if you are doing specific tests, but it's the easiest way of finding out how social media traffic performs if it's you sharing the posts.

You can also look for trends. For example, if you usually get 2-3 sales per day, and one day your social media traffic triples, but your sales don't, then you know the traffic wasn't great. If your sales get a boost too though, then things are looking good.

This method is good for getting insights, but only lets you "guesstimate" the effectiveness of this social traffic.​

You might also be able to get creative with setting Goals in Google Analytics, but with this method you'll be limited by the options your affiliate program has.

For example, I can tell by looking in my GA data that while Pinterest sends us a lot of traffic, that traffic doesn't spend much money on our site. It does convert to our email list well though, and email traffic is very valuable to us, so we can see that the Pinterest strategy works well if we send the traffic to content that has email opt-ins or upgrades.​

Pinterest Case Study for Human Proof Designs

With affiliate programs, unfortunately you can't always set up goals effectively like this.

Really though, the best thing to do is gauge how well social traffic performs before you are getting a lot of other traffic coming in.​

New Subscribers

Now this is definitely something you can track. Again, if you are only getting social media visitors to a certain page and are getting people to subscribe from that page, it's easy to tell how well that social media traffic converts.

If you have multiple traffic channels, you can set up Google Analytics Goals to count when someone visits the success or "thank you" page on your email opt-in, and it GA will tell you how well different traffic sources are converting those goals.

Social media generally works very well for converting people to email subscribers, because while they might not be in buying mode, they are usually in "That sounds interesting, tell me more" mode.​

Feedback In Social Networks

This can be a double-edged sword, but one of the benefits of sharing your work in social networks is that people will comment in those groups/threads/posts with their thoughts. The reason it's double-edged? People can be overly critical, or even nasty, especially if your site is new and you're not great at writing yet.

​My general advice is to listen to any feedback you get, but don't get too upset if people are harsh. If you feel they've made valid points, then you can learn and get better as a result, but if you disagree, then just ignore it.

It's very easy to get hurt by negativity, especially with a new site or with your first attempts at sharing it, but don't let that put you off.

Eventually, you'll reach a point where people are praising your work, becoming fans, and even sharing your posts for you. This is a great end goal to have. You get free traffic, and social proof to boot.​

Final Note On Traffic Quality

Not all traffic is created equal, and it's important to be aware of this. It's ALSO important to be aware that traffic behaves differently depending on WHERE, HOW, and by WHOM in social media your content is shared. Also, the type of post is important too.

Social media is one type of social networking, so treat it like that. You're interacting with human beings on the other end.​

Always experiment and you'll soon learn what is working and what isn't.​

How Much Time Should You Invest In Social Media For Niche Sites?

The final part of this article is going to talk about the hardest aspect of social media marketing to determine. How much time should you dedicate to this whole process?

Like I said, it's not an easy question to answer.

​Generally I recommend that when your site is new and not getting a lot of traffic, you can use SMM as a way of getting the ball rolling and getting some early sales, as outlined earlier in this article. 

You can also invest time in it and see what kind of results you get, and decide after that. At HPD, I know that being active in social media helps us in many ways, so I am prepared to spend more time on it than with some of my niche sites.

You will only be able to determine this by actually being active and seeing what happens though. I can't tell you if you should spend an hour a week, an hour a day, or something in between. Social media is based around people, and you should know already how varied we are.​ 

Just remember, you can see results instantly with social media, but that doesn't mean you always will. Think about why do we use social media. It will also take you time to really find your groove, so don't quit right away.

Treat it as something you need to learn, and if you do it while your site is getting out of the sandbox, then before long you will have solid traffic from social, while your organic traffic ever increases.

​My final thoughts for this article are to treat social media as a platform rather than a specific strategy. This means there are many different ways you can use it, and your job is to experiment, learn, and improve as you go.

Should you use social with niche sites? Yes, but how much is up to you.​