In this article series I will tell everything I know about SEO in affiliate marketing websites. This is the first part of the guide and I will start with a bigger concept: Creating a story and building trustworthiness.
Almost all of my search engine optimization experience comes from affiliate marketing websites, so I would say this is the core of my knowledge.
1. Introduction to Affiliate Marketing SEO
SEO is very important for affiliate websites (like all websites of course). The reason is that affiliate websites make the most of their income from organic traffic from Google.
It may be possible to create a successful affiliate website without SEO using just social media and search engine advertisement. However this approach misses a huge amount of possible profit as many people search for product reviews and information just before buying the product or a service.
Many people (like me) will skip the search ads and go to the first real search results below them. A high level SEO is a way to build consistent traffic that comes free – at least after some hard work.
In addition, when going more seriously via the SEO route, the difference between just basic SEO and really concentrating on things that make a trusted, transparent and well converting affiliate website can be enormous.
Trustworthy and transparent affiliate websites can also be very profitable. My approach may not give instant rewards fast, but I believe the results will be more solid and consistent in the longer run. And this is the approach to SEO I really love – not going the easiest route.
In my about-page I will tell more about my SEO and affiliate background if you want to know more where my expertise comes from. Now, let’s start with a very imporant topic – the story behind the affiliate website.
2. The story behind the affiliate website
Search engine optimizing an affiliate website is not just backlinks, inner links, keywords and things like that (even though they are very important). I will start with a wider approach from a bigger concept.
The story behind the affiliate website is everything.
Who are you and what is the person (or a team) behind the affiliate site? Why the website exists? Why the visitor should go to your site and click the affiliate link instead of your competitor?
Let’s go through these topics one by one.
Who is the author or authors?
There are tons of affiliate websites out there that are totally anonymous. These sites can have plenty of quite good quality content, decent design and seem to rank somewhat well.
Still you can’t find any author names, personnel images or a decent about-story. There may be only one email address starting info or contact.
In my opinion it’s really hard to create any trustworthiness with anonymous affiliate websites.
What Google Guidelines say about author details
As Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (just Guidelines from now on) state on page 25 that one characteristic for a High Quality Page is “High E-A-T of the publisher and/or author”. One conclusion about this is that there has to be an author for a high E-A-T even to form.
If E-A-T is not familiar to you in SEO, please check my comprehensive E-A-T -article here.
On page 16 the Guidelines state that it should be clear who (what individual, company, business, foundation) is responsible for the website and who created the content. This information could be written for example in the contact or about pages or in the website blog.
Also on page 47-48 on the Guidelines state that inadequate information about the Website or Creator of the content will be rated to Low quality.
On page 63 Guidelines state for a medium quality characteristic for “No author listed”.
Especially YMYL topics (Your Money or Your Life) have strong demands to include plenty of information about the site, author and/or customer service. You can read more about YMYL in my E-A-T article.
Just as a thought, good reputation of the website and creator is essential for a High Page Quality rating. Therefore anonymous affiliate websites just can’t achieve the highest Page Quality Rating in my opinion.
Based on Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines there is no escaping that including detailed information about the website and the author is essential for a High Quality Page Rating.
Using your real name is not absolutely compulsory in special cases. Some tips on that in the following chapter.
A tip to create a semi-anonymous pseudonym
If you don’t want to reveal your real name for some reason (security reasons or whatever), one possibility is to create a pseudonym for yourself. This is kind of a fake name, but will tell openly that it is not your real name.
Explain also why you don’t use the real name. If all other details are extensive and you write them honestly, this should be the best second option in this kind of a case.
I think the transparency here can give a possibility for trustworthiness to form.
Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines also state that personal websites may have a legitimate reason for anonymity so home address or phone number are not shown. So using a pseudonym or an alias may not be totally against Google’s guidelines.
If possible, using a real name and a real person photo is always the best option in my experience.
Why the website exists?
Explaining the reason the website exists is a very good way to increase trustworthiness in websites and especially affiliate websites.
One reason for affiliate websites to exist is money, even though nobody usually mentions it.
A successful affiliate website can make a lot of money as the business is scalable and there isn’t usually limits how much you can grow the traffic (unless you are already #1 in Google in all possible keywords of course).
Money may seem like a real motivator for affiliate websites, but in my opinion a better result will come if you can come up other reasons to keep an affiliate website.
Also nobody wants to visit a website that is made solely for making money to the owner. Below there are few ideas for reasons an affiliate website to exist.
Few example reasons why affiliate websites could exist
- You have a camera comparison website and like to help people out as you have personally had difficulties to buy the right equipment.
- You love data and want to gather big amounts of data and form them into more digestable form. For example a mortgage, loan or investing comparison website could be like this.
- You love to experience things and write about them. For example travel websites could have interesting stories and photos about places to visit.
- You just love to inspect and review new things like for instance new computer parts and write about them.
- Or you just love to do what you do (write poems for example). Affiliate links are there just to support the website.
These kinds of examples feel much more human than just making money.
Open up your thoughts, and explain your motivator openly to the visitor. One way to do this would be to write an extensive about-page or maybe even a page “Why this website exists”.
In my opinion the money will also come sooner or later towards transparent and trustworthy affiliate websites.
People love stories
In the history of humankind, all cultures have told stories. Some of the earliest evidence of stories comes from the cave drawings in Lascaux and Chavaux in France. For that reason I think that stories fit very well in all websites, no matter the niche.
Explain how the website was founded? What motivates you? What do you especially like in keeping an affiliate website? Keep a very personal touch if that suits your site.
Being transparent and open will increase trustworthiness and I strongly believe that it will convert to profit also in the long run.
Explain how you make money out of your website? Does the money come from advertisement, affiliate programs or some other way? This can be also told by using a personal story.
You could for instance tell about the struggle in the first years of your website when you had problems even paying the bills. And now the website makes enough money enabling you to hire people to work with you.
In my humble opinion the most important rule still is, don’t fool anyone.
Be the person you write you are. If you claim to write “honest camera reviews”, don’t recommend products that you genuinely don’t like. Even though that particular low quality manufacturer would pay you the best money.
In the long term, this is the best way to go.
What value or benefits will you bring the visitor?
I think one legit question for every affiliate website author would be “Why the visitor should visit YOUR site and click YOUR affiliate links instead or your competitor”?
Do you give more valuable information than your competitor or write reviews that helps to make the purchase decision? Do you help by collecting big amounts of data that is easy to compare? Do you create helpful guides that visitor wants to reward you by clicking the link and purchasing via your site?
I seriously think that you have to give something back, you can’t just get the reward.
Work hard, create a helpful website that does not exist anywhere else.
Be more thorough, more easy to read, more honest, more detailed that your competitors and you will do great.
This is also how Google sees things as in their Affiliate Program guidelines: “Make sure your site adds substantial value beyond simply republishing content available from the original merchant”.
In my previous affiliate website (which is sold already) I saw significant improvement in Google rankings few weeks or few months after the following changes.
Anyhow it is hard to define what was the real causality of changes, but these were the changes I believe have had a big influence to the rankings:
- I edited the about page to be a lot longer and more detailed. The lenght was maybe even 5-10 times longer than before the changes I think.
- I told my history before the affiliate website. What I have studied in my life, what I was working on before and how I got into creating that website.
- I told about the first years about the affiliate website as it wasn’t ranking at all in Google and not making any profit. I told openly that the traffic started to improve after I edited the website to be more personal.
- At that time I didn’t use my real name but a pseudonym instead for my own reasons. Anyway I mentioned this openly and all other details and the history was 100% correct. Maybe this seemed to be sincere enough in the eyes of visitors?
- I explained openly that this affiliate website is my only work and my only source of income. I get a share of the purchases made via my website, but this enables me to write high quality content to the affiliate website.
I would have done even better doing these things also:
- Adding my real name (but I had reasons that time not to do that). Now I write with my real name though😊
- Adding a real image of me. I think people like to know how the author looks like even though that shouldn’t effect anything. But we are humans and like to see human faces I think!
I strongly encourage you to experiment with these ideas. If they don’t work, you can always switch back to the old method.
See what your competitors are doing
Also it is good to be aware what your competitors are doing regarding author details, transparency and being open.
Are they publishing content with their own name and personal images? Do they tell their background story? Are they explaining how they make money? Are they even telling that they are really an affiliate website, not just a regular one?
If not, definitely try to outplay them by being more open and transparent in your website. Try how it works on your site.
3. Trust is everything
In my personal opinion trust is everything in affiliate websites. Usually a purchase decision is made via affiliate websites. If you don’t trust the affiliate website, conversions don’t happen.
Also, Google probably views affiliate websites at least somewhat YMYL (Your Money or Your Life). This means that affiliate websites are probably inspected more strictly on Page Quality and E-A-T.
This means that especially trustworthiness needs a lot of attention in affiliate sites. More general information about trustworthiness here in my E-A-T article.
However, in this article I will concentrate on my experiences in creating Trustworthiness in affiliate websites.
Be open about affiliate business model
Nothing breaks down trust more than if a visitor finds out you are an affiliate website – without you telling it openly to visitors.
To Google, it is acceptable to monetize a website (with an affiliate program or other ways) as it reads on Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines on page 14. Many websites couldn’t exist without monetization so that seems quite logical.
For the reader (and also Google) I think it is a good habit to mention openly that the website is an affiliate website.
I have done this myself using a short piece of text with a link to a separate affiliate disclosure web page. For example the text pieces could look like this:
This is an affiliate website. Read for more info here. OR We are using affiliate links to fund this website. Click for more info. OR All links marked with (*) are affiliate links. Read for more info here. OR Affiliate disclosure (this links to a separate page)
It is true that these kinds of texts can lower your CTR percentage. I think it is still a better way to do things.
If you get a Very High Page Quality rating from Google by being more honest and marking affiliate links, that will probably cover all the little losses in the small CTR drop and your earnings. At least I have gone this route and it has worked great for me.
In addition, Google advises to use
rel=sponsored tag on affiliate links, so trying to hide being an affiliate website makes little sense to me.
For me personally, I don’t mind clicking on affiliate links if I get tons of information to help my purchase decision for instance.
Generally I think that people want to thank the creator of a great content and affiliate links are one way to do that easily.
An example for a really helpful content is a monitor website called DisplayNinja (PS. I am not connected to DisplayNinja in any way). I have personally gotten so much valuable information from DisplayNinja in buying a new monitor so I have no problem clicking the Amazon affiliate links and buying a monitor.
What if some affiliate programs pay more money than others?
There are big differences in how much different affiliate programs pay out.
This is a big question in almost all affiliate websites. If an inferior product or service pays you more than a better one, will it affect your reviews or recommendations on the product?
It is really tempting to put a higher paying product higher in a review table. You could think that “maybe I will do it just once” and get back to recommending actually good products after that.
However, if you continue recommending low quality products and the visitor recognizes the pattern, the trust to your website can be gone quite quickly. This will affect visitor behavior statistics (like time on site etc.) and can decrease your Google rankings at least in a longer time period.
And in addition, that customer is probably lost and he/she will never come back to your affiliate website.
Therefore my recommendation is to do legit work and recommend only high quality products and services nevertheless how they pay out.
In my opinion this will be the definitely the more profitable road in the long term.
What about the not-so-good products and services?
In my experience, it is really worth to keep all types and various quality products and services in an affiliate website.
I have noticed that people like to purchase all types of products no matter how recommended or not recommended they are. It may be that someone just wants that product or a service, even though you review hasn’t been so good about it.
In conclusion, it is good to mention all pros and cons openly in every product or a service. And, there is always something good in most things.
In my opinion this creates balance to the affiliate website as not all products are great or awesome. If some product is great, there has to be the average product and the inferior product. There can be still buyers for each one.
This feels quite unintuitive and weird, but these are my honest observations in several years of experience in affiliate marketing websites.
4. Final thoughts
Usually SEO guides start with smaller and more technical startpoints. I decided to go with a bigger and broader view in this article. Please tell me how it worked?
In my opinion sometimes it is easier to start building the website with bigger concepts like personal values, motivation and reasons. From there you can start building more technical SEO like backlinks, structure, keywords and so on.
This was the Part 1 to Affiliate Marketing SEO on my guide. Upcoming articles will include topics I just mentioned like building backlinks to affiliate websites, thinking about the page structure and finding the right keywords to optimize the website.
Thanks for reading and feel free follow me on Twitter, so you don’t miss the next article.