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No Ads. No Affiliate Links. Ever.
A few years ago I wouldn’t have written a blog post about affiliate marketing. It all seemed too dirty. But that’s changing now thanks to a few animal updates from Google.
These days it’s all about trust and authority – you need your readers to see your blog as an authority and you need Google to trust your SEO strategy. That means it’s harder than ever to succeed but it also means that the people willing to work away at it for months and years are doing very well.
In this post I’m going to show you:
At the end of it all I’m going to show you an example of this being done extremely well by a very nerdy individual who really knows how to match his traffic to a non-sleazy sale.
This is a pretty long post (Glen doesn’t let me eat unless they are) so grab your caffeine source and dive in.
Note from Glen: The above is true. Also, the example at the end of this post is AWESOME. That is all…
One of my main goals for exiting the “real world” and starting a blog was to create an income stream where I could work less and spend more time doing things I love and helping people that needed it. And one of the most powerful, sustainable and long-term methods is a trustworthy blog with carefully chosen affiliates.
Seeing as this strategy has worked well for me I thought I’d share the basic structure/idea so that others can hopefully make a bit of extra income.
How does it work?
You build a blog around a topic that you love or a keyword that you think might be profitable. Then you focus on creating quality evergreen content and a good social backing. You then create long-form articles with gently mentioned affiliates and funnel traffic towards them through useful and varied content on related sites.
If done right, this strategy can see you developing high converting articles that promote quality affiliates through top Google rankings for years to come.
How much can it earn?
I’m not a fan of going into detailed earnings predictions for this kind of post because then people tend to get upset when they don’t see the same results straight away. But for the sake of information I’ll say that I make enough to pay my rent and bills from this strategy and I know guys making upwards of $1000 a day.
Another note from Glen: I have a good blogging friend who is pulling in upwards of $10,000 a month from this strategy (no, not Pat) and you would never know it unless he told you.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned online is that things don’t last. Even the biggest sites in the world eventually fail (remember MySpace?).
Google is constantly updating its policies and algorithms and you often find that one day something is going extremely well and the next you’re struggling to find lunch money.
When implementing a blogging strategy like this one you need to do two things:
There is inherent risk in all business decisions but, if you can, you want to make sure that you are mitigating them as much as possible without talking yourself out of the race.
Now that the preliminary stuff is out of the way we can get into the three-staged process for getting this affiliate thing cranking.
Assuming you’re doing this my way, you’ve already got a blog built up (if not there’s a section for you down below) and that blog has a lot of earned authority. This authority comes in the form of quality distinctive content, an active Google+ account that is hooked up with Google Authorship, a strong and personal brand, a growing community, etc.
What this means is that you will need to select an affiliate program that:
If you take a look at Glen’s last two product releases, OptinSkin and PostSkin, you’ll notice that they have a very sharp and clean fit with his readership’s needs.
This most certainly was not an accident. They fit a very deliberate narrative in both this site’s journey and Glen’s own journey – those products are things he wanted to make for his own use as much as they were made for his readership and the wider blogging community. And because Glen is perceived as an authority in his niche the readers often purchase his products out of curiosity and a sense of not wanting to miss out.
It’s sometimes a tricky mix; you need to find something that you’ve used yourself but that also fits your readership. For example, you might use OptinSkin on your fashion blog but that doesn’t mean your fashion-interested readers will want to use it as well. The mix needs to be right from both a keyword and a reputation front.
Deciding before you start your blog
The reason I’ve put the “choosing your affiliate product” section before the “blog post writing and strategy” section is because it’s often really beneficial to know what affiliate keywords you’re going after before you start the blog. This gives you a good opportunity to craft the content and the tone of the discussion towards the promotion of the product in the reader’s “journey”.
If you are in this camp then Glen has done an amazing post on keyword research which is a really good place for you to start. The important thing to take note of there is the last part of the article that talks about things you are passionate about. Picking a niche or keyword set based solely on the idea of making quick cash is a really good way to lose interest.
After all of that is said and done, most of you already have a blog and will be looking to do this affiliate thing as an afterthought to the creation of the blog. That’s fine – you just need to take a little bit more time to craft a strategy that works for your readers as well as the search engines.
Where do I find the affiliate products?
The answer to this question totally depends on the type of blog that you are running because every affiliate goes through a different “broker”. The two best places to start are probably Commission Junction and Amazon Associates as they have a wide range of products from mostly quality sellers for you to look at.
The interesting thing to note, however, is that you can often go to the company that you’re interested in promoting directly and see if they have an affiliate program. OptinSkin is a good example – scroll down to the very bottom and you’ll find an invitation to become an affiliate.
In a recent post on blog hosting I decided to promote BlueHost as an affiliate as I had used them for years and felt comfortable talking about them to the hoards of readers asking me for recommendations. In the end I applied to the program through BlueHost itself and the stats, tracking and affiliate support offered has been much better as a result.
Lastly, I’ll show you an affiliate solution at the end of this post that is probably the most intelligent way to go about this part of the equation.
Okay this is where we start to get into the juicy bits. The idea now is to create an article that serves as the “final point” in the process before the reader buys the product.
It is not, however, a sales page. Sales pages don’t rank on Google as well as long form content that is informative and incredibly useful. So what you are trying to do is create a blog post that covers the topic and mentions the affiliate in a way that pikes interest and passes on your perceived authority to that product.
The best way I can think of to describe this vibe is to think about Roger Federer. This guy has never, ever told us to go out and buy Nike shoes or Wilson tennis rackets. But when I’m buying tennis gear that is always what I go to first because he is my favorite player and I somehow connect his success to the products that he uses.
Your blogging authority should work in a similar way. You aren’t necessarily telling them to go out and buy it but you’re setting up a situation where they want to check it out and potentially get involved because they trust you and what you do.
So when you are writing this article there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
So it doesn’t really matter whether you are telling a giant story, writing a comparative review post or reviewing a single product as long as you get the above elements right. That is what will make it an “ultimate article”.
Again, if you have authority and you do the next part right you’ll find that this long form article converts extremely well.
So we are on to stage three now – you’ve chosen your affiliate product, you’ve written your “ultimate article” and now you are going to start developing a funnel that sends you traffic, rankings and hopefully some long term buyers.
I have to emphasise at this point that this is not meant to be a short term thing. This strategy is intended to provide a boost to your ultimate article so you are actively promoting it in a way that is also beneficial to your trust and rankings.
The idea here is to create guest post, video and social networking content that is aimed at “pre-interested” people in your niche. You create this content around sub-topics that prime people for you main articles and include keyword appropriate links back to your ultimate article.
Let’s do an example:
Your blog – BonsaiGrowingHQ.com
Your ultimate article – The Beginner’s Guide to Growing a 100-Year-Old Bonsai
Your affiliate product(s) – a quality Bonsai training course, Bonsai tools and pots, etc.
Guest post one – The 50 Most Beautiful Bonsais of All Time
Guest post two – The Top 10 Trees for Growing a Bonsai
Video one – How to Correctly Trim a Bonsai’s Branches and Roots
Each of these will be the same sort of quality as your ultimate article except instead of affiliate links you will make the main link at the top of the content a relevant link back to your big post. It’s important that you get this link at the top of the article and get the anchor text correct.
IMPORTANT: Since the latest Google update you have to be extra careful with your anchor text. If you just write “Bonsai growing” as the anchor text on every guest post you do it will look extremely unnatural and Google will likely penalize you. The SEO factor is only part of the reason you are writing these posts so don’t risk a penalty by being too aggressive.
Boosting your guest posts
The other interesting thing you can do with these guest posts is use them to build links to your other guest posts. This has the dual effect of protecting your ultimate article as well as giving it more link-juice and elevating the posts that link to that article.
For example, if you link to your ultimate article in a guest post called The 50 Most Beautiful Bonsais of All Time then in your next guest post on a different site make sure you also link to that guest post.
What you are very gently doing is increasing the number of avenues through which people will find your chosen affiliate program and be interested in purchasing it while simultaneously building trust with Google and hinting at them where you’d like to be indexed.
Choosing the guest posting sites and topics carefully
There are a few things you need to think about when you are looking for sites to guest post on as well as choosing the topics that you are going to write about.
I don’t think you need to be too rigid with this strategy. As I said, it’s a long term game that you are creating gently over time. Just be sure not to overcook things by going too aggressive or making your anchor text too similar and you should start to see results fairly quickly.
An important note on anchor text
There are a lot of really smart people out there predicting that anchor text is on its way out. I’d like to join them. That way you’ll think I’m really smart when it happens.
In the old days of SEO you’d build backlinks using relevant anchor text. So, for example, if you wanted to rank for “bonsai trees” that would be the link text you’d use in your guest posts. And then the Panda update happened and Google took a swipe at unnatural link profiles which meant that SEOs started making their anchor text more natural (things like “click here to read the rest”).
My prediction is that the next big thing will be Google using the referring page to pick up keywords instead of the anchor text. Anchor text is too easy to game. There are already people saying that they are getting better results when a referrer links straight to their home page with their site name instead of any keywords. The keywords are now in the referring post.
Using this strategy for your mailing list
I should point out at this stage that I’ve used this strategy quite effectively to attract new email subscribers as opposed to just focusing on affiliate sales.
For example, for a long time I had a free eBook on Blog Tyrant called How to Increase Email Subscribers by 120% Overnight. I then went out and wrote guest posts about topics to do with growing a mailing list or the importance of having a large subscriber base in order to “plant the seed” for my eBook.
These guest posts converted extremely well for me when the posts went live – sometimes getting over 100 extra email subscribers from the article. By then building links to these guest posts I have found they get indexed quite well and continue to send me love.
I wanted to end this post by giving you an example of how an excellent ultimate article on a site with a lot of trust can sell a crap-tonne of affiliate products if the right product is chosen.
Please note, however, that this person didn’t really build links to the post directly using the guest post strategy that I mentioned above. Rather, they focused on building authority by focusing on community, creating long-form content, etc. and then using a well ranked article to sell a product.
The message is spot on. If you can apply the lessons from this particular example to your own blog you will be on a winner.
Steve Kamb’s Paleo Diet article on Nerd Fitness
The example that I wanted to show you is an article written by Steve Kamb called The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet.
I first found out about this post when talking to Glen one day and then found out more when I interviewed Steve for a video series that I have coming out soon. Turns out this post is absolutely killing it.
Steve has very kindly agreed to share some stats about his Paleo Post.
Post description: 4,000+ words, 21 photos, one video.
Total page views: Over 3,000,000 since 2010.
Page views in the past 30 days: 275,000.
Total social reach: 700 comments, 17,000 Facebook Likes, 700 Tweets.
Panda update effects: Post went from 500 views per day to over 8,000 per day.
Google rankings: 3 to 6 for “paleo diet” behind Wikipedia and the diet’s official site.
Affiliate product: His own “Is it Paleo?” app.
Sales: Over 25,000 since December.
Steve told me during a recent email conversation (he knows I’m posting this!):
Thanks to NF’s growth and the popularity of my article on the Paleo Diet, this app continues to sell 100-200+ copies a day without a dollar spent on advertising. The number of downloads fluctuates depending on where we are ranking for “Paleo Diet” searches (I can pretty accurately predict app sales based on where the article is ranked on that day). Since launching the 99 cent app in December, it’s already been downloaded over 25,000 times.
There are other apps that do similar things, but thanks to the size of NF and the ranking of that article, we outrank all of them in the app store and usually crack the top 25 for Health and Fitness every day. Also, thanks to the supportive NF community and a simple app that does what it’s supposed to, 98% of our reviews are 4 and 5 star reviews, which helps for people who have never heard of Nerd FItness and find us in the app store instead of through the article.
Steve has been extremely clever here because his affiliate product is completely owned by his company. This is the perfect example of matching an affiliate to a traffic stream. He wrote a high quality evergreen article that naturally developed trust due to his strong brand and large community and then developed the app to solve the problem of thousands of people asking him, “Dude, is that food Paleo?”
NOTE: Steve still loves to be asked whether certain foods are Paleo. Find him on Twitter.
Now, not everyone has the massive site architecture and authority behind them that Steve does. That is where the guest posting and related content strategy comes in. Essentially you are leverage the authority that your guest post sites have in order to rank and drive traffic to your ultimate article.
While writing this post I have wondered how much Steve could increase his sales by creating more brilliant Paleo content and publishing it around the beginner-web to tap into markets where people might not have yet thought to search for “Paleo Diet”.
To reward everyone who read to the end of the post (well done!) Glen and I are going to stick around for a while and answer any questions you might have about the affiliate set up on your own blog.
Do you have an “ultimate article” or a sales page that isn’t performing very well? Are you struggling with your affiliate product selection? Do you have your own product that isn’t getting traffic?
Drop a comment with the deets and we’ll see what we can do. Extra love if you share the post!