SEO 101: For Affiliates

When it comes down to generating more HostGator affiliate sales, there are tons of ways to generate traffic to your offers. While each approach has its share of pros and cons, getting free traffic from search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Baidu and others is one of our favorites, since those are visitors who are actively raising their hands and saying, “Help me get more information on this topic.”

Plus, the price for the traffic is right. Who doesn’t like free?

In this guide, we’re going to show you the basics of how to get the search engines to show you some love by sending you floods of free traffic while providing some tips and resources to make the journey much easier.

seo101_affiliates

 

SEO 101 Elements

  • Good keyword research to find profitable keywords
  • Proper site architecture
  • Create unique, descriptive page titles and meta descriptions
  • Publish unique, helpful content
  • Use headings to structure your page content
  • Good Internal linking

It All Starts With Good Keyword Research

When it comes to keyword research, going after the highest volume keywords isn’t usually the best way to go, especially as you’re starting out. While we understand the desire to get your site in front of hundreds of thousands of people who may be a great fit for HostGator’s products, here are a few things to keep in mind:

 

The highest volume keywords are often too broad.

Take the example of someone who starts a site targeting the highly lucrative weight loss niche that decides to target super high volume phrases like “weight loss” and “lose weight”. Sure, there are a ton of people (no pun intended, this time) around the world who are looking for ways to drop a few pounds, but a large percentage are just looking for free information on ways to lose weight.

This person is going to spend an insane amount of time and money to go after super broad terms that are owned by companies with big search teams and marketing budgets in the millions of dollars like:

  • Weight Watchers
  • Jenny Craig
  • WebMD
  • The Biggest Loser
  • And more

Doesn’t it make more sense to go after more targeted, albeit lower search volume, keywords with commercial intent?

 

The Long Tail Is Your Friend

Long tail keywords are phrases that are usually 3-6 words long, and even though they typically have much lower volumes than broad terms, this is where the proverbial “gold” lies.

To stick with our weight loss example, do you think people who found a site who did a search like “best weight loss products for new moms” are looking to spend some money on products that will solve their problems?

Of course they are!

 

A Simple Way To Determine Commercial Intent

Now that you’ve found a handful of phrases that you think could be worthwhile to target on your site, you need to get an idea if they’re actually buying keywords or if you’ll end up investing time and money to attract traffic that doesn’t convert.

After all, you’re reading this guide to increase your affiliate earning with HostGator, right?

A simple way to determine if there’s commercial intent behind the phrases you’ve decided to explore is a two-step process:

  • First, do the phrases include modifiers that someone who is potentially looking to buy might use?
  • Examples:
    • “best”
    • “top”
    • “cheap”
    • “review”
    • “buy”
  • Secondly, are their paid advertisers aggressively bidding on the terms?
    • If paid advertisers are willing to pay high cost-per-click prices (CPC), doesn’t it stand to reason that those terms are likely driving profitable sales?
    • Very long tail keywords can be the exception, since big paid advertisers may not yet have discovered them.
    • While there’s no set minimum CPC, you would be smart to be wary of targeting keywords that have CPC’s under a couple bucks, since if advertisers aren’t willing to pay good money to target those keywords, that’s usually a good sign that they’re not extremely profitable.

Now that you’ve built your targeted keyword list that includes keywords which will likely lead to more affiliate sales, it’s time to get into the “meat” of this guide. Too bad you paid for your entire seat, because you’re only going to need the edge!

 

Setting Up Your Website For SEO Success

The way that you setup your website can have a huge impact on your SEO success, since your site architecture can help both visitors and spiders better understand how you’ve structured your content. While this isn’t intended be a guide on good web design, there are a number of simple things you can do which will help to improve your SEO efforts.

 

URL Structures

First, put some though into how you setup your URL structure. Is it clean, concise and logical?

At first glance, you can get an idea of what the content is about in the top example, while the bottom example is anyone’s guess. This helps both visitors and search engine spiders understand what your site is about.

 

Changing URL Structures In WordPress

Note: Many of our affiliates use WordPress to build their sites, so if you’re using WordPress, you’ll have to edit the default permalink structure to get “clean” permalinks like the example above. More information about WordPress’ permalink settings can be found below.

A Quick Word of Caution: There are some things which can affect your ability to use “pretty” URL’s including some settings on your web server or how your WordPress theme was coded, so use caution with making this or any changes to your WordPress site.

If this change ends up causing any issues with your existing permalinks, change the permalink setting back to its previous setting and clear your cache (if you’re using a caching plugin).

 

Where To Go In WordPress To Change Your URL Structure

As of this writing, you go under “Settings” => “Permalinks” => “Custom Structure”.

In the text box, enter the tags for how you would like to structure your URL’s.

  • Example: If you setup a category named “Hosting Reviews” and you want that to be included in your URL structure, here’s what you would put in the text box: /%category%/%postname%
  • Permalink Example: http://www.yoursite.com/hosting-reviews/a-great-post-promoting-hostgator/

If you wish to structure your URL’s in a different fashion, be sure to check out the guide on WordPress.org linked above to learn about the other tags that you can use.

Now that you’ve put some thought into how to structure your content from a site architecture standpoint, it’s time to get into some actual on-page SEO.

 

SEO 101 On-Page Elements

When it comes down to optimizing your site for search, there are a lot of things you can do to increase your chances of ranking for competitive terms from an on-page standpoint, but there are really only a handful that make a big difference.

These include:

  1. Unique, Targeted Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
  2. Helpful Content That Provides Value To Your Visitors
  3. Avoid Duplicate Content
  4. Use Header Tags To Structure Your Content
  5. Good Internal Linking

 

Unique, Descriptive Page Titles and Meta Descriptions

Page titles are the easiest way to communicate to the search engines what the content of a web page is about. To use the analogy of a book; it’s the main title that’s displayed prominently on the front cover. Given how visible it is, this is the first place that you want to include the phrases that you’re trying to rank for in the search engines.

 

What Makes A Good Page Title?

Like the rest of SEO, creating good pages is a mix of science and art. While there are certainly best practices to keep in mind when you’re creating your page titles, there is some room to experiment with regards to what phrases to use, if you include calls to action, whether or not to incorporate some branding and many other options that are beyond the scope of this guide.

Pro tip: Pay attention to the page titles of sites that are ranking as you use the search engines, since this can give some insight into what’s currently working in different niches.

  • What do their titles look like?
  • Where in the page titles are the words that you searched for?
  • Are they shorter in length, or do they have the ellipses at the end?
  • Are they incorporating something interesting that you can test with your own site?

 

Page Title Best Practices

  • Approximately 65 characters wide or less to avoid your title from being cut off at the end.
  • Include the most important phrases you’re trying to target towards the beginning of the title.

Good Example:

good-example

Bad Example:

bad_example

 

What Makes A Good Meta Description?

While there’s very little, if any, ranking benefit to having your targeted keywords in the meta description, it’s still something we’d recommend you try to incorporate if possible, since your keywords will show up in bold text.

Take the example results above for the keyword “college football tickets”. You can see how the phrase stands out in the meta description in the top result which is another indicator to the searcher that this may be exactly what they’re looking for.

Really, the main purpose of the meta description is to communicate to the potential visitor why they should visit your page, so be sure to sell your unique value!

 

Pro Tip: Do you do any PPC advertising? Taking your top performing PPC ad copy and echoing that sentiment into your meta descriptions can have a big effect on your click through rate (CTR), since you now have hard data that shows what is most important to someone who is using specific types of keywords.

You can also test out of the ad copy of competitors that are bidding highly in paid search, since if they’re consistently in the top paid positions for your targeted keywords, they’re likely driving profitable traffic with the ads.

 

Meta Description Best Practices

  • The primary purpose of a meta description is to entice the searcher to click on your listing, so the right message can have a big effect on your CTR.
  • Keywords are bolded in the SERP’s, but there’s very little, if any ranking, benefit. Use keywords as it makes sense, but it’s more effective to focus on demonstrating the value your site will deliver once the searcher clicks on your listing.
  • Meta descriptions are about 155 characters long (Google actually switched to measuring by pixel width, but that’s a good target).

 

Create Good, Helpful Content That Provides Value

Imagine for a second that search engines didn’t exist. You wouldn’t create content that’s stuffed with a bunch of nonsense keywords, right?

01

I don’t think anyone would, since it’s just as painful to create, as it is to read.

Considering how sensitive most peoples’ spam detectors are, even if someone creating poor content scores the click, they’re more likely to lose the visitor once they see the lack of value provided. There goes another sale to an affiliate who lead with genuine value.

 

Using Heading Tags To Structure Your Content

02Using heading tags to segment your content in a way that makes it easier for both your visitors and the search engine spiders to quickly understand what your page is about can also give you a little boost in the SERP’s. It is similar to a book, if the page title is like the title of the book, heading tags are the chapter titles.

 

Heading Tag Best Practices

  • Use only 1 H1 tag per page.
  • Using keywords in your heading tags will help, but they’re not required to be in every one.
  • Rules for deciding which heading tag to use (H1, H2, H3, H4, etc.) can be a little tricky, but luckily, there’s no risk of messing anything up. Don’t over-think this one.
  • Don’t just use headings to make text bigger or bold. Use CSS or other tags to style your text.

 

A Sample Layout Using Heading Tags

03

Internal linking

One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to influence your onsite SEO is linking to other relevant pages on your site. By linking to your other pages, especially with descriptive anchor text, you can improve your on-page engagement metrics (higher time on site, lower bounce rate, more pages per session, etc.) while driving more visitors to your HostGator offer pages.

Wikipedia does a phenomenal job of interlinking their pages, so check out this example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_Steelers

Note: You can also see how they’re using heading tags to layout their content as well by viewing the page source code in your browser.

 

Internal Linking Best Practices

  • Try to be reasonably consistent with the anchor text in the internal links to your “money” pages.
    • Example: You run a site that sells the ever-popular widgets. Your money page that targets visitors looking for blue widgets shouldn’t have anchor text targeting red widgets.
    • Link to other relevant pages on your site, but don’t go overboard.
      • Unless you have thousands of pages worth of content on your site, you likely don’t need to link to dozens of other pages.
    • Don’t link a page to itself in order to try and pass anchor text relevancy.
      • Sometimes a Webmaster will link a page to itself in the middle of the content in an attempt use their desired anchor text one more time.
      • Best case: This wastes your current search engine crawl budget by detouring the spiders, so your money pages get crawled less.
      • Worst case: Clicking on a link that takes the visitor back to the same page is not a good user experience.
      • A bad user experience can result in lower affiliate commissions.
    • Be sure you’re linking to the canonical version of the page.
      • This is really just SEO nerd speak to say “make sure you’re not linking to multiple different versions of the same page”.
        • Common examples of duplicate URL’s:
          • http://www.example.com
          • http://example.com
          • http://www.example.com/index.php
          • http://www.example.com/?url_parameter=123
  • We’ll cover how to fight duplicate content issues like the ones above more in depth in another guide.

 

Now Go Put What You’ve Learned To Use

 SEO is one of those things where it’s part science and part art, so while there many technical aspects that can be implemented which have a very strong correlation with higher rankings in the SERP’s, it’s also going to take some experimentation and hard work to get that critical leg up on your competitors.

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy, but the rewards that you’ll enjoy by incorporating good SEO into your HostGator affiliate promotional arsenal will come as long as you put what you’ve learned in this guide to use and continue with you education.

You can do it!

 – Your Team at HostGator

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http://twitter.com/hostgator
http://google.com/+hostgator
http://www.youtube.com/hostgator
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The content of this guide is presented for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or other professional advice.  HostGator.com LLC (“HostGator”) is not liable for any damages of any kind related to the use of the information presented in this guide.  Unless otherwise noted, all third parties mentioned in this guide are not affiliated with HostGator in any way and do not endorse or sponsor this guide.

 

 

Additional Resources

Increase Your SEO Knowledge

http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo

http://moz.com/search-ranking-factors

http://moz.com/blog/future-of-search-ranking-factors

http://www.distilled.net/training/

http://www.seerinteractive.com/blog

 

Free Toolbars For Page-Level Analysis

http://moz.com/tools/seo-toolbar

http://tools.seobook.com/seo-toolbar/

 

Keyword Research

http://adwords.google.com/keywordplanner

http://www.wordstream.com/free-keyword-tools

http://www.ubersuggest.org – This tool scrapes Google’s suggest feature, so you can get long tail keyword ideas that people actually use.

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/top-search-queries – See what keywords are already getting impressions and clicks to your site.

http://www.bing.com/toolbox/keywords – Confidence metric gives an idea of commercial intent as well.

http://tools.seochat.com/tools/related-keywords-tool/

 

SEO Tools (Free & Paid)

http://moz.com/partners/hostgator – Get a free 60 day, no contract required trial of Moz Analytics, a leading inbound marketing analytics platform used by thousands of marketers to get a leg up on their competition.

http://www.marketsamurai.com – Keyword research and some competitive data.

http://www.traffictravis.com – Onsite recommendations with rank tracking.

http://www.seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html – See what your page title and meta description might look like in the SERP’s.

http://www.opensiteexplorer.com – View competitive data on yours or your competitor’s URL’s. Free with daily limits.

 

Keyword Ranking Tools

http://tools.seobook.com/seo-toolbar/ – This also includes some good competitive data on a per page level.

http://www.fatjoe.co.uk/fat-rank – Check ranks via a Chrome plugin.