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SEO Essentials for Amazon Associates

Websites and blogs that are built specifically for affiliate marketing receive the majority of their visitors from organic search engine traffic. To be successful, it’s critical to structure the website and its content to make it as easy as possible for search engines to read, understand, categorize, and rank them in search results—a process known as search engine optimization, or SEO.

The many variables involved in SEO can make it a very complex topic. Here, we’ll explain some basic but important measures that can easily be implemented by site owners. If your website doesn’t currently show up at the top of search results, implementing these SEO best practices can help improve visibility over time–and can improve the user experience of your website. This will increase the visitors’ time on your site, which in turn continues to improve your rankings.

Basic SEO

Keyword research

If search engines are ranking for keywords that are likely to get new visitors on your site and clicking on your affiliate links, then the most important thing is learning which keywords you want to target. Start off by considering what the topic of your site is, then think about what people may type into search engines to find that topic.

You can do some research on how many visits per month (the volume) of various potential keywords through the Google Keyword Planner. Even though it is intended for Google Ads, the principles and data are the same. 3rd parties also make both free and paid keyword research tools, such as WordStream, Moz, SpyFu, and SEMrush. The important thing is to balance the volume (higher is better) with the keyword difficulty and competition (lower is better), and find keywords that aren’t yet monopolized so you can write content that ranks high.

Content strategy

With your keywords chosen, you can start creating content like articles, guides, and blog posts related to them. Many Amazon Associates even create a content calendar, planning out in advance what they’re going to post and when. For example, if you run a fitness business and have found high ranking keywords around weight loss after the holidays, you can write a post on that topic. It’s important to include keyword variations and keyword synonyms in your content.

However, keyword density no longer leads to good search engine rankings, so don’t overdo it to game the system. Always preserve your natural writing style.

Duplicate content

There’s lots of good content already written out there, even content very similar to what you’re likely to want to post as an Amazon Associate. However, it’s important that the content you write is entirely original. Not only is it against your agreement with Amazon to take someone else’s content, but copy and pasting content is penalized by Google and it’s very easy for them to detect and figure out which came first.

Content length

The top ranking articles have an average length of over 1400 words. Make sure to write your pieces to be around 1500 words to be safe. The likely reason for this is that longer content tends to have more room for keywords and variations which can be detected by search crawlers, and also have rich enough content to be deemed of value both by human readers and search bots.

URL keywords

With your keywords established for a given webpage, you can start applying them throughout it. A good place to start is the URL or slug itself. Put the main keyword of your article or post in the URL of your webpage to help search engines understand what’s on the page. URLs are also displayed in the search engine results page (SERP), which is what searchers see after typing in their search. If a URL contains the keyword entered by the searcher, it will be shown in bold. This increases the chance that the searcher will click on the search result and land on your website.

For example, if someone searches for “best running shoes for people with arthritis”, a good URL for your article on that topic would be:
www.mywebsite.com/blog/best-running-shoes-arthritis/

With content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, you can define an individual permalink for each new page and article. The same holds true for popular website builders like SquareSpace and Wix. This URL should be defined before the page goes live—it’s not a good idea to change a URL after a page has been published. If you must change the URL after launch, use a 301 Redirect plugin to forward traffic to the new URL, so visitors and search engines will continue to find your page.

Title tags & meta descriptions

Metadata is information about your page that search engines use to understand it. Two important pieces of metadata your article needs are the title tag and meta description. These are special tags that search engines use to understand summary information about a page and its content. These appear in the SERP and serve as a preview of your page’s content.

Title tags should be no more than approximately 50-60 characters long including spaces (shorter is better for people searching on mobile devices). Searched keywords that are included in the title tag appear in bold, making it more likely that they get clicked, plus they’re directly more likely to make your page appear in the SERP.

Meta descriptions should be sufficiently descriptive of the page content and shorter than 120 characters so they don’t get cut off on mobile searches. Searched keywords also appear bold in these but are not directly related to the page’s ranking for those keywords. Think of these as an ad for your article. It’s a good idea to end them in a call to action, like “read today,” or “learn more!”

Most CMS have SEO plugins available to help ensure your pages have the correct metadata setup, and often include a preview of how your page is likely to show up in a search result.

Headlines and page structure

Always use headings to structure your articles and pages, using different heading types such as H1, H2, H3, etc. The first header on each page or post should always be an H1 tag. Always ensure headings are used in a logical order. For example, never use an H3 directly under an H1 heading, and avoid using headings purely to achieve a visual style over preserving the logical order of headings.

This helps search engines understand page structure, and also helps your readers skim and understand your content better. A page that’s just a block of identical text is likely to be left right away, resulting in a high bounce rate, but headings can help readers find exactly what content they want, including the affiliate links you’re placing. Be sure to avoid using headings to name or mark areas such as the navigation, sidebar, or footer on your site. This could impact your rankings.

Body content

In between all your headings is the meat of your article. This is where you want to place your main keyword in context, and its many synonyms as appropriate. Make sure to write mainly with your human readers in mind, versus search engine crawlers. If the content is rich and detailed enough, informative or educational, it will rank in time.

Pictures and alt text

You should enrich your content with pictures to make your website more attractive and improve the customer visitor experience. The image file name and alt text should also contain a relevant keyword, but still accurately reflect the content of the image. It is key to think about the file size of images you add to your site and to try and keep them as small as possible, without losing quality. The faster your site loads, the more professional it will appear and, ultimately, the higher it will rank.

All images should be stored in a compressed file format. The JPEG format (.jpg) is usually the best choice for full-color photos, where a little loss of quality is okay while retaining the ability to tell what it is, making file sizes very small and fast to load. PNGs are a lossless compression format, and while they take a little longer to load, they are good for text and drawings where losing quality would make it difficult to understand or read what is in them.

Look online for plentiful, low-cost stock image resources where you can quickly filter and find the right photo or illustration to complement your copy. These sites will list the requirements for purchasing rights or crediting the source so you can ensure you're staying on the right side of your associates operating agreement.

Technical SEO

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the most popular website analytics tool, and it’s free, making it a risk-free investment for content creators. It helps you track a number of essential metrics, including the top visited pages on your site, referrals (how visitors found your site), and the length of time spent on your pages.

It’s typically easy to set it up through a plugin on CMS like WordPress, or by adding your unique tracking code to the head element of your website or website template. The earlier you set it up on your site, the better, so you can compare data over time and figure out which of your marketing tactics, not just SEO, are working. You will need a Google account in order to set this up.

Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools

Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and Bing Webmaster Tools both offer an even deeper understanding of your SEO performance. They explain facets of your site like specifics around how many people are clicking links to your site from searches, what specific keywords are leading to the most traffic for you, and backlinks, i.e. who is linking to you. The amount and quality of these backlinks is also an important factor in SEO, so it’s good to check on them every so often.

XML sitemap

A sitemap is also vitally important to search engines when your site is new or not linked to from many other websites yet. This helps them know how many pages there are on your site, and know the hierarchy of the site, which they can’t always find on their own. The more of your site is easy to index, the more your content will benefit your SEO.

There are free online tools to help you generate an XML sitemap, and you can also look for this tool in your SEO plugin. Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, and they will begin to regularly visit your site for updates.

Page load times

One of the big factors in SEO is the page speed. The slower your page loads, the more likely a person is to get impatient and leave quickly, or “bounce”. This is interpreted by search engines as your site having low quality content, or simply the wrong content for the search query in question, which drives down its ranking and means less traffic and lower revenues from your affiliate links.

The loading time of your website is primarily affected by your web-hosting service and image sizes. Check the loading speed of your website using one of the many online speed test tools, such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Consider using image optimization and caching services/plugins, also known as “Lazy Load,” to improve load times.

Optimize for mobile

Search engines have increasingly placed emphasis on high performing mobile-friendly sites, because more than half of all traffic now comes from phones and tablets. Load times are even more crucial here, as well as how difficult it is to use on a mobile device. Look for mobile-friendly or responsive templates (layouts that automatically adjust to the viewer’s device) and test your site on your phone just as much as you would on a desktop computer.

Information architecture

Breadcrumb trails

Breadcrumb trails are a short list of links that show where a user is on your website, how many pages deep, and how to get back to your homepage. Not only is it very helpful for the user, but search engines consider it a best practice as it helps them navigate your site, too. You can choose templates that include them, as they need to be marked up in the code in a particular way that gets the search engines to place importance on them.

Internal cross linking and external links

The longer a user stays on your website, the better overall your pages can rank. Write your content with links to other relevant content on your site so that they stay longer. This also helps search engines and visitors understand the structure of your website and find your content even faster.

External links make it easy to share useful information (and product recommendations) with your visitors. A good tip when adding these links is to ensure that they open in a new tab within the browser, so that your visitors can easily return to your site.

301 redirects

Sometimes you need to change or rearrange the content of your site. For example, after reading this article you might realize there’s a lot about your site structure you’d like to reorganize. Changes are fine, but if you ever change the URL that points to a particular page, make sure you implement a 301 permanent redirect. That way, when someone visits the old link, they’ll still end up at the correct content. This also prevents you losing the SEO benefit of the old page, and lets the search engines know which page is the current one.
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