What is affiliate marketing SEO?
This week, we’ll go through what it is, how you can make revenue off it, why it’s important to news publishers and a few good examples out there right now
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Hello and welcome back. It’s Shelby, writing like a zombie after the Super Bowl yesterday. I can now confidently tell you every way that people were searching for whether Rihanna’s magnificent halftime show was actually a low key pregnancy announcement. (And shoutout to this great piece on the history of “what time is the Super Bowl?” Search is fun, friends.)
This week: Affiliate marketing SEO 101. We’ll go through what it is, how you can make revenue off it, why it’s important to news publishers and a few good examples out there right now. In a later issue, we’ll dive into best practices for your affiliate program.
We will cover advanced affiliate marketing SEO in a future newsletter – so send us your burning questions.
Next week: We’ll be off for Family Day here in Ontario. In lieu of a new edition, dive into our archive of great interviews instead: Lily Ray, Megan Griffith-Greene or Barry Adams.
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Let’s get it.
In this issue:
What is affiliate SEO?
Why is it important for news publishers?
Examples of affiliate SEO in news
What is affiliate SEO?
Affiliate SEO is the process of optimizing stories that use referrals to sell products or services, where the publisher makes a commission off the purchase. These pages could be roundups of the best products in a category, a really good one-time deal or event-specific, such as Black Friday or Prime Day. The goal, ultimately, is for readers to click on an affiliate link and buy a product.
Affiliate marketing requires the user to see the affiliate link on the website, click on it and purchase the service or product from that merchant, and then the affiliate (publisher) would be paid a commission when the sale is made.
According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 53 per cent of consumers research products on a search engine like Google before deciding whether or not to invest in a product or service.
Affiliate SEO requires you to focus on different types of keywords. Typically in news SEO, we’re worried about informational intent keywords – the ones that help the reader fill a knowledge gap. However, because we’re trying to encourage a reader to purchase a product from our page, we’re focusing on commercial and transactional keywords.
Commercial keywords are searchers looking to investigate brands or services. These searches tend to focus on learning more about a product of service, comparing the products or looking for the best price. Keywords like “best chromebooks” or “ipad vs ipad air” are examples of commercial intent. We can target listicles, roundups or reviews with these keywords.
Transactional keywords are more direct and usually end with some form of purchase. These have the strongest intent to buy or take action. These searches tend to happen after someone has already made a decision. Keywords like “buy macbook” or “airpods for sale” are examples of transactional intent. We can target deals pages, lists with the best prices for certain products or event-focused pages with these keywords.
Why is affiliate SEO important for news publishers?
The answer is simple: Revenue.
Affiliate programs provide an alternative form of revenue for publishers that is separate from advertising or subscriptions. It also expands the trust, expertise and authority of a publisher – if done correctly. A publisher that provides a good affiliate experience is likely to get return readers.
With affiliate SEO, you can reach a wide variety of potential customers and readers for your wider publication.
Affiliate SEO also requires a heavy emphasis on E.E.A.T, including the addition of “experience.” Google (and readers) want to know that your publication has first-hand experience with these products, expertise around their quality and use, and will provide a trustworthy review that leads people to purchase the product.
Ensure your affiliate program fits into your publication’s overall business and editorial goals and provides value to your readers (trustworthy reviews, best-of products that have been vetted, etc.).
Key metrics for commerce SEO will also be different from news articles. For example, you may be worried about clicks and subscriptions from an investigative piece of journalism, but more concerned about average order value (AOV) or effective earnings per click (eEPC) from a listicle about the best robot vacuums for small spaces.
Publishers expanding into affiliate SEO be warned: With the addition of experience to E.E.A.T and the added emphasis that Google is putting on trust, it’s more important than ever that sites with affiliate marketing provide a full review that includes hands-on experience, reviews of the good and bad, as well as an unbiased recommendation. Ensure you can provide thorough and unique reviews, a breadth of expertise and aren’t relying solely on third-party accounts.
Still skeptical? Search Engine Land went through a few affiliate SEO myths and debunked them.
Examples of affiliate SEO in news
Affiliate programs can look different across publishers. What is important is that the focus of the program – whether it is a breakout site from your main site, or a vertical within your main ecosystem – is in alignment with your publication’s overall goal.
These are some of my favourite examples of affiliate programs and their SEO efforts.
Wirecutter is a product review site owned by the New York Times. It has an impressive repository of roundups, reviews, listicles and deal hub pages, and was acquired by the Times in 2016.
What they do well: On most of their “best” roundup pages, Wirecutter includes a section with links to all of their research and associated categories before diving into the products. It demonstrates their breadth of experience and expertise without being forced to choose a product.
The Verge is operated by Vox Media. They cover tech and consumer news, and their commerce offering focuses primarily on technology products and services, but will sometimes dive into tech-adjacent categories.
What they do well: All encompassing reviews. The Verge does a very good job showcasing their hands-on experience with a product in a digestible format with simple language. Their review on the Nowatch provides a detailed account of their experience with the product. Additionally, they include a link at the bottom to how they rate and review products. Most sites have some form of a how we test article, but including it right below the main card is a helpful E.E.A.T signal.
PCMag is a tech news and product review site that started as a computer magazine and moved online in 1994. It provides an extensive list of reviewed tech products and services that a reader may be interested in. PcMag is a subsidiary of Ziff Davis, which also owns Mashable.
What they do well: PCMag always includes the year in their title tags and headlines, as well as an updated timestamp, to ensure they are reflecting the most up-to-date information. Their author bios are also right after the headline to signal the authors’ expertises.
Mashable is a tech and entertainment website with an affiliate vertical that focuses on the best products to make your life better. The vertical is newer, but primarily provides reviews and roundups for tech products and tech-adjacent categories (such as outdoor activities, home and garden, and fitness). Mashable is owned by Ziff Davis. (As a note, I also worked on Mashable for nine months.)
What they do well: Highlighting deals and price drops. It can be difficult to write a story on a price decline for a product when the shelf life could be mere hours, but Mashable highlights the sale of something they are promoting every time. This is a smart way to set expectations and build reader habits. Below you can see the addition of “save 49%” to the heading of the VPN to highlight a deal.
TechRadar is an online tech publication providing news and reviews of tech products and gadgets. TechRadar also has a separate site called techradar.pro, which focuses on business computing and IT news and product reviews. It is owned by Future Inc.
What they do well: Drilling down into every niche. TechRadar does a really great job expanding a category to focus on every subsection within it. Additionally, I really enjoy the way they include author bios for their contributors (i.e., authors that may not be a regular writer), which is a best practice Lily Ray suggested a few weeks ago.
There are many other sites that also do affiliate marketing, but these are some examples to explore if you’re considering adopting a strategy of your own.
The bottom line: Affiliate marketing SEO can be a new way to expand the topical authority of your site as well as the literal bottom line. Before jumping into an affiliate SEO strategy, think about where it fits into your publication and how it aligns with your editorial goals.
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Lily Ray: The role of AI content in SEO.
Search Engine Journal: Google BardAI – What sites were used to train it?
Insider: The search war between Microsoft and Google has the ad industry caught in the crosshairs.
Search Engine Journal: Google sets the record straight: AI content in search results.
Lidia Infante: The gender gap in SEO publishing.
thruuu: Topic clusters and how to increase your traffic by 100x.
Search Engine Roundtable: Microsoft Bing updates & webmaster guidelines.
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Written by Jessie Willms and Shelby Blackley