Affiliate Marketing Keyword Research: Which Keywords Make the Final Cut?

Keyword research for affiliate marketing and national SEO is a big deal. There are an an unlimited number of keywords to target and so many factors to consider… how do you narrow down your list to ultimately pick a handful of keywords to target?

I’m writing this guide assuming that you’ve already picked the niche you want to work in, know the product(s) you wish to promote, have used tools like Google Keyword Tool or even this free keyword tool to find good candidates to target, and have narrowed down your list to a handful of works you think would be good to rank for.

Depending on the competitiveness of the word, if you’ve spent any amount of time doing national SEO, you know that it can take a tremendous amount of resources (time and money) to rank for just a single word. With that said, which word(s) do you go after?

We have spent a lot of time as affiliate marketers on trying to rank the wrong words. We’ve had dozens of words get to page 2 of Google only to juice them up with multiple links from strong domains (we’re talking spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on investing in these domains at auction and even renting high DA links) only to not see the words budge much… maybe position 15 to 11. We were becoming increasingly frustrated because we thought we would be able to rank for those words but then we realized we shouldn’t have picked those words at all.

So here is one strategy to narrow down which keywords to target to increase your chances of success, decrease the amount of resources you need to allocate to a particular keyword and ultimately have the largest ROI possible.

Do proper keyword research, pick a handful of keywords you think you can rank for and put them up on your website.

For each word you think you want to rank for (be reasonable… don’t choose 100) throw up a quick page on your website and do basic on-page SEO for each keyword. Make sure you put the keyword in the H1 tag, title, description, within the body content and maybe even in an alt tag. Create a silo structure with your words if you feel it is appropriate. Throw up a very minuscule amount of content so there is something on the page but don’t put your heart and soul into it… 300 words should be just fine.

What we are doing here is creating a minimum viable product (MVP), or page in this case. Do the minimum amount of work required to see if where each keyword ranks on its own without great content and without any link building efforts.

Drop keywords into SerpWoo.

SerpWoo is great because you can analyze the top 30 competitors and SERP movement for each word. Why is this important? You can’t gauge the competition of a word based on some competitive percentage from MOZ or some ratio that you come up with dividing various factors. You can’t gauge competition by number of allintitles or allinurls. You need to analyze the actual competition as far as who is ranking, how stable they are, how aged their site is, among other metrics.

We’ve tried all the above methods for measuring keyword competitiveness only to get stuck on page 2 for months. We’ve built a disgusting number of high-powered links, improved content, improved on-page SEO, adjusted anchor text densities, done a tiered linking campaign, only to have Google give us the finger and keep us on page 2 for many keywords. And last I checked, page 2 doesn’t make money!

Nobody likes to talk about it, but in reality a lot of affiliate marketers get stuck on page 2… likely because they picked the wrong keyword to go after.

Over the next week or two SerpWoo will collect SERP data for each keyword you are trying to rank for. You can check to see who is in the top 30 for yourself but the web is dynamic and not static… we are concerned about patterns. SerpWoo will show you positions of your competitors over time. So stick the words in there and be patient for 1-2 weeks. In the screenshot below you can see that we’ve been collecting data on some of our keywords of interest for 3 months now.

After 1-2 weeks check your rankings.

Most of our sites index pages and show up in Google pretty quick, but some sites need longer than this to gain any amount of traction. So give it enough time and see where each keyword and page ranks.

Here is a website that we found when scraping expired domains. We used it gently as a PBN for a while but then decided to use it as a money site because the metrics were so good, it was branded and had some age. After doing our initial keyword research we created a bunch of minimum viable pages and dropped the words in SerpBook to track. Here is where were at after 2 weeks.

If you want quick results and quick money you may want to spend your time pushing up keywords that are already ranking well instead of keywords that can’t seem to break the top 100. Keep in mind that your content is pretty poor at this point, but in our experience, even by building out a MVP we have seen some great rankings, as high as 13 or so and we don’t waste time on keywords that don’t stand a chance. Logic says that it may be quicker and easier to get the keyword ranking 13 to page 1 instead of a keyword that is ranking 70.

Assess which keyword(s) may be best target so that you can proceed to comparing the best options in SerpWoo.

Analyze SerpWoo Results

Now that you’ve waited a couple weeks you should have some pretty good data in SerpWoo. Here are some of the things you will want to look at to determine which keyword you should go for and more importantly, which to not waste your time on. In reality you may be able to rank for anything, but you need to determine if it’s worth it.

8 Important Factors to Look At

There are 8 important factors to look at when finishing up your keyword research. As with any metric or data you can’t go off of any one thing by by looking at the keywords and competitors as a whole you should get a better idea of which keywords are in reach.

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4. Stability of the SERPs

See the different screenshots below taken from SerpWoo. If the SERPs are extremely stable then this obviously indicates that there is not much movement which could mean that it may be difficult to break into the top. You can see in the screenshot below that the top 10, even 20 positions for this keyword have not changed much over the past month.

On the other hand, if the SERPs are volatile then this is a good sign. While the top 6 positions in the SERPs are pretty stable, the SERP movement is pretty violent below for this keyword.

If you track your keywords long-term you will see that sites can come out of nowhere and work their way up through the SERPs. I suggest you track all of your keywords in SerpWoo so that you have a full picture of what is going on with your competition over time. If someone is moving to the top maybe you can take a look at their site and backlink profile to see what might be the cause.

5. Age of domains in the SERPs

In addition to looking at brands and pages in the SERP results you will also want to look at the age of the domains.

If they are all big brand names with a 20-year-old domain you may be fighting an uphill battle if you choose to go after that keyword. However, if some of the sites look a bit newer, especially a newer affiliate site, that may mean that you have a fighting chance.

You can see that the #1 search result in the SERPs for this particular keyword is only 4 years old. The other sites ranking aren’t that newer which means that we should be able to mimic that age. But if the SERPs are saturated with 20-year-old sites then it could be a little more difficult to squeeze in.

6. Keyword search volume

What is the volume of this keyword? Believe it or not you can make some pretty good money off of keywords with a low search volume because there may not be a lot of people targeting those keywords. We have one page that makes us about $100/month and until recently we’ve done no link building to it. It was in the top 10 positions of Google for many keyword variations.

You can either build a few affiliate sites that make a ton of money in competitive niches or swoop up the non-competitive niches and make money by the sheer volume of pages you have.

7. Income potential

This may be obvious, but what is the income potential of that keyword? If the commission is only $1.00 per sale is it worth it to spend time ranking for that keyword? Maybe yes maybe no. Think about how much money you may need to spend to get to page 1 and how long it may take you to have a positive ROI.

8. Conversion potential

There are plenty of big ticket items such as this $20,000 hostage negotiation robot (yes… our affiliate tracking ID is in the link just in case) to promote as an affiliate with commissions of $100+. But if you think about it, people spending that much money will probably be doing a lot of research and probably won’t buy from your site.

While you can provide them with that research and your affiliate links it’s likely that they will sleep on it for a night, month or year and the chances of getting a commission will be slim. They also might do all the research on your site and then go directly to the manufacturer to make their purchase.

Think about the balance between high commissions and high conversions. The products that do the best often find a happy medium between the two.

By going through this process of keyword research, building minimum viable pages, tracking those keywords in SerpWoo and fully understanding the competition of the keywords you are trying to rank for, it should save you a bit of time and beating your head against the wall.

Can you go off of any one of these metrics alone? No! Might you follow this guide and still pick bad keywords or not be able to rank? Yes! SEO will never be an exact science but having a solid keyword research method is a great place to start.

Join the Conversation

We’d like you to join the conversation. What are some of your biggest takeaways when it comes to doing proper keyword research as it relates to affiliate marketing? What are some of your biggest successes? Failures and takeaways? We’d love to hear what you have to say!

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