At the heart of any affiliate project are the first basic steps. Sadly, none of them are particularly glamorous or exciting because they involve research. As we all know, research can be a little dry but if you try to skip it you'll be shooting in the dark.
So where do you start?
I don't think it matters whether you start with the topic/keywords or the product. Both are perfectly acceptable places to begin.
However, I've no doubt that it's less difficult to build a high ranking website by picking a highly focused niche before you pick your product. Some people would disagree with me on this but that's my experience.
Whether you pick the chicken or the egg, the next step is always the same: Finding the right keywords to start with.
There are dozens of keyword tools on the market but oddly enough many experienced marketers will point you towards the free Google Keyword Tool and my personal favorite for local SEO, Google Insights.
You really don't need fancy tools to pick the big traffic keywords – they're pretty easy to discover. What takes work is digging out the “easy to rank for” keyword phrases. To get these takes a little longer because you need to do some comparing and checking.
Did you notice the different terms I just used? Keywords and keyword phrases.
I use these terms specifically because I believe they're different. I think there are both keywords (the main theme your website is built around e.g. chocolate frogs) and keyword phrases (related sentences and phrases that usually include your main keyword e.g. Buying bulk chocolate frogs).
Of course, everyone has different ways to put this. The main thing is that you understand that there is a difference between the highly competitive, high traffic keywords and the less competitive, higher converting keyword phrases. These are the phrases used by people who are more likely in a “ready to buy” frame of mind.
How to search for keyword phrases
These keyword phrases, also known as long tails, generally have three or more words in them. One word and two-word phrases tend to be much harder to rank for on an international level and I would put them more into the main keyword/website theme category. I don't recommend using them to build content around.
If you're promoting an affiliate product, chances are you're looking for people who are ready to buy, not merely seeking information. That specific fact alone can help you to build a keyword phrase list because you can start with searches that incorporate terms like “buy”, “order”, “how much”, “discount”, etc.
Here are examples of keyword phrases incorporating buying words:
• Buy chocolate frogs
• Order bulk chocolate frogs
• Discount chocolate frogs
• How much for bulk chocolate frogs
Here is a list of buying keywords that you might like to use:
for sale online
price comparisons for
where can I buy
where can you buy
where to buy
who sells the cheapest
Plus, perhaps most important of all… model numbers and brand names.
You can form these buying keywords into questions which you answer in good “human readable” page titles such as “Buy Chocolate Frogs on Special – Save Today”. One fact that is often overlooked by less experienced marketers is that in the end, it's a person who decides whether or not to click the search results and come to your page, not Google. Getting high rankings that don't get clicked isn't a wise move.
Building your keyword list
My personal favorite tool for digging for “long tail” phrases is Keyword Snatcher by Jon Ledger. Sadly this tool isn't available to buy at present. Along with this I like to use the old favorite, WordTracker.
It may not be the latest cool tool but it's stood the test of time, improving as things changed and implementing a range of new features. It's worth signing up for the free trial.
To start the list building process, enter your first keyword phrase and copy the top 100 results into a text file. Then take your buying phrases and enter them one at a time. Your buying phrases can be the results of your top 100 combined with the word list above. Add the resulting lists into your text file.
I suggest that you build a list of about 1,000 keywords to start with. This will give you a good size list to check for competitiveness and ranking achievability. A lot of factors come into play when you start looking at what phrases you should start building your site around.
Checking the list
Tools like Market Samurai and WordTracker allow you to see extra statistics on a keyword based upon competitiveness. Statistics such as KEI help you to determine the less competitive keywords and you may like to earmark these into a second list because you may be able to rank more quickly for those.
One thing I think you should understand at this point is that these tools are not always a true indicator of a non-competitive phrase or whether there is anybody buying from that keyword phrase.
Take your list and enter it into the software to see what it says about the competitiveness and rankability. When you have decided on the top 10 keyword phrases that you think are a good place to start, take them and type them into Google yourself.
I believe that the final step of your research is best done by a person. Dig through Google and have a look at the search engine results for your chosen keywords yourself.
Who is the competition?
Are they beatable?
Do they have a high PageRank?
Are they government or authority sites?
All these questions affect your ability to get the top spots. If the top positions are full of high PageRank or authority sites, you should probably put that keyword phrase to the bottom of your list for now and upgrade another phrase.
After you have your final list
Once you have defined the best keyword phrases to start with, you are ready to start writing your content. Keyword focused content built around your tightly focused niche will improve your chances of getting those traffic producing rankings.
Remember, research may seem time consuming and at times frustrating but it's an essential step to your success.
A free gift for you
WordTracker have produced a great free ebook called the Keyword Research Guide. They created a fictional company, Virginia Veg, and asked experts to provide real answers to the problems facing its CEO, Susan Webster. The result is an ebook packed with insight, tips, and techniques on keyword research that you can apply easily to your own website.