Web links connect different online resources. Editorial links put thematically related pages together and they reference other resources that elaborate on relevant content in greater detail.
This is done in two ways.
Links let you supplement and enrich your own content. They let you focus on one issue without the need to explain everything in one write-up.
On the other hand, the reference (a linked resource) receives a “thumbs up” which gives it a leg up when it comes to SEO. Dive deeper into SEO link building basics reading Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
While contextual (editorial) links are essential to improving your SEO, their role is entirely different from that of affiliate links.
The latter type of links look and work exactly like any other URL — they connect resources — except for one small difference: they serve to pass traffic on to particular affiliate products and, eventually, to drive revenue.
No matter what savvy online marketing strategies you usually employ, there is only one-way affiliate marketers can monetize their campaigns — through affiliate links.
Affiliate links are essential to monitoring the online performance of marketers.
And because affiliate marketing is a based on the concept of revenue sharing and publishers take a cut, affiliate transactions need to be identified and tracked with precision.
Read more about it: Affiliate Marketing for Dummies: 5 Tips to Help You Start From Scratch
Therefore, vendors give you a unique affiliate ID (or it can be a network affiliate ID when you are working with an affiliate network) and this additional information is going to be added to the affiliate link in order to let the vendor know who gets credit for the sale.
As a result, affiliate links are comprised of a vendor’s URL and your ID.
What do affiliate links look like?
Affiliate Link Structure Example:
If you want to start using affiliate links, first take your time and conduct diligent research to get to know your market and identify the best affiliate programs.
Then, set up your affiliate blog and start creating content. Publish content on your site and submit it to third-party platforms.
In case you prefer to run affiliate marketing activities without a website, you can start by submitting your content to third-party platforms only and still be successful.
How? See this post: Affiliate Marketing: 4 Ways to Succeed Without a Website.
How to Write Powerful Content that Sells
Fuel your affiliate campaigns with well-curated, perfectly-optimized content. Solid content works like a powerful traffic magnet which helps you reach your full potential.
But how to accomplish that?
Once you get to content crafting, make sure you wrap your copy around a strategically chosen keyword which generates high volume traffic and, if possible, is one with limited competition.
Such a match of high search volume and a little competition is the sweet spot because your posts won’t go unnoticed in a sea of similar content.
Pro-tip: Google Keyword Planner can help you detect the most promising keyword opportunities in your niche.
Next, try to write the best article on the topic on the web.
And by the best, I mean an extensive and comprehensive piece that answers frequently asked questions on the subject.
Remember, longer content ranks better.
However, each paragraph should be useful and informative in its own right for your readers. Try to make it as concise and substantial as it gets.
Don’t ever chase word count for the sake of it.
Check out Quora, Reddit, business forums, social media groups and search engine suggestions (this might help you understand how Google suggest works - A Beginner’s Guide to Google Suggest For Marketers and SEO) to learn what the frequently asked questions are in your industry and what you should address.
Then, put everything together and set the outline of your draft.
Whenever you choose to write reviews of products with affiliate marketing in mind (or write anything else for affiliate sites), remember to use simple words, short sentences and keep your content structure clear. You can achieve this by using short paragraphs, headings, bullet points, bolding and other formatting options that sharply boost readability and scannability of your copy, thus making your content easy to digest.
Above the all, think of affiliate links as additional resources that complement your content.
Once your content is ready to publish, add your affiliate links where applicable.
How to use Affiliate Links Correctly?
As soon as you have your exclusive affiliate link, you are practically all set to sprinkle it evenly throughout your content.
However, before you go ahead pasting links all over the place, better learn the best practices by heart. Here are some tips for you to optimize your own affiliate website and reap some SEO benefits from the affiliate links.
1. Add Anchors to Affiliate Links
Put affiliate links in the body of the article by making certain words or phrases clickable. Such a hyperlink would look much better than a bare link added to a page:
Which link looks better to you?
The contextual anchor is much more appealing — it’s clear, user-friendly and looks nice, in contrast to the bare link (especially that the latter contains dynamic parameters and looks messy).
Make the anchor text* of your affiliate link descriptive and relevant to the linked source. Your users should instantly understand where they will go once they click through.
Here is a good example (although this particular link isn’t an affiliate link, the same rule applies):
*Just to let you know the anchor text is the visible and clickable phrase on a page.
How to add affiliate links in WordPress
In WordPress, adding affiliate links is quite easy. Just login, add a new post, and click on the “Insert link” button in WordPress editor.
Then, add your affiliate link and specify what description to use as the clickable text. You can also just match the part of your copy before you click on ‘insert link’ and then this part will become your anchor by default.
Once you do your edits, decide whether you want the affiliate link to open in a new tab or in the same tab. Remember that if you set it to open in the same tab, a user will leave your site. Therefore, I would suggest you always set the links to open in a new tab to avoid breaking up the session.
Then just click on the blue ‘add link’ button below, and you are done here.
2. Affiliate Links Density
Balance your affiliate links density.
One method of balancing the number of links you paste in your copy is to include one affiliate link per one piece of content (page, article or review). Although this is the best solution when it comes to promoting your affiliate campaigns, this is also more time consuming and work demanding than adding various affiliate links to one lengthy post.
No matter what approach you choose to follow, the main point here is not to go too heavy on the links.
According to Brian Dean:
“Affiliate links themselves probably won’t hurt your rankings. But if you have too many, Google’s algorithm may pay closer attention to other quality signals to make sure you’re not a ‘thin affiliate site.‘” - source
Find a healthy balance between monetization and user experience. Make sure you bring value and educate your visitors about the chosen topics.
Put affiliate links where they make sense. A good content to links ratio would be 1 link per every 1.000 words. This rule will help you ultimately avoid keyword stuffing.
3. Tidy Up Your Affiliate Links
Make your affiliate links clean and more user-friendly. Even if your affiliate link is hidden behind a relevant and descriptive anchor, it’s always a good practice to clean it up, making it even more readable and understandable for your users. Of course, you should be careful doing this because in some circumstances there is a risk that your merchant will find it harder to determine the source of traffic or the affiliate’s ID.
Links containing dynamic parameters are long and often look ugly. This can deter users from clicking them. Mainly because people fear ever-present spam. They also react negatively to promotional links.
Take a look at the example provided by Sugarrae:
This is how affiliate link for OptinMonster looks without cloaking:
And here is an affiliate link for OptinMonster after tidying it up:
Now you see the difference, right?
These two links lead to the same destination, and they both track the same affiliate cookie correctly. Which one looks more trustworthy to you? And which one would you prefer to click?
If you use WordPress, there is a pretty helpful plugin that makes your affiliate links more beautiful right away.
Pretty link lets you use tidy links and describe them according to your preference.
Typical link shorteners such as bit.ly shrink your links, but don’t make them more readable. They still appear spammy to the visitor.
Apart from masking your affiliate links, Pretty Links features a hits tracker and a reporting interface where you can see a configurable chart summarizing clicks day by day - so you can use it to measure clicks from various campaigns- including emails, social media, etc.
You’ll find more information about affiliate link cloaking here: How to Cloak Affiliate Links (& Why You Should)
4. Nofollow Affiliate Links
Another good practice which you can and should use is adding the rel=”nofollow” attribute to your affiliate links. As Google isn’t big on affiliate links, it’s a good idea to nofollow them to avoid the risk of having your site penalized. How does it work? Put simply, once you add a nofollow attribute, Google will ignore the link (i.e., it won’t get the upvote mentioned before).
Here is a short video, where Danny Sullivan asked Matt Cutts about using a nofollow tag for affiliate links.
Wrapping up: If you deliver great content and want to preserve your SEO ranking, just nofollow affiliate links.
Simple as that.
How to add the nofollow attribute to an affiliate link?
- Log in to your WordPress panel
- Go into your new post
- Switch to HTML view by clicking the Text tab
- Find your affiliate links (use ⌘G)
- And just add
By default a link looks like this in HTML:
5. Implement Them The Right Way
Where to put your affiliate links.
We’ve already talked about affiliate link density in a prior section, so now it’s time to determine where to put your affiliate links to power up / beef up your click through rate.
Affiliate links can technically be used everywhere, so this is your call on how to play it. Your whole strategy for affiliate links should be compelling and well-balanced. Optimize it for best results. Be subtle and contextual. Also, make sure you don’t appear promotional or spammy.
Insert your links into blog posts where it makes sense, and it’s relevant. In general, it’s up to you as long as your primary intention is to be helpful and provide information which helps users solve real problems.
Another option is to put your affiliate links on a sidebar within your blog. In this case, your content links shall be accompanied with clickable banners. This method can supplement the affiliate links in your copy and still look non-intrusive and user-friendly as long as your sidebar banners are limited and in number and embrace the same style.
Another good idea is to link relevant visuals, so they are clickable. This makes sense especially if you are reviewing your affiliate products. This way if a user clicks on an image added to your post, they’ll click through to a particular product page.
How to make your visuals clickable in the WordPress panel?
Once you login go into your WordPress panel, create a new post and click on Add Media button in the editor.
Once you add your graphic, click on it and open the image editor.
Next, change the display settings, so the visual leads to a custom URL instead of leading to a media file.
Finally, update the settings and preview your draft to see if your image leads to the right landing page, product page or any other preferred destination.
Apart from these few spots, there is a wide variety of locations where affiliate links may fit in. Read what Pat Flynn (who is a super affiliate) recommends: Multiple Strategies I Use For Affiliate Marketing: Where To Put Affiliate Links.
6. Final Remark: Disclose Affiliate Links
It’s necessary to disclose affiliate links, so you present a transparent and honest attitude towards your users/ readers. According to Missy Ward who created the Affiliate Summit, affiliate link disclosures should be attached on top of each post you share.
Read more on how to implement transparency into affiliate marketing campaigns.
Let’s recap what we’ve learned today. By now, you should already understand what’s the nature of affiliate links is, what they’re used for and how to apply them correctly to your content sites. How do you like this write-up? Am I missing something? Feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter.