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Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 3: Tips & Best Practices

March 11th, 2013 by shawn · 2 Comments

In Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 1 we talked about link cloaking and how to make your affiliate site less of an obvious affiliate site. In Improving a Thin Affiliate Site Part 2 we looked at how to improve your content by changing stock descriptions, adding content, and hosting images yourself (among other things). In this last installment I want to throw out a few more tips that will help you have a better affiliate site than all your competitors.

Tip 1: Interlink

You ever want to spend some time link building that will really pay off? Well, forget about buying the latest tools or paying for the newest thing on the BST sub-forum. Save your money and spend a little of your time. Instead of paying for worthless outside links, pay attention to your own site and link your pages together. Thin affiliate sites don’t improve by just buying links or any other form of laziness.

If you’re honest, you’ll admit that you’ve probably never given this much attention (if any) and you’ll also admit that it seems so…boring. Well, you can either waste time with thousands of suspicious-looking comment backlinks or you can do something that will affect the quality and strength of your site from not only a SEO perspective but from a user-friendliness perspective. Don’t believe it will do you some good? Well, I got the idea from Wikipedia – the kings of interlinking. Bottom line is that it’s immensely important, and it will help your site. Do it.

How to approach it? I suggest that you put all your pages into rough categories and interlink the pages within those categories, to start with. That’s an obvious way to do it. If you want to challenge yourself a bit more you can attack the interlinking by keywords that you want to emphasize. However you do it, you might wish to link the less-popular and weaker pages from the stronger ones in order to prop them up.

If you use WordPress (and who doesn’t these days?) you will find a handful of plugins to do this for you, somewhat automatically. I’ve tried this approach but since I’m a speed freak (and the DB was filling up fast) I have since stuck to good ‘ol manual interlinking the way my great-grandfather used to do it in the Old Country. Manually placing static links makes the computer do less, which makes things go faster. Which brings me to the next thing…

Tip 2: Watch Your Speed

SEO Page SpeedI tell my wife this all the time. “Watch your speed!” Because I want her to slow down. Does your town have any mobile speed traps? My town does; they’re the devil. I hate getting tickets in the mail! I watch my speed like a hawk.

On my sites, too. Except I want the speed to be as fast as possible on my sites. How do I accomplish fast speeds? By making the computer do less – as a general rule.

I cannot give you a comprehensive how-to on speeding up sites, but I can give you a few pointers. I hope you’ll do some of your own research to fill in the blanks.

First of all, get a baseline measurement of your site speed. You want to see where you’re starting so you can impress your friends with how many milliseconds you end up shaving off page load times. (Girls love guys who play guitar almost as much as guys with fast-loading affiliate sites.)

You can use browser-based tools to do this (like PageSpeed by Google) or web-based tools like GTMetrix and Pingdom. Run the tests a few times, record your speeds, and get to work.

Your basic goals should be to reduce page load time and increase speed by making your pages smaller in size, implementing caching, and possibly serving media via a CDN. For sites with lots of images (such as an ecommerce site or an affiliate site with a catalog of products) a content delivery network makes a lot of sense. For a site like this one (which is text-heavy, with few images) not so much.

Remember that WordPress plugins are convenient, but many times they are unnecessary and use resources. A few times, I’ve uninstalled a plugin and replaced its functionality with some PHP code or added a hook directly to the functions file. Other times, I realized I didn’t need the plugin to be active constantly – or active ever (so I uninstalled it). Keep your site lean and mean.

Tip 3: Speak in Tongues

Provide your content in multiple languages, and you’ll be a step beyond most of your competition. The way to decide which languages has everything to do with the regions in which there’s interest in your products. You can find out this information by using the (free) Adwords keyword tool and simply doing a few searches. Find out where else you can possibly get customers – and provide your content in the language they speak there.

You can do this with plugins that auto-translate. It’s usually good enough – you will get customers that understand that you’re in N. America and probably don’t speak their language natively. But they want the item(s) you sell and they “get” what your site means. (For a business with the resources, of course, it is way more professional to actually provide human-translated pages tailored to the target audience. But we’re talking about the average affiliate here.)

Tip 4: Be an Expert

If at all possible, you need to add informational articles, tutorials, infographics, apps, tools, daily tips, a free e-book, YouTube video demonstrations, or some other type of material to your site. You may think this piece of advice would have applied under our last lesson on expanding your content but it really doesn’t apply there; what I am talking about will not only expand your initial meager “thin” content, but it will position you as the expert in your niche.

Do you think people listen to experts? Sure they do. Just ask your mom or sister or the lady at work who purchased the latest diet book or herbal tea or health drink…because Dr. Oz mentioned it on his show. I’m not advocating Dr. Oz’s supposed expertise but I know for sure that he’s positioned as an expert in most people’s minds.

What about not-so-famous experts? There are tons of them, and they sell tons of products (whether the products are theirs, or other people’s). You probably have heard of Jenna Marbles, Hickok45, FPSRussia, or Auto-Tune the News on YouTube. (And there are even bigger channels than theirs.) All of them name or show a product at some point in their videos. All of them have fans and influence. The one that is positioned as a bona-fide expert (of the ones I named) is Hickok45 however – people look up his reviews to see what he thinks, and they buy the things he shows off and recommends. And why not? It’s the same thing we do by reading Amazon reviews or reading Consumer Reports.

If my cousin buys certain brands of fertilizer and soil because of his favorite YouTube garden expert, I guarantee someone is out there equally as interested in whatever you’re selling…and will buy what you tell them. If they see you as an expert, that is. The cool thing is that to be an expert you don’t need to produce tons of videos or be wild and crazy: you just need to provide useful information in an accessible format. So if you make 3 or 5 or 10 videos about your products and either review them, demonstrate them, explain them, or give advice on them – you’ll be in the running.

Tip 5: Block Bad Bots

Back to techie stuff here. I hate scrapers, crawlers, and snoops. So I block almost all bots and I throw in Russia and China for good measure. Yes, I throw in a few .htaccess rules to actually bounce the undesirable IPs away from me. I’m not going to get a sale from outside the US in my case, so I really don’t care about foreign traffic – and when I see tons of visits from places I don’t sell to I block them. I do my best to block all the backlink-monitoring services as well. Do you think I really care about my latest ahrefs or SEOmoz link profile report? (I don’t.) But, since my competitors might care, I would rather give those tools less to report.

Tip 6: Build a List

girl-silhouetteIf you saw a gorgeous girl shopping in the grocery store or supermarket, and you knew you were unlikely to ever see her again, wouldn’t it make sense to just take the chance and introduce yourself? Wouldn’t you want to meet her? Sure – it might be awkward or even a bit embarrassing to just boldly go up to her like that, but what have you got to lose? Well, there have obviously been books written on how to do that as well as numerous seminars and an entire culture of PUAs has been created. Which is funny to me, because I see the same thing in IM.

We have numerous ebooks, seminars, conferences, programs, courses, etc about how to get customers and it reminds me of the PUA community. Guess what? A nice-looking man who has basic social skills should be easily able to make conversation with any woman, and get her number. And a reasonably well-coded website, with good information and a desirable product should be able to get a visitor to provide them their email address.

But, just like the guy who is too scared to just come out of his shell and talk to a girl, the vast majority of affiliates never attempt to build a list. They will not ask the visitor for that email address. I’m not sure why, other than the supposed trouble it takes to set up something like that. (Wait, what’s that? There’s the OptinSkin plugin? It makes it simple?) Maybe it’s took expensive (wait – MailChimp offers a free option that any internet marketer could use until they get the hang of things and build a big list?). OK so price and complexity aren’t really objections.

Maybe affiliate sites don’t want to look spammy or cheap. Well, fine – offer something to the visitors who are willing to sign up. You’ll never get those email addresses if you don’t ask! And if you offer something cool in return, your visitors might actually enjoy being on your list.

Without a list, you’re throwing away all the traffic on one-time sales. That’s not what we’re here to do. If that seems wrong, think of it this way: by simply sending all your visitors to buy something from your merchant, all you are doing is building their business for them. You’re building nothing of your own.

So that wraps it up. We’ve had three lessons on different ways to improve a thin affiliate site. I wrote these posts to educate anyone who wants to know how to do that – because very little has specifically been written on the subject. Heck, even the agency Conductor a kinda-well-known SEO agency did a “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit recently, and they ignored the question. So I went ahead and told you way more than the SEO agency AMA ever would, even if you paid them, and I didn’t even charge you. (How do ya like that?)

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    Comment by Erica Ronchetti
    2013-03-13 06:24:15

    Good job! I would appreciate if you can highlight the practice of understanding and writing unique content for the users. I am looking forward to your next article. Thanks!

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    Comment by Shawn Plep
    2013-03-13 14:36:07

    Thanks. If you want to learn more about writing content you just need to read part 2 of the series. I talk about what exactly to put into your content there.


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