In part 1 of Improving a Thin Affiliate Site, we looked at a very specific topic: cloaking your outbound affiliate links. I hope you’ve taken care of any problems or oversights you may have had. Now that all the holes are plugged with your aff links, let’s make your site a bit more beefy. You won’t be so thin when you’re done!
The vast majority of merchants provide images (usually in a datafeed, sometimes in a zip file) for their affiliates. Most affiliates will use them as-is, and stop there. You won’t. You want to be different. Here’s what you need to do:
- Watermark the images. You may not be allowed to do this by your merchant depending on their terms, but if you can, watermark the top or bottom with YOUR site’s URL. One of my sites was getting a lot of hotlinking of my images. I don’t mind so much; all my images have my site URL on them.
- Self-host the images. You probably figured that part out by now. Don’t just hotlink to the merchant’s image. For all your affiliate images, download them first and host them yourself. I have done this and also used a caching plugin to cache the merchant’s images on my server; the effect is the same in regards to search engine indexing. I prefer actually downloading the images, however, so I can re-name them (with keyword-rich filenames) and watermark them as well.
- Add more images. The best case scenario is for you to take your own pics and have images no one else has. At least two affiliates I know of do this – and they have profitable, successful sites. Is it a lot of work? Sure it is. The majority of the time they have to buy the product themselves, as well. But their sites are definitely NOT “thin” – and that’s what you want to learn about, right? If you can’t take your own pics, try to source other pics of the same products. Sometimes, you can get additional pics off the merchant’s site. While these aren’t totally unique, if you take the effort to manually download additional pics from the merchant, you can be sure you’ve gone a step further than most of your fellow affiliates.
When I talk about content, I am referring to any text that is provided to you for product titles and descriptions. Again, you probably realize that most affiliate use the content sent to them and stop there. So, how can you differentiate yourself and make your site “thicker” but also more unique? Here’s how:
- Rewrite the stock descriptions. By all means, keep the content the merchant gives you. But change wording, complete sentences that are left wanting, expand on ideas given, and possibly reformat information. For example, take a list and turn it into a set of bullet points. Add a few ideas of your own. Reword things and re-order things. It does take work, but it will be worth it when you look back at your site and you see that it’s totally different than anything anyone else has.
- Add more content to each of your product descriptions. Depending on your niche and type of product, this additional content could consist of additional product specifications, product uses, a sample recipe, a testimonial, a blurb about the item (“As seen worn by Jennifer Lawrence!” or something), even a joke, an interesting story, or a quote (relevant to the product, of course). This is where you can get creative. I did this technique with a t-shirt site I’ve run for years. Since each shirt had a funny graphic or a sometimes-obscure joke, I posted an explanation of what each shirt meant, underneath the standard product description. It definitely helped with traffic, ranking, and sales – and I quickly saw a couple of competing sites begin to do the same thing.
- Link to or embed other content. Depending on your niche of course, this may not work. But for most retail products, there are YouTube videos, PDFs (manuals for instance) and product reviews you could include. I like videos because they make my page contain something interesting and useful – and keep visitors on the page for longer if they take the time to play the video. I do not prefer to link out – but on the occasion when I’ve done so, I’ve made sure to open the link in a new tab.
Now, I want to address an issue specifically related to text content. Spun content, in my opinion, has no place on an affiliate website. If your site is aimed towards people, you need to take the time to write for them. My thought is that visitors can plainly see when a site is spun and are much less likely to buy from you.
If you’ve followed along with me so far, your site should not only look better to the search engines but also to humans. (We sometimes seem to neglect them, don’t we?) In part 3, we will look at a few additional improvements you can make to your now hopefully less thin affiliate site.