Once you have found a niche and created a website, you need to generate traffic. If you’ve made it this far in the affiliate marketing roadmap series you’ve selected a niche and you’ve built a website. Congratulations! If you’ve done even that, you’ve made it so much farther than most people who consider trying to make extra money on the internet. You should take a minute and congratulate yourself for your accomplishments.
When it comes to getting traffic to your website your goal, of course, is to have people visit your website and to convert those visitors’ clicks into commissions. The question is; how do you get the visitors?
I won’t lie to you, getting traffic to websites can be one of the more challenging aspects of affiliate marketing. However, the fundamentals are really well understood. What we need to do is break it down and do the work required to get the traffic to the site.
When it comes to traffic for affiliate marketing there are four basic types that you might think about in the context of this guide. We’ll talk about three of them in this article.
The first type of traffic is paid traffic. This is the kind of traffic where you buy ad and people click on the ads to visit your site. The trick in paid traffic is to spend less money on the traffic than you get in commissions from the sales. In other words, your ad costs need to be less than your profits.
We won’t cover this sort of traffic in this guide, quite frankly, because I’m not good at it. If you want to talk to somebody who is good at paid traffic, I recommend you track down Perry Marshall. He’s a guru, I’m not. If you want to learn how to spend a dollar to make $0.75, come talk to me.
The next kind of traffic is free traffic from the search engines. A lot of people refer to this as organic search traffic and the art of getting this traffic for free is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Prospective buyers go to Google (or their favorite search engine) and type in a search phrase, in the listings on the search engine your site appears and they click on that listing and visit your site.
After finding wonderful information there they click through to an offer that you’ve put on your site and you get a commission. The great thing about this traffic is it’s free. The difficult thing is that it’s a little bit hard to get. But the approach to getting this sort of traffic is well understood and we’ll cover it in some detail in this guide.
The third sort of traffic that you might want to get for your website is social media traffic. The idea behind social media traffic is also simple but tricky. Post great content on social media sites, engage your community, and get them to visit your website. Once they’re on your site, visitors will see what you have to offer and click through to buy products using your affiliate link.
The final sort of traffic is what I call direct referral traffic. This can be from email signatures, forum signatures, or other places where you leave your link lying around. I’ve even seen some success with direct traffic from offline places, like business cards and flyers or billboard ads. Just to be clear, I’ve never run a billboard ad on the highway, but I’ve seen other people do it and it seems to work.
With this sort of traffic you can leave a sprinkling of useful information around the web and get traffic back to your site from places that already have traffic. It’s a nice third leg to our traffic stool.
Remember, I said that organic traffic is the kind of free traffic that you get from the search engines. When a visitor visits Google, Google’s job is to answer the visitor’s query in the best way possible by presenting the 10 best websites that match the search query that the visitor has entered into the search box.
We call the phrase that the visitor has entered the keyword phrase. In order to be listed near the top of the first page of Google there are basically three things that you need to think about.
Keyword Research; What phrase do you want to be listed for?
In order to be ranked in the search engines you have to pick keyword phrases to target for ranking that you can actually win. Similarly, you have to pick phrases that are worth winning, that have enough traffic to make it worth your while.
Choose a phrase that’s too competitive and all your efforts will be lost because you’ll never make it to the first page of Google. For example, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever rank on the first page of Google for very difficult keywords like ‘credit cards,’ ‘mortgage loans,’ or ‘free Viagra.’
On the other hand, if you choose an obscure keyword that no one is actually searching for you may find it very easy to win, but it won’t do you any good. For example, to prove this point at one time I ranked a webpage for ‘collectible Elvis Presley neckties.’ As it turns out, nobody is searching for a collectible Elvis Presley necktie.
The bottom line is you need to do the proper kind of keyword research to select the right keyword to target. You need to put yourself in the mind of the searcher that you expect to land on your website. Imagine what they might be typing and then check various resources like the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to find out whether or not that term is worth targeting.
We’ll have a lot more detailed explanation about how to do keyword research for affiliate marketing, but for now just know that we’re going to need to learn how to do that.
Page Optimization: Tell Search Engines What Your Page is About
The second thing you need to do to get free traffic from the search engines is make sure that Google knows what your webpage is about. Notice that I said “webpage.” In general, Google does not return websites to the search engine results, it returns webpages. When you type a keyword phrase into Google, Google is trying to give you back the best page that matches your search query.
For example, if you type in ‘antique corn shellers’ you might find my site CornSheller.net in the results, but you’ll find a specific page. It might be the Antique Corn Shellers page or it might be the homepage, but the bottom line is you’re going to find a page.
The question is; What do you need to do in order to optimize that page to tell Google what it’s about?
We’ll talk about how to do on-page search engine optimization for affiliate marketing in a later post. For now, know that one of your tasks is to optimize each and every page for the keyword that you would like to find in the search engines.
If you want to get a jump start on tuning up your site for search engine optimization, I strongly recommend that you ditch whatever search engine optimization plugin you’re using for WordPress and use the Yoast SEO Plugin. We’ll go over the Yoast SEO Plugin in greater detail, but it won’t hurt you to install it now.
Build Authority for Your Site; Backlinks are Like Votes of Confidence
The third thing you need to do in order to get free traffic from the search engines is convince Google that your site is important. Generally speaking, Google considers references to your site on the internet as a vote for your site’s importance.
If CNN.com mentions your site on the internet it must be really important. Likewise, if The New York Times mentions your site, it must be really important. If Bubba’s Website mentions your site, your site might be important. The point here is that the more people who mention your site and the more important those people are, the more important Google will think your site is.
We’ll talk about how to build those backlinks to your affiliate marketing website in another article.
In summary, what you need to do to get free traffic to your website is select good keywords that you can win that have traffic, optimize your pages for those keywords so Google will know that’s what the page is about, and build authority for those pages in the form of backlinks and other search engine signals so that Google knows that your page is more important than other pages on exactly the same topic.
Social Media Traffic
If you’re going to be serious about affiliate marketing in today’s marketplace you have to have a social media presence. Of course, social media is expanding without bounds, so having a social media presence might mean that you need 100 social media accounts. That’s not really what I mean. As with most things in internet marketing, it’s really important to understand where your audience is and go meet them there.
It’s very likely that you’ll want to have a Facebook fan page for your brand. Then your other choices would be Twitter, Google+, and possibly Pinterest. Beyond that, starting out in internet marketing, I wouldn’t mess with anything else. There’s a real danger in spreading yourself too thin in social media. Decide where you want to be and go be there aggressively. Don’t make the mistake of opening 20 social media accounts and never really participating in any of them.
A Facebook fan page is really important because Facebook is turning into the new center of the internet universe. One of the reasons that people love Facebook is because it’s sort of a safe corner of the internet where their friends hang out.
If you can get other people’s friends to talk about your website on social media, they’ll automatically recognize your website as some cool safe fun place to go visit because their friends like it. It’s no different than a friend recommending a Realtor to you, or a recommending a great movie. If your friend Jane says that XYZ article on PDQwebsite is fantastic, then you’re probably going to go visit it.
So plan on creating a Facebook account for your brand, for your affiliate website, and in a later article we’ll talk about a Facebook strategy for your brand.
One note about social media strategies is that the good strategies are no different than the strategy for your business in general.
You need to deliver value to your Facebook fans. This means posting helpful, engaging, interesting content on a regular basis to your Facebook page and responding to people who reply back to you. If you post something on Facebook and someone comments on your post, you really need to comment back. The best comments are comments that include a question to keep the conversation going.
I’m on and off again about the real value of Twitter. It’s clear that in some spaces Twitter is absolutely critical.
It’s certainly important in the internet marketing space. But for a site like CornSheller.net, I don’t really expect that many farmers looking for antique corn shellers for their collections are going to be following many people on Twitter. I could be wrong about that. There could be a thriving corn sheller community on Twitter that I just haven’t found yet.
The point is you really need to consider your market when deciding whether or not to use Twitter as part of your affiliate marketing strategy.
Again, like Facebook, the strategy is to create useful information and to engage people. Follow people in your niche, comment on what they say, and by all means if someone replies to one of your posts be sure and reply back.
I’m not very active on Pinterest, but I know it can be powerful, especially if your market includes a lot of visual images.
A blog on cross stitch, for example. If one of the main things that you’re blogging about is cross stitching, posting cross stitch patterns and other graphics that you’re using on your blog to Pinterest could make a lot of sense.
Note that the demographics for Pinterest are a little bit different than the demographics for other social media sites. By that I mean to say that Pinterest seems to be largely populated by women. So if your target market includes women, Pinterest may be exactly right for you, give it a try.
I think Google+ is an epic failure on the part of Google and I can’t really recommend that you use it. However, because of the popularity of the Android operating system and the heavy integration of Google+ in that operating system, I still think it’s possible that Google+ may catch on. It may be a late-bloomer because hundreds of millions of cell phones are out there running Google+.
It might be worth it to experiment with Google+ and see what kind of interaction you’re able to get. I know that Google+ interaction is really strong in the internet marketing space but, like Twitter, I wouldn’t expect much Google+ interaction in the corn sheller niche. At this time I haven’t even tried creating a profile for corn shellers on Google+. If I do try, I’ll report the results back here.
The last point of traffic I want to talk about is direct traffic, the kind of traffic you get by leaving your link laying around in conspicuous places. This might be on a business card, at the end of an email, or on a flyer in your local doughnut shop.
I recommend that you think about where the right places to do that might be. Certainly if you’re starting this business and you have a lot of friends who are interested in the topic and you put a link at the bottom of your emails, you might find that people will visit that link just to see what you’re up to.
Another really good place for direct traffic is in forums and blog comments. The reason this is good is by doing this you’re able to do two things. One is you can get the click through traffic by leaving your link laying around, but you can also engage a potential audience by making helpful comments in forums and on blog posts.
If you’re not familiar with forums, a forum is a place where people go to discuss various topics in your niche. There are a surprising number of forums out there where people are talking about almost everything under the sun. You can find the biggest list of forums that I’ve ever seen at The Big Board Index, take a look and see if there’s a forum that matches your niche.
Similarly, you can Google for blogs in your niche and watch those blogs, then when they post something you can make some helpful comment or add something to the conversation on the blog. It’s important to get that comment in early on the post so that it’s one of the first comments that people read when they’re reading the post anyway. On very popular blogs you can actually see a significant number of clicks coming from your comment, particularly if you are near the top of the comments.
Please note; it’s very important in both of these cases that you’re actually participating in the conversation and adding value to the forum or the blog.
Don’t spam and don’t just go plastering your links all over the place. You need to be more subtle than that. We’ll talk about that more when we talk about direct traffic in a later article.
Corn Sheller Traffic
As an example of free traffic, there is the corn sheller site. As you can see, there is a lot of free traffic to this tiny site from a variety of organic keywords (most of which are not targeted.).
Conclusion and Open for Questions…
We are just scratching the surface of the topic of traffic in this article, but I hope that your wheels are spinning. Got questions about traffic? Leave them in the comments below.