Learn the basics of affiliate marketing and even build your first website for free (with step by step lessons)
Why Is Traffic So Important
Traffic is massively important to you website. If you are a natural writer and write interesting stuff, traffic will eventually come, no matter what. The cool thing about the internet is that if you are interested in a topic, there are a thousand other people that will share that same interest.
That being said, we’re building a business. We are not just a casual blogger that will accept a bit of pocket change from ads or put a “donate” button in the sidebar of our website. The goal of doing affiliate marketing is to make a full time income we can rely on, and maybe even get a big fat payday by selling our website at some point.
The first goal is just to get traffic. After that, we want to work on getting high quality traffic. Not all traffic is good!
Many scam products online tell you that they will help you get thousands of visitors on your site. Go to Fiverr.com, and I’ll bet you can buy a million visits for $5. The problem is that these are just fake clicks. They are bots. Bots don’t buy stuff. People do. Ultimately, we want real people visiting our website, so we need to provide valuable content to attract them.
On this page I’ll just give an overview of how to generate traffic to your website so you can get a broad look at what’s out there. In the next lessons we’ll focus on free traffic methods. That’s what I’m good at, and it’s the best path for newbies because you won’t dump a bunch of money into paid ads that don’t convert.
Don’t get me wrong. Paid traffic is awesome. You can set up a converting campaign in a day as opposed to several months. It’s a lot quicker, and a lot faster to scale.
However, it’s also freakin’ expensive if you screw it up. Considering most people reading this are newbies and don’t have a huge budget for advertising, we’re going hard core on free traffic methods. You can then take your profits to fund some paid campaigns or just double down on what’s working already. Up to you!
How To Generate Free Traffic For Your Affiliate Website
Tracking Your Traffic
- How To Install Google Analytics
- Keyword Research
- Low Competition
- High Traffic Keywords
- The Human Element
- Trending Topics & Guerilla research
- Engagement Is Key
- Collaborations & Outreach
- Paid VS Free Traffic
- Main PPC Opportunities
Tracking Your Traffic
How do you know if anyone is actually visiting your website? There are various traffic tracking plugins that you can use, but they normally slow down your site. For example, a plugin called JetPack is very popular, but it drains your resources, making your site slower.
Google Analytics is free, won’t slow down your website, and provides much deeper insight into your traffic, especially if you connect it to Search Console. Most tutorial you see on YouTube have you install another plugin to manage your Analytics code. Booo! That means you’re locked into relying on this plugin forever, and you don’t really need it. All the juicy data is in your Analytics dashboard anyway.
How To Install Google Analytics
First, create your account here. It’s free. Follow the prompts until you get to the section where it asks you to install the code on your website.
If you have a StudioPress theme like I recommended in previous lessons, your job is easy. Go to Theme Settings, then copy/paste the full code into the Header Scripts section. That tells Google that you want tracking code to track all your pages on your website.
If you don’t have a StudioPress theme, that’s fine too. Hopefully you took my advice and install the All in One SEO Pack. If you have that plugin installed, go to General Settings then Google Analytics ID and use your ID number (NOT the full code).
There’s also the option to install the full code by pasting it into header of your site, just before the tag, but you’ll need access to the editor, or be familiar with FTP to get that done. It’s a bit more advanced!
One of the most amazing things about having lots of traffic is that you can you can use the data to improve your site in many ways, but the two main ones I employ are as follows:
- Use data to see which articles are the most popular, then double down on those topics
- See which articles get the most traffic, then optimize for conversions (clicks & sales)
Without this data, you’re shooting in the dark. Knowing where you traffic comes from allows you to tweak your business on the fly, making small changes over time. That’s the beauty of building an affiliate website, and I’ve beat this drum all throughout this course: everything can be tweaked and changed as you go.
It’s not like a restaurant menu where you change one food item or pricing and you have to spend $500 to reprint all the menus. For example, I started a website about brewing beer at home. After publishing several recipes and brewery reviews, traffic started coming in. Great!
However, when I looked in Analytics, I could see that my most popular posts were monthly beer club reviews and off-flavor tasting notes. It’s a good thing I checked those stats or I would have wasted more time and money writing ineffective content!
Especially when you are just starting a new website, it can be hard to make sure your stuff gets discovered. There’s a lot of noise online, and competition is fierce. The entire world is competing for just 10 spots on the first page of Google!
Actually, the situation is not that dire. It’s pretty damn easy to rank on page on, spot #1 if you know what you’re doing. We’ll cover how I do keyword research a the future lesson, but the details right now will probably confuse you. In this section about traffic I just want to briefly cover the basic concepts, then get into the nitty gritty later on.
Consistency in blogging is a huge factor when trying to improve your rank, but as with most things, the law of diminishing returns. Rather than just throw spaghetti at the wall and hope something sticks, there are certain tactics I’ll teach you so that the majority of your work actually sees the light of day.
Low Competition Keywords
When you start out your website, competition can seem overwhelming. How on Earth are you going to compete with websites like Buzzfeed and Forbes? NerdWallet and Amazon?
The good news is that with good keyword research, we won’t have to compete with too many people. Research and expertise will help us grow our site in a couple useful ways.
Firstly, we have insider knowledge (because we’re experts), so we can write about stuff the big guys don’t know about. That guy writing Top 10 Craft Beer labels on Buzzfeed? He doesn’t know squat about craft beer. He’s just a day-laborer grinding out content because his boss tells him to do so.
We are the craft beer experts! We take the time to do the proper research and write content that craft beer enthusiasts actually want to read.
Also, we have much lower expectations as a brand new affiliate site owner.
Big companies like CNet have big overhead, therefore need big profits. They target difficult keywords like “best espresso machines”. For us, we’re much better off writing something like “best stainless steel Italian-made espresso machines”.
As a rule of thumb, more specific = less competition. Phrases is 3-5 words are known as “long tail” keywords, and they are the starter fuel for brand new affiliate website.
So the answer to “competing” is simply to take control over who our competition is by being super specific with what we write about. CNet doesn’t have the time or interest in writing about stainless steel Italian-made espresso machines. It’s too esoteric of a topic for them, and not relevant to their audience.
Because we (hypothetically) own espressomachinereviews.com, it’s a perfect fit!
Though each keyword gets you only a few visits per day, collectively they add up. Just 1o visits per day times one thousand pages is ten thousand visits per day. Plus, highly targeted keywords means more engagement, more authority, and then more rankings.
After you rock low competition keywords for a while, you can start to target higher competition areas, funneling traffic from “easy” keywords to “hard” keywords, driving up your rank in Google search.
Our traffic-building process basically it works like this.
- Find low competition keywords
- Optimize each article for a single keyword
- Create large amounts of these types of posts over time
- Start publishing content on higher-competition topics (takes longer to make)
- Link low-competition pages to high-competition pages to funnel traffic and build authority
What’s the best way to start a fire? Do you throw a match on a walnut log? Nope.
You start with kindling and paper – the stuff that’s easy to burn. Then you add some thicker sticks. Then you toss on a big, hardwood log, and that log will burn for a long time, just like your website will be around for many years once you start getting evergreen rankings for competitive phrases.
High Traffic Keywords
To figure out what high traffic keywords are, you’ll need a keyword tool. For newbies, I recommend Jaaxy ($19/month). For advanced users with a budget, I like SEMRush ($99/month). For a free version, try the browser extension keywords everywhere.
A keyword tool can tell you which topics are more frequently searched in comparison to other related terms.
For example, if someone wants to build a shed, are more people looking for “how to build a backyard shed” or “how to make a DIY shed”. The phrases have a similar meaning, but they are not exactly the same, and will turn up different results.
These guidelines can help you create better titles and optimize your content more accurately. Volume numbers are rarely exact, but can be used as guideline to see which terms have more traffic potential.
The Human Element
My #1 pet peeve about newbies learning keyword research is that they rely on the tool too much, and don’t think about what humans are actually searching for. Don’t worry – it’s not your fault. I used to do the same thing!
Check out this blurb about keyword usefulness for more details, but here’s the basic rundown. Do you want to read a post titled, “Prepare Marathon Beginners: A How To Guide” or would you more likely click on something titled “Beginners Guide To Preparing For A Half Marathon”?
The clear answer is option #2. It sounds like a human wrote it.
The concept of writing for humans goes beyond grammar mistakes, as discussed in the link above. When you write, make sure you have a human in mind. Writing for search engines can get you ranked, but ultimately our goal is to get humans on our website that want to click and buy the stuff we recommend. Google isn’t going to buy anything from your site LOL.
Trending Topics & Guerrilla Research
Keyword tools are just a tool. Actually, we just use them to figure out what humans are searching for. Unfortunately, many affiliate website owners limit themselves to writing about what a tool spits out, and they leave a lot of traffic & money on the table.
Using guerrilla research techniques, you can uncover what real people are talking about online. Traffic estimates?! We don’t need no stinking traffic estimates!
One of the simplest ways to figure out what to write about is to leverage Google Instant. Type in a phrase, then use variations to see what Google predicts. With just three variations (a, b, c), Google generated 30 unique ideas that would be perfect for an entrepreneur-related niche website.
What’s even crazier is when you start digging deeper, and you realize the insane potential of your website. Just riffing on the idea of how to start a consulting business (one of the results above, see what Google instant returned so far…
These are real things that people are searching for online. We’ve gone from “how to start a business” (broad topic) to “how to start a cyber security consulting business” (narrow topic). This is just the tip of the iceberg!
Other ways to find trending topics to write about would be to check social media. Look for trending hashtags on Twitter. Look for what new products people are talking about for product review ideas. Find out what issues people are having then create a tutorial on that topic. Look in forms and Reddit to see which posts get the most discussion to gauge what buttons your audience has.
Just by browsing a survival subreddit I found the most popular topics in recent days were survival fiction book recommendations and how to do an urban bugout. The former got the most comments (23), and the latter had the most upvotes (47). People are talking about this stuff!
Leveraging social media is NOT about posting your links everywhere. This behavior sucks, and everyone hates it. But with a bit of a ‘guerilla marketing’ attitude, you can use social media to your advantage.
Engagement Is Key
Follow people in your niche. Join the social communities they use like Facebook groups, Reddit groups, or Twitter hashtags. Engage with them.
Comment on posts, ask good questions, and offer unique information. BE REAL. People will check out your profile and follow you.. If you have your accounts properly connected, chances are that many people will discover your website via your social media profiles.
You don’t need to be dropping links telling people how awesome your most recent article is.
Hang out in the right social groups, and people will be interested in what you have to say. For example, I saw a guy called Brulosophy on Twitter commenting on one of my homebrewing podcasts. His logo looked cool and he had something insightful to say, so I checked out his profile and saw he had a homebrewing website.
Now I know his brand, and recommend his website all the time.
I’ll be honest – social media is tough for me. I’m not very good at it. Many people hate social media as well. Try to think of it as time spent learning more and more about your niche. Learn about the people. Listen to their problems and find solutions for them.
Did someone just complain about the stitching in their leather jacket breaking? What happened, why, and how did they fix it? Write an article about it. Next time it happens to someone else (and it will), they’ll search in Google and find your article about how to DIY fix leather jacket stitching.
It’s a painfully slow process, and very hard to measure results. It’s even harder to not get distracted by all the useless content people share. I’ve wasted hours just watching YouTube videos I didn’t intend to watch just because I fell for clickbait and got distracted.
The best way to approach SM is have a daily plan of what you do or how much time you do it, and stick to the plan. Every few months, take a look at what you are doing and see if it’s working for you. Increase or decrease or alter your plan from there.
At the end of the day, social media is free traffic, and if you build a strong following you can have a serious income from social media alone. I had a Pinterest pin go viral one time, taking one single page on my website from 50 visits a day up to 2,000 per day, almost tripling my daily ad income. Some people make $100,000 or more with recipe websites and they get a large chunk of their traffic from Pinterest and Facebook.
Collaborations & Outreach
To tell you the truth, I haven’t done too much of this style of marketing, but collaborations and outreach are a great way to get high quality traffic on your site. This can be directly, through a link or indirectly through brand recognition.
If you are an expert in your niche, people will want to work with you. By working with experts with tons of followers, you will be exposed to a whole new audience. However, to collaborate, you also have to bring something to the table.
A person with 100,000 followers on Twitter is not going to do an interview with you if you just started your website last week and have two followers.
These people are busy. They have businesses to run. They’d rather collaborate with someone who is at their level. They might not even respond, or they might politely decline. It’s frustrating, but understandable.
As an alternative, start looking for your own peers to work with. Exchange blog posts and share a link on your profiles. Your audience sees them, their audience sees you.
Here are some possible ways to work together with people in your niche:
- YouTube live event
- Skype interview or Q&A
- Guest blogging
- Coordinated topic posting
If no one wants to work with you, it’s time to self-reflect and see what you can improve on your website. Build out for a couple months, and keep interacting on social media. Here some ways to get some attention:
- Tweet questions at experts
- Comment on authority blogs regularly
- Do an “expert roundup” post that includes them (then email them)
- Write a post about something related to them and ask their opinion on it
Paid VS Free Traffic
You can run your entire business without ever paying for any traffic. However, most people go that route, so there are crazy opportunities in the realm of PPC (Pay Per Click). The trouble with PPC is that it costs money to make mistakes. If you drive traffic to a page on your website for just $0.50 per click and you get 1,000 clicks, that’ll cost you $500!
What that means is you’d better be sure that the page you send clicks to can convert to sales and earn you a net profit. $100 in paid traffic that creates $200 in sales is a profit of $100, so you did a good job if that’s the case.
What’s more common is that you spend that $100, only earn $20 (or even $0!), meaning you lost money on that campaign.
The next “proper” step would be to optimize your page. So on the second day, you also set your ad spend to $100, and hopefully you earn $30 instead of $20 like on the previous day. After some days or weeks of tweaking your ad settings, ad copy, and landing page, you finally have a campaign that earns a net profit. It took some initial investment, but now you can rinse and repeat this ad for similar topics.
Most people don’t get to that stage because they hate losing money.
The main advantage to paid traffic is that you get instant results. Within a day you can be sending hundreds of visitors to a single page on your website. You have full control of the traffic flow, and can tweak or test things on the fly.
With organic traffic on the other hand, you could spend a lot of time creating an article, but that article simply won’t rank for your intended keywords, or the article ranks, but doesn’t convert to sales Waste time!
Testing and failure is part of the learning process. The question is, would you rather test and fail for free, or have it cost you money? Most newbies opt for the free failures of organic traffic.
Main PPC Opportunities
The main places to start with PPC are going to Bing Ads and Facebook Ads. Both websites have relatively cheap ads and are forgiving if you break their rules once or twice. Bing is probably the easiest to see results because with Facebook, you get a lot of social noise that (at least for me), makes it hard to create good ads. (==> Creating Facebook Ads & Building A Quality Fan Page 5-Week Webinar)
My advice is to start with Bing Ads for your first PPC platform if you want to try it out. (==> Setting Up & Refining a Bing Ad Campaign 10-Lesson Course)
Adwords is Google’s ad platform. There’s wayyyyyy more traffic and opportunity to explore with Adwords, but that comes at a cost. Ads are more expensive, and their rules are very strict. Historically, Google has been very unforgiving to rule breakers and there’s no customer support line to plead your case. Before you start with Adwords, really try to read and understand their policies!
Every Website Starts At Zero
Every new affiliate marketer starts from zero. I blogged every day on One More Cup of Coffee for 6 months, with less than 10 visitors per day. Now I get over 5,000 visits per day, and my website grows every year. It takes time to build trust and authority in Google.
But if you publish content consistently and seek to improve your content over time, traffic WILL come.
In the next lesson we’re going to dig deeper into basic keyword research and look at how to find keywords, how to turn your keywords into usable titles & topics, and how to optimize your content for a specific keyword.