Recently, I offered a ton of free affiliate marketing advice to the members of the SEO Signals Lab Facebook group, which is run by Steven Kang.

Steven featured me as an expert on a “Pick His Brain” session that allowed me to answer the top questions people had about affiliate marketing.

This included things Iike how to get started with an affiliate site, what are some good content writing tips, how can you boost conversions to earn more money, etc.

Pick His Brain with Stephen Hockman

Below is a list of all of those questions and answers that reveals my top advice for affiliate marketers that I gave away for free.

You can also get even more tips and strategies by becoming a member of my free Affiliate Content Secrets Facebook Group.

I hope you enjoy this post!

And by the way, if you ever want me to do a personalized affiliate page audit for you so that you can get an exact blueprint on how to improve your click-through rates and conversions on your affiliate site, then give me a shout. I’m always willing to help.

Table of Contents

My Best Affiliate Marketing Advice

1. When Stephen writes “Once you get to the top keyword spots, you need to get people to click on your affiliate links and then convert those visitors into buyers.” I want to hear more about this part. What are some top tips for this?

It’s all about persuasive copywriting: how to sell your affiliate links so people want to click on them and then take the next step to purchase.

A lot of people just do basic content writing which just highlights the facts and features about products and doesn’t actually “sell” people on the items to make them want to buy today.

Using writing tricks like second-person pronouns, power words, and scarcity can help drive people to click and make a purchase.

Compare these two examples:

  • A: This lawn mower is a good choice for homeowners. The 14 hp engine helps it cut yards fast.
  • B: This lawn mower is a popular choice for homeowners because it lets you get yard work done 3X faster than other mowers with its powerful 14 hp engine. Also, you can usually find it on sale during this time of year. So check out the link to make sure it hasn’t already gone of stock yet due to its high demand. If it has, then you’ll want to consider my #2 pick below; it’s the best alternative for your money.

Example B does a better job of making you want to buy that lawn mower, doesn’t it?

2. How would you recommend getting started in affiliate marketing? Are there any courses or resources you’d recommend?

The Affiliate Lab Course by Matt Diggity is one of the best courses I’ve seen. It breaks everything down and everything is proven to work.

Many of the things I learned myself over the years were confirmed by the training in the course. So give it a try!

I’ve also heard that the Authority Hackers course is good as well as Income School’s Project 24 program.

3. What are the common pitfalls for affiliate marketing?

Giving up too soon. I started in 2008 and made $2.18 my first month! And I barely broke $100 per month one year later. But then I figured out what I was doing wrong and then my earnings skyrocketed.

Also, not looking at your metrics to see what needs to be changed. Affiliate marketing is a test and retest game if you want to be really successful.

4. What would be the top mistakes that newbies in affiliate marketing should avoid?

Mistakes that beginners should avoide include:

  • Treating affiliate marketing as a hobby and not a business.
  • Paying for cheap SEO services on sites like Fiverr to get guest post backlinks, link insertions, and link wheels.
  • Trying to go too broad with their site instead of focusing on one small tight niche.

Did You Know That I Had a Book?

Book Cover

Before we get into the rest of this post, I wanted to make sure that you knew about my new book, Affiliate Content Secrets: Proven Affiliate Marketing Tips & Strategies You Can Use to Maximize Your Earnings.

It’s jam-packed with 27 “SECRETS” on how to create better content that improves your click-through rates and conversions on any affiliate site in any niche.

If you want to find out how to make more money as an affiliate marketer, then check it out!

5. Do you think affiliate marketing will grow or shrink over the coming 5-10 years?

I think it will grow but the way we monetize today will likely be different in 5 years. So keep learning, testing, and adapting your strategies so you can ensure that you continue to make money from affiliate marketing.

6. In your experience, what converts better: contextual links or CTA buttons? Or does it depend on the niche or article type?

I’ve never tested these things individually on a buying guide type of post. In all of those articles, I add affiliate links to these attributes:

  • H3 Tag with Product Name
  • Image of the product
  • Contextually to the product name in the review
  • “Check Price” button

This allows me to capture any click from a user. Not everyone will click on everything so it’s best to just link them all!

But if you’re writing an article that’s just lacing affiliate links throughout it, then contextual would be the best affiliate marketing advice here. I wouldn’t add “Check Price” buttons because it would disrupt the flow of the content too much.

7. As you grow and expand a site’s content to related micro-niches do you worry about losing relevance to the original niche intent?

No, I don’t worry about it because I build my sites out in a particular way. What I do is exhaust a micro-niche before expanding into another category. I do this because I want to rank most of my money pages on page one of Google before I expand into another category.

Sometimes I’ll also just create a new site instead of expanding into other categories. For example, I might have a site that reviews only lawn mowers and another site that reviews only hedge trimmers instead of trying to rank one site for them both.

Lately, it seems like Google is favoring the narrow-focused sites for some niches.

8. Do you ever use social media for affiliate sites?

Yes, I use social media for some of my sites. But I don’t count on it for making money. I’m mainly focused on SEO for organic reach.

9. Do you stick to one offer and grind it hard or filter multiple offers for the same niche with less detail?

I use multiple offers. Why limit yourself?

10. What is the best alternative to CJ Affiliate or MaxBounty?

Reaching out to the brands of the products you want to sell will pay the most.

11. How do you handle your traffic if all they want is free stuff? Like when you promote a sweepstake offer on Facebook?

The best affiliate marketing advice here would be to capture email addresses on your site. After you capture those leads, then remarket to them through an email newsletter. You can also remarket with Facebook ads if you have the pixel installed on your site.

So get people to your site, get the pixel to fire, then remarket with Facebook ads to try to make sales from your target audience.

12. For Amazon call-to-action (CTA) buttons, what is the best text you prefer?

“Check Price” has always worked best for me. You can also try “See Amazon Reviews”. But split test them against each other to ind out what converts best for your site.

13. Where do you place the “Check Price” button? Any specific location?

I put the button at the end of each item review.

My template for a top 10 list buying guide for each item reviewed would look like this:

  • H3 Tag with Product Name (affiliate link attached)
  • Image of the product right-aligned on desktop and centered on mobile (affiliate link attached)
  • Text for the review
  • “Check Price” button (affiliate link attached)

14. Do you prefer a pros and cons section for product reviews?

I actually think pros and cons lists are bad for conversions, so I never use them.

But if you want to include it, then you need to make your cons list only 1 or 2 items while the pros list is 5 to 7 items.

In my book, Affiliate Content Secrets, I talk about how to highlight negative aspects of a product that works in a positive way to help boost sales. That way you can come across as authentic in your review but not discourage people from buying the item.

15. What are your go-to WordPress plugins for affiliate marketing?

I don’t use any affiliate-only plugins except for Amazon Affiliate WordPress Plugin (AWP). I keep things bare bones.

However, the top plugins I use on every site include:

  • All-in-One SEO
  • Autoptimize
  • WP Super Cache
  • Tablepress
  • TOC +
  • Shortcoder

16. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people make on affiliate sites?

  • Writing horrible introductions that don’t hook the visitor into wanting to read more.
  • Not picking 3 products to be your all-star items (this idea is mentioned in the book, Affiliate Content Secrets). Instead, people try to make every product on the page seem like it’s a good choice when you should really just pick 3 items and sell the heck out of them with your words. Then, make the other 7 items seem less attractive. By narrowing down your reader’s options, it’s easier for them to make a choice and by something.
  • Not using words in the content that make you seem like an expert or trustworthy.
  • Not writing with a target buyer persona in mind.
  • Not structuring the page in the right way to rank higher and convert more visitors into buyers.

17. Do you think writing shorter copies are better for conversion? Many of the top pages on the SERPs are hell-bent on producing 5,000-7,000 word content and there is very little left to write about. What should we do?

I understand your frustration! When I first started in this business I was ranking #1-3 with 1,000 word posts. Now, most of my buying guides are 4,000+ words long.

The reason being is that is what Google is favoring for page one. So look at the SERPs and let that be your guide for how long your content should be.

Here’s my advice for how to write a killer 4,000+ word post:

  1. Pick 10 products I want to feature. Then write those sizzling descriptions to make people want to buy them. If you write at least 200 words for each product, then you’re already at 2,000 words of content.
  2. Throw in a 200 words intro and 200 word conclusion. Now you’re at 2,400 words.2
  3. Look at what topics the top 3 ranking pages are covering in their H2 and H3 tags. Include the same ones on your page so that content is a combination of all of the topics from the top 3 ranking pages. Now your page is the better one.
  4. Write text to fill in those H2 and H3 sections to fill out another 1,000-2,000 words.

By following that writing strategy, you can easily create a minimum of 4,000 words for an epic buying guide that can rank on the first page of Google.

18. Do you have any concrete tests or first-hand experience with improved page speed increasing the rankings?

I just recently finished working hard on improving the speed for one of my affiliate sites with the hope that it would increase my overall rankings. I obsessed over the Google Page Insights Scores and my site’s pages now load in about 1-2 seconds.

And what were the results from all of that hard work?

NOTHING, yet…

I did this in early July and it’s now the end of August.

So I’m not sold on the idea of improving site speed as helping to boost your rankings.

19. What is the best source to learn persuasive copywriting for conversions?

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Copyblogger
  • Copy Hackers
  • Books on the psychology of persuasion, like Influence by Robert Cialdini-
  • My book, Affiliate Content Secrets. It condenses 10+ years of learning from hundreds of resources into 25 easy tips.

20. On an affiliate site or blog, would a shop page be a good idea to have?

It just depends on the search intent. If you’re trying to rank a page for “best lawn mowers”, then a shop page would probably not be a good idea. You just want to serve up a list of the 10 best lawn mowers so people can make a quick decision and buy something instantly.

Sending a target audience like that to a shop page could cause people to start having doubts about their purchase or want to do more comparison shopping and then not convert.

I think shop pages are better utilized when you link out to them from informational content or blog posts. For example, if you had a blog post on “10 tips to style your makeup and hair for prom” and within the content you linked to your shop page that sold different types of makeup and hair products, then that could work well.

21. Would a colorful site be more effective or a site with a standard theme?

Match the color to the target audience. For example, if I had a site that reviewed lawn mowers, then I would make the colors green, brown, and white: those are the colors you see outside when using lawn mowers.

If it was a site that reviewed beauty supplies like makeup, then you could use bright colors like pink, purple, red, etc. because those colors make more sense for that topic/audience.

22. Is it better to work directly with companies or affiliate platforms? What is your advice here?

It depends on your niche. In some niches, there are no companies you can work directly with because they don’t have an affiliate program set up. So you have to use affiliate programs like Amazon to make a commission of of those products.

But if you can work direclty with a company, then you can earn more money off of each sale that way. So always contact the vendor to see if that’s possible.

23. What was the breaking point where realized that you were doing affiliate marketing all wrong? You said that it took you a while to uncover this when you first started, so what did you do wrong and how did you fix it?

My breaking point was when I had a page that ranked #1 for a high-traffic keyword on Google and it made $0 in sales. At that point, I realized that the way I wrote and structured the content must be wrong. Somehow I was making people NOT want to buy the stuff I was recommending.

So I spent the next few years figuring out how to improve my content strategy through the art of persuasive copywriting and conversion rate optimization.

Now all of my affiliate pages earn a wealthy commission for me because I know how to use specific words and page structures that convert more visitors into buyers.

24. What works better: a niche site or a general blog?

If you start a niche site then it is easier to rank. And, you can become a more trusted authority and expert in the niche.

For example, if a visitor comes to a site that’s all about lawn mowers (and nothing else), then they would likely take your advice rather than a general blog that has only one post on lawn mowers.

Here’s a case in point…

I was looking for an HD antenna a few months ago and came across a guy on YouTube called Antenna Man. He is THE EXPERT in HD antennas. So I took his advice over the recommendations by big brands like CNET or PC Mag because they seemed to only be writing the content to capture easy affiliate money.

25. What is the best affiliate program for e-commerce? Amazon and eBay kind of do dances around themselves with the one-day cookie. I used to aim after high-end furniture with Amazon but the one-day cookie thing can be a killer.

The best option will depend on your niche. I’ve tested Amazon vs Walmart, Target, HD, and Lowes on some of my sites, and Amazon always won. So I have to stick with Amazon even if I don’t want to at times.

But if you can go straight to the manufacturer or brand to get a higher affiliate commission rate, then do it.

I don’t know much about high-end furniture but there may be some companies that offer affiliate programs that you can sign up for.

Some other options you can try to find the best payouts and longest cookies include:

  • Wayfair
  • Pier 1
  • CJ Affiliate
  • ShareASale
  • Skimlinks
  • Clickbank

26. I am not into affiliate marketing yet, but I read a few months back that Amazon had slashed a lot of their products down to 1% affiliate payout. Is Amazon’s affiliate program worth messing with at this stage of the game?

Amazon still works very well in my niches. Everything I promote is in the 3% bracket which used to be 8%. So the best advice here is to ONLY choose niches that are in the 3% bracket now. Don’t waste time on the 1% categories.

27. If one selects a great niche, does great product selection, great web design, great SEO, great content writing, and works 4 to 6 hours each day on affiliate marketing, what would be a rough estimate for monetizing in the $3,000 to $4,000 monthly profit range? I know there are a ton of variables but wanted your best guess.

Many years back I had a site that was at the top of Google for every major keyword in my niche and it was making multiple thousands per month. But then one day it got slapped with a manual penalty and overnight it turned into making pennies.

It took me about 6-7 months to reclaim what I lost by building a new affiliate site and now it’s back at the top for those keyword spots.

I had another site that I started from scratch and it took 8 months until it popped onto page one of Google for most of its keywords and started earning several thousand dollars per month.

So in my experience, I can do it in about 8 months or less. But I do have the expert knowledge of what to do and don’t have to learn everything like a beginner.

So if you’re just now getting started in affiliate markeing, then it would likely take you longer to get to $3,00 to $4,000 in earnings per month because you have to learn what does and doesn’t work to convert more visitors into buyers.

But be patient and stick with it. Treat your affiliate site like a real business and not a hobby. And in the end, you’ll most likely have a profitable affiliate site that can make you a serious amount of money.

Just be sure to pick products that cost at least $100 to buy. That will get you to your goal faster. Trying to get wealthy off selling books or makeup isn’t going to work very well.

28. Do you hire writers for your affiliate site or do you write the content yourself?

I write the money pages myself. I’ve tried hiring it out but I always end up spending several hours editing the content when it’s delivered that it’s easier just for me to write it.

But for my informational posts (i.e. supporting content), I hire that out and then just edit the content to add in my internal links to my money pages and other affiliate links.

29. Let’s say I want to start an Amazon affiliate website. How do I get started? What is your advice for creating content?

To get started, you need to do the following:

  1. Sign up for a web hosting account.
  2. Install WordPress (the host can do this for you).
  3. Pick a niche to target. Go micro-niche too. Instead of targeting “cars”, try “mufflers” or “car stereos”. Something very narrow. And only write about that topic.
  4. Create 10 separate buying guides that target “best” keywords in the niche, like “best muffler for performance”, “best muffler for honda civic”, “best muffler for v8 engine”, etc. My book, Affiliate Content Secrets, explains how to write better content that converts and how to structure these types of pages.
  5. Create informational posts to support your buying guides. These can be your blog posts. In each article, link to one or more of your buying guides. The goal is to capture additional website traffic as well as funnel people to those buying guides and create relevance for your money pages to help them rank.
  6. Track your conversion rates on your buying guides and make adjustments as needed to increase your sales.

30. I hear that some people how have Amazon affiliate sites just create content by simply paraphrasing the product text from the Amazon description? If they are doing so, is it a rankable strategy in Google? What are your thoughts on this?

When copying Amazon descriptions, you want to add in your own opinions and experience with the product. Don’t just rewrite the bullet point from Amazon.

For example, if a refrigerator had these two bullet points:

  • 26 cu. ft. of storage
  • 3 adjustable shelves

You could write something like this in your review:

This refrigerator has 26 cu. ft. of storage, which means it can hold enough food for 2 hungry adults and 3 children. And with 3 adjustable shelves, you’ll never run out of storage space either. Large pots, small pots, tall containers, and more. You can fit practically anything in this fridge!

31. Regarding page design for affiliate reviews, what do you prefer: full width (so that the content is in the middle of the screen) or the traditional left-aligned content with a sidebar?

If you’re not running display ads like Mediavine, then you can ditch the sidebar. Most of my affiliate website traffic is mobile (about 60-70%) so the sidebar isn’t even seen unless the person scrolls all the way down to the end of the post.

But if you do keep the sidebar, a good thing to add in there are trust signals, such as an author bio, certifications, badges, a Facebook widget, etc. Anything that can instantly make your site seem popular, approachable, and trustworthy.

People likely won’t click on any of those items but they’re a subtle sign of credibility for your affiliate site.

32. Do you use any “sticky” elements in page design, such as a header, table of contents, buy this product button, etc.?

No, I don’t. But I do mostly affiliate buying guides and individual product reviews.

A stick buy button might be a good idea if you’re reviewing a single product and want to keep that call-to-action (CTA) button available at all times.

33. Do you try to keep a certain ratio of informational/affiliate content?

When starting a new affiliate site, I try to do do a 5:1 ratio with 5 informational posts to support one buying guide.

After I get this done, I then wait to see how the site ranks.

Once I get to page one on Google for my target keywords, I then slow the informational post creation down. because I don’t want to dilute anything.

This strategy also allows me to create a good mix of internal contextual anchors to confirm to Google what the target pages are about.

So basically, my smallest site would have 60+ total articles since I always have at least 10 buying guides on them.

34. What are your 3 top tips to increase conversion rates on an affiliate site?

I’ll give you 5 tips:

  1. Sell the affiliate link in your copy. Make people want to click on it and buy it. Hype the product up! I see so many affiliate sites that just list the facts and features of a product but don’t give the visitor a strong reason for WHY they should buy it. People need guidance. Transfer YOUR OPINIONS into their conscious mind.
  2. Make your links easy to see. Pick a strong contrasting color for the links. Look at The Wire Cutter; they use bright red links for their affiliate links and all other links are black. That’s on purpose!
  3. Link everything! The product name, image, and call-to-action (CTA) button. Make it easy for your visitor to take that next step of buying the product or at least learning more about it.
  4. Create a sense of urgency and scarcity for your highest-priced item. Say something like, “This item has been selling out a lot lately, so if you can get your hands on one, DO IT!”
  5. This idea is revealed in chapter 24 of my book, Affiliate Content Secrets. Add more images of the highest-priced product throughout the page. For example, put a picture of it in your top image for the post, alongside the review, and then again in the copy toward the end of the post. Also, mention that product name several times throughout the entire page. By doing this, you’re tapping into psychology tricks called Fluency, Frequency, and Exposure. Basically, the more times a person sees or hears about something, the more they become attached to it. And that can make the product “feel” like the right choice.

35. What type of affiliate content converts the best?

When your content speaks to your visitor’s desires, addresses their fears, and uses words that they use, it feels more like a conversation with a friend or trusted advisor, and that can disarm them.

By putting the right kinds of words in front of your audience, you can make it easier for people to do what you suggest (i.e. buy a product).

36. For every new affiliate site that you build, do you use a fresh or expired domain?

I use fresh domain. I always create a real brand for my sites so that they are more trustworthy and credible. This also makes it easier to convert visitors into buyers because my sites are legit businesses that are there to help people find the best products for their needs.

37. What do you recommend for someone just starting out in affiliate marketing?

  • Get the basics of on-page SEO right from the start. Otherwise, you’ll have to fix a lot of things later and you won’t rank as easy for your target keywords.
  • Pick a micro-niche to target. For example, instead of targeting “yard tools”, try “lawn mowers” or “hedge trimmers”. Something very narrow. And only write about that topic. Become THE authority on that small subset of things.
  • Don’t feel pressured to have to buy into expensive SEO tools to get good results. I don’t use any paid tools and have been doing very well for 10+ years.
  • Make it a business, not a hobby. Work on your site every day and try to make it the BEST resource for people on your THING.
  • Analyze your conversion data from the start and understand it. For example, if you’re recommending 10 products on a page and the top 3 reviews are the items you want people to buy, but no one is buying them, then you need to either fix your copy to sell them better or swap those products out for other one’s that do sell. Track, measure, and adjust.

38. What niches do you believe can weather the constant Google updates? Big niches like finance, health, insurance, and make money are constantly under Google’s radar and see major shifts in the SERPs during these updates So what niches do you think are generally safe?

I focus on consumer products and that has helped to weather most all of the Google updates.

Only one site of mine has ever taken a hit from a Google update and that was because big brands took over the top 10 spots in SERPs. There doesn’t seem to be much I can do to reclaim those keyword rankings.

So my best advice for you is to look for must-have consumer products you can promote that people need advice on before they buy it. For example, lawn mowers, air conditioners, baby strollers, etc. Just don’t focus on hobby niches; they don’t convert very well in my experience.

39. How do you keep track of all your affiliate programs, links, commission rates, dashboards, etc?

I use the native tools inside of the affiliate programs. Each one gives you the data for tracking and conversions. So I just log into each tool separately.

That allows me to track individual pages to see how they are improving or declining in sales.

However, I do track each site of mine separately in an Excel sheet so that I can see how the earnings are growing or shrinking each month. I just go through each affiliate program tool and copy the earnings reports for the month over to my Excel sheet in order to track the progress for each site.

Did You Enjoy This Free Affiliate Marketing Advice?

Whew!

That was a lot of free affiliate marketing advice for you to read. But I hope it was worth it!

Would you mind sharing which of these tips and strategies in affiliate marketing was your favorite in the comments section below?

I look forward to hearing what your top takeaways were from my recent question and answer session on SEO Signals Lab.

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