For new affiliate marketers, the concepts of idea generation and keyword marketing can seem overwhelming, particularly when even the process of niche selection can seem surprisingly complex.
In this affiliate marketing for beginners topic, I want to walk you through some of the key elements of the generation and selection of ideas, keywords and niches, all of which can be particularly tricky for beginners.
Starting from the Beginning: The Niche
In internet business, your first, and most significant decision is your niche.
What is a niche?
It’s your area of focus and emphasis. It’s your topic.
And there are a lot to choose from
Your niche is important, because this is what you structure all of your content around. If your niche is too narrow, you will have problems finding enough to write about. There also might be few people interested in what you have to say.
If it’s too broad, ranking is likely to be harder, and you will face much greater competition.
Some people may already have a niche in mind before they start affiliate marketing, but most won’t. Regardless of whether you have a niche idea or not, the very first step in picking a good niche is research.
A niche can be many things. For example, a niche could be clothes, women’s clothes, women’s shirts or women’s shirts for work.
These are all different niches within the general niche of clothing and as you can probably imagine, there are many more.
In fact, many people find that there are simply too many niche site ideas, making it very difficult to actually pick somewhere to get started. The niche you choose can be pretty much anything. You can make profit from any niche really, it’s just that some will be easier and faster than others.
One of the best places to start niche research is a directory known as Dmoz. Dmoz is an open directory that anyone can edit.
Essentially, the directory provides a way of organizing the internet into categories, subcategories and so on. It is a perfect source for niche inspiration, not only giving ideas about niches, but the types of topics and products that can be considered within a niche.
For example, one approach might be to look at cooking within the general nice/area of home.
Clicking on cooking in Dmoz will give another range of entries, including the ones below as well as many others.
There is also lists of some more indirectly related topics, like nutrition, chefs and safety, as well as a list of websites that are important for cooking.
Clicking on any one of the links on the page, such as Baking and Confections will open up another subpage and you can keep going down through the pages like this for quite some time.
Each page or topic is a possible niche and how far down you go is really a matter of personal preference.
For example, within the cooking niche, you might choose to do a site on gluten free recipes, which could include discussions about how to make gluten-free variants of popular meals, why gluten-free cooking might be desirable, and where to get good ingredients from.
There are lots of other places that you can look for niche ideas, such as in magazines and even just random searches in Google.
At the end of the day, a niche is simply the area that you are focusing your site on and choosing a niche doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems.
Things to Keep in Mind
While you can choose just about anything as a niche, there are certain things to take into consideration when selecting a niche.
These can help you select one that works for you and is also easy to work with.
1. What Interests You?
Being successful in affiliate marketing involves writing content on a regular basis.
If your topic isn’t something that interests you, then writing on it every day can quickly become tedious.
This might be a hobby, or it might be something you want to learn more about.
For example, some people choose photography as a niche, and focus on different types of cameras as well as specific photography techniques.
You don’t have to choose a niche that interests you, but at the very least, make sure it isn’t something you find boring.
2. How Will You Make Money?
In affiliate marketing, most or all of your profit comes from the products that you are promoting.
This means you have to pick a niche that actually has profits you can sell.
For any given niche, you should be able to think of several different types of products or services almost immediately. If you can’t, finding things to promote will get particularly difficult as the site goes along.
Additionally, you want what you are promoting to be a natural fit to the site.
For example, if your niche was focused on exercise and its role in health, you probably wouldn’t be promoting vitamin supplements on the site, unless it was directly relevant to an article you were writing.
Figuring out how you can make money before you start is critical. Otherwise, you risk putting hours of work into a site, just to find that there is very little that you can sell.
3. Who Is Your Audience?
Some niches are very general; others are very specialized.
The niche you choose will determine how many people are interested in your site, and the best way of writing for them.
For example, if you choose a specialized niche like photographers’ equipment, then the amount people interested in your site will be relatively low.
However, you won’t have a large amount of competition, giving you the chance to corner the market.
Writing for this audience would probably involve using technical language of that field. For example, a snippet from one camera post looks something like this.
Now, if you’re not into photography, only about half of that paragraph will make sense. However, for dedicated photographers, it will be completely understandable. Likewise, on a site like that, you wouldn’t start telling readers simple tips about how to use a camera.
In contrast, if you were making a site using the niche cooking on a budget, you would be using less technical terms and the information would also be more basic.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Mistake
Many people find choosing a niche almost impossible because there are simply so many different niche site ideas out there.
You could literally spend days going through Dmoz and browsing the internet looking for ideas for a niche, only to find that you have far too many to choose from.
Your niche defines your entire website, so it has to be perfect.
There is no such thing as a perfect niche.
With enough effort, you can pretty much make any niche work, particularly if you choose one that has a lot of possible things to write about.
If nothing else, choosing a niche that doesn’t work for you will simply give you the chance to experiment and learn.
Realistically, we learn far more from our mistakes than we do from the lessons that we are taught.
The Next Step: Keyword Research
Every day, millions of different people browse the internet and search for information using a wide variety of phrases.
The phrase that a person puts into a search engine (like Google) is important, because the search engine algorithm pairs that phrase up with websites that it considers to be relevant.
Most people who search will only look at the first few pages of results, at best. So, if you want to get a niche site noticed, you really have to get it within these pages of results, ideally on the first page.
Obviously, you can’t do this for every search, so website owners write content focused on specific keywords.
This is where keyword research comes in, because it lets the website creator work out what competition is present for a given keyword as well as how many people search for it.
This provides a way of tailoring the content of around topics and keywords that are more likely to rank, which in turn helps to increase the traffic to a website, and increase its profit.
The first step of keyword research is working out what keywords you want to look at.
There are a few ways of doing this, bit one particularly interesting one is to make use of Google itself, a process sometimes known as alphabet soup.
Alphabet soup is a fantastic technique for finding early keywords and inspiration for content in general. This works by taking advantage of Google’s Instant feature.
Start off by typing any keyword related to your niche into the search engine. This could be a single keyword or a string:
Google will then provide different ways of finishing the sentence. Theoretically, these are based on the most searched phrases, but it’s likely that Google’s algorithm is a bit more complex than that.
Now you can keep going with the process, and each time you add words, you end up with a more refined keyword.
Now, this process doesn’t give you any indication of how often the keyword is searched, or how much competition there is, but it’s a good first step.
This is actually a very common way of finding keywords, and it is called by a few different terms. Odds are, if you ever read a keyword research guide, it will mention this technique at least once.
The biggest advantage of this approach is that it is easy to tailor and is entirely free to use. Within half an hour, you can easily get a list of potential keywords for your site, and these are important for more in-depth keyword research.
When it comes to research for websites, Google offers some pretty powerful tools, and Google Trends is one of these.
Unlike the other tools I’ve discussed so far, Google Trends actually looks at the way that searches for a given phrase have changed over time.
This can be particularly important, because it provides an indication of future interest in the search term.
In my example, there really hasn’t been much change in interest in my search term over time. The slight increase in interest in recent years can be largely attributed to increases in the number of people using the internet rather than any meaningful changes in search patterns.
In contrast, search information on green coffee bean, tells quite a different story:
Google Trends can be a particularly powerful tool in affiliate marketing for beginners, particularly because it is possible to compare as much as five different search terms, or groupings of search terms.
There are also four different categories that you can choose, including global location, date, category and type of search.
All of these options can provide valuable insight into the way that people search online and what keywords are likely to be searched a lot. This can be important for selecting keywords, because keywords that are trending high tend to bring in a lot of traffic.
Google Trends will also provide insight into the way that different keywords perform, even when they mean the almost the same thing. One example of this is car parts versus auto parts. Even though these terms are similar, they perform very differently.
These differences mean that any site should probably use some variant of auto parts as a keyword, rather than car parts.
The other options that Google Trends provides also offer important information, such as regional data, and how trends have changed specifically for product searches.
There are a number of other features that are part of Google trends. Really, it’s just a matter of sitting down with the site for a while and playing around with the different options.
However, it is important to note that Google Trends doesn’t provide any indication of the actual traffic that is occurring, meaning that another tool needs to be used to find out this information.
Google Keyword Planner
Google also offers a keyword planner, which allows users to work out what keywords to use.
The planner is designed for PPC (pay per click) ad campaigns and requires you to sign up for Google Adsense. However, you don’t actually have to use Adsense, and Google’s planner can provide important insight for affiliate marketers.
Google’s keyword planner can be effective at projecting the amount of traffic that a site would get and working out which keywords are better choices.
However, this product is designed for Adsense, so not all of the information will be relevant for people who are focusing on making their money through affiliate marketing. This is particularly true of the estimates and budgets section of the program, which has a strong emphasis on spending money, something that does not work well for most beginner affiliate marketers.
Direct Keyword Research
When it comes to researching keywords, two of the most critical pieces of information are the traffic and the competition.
Traffic refers to how many people search the keyword, while competition is how many other sites there are that target that keyword.
As a general rule, the more often a keyword is searched, the more competition there will be for the keyword. However, this isn’t always the case, and sometimes you will get lucky and find a good keyword that is both popular and low in competition.
The keyword search tool that I personally use is Jaaxy. Jaaxy is particularly nice because it makes the process simple, and has a free trial.
Although the free trial for Jaaxy is limited to 30 searches, this is more than enough to get most new affiliate marketing sites off the ground.
Here is the cooking chicken keyword in Jaaxy:
Here, the two most significant pieces of information are the monthly searches and the QSR. QSR is a measure of competition and Jaaxy’s definition of this measure is given to the right.
In general, the lower the QSR the better. Most people recommend aiming for a QSR of lower than 300, and ideally as low as possible.
The QSR does need to be balanced against the traffic number. For example, a keyword with a QSR of around 20, but less than 10 monthly searches, probably won’t be very good for most sites.
Jaaxy also lists a KQI, which is simply a visual indication of how good a keyword is. Ideally, you want to aim for a green circle, but looking at the traffic and QSR numbers is normally better, as precisely what is needed will vary from one site to the next
From my keyword results, you can see that ‘cooking chicken in a crock pot’ has a large number of monthly searches and a low QSR, meaning it would be a good keyword to use. Additionally, it would be a pretty easy keyword to write content on, which is also important.
The keyword ‘cooking chicken in a grill’ has much lower monthly searches, but also considerably lower QSR. There is also the keyword ‘cooking chicken crock pot’ but that is probably a bad keyword to use because it doesn’t make sense grammatically.
This type of keyword can be particularly good for new websites, as it helps them to get ranked quickly.
Long-tail keywords are a specific type of keyword that can be quite effective for websites. Generally, these keywords are anywhere between three and seven words in length, and tend to be very specific.
For example, in my case a long-tail keyword might be ‘easy chicken crock pot recipes’
Now, long-tail keywords tend to have much lower monthly searches than normal keywords (although, you will sometimes find exceptions), but they often have little competition because they are so specific.
However, the real value of a long-tail keyword is that you are providing exactly what the viewer wants.
For example, if you write an article using ‘cooking chicken’ as a keyword, you’re going to get viewers interested in all different types of things, many of which won’t actually be relevant to your article.
In contrast, if you use ‘easy chicken crock pot recipes’ as a keyword, you will get a more targeted audience.
This means that viewers of your website tend to be more interested in the content and stay on the site longer.
Long-tail keywords can be a very effective way to rank a site quickly, and they also result in more conversions.
This makes long-tail keyword particularly important in affiliate marketing for beginners, because using these is often more effective than going head-to-head on popular keywords with high competition.
Being Effective: Using Keywords Well
Using Keywords Once You Have Them
So, you have done your keyword research and have a list of good keywords.
You need to include your keywords within articles for your site. As a general rule, you will use one keyword per site, although as you get more experienced this may change.
The first step is to pick what keyword to use. I’m going to choose the keyword I researched earlier ‘easy chicken crock pot recipes’, as it had nice QSR and searches.
Exactly where you use the keyword in your article will depend on the article itself, but in general, aim to have it in the article title, somewhere in the first paragraph and a few times in the article itself.
If you have a short article (<500 words) you probably don’t want the keyword more than twice in the article (including the first paragraph).
If your article is longer, then you may add the keyword in more often.
One of the most important things is that the keyword appears natural.
This means that it should make sense in the sentence and flow naturally. For example, the first paragraph for my article using the ‘easy chicken crock pot recipes’ keyword might be something like this:
In these winter months, crock pots can be a good way of preparing a meal without all the hassle of using the oven. There is nothing better than coming home after a long day of work to find that the whole house smells like chicken and dinner is just a few minutes away. I want to share with you some of my favorite easy chicken crock pot recipes that require little work and few ingredients. Personally, I don’t know what I would do without them.
If you read that paragraph on a website, you wouldn’t even know what my keyword was which is exactly what I want.
I would then write an article that provides multiple chicken crock pot recipes and points out their merits. I might even try them myself first, so I could give my readers honest feedback about the recipe.
When it comes to using your keyword in an article, it’s important not to overuse it.
More is not better, and you will find yourself penalized in rankings if you use your keyword too many times.
Furthermore, if you fill your article up with keywords, it isn’t going to be that interesting to read, and people won’t stay on your site long.
Keywords and Grammar
When you research keywords, you will notice that many of the keywords with high levels of traffic and low QSR don’t make much sense grammatically.
This is because most people don’t use grammar when they put information into search engines.
It’s tempting to use these keywords in content, but it isn’t really a good idea.
The thing is, Google and other search engines do more than just look at your keywords. They also pay close attention to how you are using them, and whether the keyword makes sense in the context.
This means that throwing a bunch of random keywords on a page does not work at all (although it used to work).
The same applies to using keywords that don’t make sense grammatically. For example, one keyword in the niche of gluten free cooking could be ‘gluten free recipes easy’. If you use the keyword as is, it wouldn’t look very good in a sentence, and this would get you penalized in search rankings.
A good general rule is that your keyword shouldn’t look like a keyword. In fact, in a good article, the reader won’t even be able to work out what words were the keywords.
In some cases, it is possible to make use of punctuation or clever sentence structure to make a bad keyword usable. For example, you could say ‘some people find gluten free recipes easy, while others struggle to follow them’.
Keyword research might seem a little challenging, but it isn’t as bad as it seems.
Honestly, the best way to get better at keyword research is simply to try to find a handful of keywords that can be used for your specific niche.
Over time, the process of keyword research and use becomes natural and easy to do.
Also, it is worth remembering that content is every bit as important, if not more important, than keywords.
Having good content will help you to rank in search engines, and will also make the site valuable for readers. A site with good keywords, but no useful content, will simply not succeed.
If you want to learn more about being successful as an affiliate marketer, a great place to get going is the training community over at Wealthy Affiliate. However, it's important to note that this overall approach isn't one that will let you get rich quick. Instead, it can help you to create a long-term and successful source of income.