There are many ways to make money with a website - sell products, display advertisements, accept donations - but my favorite way to make money online is affiliate marketing. As one of the world's largest online retailers, the Amazon affiliate program is easy to sign up for, and very easy to earn money from once you know a little bit about SEO. That's probably why it's so popular.
In this guide, I'm going to teach you everything you need to know about starting an Amazon affiliate site, from how to select a niche, to writing content and getting organic search engine traffic. I'll also show you the pitfalls to avoid (like how to avoid breaching Amazon's terms and conditions) and everything I've learned about building a successful Amazon affiliate website in the last 5 years, along with the advice of many successful affiliate marketers and plenty of examples of real Amazon affiliate sites.
By following this guide, you will learn:
- What affiliate marketing and the Amazon Associates is
- How to pick a profitable niche and brand it
- How to find low competition keywords to drive targeted traffic
- How to write content that ranks easily and drives affiliate clicks
- How to setup WordPress for SEO
- How to build backlinks to your new website
This is not a quick-fix solution: building a successful website will take time and hard work (and some money, too) and did I mention all the hard work?
But if you're dedicated to starting a new Amazon affiliate website, read everything in this guide thoroughly and follow all of the instruction in the action boxes, you will have the knowledge you need to start and grow a profitable new affiliate website to 10k pageviews a month. I can't tell you how long it will take you to reach that traffic number, but my goal for a new site is 10k traffic in 3 months.
I really should make this guide into a premium course because it takes you through every strategy and action plan you need to build a profitable site from scratch, step by step. I'll even show you behind-the-scenes of one of my brand new Amazon affiliate sites as it's being built. Enjoy the guide while it's free!
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a form of marketing where commission is paid for referring sales or traffic to a third party product or service. It can also be called referral marketing.
There are many different types of affiliate offers available for marketers, and some companies operate their own affiliate program (like Amazon) or use a third party affiliate management company (like ShareaSale or Commission Junction).
What are the benefits of affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing offers plenty of benefits as a way of making money online with a blog or website:
What are the risks of affiliate marketing?
It's not all sunshine and daffodils; affiliate marketing has risk you should consider too:
Affiliate marketing is not for everyone. You're not going to become an overnight millionaire, or suddenly have a 4-hour work week (unless you have a huge outsourcing budget!), but you will get the chance to learn something new, work hard, create something valuable and, ultimately, earn money while you sleep.
I don't think "passive income" really exists, but it is possible to work hard now and enjoy the income for years to come. I personally love waking up and checking my affiliate dashboard in the morning and seeing how much money I made while I was asleep. But really, that money was made with the many hours of hard work done months or even years earlier, so I see affiliate marketing as less of a passive income 'trick' and more of a solid investment in your future.
What is Amazon Associates?
Amazon Associates is the name of Amazon's affiliate marketing program. It was originally launched in 1996 and is currently open to website owners and bloggers who can earn a small commission (Amazon calls these "advertising fees") if they send people to Amazon through a custom affiliate tracking link and a sale is made within 24 hours.
When someone clicks on an Amazon link that has an affiliate tag in it (it will look something like this:"amazon.com/product-code/product-name/?tag=internetfolks-20") a cookie is places in the browser (e.g. Chrome) for 24 hours. An affiliate commission is only paid if a purchase is made within 24 hours, or less if the user deletes browser cookies. If an item is added to cart while the cookie is active, a commission will be permitted if the purchase is made within 90 days or when the browser cookies are deleted by the user.
There is not just one, single Amazon Associates program; each local Amazon site (e.g. .COM, .CO.UK, .IT) has its own affiliate program, with its own terms and commission rates, and each must be joined separately. Here is a list of the current active Amazon Associate programs:
- Amazon US - https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/
- Amazon UK - https://affiliate-program.amazon.co.uk/
- Amazon CANADA - https://associates.amazon.ca/
- Amazon ITALY - https://programma-affiliazione.amazon.it/
- Amazon SPAIN - https://afiliados.amazon.es/
- Amazon GERMANY - https://partnernet.amazon.de/
- Amazon FRANCE - https://partenaires.amazon.fr/
- Amazon INDIA - https://affiliate-program.amazon.in/
- Amazon CHINA - https://associates.amazon.cn/
- Amazon JAPAN - https://affiliate.amazon.co.jp/
- Amazon BRAZIL - https://associados.amazon.com.br/
- Amazon MEXICO - https://afiliados.amazon.com.mx/
For the purposes of this guide, I am going to focus on Amazon US because it is the largest English-speaking Amazon market and the most popular program to get started with.
Amazon does not release affiliate figures, but way back in 2008 someone worked out they had 2 million affiliates thanks to a job advert. Today, Amazon call it "the web's most popular and successful affiliate program".
Amazon Associates is one of the easiest affiliate programs to join. You can even sign up using your existing Amazon customer account (or create a new one if you prefer). There are, however, a few eligibility requirements you'll need to check before applying.
Each Amazon country account has its own participation requirements, so check all applicable programs separately. In general, you need to already have (and disclose) an active website that does not target under 13s, contain false or deceptive material, promote discriminatory or harmful content or illegal activities, violate intellectual property. The website name cannot contain any Amazon trademark, or a variant, so check their very long (but non-exhaustive) list before picking a domain name.
Also, residents of Maine cannot be part of the Amazon.com program:
if at any time following your enrollment in the Associates Program you become a resident of the United States of America jurisdiction of Maine, you will become ineligible to participate in the Associates Program, and your Agreement will automatically terminate on the date you establish residency in that state.
Non-US people can participate in the US associates program, but they must carry out all operations outside of the US.
My advice: check that you're eligible to become an Amazon affiliate, but do not sign up until your website is getting traffic.
How much money can I make?
How long is a piece of string?! You could never make a cent, or you could make thousands each month, it all depends on how strategic you are and how much work you put into building targeted traffic.
The minimum payout is $10; if you earn less, they will roll it on until the next month. Amazon make payments to affiliates each month.
How to pick a good Amazon Affiliate niche
Many people (myself included) pick a bad niche for their first Amazon affiliate site. You can learn from the mistakes of others and follow these guidelines for picking a good niche for your new Amazon affiliate website.
Check the average item cost
If the bestselling products in your niche go for $5 or $10, you're not going to make much money from Amazon affiliates.
Think about the numbers: let's imagine we've worked hard on our content and SEO and we now bring 10,000 visitors to our website each month, and 33% of visitors click on an Amazon link (very optimistic). Let's carry on being optimistic, and assume that 10% of those clicks convert into Amazon sales. If our average product price was $10, do you know how much income we would have made in 1 month?
Not great income for a site with 10,000 monthly visitors.
So how high does the average product price need to be to make Amazon affiliates a decent source of income? There's no fixed amount, but I generally advise against anything under $30.
With 10,000 site visitors at the above conversions, a $30 average item value would generate almost $500. Much better.
Sure, you can make money with low priced items (and they are better impulse purchases of course), but you're going to need to work harder to generate more traffic, which means more time (and maybe money) spent on SEO and content.
Identify impulse purchase items
When a visitor clicks on an Amazon affiliate link, it places a cookie on their browser that will expire in 24 hours, or sooner if they delete their cookies. What's more, if the visitor then goes to another website to do more research and clicks an affiliate link to Amazon, it supersedes your affiliate cookie! Basically, if your visitors don't click through to Amazon and purchase immediately, you're probably not going to make a commission.
Yes, there are work-arounds, like the 90-day Shopping Cart commissions (a user must put the item in their cart while your 24-hour cookie is still active), but as a general rule, you're going to want to pick a niche where people don't have to make huge decisions.
Jim Harmer, owner of ImprovePhotography.com, a successful photography niche site says:
In photography, even with a million page views a month, I only sell a few cameras a month on Amazon through my affiliate links because that’s the kind of purchase people are going to obsess about, read reviews for a couple of months, keep it in their Amazon wish list, and then they’re finally going to pull the trigger. If they didn’t buy it within 24 hours of clicking on your affiliate link, it didn’t matter how helpful your review was, you still don’t get the commission. Source: https://youtu.be/HoRB5TKPaqg?t=1m15s
Think about things you have bought from Amazon before - how long did it take you to make the decision? Also ask people you know the same thing if you're struggling to find good impulse purchase niches.
Check the payout percentages
Not all product categories on Amazon have the same commission fees. I've added a chart of the latest Amazon.com commissions (as of May 2018) above, but I advise you to check the latest rates here, or on the specific Amazon country site you are targeting.
Commissions can vary a lot between countries, for example Amazon UK currently offers 10% commission on luggage purchases, while Amazon US only offers 7%.
Do you need to focus on a specific Amazon country? No, not at all. It is possible to use Amazon OneLink or third party tools like Geni.us to send affiliate traffic to different Amazon country websites and still make commissions. However, you should consider your primary audience goal because it will affect the style and language of your content and your domain name (i.e. English UK versus US spelling, and a .COM or .CO.UK domain).
Most people focus on Amazon.com because the potential audience is large (over 325 million residents). However, if you have knowledge of a local market (perhaps you live outside the US) then consider targeting your site to a different Amazon country site. Personally, I usually default to the US, but also have .CO.UK sites that only promote Amazon.co.uk.
Is the niche evergreen?
An evergreen niche is one that allows you to write content that can last a long time and does not need frequent updates. Evergreen niches are good choices for Amazon affiliate sites because the content will have a long lifespan, and should earn money for you over a long period of time.
One of the first niches I picked involved technology. Specifically, cell phones. I wrote a very detailed guide to a new phone release a few months ahead of its launch, and ranked the site organically in time for the launch date. I got thousands of pageviews when the new phone was launched, as I ranked position 2 or 3 for a hugely popular term. I thought I had won the lottery... but after a few days I got outranked by major news sites that covered the launch. The cell phone also went through many updates and new models, so I would have needed to keep updating the content to keep it relevant. That was not the 'passive' affiliate income I wanted! Needless to say, I quickly ditched the site and moved on, but learned an important lesson about niche selection: don't pick a niche that's going to give you a lot of work.
Seasonal niches also pose a problem. If you create a snowboarding website, you're going to great during snowboarding season, but then what? Your site will be a graveyard for the rest of the year. Sure, there's still money to be made from seasonal niches, but I would not recommend picking a seasonal product for your main affiliate site.
Remember: the work you're going to have to do writing content and doing SEO will be just as hard for a seasonal site as for an evergreen site, so why waste your effort for less money? Also, if you ever want to sell your website, an evergreen niche will make it more desirable to buyers because it's less effort to maintain.
Tim Soulo, Head of Marketing at ahrefs said it best in his blogging for business course:
Growth happens when the traffic to your articles doesn't fade over time.
Check Google Trends
Google Trends is free to use and will give you a great insight into search trends over several years. Try putting in the general niche you are interested in, e.g. baseball or knitting, and select "past 5 years" to look at long-term trends.
A good niche will have a growing interest over time and stable interest throughout the year. Avoid 'rollercoaster' trends like baseball (above), because you will struggle to get traffic during the off-season. Also stay away from downward trends, like paleo (below), because it indicates a shrinking market.
A few additional things to consider when coming up with a Amazon niche ideas:
Product stability and availability
Are there plenty of products in your niche that are stable and available? Some product categories, like food, change all the time. It could make it difficult for you to make good product recommendations.
Consider product ratings
Have a look at products in this niche on Amazon - do they get good reviews? I don’t mean specific products, I mean products in that category. There are some categories on Amazon that are just full of bad reviews. Avoid these because they won’t convert well into sales. For example, I was working on a site about bonsai recently and discovered that it was near-impossible to find bonsai trees for sale on Amazon with decent reviews.
Think about product returns
Amazon has a great returns policy, which is wonderful for customers, but your commissions will be reversed if a customer returns a product they bought via you affiliate link. Think about niches that have high returns rate (i.e. clothing) and consider if it’s worth it. Clothing does have a 10% commission rate on Amazon.com at the moment, but the returns rate may bring conversions down.
Choose a niche that requires a bit of research
Amazon might sell millions of products, but not everyone will need to Google something before they go directly to Amazon. Think about what people might want to know before making a purchase. Products that have a bit of a learning curve are ideal.
Online vs instore
There are some products that people like to test out in store, like a bicycle or a pair of shoes, whereas something like a blender is easily bought online (it’s not like they let you make a smoothie with it in the store!). If you’re stuck for ideas, take a look at some of the shopping channels like QVC and see their bestselling items.
Good Amazon affiliate niches (cheatsheet)
There's no definitive consensus on what makes a good or bad Amazon affiliate niche, but if you're looking for a quick cheatsheet, these are some niches that I have had good (or bad!) experiences with, coupled with the advice of other affiliate marketers that use Amazon to monetize their websites.
Of course it's possible to make good money from some of the "bad niches" too, but growth may be slower or you'll have to create more content to keep up with the market. My goal is always to maximize potential income with minimum work, and the "good niche" list represents that.
Note: these niches are generic and broad - I'll explain how to niche down and settle on a more specific niche (i.e. ukulele instead of 'musical instruments') in the following sections on branding and keyword research.
Good Amazon affiliate niches
- Musical instruments
- Year-round sports
Bad Amazon affiliate niches
- Cameras (not an impulse purchase)
- Phones (fast-changing, little evergreen content)
- Seasonal sports (will only give seasonal income)
- TVs/Laptops (low commissions)
- Beauty products (fast-changing, people prefer video)
- Gardening (seasonal)
- Fashion (high returns)
- Toys (low commissions)
- Groceries (stock changes too often)
What about my passion?!
Alright, don't worry, if you're super passionate about cameras or gardening and you see it on my affiliate naughty list, it's ok to ignore me and start a site in that niche anyway. A big part of creating a successful Amazon affiliate site is content creation. If you have a lot of knowledge, experience or interest in a certain niche, then by all means go for it, even if it's not the most lucrative niche to get started in. Yes, you might have to work extra hard to bring in the money, but if you are enjoying the work then you'll find it easier to continue and not fall at the first hurdle.
Take Action #1: come up with a list of Amazon affiliate niches that match the above criteria. Broad niches like "furniture" are ok at this stage. You can steal my list from above if you're stuck!
Turning a generic niche into a brand
This is probably the most important step to spend time on and can make a huge difference between success and failure! So many people jump straight from an Amazon niche into starting a website and looking for profitable keywords. But if you want your new website to have long-term success and not look like a spammy Amazon review site, you'll need to work on turning your niche into a brand.
A brand is not a catchy domain name and logo, it's a voice and style and, ultimately, the angle you'll take on your niche.
For example, let's say we want to focus on the furniture niche. Furniture is an evergreen affiliate product category, but it’s very generic. If you create a generic website, you're going to struggle with content and make the whole process an uphill battle. By taking your own angle on the furniture niche, you 'll find content is easier to write and, better still, visitors to your website will be far more targeted and therefore more likely to convert into Amazon purchases (our ultimate goal!).
Here are some example angles on furniture, complete with a potential branded domain name so you can see what I mean:
- storage (e.g. storagegeek.com)
- wooden furniture (e.g. yesIwood.com)
- minimalist furniture (e.g. minimallyhome.com)
It helps to have a target market in mind for your brand. This is who you will be speaking to on your website. For example, in the storage niche, you could target people with small apartments who need to maximize space, or parents who need ways to store their kids' toys. You don't have to pick just one target market, especially if they seem too small for a whole website (remember we want over 10k pageviews each month, and that's just for starters!), but make sure each target market has overlapping interests. For example, it wouldn't be a good idea to make a storage site that targeted both construction workers who need to store their tools and crafters who need to store supplies (although it's possible there is some overlap!), because the tone and style of the site should probably be different for both.
Don't overthink your target market, just pick a couple of groups of people who would be interested in your niche.
You could still just create a niche site around a generic product category (something like amazingfurniture.com) but in my opinion having a brand and target market is best strategy for a successful Amazon affiliate website for 3 key reasons:
1. A product-focused website looks a lot more spammy to Google than a hobby site does, risking a penalty if you’re not 100% careful with your content and SEO efforts.
2. Amazon can be quite fussy about banning affiliate sites, especially if they look like they exist solely to make affiliate commissions, so it’s not wise to build a site that just talks about products.
3. Your traffic will convert much better if you tailor your content to specific audiences.
Take Action #2: take your affiliate list from #1 and flesh each niche out into specific angles and brand ideas. Aim for 5 - 10 clear brand ideas because some of them will get scrapped when we move onto the next step: keyword research! For each brand idea, list a couple of target markets that have some overlap, and you can draft some idea brand/domain names, too (it does not matter if they are available or not, we will work on this in later steps).
Here are my 5 example ideas:
- StorageGeek.com - storage website for people who have small apartments/homes, people who rent so can't put up shelves etc, people who want to organize their home offices, people who need to keep their homes tidy.
- KeepItZipped.com - luggage website for people who need to take suitcases on aircraft, people who travel and want secure backpacks for day trips, people who commute and need the right bag.
- YouCanLele.com - ukulele website for beginners, people who want to play popular songs on a ukulele, people who want to learn about the differences between guitars and ukuleles.
- DoItHerself.com - diy website for women who want to learn how to use power tools.
- GoBlendYourself.com - blender website for people who want to make smoothies at home, people who want to cook healthier soups and drinks.
These may be good ideas, or terrible ideas - just write freely at this stage and we'll test them out in the keyword research phase below.
How to find low competition keywords
Now that we've chosen a good niche and branding angle and target market for our new Amazon affiliate website, it's time to think about how we're going to build traffic.
Affiliate marketers generally focus on building organic search engine traffic. Why? Because it's free and targeted, unlike PPC (pay per click), which is targeted but expensive, or social media, which is free but untargeted.
You can build a successful affiliate site using a number of traffic sources and strategies (and I would recommend diversification once your site is over 10k monthly pageviews), but I'm going to focus on organic Google traffic because it's my area of expertise and I believe it's the easiest way for anyone to get started with affiliate marketing.
Keyword research for affiliate marketers
Remember that we have 2 goals for our new Amazon affiliate site:
- To grow organic search traffic (to 10k monthly pageviews for now)
- To convert traffic to Amazon sales
So many affiliate marketers make the mistake of focusing too much on the second point. You need to start by focusing on getting targeted traffic from search engines before you worry about Amazon product links or which shiny button will get more clicks to the orange giant. Don't worry, that will happen soon, but we're going to need to please Google first.
I'm going to show you the exact keyword research method I use for a new Amazon affiliate site, using the example from before - a storage niche website.
You should repeat this process for all of your niche brand ideas form the previous task until you find one that works.
STEP 1: Generate initial keyword list with KeyWordShitter.com
KeywordShitter.com is a free keyword generation tool. Use it straight from your browser.
Your seed keywords should be your main niche word (in this case, "storage"), plus some qualifying words like "how", "best", "why". This is my seed keyword list:
- best storage
- top storage
- which storage
- how storage
- why storage
- when storage
Keep it running for a minute or 2 and you'll have thousands of keyword ideas. Not all of them will be relevant, for example a lot of the storage keywords are about storage heaters and cloud storage, not home furniture, so we'll need to manually scan through the results and pick out the on-topic ones.
For now, just copy/paste the relevant keywords into a spreadsheet. Here's what you want to look for:
- keywords relevant to your niche and target market e.g. "best storage for shoes" not "storage heaters"
- keyword with buyer intent (queries that can be solved with a product) e.g. "best jewelry storage"
- long tail and targeted is better than generic e.g. "best storage ideas for garage" not "storage ideas"
It took me about 5 minutes to get this list (that's about as long as it takes for the word storage to start looking super weird!):
Initial storage keywords
best storage bins
best storage bench
best storage beds 2018
best storage bins for clothes
best storage bags for clothes
best storage boxes for camping
best storage bins for toys
best storage bins for garage
best storage containers for clothes
best storage containers for pantry
best storage containers for kitchen
best storage cubes
best storage coffee tables
best storage containers for toys
best storage containers for garage
best storage containers for legos
best storage containers for moving
best storage drawers
best storage desks
best storage dresser
best storage for clothes
best storage furniture
best storage for shoes
best storage for toys
best storage for lego
best storage ideas for shoes
best storage ideas for garage
best jewelry storage
best jewelry storage solutions
best jewelry storage ideas
best jewelry storage organizer
best jigsaw storage
best jewelry storage trays
best jewellers storage
best kitchen storage canisters
best storage sheds review
best storage shed kits
best storage shed for the money
best storage vacuum bags
top storage beds
top storage for suv
top storage for car
top storage sheds
top storage bench
top storage brands
top storage box
top storage bins
top bunk storage ideas
top bunk storage pocket
countertop storage ideas
top kitchen storage ideas
refrigerator top storage ideas
camper top storage ideas
table top kitchen storage
which vacuum storage bags are best
when to buy a storage shed
Just this quick exercise already gave me a great overview of the niche and told me that the main things people want to store are clothes, jewelry, shoes and toys.
Now we need to move on and check Google to see if these keywords have any traffic and what the competition is like.
STEP 2: Check keyword difficulty
We're going to carry on with our keyword research by checking each seed keyword for search volume estimates and competition. The idea is to find terms that people are actually searching for, that not many other strong websites are targeting.
I am going to show you how to test keywords using Chrome and some free extensions. This will take time but it's totally free.
If you want to save time by using a paid tool, I recommend KWFinder - just paste in your seed keywords and let it tell you if they are 'easy' or not:
KWFinder (part of the Mangools suite of tools) is great, and you can do a couple of free searches each day for free, but if you're new to keyword research, I still recommend you follow my manual process so you can get a feel for what SERPs look like and develop a sense of profitable keywords to target.
Let's start installing these free SEO tools onto Chrome:
Install the Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension and sign up for a free account to get API access.
Now when you run a Google search on Chrome, Keywords Everywhere will automatically add the estimated monthly search volume to the SERP so you don't need to use Google's Keyword Planner. Don't forget to set the country to your target (mine is the US).
Install the SEOquake Chrome extension. You don't need a free account (optional) and it pulls data from SEMrush.
You can alter the parameters to display the metrics you want (my preferred settings are in the above screenshot) and set the locale to your target country/language.
Install the Moz Bar Chrome extension and sign up for a free account.
It doesn't do much for free except for showing the DA and PA scores for each SERP result (see above). The other metrics (with the red circles) come from SEOquake. Moz recently updated their link index methodology and DA and PA scores will be updated daily and are much more relevant indicators of link strength than they used to be.
Now it's time to do the actual keyword research.The goal is to find low competition keywords and low authority competitors that we can further scrape for keywords.
Start pasting keywords from the initial keyword list into Chrome an look at the results. I'll start with "best storage bins":
SEOquake, MozBar and Keywords Everywhere will provide SERP overlays to help you see important metrics at a glance.
As you can see in the above screenshot, the keyword phrase "best storage bins" gets an estimated 260 monthly searches in the US (circled in red). It might not sound high, but the longtail and related keywords are still going to provide plenty of traffic opportunities. SEMRush estimated Keyword Difficulty is 82% (hastily circled in blue) - this indicated a lot of competition. Next, I look at the actual domains that rank and I see huge sites like thespruce.com (circled in yellow), thewirecutter.com and nymag.com. These are huge sites and I can't compete without spending a lot of money/time. Plus, there's a featured snippet pushing the organic results further down the page. The ranking page titles (the title of the results - e.g. "The Best Storage Containers" are also highly optimized for the keyword, so competition would be even tougher.
This is a bad keyword to target! Move on. Carry on using your seed keyword list, but also scroll down to the bottom of the SERP and look at the related search terms for even more ideas.
Keywords Everywhere will add the search volumes to Google's suggested search terms - I can see that "best garage storage containers" could be good. You can click the star and add it to a list to check later, or just check it now!
"Best garage storage containers" is far more promising:
The SERP still has results from powerful sites like thespruce.com and wirecutter.com, but the top 2 results (if you include the featured snippet too) are from an Amazon affiliate website called theartofcleanliness.com.
We've just found a low authority domain that ranks for targeted keywords - excellent!
How can you tell if it's low authority? Just look at the stats. SEOquake shows that archive.org only has records of theartofcleanliness.com going back to February 2018 - just a few months ago! MozBar also shows that the site has low DA and PA and only 11 links. A low number of Google indexed pages is another good indicator.
I will now add "Best garage storage containers" to my target keyword list, and bookmark theartofcleanliness.com to analyze for more keywords later.
If you don't find a lot of low competition keywords or low authority ranking domains, get rid of the niche and move on to one of your other ideas.
Repeat this process many, many times and build up your lists.
STEP 3: Mining competitors for affiliate keywords
If you've done your keyword research properly, you should now have a list of low competition keywords, and a list of low authority competitors to scrape more keywords from.
Let's analyze the low authority competitors to see if there are any more keywords we can use. I'll carry on using theartofcleanliness.com as an example - repeat this process for every low authority domain you found in the previous step.
First, I want to check how successful theartofcleanliness.com is, to test how much potential there is in the niche. I use SimilarWeb to get an estimate of its traffic and sources. I recommend the free SimilarWeb Chrome extension to save time with this step.
Theartofcleanliness.com has grown to almost 65k monthly visitors in a few months. SimilarWeb also states that 95% of that traffic comes from organic search, and 72% from the US. These are great numbers for an affiliate site of this age.
SEOquake estimates 136 backlinks, with 43 referring domains - aka not a lot, especially for a site with 95 indexed pages. If you need another source of data, the free Majestic Chrome extension will display the Trust Flow and Citation Flow scores for the domain:
Theartofcleanliness.com is nicely designed, with a unique logo and clean layout, but it's also got lots of Amazon ads and affiliate links and ShareaSale promotions in the sidebar and main content. The page that ranks for "best garage storage containers" has over 2000 words of nice but standard Amazon affiliate content - a collection of summaries of different products and a discussion about their pros and cons. Ask yourself these questions: can I create better content? Can I build more relevant backlinks? In this case, I think I can.
Next, we need to check other pages that artofcleanliness.com ranks for that fits with our niche (storage), so we can scrape these keywords too.
I use SerpStat to do this (premium tool). Something similar like Ahrefs will work too (they have the most data), but SerpStat is the cheapest premium tool I've used that gives reliable data, and at this point I don't need thousands of keywords.
Paste the domain into the SEO keyword tool and look at the site's top-ranking keywords and pages:
You'll get even more data from more expensive tools like SEMrush, which found almost 10,000 keywords, compared to 2,000 found by SerpStat. You get what you pay for with these tools (ahrefs is also excellent), but $19/month for SerpStat is better than $99/month for SEMrush or ahrefs if you're just starting out.
A lot of the keywords theartofcleanliness.com ranks for are ok affiliate keywords, but not in the storage niche. Filter or browse to find relevant keywords - you can also store unrelated keywords for other affiliate niche ideas!
By filtering, I found the keyword "best garage wall tool storage system", which also gets a featured snippet on Google. Keywords Everywhere reports an estimated search volume of 0 for the term, but I'm happy to ignore it because of the likelihood of related keywords and longtail terms.
Repeat the keyword checking process for any new keywords found from low authority domains - we can't assume they are easy!
Quick tip: don't get hung up on search volume estimates. They are only vague estimates and don't take into account the many different variations of the same keyword that you can also rank for. For example, most affiliates know that putting the current year at the end of a keyword will bring in plenty of traffic, but search volume estimates are not updated enough for specific year searches to show as having higher volumes. In fact, you'll often see suggested terms from previous years right in the SERP! That shows how outdated keyword volumes are. I still like to see them, but only use them as a very rough guide.
Take Action #3: for each niche brand from your #2 list, generate some seed keywords and test them for SERP competition. Look for low competition keywords and save them. Look for low authority ranking domains and scrape them for more keywords. Test all keywords for difficulty by using Chrome plugins or a tool like KWFinder.
Dump niche ideas that don't have plenty of low competition keywords.
With my storage example, I found the niche only had a a few low competition keywords, and most SERPs were filled with high authority domains, so I quickly wrote it off as a bad Amazon affiliate niche site idea, because I would have to invest a lot of money into content and backlink building to compete.
Your chosen niche must have:
- buyer intent keywords (like "top headphones for jogging")
- low competition in the SERPS (sites with low domain authority, few backlinks, few indexed pages)
- 20+ keywords that match the above criteria
Keep plugging away until you find a niche that works. It might take some time - there is a lot of competition out there.
I tested my second niche/brand idea - a site about ukuleles - and found a much better set of keywords. Here's a screenshot from KWFinder so you can see what an ideal keyword should look like:
How to write content that ranks and converts
If you've followed the above steps, you'll now have a list of 20+ target keywords. Great! But they're not going to attract traffic on their own. So we need to buy a domain name now, right? WRONG!
I've made this mistake many times - if you jump straight from keyword research to buying a domain, you're more likely to give up before the hard work is done. Why? Because buying a domain is the easy part! It's fun and creative - let's brainstorm cool name ideas and design a logo. STOP! Before you can treat yourself to a new domain, you need to get all your initial content written.
Yes. ALL OF IT!
For a new affiliate site, I'd recommend you aim for at least 5 pieces of content before buying a domain and launching a new site. Not only will it help you to stay focused while you get the writing done, it also allows you to launch your new website with some strong content on it already, and when Google indexes it for the first time, it will not have thin content.
Ready for some hard work? Good. Let's get writing.
Map out your first content cluster
The first piece of content to focus on is a piece of cornerstone content - otherwise known as 10x content, powerhouse content, skyscraper content or pillar content. It doesn't really matter what you call it as long as you know what it is: a major piece of content that your target audience will get a lot of value from.
Most Amazon affiliate sites will have a huge buyer's guide at the center of their site, and then many smaller pieces of supporting content. For my ukulele niche example, an ideal piece of cornerstone content will be centered around the keyword "best ukulele for beginners", because it gets a good amount of US monthly searches (2,400), and has low competition in the SERPs (as we discovered in the previous section).
Now I need 2/3 more articles that can support my cornerstone content. Luckily for me, Google has made it very easy to find related questions because the SERP for "best ukulele for beginners" has a "people also ask" box. Click the questions and Google will keep generating more and more, until you end up with a huge list:
I can see that the answer snippets are coming from low authority niche sites, which is a good sign that I can compete with my new niche site. I will make sure I answer these questions in my cornerstone content piece, but I can also make separate articles out of some of the topics.
Using the ukulele keywords I generated from my research in the previous step, I will also write supporting articles for the following keywords:
- how much does a ukulele cost
- best ukulele accessories
These terms still get good search volumes and buyer intent. They can support the cornerstone article about "best ukulele for beginners" but also bring their own income.
Finally, I want 2/3 articles that are less buyer-focused and more informative. I do this to add value to readers and avoid making the site spammy and full of "best product" content.
I'm not bothered about search volumes for these terms, so I will use the "people also ask" results for ideas and write content about the following topics:
- what kind of ukulele does tyler joseph play
- how easy is it to play ukulele
The initial 5 pieces of content should be linked (with relevant internal links) together to give topical relevance and authority to the main pages:
I'll cover the topic of site structure later on in the WordPress setup section, but this is enough to get started with the writing.
How long should my articles be?
There's no set length that articles need to be to rank, but most Amazon affiliate sites have looooong articles. I like to write long-form content (just look at this page!!), but it's best to check the word count of the top ranking pages for your target keyword and write a similar amount (or a lot more, if you want to test that approach).
I'll analyze the top 3 ranking pages for "how much does a ukulele cost" to demonstrate the process.
Using the SEOquake Chrome extension "page info" tab, I can see that the above page has 2317 words. Results #2 and #3 are not directly targeting the keyword "how much do ukuleles cost" - the latter is a general ukulele buyer's guide with over 30,000 words (mostly from the comments) and the other is an ecommerce site with over 3,000 words on the ranking page. Based on this, I think a targeted page with around 2,000 should be enough to rank.
Here's a rough guide of the content length I will need to match for my initial 5 pages of content:
- "best ukuleles for beginners" - 5,000 words
- "how much does a ukulele cost" - 2,000 words
- "best ukulele accessories" - 1,500 words
- "what kind of ukulele does tyler joseph play" - 750 words
- "how easy is it to play ukulele" - 1,500 words
That's around 11,000 words needed to get the site started.
Outsourcing content vs writing yourself
Writing niche site content is not always fun or easy but learning how to write good niche content will help you get your new site off to a flying start on a low budget:
- you will learn a lot about your niche (which makes writing easier in the future)
- you will stumble upon more low competition keywords during the research process (bonus!)
- it's free, if you have some time to spare
Outsourcing to a writer or content service is great if you have a budget, but you'll still need to provide really good instructions to get your content written well, and really cheap content is bad economy in the long-run because it makes it harder to rank:
- you will spend time finding good writers
- you will spend money getting good content
- you will have to spend time writing briefs and content outlines to get content that ranks
I recommend you start off writing your own content (writing guide coming up!), and then look to outsource once you hit 10k pageviews. This will help you keep costs down and develop a style and process that can be handed off to outsourced writers in the future.
The secret to writing great content: outlines
Unless you're already a passionate writer, the idea of writing over 10,000 words for a new affiliate site is probably freaking you out right now. And that's totally normal. Even after years of writing literally millions of words, I still get scared when I sit down to write a brand new post.
One trick that can make writing easier, and even fun, is to prepare an outline first.
An outline is a framework of the main points you want to cover in your article, including the style and tone you will use. It doesn't need to be lengthy, but it should contain some snippets of research so you can sit down and write without having to keep Googling for more information.
Check the Google competition for your target keyword and see what topics are being covered. Also consider extra bits of information you think would be useful to potential buyers. Don't get hung up on specifics, like an introduction or the title, just focus on the skeleton of the article.
Don't worry about ad placements or where to promote Amazon products just yet - focus on getting the words written.
Here's how I would start outlining the "best ukulele for beginners" article.
- Best Ukulele for Beginners
- short intro
- what to look for when buying a ukulele
- string type
- beginner-friendly ukulele #1 review
- ukulele description
- pros and cons
- ukulele description
- beginner-friendly ukulele #2 review
- beginner-friendly ukulele #3 review
- beginner accessories you might also need
- beginner ukulele resources
- short intro
Focus on adding fancy graphics and product tables when the website is built. For now, it's just hard work writing all the content you can.
Take Action #4: Pick 5 keywords to launch your site with. The keywords should be on the same topic so you can link between them easily. Check Google competition to see how long your articles need to be, and write content outlines for each. Get your initial site content written before buying a domain and setting up a website.
Now it's finally time to buy a domain!
You've waited long enough - go forth and get yourself a shiny new domain.
I am a firm believer that .COM is your best friend when it comes to choosing a domain name, especially if you’re new to website building. The tricky part is coming up with a good brand name. The way I do it is just free-write a bunch of name into a text editor and then paste them into NameCheap's bulk domain checker tool to see if any are available.
Here's what that looks like (using the ukulele example):
Plenty of my ideas are available, but first I recommend Googling them to see what is ranking for your domain name. Check there is not a similar company or domain ranking for your brand name. Also check if the corresponding social media handles are available. There's a free tool called Namecheckr to help with that.
The name "UkuleleBetter" seems like a good choice, because it is available as a .COM domain and on all major social platforms (and MySpace, apparently!). I like having the main niche keyword at the start of the domain, because I belive it help with SERP click-through as searchers can easily see the domain is relevant.
It does not matter where you buy your domain name from, but I prefer to use namesilo because they provide free WHOis domain privacy and have good renewal costs. A .COM domain will cost around $8 using the code “SAVE 10” for $1 off.
Some cheap hosting providers will let you register a domain name for free (BlueHost do this), BUT I do not advise this for reasons I have explained in my uber-article on cheap WordPress hosting.
I've talked before about getting projects off to a head-start with an expired or aged domain with existing metrics (or just age). This can be a good tactic, but requires a lot more work finding a good domain and can be tricky/costly for to find specific niche relevance. For a brand new affiliate site, going with a branded, clean, new domain is not going to hurt you in the long run.
Hosting and setting up WordPress
I love using WordPress for Amazon afifliate sites because it's so easy to get started, self-hosting is a lot cheaper than using a platform like Squarespace, and there are millions of people using it, so free help is all over the internet.
I wrote a whole guide on cheap WordPress hosting, which I recommend you read before signing up with any service provider (there are some pitfalls to avoid!).
TL;DR - go with SiteGround's basic $3.95 a month package (less than $50 for a year), it has free SSL and one-click installation. It'll be enough until you (hopefully) need to upgrade when your affiliate site gets a ton of traffic.
You'll want to install a fresh copy of the latest WordPress.org framework - SiteGround has a simple WordPress installation tutorial you can follow.
WordPress themes and plugins you will need
There are so many WordPress themes (both premium and free) to choose from that it can become a bit of a nightmare to choose one. Personally, I am a big fan of the Genesis framework (by StudioPress) because it's well-coded, secure and has built-in SEO functionality.
Another premium theme company I can't recommend highly enough is Thrive Themes (see some example here). Thrive design their themes for conversion - which is what you want if you're running an affiliate site!
If you want to start with a free theme, GeneratePress is very powerful, clean and modern. They also have a premium upgrade option that lets you completely customize your site to look how you want.
I don't recommend you buy any themes from Themeforest. I've used themes from the site before and found them to be very outdated and feature-heavy, which can slow your site down. There's no need for your WordPress theme to be able to run 1,000 different layouts - we just need one, simple layout that is fast and gets clicks on our Amazon product links!
If you've made it this far, here are some resources to help you with the next steps:
Learn how to optimize WordPress without plugins before you even think about using Yoast or another SEO plugin. The article is from a few years ago, but it's still pretty relevant today.
Monitor keywords and traffic
Use Google Analytics and Google Search Console from Day 1. They are free and will help you track traffic and any Google index issues you might have in the future. If you ever wish to sell your site, having Analytics history will help you demonstrate the value and legitimacy of your site.
Use a simple keyword position tracker to see how well your content ranks. You'll find rank tracking features included in most SEO software, like SerpStat or SEMRush. If you use KWFinder for keyword research, it also comes with access to SERPWatcher, a rank tracking tool.
How (and when) to add Amazon affiliate links
As I mentioned above, don't apply to the Amazon affiliate program before you've ranked a few long tail keywords and got a bit of traffic to your website.
Once you have seen a bit of ranking in your keyword tracker, and a bit of traffic in Google Analytics, it's time to add Amazon links.
Go to the Amazon Associates homepage and click the "Join Now" button.
If you want to join the program for non-US locales, use the drop-down box in the top-right to select the correct country.
Login with your Amazon account details, or create a new account.
Fill in your details - it's pretty simple stuff like your name and address. You'll also need to provide the name and URL of your website, and a brief description.
Make sure you add an Amazon affiliate dislaimer to your website - read all the affiliate terms and agreements thoroughly to get the wording you need. Check the terms (and any updates that happen in the future) whenever you make changes to your website. You do not want to get banned for a technicality!