Thousands of people supplement their monthly incomes through the use of Amazon affiliate sites – or at least they used to. Recently, Google introduced a major overhaul to their search algorithms known as Panda, and a lot of Amazon affiliate sites that could be politely referred to as “thin,” “spammy,” or “junky” quickly saw their search rankings plummet down to the depths where no practical Google user would ever find them.
For the uninitiated, an Amazon affiliate site is a website or blog that directly or indirectly promotes products sold on Amazon.com, the ubiquitous online retailer. Clicking certain links at these sites redirects you to a product page at Amazon, and when you make a purchase, Amazon pays the affiliate site owner a portion of the proceeds in exchange for the redirect. With commission rates as high as 15% and the ability to promote whatever products you’d like, including the very expensive ones, it’s easy to see how a well-implemented Amazon affiliate site could turn a tidy profit.
The trick, of course, is to build an Amazon affiliate site that passes muster in the eyes of Google Panda, and achieves the search engine results ranking it deserves.
Build Your Site Around the Niche, Not the Products
Google Panda is all about attempting to ensure that the pages ranked most highly for a given search keyword are relevant and provide the best user experience possible. As such, most of the sites that experienced severe downranking at the hands of Panda were ones that offered a list of promoted products, along with maybe a brief description of each, some keyword-rich promotional text (“This is such a wonderful product!” without any details) and maybe a few pictures. In other words, the exact same content you could find by visiting Amazon directly and simply visiting the product page. Credit to Google for sending these two-bit sites where they belong: out of the public eye.
Your job is to make your site stand out. You can accomplish this by building a site based around a niche, or a specific product category, instead of just the products themselves.
Let’s say you want to promote security cameras. Instead of making a thin site like the one described above that simply lists and promotes the cameras, build your site around the niche of home security, and particularly the ways that technology can be used to improve it. This is something that will provide actual value to your traffic. A few examples of content ideas that could be applied to other niches as well:
- Stories of break-ins and robberies that could have been prevented with a wireless security camera.
- Comparisons of the top-rated security cameras.
- Software programs that integrate well with security equipment.
- How to set up home security equipment.
- Common misconceptions held by those purchasing home security cameras for the first time.
Once your readers see how valuable home security cameras are, they’ll be far more likely to click your affiliate links and actually make a purchase.
Know the Products You’re Promoting
Although you may be tempted to select products to promote simply based on their value or apparent immediate popularity, the post-Panda online environment dictates that it’s better to promote products that you’re actually comfortable discussing through knowledge and experience. Your readers will be able to tell whether you’re an expert regarding the products you’re discussing, and they’ll be more likely to stick around at your site if you are.
If you really want to promote a certain niche that you may not be totally familiar with, there are some good ways of conducting research:
- Visit forums devoted to discussing the products and learn from experts who use them every day.
- Watch Youtube video reviews of the products to see how they work in action.
- Download the manuals for the products to get additional details that might not be included in their general online product descriptions.
- Take advantage of return policies and trial periods. You may be able to try the products in your own home and return them for a full refund, so long as you don’t damage them. Any fees you incur in the form of return shipping will be worth the content you’re able to generate by actually using the products.
Allow for Interactive Discussion
Speaking of forums, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t set one up on your own Amazon affiliate site. Google Panda loves the idea of increased website functionality and interactivity, making a forum for your users an excellent Panda-baiting feature.
It’s important that forums are moderated and kept on topic, so don’t expect to simply create the forum, let it run itself and return to your normal daily operations. Jump in frequently to participate in discussions and answer your visitors’ questions.
Post Video Reviews of Products
Placing some multimedia content on your Amazon affiliate site can truly make it stand apart from the competition. If you have access to the products you’re promoting, record a video of yourself using them while you discuss what you like about it, how you like to use the product, your favorite features, etc. Doing so paints you as an expert with hands-on experience, and builds a higher level of trust between you and your reader.
It’s also possible to review the promoted products using video even if you don’t actually own them. Although “talking head” videos are maligned by some, the fact is that they prove that you’re a real person and not some faceless marketer hiding behind a potentially dubious site.
Think from the Consumer’s Perspective
When creating your Amazon affiliate site, it’s important to occasionally stop and think: If I were a customer researching these products, would this site provide me real, valuable assistance? If the answer is “not really, but I think I have good advertising strategies,” then your site will need a lot more work before it’ll pass the Panda test. Think about the things that you want to see when you’re researching a potential purchase for yourself, and implement them into your Amazon affiliate site.