6. 10 ways to increase your affiliate site’s usability and search engine rankings.

1. The more relevant content your site has the better.

Think of content (words and textual elements) as flies for all the search engine spiders out there crawling around the Internet. The more content you have – the more food for the spiders, and the happier you make them. You also make the site highly attractive to spiders with content, and they want to go there and return often. They return the favor of you giving them content by giving you a high ranking.

Try to create about 200 – 250 words of rich search engine friendly content for each page of your website. If you are a writer at heart and want to write more than that for each page don’t worry. More words are perfectly acceptable. Just remember Internet surfers usually don’t like to scroll through endless paragraph after paragraph of text.

2. Adding ALT tags to your Images

The first rule is to use graphics sparingly on your website. About 10 years ago people loaded just about any graphic that they could find onto their webpage. Everything from animated email boxes to flashing text. Today, graphics are used only when required. The reason is because they only act to slow down the load time for a site. Some surfers are still out there on 56k (or less) dialup modems and a graphic intensive site takes a considerable amount of time to load.

As general guideline, try to keep graphic and image sizes close to 12k in size. Make sure that they also fit the content of your site. For example, having cat pictures all over a dog site wouldn’t be too advisable. Work on developing the content of you site as opposed to the visual elements.

If you do want to add images and graphics to your site make sure to include text in the ALT attribute for the image. Remember to keep this text to a minimum because it is displayed inline when the cursor is over the image. Try to keep it to 1 or 2 words per image. The exception to this would be a flash embedded image. Most surfers can play flash images and ALT text is not visible the same way as a jpg or gif. It remains hidden, so you can use more words.

The ALT tag text is used mostly by sight impaired persons using the internet, and allows them to continue to navigate your sight, or get a general description of what you are displaying. They are also used by power surfers who could careless about all the pretty pictures. They just want the facts and the content – they tweak their browsers and turn off image displays.

Search engines have different rules for indexing ALT tags. Some index it, some give it a weighted score, and some ignore them. Regardless, there is nothing to lose by adding them. They can only help your site’s rankings – not hurt it.

3. User Navigation

Traditionally, sites that use purely a flash based navigation system rank low in search results. Flash is cool and all, but it ranks horribly. Why? Because spiders cannot follow the complex linking structure of a flash based navigation site.

If you do use flash, make sure that in your footer you at least have a link to a site map. In your site map provide links to all your pages in a text based format. You will have at least provided a back door for the spiders to index.

It is also difficult for spiders to index sites using heavy scripting or DHTML for their navigation (ie. Drop down menus). Again, if you use these make sure there is at least one traditional link (site map) to all of your other links. Otherwise you will have closed the door to the spiders and thrown away the key.

Complete your site before you submit it to the search engines. Users and spiders do not like the infamous 404 error. Getting 1 or maybe 2 errors means instant departure from your site. Once gone, it is hard for both to return because they still maintain the impression that our site is incomplete. Nobody likes doing business with a company that neglects important aspects. And a company’s website is a direct projection of their company. Incomplete site = incompetent business.

4. Make reader friendly text

What may be cool to you may be a complete shock to others. Keep that in mind before you start playing with flashing text and neon backgrounds etc. Not everyone sees exactly what you see, and more importantly not everyone shares your taste in font styles, animated text and more.

Use neutral text fonts and backgrounds. It may look simple and bland but it can be, and will be, read. That is the important issue here. Creating text that is not only pleasant to look at but coherent and understandable.

People scan when the see content on a website. They look for major points or areas that interest them. Create your pages with this in mind. A web page gets and average of about 18 seconds of “glance” time before a person moves on. Unless, of course, they see something that interests them and then they read further.

Arrange your text to capture the eye. Move about a meter away from your monitor and note what is the first thing that you see? Try making the first thing that you see on your page the main point of the page.

5. Build-in keywords and keyphrases into your site’s design

Keywords are a single word which should define your site. Take for example an apple. Keywords for an apple would be: fruit, red, green, apple, food, seedless etc. Keyphrases are a phrase consisting of 2 or more words: seedless apples, green apples, healthy fruit, green seedless apples etc.

Again, think of keywords and keyphrases in the same way as content for your site. Both are great food for the spiders. But keywords and phrases are like a spider’s dessert. They can only have so much of a good thing and then they get full – they get stuffed.

Do not put 2987 different keywords on your site. You will get absolutely nowhere doing it. You will stuff the spiders and you could make them never want to visit your site. So, be careful. Use keywords and keyphrases relevant to you site, its content, and its focus. Try to keep your keywords synced with your keyword’s META tags, and should total no more than 30.

6. Use your TITLE TAG effectively

If you have a name and site with serious power – like Nokia, then you don’t need to be overly concerned with your TITLE TAG. Your site will still be found. Nokia has in their TITLE TAG – “Nokia on the Web.” Their cellular products homepage says only “mainpage.” For the millions of other cellular sites out their jockeying for Google positions, having TITLE TAGS like that would be equated to suicide. If you have a cellular shop on the Internet you would never use a TITLE TAG like that.

Your TITLE TAG is one of the most weighed areas of text for search engines. A great deal of importance should be paid to creating a TITLE TAG that will get you a good ranking. As with keywords, keep your TITLE TAG constrained to that particular page within your site contents – short and precise.

Try to create a different TITLE TAG for each page in your site. You can keep a common phrase like: discount cell phones, but then differentiate your pages. For example, discount cell phones – Bluetooth hands-free … discount cell phones – Nokia accessories.

7. META KEYWORD and DESCRIPTION

These are different from the above (point 5) in the sense that they are not immediately viewable by the user. They are both intended more for the search engine spiders and act to provide them with a bit of a word roadmap of your site.

Choosing the correct keyword combinations is becoming a bit of science. There are many software applications, consultants, and site automations that make it their jobs of being able to choose ranked keywords for you to go after. Spend some time in selecting your keywords because the ones that you choose will have impact on how a search engine ranks your site.

Here are some basic guidelines: don’t list 15 different ways and misspellings of a keyword. Use keywords that are relevant to your sites content. You can change your META KEYWORDS and DESCRIPTION for each and every one of our pages. It is beneficial for you to do so because it creates a bigger web for the spider to crawl and gives him more incentive to hang around and look at your site. The more he looks, the more your site will be indexed. The more your site is indexed, the better its rankings will be.

8. Doorway and splash pages

Splash pages usually look terrific, but they do absolutely nothing to increase your sites search rankings. Some of the most brilliant examples of Flash can be seen in some splash pages. Some look like they have taken months to finish, so elaborate, so intricate, amazing. If you are established, or your advertising comes mostly by offline advertising (newspapers, magazines etc.) then you can afford to have stunning intros.

Most people get more than 90% of their traffic from search engines and rely heavily on their results. Unfortunately, when a spider hits a Flash based splash page, or a graphic one for that matter, the spider says, “Oh, that’s very beautiful. You are a webmaster superstar. Good luck to you, and thanks for the beaaautiffful show.” Then they promptly to a U-turn and leave your site. No links for them to follow, no content to index, no result in search engine.

There was a time when search engines where not savvy to a host of tricks played by webmasters in an effort to get favorable rankings. One of these tricks was the creation of a page for search engine spiders only. A normal user would never see it. This “hidden” page was called a “doorway” page. It acted like a huge content and keyword stuffed page for spiders.

Using a doorway page to day is a risky proposition. Search spiders today can recognize doorway pages, and when they do your site is severely penalized. In some cases it could result in your site being blacklisted from that particular engine altogether. Once your site is blacklisted (BL) it is near to impossible to get back on to the whitelist (that’s the good one).

It is highly advisable not to use doorway pages in your site. The consequences are just not worth the risk. You may be able to fool the engines for a short while, but eventually they will recognize they’ve been tricked and the result is something that you will not like.

9. Check your copy

Spelling errors are tolerable in forums but not on professional websites. A spelling error turns into a huge black strike against you and your site. Turn your spell checker on at least and be careful with your grammar. Grammar is getting more and more subjective these days, but if you know that you are not the best of writers then contract the content portion of you site to someone who is a professional. You’ll be glad that you did, and so will your readers.

Also if there are no blue ribbons on your wall for winning your local spelling bee then you could ask for the help of someone who is a good speller. Print your copy out and have them take a look at it. Having another set of eyes critiquing your content is always a good thing.

10. Tweak your overall site design

Here are a few ways that you can improve your site’s rankings and its usability:

  • Flash – Limit your use of flash. It is ok for a graphic dynamic element but menu and navigation should be text or graphic linked. Flash also uses a fair amount of bandwidth for each and every time it loads. If you have a busy site, this can intrude on the bandwidth limitations imposed by your hosting company.
  • Logo – Clearly identify your site and attempt to make your logo and brand consistent in its location throughout the entirety of your site.
  • Load Times – A fast site gets read by more people than a slow loader. People browsing the Internet have very little patience. If you site is not speed optimized, they will move on to a site that is. Surfers hate waiting for stuff to load.
  • Frames – Best to dispose of them altogether. Frames were used 7-8 years ago when table structures were not completely utilized or understood. Now a good table layout can basically do what frames used to do. Frames are not indexed by spiders and have very limited and specific uses today.
  • Pop ups-unders-sideways – Anything that “pops” is annoying and frustrating. Not to mention that most toolbars and BHO’s (browser helper objects) restrict them. Best not to use them at all.
  • Errors – Check your copy for errors. Put it away, then go back and check it again. Find anything new? Your attention to this detail shows that you pay attention to your user’s interests.
  • General Appearance – Can there be anything done to improve your site’s general overall look and usability? Have some people look at it for you and give you some feedback.
  • Browser Compatibility – Load up your site in a few different browsers. Does it look the same? Is the layout completely screwed-up? There are many different browsers out there now. The ones that you should be concerned about are: IE, Mozilla, Opera, Avant, and the Mozilla based Firefox.

Table of Contents:

  1. Choose your focus
  2. Selecting your Keywords
  3. Selecting your merchants and affiliate programs
  4. Designing your site and developing content
  5. Promoting your site
  6. 10 ways to increase your affiliate site’s usability and search engine rankings
  7. Linking up with your merchants
  8. Use the Affiliate Manager
  9. How and Where to learn more about Affiliate Marketing
  10. Affiliate Tools