Updated: Aug 23, 2022
We asked 60 different marketing experts about the methods they use for driving traffic to affiliate sites. We listened to their answers and made a list of every SEO tactic that they mentioned. Every time one of our experts voiced support for a tactic, that tactic received a ‘vote.’
In addition, we took the time to investigate each of our expert’s credentials by ranking them according to the Alexa rating of the website they managed.
For anyone unfamiliar with Alexa ratings, Alexa is a web-based SEO analysis tool that evaluates every website on Earth in a head-to-head comparison by assigning them a rank that reflects their overall popularity.
Even through Alexa went out of business in early 2022, this research is still valid and meaningful. We would refer any of their old customers to SEMRush for cutting edge Internet research tools.
The most popular website on Earth (Google) is #1, and - like a golf score – the higher your Alexa rating, the less popular your website. This means that when a website gains traffic, its Alexa rating decreases.
The Alexa ratings of the marketing experts we spoke to range from 9,011 to 8,094,064.
Only one of those experts had an Alexa rating below 10,000. Four of them had Alexa ratings below 100,000. Thirty-four of them had Alexa ratings below 1,000,000; and nine of the marketers we interviewed worked for sites that didn’t have enough traffic to qualify for an Alexa rating.
The average Alexa rating among the participants was 1,349,973.
When multiple experts with low (good) Alexa ratings all agreed on something, we took note. When particular tactics were only endorsed by marketers with high (bad) Alexa ratings, we also noted those instances.
After collecting all the data, we broke the SEO tactics into three groups: General Consensus, Honorable Mention, and Questionable at Best.
The General Consensus category contains all of the tactics that our best marketers all seemed to agree were beneficial. These are the tactics we consider to be proven and fall within the scope of ‘best practices.’
The Honorable Mention category contains the more unique or creative tactics marketers have used to cater to their niche. While these tactics may not be universally applicable, they still seem to yield positive results under the right circumstances.
The tactics in our Questionable at Best category are not tactics we can rightfully endorse. These are the tactics that were only recommended by marketers who worked for websites with high Alexa ratings; and – in some cases – no Alexa rating at all.
Although some of these tactics may still result in traffic if done correctly, other tactics in this category may go as far as to hurt your Google page rank and thus result in less traffic and a higher Alexa rating.
The Most Recommended Off-Page SEO Tactics
These are the tactics that our best marketers all agree will result in increased traffic. We have listed the tactics according to the number of times our marketers mentioned them.
1. Social Media
It should come as no surprise that the most commonly mentioned tactic among our experts was social media. It received 30 mentions overall, and 22 of those mentions came from marketers with Alexa ratings below 1,000,000.
What was surprising was the platforms that our experts recommended.
Rather than voicing support for the big three - Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – our marketers all seemed to agree that investing energy into newer and more video-based platforms like YouTube & TikTok appeared to yield the best results.
“YouTube ranks second in the world after Google,” says Rahul Vij, CEO of WebSpero Solutions.
“More than 2 billion registered users visit YouTube every month, and YouTube videos appear in the top search results on Google. Therefore, YouTube is a great source of traffic,” says Vij.
Informational platforms like Pinterest and Quora also appeared to be heavy traffic drivers for particular audiences.
The proliferation of infographics on Pinterest makes it easy to disseminate product information. Plus, people find visual information very easy to digest.
Pinterest Expert Laura Rike of LauraRike.com was particularly vocal on this matter.
“So many people misjudge [Pinterest] as a simple bulletin board online for recipes and inspiration,” says Rike. “But it is so much more than that - a powerful search engine with robust ad capability. Additionally, taking advantage of new features on Pinterest and best practices makes a huge difference.”
It’s worth noting that several of our other experts also identified Pinterest as being the platform with the most significant potential for a message to go viral.
Eddie Chevrel, Founder of The Pet Savvy, explains why:
“[Pinterest] is one of these few social platforms where your pin can be found in a matter of hours if you optimize it properly,” says Chevrel, who went on to suggest making pins attractive by adding quality images, videos, and by including an enticing title.
Although Facebook isn’t as popular with the younger generation, many of our experts reported having tremendous success with Facebook Groups.
One such expert was Gregory Golinski of LiveStorm.co, who also had the lowest (best) Alexa score of any expert we interviewed.
“A great idea to drive traffic to an affiliate site is to register to Facebook Groups related to what your website is selling,” said Golinski. “You should not spam these groups because you’d risk being banned from them. But once in a while, you should share an article from your affiliate website that is helpful to group members and which can send free traffic to your website.”
Three of the experts we spoke to suggested Quora as a vehicle to establish oneself as a thought leader in a particular field.
“People are more likely to believe you as a trustworthy source of product recommendations if they know you are an expert in your area and your reviews are based on your expertise rather than on a hunch,” says Erin Zadoorian - CEO and Executive Editor at Ministry of Hemp.
“Answer other people’s questions on a platform like Quora to demonstrate your competence in your industry. This way, people will see that you know what you’re talking about, and they’ll be more inclined to visit your website,” said Zadoorian.
It’s worth noting that only two of the experts we interviewed mentioned Instagram, and both instances were in the context of Instagram Reels.
In addition, it bears mentioning that none of the marketers we spoke to had anything encouraging to say about Twitter.
2. Valuable Content
They say that ‘content is king,’ and 24 of our marketers agree. Having content that adds value to the user experience is one of the few ranking factors Google has made public about its algorithm in their SEO Starter Guide.
By considering metrics like bounce rate, time-on-page, bookmarks, and shares, Google can know whether or not users found information on a particular page valuable or not; and Google will take that information into account the next time someone enters the same search query.
That’s why tactics like Keyword-stuffing don’t work anymore – Google wants to see keywords appear organically throughout the text and has tailored its algorithm to favor conversational language.
Ed Cravo, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Groundbreaker.co insists that content quality is far more important than content quantity.
“Creating awesome content that educates, informs, and engages consumers through the entire customer life cycle is where it all starts,” says Cravo.
He also stressed the importance of using targeted keywords throughout your content and in your headlines to ensure that search engines have an accurate idea of what’s on your page.
Hamma Amjad, Content Marketing Director at Indoor Champ, echoed his sentiments.
“Keyword research enables sites to rank on search engines for relevant keywords and attract the target audience to their site,” says Amjad. “Optimize your pages for humans, not search engines, by integrating relevant keywords naturally into your content.”
Like Sep Niakan of CondoBlackBook.com, other marketers encouraged site owners to use their creativity when authoring their content and create something new, original, and useful.
“You can provide valuable information through articles, videos, and more,” says Niakan. “Perhaps you’ve had personal experience with a product or attended an event that provided you with additional information that others would find beneficial. Give people the answers to their queries. Encourage visitors to take action by letting them know what they can do. Give examples to help clarify the points made in order to establish a connection.”
Josh Smusz, the Affiliate Marketing Manager at CitizenShipper.com, agrees.
“Long gone are the days of link-buying, blog-sponsoring tactics that - let’s face it – provided a less than authentic experience. Today, successful methods of increasing site traffic are more ‘real’ and representative of the real value of a product, service, or brand.”
Nine of the experts we interviewed also stressed the importance of creating new content and updating existing content regularly, including Marcus Clarke, Founder of Searchant.co, who also noted the importance of catering to your target audience.
“Tailor all of your content so it’s appealing to the users you’re most interested in engaging,” says Clarke. “This goes for updating existing pages, as well as creating new ones.”
Clarke qualified his remarks by citing his past successes.
“Google values fresh content,” he says. “It’s important to have a recent date clearly posted on your articles. Even when you’re writing more generic content, such as ‘how to save $1000’ or ‘best cryptocurrency investment,’ you’ll still see a ranking boost by keeping your content up-to-date. Every content strategy should include a plan for systematically updating old content.”
Google is known to reward fresh content with higher placement on search results pages and does admit to giving preference to content that is updated regularly.
April Maccario, Founder of AskApril.com, knows that all too well.
“Update, upgrade and reupload old blogs is what we do on our sites,” says Maccario. “When visitors search for their preferred keywords, they usually look for something distinctive. I propose continually providing new and improved blog entries to keep your visitors coming back.”
“Ideally, this [happens] once or twice a week,” adds Brian Robben of Robben Media. “But at a minimum, it should be twice a month.”
The most commonly mentioned content themes among our panel of experts were YouTube videos and Product Reviews, in that order.
Marques Thomas, Owner of QuerySprout, explains why:
“Buyers tend to search the internet for product reviews first before checking out the items,” says Thomas. “88% Of consumers trust product reviews online as much as word of mouth or personal endorsements. When you post authentic and honest product reviews, consumers will trust your point of view and consider the product you are vouching for. It is best to write a review of the product or service and attach your affiliate link. Just make sure that it does not sound like a sales post.”
“It doesn’t matter how amazing your content is…” begins Sean Dudayev of Frootful Marketing. “If you’re trying to rank for a competitive keyword, you won’t rank without links.”
Overall, Backlinks received 14 mentions from our panel of experts.
Again, Google freely admits to considering backlinks when assigning page ranks. Still, they simultaneously caution against using misleading anchor text (the clickable text that users see, not the link address) and link-building with irrelevant websites.
The number of reputable websites that feature links to your website is a significant ranking factor for search engines like Google and Bing. It is also true that inbound links featured prominently on other websites will carry more weight with search engines than links that are kept hidden.
Additionally, links from shady websites will ultimately hurt your Google page rank altogether.
Harriet Chan, Co-Founder and Marketing Director of CocoFinder.com, was quick to stress the importance of building high-quality backlinks.
“Set up an outreach strategy that will help you create a network of links,” said Chan. “That will improve your site’s visibility and thus [drive] more traffic to it.”
Other experts, like Daniel Martin of LinkDoctor.io, employ the same proactive strategy; and emphasize the importance of working with relevant linking partners.
“We conduct link building that improves [the client’s] visibility and ranking for competitive keywords,” says Martin. “Our link-building services not only focus on increasing their site’s authority rating, we also make sure that we reach out to websites that will benefit [the client’s] site.”
Several of the experts we spoke to also stressed in importance of disavowing backlinks from less reputable websites by using the “Disavow” tool in Google Search Console.
For the sake of your SEO metrics, you should make a point of having any outbound links open in new windows. Doing so allows your page to remain open in the background, thus decreasing your bounce rate.
You can also outsource the task of backlink building to a professional agency like Fat Joe who provides manual outreach, link placement, and article writing services in order to assist you with our next most popular tactic:
4. Guest Posting
The first rule of any marketing campaign is: Go to where your consumers are.
By offering your own pre-packaged content to other websites in your niche in the form of guest posts, you can get yourself in front of web users who are likely to take an interest in your content and visit your site.
Ten of the marketing experts we spoke to suggested creating posts on other blogs as a means for driving web traffic to your site.
Shiv Gupta, Marketing Director at Incrementors Web Solutions, was one of them.
“Collaborating with different content creators in your niche is an excellent way to drive visitors to your site,” says Gupta.
“In affiliate marketing, it’s all about the audience. Guest posting is not only free. It’s a win-win for both you and the personality you’re collaborating with. It extends your reach to an extensive public while presenting another blogger with quality content. Once you make more associations in your field, exchanging guest posts becomes more natural. Always concentrate on networking and establishing connections to develop these opportunities," added Gupta.
Maggie Simmons, Digital Marketing Manager at Max Effect Marketing, identified guest posting as one of the most reliable ways to drive quality traffic.
“Guest posting can do more than just drive traffic to your site,” says Simmons. “It can also assist you in developing a targeted audience. Your affiliate marketing business can be made or broken by the quality of traffic to your website.”
Relationship Expert and Her Norm founder Sonya Schwartz offers a similar take on this strategy:
“Collaborate with other bloggers,” says Schwartz. “Their audience can be a new opportunity for you to spread brand awareness. Find someone of the same industry [that has] good credibility and a broad scope of audience to help you gain more traffic.”
Jason McMahon, the Digital Strategist at Bambrick Digital Ad Agency, agrees.
“[Guest posting is] a great technique to drive traffic to your site from another source,” says McMahon. “Guest posting helps grow a target audience. It’s helpful if the site where you’re guest posting gets a lot of traffic on a regular basis. Your blog postings should have a similar focus to the rest of their content.”
Erin Zadoorian, the CEO and Executive Editor of the Ministry of Hemp revealed a similar tactic for increasing web traffic.
“Commenting on other people’s blog articles about your business is another method to reach a larger audience and attract your target customers to your affiliate site,” said Zadoorian.
"[Comenting on other people’s blogs] will help you establish your credibility and make you a visible figure in your niche. People will be more inclined to check you out and end up on your affiliate site as a result," she added.
5. Shareable media
Packaging your message in a way that can be quickly circulated online is the first step toward making your content go viral.
Nine of the professionals we spoke to addressed content shareability and emphasized publishing content in a format conducive to mass distribution, such as infographics, videos, and podcasts.
Sure, a 4,000-word blog entry may be informative, but it’s also difficult to consume. A 30-second video, on the other hand, can be shared with a single click and takes considerably less active participation from the end-user.
Doug Liantonio, the SEO Specialist at Gravy Solutions, agrees.
“The number one way to get people to go on your affiliate site is influencer marketing and content that is shareable," says Liantonio. "Pick the hottest feature of your products and make how-to guides. Have an influencer share your content, and you will get a good amount of traffic.”
Rahul Vij, CEO of WebSpero Solutions, encourages marketers to tell their stories through videos.
“If a content format such as video suits your business - you have something to tell, [or] show, and you know how to do it right – [you should] create your own [YouTube] channel. Record videos that will be interesting and useful for viewers. Add a link to your site in the description or a clickable button in each video. You can also go for advertising on other YouTubers’ channels. While doing so, consider the number of channel subscribers and the average watch time.”
Vij also had a few additional ideas for content formats.
“Besides videos, audio podcasts are an effective way to drive traffic,” says Vij.
“They can be published not only on YouTube but also on other platforms including SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, added Vij.
Eric Ang, Founder of One Search Pro, suggests employing the same strategy on other forms of visual media.
“Work to discover other platforms that suit your niche,” says Ang. “Traffic can come from a variety of platforms, and one of those key platforms is Pinterest. Pinterest is a highly visual tool that is often overlooked, and it can work as a “social search engine” that brings constant traffic to your affiliate site.”
We recommend taking advantage of both tools to make informative images that your target audience can share easily.
These tactics may not be universally applicable but will still produce results when used correctly. However, they may not yield as much traffic as the methods we listed in the previous section.
Although these tactics received fewer overall mentions from our panel of experts, the few that did mention these methods had the credentials to back them up.
In fact, judging by their Alexa ratings, these methods received endorsements from some of the most qualified professionals that we interviewed.
6. Paid Ads
“Paid advertising can generate leads and drive traffic to your affiliate links,” says Katherine Brown, Founder and Marketing Director at Spyic.
“The good thing is that the people clicking on the links are usually ready to make a purchase,” added Brown.
However, she urged would-be affiliate marketers against spending too much.
“Always work on balancing the cost of your advertisements with the commission you will receive per sale,” says Brown.
Alina Clark, Co-Founder and Marketing Director at CocoDoc, believes that paid advertising is under-appreciated.
“The overwhelming focus on organic SEO traffic tends to sideline other traffic sources like social media or paid advertising,” says Clark. “In fact, I would recommend using paid social media ads to anyone who’s just starting out in affiliate marketing.”
In total, eight of the experts we spoke to suggested using paid ads to drive web traffic. Almost all of those endorsements specifically mentioned social media platforms as the ideal medium for paid ads.
Mike Nicosia, Founder of ConquerWild.com, uses email campaigns to find link-building opportunities.
“My main way of building links is by launching large email campaigns monthly,” says Nicosia. “I send emails to around 100-1,000 website owners per month asking them whether they’d like to link to my article as a source for their content. The more links you acquire over time, the more that search engines will trust you and the faster your pages will rank.”
Other marketers use email to send content from their site – such as product reviews – straight to their customer’s inboxes.
“When you know how to use an email list to generate web traffic, email campaigns can be quite effective,” says Brian Dean, Founder of Exploding Topics and our second-most reputable survey participant, according to Alexa.com.
“Keep it short because many people only have a few moments to read their emails,” says Dean.
“Always provide a link back to your website and don’t go overboard, or your communications will become spam, and people will be turned off if they receive your emails too frequently," he added.
8. Free Tools
Free tools are an excellent way to increase time-on-page, which has an enormous impact on your search results placement because it’s a signal to Google that people are finding your content to be relevant.
Only a few of the marketers we spoke to suggested building free tools to drive traffic, but the ones that did had solid reputations to stand on. Hence, we believe that the scarcity of support for ‘free tools’ as a tactic reflects a lack of creativity among site owners and not a poor strategic choice.
Besides, the idea of creating a free Internet resource that consumers would find helpful seems obviously beneficial.
Rahul Mohanachandran, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Kasera, a UK-based furniture company, agrees.
“Creating free tools that can add value to the customer experience is a brilliant way to generate backlinks and also make shareable content,” says Mohanachandran.
Examples of Internet tools might include some type of ‘decision tree’ that helps a consumer make a purchasing determination; or some type of calculator, or a quiz that learns the unique needs of a consumer and then matches that consumer with a particular product variant. You could even build a database of proprietary information that is only searchable from your site or establish yourself as a hub for news within your niche.
The possibilities are endless!
Questionable at Best
These tactics were only suggested by marketers who did not have popular sites to back up their reputations. We cannot recommend using the following tactics in good conscience, but we included them in this article as examples of what not to do.
It’s no secret that people go to forums to seek information, but it’s also true that shady websites are known to spam these forums for their own selfish reasons.
Forum moderators have responded by cracking down on posts that contain external links.
Even when a link is allowed to appear in a post, it is usually flagged with a mandatory ‘no-follow’ tag to prevent Google from identifying the host site as a participant in a link-building scheme and punishing the entire site with poor search results placement.
Besides linking prohibitions, these sites generally don’t reach as many people as the other methods we outlined in this article. Therefore any effort spent trying to lure traffic from forums comes with an opportunity cost.
10. Overseas Directories
Two of the marketers we interviewed suggested creating listings in professional directories based overseas in emerging economies, specifically China.
Apparently, many Chinese directories and forums do not yet mandate the use of “no-follow” tags and will not flag spammy entries – although we cannot independently confirm this information.
However, neither marketer who recommended this tactic had a website that even qualified for an Alexa rating.
We urge anyone considering this method to take the advice of these two marketers with a grain of salt.
We will not be revealing their names or their websites out of respect for their privacy.
The biggest takeaway from this research project was that the secret to driving traffic to an affiliate site is… there is no secret.
Sure, some tactics work better than others, but it ultimately comes down to quality content and thoughtful promotion.
To summarize what we’ve learned… Anyone wanting to drive quality traffic to an affiliate site should:
Start by maintaining an active presence on social media.
Package your message inside content that can be easily shared, such as infographics and videos.
Update that content regularly.
Content should be helpful, original, and should add value to the Internet.
Tutorials, videos, and product reviews are some of the best content themes.
Content should naturally contain appropriate keywords, and site owners should establish backlinks with other sites that optimize for the exact same keywords.
Proactively seek out other outlets in your niche and offer to write guest posts.
Answer questions on Quora and make a point of providing honest and informative product reviews.
Don’t waste time with forums or professional directories from overseas.
Realize that paid ads work, but they may not be a sustainable solution, and they are not a substitute for quality content.
Maintain a robust email list, answer questions on Quora to establish your authority, and partner with influencers when it makes sense.
Come up with an idea for a helpful free Internet tool and take tangible steps toward developing it