Stephen Hockman,

Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

I’d like to introduce one of our members, Stephen Hockman, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank him for the participation.

Stephen Hockman is the author of the book Affiliate Content Secrets, where he reveals his top tips and strategies for maximizing your earnings on affiliate sites.

He’s been an affiliate marketer since 2008 and went from making $2.18 to a six-figure figure income in just 5 years.

In his experience, ranking a page for keywords is only half the battle.

Once you get to the top spots, you need to get people to click on your affiliate links and then convert those visitors into buyers.

He’s an expert in persuasive copywriting, page structure techniques, and conversion rate optimization; the three areas he believes are the most crucial for success in affiliate marketing.

If you have any questions on affiliate marketing and conversion, please feel free to pick his brain.

You can also visit his site. http://affiliatecontentsecrets.com/

Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until he asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock value goes to zero.

2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s successes and strategies.

3) Please do not PM him and bother him. If you have a private question, ask for his permission on this thread when appropriate.

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Table of Contents

Ever use social or email? Strictly SEO? Stick to one offer and grind it hard? Or filter multiple offers for the same niche with less detail? Best alternative to Cj or maxbounty? (Lately I have been just reaching out to solid products) How do you handle your traffic if all they want is free stuff?

1. Yes I use social media for some of my sites. But I don’t count on it for making money. I’m mainly focused on SEO for organic reach.
2. Multiple offers. Why limit yourself?
3. Reaching out to brands will pay the most.
4. Not sure I understand.

I have been capturing emails from social due to algorithm audience reach at times. As my social funnel has gotten me many opt in emails.
A lot of my traffic I’m grabbing from social is well…. Not the brightest bunch. Where they seem to fall for Ellen sweepstake scams. Is there a better way to monetize these people without feeling like a data whore slimeball?

The best way for you would likely be that email list.

Capture the lead, then remarket to them. You can also remarket with facebook ads if you have the pixel installed.

Get people to your site, get the pixel to fire, then remarket with facebook ads to try to make sale.

For amazon CTA Buttons What’s the best text you prefer?

“Check Price”. You can also try “See Amazon Reviews”.

Find out what converts best for your site.

Steven Kang writes “Once you get to the top spots, you need to get people to click on your affiliate links and then convert those visitors into buyers”. I want to hear more about this part. What are some top tips for this?

It’s all about persuasive copywriting.

How to sell your affiliate links so people want to click on them and then take the next step to purchase.

A lot of people just do basic content writing which just highlights the facts and features about products and doesn’t actually “sell” people on the items to make them want to buy today.

Using writing tricks like second-person pronouns, power words, and scarcity can help drive people to click and make a purchase.

Compare these two examples:

A: This lawnmower is a good choice for homeowners. The 14 hp engine helps it cut yards fast.

B: This lawnmower is a popular choice for homeowners because it lets you get yard work done 3X faster than other mowers with its powerful 14 hp engine. Also, you can usually find it on sale during this time of year.

So check out the link to make sure it hasn’t already gone of stock yet due to its high demand. If it has, then you’ll want to consider my #2 pick below; it’s the best alternative for your money.

Have you ever tried to merge any affiliate strategy with influencer marketing? If yes, any success to share?

I haven’t. But that sounds like a good idea

Do you prefer pros/cons section for product reviews? Where do you place the “Check Price” button? Any specific location? or What’s the perfect review article format? An example?

Great questions.

1. I actually think Pros and Cons lists are bad for conversions, so I never use them. But if you want to, then you need to make your Cons list only 1 or 2 items while the Pros list is 5 to 7 items. In my book, I talk about how to highlight negative aspects of a product that work in a positive way to help boost sales.

2. I put it at the end of the item review. My template is like this for each product reviewed on a top 10 list buying guide:

– H3: Product Name
– Image right aligned on desktop: centered on mobile
– Review text
– Check Price button

(1) How would you recommend getting started in Affiliate? Any courses / resources you’d recommend (shameless self promotional plugins welcome) (2) Is your book available as audiobook? (3) What are the common pitfalls for Affiliate marketing (4) Do you think Affiliate Marketing will grow or shrink over the coming 5-10 years?

1. The Affiliate Lab Course by Matt Diggity is one of the best courses I’ve seen. It breaks everything down and everything is proven to work. Many of the things I learned myself over the years were confirmed by the training in the course. So give it a try!

2. Not yet. I plan to offer it as an audiobook.

3. Giving up too soon. I started in 2008 and made $2.18 my first month! And barely broke $100 per month 1 year later. But then I figured out what I was doing wrong and then the earnings skyrocketed. Also, not looking at your metrics to see what needs to be changed. Affiliate marketing is a test and retest game.

4. I think it will grow but the way we monetize today will likely be different in 5 years.

What are your go-to WordPress plugins for affiliate marketing? Do you use a central dashboard system?

I don’t use any affiliate-only plugins except for AWP. I keep things bare bones.

My top plugins include:

– All-in-One SEO
– Autoptimize
– WP Super Cache
– Tablepress for tables
– TOC +
– Shortcoder

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people make on affiliate sites?

1. Writing horrible introductions that don’t hook the visitor into wanting to read more.

2. Not picking 3 products to be your all-star items (mentioned in the book). Instead, people try to make every product on the page seem like it’s a good choice when you should really just pick 3 items and sell the heck out of them with your words. Then, make the other 7 items seem less attractive. By narrowing down your reader’s options, it’s easier for them to make a choice and by something.

3. Not using words in the content that make you seem like a expert or trustworthy.

4. Not writing with a target buyer persona in mind.

5. Not structuring the page in the right way to rank higher and convert more visitors into buyers.

Do you mean to pick 3 star products on (a) a review page, or (b) pick 3 star products for whole site?

I am referring to a top 10 list style post.

3 of those items should be your all stars that you want people to buy.

The other items are just filler but if people buy them that’s ok too.

The strategy is to help visitors quickly narrow down their choice so they buy something.

Do you think writing shorter copies are better for conversion? Because lots of top pages on SERP are hell bent on producing 5000-7000 word content and there is very little left to write about. What should we do?

Look at the SERPS and let that be your guide for how long the content should be.

I understand you completely. When I first started in this business I was ranking #1-3 with 1,000 word posts!

Now, most of my buying guides are 4,000+ long.

Here’s what I do…

1. Pick 10 products I want to feature. Then write those sizzling descriptions to make people want to buy them. If you write at least 200 words for each product, you’re already at 2,000 words of content. Throw in a 200 words intro and 200 word conclusion, now you’re at 2,400 words.

2. Look at what topics the top 3 ranking pages are covering in their H2 and H3 tags.

Then, include the same ones on your page. Make your page a combination of all of the topics from the top 3 pages. Now your page is the better one. Then, write text to fill in those sections to fill out another 1,000-2,000 words.

Bam! You’re done with your 4,000 word epic buying guide

Do you have any concrete tests or first-hand experience with improved page speed increasing the rankings?

Great question!

I just worked hard on improving the speed for one site in hopes that it would increase my overall rankings.

I obsessed over the Google Page Insights Scores and my site loads in about 1-2 seconds now.

And the results from all of that hard work? NOTHING, yet I did this in early July.

What is the best source to learn persuasive copywriting for conversions?

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

– Copyblogger site
– Copy Hackers site
– Books on the psychology of persuasion, like Influence by Robert Cialdini
– My book. It condenses 10+ years of learning from hundreds of resources into 25 easy tips.

(1) What would be “the mistakes” that newbes should avoid? (2) On an affiliate site/blog would you say a “shop” page would be a good idea? (3) Would a colorful site be more attractive than a standard simple blog type site? (4) Is it better to work directly with companies or affiliate platforms? (5) What was your breaking point to realise you were doing it wrong? You said took you a while, what did you do wrong? And how did you fixed it?

1. Treating affiliate marketing as a hobby and not a business; Paying for cheap SEO services on sites like Fiverr; Trying to go too broad with their site (instead focus on one small tight niche)

2. It just depends on the search intent. If you’re trying to rank a page for “best lawn mowers”, then probably not. You just want to serve up 10 of the best lawn mowers so people make a quick purchase.

Sending them to a shop could cause people to start having doubts or do too much comparison shopping and then not convert.

I think shops are better used for linking out to from informational content or blog posts. Like if you had a blog post on “10 tips to style your makeup and hair for prom” and inside the content you linked to your shop that sold lots of different makeup and hair products, then that could work well.

3. Match the color to the target audience. For example, if I had a site that reviewed lawn mowers, I would make the colors green, brown, and white: those are the colors you see outside when using lawnmowers.

If it was a site that reviewed makeup, then you could use bright colors like pink, purple, red, etc. that makes sense for that topic/audience.

4. It depends on your niche. In some niches, there are no companies you can work directly with. So you have to use affiliate programs like Amazon.

5. My breaking point was when I had a page that ranked #1 for a high-traffic keyword and it made $0 in sales.

At that point, I realized that the way I wrote and structured the content must be wrong.

I was making people NOT want to buy the stuff I was recommending.

So I spent the next few years figuring out how to improve my content strategy through the art of persuasive copywriting and conversion rate optimization.

What is the best way to find / vet a designer that is good at optimizing CTAs for mobile?

I’m not sure.

I customize all of my website content and design myself.

Best affiliate for ecommerce? Amazon and eBay kind of do dances around themselves with the one day cookie. I used to aim after high end furniture with Amazon…. but the one day cookie thing

The best option will depend on your niche. I’ve tested Amazon vs Walmart, Target, HD and Lowes on my sites, and Amazon always won.

So I have to stick with them.

If you can go straight to the manufacturer/brand to get a higher affiliate rate, then do it.

I don’t know much about high end furniture but maybe there are some companies that offer an affiliate program?

Some other options you can try to find the best payouts and longest cookies include:- Wayfair
– Pier 1
– CJ Affiliate
– ShareASale
– Skimlinks
– Clickbank

(1) Are you still doing affiliate marketing? If so, is it profitable? (2) I am not into affiliate marketing yet, but I read a few months back that Amazon had slashed a lot of their products down to 1% affiliate payout. Is Amazon affiliate worth messing with this stage in the game? Is affiliate marketing in general? (3) If one selects a great niche, does great product selection, great web design, great SEO, great content writing, and treats affiliate marketing like a main focus (4 to 6 hours a day), what would be a rough estimate for monetizing in the 3 to 4k profit range? I know there are a ton of variables.

1. Yes and Yes!

2. Amazon still works very well in my niches. Everything I promote is in the 3% bracket which used to be 8%. So the best advice here is to ONLY choose niches that are in the 3% bracket now.

Don’t waste time on the 1% categories.

3. Many years back I had a site that was at the top of Google, making thousands per month.

And overnight it got slapped with a penalty and made pennies. It took me about 6-7 months to reclaim what I lost by building a new site.

I had another property that I started from scratch and it took 8 months until it popped onto page 1 for most of its keywords and started earning several thousand dollars per month.

So in my experience, I can do it in about 8 months or less.

But I do have the expert knowledge of what to do and don’t have to learn from scratch.

If you’re learning from scratch, then it would likely take you longer since you have to learn what does and doesn’t work.

So, be patient and just stick with it. Treat it like a real business and not a hobby. And in the end, you will most likely have a profitable affiliate site that can make you a serious amount of money.

Just be sure to pick products that cost at least $100 to buy. That will get you to your goal faster.

Trying to get wealthy off selling books or makeup isn’t going to work very well

Are there any particular strategies, resources or courses you would recommend on link building for affiliate sites?

Gaurav Sharma aside from the normal stuff people mention like guest posts, niche edits and PBNs, here are a few things I’ve done to get some high quality links:

1. Contacted each brand for the products I reviewed on a buying guide or individual review page and told those companies that they made on my 2020 list. And asked if they would highlight the mention and link to the page on their news and media page.

I get about a 20-30% success rate with that.

2. Create a buying guide that puts the product reviews section far down the page. Make it seem like an afterthought. Then do outreach to build links.

It’s easier to get other sites to agree to link to it because you’re asking for a link to a helpful guide.

Once you gain a bunch of links then change the page structure so the products reviewed are now a the top.

3. Create a high quality page that doesn’t have any monetization on it but is very close to your target buying keyword.

Do outreach and get links. Like in #2, it’s easy to get links to those types of pages.

After you get a bunch of links, scrap the page and 301 redirect that page to your money page.

4. You can try Pitchbox or Ninja Outreach for outreach.

(1) I notice that there are platforms that help with affiliate blogging. Is it best to choose one and stick with it or doesn’t matter just follow the money and do all of them. (2) I want to promote a class online. How long can it take to get things set up and have a few affiliates blog or try to sell packages for me? Does that even work or am I thinking totally wrong about this.

I’m not sure what you are talking about in #1. Please restate it so I can answer.

(2) You could have a web hosting account set up and WordPress installed in 1 day.

Pick a good free theme the same day. Then start adding content to promote the course on day 2 and 3.

You can use them all. No need to limit yourself. You’ll find out which program converts the best and makes you the most money.

Then ramp up on that program.

Do you hire writers for your affiliate site or write yourself? Let’s say I want to start the Amazon affiliate website. How do I get started? What is your recommendation for creating content? People who are on amazon affiliate create content simply paraphrasing from amazon product description or from other source? If they are doing so, is it rankable in SERP? What is your thought on it?

I write the money pages myself. I’ve tried hiring it out but I spend several hours editing the content when it’s published that it’s easier just for me to write it.

But for my informational posts (supporting content), I hire that out and then just edit it to add in my internal links to my money pages and other CTAs.

To get started, you need to do the following:

1. Sign up for a web hosting account.

2. Install wordpress (the host can do this for you)

3. Pick a niche to target. Go micro-niche too. Instead of targeting “cars”, try “mufflers” or “car stereos”.

Something very narrow. And only write about that topic.

4. Create 10 buying guides that target “best” keywords, like “best muffler for performance”, “best muffler for honda civic”, “best muffler for v8 engine”, etc.

My book explains how to write content that converts and how to structure these pages.

5. Create informational posts to support your buying guides. These can be your blog posts.

In each article, link to one of your money pages. The goal is to capture additional website traffic as well as funnel people to those buying guide pages and create relevance for your money pages to help them rank.

6. Track your conversion rates on your buying guides and make adjustments as needed to increase your sales.

When copying Amazon descriptions, you want to add in your own opinions and experience with the product. Don’t just rewrite the bullet point from Amazon.
For example, if a refrigerator had this bullet point:

– 26 cu. ft.
– 3 adjustable shelves

You could write something like this in your review:

– This refrigerator has 26 cu. ft. of storage, which means it can hold enough food for 2 hungry adults and 3 children.
– With 3 adjustable shelves, you’ll never run out of storage space either. Large pots, small pots, tall containers, and more. You can fit practically anything in this fridge!

(1) Regarding page design for affiliate reviews, what do you prefer – full width (so that the content is in the middle of the screen) or the traditional left-aligned content with a sidebar? (2) Do you use any “sticky” elements in page design – TOC, header, or a sticky “buy this product” button? (3) Do you try to keep a certain ratio of informational/affiliate content?

(1) If you’re not running display ads like Mediavine, then you can ditch the sidebar.

Most of my website traffic is mobile (about 60-70%) so the sidebar isn’t even seen unless the person scrolls all the way down to the end of the post.

But if you do keep the sidebar, a good thing to add in there is trust signals, such as an author bio, certifications, badges, a facebook widget, etc.

Things that instantly make you seem popular, approachable, and trustworthy. People likely won’t click on any of it but it’s a subtle sign of credibility.

(2) Stick? As in, it stays on the screen as your scroll through the page? No. But I do mostly buying guides and individual reviews.

A stick buy button might be a good idea if you’re reviewing a single product and want to keep that CTA available at all times.

(3) When starting a new site, I try to do do a 5:1 ratio, with 5 info posts to support 1 buying guide.

After I get this done, I then wait to see how the site ranks. Once I get to page 1 on Google, i slow the info post creation down.

I don’t want to dilute anything. This also lets me create a good mix of internal contextual anchors to confirm to Google what that page is about.

So basically, my smallest site would have 60+ total articles.

What are your 3 biggest advices to increase conversion rate?

Here are 5 tips:

1. Sell the affiliate link in your copy. Make people want to click on it and buy it.

Hype the product up! I see so many sites that just list the facts and features but don’t give the visitor a strong WHY they should buy it.

People need guidance. Transfer YOUR opinions into their conscious.

2. Make your links easy to see. Pick a strong contrast color for the link color.

Look at The Wire Cutter: they use bright red links for their affiliate links; all other links are black. That’s on purpose!

3. Link everything! The product name, image, and CTA button.

4. Create a sense of urgency and scarcity for your highest-priced item.

Say something like, “This thing has been selling out a lot lately, so if you can get your hands on one, DO IT!”

5. This idea is revealed in chapter 24 of my book: Add MORE images of the highest-priced product throughout the page.

For example, put it in your top image for the post, alongside the review, and then again in the copy after the product reviews.

Also, mention that product name several times throughout the entire page.

By doing this, you’re tapping into psychology tricks called Fluency, Frequency, and Exposure.

The more someone sees or hears about something, the more they become attached to it. And it then “feels” like the right choice. 🙂

What type of affiliate contents really convert? How do you optimize the contents for clicks

When your content speaks to your visitor’s desires, addresses their fears, and uses words that they use, it feels more like a conversation with a friend or trusted advisor, and that can disarm them.

By putting the right kinds of words in front of your audience, you can make it easier for people to do what you suggest (i.e. buy a product).

Check out my other comments and you’ll see tips on how to get more clicks.

What do you recommend for someone just starting out in affiliate marketing?

1. Get the basics of on-page SEO right from the start. Otherwise, you’ll have to fix a lot of things later and you won’t rank as easy.

2. Pick a micro-niche to target. Instead of targeting “yard tools”, try “lawnmowers” or “hedge trimmers”. Something very narrow. And only write about that topic. Become THE authority on that small subset of things.

3. Don’t feel pressured to have to buy into expensive SEO tools to get good results. I don’t use any paid tools and have been doing very well for 10+ years.

4. Make it a business, not a hobby. Work on your site every day and try to make it the best resource for people on your THING.

5. Analyze your conversion data from the start and understand it.

For example, if you’re recommending 10 products on a page and the top 3 reviews are the items you want people to buy, but no one is buying them, then you need to either fix your copy to sell them better or swap those products out for other one’s that do sell.

Track, measure, and adjust.

How to implement near me keywords on my affiliate site or any site content site?

I don’t have direct experience with this type of thing.

But here are two resources I found for you that can help you get started:

https://blog.hubspot.com/…/how-to-leverage-near-me…
https://clutch.co/…/9-steps-to-rank-for-near-me-searches

Wanna hear your thought on niches you believe can weather the google constant update? I mean for big niches like Finance, Health, Insurance, Make Money, are constantly under google rader and get tinkered with during their now regular big updates. What niches you’d discovered are generally safe?

I focus on consumer products and that has weathered most all Google updates.

Only 1 site of mine has ever taken a hit from an update and that was because big brands took over the top 10 spots in Google.

There doesn’t seem to be much I can do to reclaim that.

So look for products you can promote that people need advice on before they buy something.

Just don’t focus on hobby niches, those don’t convert very well in my experience.

Here’s one more tip. Try to focus on a niche that is not seasonal.

I have had some sites in the past that make a majority of their money in the summer months versus winter months because that is when the items are in demand. And vice versus.

I am planning to have a quality article written & build a basic site to drive traffic to the site. I own multiple domains including MCM.team that I use as my social media URL for sites like Twitter, Instagram, etc. What would you do with domains like: MotivationalAuthors.com, MotivationalAuthor.com, PersonalGrowthAuthor.com, SelfGrowthBook.com and SelfHelpReads.com? Should probably turn that into a personal branding site for my name?

I think we should start the discussion first with the “why”.

Why did you buy all of these domains? Just for branding purposes or did they have a good history of established backlinks and therefore you wanted to use their “power” to rank easier one day?

How do you keep track of all your affiliates, link, commission rates, dashboards, etc?

Thanks for your support and for leaving a review! As we all know, reviews are extremely important to get people to buy something.

I use the native tools inside the affiliate programs. Each one gives you the data for tracking and conversions. So I just log into each tool separately.

This lets me track individual pages to see how they are improving or declining in sales.

However, I do track each site of mine separately in an Excel sheet so that I can see how the earnings are growing or shrinking each month.

I just go through each tool and copy the earnings reports for the month over to my Excel sheet.

Did you use a book funnel to sell this (free plus shipping) and if so, do you have any good training on this? Have you done any white label products or just affiliate links?

I’m a fan of Russell Brunson too! I thought about using it as a funnel but I decided not to.

There is no upsale or course that I try to hook you into. I just lay out all of my best tips for writing and structuring better affiliate content that sells in the book.

The only thing I offer in addition to the book is an individual page audit to help people who are stuck or just want quick answers on how to improve a page to make more money.

Right now I just want to establish myself as an expert in this field of affiliate marketing and build up my personal brand and the book seemed like the first step to do that.

I’m also starting a YouTube channel to give away even more free tips.

So join my Facebook group if you want to know when the first episode comes out.

I have not done white labeling, just affiliate products.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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