With the recent news that Google has added new reports to its Google Webmaster Tools and re-branded it to Google Search Console I thought now was a good time to look at the top five tools from Google that affiliates should be using to help guide their marketing.
Not using these (or an equivalent) is a bit like trying to do your affiliate marketing in the dark with your hands tied behind your back. You’re going to have to work a lot harder to achieve the same results, as you can’t see whether you’re heading in the right direction.
1. Google Keyword Planner
Hopefully this is one tool that most of you already use. We used to have the Keyword Tool, but then Google replaced this with the Keyword Planner within AdWords. Don’t let this put you off; you don’t have to run any PPC campaigns to use it, you only need to create an account.
The Keyword Planner allows you to understand the amount of searches a particular keyword gets in a month as well as trends and seasonal variations. By searching for a “seed” keyword, the Google Keyword Planner generates a huge range of other keywords that may be relevant to you.
This helps you to understand exactly what kind of thing your potential visitors are searching for so that you can create content targeted directly to them. Download the results into a spreadsheet so that you can see them better, sort them and analyse them better. Bear in mind that the Competition column relates to paid ads not organic listings, so doesn’t necessarily show you how difficult it will be to rank for that keyword.
A great feature of the Keyword Planner that is designed for PPC but can also be useful for writing content is the Ad Group Ideas tab. This groups relevant keywords together, and you could use these ad groups to plan your content, starting off by writing an article on the topic of each ad group and using the keywords featured within it.
Remember of course that you don’t have to stuff your article with keywords. Primarily you should make sure it contains interesting and informative content that your visitor actually wants to read. You’ll find that you are adding keywords naturally as you write. But the keywords within the ad group can give you alternative ways to say the same thing rather than using the same phrase over and over, and can also give you different angles within your topic to write about.
2. Google Trends
Google Trends allows you to enter a keyword and find out the trend – whether searches are increasing or decreasing over time.
This can be useful for helping you decide whether to get into a particular niche market. It can also help you understand the seasonality of the product you’re promoting and when you should be focussing most time on this niche.
Google Trends can also help you identify trending topics to help keep your content fresh and interesting to your visitors. The Related Searches section at the bottom shows you keywords that are closely related to the one you searched for, the top related searches and also rising searches – those that have seen the most growth over the period you’re looking at.
3. Google Alerts
Google Alerts brings the new content ideas to you. No need to go looking for them, you can get them straight to your inbox. They’re definitely one of the most powerful tools for keeping up with what’s hot in your niche and getting onto trending topics before your competitors.
And what’s more, they’re so simple to use! Simply enter a particular keyword that you want to be updated about and you’ll be sent any new news stories, blogs and videos that include that keyword. Find out which celebrity is reported to be following a teatox diet or what medicine is about to be approved by the FDA to help lower cholesterol and jump straight into writing about it before most of your competitors are aware, making your article one of the first and most original.
Google rewards fresh and unique content and is featuring more of these high up in the search results, as well as recently announcing it will be listing relevant tweets. So as well as creating evergreen content that will last a long time, you should also be looking out for these trending topics. Not only does Google love them but your visitors want to read about them too!
4. Google Analytics
The first three tools all focussed on planning and getting ideas for what you should be writing about. If you’ve used the previous tools you should be writing about the right topics and using the right keywords to generate traffic. But of course it’s also important to analyse how well your content is performing.
You may find that there are things that you can do to improve your content further; that you should be creating more of a particular type of content or that you could do more to funnel your visitors from your interesting, trending content through to your sales pages. All the traffic in the world is no good as an affiliate marketer if you’re not making sales and earning commission.
Google Analytics will help you to understand how your visitors are using your site, which pieces of content they like and are working effectively for you and which aren’t.
There are huge amounts of data in Google Analytics so it can be quite overwhelming when you first start looking at it. One key section in the reports that you should take a look at as a content affiliate is Behaviour > Site Content. This is going to give you that valuable insight into how your content is performing.
The Landing Pages report shows you the first page of your site that your visitor sees. Most of the time your visitors won’t land on your homepage but will come to your site through a Google search that shows them one of your articles.
These pages that are attracting the most traffic to your website are obviously really important as they could offer the most potential to make sales. Your website should act like a funnel, offering up visitors other relevant content they may be interested in until they ultimately end up at your sales pages. Understanding your top landing pages allows you to look at whether you have an effective funnel set up on your site.
Once your visitor has finished reading the article they initially found, what do they do next? Do they leave your site? Do you recommend them another article they may be interested in? Or are they engaged enough with your site to make the effort to find more interesting content for themselves?
It’s a good idea to take a look at the top landing pages on your site and re-evaluate what you do to encourage your visitor to stay on your site. But Google Analytics will also provide you some hard facts of what your visitors actually do after reading your landing page article. Audience > Users Flow shows you your visitors journey through your site and you can filter it to show you how they start at a particular landing page and which pages they visit from there. Using this information you can start to think about any changes you need to make.
Going back to the Site Content reports, there are a few more things you can look at. Do any of your pages have a high Bounce Rate (compared to your other pages)? Looking at the Exit Pages report, which pages do most visitors leave your site from? Hopefully all your exit pages are your product reviews / sales pages – with the visitor leaving to go the merchant site to buy! But of course this is unlikely, so you can use this data to try to work out why your visitors are leaving or bouncing. Are your headlines or meta descriptions promising something that they don’t deliver? Is your page a wall of text that puts your visitor off? Take a fresh look at your pages and see if you can figure it out.
For Twist360, both the landing page report and the exit pages report show that the conversion rate bible page is performing really badly:
A simple look tells us exactly why. You can only view the content if you get social and share it. Unfortunately Twist360 hasn’t given any indication as to whether the content you’ll get is valuable, so people aren’t willing to take a risk and do this! Hidden content can work really well, but let people know what to expect – give them a preview and 5 reasons to download – and you’ll find a lot more people hitting those share buttons and spending time on the content.
Of course not all pages will be as easy to diagnose as this one was, but if you’re not looking at the stats then you wouldn’t even know it wasn’t performing.
As I said previously, there is so much data in Analytics that it’s impossible to run you through all the reports. But here are a couple of straight forward articles that show you some more useful reports to look at if you’re new to Analytics:
5. Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools)
The final tool is Google Search Console. It’s just been renamed from Webmaster Tools as Google wants to attract a broader audience and not scare away those who don’t consider themselves webmasters.
Most recently Google added the Search Analytics reports which allows you to understand how often your site appears in Google search results. You can see which keywords your site is receiving the most traffic from, easily view the average position for a particular keyword, and see how many impressions and clicks it received. And you can view other things such as the impact of Mobilegeddon on your site by filtering for mobile searches only.
Google Search Console also allows you to monitor and manage some of the more technical aspects of your site. You can submit an xml sitemap to help Google find all of your pages and be more likely to index them. You can create a robots.txt file to tell Google any URLs that you don’t want them to index and test it before putting it live and you can find any issues Google has had with crawling your site e.g. pages not found.
Finally, Google Search Console is the place where you’ll be notified of any manual penalties that Google has applied to your site, allowing you to quickly take action to make improvements to your site.
Need Help or a Site Review?
If you need help with setting up any of these tools, getting started or understanding how to get more out the reports then get in touch with your affiliate team.
We’ll be happy to give you a review of your site, and if you have Google Analytics and Search Console set up this will allow us to understand even more about your site and give you better feedback.