Long-tail keywords for affiliate marketing

Ruth G. | September 16, 2020
15 mins

Affiliate marketing websites take many forms, from blogs to review based. But creating and launching an affiliate website is just the start. Next, you need to promote it, and it’s actually by thinking small that you can have the biggest impact.

Just like any other site, affiliate programs and affiliate websites need traffic to succeed. This often means getting found by search engines – using a little thing you might have heard of called search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO encompasses many marketing strategies, with keyword research playing a big part. Keyword research involves figuring out the words and phrases people are likely to type into search engines and implementing them into your website.Affiliate marketers usually choose the most universally popular keywords. But this article will focus on how you can make the most of an often (unwisely) overlooked element of SEO keyword research: the long-tail keyword.

What are long-tail keywords?

A long-tail keyword is a long, specific search query, typically made up of two to five words.

Because of their length, long-tail keywords are typically quite specific in nature. They tend to be low volume, which means that they are less searched for than their short-tail keyword counterparts.

This aspect might be off-putting if you’re just starting in the world of SEO. Why waste time targeting keywords that hardly anyone searches?

It turns out it’s not a waste of time at all, because when you target long-tail keywords:

  • Your affiliate site is more likely to rank in search engine results pages (SERPs)
  • Users are far more likely to convert

Focusing on long-tail keywords rather than short-tail keywords can be more effective because by their very nature they are more targeted. You’re more likely to gain a purchase from someone searching for a more specific search query than someone who is exploring a more general 1-2 word phrase. In fact, according to a study by marketing technology company Conductor, conversion rates for long-tail keyword terms are 2.5x higher than for short-tail “head terms.”

This discovery shouldn’t be too surprising when you consider that popular, high-volume search terms only make up 30% of all queries. Long-tail keywords account for 70% of the world’s search volume, according to Moz.

By targeting long-tail keywords, you’re more likely to attract your ideal audience while also boosting your place in the SERPs. That’s a win-win situation.

Short-tail vs. long-tail keywords in affiliate marketing

It’s a rookie mistake to try to rank for high-volume, short-tail keywords, even if it might seem more logical at first.

If more people search for those short 1-2 word phrases, doesn’t it mean that they’ll easily find you if you focus on the short-tail queries? The answer is no.

As mentioned before, high volume means high competition. Focusing on short-tail, generalized keywords will put your niche affiliate site in direct competition with big brands. Chances are, you don’t have the same marketing resources at your disposal as they do. They already conquered the first pages of SERP rankings for short-tail keywords. Trying to compete with them for that coveted space is going to be an uphill battle that you’re unlikely to win.

By focusing on long-tail keywords in your SEO strategy, you’re likely to avoid a bloody battle entirely.

Let’s say your affiliate site focuses on women’s shoes. It would be a wasted opportunity to focus your SEO strategy on that search term alone. A quick Google search will reveal that there are 5.9 billion results for that search term. Here are the top results:

Pretty big names, right? Can your little affiliate site really compete with the big guns of women’s shoes? But, as we said before, focusing on long-tail keywords means that you don’t have to. More prominent brands don’t tend to focus on ranking for long-tail keywords because they don’t need to. This lack of competition affords your affiliate site a great opportunity.

You just need to narrow your focus for a greater chance of ranking. Let’s use “wide fit women’s shoes” as an example. The results are already far fewer, with 128 million as opposed to the previous 5.9 billion.

It’s still quite a lot though; big name brands dominate the top results:

So how do you come up with long-tail keywords that are more likely to rank? Read on to find out.

How do you find long-tail keywords?

Before beginning exercises like these, it’s always good to do a little common-sense brainstorming. Get to know your target audience and think about what they are likely to search for. Let’s go back to “wide fit women’s shoes” from the previous section.

Who is likely searching for this term and what do they want from such a shoe (aside from the obvious answer of women with wide feet). Searching through social media hashtags can be a good way of finding this out. There is also a sizable selection of keyword tools you can use.

But before you dive into using expensive keyword tools to find long-tail keywords, there is a free tool at your disposal. We’ve mentioned it already and you’d be remiss not to take advantage of it – Google Search.

You can see what people tend to search for by viewing the search engine autocomplete function in the search bar, as well as the “related search” section at the bottom of the results page.

Google’s autocomplete function gives the following suggestions for the search term “wide fit women’s shoes”:

This query tells us that geographic locations are frequent search terms. Clicking into these autocomplete options shows us that while they do have fewer options, big brands still dominate page 1 results.

For this specific search term, the related search section is a little more fruitful:

Not only does this help you narrow search terms, but it will give you ideas of other niches. Let’s click on “extra-wide women's shoes for swollen feet."

This search term has 358,000 results, a far cry from the billions of our initial short-tail “women’s shoes." Brands are still dominating the first page, but a very helpful, “people also asked” section is shown:

Your long-tail keyword options have just gotten far more targeted. And you could basically fill out your content calendar for a long time to come if you focused on answering each of these questions.

Check out your competitors

Examining the kind of content your competitors are covering and the keywords they’re targeting will also point you in the right direction for coming up with long-tail keywords. That will involve knowing who your competitors are, first of all. It could be another niche affiliate site like yours, or even a larger online magazine.

Buzzsumo is a great resource for finding who the main players in your niche are, as well as seeing the kind of content that resonates the most in that niche.

Keyword tools for finding long-tail keywords

Google Keywords planner is an oft-mentioned tool for getting you started. It is technically designed for Google Adwords rather than SEO, so the kind of insights it can give you are limited.

It can be difficult to figure out how to sign up without paying or running an ad, though it is possible by getting a deeper understanding of Google Adwords

There are a whole host of other free and paid keyword tools out there to really boost the effectiveness of your keyword research. These tools give specifics about search volume and competition, and often give keyword suggestions. Using one of these tools will take away the guesswork of using Google Search alone.

Here is a selection:

Answer the public

A great free tool for coming up with potential long-tail keywords, Answer the Public takes the autosuggest functions of Google and other search engines to the next level by creating simple, yet extensive visualizations of this data. Taking our women’s shoes example again, here are some common questions people ask search engines about them:

It not only provides great potential long-tail keywords but even ideas for filling out your content calendar without much effort. If you find the data mined confusing, that’s okay. They offer a free, short email course to help you get started and learn how to make the most of the tool.


Ubersuggest’s free keyword tool generates keyword suggestions based on what’s working for your competitors and what people are typing into Google. Search your keyword and it will tell you how hard it is to rank for, its search volume, SEO difficulty, and cost per click.


A great keyword research tool, Wordtracker also provides insights on competitors’ keywords, related terms, competition levels, and provides information from multiple sources, such as Google, Youtube, and Amazon.

With a free account, you can get 100 keywords results, while the paid options will provide up to 10,000 for the most expensive option. Prices start from $27 per month.

KW Finder

The aim of KW Finder is to help you find profitable, long-tail keywords that you can easily rank for. It helps you find and manage niche keywords while filtering out the least profitable keywords, as well as a host of other handy features. KW Finder comes as part of an SEO tools package from Mangools, with pricing starting from $29.90 per month.

Longtail Pro

As the name suggests, Longtail Pro is a tool designed specifically for finding less competitive keywords. It gives users keyword suggestions, tells them what keywords competitors are using, and has a keyword rank tracker. Prices start from around $30 per month.


We would be remiss not to mention the most talked about tools for SEO (and many of your other digital marketing needs): SEMRush. A great keyword research tool, it boasts a range of helpful features like technical SEO audits and competitive intelligence. You’re sure to find the long-tail keywords you need, while also taking care of your general marketing strategy. Plans start from $99.95 per month.

Writing content for long-tail keywords on affiliate websites

With affiliate websites, the obvious goal is conversions aka getting people to click on affiliate links and buy stuff. However, while that’s the main goal, you need to put some thought into your content. Affiliate site or not, you need to build trust and rapport with your audience, not just try making a quick sale. Otherwise, users won’t come back and they won’t recommend your site to a friend (quite the opposite, in fact). So how do you build a trustworthy site that appeals to both Google and your target audience?

Focus on producing high-quality content.

A widely held belief seems to be that SEO mostly consists of throwing a few keywords on a webpage and the job is done. This simply isn’t true, especially in 2020. As search engines become more and more contextualized, so too should your SEO practices.

With each Google update, users and user intent are becoming more and more of a priority when it comes to how web pages are ranked. This means that the content contained in each web page should be valuable and relevant to the users searching for them.

Because of this, long-tail keywords are becoming more important. What defines user intent more than a specific long-tail keyword phrase? So, the more relevant your content is to user needs, the more valuable Google will consider it, boosting your chances of ranking.

How can you ensure your content is valuable to users?

Honesty is the best policy

While you want users to click affiliate links, you don’t want them to feel like they’ve been hoodwinked into doing it. If yours is an affiliate review site, don’t say a product is good just to get one or two purchases. It’s a very foolish long-term plan. If users notice that every product reviewed seems to be the best thing since sliced bread, they’re going to be suspicious.

Your affiliate site won’t have a good reputation.

“Quality content” is a bit of a vague term though if you’re new to the realm of content creation. What exactly is “quality content”? The answer to this is, of course, subjective, but in the realm of SEO it can typically be described as content that is:

  • Well-researched

    Know your stuff. Become an expert in your niche. Give users a reason to visit your site over those of your competitors.
  • Skimmable

    People have short attention spans. Keep sentences and paragraphs short if you want people to stay on your site.
  • Visually interesting

    Show high-quality images where possible. This could be pictures of the product you are discussing or something like an infographic. These will also help break up your content too, so it’s easier to read.
  • Actionable

    Affiliate links should be embedded in your content. But you need to remind users that they’re there. Call-to-actions (prompts that tell users what action to take) can be simple but incredibly powerful. Don’t forget to ask them to “click here” or “read more” wherever possible.

Where do long-tail keywords fit into all of this?

Well, ideally your content is written around your long-tail keywords, and not just shoehorned in where it doesn’t make sense as an afterthought. People are becoming savvier, and poorly written SEO copy is not just immediately obvious – it’s embarrassing.

As such, long-tail keywords should guide your content as much as possible.

In terms of placement, keywords should be included in your URL, body text, and alt-image text, but the most important place they should feature is in the headline. A keyword-rich headline is crucial for your content getting clicked.For more about creating content for your site, we have a guide to writing copy that converts, and if you’re curious about writing affiliate reviews, we can help you with that, too.

Measuring the success of long-tail keywords

There’s no point in implementing an extensive long-tail keyword campaign if you don’t keep track of it. You need to measure what works and what doesn’t so you can make changes and make intelligent decisions regarding your SEO strategy going forward.

Doing this requires a little more work than going to Google every day and seeing if your webpage shows up on the SERP rankings yet. Luckily, there are a number of available online tools that you can use to measure the success of your long-tail affiliate keyword campaign with ease:

Google analytics and search console

Google Analytics is free to use and widely available. It is one of the best ways of keeping track of what’s working and what isn’t on your site. Keywords are no exception. While the main aim of Google Analytics is to show you how users interact with your site, Google’s Search Console shows you how search engines interact with your site. Used in conjunction with each other, they’re a mighty combination.

There are a whole host of metrics you could keep track of when it comes to SEO. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Organic search traffic

    This particular search metric shows you how many users come to pages on your site via a search engine – a critical measurement for SEO. Here you’ll be able to see the top pages of your site and which of your long-tail keywords are most effective (and least effective).
  • Click-through-rate

    Even if your webpages are showing up on the SERPs, it’s all for naught if nobody’s clicking into them. Google Search Console will show you the overall CTR of your site, top-performing pages, and keywords. If certain pages have a low CTR, you might want to consider changing the long-tail keyword in your headline or meta description.
  • Bounce rate

    The bounce rate measures the length of time users stay on a particular web page. The higher the bounce rate, the less time users stay on your page, which is not good for any site, let alone an affiliate site. If Google Analytics indicates a high bounce rate, you’ll want to experiment with elements such as changing the content or layout. A/B testing is a great way of gauging what works and what doesn’t.
  • Mobile traffic

    Beyond keyword placement and quality content, mobile optimization is a key factor when it comes to search engine rankings. It makes sense; in the final quarter of 2019 Google had a 61% share of organic mobile search traffic in the US. They’re going to want to make sure that pages that rank work on mobile. So other factors you’ll need to consider on your site are that the pages load quickly and are responsive across devices. With Google Analytics you’ll be able to see how much of your site’s traffic comes from mobile and how well each page performs.

SEO reports

In addition to the manual performance reports from Google Analytics and Search Console, various companies offer tools that do it for you automatically. Regular reports of your SEO performance will help you with a general overview of how your site is doing and help you keep track of things.

Some great options include SEMRush, Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer, DashThis, and SpyFu.

Affiliate tracking dashboard

While tracking the effectiveness of your SEO strategy is, of course, important, launching an affiliate site without an affiliate tracking dashboard is ill-advised at best and foolish at worst. With an affiliate dashboard, you’ll be able to track key statistics about your site with ease. Plus, by seeing which pages have the most or least conversions, you’ll have a great idea of which long-tail keywords are working and not working.


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Ruth G.

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