How to Become a Top Tier Affiliate in 2016 (Part 1)

6 min read

Affiliate marketing isn’t dead. Far from it, actually.

While the concept of affiliate revenue or passive income may seem like a pipedream in 2016, the fact remains that there’s still plenty of space to explore and money to make in the affiliate landscape (that is, if you’re tackling it from all the right angles).

For the longest time, the concept of affiliate revenue was the Holy Grail for Internet marketers; however, it’s not 2010 anymore.

While there’s multiple ways to promote to become a top affiliate, in part 1 (of a two part series) we’ll be looking at SEO and authority sites.

The rules and expectations of SEO have changed, users have become much savvier to spam and the definition of “quality content” has been transformed on fairly regular basis thanks to Google’s algorithm.

The days of slapping some ads on a five-page WordPress site riddled with AdSense represent a bygone era in the face of more sophisticated users and anti-spam efforts across the web.

Marketing “gurus” such as Pat Flynn ( and sites such as Niche Site Azon have spent the past few years perpetuating the idea that affiliate marketing is anything but a dying fad.

They have the case studies and income reports to prove it, too.

Take into consideration, however, that such sites are caught in their own sort of feedback loop as they offer slews of their own affiliate links through their promises of Internet marketing superstardom.

Is this in poor taste?

Not necessary.

They’re playing the game and getting paid.

They’re a product of their own business model, and a successful one at that (as tens of thousands of dollars in affiliate earnings per month is nothing to scoff at).

The modern affiliate has to play by a new set of rules to see success, the three most important of which are:

  • Creating a sense of authority and urgency around their product(s)
  • Understanding that content is still king, and there’s no getting around it
  • Acknowledging that SEO still matters, especially considering Google’s seemingly ambiguous algorithm changes

The days of “spray and pray” method of affiliate marketing are dying; however, a keen attention to detail and adherence to the principles above are a recipe for on-site success in the modern affiliate era.

How so?

Respect My Authority

Search bar on virtual screen

Newsflash: the “churn and burn” days are over.

Those YouTube videos from 2012 promising six-figure income from AdSense on a WordPress blog?


What happened?

In short, users got smarter. It should come as no surprise that a bulk of users experience ad blindness thanks to homogenous site templates, weak content, and years of being bombarded banner ads over the course of a decade.

What might have worked on your average user in 2004 no longer flies in 2016 regarding click-throughs and conversions?

The exponential rise in the use of ad-blocking software continues to spell gloom and doom for those attempting to spam their users rather than present themselves as an authority providing a genuine product to their users.

There’s no way around it anymore; you have to have to offer users something that they want, and they have to be able to trust you.

It’s as if the basic rules of commerce since the dawn of time have come full circle for affiliate marketers today.

The name of the game for the modern affiliate marketer is an authority.

What does it truly mean to be an “authority” and why does it matter?

  • Authority sites represent the top tier in their industry or niche; they do their own research, back it up with data and have the expertise to provide meaningful insight to their users, both prospective and returning.
  • As an authority, you are expected to be active in your industry. This activity revolves around a steady stream of content, social media activity and creating a sense of accessibility and authenticity on your site.
  • Authorities offer users need for their products and services; create a sense of urgency that drives users to buy (and specifically, buy from you versus the competition).

As noted in the second bullet, authority marketing requires a certain sense of authenticity to be successful.

This means meaningful content with clear calls to action.

This means that you need to believe in whatever it is that you’re selling.

Market your product with a sense of urgency.

Naturally, such tactics may seem difficult or nearly impossible as an affiliate.

I mean, how passionate can one truly be as they attempt to build a business around handmade socks for toddlers or teak wicker furniture?

For this reason, affiliates should choose their products wisely and ensure that they have the knowledge, expertise and passion for creating a brand around whatever it is they hope to sell.

For example, I’m going to trust “” over “” any day of the week.

Today’s users want to find what they’re looking for, especially in a sea of spam; the key is actual to be the business that meets their needs and answers their questions.

A spammy site won’t do the trick; however, a trustworthy brand will.

Content? Yeah, Still King

 modern affiliate marketing and content marketing

The phrase “content is king” has perhaps become cliché in the Internet marketing sphere; however, it still rings true for a variety of reasons.

Increased production of content, whether in the forms of blogs, articles, reviews or videos, provide increased opportunities for engagement between affiliate and user.

Furthermore, such content provides increased opportunities to build links and target keywords necessary for dominating a product or niche.

On the flip side, some affiliate marketers argue that the need to ramp up one’s content marketing strategy is ambiguous; that is, sometimes the ROI isn’t always there if you’re producing, say, multiple pieces of content per day for the sake of pleasing Google.

To that argument, I’d have to agree.

To use a true cliché, quality trumps quantity in most respects regarding content marketing, click-through rates, and conversions.

In other words, content is the lifeblood of the modern affiliate. Rand Fishkin ( has recently perpetuated the idea of what he refers to as the need for “10x content” for those looking to reach their users really and increase click-throughs.

The concept is for sites too, provide content that is “ten times” better than whatever already exists.

The principles of “10x content” are perfect for affiliates looking to increase their conversions as their content works to…

  • Solve the problems and answer the questions of the user (for example, how your site’s software can help save a business cash)
  • Provide a friendly, accessible user experience that ultimately builds trust and leads to sales (straightforward content with a clear call-to-action)
  • Establish the affiliate as an authority through a trustworthy tone and quality writing.(let your expertise and experience shine through your content)

A legitimately helpful, authoritative blog post with that provides users with meaningful information, legitimate resources and solves a problem will always best a keyword-stuffed mess.

On that note, Google is working to eliminate spam and fight what they perceive as poor or potentially deceptive content.

This is especially important for affiliates; just take a look at how Google’s Penguin and Panda updates tanked this affiliate’s traffic by up to 90% due to questionable content.

Yes, SEO Still Matters

search engine optimization

Search engine optimization is often the elephant in the room for affiliates because, well, it’s the piece that’s perhaps the most complicated.

For affiliate marketers, SEO no longer means stuffing keywords, buying traffic and spamming for black-hat links.

By now, most affiliates probably know the basics of SEO regarding best practices when it comes to building an online presence.

In 2016, perhaps the most important SEO principles for affiliates are understanding…

How Paid Traffic Works – We often look for the free and easy solutions as marketers; however, paid traffic should not be ignored.

Understanding paid traffic can lead to insights and interactions with users that would be otherwise impossible by simply scanning Google’s Keyword Planner Tool and hoping for the best.

How to Target Keywords – Often, poor affiliate performance is the result of poor targeting. Likewise, poor targeting the result of poor keyword research.

Marketers should put at the time (as in hours) and effort and understand the basics of keyword research if they hope to dominate their niche.

Once again, “spray and pray” won’t cut it. Research your competitors. Understand what they’re doing and do it better.

How to Structure their Sites – With increased competition in the affiliate space, marketers need to their sites to be sleek, perform well and meet the UI needs of today’s visitors.

The structure and layout of your site remain of paramount importance, whether you’re using WordPress or any other sort of CMS.

Are users getting the best experience possible when they land on their page?

Does your site speak for itself? Is your on-page SEO sound?

The Bottom Line

All of these principles sound like a lot of work, don’t they?

The truth is that there is no silver bullet for modern affiliate marketing; however, there is more than plenty to be gained by affiliates in 2016.

Keep an eye out for part 2 of how to be a top tier affiliate where I dive into how to use paid traffic to achieve that “super affiliate” status.

What are your top tips for affiliates in this modern era?

Do you think affiliate marketing has a bright future?

Let me know in the comments section below!

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4 thoughts on “How to Become a Top Tier Affiliate in 2016 (Part 1)

  1. Stephen, thanks for the great article. Being an entrepreneur myself, and founder of 3 real businesses, I believe this new era of professionalism in affiliate marketing is a welcome change in the way of doing business. The successful affiliates will be the ones who have a business owner mindset. Look forward to reading Part 2 of this series.

    1. I totally agree with this. Really successful affiliates will definitely need to build their own audience as well. Being a “1-trick pony” wont cut it anymore in terms of having success on only 1 source sending traffic directly to the offers.