The Secret of My Success: How I Rank Money Articles (part 1)

by John Hoff on October 31, 2011

This is a two-part series on how I go about ranking money articles on my blog to the first page of Google. Part two can be found here

*Note that in this article I’ll refer to the “keyword tool” in a few areas. When I mention the keyword tool, I’m referencing the Google Keyword Tool.

Onsite Optimization and Research

1. Keyword Research and Should You Pursue Rankings

When it comes to ranking articles, it’s extremely important to do your due diligence in proper research. Without proper research, you’ll be flying blind and you could spend days, weeks, even months of work all for nothing.

So your first step when determining on whether or not you should push for a strong ranking for an affiliate product review is researching your competition and how popular the search term is.

Obviously if the product is brand new then you’re not going to get as much data from the Google Keyword Tool as you’d like in regards to search volume. To be honest though, that’s the second best time to do your affiliate product review because Google really likes sites which are first (plus you can start your backlinking strategy before anyone else).

The best scenario, of course, is to write a review article before the product is even launched or knows about it.

Keyword Search Volume

Assuming the product you want to review and rank your article for is not brand new and does in fact have search data in the keyword tool, then the first thing you should do is check out the search volume of the keyword.

Different marketers have different ways they go about figuring out what a good keyword search volume is, so in this tutorial realize that I’m just giving you the way I do it.

If the keyword gets less than 1,000 local searches per month, then I tend to not pursue a strong push on ranking the article. But realize that there are other keywords which might work, but I’ll get to that in just a moment.

The question then is should you look at Broad Match searches or Exact Match searches?

Not sure what the difference between Broad, Phrase, and Exact matches are? Click here.

I typically look at both, but for the most part I look at and use the data from the local exact match column.

Here’s a snap shot of the broad and exact matches for the term, “cook chicken” (yellow highlights the Local Exact Matches).

Keyword Tool Example

“Buying” Keywords

No I don’t mean purchasing a keyword, silly.

What I’m talking about here is choosing your keywords carefully by using the language your potential customer might use in Google to find your article.

If it’s an affiliate offer for a membership website or some other product bloggers might buy and is where the price pretty much stays the same, I’ll typically want to rank for the product’s name – like “Niche Profit Classroom” or “OptimizePress” (I might add the word Review in there as well).

But here are two circumstances where you might want to target a keyword phrase other than solely the product’s name:

  1. The product can be purchased from multiple places online (like Amazon and Overstock) and depending on where it’s bought the price could be different
  2. The product name might work but the competition is too stiff to compete with

In this case, you might want to look at some other keyword variations which people going to Google might use.

Here’s some examples:

  • Buy _______
  • Cheapest _________
  • ________ Review
  • Best ____________
  • __________ coupon code (or promo or promotional or discount)
  • Lowest price ___________
  • Where can I buy ___________
  • Compare prices ____________
  • _____ Discount

You get the point. Just plug those into the keyword tool and see what you come up with.

*TIP: Sometimes it’s better to go with “________ coupon code” then it is to target the product name directly. These are people ready to buy NOW. But note a couple of things if you do this:

1. Make sure you have a coupon code (ask the seller).

2: I don’t suggest creating an entire website around just that keyword. I’d only try to rank for that keyword if I had an entire site about the topic… then I might chase that buying keyword.

Competition On the First Page of Google

The next thing I do after a little keyword research is to look at how stiff my competition is on the first page of the Google returned results for the keyword I’m targeting. To do that, I make use of a tool called SECockpit.

I’ve just started using this tool and am really liking it; however, since I only just started with it, I don’t have many screen shots or videos on it yet.

SECockpit does cost money, but if you’re serious about ranking articles and making money online, then at some point you need to invest in your business. What business do you know uses only free stuff?

The other option is to use a free SEO Add On for Firefox called SEO Quake. I use it sometimes for a quick “idea” of what my competition level is on the first page of Google for my targeted keyword phrase.

If you really want to get the most out of this add on, you could sign up for SEM Rush (a 3rd party website and service) which will integrate with SEO Quake and allow you to see how many backlinks your competition has. But that costs something like $70/mo. and at that level you might as well get the more powerful SECockpit.

Here’s a screen shot of SEO Quake in action:

In the image above, you can see that it’ll probably be pretty difficult to rank your article above or at the #2 spot for the search term “OptimizePress”. Not shown is the actual site, which Google will almost always want to rank first for that kind of single keyword. It is, after all, the best result.


The glimmer of hope is taking a look at what the number 3 person has.

They have a PageRank of 0 and my guess is that they have the number 3 spot because they’ve got an exact match domain name (still useful) and some related content with some backlinks. Definitely not impossible to outrank this site if you have a blog which has at least some authority level or you create a better review site than theirs.

Next what I do is add up all the PageRanks for the top 10 returned results on the first page of Google and then divide that number by 10.

So if all the PageRanks add up to 15, I’ll then divide that by 10 and I’ll get an average PageRank of 1.5.

The rule of thumb I go by is if the average PageRank for the top 10 returned results averages out to a 2.5 or less, I’ll give strong consideration at going after ranking my article; anything higher than a 3 is going to take quite a bit of work to get your page ranked on the first page and unless it’s an article you’re passionate about and want to devote a lot of your time (or your money for outsourcing) to ranking the article, your time might be better spent at ranking for something a bit easier to rank.

A few side notes to consider…

First, if you have a blog which has a strong PageRank already, like say a 5 or above, then you can consider competing against a little stiffer competition. In other words, if Google considers your site to be an authority site, it won’t take you as many backlinks to rank your article as it does the girl who has a blog with a PageRank of 1 on the homepage.

Second, researching your competition is not an exact science.

While you can see how many backlinks each site has… it’s hard to really know how powerful of links Google considers those links to be.

If a site has hundreds and hundreds of links, are you really going to evaluate each one? Tools like SECockpit can give you a good clue, but again it’s not an exact science.

Third, flip the first point I made around.

You might see that someone’s article only has 3 backlinks and a PageRank of 1 and yet it ranks #2. You might then think it’ll be relatively easy to beat this person’s ranking because all you need to do is get your article a PageRank of 1 or above and more than 3 relevant backlinks.

But then you do that and guess what?

It doesn’t happen.


Well it might just be that your competitor’s homepage has a PageRank of 6 while yours is only a 2, so he doesn’t have to work as hard to get his articles ranked. Or maybe your site has a higher PageRank but theirs still outranks yours. This might be because Google thinks people are having a better experience on the other person’s site for this keyword than yours…

So they will want to promote that site’s review article over yours.

I’ll show you an example of this in a video I made of one of my sites in the next article (linked to at the top). I’ll show you how I rank one of my review sites which has a PageRank of 0 and pretty much no backlinks above other site reviews, including ProBlogger, Copyblogger, and Men with Pens (all A-list blogs).

Okay don’t get too discouraged, though, because here’s a bit of good news.

Although the three points I made above do matter, I often times find that very few bloggers actually take the time to build such an intricate link strategy. There’s a difference between a blogger who knows a little about SEO and an Internet Marketer who devotes time and money at getting articles ranked.

In my experience, most typical bloggers will write a review article and then rely on social media to drive links to their article (Twitter links, Facebook Likes, etc.).

While that helps, nothing beats sitting down for twenty minutes and brainstorming a strategy to get an article ranked. In other words, you don’t reach a destination without a perfectly guided map.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, then act like an entrepreneur.

Final word on the competition on the first page

Finally, what I typically will do is check out two or three of my competition’s articles.

I’ll be looking to see if they have optimized their onsite SEO and look at how much good content is on there. I like to take into consideration the fact that Google knows the difference between good and bad content.

Your onsite SEO is a given, you should always focus on optimizing that when thinking about ranking articles, just don’t forget that Google is smart. It knows more than we think.

2. Review How Well the Product Is Selling

This might be a bit difficult to do if a product is brand new, but if it’s been in ClickBank for more than a couple weeks, check out the ClickBank Gravity on a product.

Basically the gravity will tell you how many affiliates have made sales in the past week for the product. If you’re new to promoting products, try to pick a product with a gravity of 10 or above, but anything below 5 I might consider a bit difficult to sell.


Because if a vendor has a gravity of below 5, what that tells me is either their product isn’t really something that people NEED or their sales page is weak and not converting.

If you’d like to watch me show you how I do some of my ClickBank research, click here.

3. Onsite Article Creation and SEO Work

Okay so at this point you have done your research and figured you’d go for ranking an affiliate offer article, or as I like to call them, “money articles”.

Now it’s time to write your article.

Article Content and Length

If you can, try to put multiple displays of content on your article. That could come in the form of images, video reviews, text content, audio interviews, etc.

In other words, the more value you can add to your article the better.


Don’t go overboard with content.

Remember the goal is to do just enough to presell your visitor and get them to click the affiliate link the moment you capture their interest, then you can let the vendor’s sales page turn that interest into desire and action.

So it’s a balance of great content and length you should consider when crafting your review or recommendation article.

If you feel you need to write lots of information about a product in order to give it a proper review, there’s nothing wrong with that; just make sure you paginate the article (i.e. separate it into a review series of articles or something).

Where To Put Your Links

Make sure you have an affiliate link near the TOP of your article, preferably in the first sentence or two, as well as in the last line of your article. These two areas I’ve noticed get the most clicks, however you may want to test it on your site. You could try putting a link in the center of the article as well, just be careful of stuffing your article with links, cuz Google dun like that.

Also, I’ve personally noticed much fewer clicks on links in the center of an article verses the top and bottom anyway.

The bottom link is probably the most important.

I’ve also noted that some people will click on an image of the product located at the top as well, but not nearly as many as the text links. Nonetheless, I typically will add an image at the top of my article which links to the affiliate product.

Here’s a quick video peek at a heatmap for my Popup Domination article. Notice where the majority of clicks are. Be sure to watch it in 720HD.

Where To Put Your Keyword

To get your article ranked and/or clicked on, you must put your keyword in the following places:

  • Article’s title
  • URL
  • Link text
  • Preferably any subheadings (like h2 or h3 tags)
  • Meta description

If you’re not doing all of those things, it’s going to be harder to rank your article – period.

Use rel=”nofollow”

Okay this one is sort of a judgement call.

Whenever I link to an affiliate offer, I always add the rel=”nofollow” tag to my HTML link.

The nofollow tag tells Google that “here’s a link, but I don’t want you to follow it, explore it, and give it link juice”.

I’m not doing that to be mean to the person who’s product I’m promoting; I’m doing it to protect myself. You see, I have a website which I once had punished by Google for shooting out too many affiliate links. I’ve since fixed the issue but I never want to go through that again.

So I use the nofollow tag when linking to affiliate links.

One could say then, I suppose, that if you don’t stand 100% behind the product then you shouldn’t be linking to it anyway. Also, as long as every blog article isn’t an affiliate offer then I should be okay.

That’s all probably true and the argument is sound.

What can I say… Google slapped me once and I won’t forget it. My way is the nofollow affiliate link way. I’m sure vendors won’t mind as long as I send them targeted customers.

Make Your Article’s Title Stand Out

I mentioned earlier how you need to add your target keyword in your article’s title/headline, but there’s a couple more things to consider when crafting your headline.

First, get a good handle on what makes for a good headline. You don’t have to be an expert, but some level of understanding as to what makes for a good title will go a long way.

Second, look at the titles of your competitors on the first page of Google.

How can you make yours stand out so people click on it, even if you’re not #1?

Here’s a short list of some of the returned results for “Optimizepress” in Google. Which headline stands out the best?

  • OptimizePress Review
  • OptimizePress Bonus – Internet Marketing Product Reviews
  • OptimizePress Review: What Is It and Does It Make You Money …
  • Optimize Press Review | Bryan Dulaney
  • Optimize Press Review |

To me it’s the third one down, but I’m biased because that one is mine.

But if you were looking to learn more about OptimizePress, which headline might you click on to learn more about it and why you might use it?

Wrapping Up Talk About Ranking Articles – Part 1

So we’ve covered quite a bit today and truth be told, I was going to get into Offsite SEO…

But then I realized I’m up to 2500 words on this article and if you’re like me, that’s enough for one day.

In regards to what we talked about today, just realize that blind marketing is risky. If you want to rank a money article in the top of Google, take some time and really dig into how you’re going to do it. Map it all out on paper if you have to.

If you do that and you stick to it, you’ll find that you’ll end up beating those other people who simply send out a few tweets, get retweets, and Facebook likes – even if it’s a lot of them.

Research your keywords, do your homework, and go make some money.

Next week I’m going to reveal to you my offsite SEO strategy for ranking my articles.

Just don’t go promoting the same thing I do…

Otherwise it’s war! ;-)

This is a two-part series on how I go about ranking money articles on my blog to the first page of Google. Part two can be found here

Related posts:

  1. The 1st SEO Decision You Should Make To Rank Well In Google
  2. 30.1 Web Tools For Online Success And To Make Your Life Easier At The Same Time
  3. This Is the Secret Weapon Successful People Use and Understand…
  4. 2 Firefox Add-Ons Which Can Get You To The Top of Google

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Dennis November 1, 2011 at 6:24 am

Great article, I’m curious if incognito browsing on Firefox would work like a proxy browser? I’ve had my site up for a few months and ranking is not bad just not making me rich yet, lol. Keep up the good work, i like your “classroom”


Mark November 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hi John,

Thanks for the tips on how to write “Money Articles”.

I had now idea that Google might slap a site for excessive outbound links to affiliate sites. I’ll be adding the “nofollow” tag to all of my links starting today.

I also appreciated how well you covered the keyword research in how you choose potential keywords. Keyword research is not my strong suite.

I’ll be testing out your ideas in the near future. I’m looking forward to your next installment on this topic.




John Hoff November 1, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Hey Mark.

It all takes a bit of experience, you know. Keyword research, evaluating article writers before you hire them, determining how much money you might make for a product, etc. You can always tell experiences, but the best learning curve is to just get some experience and hopefully pick up some tips, right?

Yeah my Incorporation website was ranked on the first page of Google for “types of corporations”. That keyword gets over 22,000 searches per month. In on day I fell to like the 90th position.

It’s a mini site so it didn’t have the strength in tons of articles to back up the number of affiliate links I had.

Anyway, I removed most offers and limited them to a few, added the nofollow tag and about 2 months later I was ranked on the first page again.

Yeah, that sucked.


John Hoff November 1, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Hi Dennis. Oh the classroom isn’t launched yet. Just wait. I’m putting A LOT of work into it. I hope you like it when I launch it.

I just tried the “Private Browsing” and that seemed to do the trick. I’ll test it a little more… thanks for the tip.


Keith Davis November 2, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Wow John
So much fantastic information in this post.

Not got very far yet but I’ll be back with a more detailed comment.

Appreciate you taking the time to put a post like this together.

Regards – Keith


John Hoff November 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Thanks, Keith.

I’m working on the next article now. It gets a little deep into some Advanced SEO stuff, but ya know… it’s what I do so I’m posting it. I’m having fun writing it. I’ve never really explained it in such detail before… my process.


Keith Davis November 2, 2011 at 2:58 pm

It’s good stuff John and if you enjoy doing it…. so much the better.

I’m starting to think about opening a few sites with affiliate links so this is a great series for me.

You explain things very well.


paardenrassen November 8, 2011 at 9:37 am

thx for your explanation, hope it will work for me)


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