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How to Become an Affiliate Marketer (5 Steps)



How to Become an Affiliate Marketer (5 Steps)

Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to create a passive income, work from anywhere, and create more freedom in your life.

But how does one become an affiliate marketer? Does it cost anything to get started? How long does it take to actually make money?

I’ve been in affiliate marketing for nearly a decade and have built three separate affiliate marketing businesses, two of which make six figures…

And today, I’m going to teach you exactly how to become an affiliate marketer, just like I did.

Let’s start with the basics.

How do affiliate marketers make money?

Affiliate marketing is about promoting someone else’s products or services using an affiliate link, then making a commission if the person who clicked on your link buys something.

Most affiliate marketers promote their affiliate links on various channels, including their website and blog, YouTube channel, or social media channels. They may create content that talks about the “best vacuum cleaners for pet hair” and link to the vacuum cleaners they discuss.

YouTube affiliate marketing example

Once the consumer of that content clicks through and buys the vacuum cleaner, that company then sends the commission payment to the bank account of the affiliate marketer—typically at the end of the month after accruing and accounting for all the sales of that month.

But you can do more than simply review products. One of the beautiful things about affiliate marketing is that the ceiling is as high as your own creativity. 

You can place affiliate links in nearly any piece of content you create, whether that’s promoting a VPN service on a video about starting an online business or sending the link to your friends any time they ask where you got your cool shirt.

But that begs the question—how does one find affiliate programs to join and promote?

Where to find affiliate programs

There are three main ways to find affiliate programs:

  1. On affiliate platforms
  2. By performing a Google search for [company name] affiliate program
  3. By reaching out to companies directly and asking them

The first method—affiliate platforms—is by far the easiest and fastest way to find a lot of options. Some of these platforms include:

Simply create an account on these platforms, head to their “merchants” section, and start browsing what they have. Many of them allow you to browse based on category, as you can see in ShareASale below:

ShareASale affiliate dashboard

Most affiliate dashboards work in this same way or very similarly.

But if you can’t find anything that interests you or have something specific in mind, you can always do a Google search to see if a company has an affiliate program.

Google search for iKamper affiliate program

As you can see, the company iKamper has an affiliate program page on its website. But not every company will have an affiliate program advertised on its website anywhere.

In these cases, there’s still hope—some companies either don’t openly advertise their affiliate programs or can be convinced to start one for you.

Pick up the phone and call the company whose products you’ll like to promote. Ask a representative if they have an affiliate program. You’ll probably need to be redirected to the company’s marketing manager or even the owner—depending on how small the company is.

Tell them you want to partner with them and send them traffic and sales in exchange for a small commission on each purchase. It’s a win-win—they get more sales without spending anything, and you get money in the bank.

How to create and track an affiliate link

As an affiliate marketer, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with how affiliate links work. These are your bread and butter.

Most affiliate links contain your unique affiliate ID. Sometimes, you can choose what this is; other times, it will be a randomized string of numbers and letters. This is just the code that associates clicks and sales with your affiliate account.

For example, one of my affiliate links looks like this:

You can see the portion aff_id=1064. That ID is what links the sale to my account.

In addition to your affiliate ID, you may also be able to add some advanced tracking to help you know where any clicks on your link came from. This is a good practice to get into, as it will help you determine which pieces of content and which products are generating the most money for your business.

This advanced tracking typically includes a “Source,” which is the location of the link. Examples of sources may be “email-newsletter” or “best-vacuum-for-pet-hair-youtube.” It helps you understand where the clicks and sales came from.

So if I were to add a source to my above link, it would look like this:

Now you can see the &source=ahrefs-article. If you were to theoretically click that link and rent an RV through it, I would receive a commission and know that you found my link from this article, thanks to the added source.

You can often also include sub-IDs, click IDs, and many more. But that’s a bit too advanced for this guide. Check out this guide to affiliate link tracking with Google Analytics for more info.

Is affiliate marketing worth it?

This is the big question: Is it worth getting into affiliate marketing right now?

The answer, in my eyes, is a resounding yes. I’ve built my life, my career, and my freedom on affiliate marketing.

The benefits of affiliate marketing are that you don’t have to carry any inventory, deal with customer service, ship anything, or make any of your own products or services.

All you have to do to make money as an affiliate marketer is research and promote the products and services you love. That’s it.

It’s one of the best business models to create recurring, passive revenue. 

So if you’re someone who doesn’t mind a steep learning curve and working hard to grow an audience, affiliate marketing is definitely worth it. It just takes time and dedication.

How to become an affiliate marketer in five steps

So you’re ready to become an affiliate marketer? Here are the five steps to get started:

1. Choose an affiliate niche

The first step is deciding on your niche. That is—what category do you want to talk about and promote?

Examples of affiliate niches include hobbies, broad topics, lifestyles, or pretty much anything. If it’s something someone’s interested in, it can be an affiliate niche.

Some niches are more lucrative than others. Any niche in the finance space will often have very high-paying affiliate programs, for example. But it’s also an extremely competitive space.

Historically, I’ve chosen all my niches purely based on personal interest. 

To succeed as an affiliate marketer, you will need to create a lot of content around a topic, probably for years to come. If you choose something that doesn’t interest you—no matter how lucrative its affiliate programs may be—you probably won’t succeed.

That said, obviously, this is your choice. You know yourself way better than I do. If you think you can research and create thousands of pieces of content about something you’re not interested in if it means you make a lot of money, then by all means go right ahead.

To think of a niche, ask yourself:

  • What am I interested in learning about?
  • What do I know a lot about?
  • What do other people tell me I’m good at?

The overlap of your answers can help you decide what to talk about.

But before you commit to a niche, take it to step #2.

2. Analyze the competition

I will caveat this section by saying that you can succeed in any niche with enough dedication.

However, not all niches are created equal. Some are highly lucrative—and competitive—while others are less competitive but may not make as much money.

A lot of your decision will depend on how much money you need to succeed in your own personal goals. Do you want this site to take over as your primary income or just become a small side hustle?

Either way, analyzing the competition of your potential niche is easy. Just head over to Google and search for some broad keywords you think you may want to get traffic from.

For example, let’s say you want to start a blog about mountain biking. A lucrative keyword in this space may be “mountain bike gear.” If we look at the search results, we can quickly assess how difficult it may be to rank on Google for this keyword:

Analyzing competition for mountain bike gear on Google

As you can see, the #1 result is from REI—a highly authoritative business.

If I scroll down, I also see Amazon, Trek Bikes, and many other high-authority websites also ranking for this keyword. At a glance, this tells me the competition is steep.

To back this up with better data, you can install Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar and see the Domain Rating (DR) of competing sites, as well as a score of how difficult it may be to rank for a given keyword and how many people search for that keyword per month.

Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar data

This data allows you to quickly glance at information showing how competitive a keyword (and, potentially, a niche) is on Google.

Alternatively, you can also use our free keyword difficulty checker to check this information. 

KD score of keyword "mountain bike gear," via Ahrefs' free keyword difficulty checker

This KD score of 29—on a scale of 0–100, 100 being the most difficult—is actually fairly easy in comparison to most keywords. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

For a brand-new website, this will be a hard keyword to rank for. Search engine optimization (SEO) takes time and effort.

If you want to learn more about how to do keyword research and determine competitiveness, check out our full guide here.

For now, what you need to know is that if you want to rank for high-value keywords on Google (that bring you free, recurring traffic), you should look for niches with keywords that each have a KD score of less than 20.

If you can’t find that, it doesn’t mean you can’t use that niche. It just means it will take more time, effort, and learning than a lower-competition niche.

Here are some guides to help you determine competitiveness on channels other than Google:

3. Pick your affiliate marketing method(s)

Once you’ve determined that your niche isn’t too competitive for your liking, it’s time to choose which methods you’ll use to promote your affiliate links.

There are five main methods most affiliate marketers use:

  1. Build a website and do SEO
  2. Start a YouTube channel
  3. Grow a following on social media
  4. Craft an email newsletter
  5. Make a podcast

Which method(s) you choose will depend entirely on how you prefer to create and share content. 

If you’re a good writer, a website and SEO may be your best bet. If you love photography, social media is probably your game. If you’re great on camera, think about doing a YouTube channel. If you love to talk, start a podcast. 

I’ve seen successful affiliate marketers using each of these methods. Rather than trying to explain how to do each individual one, I’ll just show you examples of successful affiliate marketing for each method and link out to guides for that method.

Websites and SEO

There are TONS of examples of successful affiliate marketing websites. In fact, we’ve done case studies on a lot of them. Here they are:

YouTube channels

YouTube, like Google, is a search engine. Which means it’s also a great source of free, recurring traffic. Here are some helpful articles if you want to take this route:

Social media channels

While this is my least favorite method of affiliate marketing because it requires constant learning and content creation, it is still an option. Here are some useful resources:

Email newsletters

While email newsletters are better as a supplementary channel to your other channels, it’s possible to have ONLY a newsletter—like my friend, Mike, does with his channel The Tonic. He uses a combination of affiliates and sponsored ads to monetize his list. 

Here’s what to know:


From “The Tim Ferriss Show” to “Entrepreneurs on Fire,” there are LOADS of examples of successful podcasts that monetize with affiliate marketing and advertising. Here are some resources to get you started:

4. Create and share world-class content

Regardless of which channel(s) you choose, if your content isn’t good, you simply won’t succeed.

Becoming a successful content creator means honing your craft, going the extra mile, and putting out content that’s better than everyone else’s. The better you get at creating world-class content, the more money you will make as an affiliate marketer.

I can’t teach you how to make amazing content for every possible channel in this one guide. That’s what the links in the last step are for—to show you what’s working and how you can do it better.

What I can tell you is what it takes to create great content—regardless of the channel.

In my opinion, all content needs to do one of two things: entertain or inform. If you get good at one of these, you will succeed. If you get good at both of them, you will thrive.

To create better content, ask yourself:

  • What is my goal with this content?
  • How can I give the most amount of information in the least amount of time and effort on the part of the consumer?
  • Can I take anything away to make my point clearer?
  • Can I spin this in a way to make it more interesting or entertaining?
  • What points can I make that my competition is missing?
  • How can I make this more fun?

If you go through these questions every time you write a blog post or film a video, you will improve the quality of your content over time.

Here are some examples of what I personally consider to be world-class content:

  • Tips for How to Film Yourself: In this video, Dunna uses excellent video editing, great organization, and entertaining cuts to explain how to film yourself better. He focuses on education and usefulness first, making money second.
  • Julian Shapiro’s Guide to Writing Well: This is one of the most well-done guides on how to write non-fiction that I’ve ever read. It is put into digestible chunks, well formatted, and to the point. Again, the focus is on value first, monetization second. 
  • How to Rank on Google’s Front Page in Less Than 3 Months: This is a podcast episode I did with John Lee Dumas from EOFire. While I didn’t personally monetize it with affiliate offers, I gave high-value information in order to gain SEO clients.

5. Continue to grow your audience

Affiliate marketing doesn’t end after you create a few pieces of content and start making some money. You have to continue to scale it up.

At first, you will be doing everything. Creating, editing, uploading, publishing, and marketing all of your content. Coming up with ideas. Reaching out to people for promotion.

But eventually, as your affiliate links begin to bring in a profit, it’s a good idea to reinvest these profits to scale up your ability to create.

Examples of this include hiring writers or video editors, spending money on paid ads, and even building an SEO team

Don’t rest on your laurels as you bring in passive income. Take it from me—I got lazy after one of my websites blew up, and it eventually crashed 60% because of it. Keep on top of your game, and your affiliate business will continue to feed you for years to come.

Final thoughts

Starting an affiliate business is one of the most lucrative ways to earn recurring, passive income.

However, it does take a lot of time and dedication to learn how to do it and create all the content you need to be successful. You will likely have to work for a long time with little income to show.

If hard work and a steep learning curve don’t scare you and you want true financial freedom, I can’t recommend this business model enough.

Have questions? Message me on Instagram.

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OpenAI Experiences Outage Affecting ChatGPT Users



OpenAI Experiences Outage Affecting ChatGPT Users

OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Labs experienced an outage today. Mobile users report receiving the dreaded “ChatGPT is at capacity right now” message and its outage limerick. ChatGPT Plus subscribers can receive a subscriber login link, which would typically bypass any capacity issues. That option also appears to be broken.

Screenshot from ChatGPT, March 2023

Desktop users receive a link to the incident page for this outage, which shows OpenAI began investigating the issue at 9:41 a.m. PDT. They discovered the root cause of the issue and are working on a resolution.

ChatGPT Is Down: OpenAI Reports Major Outages For ChatGPT And Labs UsersScreenshot from ChatGPT, March 2023

The OpenAI Status page shows that in addition to ChatGPT, Labs is having an outage related to an underlying capacity failure. OpenAI is adding extra capacity to resolve this issue. Paid labs traffic has been restored, and they are working towards restoring free traffic.

ChatGPT Is Down: OpenAI Reports Major Outages For ChatGPT And Labs UsersScreenshot from OpenAI, March 2023

DownDetector also has received thousands of reports from ChatGPT users about the outage, which began several hours ago.

ChatGPT Is Down: OpenAI Reports Major Outages For ChatGPT And Labs UsersScreenshot from DownDetector, March 2023

ChatGPT Plus users are particularly frustrated because the premium pricing plan includes “General access to ChatGPT, even during peak times.”

Some users are turning to the OpenAI Playground while OpenAI resolves the issues with ChatGPT. It offers a chat mode (currently in beta) that can use your choice of GPT-3 or CODEX models.

ChatGPT Is Down: OpenAI Reports Major Outages For ChatGPT And Labs UsersScreenshot from OpenAI, March 2023

New accounts receive an initial $18 credit for the OpenAI Playground. Once you reach your usage limits, you must pay for additional credits. Prices are per 1,000 tokens, where 1,000 tokens are equal to about 750 words. Pricing varies based on the language model and context needed.

ChatGPT users can subscribe to updates from the incidents page to be notified when OpenAI has resolved the issue.

Featured Image: Vitor Miranda/Shutterstock

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Google Explains Why Sites Should Combine Structured Data



Google Explains Why Sites Should Combine Structured Data

Google’s Lizzi Sassman answered a question in a Google SEO Office hours session about whether it’s okay to combine different structured data types.

The answer illuminated an important point about how Google interprets structured data and whether it’s better to combine structured data or two separate them out.

Combining multiple structured data is called nesting.

What is Nesting?

Structured data is basically about high level data types (called Types) and the attributes of those Types (called Properties).

It’s kind of like with HTML where the main HTML building blocks of a webpage are called Elements and every element has properties that modify them that are called “attributes.”

The HTML of a webpage begins by communicating that it’s an HTML webpage like this:


Similarly, a structured data script begins by saying what the main structured data for the webpage is.

A recipe structured data on a webpage that is about a recipe looks like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">
"@context": "",
"@type": "Recipe",

Nesting is the addition of other structured data types within the main structured data.

So if the page is about Reviews, then the main structured data should begin like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">
"@context": "",
"@type": "Review",

But what about when the page is about a recipe and it has a review?

Do you create two structured data scripts?

Or do you combine the two structured data types?

Lizzi Sassman shares that there is a right and a wrong way to do it.

Is Combining Structured Data Allowed?

Structured data follows a logical set of rules. Once the rules are learned it’s easy to make sense of structured data.

This question is about the organization of structured data and how that impacts how Google interprets it.

This is the question that was asked:

“Is it allowed to add one structured data inside another type of structure data? For example, adding carousel structured data inside Q & A structured data.”

Lizzi Sassman answered:

“Yep. Nesting your structure data can help us understand what the main focus of the page is.

For example, if you put recipe and review at the same level, it’s not as clear as telling us that the page is a recipe with a nested review.

This means that the primary purpose of the page would be a recipe and that the review is a smaller component of that.

As a tip, always check the specific feature documentation to see if there’s any more notes about combining various structure data types.

Right now, the only supported carousel features are course, movie, recipe, and restaurant.”

Structured Data Tells Google What a Page is About

This is really interesting because what Lizzi is saying is that the structured data helps Google understand what a webpage is about.

But if you have two separate structured data scripts on the same webpage it makes it harder for Google to understand what the “focus” of the webpage is about.

She advises that it’s best to combine them so that the first part says what the webpage is about.

So if the webpage is about recipes, the structured data should start like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">
"@context": "",
"@type": "Recipe",

Google’s Search Central documentation about JSON-LD structured data discusses nesting:

JSON-LD* (Recommended)
A JavaScript notation embedded in a <script> tag in the <head> and <body> elements of an HTML page.

The markup is not interleaved with the user-visible text, which makes nested data items easier to express, such as the Country of a PostalAddress of a MusicVenue of an Event.

Also, Google can read JSON-LD data when it is dynamically injected into the page’s contents, such as by JavaScript code or embedded widgets in your content management system.”

What the above quoted section from Google’s documentation means, in plain English, is that a webpage that is about a musical event (using the Event) structured data type, can also include additional data types for the music venue and the postal address.

The webpage in the above example is about an Event, not the venue of the event.

So the JSON-LD script that contains the Event structured data would begin like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">
"@context": "",
"@type": "Event",

Event is a structured data type:

And the Postal Address for where the event takes place is also a structured data type:

Screenshot of the PostalAddress webpage

Communicate the Focus of the Webpage

Sometimes it can feel like the “O” in SEO means optimizing a webpage for better rankings. But that’s not what search optimization is.

The “O” in SEO stands for means optimizing a webpage so that it’s easy for search engines to crawl and to understand what the webpage is about.

A webpage can’t rank without accomplishing those two optimizations.

Nesting structured data fits into that paradigm of “optimization” because it helps to make it clear what the focus of the webpage is.

Listen to the Google SEO Office Hours session at the 14:58 minute mark.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero

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The 9 Best Keyword Research Tools



The 9 Best Keyword Research Tools

Keyword research is a three-step process:

  1. Find keyword ideas that people are searching for
  2. Check their ranking difficulty
  3. Figure out the best way to rank

In this post, you’ll learn how to do these tasks with nine free keyword research tools.

The best free keyword research tools

Keyword Generator shows up to 150 keyword ideas. Just enter a broad topic, choose your target country, and hit “Find keywords.” 

Ahrefs' free keyword generator

For example, search for “bitcoin,” and you’ll see the 100 most popular keywords containing that word from our database of over 19 billion keywords:

100 bitcoin-related keyword ideas

You also see a list of the 50 most popular questions people are searching for:

50 bitcoin-related keyword ideas phrased as questions

Each list also has a Keyword Difficulty (KD) score for the first 10 keywords. The closer this is to 100, the harder it’ll be to rank for the keyword (more on this in point #9). 

Keyword ideas too broad? Feed them back into the generator

Let’s say you enter “bitcoin,” and the generator kicks back “bitcoin mining.” If you want to explore that topic further, feed it back into the generator. If you want to go even narrower, do another round.

Feed keyword ideas back into the keyword generator to explore that topic further

Answer The Public uses autocomplete to find questions people are searching for. Just enter a broad topic, choose your target country, and hit “search.” 

Answer The Public homepage

For example, search for “bitcoin” and you’ll see 392 keyword ideas split into five categories:

392 bitcoin-related keyword ideas

Each category (except for alphabeticals) visualizes the keyword ideas like this:

Keyword ideas visualization

Unfortunately, it doesn’t show keyword search volumes. However, the red circles next to each keyword (supposedly) tell you whether it gets a high, average, or low number of monthly searches.

Keyword color codes

Looking for actual search volumes?

Paste keyword ideas from Answer The Public into Ahrefs’ free keyword generator. The first keyword on the list will usually be the one you entered, and you’ll see its search volume.

Use Ahrefs' keyword generator to get actual search volumes

ChatGPT is a chatbot from OpenAI. It’s not very useful for keyword research as a whole, but it is useful for finding seed keyword ideas.

For example, if you ask for a list of terms related to bitcoin, here’s what it comes up with:

Seed keyword ideas, via ChatGPT

Not all these are good seed keywords because they’re too generic and have multiple meanings (e.g., “fork”), but some are. 

For example, suppose you plug a not-so-obvious seed like “hashrate” into our free keyword generator. In this case, it looks like many people are searching for the hashrates of different mining hardware:

Search volumes, via Ahrefs' free keyword generator

Unless you know the crypto industry inside out, you probably wouldn’t have thought of this seed keyword or discovered these keyword ideas.

Getting underwhelming results from your ChatGPT prompts?

Don’t ask for keyword ideas. Ask for terms related to a topic by starting your prompt with “give me a list of terms related to…” 

How to find better seed keywords in ChatGPT

4. Ahrefs Webmaster Tools

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools shows all the keywords you currently rank for in the top 100. Just go to the Organic keywords report in Site Explorer.

64,120 keyword rankings for the Ahrefs Blog, via Ahrefs Webmaster Tools

There are many ways to use this report for keyword research, but one of my favorites is to find low-hanging page two rankings. To do this, filter for keywords in positions 11-20 and toggle the “Main positions only” switch.

Filtering for low-hanging keyword opportunities

As hardly anyone clicks on page two results, boosting your rankings for these keywords by just a few positions to page one can often massively boost traffic.

For example, we rank in position 11 for “pagerank”:

Example of a low-hanging keyword opportunity

By applying our SEO checklist to this post or refreshing and republishing the content, we could likely hit the first page for this keyword and get way more traffic.

Not sure which keywords to prioritize?

If you have thousands of page two rankings, prioritize keywords with the highest “business potential.”

How to score a keyword's business potential

5. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a keyword research tool for advertisers. But you can also use it to find keywords for SEO. It’s particularly useful for finding related keywords that don’t contain your seed keyword.

For example, search for “crypto,” and it kicks back ideas like “altcoin” and “safemoon coin”:

Keyword ideas, via Google Keyword Planner

In fact, of the 880 keyword ideas found by Keyword Planner, 735 don’t contain the seed keyword “cryptocurrency.” 

Unfortunately, Keyword Planner only gives search volume ranges instead of exact volumes (unless you’re running search ads). But you can always copy and paste ideas into Ahrefs’ free keyword generator for a more accurate estimate.

Search volumes, via Ahrefs' free keyword generator

Looking for even more related keywords?

Instead of starting with a seed keyword, start with a seed website. 

For example, suppose you use as the seed site. In that case, you get some hyper-specific keyword ideas that you might easily overlook in “conventional” keyword research tools. 

Enter a seed site to find keyword ideas you might otherwise overlook

Google Search Console (GSC) shows how your website performs for its top 1,000 keywords in organic search. Just go to the Search results report. 

Search results report in Google Search Console

There are many ways to use this report for keyword research, but one way is to find declining keywords that need your attention.

For example, if we compare the last three months’ performance for the Ahrefs Blog to the same period last year and sort the table by “Clicks Difference” from high to low, we can see that we’ve lost the most clicks from the query “google keyword planner”:

Example of a declining keyword that could use our attention

To try to fix this, we recently updated and republished our guide to Google Keyword Planner—and it worked.

Here are the clicks from that keyword for the past two months:

Results of our content refresh

This shows how there’s sometimes more to gain from retargeting old keywords than going after new ones.

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring seasonality

Make sure to choose a year-over-year comparison period in GSC. Otherwise, you risk seeing skewed numbers due to seasonality. 

For example, our traffic always dips in December when people are off enjoying the holiday season. If we were to compare the first and last six months of the year, the numbers would be skewed and might lead us astray.

Google Trends visualizes the relative search popularity of a keyword over time. It also shows related rising and breakout searches. This is useful for finding trending keywords.

For example, search for “ai content,” and you will see a massive spike in interest recently:

Trend for "ai content," via Google Trends

If you then scroll down to the “Related queries” section, you’ll see rising and breakout keywords like “ai content creator,” “open ai,” and “chatgpt”:

Breakout topics related to AI content

There’s often a delay before trending keywords like these appear in traditional keyword research tools, making Google Trends a neat way to find newly popular topics before your competitors.

Looking for specific ideas related to trending topics?

Just plug a rising topic back into Google Trends.

For example, if you put “chatgpt” (a rising topic from our search) into Google Trends, you see more specific things people are searching for around that topic. 

Results of plugging a rising topic back into Google Trends

SERP Checker shows the top-ranking pages for (almost) any keyword, plus useful SEO metrics for the top three pages. It’s particularly useful for understanding a keyword’s traffic potential.

For example, Keyword Generator shows that “best bitcoin mining rig” has an average monthly search volume of 500 in the U.S.:

Estimated monthly search volume for "best bitcoin mining rig," via Ahrefs' free keyword generator

But if you plug this keyword into SERP Checker, you see that the top three search results get between 1K and 1.8K estimated monthly search visits. That’s 2-4X more than the keyword’s search volume.

SERP overview for "best bitcoin mining rig," via Ahrefs' free SERP checker

This happens because pages tend to rank for (and get traffic from) many keywords, not just one.

Because of this, the estimated search traffic to the top-ranking pages is usually a better proxy of a keyword’s true traffic potential than search volume. So it’s worth plugging promising keyword ideas into SERP Checker to better understand how much traffic you can get by ranking.

Do top-ranking pages get less traffic than the keyword’s search volume?

Traffic potential isn’t always higher than a keyword’s search volume. Sometimes, it’s lower.

For example, “how many people own bitcoin” gets an estimated 1.4K monthly searches in the U.S., but SERP Checker shows that the top-rankings get significantly less traffic than this—despite ranking for hundreds of keywords: 

SERP overview for "how many people own bitcoin," via Ahrefs' free SERP checker

There are many reasons this can happen. In this case, it’s probably because Google answers the question on the SERP, so most searchers don’t need to click a result.

Example of Google showing the answer on the SERP

9. Keyword Difficulty Checker

Keyword Difficulty (KD) Checker estimates how hard it will be to rank in the top 10.

For example, the KD score for “bitcoin” is 99/100, meaning it’s super hard to rank for:

Keyword Difficulty for "bitcoin," via Ahrefs' free KD checker

Yet the KD score for “litecoin vs bitcoin” is only 9/100, so it should be quite easy to rank for: 

Keyword Difficulty for "litecoin vs bitcoin," via Ahrefs' free KD checker

That said, KD is based solely on backlinks. It doesn’t consider anything else that may affect ranking difficulty, such as content quality.

Because of this, a high KD score just means you’ll likely need lots of backlinks to compete. You should always investigate ranking difficulty further before going after a keyword.

Looking for a rough estimate of how many backlinks you need?

Check the estimate below the Keyword Difficulty (KD) score. 

Estimated number of websites you'll need backlinks from to rank in the top 10 for "litecoin vs bitcoin"

Free vs. paid keyword tools: how do they compare?

Free keyword research tools are super useful when you’re just starting out. Still, the number of keyword ideas and data they show will always pale compared to paid tools.

For example, search for “bitcoin” in our free keyword generator, and you’ll get 150 keyword ideas. But if you search for the same seed in our paid keyword research tool, Keywords Explorer, and go to the Matching terms report, you get 763,256 keyword ideas:

Over 763,000 keyword ideas related to "bitcoin," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Plus, there are a bunch of filters to help you find the best ideas for your website. 

For example, if you have a new website, you might want to find low-difficulty keywords with good search volume and traffic potential. You can do this in seconds by applying Keyword Difficulty (KD), volume, and Traffic Potential (TP) filters. 

Filtering for low-difficulty keywords with high traffic potential

From there, you can easily check the top-ranking pages to assess the competition. Just click the “SERP” dropdown or click the keyword and scroll to the SERP overview:

Analyzing competitors via the SERP overview

Final thoughts

If you’re new to SEO, free keyword research tools will be enough to discover some good keyword ideas for your website. But once your website grows and the value of your time skyrockets, paid keyword research tools are worth every penny. 

This is because paid keyword tools give you more data and allow for more efficient workflows, so you can find better keyword ideas in less time. 

Looking to learn more about keyword research? Read our beginner’s guide to keyword research or watch this video:

Did I miss any good free keyword research tools? Ping me on Twitter.

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