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How to Create a Niche Site That Earns 4 Figures a Month in 6 Easy Steps



How to Create a Niche Site That Earns 4 Figures a Month in 6 Easy Steps

Niche sites have significant earning potential. So much so that they can eventually replace your regular “9 to 5.” But to reach that point, you need to know how to successfully get one off the ground.

I’ve been an SEO consultant for the past four years and have worked specifically with niche site owners. They include people just starting out.

I’ve worked with clients to build sites from scratch. They went on to start earning their first commissions within 60 days and four-figure monthly sums within 12 months.

In this guide, I’m going to share my step-by-step process for successfully building a niche site that earns over $1,000 a month within the first 12 months.

But first, let’s get some of the basics down:

A niche site is any website that caters to a specific audience or topic. It can be about anything: health, business, relationships, travel, food, fashion, animals, or the more obscure.

There are all kinds of niche sites, and covering them all in this guide will probably turn it into an SEO version of “War and Peace.” So for today, we are only going to focus on niche affiliate websites.

How do niche affiliate sites work?

Niche affiliate websites work by promoting someone else’s product through content. A commission is earned from every sale the company makes. This is the basic concept behind affiliate marketing.

To do this, site owners produce articles, often reviews, covering topics like “The best five backpacks for hiking.” In such content, they detail the following:

  • What the product is
  • Who needs the product and why
  • Reviews of the top few choices
  • Advice for the reader on the pros and cons of each option

Each of these reviews contains affiliate links that send the reader directly to the product on the partner’s website. If someone makes a purchase then, boom, an affiliate commission is earned.

How much can you earn from a niche affiliate site?

Like the majority of SEO, it depends—in this case, on specific things:

  • Whether you choose the right niche
  • Building the site right from the beginning
  • How much time and effort you put into the site to get it off the ground

The simple fact is choosing a niche with high-ticket items, laying the right foundations, and putting more effort into the amount of content you produce and links you build will have your site earning more at a quicker pace.

Generally speaking, the sites I have built over the years have seen their first commissions within six weeks and hit the $1,000/month mark within 12 months.

In fact, here is a site I built around eight weeks ago that’s already earning (a minimal amount, of course) its first commissions on Amazon:

Graph showing key commissions data; notable, bottom-left corner shows total earnings of around $8

This site has little traffic. However, it won’t take long to scale up if it consistently produces content and builds links.

Here is January’s traffic of a site I built 12 months ago:

Line graph showing traffic trend; notably, data summary above shows 28K monthly users

Here is January’s traffic of a site I built almost three years ago:

Line graph showing traffic trend; notably, data summary above shows 129K monthly users

Both of the above sites are seasonal (hence the downturn in traffic for January). They currently see a solid ongoing monthly income and can be flipped in the future to make a profit.

Niche sites currently flip for around a 32X multiplier based on one month’s income. That means if you build a niche site that earns $1,000 a month within 12 months, you can potentially flip that site for $32,000.

But how do we do that exactly?

Six steps to build a profitable niche site

Earning an extra $1,000 a month from a niche site is a side hustle that may just be what you need. Or maybe being able to give up your day job and earn $10,000 a month from your site is the pinnacle of success.

Either way, we are going to look at the six steps you need to follow so that your site gets off on the right foot. These are:

  1. Choose the right niche
  2. Find the right keywords
  3. Build your site
  4. Write content
  5. Build links
  6. Rinse and repeat

Step 1. Choose the right niche

Choosing the right niche is absolutely crucial to starting a profitable niche website. It lays the foundation for everything else going forward, e.g., degree of difficulty to rank your site, amount of money you can earn, etc.

With that said, there are a few things you need to consider when coming up with profitable niche ideas:

  • Personal experience/interests
  • Choosing the right affiliate program(s)
  • Viability in the long term

The niche selection process will look something like this, and we will discuss that more in a bit:

Flow chart showing questions one should ask to choose the right niche

Are you interested in the niche?

From what I’ve observed, having too much experience in a niche can hinder the success of your site. Site owners tend to be too personally invested.

Every piece of content has to be vetted with a fine-tooth comb or written by the site owner themself. Of course, there is nothing wrong with taking pride in your work, but this is incredibly hard to scale.

For that reason, I recommend choosing a niche that you find interesting but not too interesting. You should have enough interest to produce some of the content in the beginning to keep costs down, but not enough that you want to write every single word in the long term.

Choosing the right affiliate program

Ensuring there are viable affiliate programs in your niche is a key part of niche selection. After all, you can’t make money as an affiliate without something to promote.

The ideal scenario is to find a product that has affiliate commissions of over 10% or high one-time payout offers. These can include a set fee for each referral you direct to a partner’s site.

The issue for newbies is that most private affiliate programs and even affiliate networks want proof the products will be successfully promoted. Only then will the programs and networks allow these newbies to become affiliates.

The only program that pretty much anyone can join at any stage is Amazon Associates.

Amazon affiliate commissions have been slashed in recent years and are, in some cases, significantly lower than other private affiliates’ (as low as 1% for some product categories).

List of product categories with corresponding commission rates

Current Amazon affiliate commission rates by product category.

But for a total noob, they make a great springboard to more advanced, private programs.

What I mean by this is that showing evidence of consistent earnings from Amazon can help you get a foot in the door to work with a desired private affiliate partner.

But regardless of the affiliate program, it is important to choose a niche that has high-ticket items.

It costs exactly the same to produce content regardless of whether the products you are promoting have an average cost of $350 or $3.50. High-ticket items will allow you to reach your goals faster, even with an affiliate program with lower commissions.

Therefore, finding a niche that has high-ticket items, a decent Amazon commission, as well as private affiliate options with commissions of 10% or above is the safest route for a total beginner.

Recommended reading: How to Build a Successful Amazon Affiliate Site (Step by Step)

Will the site work in the long term?

There is a temptation to jump quickly onto anything that is the new, hot thing. But is it going to last forever?

Choosing a niche for your site that happens to be hot right now is probably not going to give you enough scope in terms of keywords to scale your site.

Also, remember that focusing on seasonal niches, such as golf or tennis, means your site will likely earn more at certain times of the year and possibly nothing at other times.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid seasonal niches altogether. In fact, if you already have seasonal employment, e.g., you work as a ski instructor, a seasonal site you can focus on during quieter months of the year could be perfect.

But if you are looking to build an affiliate site to act as your main source of income in the future, you have to factor into your business plan that earnings throughout the year from a seasonal niche may not be consistent.

Step 2. Find the right keywords

Keyword research is the process of finding what your ideal audience is searching for in Google. It’s important because there’s no point ranking for things that nobody’s searching for, as you won’t get any traffic (and, therefore, no affiliate commissions).

When doing keyword research for niche affiliate sites, you’re mostly looking for three main types of keywords:

  • General comparisons – Best wifi router, best protein powder
  • Branded comparisons – MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro
  • Product reviews – MacBook Pro review

These are all keyword types that people regularly search for where you can plug products to earn affiliate commissions.

Venn diagram showing best affiliate topics are those that people search for and allow you to plug the product naturally

Here’s how you can find them:

  • Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  • Enter broad topics or brands related to your niche
  • Go to the Matching terms report
  • Filter for keywords containing a relevant modifier

For example, if we are starting a site in the coffee niche and want to find general comparison keywords, we may enter “coffee” and “espresso” as our seed keywords. Then add “best” to the “Include” filter to find keywords containing that modifier:

Matching terms report results for "coffee" & "expresso"

If we want to find branded comparison or product review keywords, we can enter known brands like “hario” or “nespresso” and use either “vs” or “reviews” in the “Include” filter:

Matching terms report results for "nespresso"

Because you’ll likely find it hard to rank for competitive keywords right out the gate, I also recommend filtering for low-difficulty keywords by setting the Keyword Difficulty (KD) filter to a low number like 25:

Matching terms report results for "nespresso"

Although I would love to go into more detail, a full step-by-step guide is an entire article in itself. Luckily, our head of content, Joshua Hardwick, has already put that together for you.

Step 3. Build your site

Now it’s time to register a domain and build your site. It doesn’t matter all that much which domain registrar or hosting provider you use. Just pick one, choose a brandable domain, and get things registered.

For the actual site build, I recommend using WordPress because it’s super customizable and completely free. However, the default installation looks pretty dire, so it is important to consider using a good theme with a built-in page builder.

This will allow you to use the drag-and-drop functionality to create high-quality aesthetics on your site that can stand shoulder to shoulder with known brands and retailers. This is important because it helps to establish trust and authority with site visitors.

We will go through this in more detail below. But there are a few things to consider for the build process (aside from the aesthetics).

  • Choose the right theme
  • Consider conversions
  • Think about E‑A-T

Choose the right theme

Your theme is going to be the core foundation of your site. The theme is going to determine how easily you can make changes to the design and how it performs.

As someone who has had to “de-thrive” many affiliate sites, I think it’s important to choose the right theme right out of the gate.

This is as trying to change it later down the line to make improvements is going to be a big job.

Many people think it is easier to just choose any theme and use a popular page builder. After all, page builders, such as Elementor, give you the ability to use the drag-and-drop functionality to create beautiful aesthetics without being a top web designer.

The only issue with page builders is they often add lots of unnecessary code to your site, dragging down the performance. Hence, you’ll need to get multiple performance-enhancing plugins to work with the page builder to counteract that.

Therefore, it is a good choice to go with a theme that has its own built-in page builder functionality, such as Astra.

There are even themes currently in development like those found on AffiliateFish—which I was recently asked to beta test—that are designed specifically for affiliate sites. Some themes allow you to have everything needed for an affiliate site while maintaining super speed.

Consider conversions

The aesthetic of your site needs to be high quality, as we want the site to look trustworthy. This comes down to the design and the considerations mentioned above.

It is also incredibly important to ensure your site has clear call-to-action (CTA) sections.

A CTA helps to entice visitors to act in a preferred way, such as clicking a link to your recommended retailer, downloading an ebook, or signing up for a mailing list.

Ensuring you have clear CTAs on all your product recommendations and even on your homepage makes it easy to direct visitors to check out the products you recommend so that you can earn those all-important affiliate commissions.

CTA to find best rectangle trampoline on an affiliate site webpage

Think about E‑A-T right from the beginning

Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E‑A-T), although not a direct ranking factor, is now more talked about than ever in the SEO community.

I truly believe at some point, for niche sites specifically, we will see something similar to the Medic update of 2018 across all niches. Google wants to ensure that any advice being given is from authoritative websites and authors.

Ensuring that your website has a clear and comprehensive “about” page and author bios from the beginning will help you to establish your site as a genuine authority.

Your author bios are meant to showcase experience and expertise.

For example, if you run an affiliate site about dogs and your lead editor is a vet, this really needs to be prominently displayed because it gives the articles on your site credibility. This is important for both readers and search engines.

Step 4. Write content

Content is the bread and butter of a niche affiliate site. This is where those all-important affiliate links, which can earn you commissions, will be housed.

Although I would love to delve in here with a step-by-step guide on how to produce epic content from start to finish, that’s going to be a topic for a whole other article.

But this guide on creating evergreen content is a fantastic starting point.

But generally, make sure that you write quality content that is unique and engaging. You don’t want to be producing generic articles that anyone can copy-paste and slap onto their site.

Also, it is incredibly important to write content for humans, not search engines.

AI-driven content optimization tools have risen in popularity over the past few years. Although they make a great addition for a newbie to understand how well optimized your content is, your articles should do more than just check SEO boxes.

Content should still be written with your audience in mind first and foremost. It should engage your reader and give them the answers they are looking for.

This is what will help you build trust and a loyal readership. This is important because you don’t want to be driving new visitors through organic traffic only. You also want to encourage your visitors to return time and time again because they love what you are doing.

Step 5. Build links

Links have always been important for SEO. But now more than ever, links need to be coming from high-quality sources. This has become even more apparent since Google’s recent spam update.

This beginner’s guide to link building from our CMO, Tim Soulo, will give you the lowdown on what link building is and why it’s important.

In terms of what kinds of link building you should be doing, these are my top choices for beginners:

  • Earned media
  • Broken link building
  • Guest blogging

Earned media

Using sites like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), Terkel, and Sourcebottle is my go-to style of link building. Not only do these sites allow you to build high-authority links from top-tier publications like Forbes and The New York Times, but they also help boost E‑A-T.

Broken link building

When it comes to links, broken link building can be an easy way to pick low-hanging fruit.

Guest blogging

This link building technique is an oldie but a goodie! Guest blogging can not only help you build high-quality links to your website, but it can also help you improve E‑A-T and establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche.

For example, if you are a personal trainer building an affiliate site in the fitness niche, having a guest blog featured on a reputable health and fitness site that displays your author bio alongside it will undoubtedly help to promote you as an authority on that topic.

There are a few considerations when using this technique. Luckily, Tim has already put together a complete guide on guest blogging that covers everything: finding the right websites to reach out to, writing the post itself, etc.

Step 6. Rinse and repeat

This part is simple. It is just a case of repeating steps #4 and #5 over and over again until you build enough traffic to reach what you consider to be success.

The important thing is to have patience. Remember, every site is unique. What works and how quickly you achieve success depend on multiple factors. But it will happen. Just give it time!

Final thoughts

Following these six simple steps again and again while scaling as you go is a surefire way to build a profitable niche site.

Choose a niche with high-ticket items, create awesome content, and build links. It’s that simple.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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Google Discusses Fixing 404 Errors From Inbound Links




Google Discusses Fixing 404 Errors From Inbound Links

Google’s John Mueller responded to a thread in Reddit about finding and fixing inbound broken links, offering a nuanced insight that some broken links are worth finding and fixing and others are not.

Reddit Question About Inbound Broken Links

Someone asked on Reddit if there’s a way to find broken links for free.

This is the question:

“Is it possible to locate broken links in a similar manner to identifying expired domain names?”

The person asking the question clarified if this was a question about an inbound broken link from an external site.

John Mueller Explains How To Find 404 Errors To Fix

John Mueller responded:

“If you want to see which links to your website are broken & “relevant”, you can look at the analytics of your 404 page and check the referrers there, filtering out your domain.

This brings up those which actually get traffic, which is probably a good proxy.

If you have access to your server logs, you could get it in a bit more detail + see which ones search engine bots crawl.

It’s a bit of technical work, but no external tools needed, and likely a better estimation of what’s useful to fix/redirect.”

In his response, John Mueller answers the question on how to find 404 responses caused by broken inbound links and identify what’s “useful to fix” or to “redirect.”

Mueller Advises On When Not To “Fix” 404 Pages

John Mueller next offered advice on when it doesn’t make sense to not fix a 404 page.

Mueller explained:

“Keep in mind that you don’t have to fix 404 pages, having things go away is normal & fine.

The SEO ‘value’ of bringing a 404 back is probably less than the work you put into it.”

Some 404s Should Be Fixed And Some Don’t Need Fixing

John Mueller said that there are situations where a 404 error generated from an inbound link is easy to fix and suggested ways to find those errors and fix them.

Mueller also said that there are some cases where it’s basically a waste of time.

What wasn’t mentioned was what the difference was between the two and this may have caused some confusion.

Inbound Broken Links To Existing Webpages

There are times when another sites links into your site but uses the wrong URL. Traffic from the broken link on the outside site will generate a 404 response code on your site.

These kinds of links are easy to find and useful to fix.

There are other situations when an outside site will link to the correct webpage but the webpage URL changed and the 301 redirect is missing.

Those kinds of inbound broken links are also easy to find and useful to fix. If in doubt, read our guide on when to redirect URLs.

In both of those cases the inbound broken links to the existing webpages will generate a 404 response and this will show up in server logs, Google Search Console and in plugins like the Redirection WordPress plugin.

If the site is on WordPress and it’s using the Redirection plugin, identifying the problem is easy because the Redirection plugin offers a report of all 404 responses with all the necessary information for diagnosing and fixing the problem.

In the case where the Redirection plugin isn’t used one can also hand code an .htaccess rule for handling the redirect.

Lastly, one can contact the other website that’s generating the broken link and ask them to fix it. There’s always a small chance that the other site might decide to remove the link altogether. So it might be easier and faster to just fix it on your side.

Whichever approach is taken to fix the external inbound broken link, finding and fixing these issues is relatively simple.

Inbound Broken Links To Removed Pages

There are other situations where an old webpage was removed for a legitimate reason, like an event passed or a service is no longer offered.

In that case it makes sense to just show a 404 response code because that’s one of the reasons why a 404 response should be shown. It’s not a bad thing to show a 404 response.

Some people might want to get some value from the inbound link and create a new webpage to stand in for the missing page.

But that might not be useful because the link is for something that is irrelevant and of no use because the reason for the page no longer exists.

Even if you create a new reason, it’s possible that some of that link equity might flow to the page but it’s useless because the topic of that inbound link is totally irrelevant to anyting but the expired reason.

Redirecting the missing page to the home page is a strategy that some people use to benefit from the link to a page that no longer exists. But Google treats those links as Soft 404s, which then passes no benefit.

These are the cases that John Mueller was probably referring to when he said:

“…you don’t have to fix 404 pages, having things go away is normal & fine.

The SEO ‘value’ of bringing a 404 back is probably less than the work you put into it.”

Mueller is right, there are some pages that should be gone and totally removed from a website and the proper server response for those pages should be a 404 error response.

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Site Quality Is Simpler Than People Think




Site Quality Is Simpler Than People Think

Google’s John Mueller, Martin Splitt and Gary Illyes discussed site quality in a recent podcast, explaining the different ways of thinking about site quality and at one point saying it’s not rocket science. The discussion suggests that site quality could be simpler than most people know.

Site Quality Is Not Rocket Science

The first point they touched on is to recommend reading site quality documentation, insisting that site quality is not especially difficult to understand.

Gary Illyes said:

“So I would go to a search engine’s documentation.

Most of them have some documentation about how they function and just try to figure out where your content might be failing or where your page might be failing because honestly, okay, this is patronizing, but it’s not rocket science.”

No Tools For Site Quality – What To Do?

Gary acknowledged that there’s no tool for diagnosing site quality, not in the same way there are tools for objectively detecting technical issues.

The traffic metrics that show a downward movement don’t explain why, they just show that something changed.

Gary Illyes:

“I found the up-down metric completely useless because you still have to figure out what’s wrong with it or why people didn’t like it.

And then you’re like, “This is a perfectly good page. I wrote it, I know that it’s perfect.”

And then people, or I don’t know, like 99.7% of people are downvoting it. And you’re like, ‘Why?’”

Martin Splitt

“And I think that’s another thing.

How do I spot, I wrote the page, so clearly it is perfect and helpful and useful and amazing, but then people disagree, as you say.

How do you think about that? What do you do then?

How can I make my content more helpful, better, more useful? I don’t know.

…There’s all these tools that I can just look at and I see that something’s good or something’s bad.

But for quality, how do I go about that?”

Gary Illyes

“What if quality is actually simpler than at least most people think?

…What if it’s about writing the thing that will help people achieve whatever they need to achieve when they come to the page? And that’s it.”

Martin Splitt asked if Gary was talking about reviewing the page from the perspective of the user.

Illyes answered:

“No, we are reframing.”

Reframing generally means to think about the problem differently.

Gary’s example is to reframe the problem as whether the page delivers what it says it’s going to deliver (like helping users achieve X,Y,Z).

Something I see a lot with content is that the topic being targeted (for example, queries about how to catch a trout) isn’t matched by the content (which might actually be about tools for catching trout) which is not what the site visitor wants to achieve.

Quality In Terms Of Adding Value

There are different kinds of things that relate to site and page quality and in the next part of the podcast John Mueller and Gary Illyes discuss the issue about adding something of value.

Adding something of value came up in the context of where the SERPs offer good answers from websites that people not only enjoy but they expect to see those sites as answers for those queries.

You can tell when users expect specific sites for individual search queries when Google Suggests shows the brand name and the keyword.

That’s a clue that probably a lot of people are turning keywords into branded searches, which signals to Google what people want to see.

So, the problem of quality in those situations isn’t about being relevant for a query with the perfect answer.

For these situations, like for competitive queries, it’s not enough to be relevant or have the perfect answer.

John Mueller explains:

“The one thing I sometimes run into when talking with people is that they’ll be like, “Well, I feel I need to make this page.”

And I made this page for users in air quotes…

But then when I look at the search results, it’s like 9,000 other people also made this page.

It’s like, is this really adding value to the Internet?

And that’s sometimes kind of a weird discussion to have.

It’s like, ‘Well, it’s a good page, but who needs it?’

There are so many other versions of this page already, and people are happy with those.”

This is the type of situation where competitive analysis to “reverse engineer” the SERPs  works against the SEO.

It’s stale because using what’s in the SERPs as a template for what to do rank is feeding Google what it already has.

It’s like, as an example, let’s represent the site ranked in Google with a baseline of the number zero.

Let’s imagine everything in the SERPs has a baseline of zero. Less than zero is poor quality. Higher than zero is higher quality.

Zero is not better than zero, it’s just zero.

The SEOs who think they’re reverse engineering Google by copying entities, copying topics, they’re really just achieving an imperfect score of zero.

So, according to Mueller, Google responds with, “it’s a good page, but who needs it?”

What Google is looking for in this situation is not the baseline of what’s already in the SERPs, zero.

According to Mueller, they’re looking for something that’s not the same as the baseline.

So in my analogy, Google is looking for something above the baseline of what is already in the SERPs, a number greater than zero, which is a one.

You can’t add value by feeding Google back what’s already there. And you can’t add value by doing the same thing ten times bigger. It’s still the same thing.

Breaking Into The SERPs By The Side Door

Gary Illyes next discusses a way to break into a tough SERP, saying the way to do it is indirectly.

This is an old strategy but a good one that still works today.

So, rather than bringing a knife to a gunfight, Gary Illyes suggests choosing more realistic battles to compete in.

Gary continued the conversation about competing in tough SERPs.

He said:

“…this also is kind of related to the age-old topic that if you are a new site, then how can you break into your niche?

I think on today’s Internet, like back when I was doing ‘SEO’, it was already hard.

For certain topics or niches, it was absolutely a nightmare, like ….mesothelioma….

That was just impossible to break into. Legal topics, it was impossible to break into.

And I think by now, we have so much content on the Internet that there’s a very large number of topics where it is like 15 years ago or 20 years ago, that mesothelioma topic, where it was impossible to break into.

…I remember Matt Cutts, former head of Web Spam, …he was doing these videos.

And in one of the videos, he said try to offer something unique or your own perspective to the thing that you are writing about.

Then the number of perspective or available perspectives, free perspectives, is probably already gone.

But if you find a niche where people are not talking too much about, then suddenly, it’s much easier to break into.

So basically, this is me saying that you can break into most niches if you know what you are doing and if you are actually trying to help people.”

What Illyes is suggesting as a direction is to “know what you are doing and if you are actually trying to help people.

That’s one of my secrets to staying one step ahead in SEO.

For example, before the reviews update, before Google added Experience to E-A-T, I was telling clients privately to do that for their review pages and I told them to keep it a secret, because I knew I had it dialed in.

I’m not psychic, I was just looking at what Google wants to rank and I figured it out several years before the reviews update that you need to have original photos, you need to have hands-on experience with the reviewed product, etc.

Gary’s right when he advises to look at the problem from the perspective of “trying to help people.”

He next followed up with this idea about choosing which battles to fight.

He said:

“…and I think the other big motivator is, as always, money. People are trying to break into niches that make the most money. I mean, duh, I would do the same thing probably.

But if you write about these topics that most people don’t write about, let’s say just three people wrote about it on the Internet, then maybe you can capture some traffic.

And then if you have many of those, then maybe you can even outdo those high-traffic niches.”

Barriers To Entry

What Gary is talking about is how to get around the barrier to entry, which are the established sites. His suggestion is to stay away from offering what everyone else is offering (which is a quality thing).

Creating content that the bigger sites can’t or don’t know to create is an approach I’ve used with a new site.

Weaknesses can be things that the big site does poorly, like their inability to resonate with a younger or older audience and so on.

Those are examples of offering something different that makes the site stand out from a quality perspective.

Gary is talking about picking the battles that can be won, planting a flag, then moving on to the next hill.

That’s a far better strategies than walking up toe to toe with the bigger opponent.

Analyzing For Quality Issues

It’s a lot easier to analyze a site for technical issues than it is for quality issues.

But a few of the takeaways are:

  • Be aware that the people closest to the content are not always the best judges of content is quality.
  • Read Google’s search documentation (for on-page factors, content, and quality guidelines).
  • Content quality is simpler than it seems. Just think about knowing the topic well and being helpful to people.
  • Being original is about looking at the SERPs for things that you can do differently, not about copying what the competitors are doing.

In my experience, it’s super important to keep an open mind, to not get locked into one way of thinking, especially when it comes to site quality. This will help one keep from getting locked into a point of view that can keep one from seeing the true cause of ranking issues.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Stone36

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Is Alt Text A Ranking Factor For Google Image Search?




Is Alt Text A Ranking Factor For Google Image Search?

Alt text is used to help computers read images.

But can alt tags affect your organic search rankings?

Read on to learn whether there is any connection between alt text and improved rankings in Google Image Search results.

The Claim: Alt Text Is A Ranking Factor

What is alt text?

Alt text is an HTML image attribute. It allows you to create an alternative text version of your image if it cannot load or has an accessibility issue.

Because of its importance to Google Image Search, it is considered a ranking factor.

[Ranking Factors 2023] Download the free ebook + cheat sheet 

Alt Text As A Ranking Factor: The Evidence

Google emphasizes how alt text plays a vital role in getting your images recognized by Google Image Search.

You will find a page on image best practices in Google Search Central’s Advanced SEO documentation. In a section called “about alt text,” Google discusses the use of alt text.

“Google uses alt text along with computer vision algorithms and the contents of the page to understand the subject matter of the image. Also, alt text in images is useful as anchor text if you decide to use an image as a link.”

While the company doesn’t specify that alt text will improve your rankings, it warns website owners that improper use can harm your website.

“When writing alt text, focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page.

Avoid filling alt attributes with keywords (also known as keyword stuffing) as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam.”

It also offers the following examples of good and bad alt text usage.

Screenshot from Google Search Central, August 2023Google Search Central best practice for images

Google Sites Help documentation indicates that images may come with pre-populated alt text, including keywords for which you may not want to optimize.

“Some images automatically include alt text, so it’s a good idea to check that the alt text is what you want.”

For example, when I download stock photos, a text description of the image is embedded in the file.

Is Alt Text A Ranking Factor For Google Image Search?Screenshot by author, August 2023Is Alt Text A Ranking Factor For Google Image Search?

When uploaded to a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, the text descriptions may need to be moved to the alt text field or modified to remove unnecessary keywords.

Is Alt Text A Ranking Factor For Google Image Search?Screenshot from WordPress, August 2023Is Alt Text A Ranking Factor For Google Image Search?

In Google Search Central’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” it offers the following advice about alt tags when using images as links:

“…if you’re using an image as a link, the alt text for that image will be treated similarly to the anchor text of a text link. However, we don’t recommend using too many images for links in your site’s navigation when text links could serve the same purpose.”

In 2020, John Mueller, Google Search Advocate, answered a question about the alt text of a quote image during a Google Webmaster Office Hours. In the answer, he talked about how Google uses it:

“For Search, what happens with the alt attribute is we use that to better understand the images themselves, in particular, for Image Search. So if you didn’t care about Image Search, then from a Search point of view, you don’t really need to worry about alt text.

But if you do want these images to be shown in Image Search, which sometimes it makes sense to show fancy quotes in Image Search as well, then using the alt attribute is a good way to tell us this is on that image and we’ll get extra information from around your page with regard to how we can rank that landing page.”

Moz mentions ranking factors about alt text. Instead of saying that the alt text itself is a ranking factor, Moz advises:

“…alt text offers you another opportunity to include your target keyword. With on-page keyword usage still pulling weight as a search engine ranking factor, it’s in your best interest to create alt text that both describes the image and, if possible, includes a keyword or keyword phrase you’re targeting.”

In 2021, during a Twitter discussion about ALT text having a benefit on SEO, Google Developer Martin Splitt said:

“Yep, alt text is important for SEO too!”

Later in 2021, Mueller noted that alt text is not magic during a conversation about optimization for indexing purposes.

“My understanding was that alt attributes are required for HTML5 validation, so if you can’t use them with your platform, that sounds like a bug. That said, alt text isn’t a magic SEO bullet.”

[Recommended Read] → Ranking Factors: Systems, Signals, and Page Experience

Alt Text As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Is Alt Text A Ranking Factor For Google Image Search?Is Alt Text A Ranking Factor For Google Image Search?

Alt text is a confirmed ranking factor for image search only. You should craft descriptive, non-spammy alt text to help your images appear in Google Image Search results.

Alt text is definitely not a ranking factor in Google Search. Google has clarified that alt text acts like normal page text in overall search. So it’s not useless, but it’s not a separately considered ranking factor in your page content.

That doesn’t mean you should ignore alt text. It’s a helpful accessibility tool for screen readers. When you’re writing alt text, ask yourself what you want someone who can’t see the image to understand about it.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal

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