The second site under the magnifying glass in my case studies is the site Katana Sword Reviews. I can tell this is an affiliate site due to the word “reviews” in the title as well as the much more apparent giveaway – the disclaimer in the bottom right footer claiming some links contain affiliate links.
This site though definitely does everything right when it comes to learning how to structure an affiliate site from the layout to the real value provided to it’s readers. Additionally I’ve seen a lot of social buzz around this site as well, so let’s get into my standard case study review…
The audience appears to be martial arts enthusiasts who are looking to buy a katana sword. After reading through every page judging by the information provided the site seems to be targeting those who are new to ‘weaponized martial arts’. I believe that someone who may have numerous years of experience in martial arts may find much of this material to be ‘standard’ since that audience may be looking for that more in depth descriptive content that the author (Nate) of the site purposely didn’t provide to avoid overwhelming newcomers to the art. The art of which appears to be a martial art called ‘Iaido’ which apparently uses that katana sword as the primary weapon in its practice.
In terms of the strategy for targeting this audience, having spent a little bit of time scanning various boards in preparation for my review of this case study I noticed two ‘groups’ of the audience, one which would be great followers of the site, the other complete opponents to the site.
The first group, lets call it ‘group #1’, I’d classify as the ‘up and comers’, those who are new to martial arts and looking for some advice on how to proceed forward with learning more about the art. Additionally I’d lump in those who may not be interested in actually working with an instructor to learn Iaido but are just interested in getting a katana to hang on their wall or use it to practice in their back yard, what the author refers to as ‘back yard cutters’. This group would be the best audience to target for Nate and probably the most eager to share the content and purchase from the recommended merchants.
The second group (group #2) would be the seasoned martial artists in the field of Iaido. From some comments I’ve read in reference to this site on Reddit, Tumblr, etc. it appears as though they don’t view the site as providing all the necessary information that a reader should know. They seem to have deeply rooted beliefs in what they think is the ‘best katana’ which may differ from what Nate believes are best. Just as an old timer tied to their ways the members of this group are the ones who are more likely to avoid this site due to it not having the depth and experience level information that they may be searching for.
Many affiliate sites are made by marketers looking to slap up something quick, pull some stock images of the products they promote, and scrape some high level details. This site however appears to find that perfect balance of going into enough depth to give readers valuable insights in their decision process on looking for a katana for sale yet it doesn’t make things overly complicated (again targets group #1 best).
This site not only pushes products that Nate believes are high quality but it also provides the reader with everything else relative to making the decision on what sword to get. Think about buying a car, you want the car but you also want to eventually know what type of gas it takes, what the insurance costs will be, what replacement parts will cost, etc. Nate addresses this by getting readers to think about the type of steel they’d even want (after educating them on each) before directing them toward a specific sword. He then provides ancillary material like how to clean a katana, where to find a dojo, and the history of the samurai sword. All of this information is useful in aiding the reader beyond simply buying something. Heck he even has a post on how to start a martial arts blog like his.
A quick look in the WayBackMachine shows that this site about a year ago had very limited content. Seeing how much it has expanded tells me that the owner of the site realized that readers are looking for more value than simply visiting a page that acts as a doorway to another site, and has modified and expanded his site to fit their demands.
The design of the site is clean just as was the site in my first case study. The reason is that it also uses the popular Genesis framework as the base. This site runs on the ‘Modern Studio Pro Theme’ which is also a product of StudioPress.
It is mobile responsive and looks nice on my smartphone when I tested it. The only issue I did notice is that the primary side banner image is fixed and content in the side banner aren’t. This causes the image to slide over the other content on a desktop site and causes some overlap in mobile when you get to the bottom of the page.
The layout of the site though makes sense, it’s intended to be a guide and the sequence makes sense by aligning how content is displayed in the order of how you would go about the decision process on buying a katana (not that I’ve ben katana shopping lately…or ever). The images look to be more authentic than a standard stock image of the swords found on many other review sites. This adds authenticity to the site and the reviews.
The only thing I’d suggest beyond fixing the fixed side banner issues is that some of the images seem hard. By this I mean a square with rough edges just laid in the middle of a page, maybe some soft fading or rounded edges might create a better visual appeal.
The site seems to rank on page one for some more long tailed keywords around ‘katana sword reviews’, ‘best katana sword’, and ‘best priced katana sword’. I placed these into Google Keyword Planner and the monthly searches aren’t the highest so I’m not sure if I’d go through all the trouble with targeting this niche based on those, unless the author’s motive it primarily to blog and share advice, and secondarily to be an affiliate site.
The images all seem to have one word in common – katanas. This is a pretty generic and short word to target so getting on page one especially when there are numerous sword merchants targeting that keyword may be difficult so not something I’d recommend others taking the time and effort to go after.
Using SEOCentro as I did in my other case study I see that the keyword density tells me a targeting of the following top four keyword phrases:
- Best katanas
- Martial arts
- Katana readiness guide
- katanas katana
As you would expect, many of these phrases don’t get the highest search volumes. So my guess is that though these are reported as target words based on density that they may not actually be the keywords the author intends to target and therefore my previous method of looking at URL structure would be a better indicator of determining targets.
If it were up to me, thinking about what we want the visitors to do (buy) I’d probably go for keyword targets and link them accordingly to the proper posts like I did below:
- Katana for sale – since we want to target those with the intention to buy
- Custom katana – there is an entire page dedicated to how to build a custom katana
Note: I am aware that me linking to these sites may also help them target certain keywords however I feel linking to these pages is beneficial for my readers to understand anchor text and the page variables that determine SEO strategies.
In conclusion I believe this is a very well written, organized, and strategized affiliate site that serves a purpose beyond the author making money from commissions. Based on my view and comments I’m seeing on social media platforms I’m seeing that this site truly does provide valuable information to readers and is viewed by many as the guide to buying a katana sword. Not necessarily a niche I’d target due to my lack of knowledge in it but either way good work Nate.
Final score: 5/5