Affiliate marketing probably has a misplaced reputation for being obsessed with reviews and affiliate links. Like many stereotypes there is some truth to this image, but there are also plenty of exceptions.
Changes in the search ranking criteria has meant that content is key to achieving success with Google, and affiliate marketing has had to embrace this in order to be successful.
In this article I want to explore why affiliate marketing is changing in its style and approach and what the implications might be for your own affiliate marketing business.
Affiliate marketing is often assumed to be quick and easy to manage and set up, you just need a website and a few links and away you go.
However when you see the graph from the the Affstat 2015 Affiliate Marketing Benchmark Report, it’s clear that most affiliate marketing businesses are recent. You can also see that this is despite the fact that affiliate marketing has been around for a long time dating back at least as far as 1997.
Although this graph is is simply a reflection of a research survey, it is indicative of the high drop off rate that can be seen in affiliate marketing. In other words there is nothing easy or straightforward about affiliate marketing as many of you can probable attest to.
The old format for designing many affiliate sites was to have a brief product description and price, and then a link to the main advertiser site where you could purchase from. Many affiliate marketeers have multiple sites all with different themes, which in effect are similar to catalogues.
As Google continues to update its search algorithms it has also started to target affiliate sites for simply duplicating content. Much of the material they argued was not original and often used only the original advertiser’s descriptions and pictures.
This has meant that many affiliate sites have been penalised in the rankings and have been perceived as having fallen out of favour with the search engines.
Google’s Despair with Affiliate Sites
Google doesn’t mind affiliate sites but it has come down heavily on what it views as thin sites, i.e. sites where the content consists of just a product name and price and information supplied by the advertiser.
In other words there is no additional information and in a search there may be hundreds of other sites using the exact same information, in exactly the same format. So where is the added value of another site offering the same content?
Google’s own guidelines state that affiliate sites must add value, if they are to avoid being penalised. This also includes video content that is supplied by advertisers and which will appear the same on other sites.
Avoid Using Too Many Affiliate Links
This may seem obvious but the content to links ratio needs to be high, in other words you need to add enough original content for each link, to avoid being penalised.
Even experienced bloggers can fall into this trap of placing too many affiliate links on a page. I recently read of one blogger who a couple of years ago built a comparison chart of over 50 products, each with 2 affiliate links included. So in effect he had over 100 affiliate links on one page – guess what happened?
Google instantly penalised the site and it wasn’t until the links had been amended and reduced that the site was back up in the ranks again.
Adding Value to Affiliate Sites
So how exactly do you add value to an affiliate site, especially one that has products that many other sites are already promoting?
Adding value can be achieved in a number of ways, and the main one that many affiliate sites use is adding an extended product review to go along with their sales page.
Reviews are designed to give potential customers more insight and information about a product before they decide to buy, and many good reviews often contain the following information.
- Personal experiences or stories related to actually using the product
- In-depth explanations that offer more information than the product description offers.
- A comparison to similar or other products on the market
- List of advantages and disadvantages of the product
However as Google (who really just represent the interest of the people who are searching) want more information, many affiliate marketers have started expanding their written and visual content beyond reviews.
Content marketing is a strategy that moves beyond writing product reviews and considers other types of information that might be interesting to potential buyers.
In a content marketing strategy the material on the blog or web site focuses on providing information to the client, on all aspects and topics related to the niche. This could include background information of companies, discussions on environmental impact, or provide links to other industry topics and articles.
The purpose of content marketing is to inform and build trust with potential and existing clients, so that next time they wish to purchase something they will think of your company or website.
It doesn’t have a strong direct selling angle in the same way as traditional affiliate marketing did.
The following slideshare screen shows the buying process that many people go through.
As you can see visitors often don’t buy the first time they visit a site. They have to be encouraged to return, this is where content marketing comes in to play.
Writing Content for Affiliate Marketing
Writing for Affiliate Marketing is a skill in its own right, as this other article explains in more detail.
In short, content writing can include;
- Informative posts
- Back ground information
- Product reviews
The difference with content marketing is the emphasis – it’s about sharing information and knowledge rather than just selling. This can scare some marketeers who didn’t really get into this business to write lots of content, however not all content has to be written.
As well as writing blogs many marketing sites are using video and podcasts to impart their messages. So long as the content is original both of these forms of content can rank well.
Infographics and images in posts are other examples of ways to explain a message, and suit many people who may have to commute or travel and may like a podcast; or prefer to watch video content whilst exercising etc.
KNOW Your Audience
Ultimately it shouldn’t be the search engine that you are trying to write for, but your own target audience. If your content suits your audience’s needs then it will rank well because of its natural popularity and the requirement for it.
A lot of website content ideas can be acquired from listening to questions that your niche audience are asking. If your product or article solves a problem then that segment of the population with the problem will be interested in buying.
Content and Affiliate Marketing Concluding Comments.
This article has outlined some of the challenges that affiliate marketing sites face when trying to rank in Google. The search engine has become more content focused and in order for sites to remain listed in the search queries then they also need to adapt to this requirement.
The main points to consider are;
- Use a variety of content sources including video, podcasts, images and graphics
- Write for your audience and give them the type of material they are interested in.
- Add value for your audience by trying to answer the current problems people are discussing
- If you are using product reviews on your site make sure they are extended and provide good quality
Affiliate marketing is not an easy option and writing content can take time. Getting the content noticed can take even longer, even when you use social media sites as well.
However developing a better standard of content is good for the reader and will encourage them to stay longer on your site. Remeber this can also improve your ranking as Google sees your site being used and updated.
If you are interested in more material and articles on content and affiliate marketing please check out the following links.