26 March 2013 ~ 2 Comments

When An Affiliate Screams No One Hears It

For a long time the middle level affiliate sites were a nice place to be. You could build a “decent” site with a “nice” design and “fairly good” content and then add some “average” links to it and attain a nice ranking and income as an affiliate. It was comfy and safe and made people (including me) lazy. Why build the big authority site when you can have a good ROI from a bog standard affiliate site with a lot less effort AND you can scale it with many more new ones AND you can  benefit from economies of scale in your operation whilst not taxing your tiny minds? See the following example of what i call a mid level affiliate site if this sounds like your current strategy you are basically ££££ed :-

1) You buy a nice enough exact match domain name or a fairly brand-able name

2) You spend £300 on a basic bespoke design

3) You buy 10 average/decent pages of content for £7 each, avoiding cheaper sources to get native English speakers to write it.

4) You update it once a month if that with a blog that lacks enthusiasm or value.

5) You add affiliate links or forms to it and then start some lazy link building with directories and paid for guest posts. Most of your links are copied from your existing competitions low hanging fruit and easy to get links. Time is of the essence as you have another 30 of these to work on so you have a little splurge of enthusiasm then move on to the next one!

6) If you are particularly inventive you buy a load of Facebook likes and Google plus likes for $5 a time. (Akin to painting a bullseye on your back)

This strategy used to work great but now these sites have a target on their back. Do not expect to wake up everyday with them sitting at the top of the engines and here is why:-

1) Google put in Panda, a penalty to weed out sites that offered little EXTRA value in terms of content. Notice i say extra value, it is not enough to replicate the value of other more authoritative sites.

2) Google put in Penguin, a penalty to stop you from being over aggressive with your linking strategy and ranking off the back of low level sites and links. Also this detects artificial links and artificial patterns in how you are linked to.

3) Google hates you. Yes i’m afraid so, Google actually really does hate you as an affiliate. you should be buying ads from it rather than sucking traffic from it like a dirty leach. When an affiliate screams, no one listens and Google knows this and uses you for it’s algorithmic experiments and mass culling exercises. Oh and Google wants to move into your affiliate space too as it is doing already….

4) Whenever Google does an update it is always more bias towards big brands. I cannot think of an update that Google have done in the last few years that has not helped brands rank higher. It is a cop out but as long as Google has big brands at the top of the rankings in the major sectors, it keeps it nice and safe as a resource. Check the top 10 rankings for most commercial terms and you will see 90% brands. Mom and pop don’t really cut it in expensive niches nowadays. This means that if you are in a competitive niche and you dodge the penalties in 1 and 2 you will still be falling in the rankings by virtue of brands going up incrementally.

5) There is much more emphasis now on user behaviour on your site. Do they stay a long time, interact with it, order from it, bookmark it, return to it? If you have a thin affiliate site then the chances are you are not giving off the correct signals.

6) Social media will play an increasingly bigger part in overall rankings. It is no secret that social media will play a bigger part in overall rankings. It is not possible for you to give off the right social signals on multiple thin affiliate sites, you just don’t have the time or the unique selling point. Contrary to this, that 700+ million pound rebranding done by a company will naturally kill you in the social media stakes or that annoying TV advert will generate social media coverage you dream of. You might be able to compete in the social scene but you need a worthy site and a lot of work to do it. You wont do it on your £1000 affiliate site.

7) Oh did i mention Google then put in an Exact match domain penalty to sweep up any affiliate/weaker sites it missed with Panda and Penguin? Better for Google to be safe then sorry after all and make sure none of those naughty little sites exist still.

The irony is that if you take brands in most financial niches as an example, any single result is probably guilty of more  link buying than most of it’s affiliate sites put together. Recently Interflora got penalised for link buying in newspaper editorials, this lasted for all of about 2 days before they were reinstated. In contrast, the filthy affiliates that were nuked from Google in Panda and Penguin are still waiting nearly a year on to be heard and re-included  In this way Google reflects life in that it is not fair and there is one rule for one and one for another. Best not to moan about it and rather  to adapt to it and realise that the game changed and you have to also.

How you change your strategy depends on your skill set and your business. I would suggest the following:-

1) Have less projects but higher quality ones

2) Make sites or content that people want to link to rather than you have to pay to link to it. It does happen, i have seen it with my own eyes!

3) Think outside the box about how you build links, i love this article for creative link building

4) Look at building a business that is not reliant on Google, harness social media, PR, local results, video and more new media. Ironically, this will probably get you the rankings you crave.

5) Be different. I read about this and thought it was a great way to launch a big business on a budget http://www.wired.com/business/2012/11/dollar-shave-club/

6) Choose niches you CAN compete in. You do this by knowing your level of budget and expertise. If you are trying to rank top for “car insurance” and you do not have a huge 7 figure budget and incredible knowledge, you are wasting your time. Knowing your level is important, it may be that you only have the skill or budget to rank for non competitive keywords like  “extremely old octopuses” or “doorknob sales in sussex” in the which case you need to build a truly memorable octopus site or doorknob site and work out how to monetise it and own that space…..

7) Embrace future trends and enter niches early. If you are the first into niches you can get a great head-start and be cited as an authority in that area. When other lazy companies come into your niche they may well link to you.

There is another option….you could just forget quality altogether and  become a spammer and buy up 1000 domain names, put up 1000 sites in a payday or medical niche, send 30,000 links to each using xrummer or scrapebox and pray you get a little ranking window in Google that allows you to earn well for a short time, rinse and repeat. Beware though as Google is working on that little loophole as we speak.

Whichever way you do go, please avoid being a thin affiliate in a highly competitive niche or you will have some bad times in the months and years to come and no one will hear your screams.


Robert Prime has been involved in the life insurance industry since 2006 and is the co-owner of lifeinsure.co.uk. Having worked within an authorised environment and joint managed several brokerages he has gained a lot of experience in this sector which he is keen to share with the public.

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2 Responses to “When An Affiliate Screams No One Hears It”

  1. Adem 15 April 2013 at 12:33 pm Permalink

    I’m still spread pretty thin with lots of niche sites but they’ve all taken a hit and I keep saying to myself to just pick 2 quality websites to develop and love.

    The trouble is finding that niche that isn’t too big or too small..

    • Rob Prime 15 April 2013 at 12:56 pm Permalink

      Agreed, i think it is worth picking a niche in something you know or enjoy if you are unsure of which field to focus on.

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