Leverage real unique content to Panda-proof your affiliate business

Panda-Proof Your Affiliate Business with Unique Content and Quality Backlinks
Don't fear the Panda

I just wrapped up a great webinar last night with James Martell of the Affiliate Marketers Boot Camp (affiliate link) – we talked at length about SEO for affiliates, the Panda updates,  the importance of writing well researched and well presented content, and backlinks and how to pick them up.     This was the first in a mini-series of Fanatics Affiliate Webinars geared towards helping affiliates succeed in a post-Panda world.   The long and the short of what we discussed is that Google is more committed than ever about presenting their searchers with quality, unique content and that the techniques used in the past to try to game the system and get high rankings are either not working at all anymore, or put you at risk of losing your primary traffic source at Google’s whim.    I know from experience here that a number of affiliates have taken traffic hits that dramatically damaged their income and are now anxious to find solutions to overcome the traffic losses that they suffered.

The solution is all about content- content on your site, and content that you can leverage to generate valuable backlinks to your site that will combine with the quality of your content and your reputation as a writer to rank well in the natural search results.   Here are a few things that James recommended that marketers invest their time and potentially, their money in moving forward as they build their affiliate businesses in 2012.

1. Generate unique, well written content for your site.    Your content should be focused more on actively engaging users than on writing for the search engines.    The benefit here works across a number of levels: if you write good content,  the readers who find you will respect your work and keep coming back.  They will also be more likely to share your page with their social network.   They may even quote you in articles on their own content sites and this gives you a valuable backlink.   You will also win the respect and trust from your audience which will translate to higher click-through rates and higher conversion rates on the products you promote.

2. If you are going to use data feeds, you will need to either invest time in rewriting your descriptions to generate unique content, or you’ll need to “wrap” your product feed links with unique content.  Google is getting really good at detecting duplicate content and properly assigning the SEO value to the originating site and not to the hundreds of affiliates who are using the same content on their sites.    Write your own unique descriptions and don’t forget to opimitize your images.   If you have questions on how to do this, please get in touch with me.    Change your mindset on data feed content; think of your feed content as creative, not as primary content.

3. You can pick up high value, long lasting backlinks by producing high quality guest posts that you contribute to complimentary (not competitive) sites or blogs.  The key is to make sure that the articles you post are well researched, well written and genuinely add value to users of that site, and contain one or two anchor tags that link back to your site.   Take a hint from the newspapers –  have your article include a photo, and a quote or two and cite any sources that you use.   Make sure that the articles you write are UNIQUE .  Submitting the same article content to a blog network or to tons of article directories is by definition generating duplicate content.  This content will either not be given as much value or will negatively impact on your content’s ranking with Google.

Be looking to deliver value at every stage.  The name of the game is not fooling Google into ranking your content at a higher level than it deserves.  The name of the game is to provide useful content that people will link to, promote via social media, quote on their own sites.    The same applies if you are going to try to pick up “juice” by posting comments on other people’s blogs and in discussion boards.   If you look to add value to others first through the use of unique content that helps the reader, you will build a reputation as a respected resource in the community and you’ll build both backlinks and direct traffic driving links.   If you look to spam the comments or the community, you’ll out yourself as a parasite who will see your community site accounts closed.

4. Don’t look to substitute a high number of low value backlinks for a moderate number of high value backlinks.  You may pick up some juice short term, but you’ll always be living in fear of the low value links impacting your SEO negatively in the next Google sweep.

I am passionate about affiliate marketing, and about seeing my affiliates leverage affiliate marketing to make the money to be able to live the lifestyle that they want.    I am a firm believer in something that sales trainer and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said a long time ago: “You can get anything you want in your life if you help enough other people get what they want.”   If you set out to provide value to your user in everything you do, you won’t be living in fear of the next Google update and the impact it will have on your income and your livelihood.

I’ll post the webinar that I recorded with James Martell shortly and link to it here.


Build an affiliate business by adding value for your audience

I look at a bunch of affiliate sites every day, some great, some good, some “meh” and some terrible.  I also take a number of questions from affiliates daily looking for tips on how they can improve their performance.    Sometimes, I give some specific suggestions like what type of link to use, where to place it or how to identify a niche market.      When I really think about the affiliates who are successful regardless of the marketing technique they use to drive their traffic to their links, they have a common trait.  They provide value to the end user (customer) in some way to help drive them in the direction of the sale.   Some might ask why it matters – but I think that this piece is really the crux of affiliate marketing.

With a little bit of work, anyone can slap up a site with some banners, or figure out how to use Make A Page or PopShops to put up a storefront.   With all of the tools out there at your disposal, it’s become really easy to do.   I’m here to tell you that this is where the work BEGINS, not where it ends.   What will allow you to build a BUSINESS and not just an affiliate site is your willingness to add value for your site visitors.  What are their interests? What are the problems they are looking to solve? What could you provide that would bring them back to your marketing platform day after day and give you a trusted position with them to be able to make shopping suggestions.

Here’s what I like in terms of a “marketing platform”  – a wordpress blog (hosted on your own domain) a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and an aWeber (email marketing program) account is a good place to start.

Do you need to write the content yourself?  No, but your content needs to be unique and it needs to be good.  It can be informative, it can be funny, it can be controversial – but it needs to be unique and compelling.    Invite some quest bloggers, hire your sports junkie friends, hire a college writing / journalism student, but come up with some compelling content.    Content will translate into a couple of things: traffic if it indexes well with Google, and engagement when readers decide that you put good stuff out there and bookmark you, or better yet, use the sharing plugins you make available and share your post on Twitter, Facebook or Stumbleupon.  If you provide consistent high quality content, it’s also going to build trust and trust is key in affiliate marketing.   If your audience enjoys what you give them in terms of content, when you put an offer in front of them, they are more likely to support you by buying what you are selling.

Do you need a social media presence?  In a word – Yes.   It’s a connected world and connecting to your audience via a Facebook Page and Twitter will give you a couple of benefits.  It gives you another way to connect with them, it gives you a way to interact together, and it gives your audience an easy way to promote you.  Build yourself a Facebook page,  integrate Facebook Comments into your blog to allow for cross pollination, and set up a Twitter account.   Please remember – Social Media is about conversation – it’s give and take – not “beat them over the head with my marketing message until they buy. ”  If all you do on your FB page is promote offers, you won’t get much out of it.  If you share content, ask questions, start conversations and connect with your audience, they’ll trust you and take you up on offers when you push them.   You should look to have a lot more legit content than offer pushing going on – at least 5-1.

I’ll get into more depth on Twitter later as it’s a post all it’s own.

On to aWeber – why email?  Because you want to build a database that you can share content with and market to in the future.   aWeber is cheap and they get the mail delivered and give you all the tools you need to build a nice newsletter and keep your lists current while handling all of your subscribes, double opt-ins, and unsubscribes for you.   Build a list by encouraging people to follow you special content, or access to special offers, run contents and promotions that can be entered via the newsletter.

You’re probably thinking to yourself “wait a minute, this isn’t easy or fast!”  You’re right.  It takes work.  The people who are successful in affiliate marketing long term are people who found a way to deliver value to shoppers and do it better than most.  They came up with the best writers, they started and encouraged the best conversations, they built the best platform for delivering the coupons everyone wanted, they developed a strategy for delivering traffic through paid search more affordably and efficiently than the other guy, they wrote better ad copy than the other guy.   They tried things and they failed over and over again, but they kept trying until they got a system dialed in, then they expanded and brought on more resources.   It’s not easy, but if you commit to the long haul, and focus on adding value to your shopper, you can be a success with affiliate marketing.

For some awesome resources on how to build an affiliate marketing business, please check out www.extramoneyanswer.com or www.affiliateabcs.com

More to come….