Wednesday, 27 June 2012
An interesting thread appeared on A4U yesterday which seemed to echo my own thoughts recently Ė the affiliate marketing playing field is changing.
Sure we know the industry is on the move with plenty of acquisitions and mergers, new corporate start-ups, and many seasoned affiliates dropping out due to ever squeezed margins, increased competition and the mighty search engine algorithm changes.
The infamous Panda and Penguin updates have stripped out a lot of low quality affiliate sites from the index altogether and have also had a knock-on effect for larger affiliate sites too. More recently Iíve noticed a lot of drivel in the search results Iím presented with as the latest algorithms seems to favour these thin bare non-affiliate sites over affiliate-marketing funded sites with more substantial content (perhaps it depends on what Iím searching for though!).
Ultimately it seems that the search engines are demanding more useful, more informative and more authoritative content. So is that a bad thing?
Iíd say not, though it does make the industry much tougher to crack for smaller affiliates. The bigger affiliates who can afford to employ teams of experts can constantly pump out press releases which frequently get picked up by the major news networks, effectively rubber-stamping the content as authoritative. For smaller affiliates, the best written press release can be easily overlooked and flop. Without authority, SERP rankings are often poorer and much more restrictive.
Having been in the game for a while Iíve seen all manner of changes but lately Iíve been fortunate enough to speak to several in a new breed of successful and inspirational affiliates, who seem impervious to the recent changes. The reason they have been (and continue to be) successful is because they have transformed a hobby or a passion into a money making machine.
By creating loads of fresh and unique articles on a particular niche of passion, it is potentially likely to form a strong community around the site, a cult following of sorts. So long as the content is monetised secondly (and carefully) then itís likely that the site would continue to grow and thrive. These sites arenít impenetrable but they are built on more solid foundations than a purpose-built affiliate marketing site.
By contrast, many purpose-built affiliate sites are designed with money in mind first and foremost. How do we make the money and then how do we get people onto the site? We focus on traffic, click-through rates, optimisation and the bottom line arguably more so than the content. Sure, content is important and a key consideration but so is the bottom line. The difference here is that when your passion and hobby becomes your income stream, youíve got a good foundation of strong solid content first and foremost.
In essence, it appears as if weíre almost back to where the tale of affiliate marketing began Ė a means to monetise content rather than an outright business model, obviously with some inevitable exclusions and exceptions. As such, itís becoming more important to focus on niche areas we are passionate about. If we need to spend so much time immersed in a site to make it successful, we need to enjoy the topic! Widgets are only so much funÖ
It appears that going forward websites funded through affiliate marketing will have to adapt to regain strength in the SERPs. Owners will need to consider the following points in addition to other questions:
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