The last few years have seen a handful of changes – both major and subtle – in the way Google operates and approaches online marketing. One of the search engine’s most significant recent changes was the Google Panda update that rolled out in February. In the time since, many webmasters have been scrambling to keep up with the changing Google landscape.
So what can affiliates do to make sure they stay ahead of the game? Though you can’t predict what Google will roll out next, you can take steps to position yourself not just as another affiliate marketer but rather, an authoritative, valuable member of your niche/industry.
1. Act like a big brand.
Google’s preference for brands has long been known, and although they don’t say it every time they roll out a new tool, update or product, the general consensus among many online marketers is that Google is clearly heading toward being brand-focused.
From the business side of things, this should come as no surprise: the two things Google are invested in – providing the most useful/relevant search results to queries and making money – are much easier to do when they work alongside big brands and companies.
These companies have the money and resources to create high quality content, market it and keep their online output to a higher degree of professionalism than a marketer who maintains a personal blog. There’s an inherent level of formality and quality associated with brands and companies that’s lacking with personally-owned blogs, websites, email lists and the like, and Google long ago realized that brands, in general, provide better value to users than non-brands.
So what can affiliates do to not fall behind? Act like a big brand. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Whether you run a small, niche blog or operate a massive article directory, it’s important to do as brands do.
Ways affiliates can act like big brands:
- Uphold exceptionally high editorial standards for your content.
- Brand your content and share it responsibly (i.e. legitimate social sharing, not spam).
- Provide value to your audience the way effectively integrated companies do.
- Ensure your website offers a clean, well-designed user experience.
One of the best ways to act like a brand is follow brands you admire. Take the time to see how they’re engaging their audiences online and see what you can do to follow their footsteps. Because big brands have resources you might not have access to, think about what you do have access to and take advantage of it.
Google’s preference for brands isn’t going away any time soon, so the more affiliates can angle themselves as brands, the better chance they have of keeping up with Google’s ongoing changes.
2. Build your network.
Building your network is an extension of acting like a big brand. In Monopoly, it’s not enough to own one property. If you’re in it to win, you increase your property (in this case, online property) and thus, expand your network.
Real-life example: searching Google for Toyota USA yields these websites (excluding news results):
- Toyota Wikipedia entry
- Toyota’s Google+ Brand Page
This is just the start of Toyota’s online network, and you begin to see the extent of their network as you go deeper into search results. For affiliates, this proves that no matter your size or niche, you need to expand your online presence, even if your services/products don’t mesh well with typical social media (who really wants to “like” a payday loan site?).
Think like Google. Even if you rarely use Twitter, make sure it’s a part of your network – you might not get direct traffic, leads or conversions from Twitter; rather, your progress will be indirect. You’re growing your network, you’re acting like a big brand and you’re taking the time to create and maintain the “requisite” properties, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.
Depending on your niche, you’ll also want to consider building smaller, community-based networks. If Facebook and Twitter are massive, generalist networks, the small niche communities (forums, private social sites, etc.) are an equally important second layer to your network expansion.
Affiliates that brand themselves and expand their network the way an established company might are sending Google all the right signals: that you’re here to provide value and relevancy to your audience.
3. Invest in creating valuable content.
A quote from Google Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, from a February 2011 New York Times article:
“One piece of advice I give to S.E.O. masters is, don’t chase after Google’s algorithm, chase after your best interpretation of what users want, because that’s what Google’s chasing after,” he said.
With all the changes Google’s made, this remains true. Instead of trying to adapt to every change Google makes, look at the big picture and invest your time and resources in creating valuable content for your audience.
Today’s Internet user is smarter and more agile than ever before. If you’re not providing the content or level of quality needed to gain and hold a visitor’s trust and respect, they’ll have no problem going elsewhere. The best way to prevent this is to provide the highest quality content possible, and this means not being afraid to invest more time and resources in content.
Creating valuable content means:
- Offering exactly what your audience is looking for.
- Repurposing content for multiple platforms (blog article, video, slide presentation, etc.)
- Maintaining frequently updated online properties.
- Using data/analytics to determine your long-term content strategies.
Good content takes time, research and sometimes, money. But in order to build a sustainable affiliate marketing business that’s going to weather constant online changes, it’s a necessary investment that, when done successfully, can pay for itself many times over in the long run.