Recently, Google made changes to its Webmaster Guidelines. I was running through them to see if I could spot the changes, and what I saw is a lot of what we’ve been talking about over the past several months regarding what Google considers to be Web spam – affiliate pages with little or no value, cloaked linking, auto generated content, sneaky redirects, inappropriate keywords, etc.
There seems to be a new one about rich snippets, which are used for named authors, recipes, music, and other designations for the search spiders. Apparently, the black hatters were abusing those and using them when they didn’t even apply to a page. Who didn’t know that would be abused? So… Google is cracking down on anything they don’t want in their results pages.
Another complaint Google has is about affiliate pages. I’m not sure it’s new. I don’t have a photographic memory, but… I remember when I first came into the world of online marketing, I had these pages, and if you’re just starting out, I’m guessing you do, too.
What’s are affiliate pages?
The program that you sign up for says, “We’ll build you a website!” Generally, these are one-page “sites,” that people can get to by using your affiliate link. The page may or may not be branded to you. “Joe Doe welcomes you to…,” for example. It seems like a great way to have something to sell, and you go in with expectations that are probably never going to be fulfilled.
The premise is, you send traffic to these affiliate pages, make sales and get a percentage of the profits. What these people don’t tell you is that generating traffic is probably the hardest part of making money online and that to make any money from this page at all, you’ll need to send AdWords or other paid traffic (from your own pocket) to it. Then, maybe, if you’re really lucky, you’ll make a few sales. Yet, the percentage of the profits may be so low that they don’t add up to much.
Seriously, don’t be taken in by this garbage. And don’t expect to get any free search traffic from Google to affiliate pages like that. Why? Because Google doesn’t mind you being an affiliate, but they insist that you create your own content around the niche you’re selling the product in.
So, for example, you may be an affiliate for a “make money online” product. (Now, listen closely because this is important.) You will need to create content about selling things online. How can you do that credibly when you’re only starting out? You’re NOT an expert, if you haven’t made any money from selling things online yourself. Do yourself a favor and get out of that niche NOW. As far as I’m concerned, it’s dead or dying quickly, anyway. It’s not that easy to make money online, and if you do, it doesn’t come from direct sales, anyway, it’s usually from email marketing. And now, you have a chance to make some money if you create really amazing content because that’s what Google loves more than anything else.
So, take your time. Think about a niche that you would absolutely love to work in. What are your hobbies, your dreams, your occupation, or whatever? Think about those things and then, become an affiliate for a product from that niche. Use Amazon.com, Commission Junction (CJ.com) or another affiliate product site with reputable products from brand advertisers. Then, you can be an expert. You can write about your experiences in dog training, gardening, fishing, knitting, etc. You can create great content that Google loves and you can make money by selling affiliate products related to that niche.
Just remember that Google isn’t against your making money online. Here is what they say about having an affiliate-related site (In quotation marks. The comments are mine.):
- “Affiliate program content should form only a small part of the content of your site.” If you’re creating an affiliate site make sure the ratio of solid content to sales is very high. I rarely sell anything from this blog, in case you haven’t noticed. I even add content to my main business site to keep things fresh. (I should totally do it more often, but well… I can’t work for me when I’m working for clients. So, it’s all good. Clients come from this site more often than from MagnaSites, anyway. My reputation was built here.)
- “Ask yourself why a user would want to visit your site first rather than visiting the original merchant directly. ” You want to be sure that you’re offering something unique that visitors can’t get from the original site. For example, if you’re an Amazon affiliate, what can you give customers that Amazon doesn’t? How about an article telling people that there are 5 easy steps to train a dog. Give them a couple, with your own twist on the advice, and tell readers to buy the book to get the other three. Of course, be sure you’ve read the book or tried the product you’re selling. If you sell crap, customers won’t come back and guess what else? They’ll tell 27 other people that they didn’t like what they bought from YOU. (That number didn’t come out of the air; it’s a studied field of observation in professional sales.)
- “When selecting an affiliate program, choose a product category appropriate for your intended audience.” So, if you’re in gardening, it’s OK to sell gardening-related products, like gloves and tools, but it’s not OK to try and sell flat-screen TVs from your gardening site.
- “Use your website to build community among your users.” That’s what blog comments are for, or even forums. It would be ever so nice of you to make some comments here.
- “Keep your content updated and relevant.“ Nobody wants to read about yesterday. They want fresh information and you need to provide it for them. Stay up-to-date on whatever the newest information is about your niche.
So there you go… a mini-primer on affiliate marketing. One other thing I might mention, which I really don’t like to do because I know a lot of traffic exchange people that I like a lot, but really…
Don’t spend your day clicking away in traffic exchanges. Folks who use them are usually new to this industry. They don’t have money to spend, so they take advantage of the free traffic they get from the exchanges. But here’s the thing: If they have no money to spend, they don’t have money for what you’re selling, either. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make sales, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever get anywhere using this method of traffic generation. If you want to continue using it, use it to get people on your email list, instead.
Post every day to your blog. Write articles and put them into solid places online. (Ezine Articles is still OK, as long as you don’t place the article anywhere else. Keep everything you do 100% unique.) Go ahead a learn pay-per-click, banner advertising, ezine advertising, social media marketing, press release writing, and all of the other traffic methods you can use to get people to YOUR website, not your affiliate partner’s, and you’ll do much better in search AND in sales.