The State of Affiliate Marketing in 2012

by Jason Acidre on February 3, 2012 · 19 comments · Search

A few weeks ago, Google rolled out Search Plus your World on US and UK search result pages, a new format that merges social and personalized search results for logged in users, which also includes relevant Google+ pages in the results.

This is clearly another attempt from Google to put affiliate marketers out of business, seeing that this major change in search engine optimization is more focused on their users’ social activity. Affiliate marketing has been an industry for over a decade (since 1994), serving as a marketing tool for ecommerce sites, helping them get more sales and is projected to help the ecommerce industry reach almost $300 billion in sales in 2015.

However, with all the changes that Google is continuously implementing on their search engine algorithms such as last years’ Google Panda update, Freshness update as well as the use of social signals in determining quality and popular content over the web, this only entails that affiliate marketers must also step up to keep up with imminent changes that have always been a part of this industry and become savvier in terms of how they use multiple marketing platforms to reach their target audience.

I recently had the chance to ask some of the most renowned thought-leaders in the field of Search and affiliate marketing about their views on the current and future state of the affiliate industry, particularly when it comes to affiliate sites’ search visibility.

Simon Slade, CEO of Affilorama, relates that:

“Since we launched Affilorama in 2006, there have been many changes in affiliate marketing but many core principles remain the same and it’s something we try and educate our members about.

Never rely solely on one form of traffic. If you are relying single handedly on Google to drive you visitors, you are in huge danger as a lot of people found out with Vince, May Day and more recently Panda. We strongly encourage members to diversify their traffic sources whether it is social, paid or direct forms of generation. Not only is it smart risk management, but it also presents other more viral opportunities as well.

The other piece of advice I would have is to think outside the square and try to offer a unique solution that solves your users’ problems. Don’t try and copy what everyone else is doing, be creative and come up with a unique way to give your customers what they need. Think software, mobile, gaming – these are different platforms that are open for affiliates to monetize.

The web is moving very fast and you need to move with the times.”

According to Rand Fishkin, Founder and CEO of SEOmoz:

“I think it’s a great topic. Sadly, for a lot of affiliate marketers, I think Google’s intent is to put them out of business, or at least make things much tougher for them in search/SEO. If I were doing any form of affiliate stuff, I’d be thinking extremely hard about how to build a unique value proposition, a recognizable, memorable, beloved brand and earn enough press and awareness, particularly in the tech community, so as to limit the potential damage of future Google updates targeted as eliminating these types of operators. I’d also try to diversify my traffic to get no more than 40% of visits from search (which likely means investing in a lot of content marketing, social media, blogs, etc).”

Wil Reynolds, Founder and CEO of SEER Interactive, shares:

“Google is learning more and more to things that favor people who look and act like brands. So my advice for affiliates will be “to look more like a brand” – so for instance big brands didn’t get hit by Panda because they don’t usually create a bunch of garbage pages on their sites.  Google+ is going to impact things, so if that is the case who gets a lot of people to add them to circles? Brands do, thought leaders do. Then go look at their sites, how many have like 4-5 ads above the fold? Not many.”

There is a unified thought based from what these experts have shared. Apparently, affiliate marketing this year would be more about building affiliate brands, rather than just building an affiliate website. Shaun Anderson recently published a guide on how to create a real Google-friendly website in 2012, which also depicts important phases that can be implemented when creating an affiliate site.

Create a website that Google will certainly rank, by simply understanding how and why they rank pages from their indices. And don’t just focus on a single channel for traffic generation, because SEO, social, content marketing and paid methodologies are all just a part of a whole online marketing strategy.

Affiliate marketing is still a growing community, and has proven to be a very promising business model for merchants, affiliate networks and affiliates over the years. They’ll just need to educate future practitioners on how they can monetize their efforts and prolong the industry.

Article first published as The State of Affiliate Marketing in 2012 on Technorati by Jason Acidre

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Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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