It was a hot sweaty night in the land of Finch. The clock was ticking past 2am. My eyes were starting to strain from the glare of WickedFire’s traffic generation section. I had logged in with the intention of learning from the best to improve my SEO game. If you want to build long term assets, you need to rank well on Google, right?
Somewhere between reading about link wheels and staring dumbly at pyramid diagrams, the realization dawned on me. I fucking hate SEO.
If we’ve reached a tipping point where your success is determined by the number of Squidoo hub pages you’ve got passing link juice through to your money site, I would rather just forget about it completely. I’m sure if I sat here long enough, I could automate a script to dramatically increase the number of backlinks pumping through to my site. But beyond satisfying a phantom algorithm somewhere in Google’s underbelly, what exactly am I doing? I’m a fucking pawn in somebody else’s system.
In my opinion, the SEO brigade are deluded when they say that developing these naturally high-ranking sites is a long term business plan. I’m not going to deny that it’s incredibly lucrative. But long term? If your methodology is based on the science of link profiles, you don’t have squat diddly to bank your house on. SEO is just as volatile as any PPC campaign.
And as I sat there in the recess of the night, scratching my chin and scrolling through page after page on WickedFire, it really dawned on me that so much of what marketers do is complete and utter bullshit. It’s clever bullshit, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t help feeling that there’s more money in being the system, rather than trying to game one.
Over the last couple of months, my focus has shifted away from SEO. The safest way forward for affiliate marketers isn’t to learn advanced SEO or to become a wizard with a traffic source. Branding is everything. If you can develop assets that stand on their own two feet and command readership through the quality of the content alone, THAT is the only thing that can be deemed “long term” in this industry.
The problem with building a brand is that it’s an art best left to those who know shit about the subject matter. I’ve found it very easy to build a brand for this affiliate marketing blog, because that’s what I do. I can relate to affiliates and I can write in a way that strikes a chord with them. But if you asked me to write a blog about shoes or the process of learning a second language, I’d have my work cut out.
Many affiliates suffer from this. We want to monetize every niche, but we don’t know where to start when it comes to writing about topics that have no relevance to us. We end up with half arsed sites, branded as sloppily as a squashed lemon, and articles that’ve blatantly been slapped together by some copywriter who’s only interest is stretching his 437 word count past the 500 mark.
Outsourcing is one of those buzz words that sounds smart. Fuck yeah, I can hire some housewife to write me 20 articles for a hundred bucks. Invariably, you end up with a website that strikes a tick next to the proverbial mutton dressed as lamb box.
The reality is that if you want to become an authority in your niche, without the indefinite nature of SEO or PPC, you have to pay the premium.
Hire passionate people to write about topics they can spark to life with their own knowledge. I’ve gone from selecting the best value bidder on Elance, to selecting the candidate who has slightly sketchier grammar but loves the niche I’m trying to break in to. Inevitably, you’ll be able to publish content that looks less like minimum wage slave labour.
Affiliate marketers are untouchable when it comes to monetizing traffic. No agency or worldwide company can lay a finger on the creativity and innovation that some of us possess. But we’re also responsible for publishing some of the biggest piles of steaming bullshit ever to be labeled “articles”.
I think the way forward in 2010 is to develop websites that other affiliates would pay a premium to advertise on. Be the system, don’t be part of it.