Patrick Altoft from Branded 3 gave an excellent presentation on how to SEO like a Super Affiliate. Patrick is not a super affiliate himself, but having worked with many in the UK he is well placed to offer some insight into how they run their businesses.
A 'Super Affiliate' was defined as having the following credentials:
- Anyone who has turned themselves from an affiliate site into a brand name
- A business driving substantial revenue and profits
- A business with 20+ employees
- A business with real offices
Examples were given for various sectors of the industry. Money Supermarket, Go Compare, Martin Lewis' Money Saving Expert were examples of finance super affiliates. Expedia, Sky Scanner and last minute.com in the travel sector; MyVoucherCodes, Discount Vouchers and VoucherCodes.co.uk in the voucher sector.
So how do you become a super affiliate? In Patrick's view you should avoid trying to create another MoneySupermarket or Expedia and instead focus on perhaps a niche where the competition isn't so great, a niche where you have a fighting chance of becoming the best site in that area. What can you be the best in the world at? Patrick recommended a book entitled 'Good to Great' by Jim Collins.
What are super affiliates good at?
Super affiliates are both extremely knowledgeable about their sector, and great at digital marketing - they have to be, in order to beat both merchants and other competing affiliates when it comes to ranking highly. Affiliates are always competing against each other. The trick is to make Google think you are better than the rest. The barriers to entry in affiliate marketing are low, but this is what makes the affiliate industry so competitive.
SEO campaigns need to be aggressive but in a natural and controlled way. You need to show Google you are a trusted brand before you get aggressive with SEO. The more links you get, the more care you have to take over the quality of those links. Junk content, same anchor text and links in sidebars or footers is going to cause you problems with Google. As soon as you build too many dodgy links, google remembers that forever, so exercise caution and patience.
Another characteristic of super affiliates is that SEO is not their sole marketing strategy. They do everything. Good PR, Pay Per Click (PPC), social media marketing, competitions etc - super affiliates often have dedicated teams for each sector, and the Google Analytics funnel attribution tool has shed light on what the main revenue drivers are.
According to Patrick, Google 'knows' if sites are doing lots of things in addition to SEO, for example Twitter and Facebook marketing, and improves their ranking based on it. There is no way to quantify this but Patrick sees it happening time and time again.
High level SEO is about rankings - you need to rank number 1 for your main keywords.
True high level SEO is not about conversions, brand awareness, sales, leads, revenue or profits. A super affiliate should separate their SEO team from their commercial teams.
The strategy of a super affiliate should involve regular keyword selection based on extensive opportunity analysis. Super affiliates will do this over lots (100,000 plus) of keywords. 'Opportunity' keywords can be found by paying close attention to search volume, maximum click-through-rate (CTR), conversion rate and revenue per sale.
Teams were discussed next. Super affiliates often divide their resources into separate teams such as designers, content writers, an SEO team, a PPC team, analytics and conversion rate optimisation. Working with an agency was beneficial in Patrick's opinion, as agencies will usually have a good overview of multiple clients as opposed to an in- house team who only deal with their own company.
Research is key. To SEO like a super affiliate you have to learn what they do and how they do it, and there are several ways to do this: year end financial reports, investor calls, press releases and events can all provide nuggets of information about how a particular super affiliate operates.
Competitor analysis can be gleaned using a whole range of online tools and companies. Some recommended by Patrick included Searchmetrics, spyfu.com, Google trends, Open site explorer, wordle.net and Majestic SEO. Open Site Explorer got special mention because it can tell you very quickly why sites aren't ranking. It also shows you things like the number of times content has been shared on Facebook.
Super affiliates build links with regular press releases, pitches to bloggers, industry news stories and guest content for blogs among other ways. The average link building process was broken down into the following sequence:
Competitor analysis Search Google Shortlist sites QA process Story ideas Pitch stories Content production Place links QA process Promote links Track links - Raven SEO was mentioned as a good tool for telling you when a link disappears.
Finally content syndication was touched upon as a good way of 'spreading the word', through services like PR Web, Market Wire and PR News Wire.