It’s a new year and as always a (kinda) new internet.
What will smart content marketers, SEOs and affiliates be focusing on in 2017? Here are my bets…
Building Real Brands
The reason is trust. It’s one thing to write a product review but another thing to have people believe that your review, among all the other reviews, is credible.
In 2017, information is plentiful & trust is scarce.
There are many ways to achieve that trust, but few can beat having a trustworthy brand. When you invest in building up a recognizable, trustworthy brand around your content, monetization – to an large extent – sorts itself out.
If I think about the “authorities” I follow online, whether for business or my personal interests, they’re all people (or brands) I know are just so involved in their craft or their passion that their knowledge won’t be outdone by some slim “reviewer” somewhere.
Without being salesy or pushy, these people make me want to spend more money on things. They introduce me to products I didn’t know existed and their passion arouses new curiosities in me. If I want to know what the educated, impartial view of a particular technique or a product is, I don’t always Google, I start with them.
If you can be that for your audience, it’s hard to lose.
*Gasp* Owning The Products You Review
It’s not that you need to own a product to write a great, valuable review of it. If you’re following guidelines I’ve written in the past, you can even create better reviews than a product owner, by providing better context, better comparisons, and a more objective point of view.
It’s just that if you know all that… if you can write a great review without the product… you’ll write an outstanding review if you do own the product.
And it’s that with the popularity of review sites today, if you aren’t the one in your niche that’s buying the products you review, someone else will be soon, and their review will be better than yours.
Don’t do it from the beginning. Invest in your content and your marketing first.
But when you’re established, and you can see where your traffic’s really going to come from and which products are really going to sell… factor into your budget to buy those products.
Contact the company to see if they’ll send you a review model of the product, that you’ll return to them. Sites, bloggers, vloggers and social media personalities do it all the time.
Offer to pay for the shipping. Do whatever you have to do. You’ll get a mountain of content from it (images and videos you can record that will be totally unique to your site, not plucked from a stock photo joint) AND it’ll improve the CTRs and conversions on your reviews.
Outreach Isn’t Just For Sites, But Social Accounts
By accident recently, in the course of regular outreach (seeking backlinks), a website owner liked our site so much he said he would share it to his Facebook followers as well.
He tagged our Facebook page. It sent us something like 350 new Facebook likes (that we can now promote our content to) a couple thousand visitors, and a stack of new email leads (that, because it would have been boring, and because it all seemed like a free bonus anyway, I didn’t add up.) as well.
It was a slap in the face reminder that outreach isn’t just for SEO.
*** It was also a reminder that SEO metrics don’t equal social metrics or capacity for traffic generation. ***
This guy’s site didn’t seem huge according to DA or PA. But he had a large and loyal following on FB that I hadn’t even considered.
Now I see these sites more and more. Sites with a DA 30 but 600 000 Facebook followers. If you’re skipping over them because they don’t look like “valuable backlinks” you’re missing out.
Boosting Links Is Everything
Let’s say you get a contextual link from another site in your niche. Maybe it was a guest post, maybe a mention, maybe a PBN link if you’re still doing that.
It doesn’t matter what the Domain Authority of the site is, when you first get the link, the page authority (that is, the authority of the actual URL that’s linking to you) of the page that links to you, is 1.
Sometimes, if the domain authority is really high, and they promote their own posts, the Page Authority of that post will increase on it’s own. When the metrics update, you’ll see this URL that links to you now has a Page Authority of 15, or 20 or whatever it is.
That Page Authority (Or URL Rating in Ahrefs) really means something. It always has, but I think it carries even more weight now.
(I read a good analysis that concluded as much recently and do you think I can find the link to it? I apologize because I hate unsubstantiated comments like this in SEO as much as in the rest of life. Do forgive me.)
What this means is:
** What you do with a backlink after you get it, is as important… perhaps even more important… than actually getting it **.
If you can share it with your audience, share it (ie “Look at this cool mention of our website today on XYZ”).
If you can build links to it in some other way, build those links. CPC members and RI members will know what I’m talking about. This is a reminder to do that, and do more of it.
I’m planning to publish a case study soon that breaks down exactly what “boosting” tasks give what results in Page Authority, and how those correlate to ranking changes. Keep an eye out for that one.
Private Affiliate Programs & Private Deals
Since 2007, I’ve been telling people how great private affiliate programs are (ones where the company selling the product manages their own aff program). My enthusiasm for these hasn’t changed a bit in 10 years.
The trouble is, private programs are better when your site/brand is bigger. When you’re just getting started, a private program might not approve you, the affiliate tools might not be the best, or the tracking might not be as good as a big program like Amazon. One advantage of the big programs is how easy it is to get started with them.
But after you’ve started… as you’re picking up steam… and based on the information you get from your time with the Amazon affiliate program (ie which products are people actually buying through your links… which products convert better… where’s your money really going to be made) you can find great opportunities with the companies themselves, to sell through them directly.
Higher commissions, longer cookies and more advantages can be had by switching out the Amazon links to private ones. This is particularly true when you’re selling high end products, a percentage of the sales of which you’ll always lose due to Amazon’s short cookie length.
As time goes on, another advantage opens too: When you have a relationship with the company because they know you’re selling their products, you can negotiate. Better commissions, bonuses, free product samples so you can improve the quality of your reviews, and more.
So many of my successful students over the years have benefited from this approach and it won’t become any less valuable or important next year or the one after.
Marketing Strategies Need To Be Adjusted Constantly & Based On Data
One of the trickiest parts of teaching our strategies to people over the years has been that those strategies need individualized tweaks as a site and a business progress. I can never know what those specific tweaks are until the student’s site is up and established, and we have some data to look at.
For example, certain factors about your niche might mean that manual outreach is like shooting fish in a barrel. Website owners are so receptive (not getting much marketing material) and they’re happy to give out links like they’re nothing. In another niche, hours of outreach may yield nothing.
There’s never one perfect strategy, or combination of marketing/traffic generation techniques that’s going to work perfectly across any vertical.
This is why a crucial part of getting a new site and business off the ground is trying things, and watching your analytics to see what happens… then adjusting and focusing.
In the beginning, you publish a lot of content, even though inevitably, the 80/20 rule will dictate that a small fraction of it will produce most of your revenue. You have to do this because you don’t know otherwise WHICH 20% of your content will be the golden one.
It’s the same with link building techniques, content creation strategies and more.
When someone emails me and says “I’ve been working on my site for months now, I’ve done everything you said and it’s not making money”, my first response is always “Ok, let’s see what HAS happened…”
Which pages are getting rankings…
Which pages have you built links to…
Which pages are moving disproportionate to the work you’ve done on them…
Which pages are getting visitors despite not having hit decent rankings yet…
Which pages are getting affiliate clicks disproportionate to the traffic they’re getting…
And so much more.
It’s never just that your efforts have come to nothing, only that they need directing toward the paths of less resistance.
Maybe you’re working too hard to promote a page with a stubborn top 10 SERP
Maybe you’ve neglected a lower traffic but higher converting keyword set…
And on the possibilities go.
The point is that small tweaks to strategy need to continually be made to be maximizing your return on time and investment.
And that no one is going to be able to tell you exactly what those tweaks are unless they have your data.
Choosing When To Go Short & When To Go Long With Content
Using long, highly detailed, and well organized pieces of content to rank for oceans of long tail keywords has been at the core of my SEO strategy for the last 4 years.
But it has a caveat.
Content can be too long, if your arriving visitor’s question is too hard to find, or takes too long to answer.
If you think about the “topic” of your post, at some point you have to draw a line and decide on which questions fall within that topic, and which are actually part of a closely related, but separate topic.
An example is this…
I recently published a piece of content about a product that talked about the benefits of that product; it was a “does it actually work?” kind of piece.
Another big area of content for this product was “how to use it” kind of content, with instructional material and training.
When we went to publish the (first) article, I came to feel like the “how to” stuff shouldn’t really be in this piece, even if it made it longer and opened it to ranking for more long tail keywords.
The “does it work” article was already near 3000 words, and the “how to” needed another 2000 maybe. And I felt like they were – despite having cross over – for two different sections of that tiny market. One group is curious about the product, and the other group either has it already, or is a bit more curious (asking in effect “Ok so it works, but how should it be used?).
That’s not some kind of hard and fast rule, or a recommendation for content of your own. I only point to it as an example of the thought process that should go into creating and organizing your content.
People need to get to your page, then find their answers as quickly as possible. And that goal needs to be balanced with the goal of answering as many questions as you can (being as valuable as you can) on a single page.
That’s it. That’s what I’m thinking about as 2017 starts. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking about, and where you’re thinking about putting your focus.