A few weeks ago I was in Seattle and had the pleasure and privilege of meeting with Rand Fishkin, founder of SEOmoz and one of the foremost SEO experts in the industry. In the next few days I’ll be posting my interview with Rand. This guy really knows his stuff, so make sure you take a look!!
Here’s the first part of our conversation about affiliate SEO:
Affilorama’s audience is primarily beginner and intermediate affiliate marketers. When you’re first starting out with building a website, particularly in affiliate marketing, what do you think are the most important things to keep in mind from an SEO perspective?
Well, you know I see a lot of affiliate marketers I think having a certain personality type and building a certain kind of business culture which is to be very aggressive about trying to exploit what they feel are sort of 'holes' in the system. Typically, I find that this kind of community thinks that there's a lot of exploits to be found and manipulations that can be done and thinks about SEO in this fashion.
I think that's fine, so long as you're prepared for the consequences of it, right? So if you start up a site and you think you can find manipulative link acquisition techniques that work, just be ok with the fact that you might be putting a lot of effort in to a site that's going to turn and burn, right? It will do lots of business at first and then it will be thrown out of Google's index or it will do lots of business at first and then the engines will ban it or it will essentially fall by the wayside. Or it could even be that you might not get banned or penalized but the links that you thought were providing value are no longer providing value.
So decide whether you're going after these short term exploits, in which case, don't spend a ton of time building up a brand or getting a great domain name and those sort of things. If you're going to try and build a real brand and a real domain name and like build up a big business around it and that kind of thing, I would urge you to not go the exploit direction. I think that a lot of people get really frustrated when they sort of cross their wires on that front. You know, aggressive affiliate marketer - spends a lot of money on a great domain name - puts a lot of effort in to the design of it and the quality of content and then goes and spams the shit out of the links and thinks that they're going to do well from that. And, you know, dude! It's just not. You want to go spam the shit out of something like, go build tiny little sites, make sure they cost you virtually nothing, have lots of them, make sure they're linked to by different networks, you know, minimize your risk profile.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about SEO?
Well, so I think as we talk about sort of communities, you know, in the affiliate sphere, I think there's this believe that SEO is like this black magic thing that no one’s really figured out so therefore they can sort of 'hack' it, because they're smarter and pay more attention than big businesses and those kinds of things. I do believe that generally speaking, that's accurate - you can take advantage of it if you know the game. But I think that it's really important to realize that over the long haul and over the last ten years - history has shown us that Google is a tremendously profitable company, and is willing to invest a tremendous amount of resources, based on the billions of dollars that they earn every year, back in to closing those loop holes. And this means that SEO in my mind becomes more of a technology best practices plus intelligent marketing. So if you are able to trigger the right kinds of psychologies and emotions inside people who have websites and can get them to link to you, then I think you have a very powerful play and if you can build products that naturally attract links, you've got a powerful play. And if you can build relationships that give you links - those relationships are individual relationships with bloggers or relationships between larger or medium size companies, it doesn't really matter, you're getting a large number of diverse domains that have high trust and quality and authority profiles inside Google to give you those link juice stats that you need.
So, the misconception that this is like, I don't know, like this is like SEO was in 1998 when it was like, "Ok, nobody knows this, but it you submit to Lycos at 11:59pm and 59 seconds, like, the next day you're going to be number one till midnight." Like that was the algorithm, they'd take the keywords plus when you submitted and the last in first out, like, it's not like that anymore!
And Google clearly has a lot - they have their whole business riding on the fact that they can become more relevant and more valuable. So to the extent to which you think you're going to 'trick' Google for a long time, I think that's a misconception. And to the degree you think that SEO is unachievable because it's like some black art that scammers and spammers practice and not something real businesses do then you're also fooling yourself. So, it happens on both sides.
Yeah, it always blows be away how many people think that they're, you know, smarter than this multi-billion dollar company Google. And it's kind of like, guys, there is a reason they're successful!
Well you know, in the short term, yeah, you might be faster and more aggressive and that sort of thing, but I think in the long run if you have real success, you know, Google has resources and they have people who are dedicated to and care tremendously amount about filtering you out. And now they have workforces of manual quality reviewers in every country around the world spending their days typing in searches and rating the results. And those go back to the engineering team on a aggregate level, who then build algorithms to say that, ok, if this many manual quality raters say these things about a site and say, our toolbar stats show these, and our clickthrough rates show this and our link profile shows this - put it in front of an engineer that can then toss it out of the index or automatically ban it or whatever it is. And as those bubble up those build algorithms that actually tell Google what sort of spam things to work on. Like, where are the most spammers profiting. So if you're in some private black hat forum online and you hear about a technique, and you're in there with 40 other people and they're like blowing it out with this technique and you think you're going to win in the long run, come on. I mean if you find that aspect that no one else knows about but you, great! Then you're probably set! But as soon as many people know about it... and it's funny too, because in the blogosphere, it's hard not to brag, right? It's like, you know, I'm doing really well, I'm not going to tell anybody! That's hard, right?! Check back here tomorrow for the next part of the interview.
Click here to see the next part of the interview: What does the Bing-Yahoo deal mean for SEO?
Rand Fishkin is the founder of SEOmoz - an SEO consultancy and training site. I highly recommend them as one of the best SEO resources on the web.