Your company is probably missing out on valuable organic traffic because of affiliate marketing practices. SaaS companies are the greatest victims due to the saturated market. In this post, I discuss the reasons why, and the logic behind how Google’s practices have changed.
For those who are unfamiliar with what an affiliate website is:
An affiliate website provides useful content on products and services, from which users are redirected to the product or service for a referral fee.
Before I started to create content for SaaS companies, my work primarily consisted of content marketing services for affiliates. And before that, I built networks of affiliate websites. One of these networks generated gross revenues of over €80,000 per month in under 1 year (with no marketing budget, starting from zero).
On my recent trip to Marrakech, I encountered a “human affiliate”. Since my accommodation was located on a walking street, my taxi driver dropped me off at the closest main road. After I left the car, my mobile data gave up on me. A friendly local quickly approached me and asked if I needed directions to my accommodation — he was genuine and he obviously knew the Medina inside-out. I was unprepared, I hadn’t memorized the directions, and I didn’t have much of a choice but to follow. As expected, he asked for money in return for his useful service, without which I might’ve struggled to find what I was looking for and wasted my most precious resource — time. He had information that solved my problem and saved my resources.
The only difference is that affiliates are not charging the visitor (like my Moroccan buddy), they are charging the service provider.
Affiliate Websites Create More Useful Content Than Your Business
The keyword here is “useful”. Affiliate websites help Googlers find what they’re looking for. With a little research, shoppers can avoid purchasing costly subscriptions by learning about the market in which they’re about to make a purchase.
Affiliate marketing changed the dynamic between searchers, content, and service providers. As ever, Google’s SEO algorithm is keeping up, and the service providers are feeling these consequences the most. This is more apparent than ever, and the three main reasons are:
- Markets are increasingly saturated (especially SaaS markets)
- Small-to-medium sized business competition is stiffer, resulting in tighter small business budgets, and research-savvy buyers
- Affiliates are creating useful content that answers questions and solves problems
Back When Authority Was Enough to Rank
Google’s SEO landscape was far simpler 10, or even 5 years ago. High-authority website ranked with considerable ease, and a few dominant backlinks changed your entire positioning in the SERPs. During this time, affiliate websites survived on precious crumbs, complex keyword combinations or neglected, low-competition keywords that none of the high-authority websites bothered to target.
However, those complex keyword combinations were often what users who searched for specific solutions used. Google matched them to USEFUL content that presented the desired answer or solution, and this changed the Google landscape considerably. Affiliates are no longer getting the crumbs, but slices of the whole pie.
How Are High-Authority Company Websites Losing Organic Traffic?
Affiliates scramble for traffic by providing useful content on a service, and in an increasingly saturated marketplace (like SaaS) where users want to know what service or product they benefit from the most before they buy. Most SaaS customers are small business owners with limited budgets, so expect extra shopper-savviness here. You can bet that they will do their research before they put money in your pocket.
More complex searches by savvy shoppers result in more useful content that matches. Google is smart, it’s constantly learning, and their priority is to be USEFUL. Google will find the affiliate website with an in-depth comparison of the “8 Best Inventory Management Software” far more useful for the searcher than a product page or homepage that hopes for a direct sale. They want to answer questions and increase the likelihood of matching desired information to searches and queries.
Note: Make use of free resources like Google Sheets, or if you can afford it, Microsoft Excel. You can perform hundreds of tricks that will help you organize your data when doing competitor research.
Eventually, the very usefulness and practicality of the content become equally, if not more important than the website’s authority. Almost overnight, high-authority websites of established companies lose valuable organic traffic because of:
- A drop in SERPs that were previously taken for granted
- Failure to notice new SERPs and new keywords that are generating a significant portion of their referral traffic
The backlinks from retail giants and software partners no longer suffice and it’s time to find another way of getting that organic traffic straight to your website.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them
Organic traffic is arguably the most valuable and effort-friendly traffic your website will attract. If SaaS companies want to regain prominence in the SERPs, the only way to do so is to beat the affiliates at their own game.
ShipBob is a great example of a company with an established online presence and plenty of authority. They also have a helpful active blog that answers questions and solves problems. For instance, they rank on the 1st page when you search for “e-commerce fulfillment”. Having said that, their post on “How to Find The Best Inventory Management Software” only ranks on the 5th page of the SERPs when you search for “best inventory management software”.
This doesn’t mean that ShipBob has weak content. It means that the competition is fierce, and you need a well-thought-out content marketing strategy to harvest organic traffic from all possible angles. The key focus is on consistently creating useful content that solves a problem and matches users’ queries.
In the next posts, I’ll elaborate on how businesses can adapt to Google’s rapidly changing SEO playing field by breaking down what useful content consists of, and how you can find problems to solve in a series of blog posts and/or pages that eventually convert to sales. More, I’ll explore how changing searcher-content dynamic impacts your sales funnel and the experiences of your potential customers.
In the meantime, feel free to fire any questions my way.
About Me: I’m a content marketing specialist with a background in affiliate marketing. For the over 3 years, I’ve created professional content that ranks. I had also built a network of affiliate websites that reached gross revenues of over $88,000 per month in under a year. I use my expertise to help companies and affiliates rank.
Here is a video summary and demonstration of the key takeaways in this article: