This year has probably created what we know to be the most fertile soil for the SEO industry. And while many still subscribe to old practices the paradigm has shifted rather dramatically. SEO, now taken as an industry that tightly interlinks with all other marketing sectors, can be applied in various verticals and through plethora of fields.
So adopting some creative and lateral thinking from chaps way smarter than me, I’ve decided to use SEO as a means to build yet another online business model.
This model, depending on your ability to leverage SEO in more creative ways, focuses on affiliate marketing. If you’ve been in the field for a while, there is probably no need to explain the concept of affiliate marketing further. No doubt, ranking high for products that tend to sell a lot builds some rather serious income streams.
Irrespective of that, there is this trend with many people, and throughout my own experience with projects, to enter this game without regards to timing. And though this might seem fairly innocuous to some, I’m here to tell you a secret- Having information about when to enter the market, along with implementing some rather elementary SEO can mean increasing your earnings tenfold.
Enter Pre-launch affiliate marketing campaigns
What vast majority of people seem to miss is the fact that most companies that launch products today do an amazing job with pre-launch marketing. But why is this so important, and why does it matter to you?
Allow me to school you about a single secret that hides in plain sight. What the sum of all these marketing efforts amounts to, is the fact that the largest portion of the sales are made within the first two or three months.
Numbers vary with examples, but most of them seem to show that these marketing campaigns target early adopters, and companies tailor their products especially for them.
This knowledge can be used to create a model that is going to capitalize on those numbers.
Some examples as to understand the potential
The first time I saw someone trying to capitalize on this model I was blown away. A lucrative and obviously scalable model done in 2004, it seems as though Darren Rowse was very creative with it.
Lacking online noise at the time, but being a world-scale event, he decided to blog about the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, even months before they officially started. What Darren knew back then, that many people seem to miss even now, is that ranking high for a product, event, or something that obviously has the potential to become trendy and popular, months before it is out, can create a monopoly on the subject in terms of organic search results.
It goes without saying that SEO is a bird of another feather now, and when you compare the efforts the math says you need to work ten times harder. But here is the obvious equalizer in this equation- though the project might take more work there is way more online traction that is happening nowadays in comparison to a decade ago.
Imagine ranking high for many queries connected with upcoming popular apps, or games, or movies, or devices… Building a landing page where you review them, or recommend them, or even build resources and informational products around them.
Back when Starcraft 2 came out (the popular computer game) there were these guys who had some inside info about it and decided to make a product where they explain strategies about the gameplay. Suffice to say, they ranked high for some queries and when the game did come out they made a small fortune. Selling their guide along with affiliate sales generated by the game reviews that they’ve created, it was a very smart strategy.
And though these projects did require some hard work, many others would require less; for there are millions of opportunities to tie such a project with an already existing site. Let me explain myself. We’ve done a fair share of affiliate sales during these last couple of years, but never really seemed to care about timing. For shame…
It turns out that for some of the projects that we did, timing would have played a huge difference in earnings. So we’ve learned a valuable lesson.
The step by step model
- Pinpoint an upcoming product or event and try to predict how hard it would be to rank.
Example: There is a difference in competing for the new iPhone and some new Vitamix blender model.
This will give you an estimate of how much work there is to be done, and more importantly if you can tie the work with an already existing site of yours. I always include fitness products in my already existing site which is very relevant to the niche.
- Find some valuable inside information. There are couple of easy and scalable ways to do this
- Decide about your monetizing method. Affiliate sales alone are great, but it would be even better if you can create some product that can be sold in relation to the one people are waiting to finally come out. This can be a guide, an application, something that will complement the product or enhance it.
- Build up some content around it
- Rank the thing and enjoy the cash
- Collect all the shares and mentions that are about to come in recent months and enjoy more cash flow
1. Searching for a project to rank
Enough practice makes this step of the process rather intuitive. And you can always develop your own approach later on especially with trial and error. There is nothing more frustrating than spending all that work to build content and rank it high, only to find out that the bubble bursts right after launch day.
So, in order to find yourself a real lottery ticket, you have to look for various signs.
- Study how previous products that this company launched panned out.
- See the extent of their pre-launch marketing campaign- how many Facebook fans are on their fan page about the product, is there any fan page at all… Are they actively promoting on different channels, and if so how good of a job they are doing. This step is highly subjective, so some background experience in the field of online marketing as a whole is crucial.
- Look for other forms of advertising, especially television and other offline campaigns. The more there are, the more popular the product is likely to be.
- Go to Google trends and see how this product compares to others that are already released. Also, pay close attention on how it evolves over time.
- Do the math – Calculate the value of the product, and investigate how many affiliate networks are already backing up such products. For example, there is a big difference when you see one affiliate network giving 15% of the earnings and others 40. Is it easy to strike a deal with the company itself, or will you have to sell via amazon only? – There is a huge difference. So plan accordingly.
2. Inside information
This information may refer to details connected to the release date of the product, its price, sneak peak of its design… The more of it you discover, the better; and while some of you might think it is exceedingly difficult to acquire such information, given the degree of transparency in pre-launch marketing campaigns nowadays, you will be positively shocked.
Not lamenting further on this subject here are some easy to follow steps on how to acquire as much info as possible:
- Follow the YouTube channel of the company and its spokesmen. In the fitness industry especially, this is as much of a silver lining as you’d hope for.
- Follow twitter and Facebook accounts
- Follow their personal company blog, or that of their spokesman. For example, if you are into SEO, you probably know that there is much inside info about Moz on Rand’s blog.
- Forums are also helpful here, though it might depend upon the niche.
- Be transparent- contact their company, and tell them that you are going to market their product. While some proof of success might seem more than convincing on their end, there are many smaller brands that are gladly to help even without it.
3. Your selling angle
Many routinely underestimate the power of informational products. And making such a product after three years of involvement in this industry, I’m as guilty as the next guy. While affiliate marketing has been parroted around rather excessively, there are hardly any guides on how to capitalize from an upcoming third-party product by creating resources around it. Here are some examples as to paint a more vivid picture of what is possible.
Building a mail list about the product before it is out. I haven’t done this yet, and just admitting it now hurts a lot. For this is a very, very lucrative of a model. You build a landing page around a product, and then offer some resource/app/any digital good really, in order to gather as many e-mails as possible.
The plan? Well, if I have to spell it for you then be it… You will send the review about the product once it is out, and probably make a lot of sales depending on how well you’ve polished it. Then- and this is the fun part- you are left with a huge e-mail list to which you can send an automated mail sequence where you teach and inform them about various aspects related to your niche.
When we made the P90 workout review even months before the product came out, we could have implemented this. Imagine this scenario- thousands of people have seen the thing, and we started making dollars only when it actually came out. What a shame… All those visitors- a large chunk at least- would have signed in if given something valuable. And it never has to be much- a single page pdf “5-insert something- that will do –insert something” kind of resource, and you are set. Later on, many of these people end up buying the product, which only triples our earnings for the first month.
Then, after the sale is done, we are left with this huge mail list that is deeply interested in everything fitness related. Should we ever make a product of our own, we have a market.
- Affiliate sales only. And this is not something which I advise against. After all, this year so far, we made a low five figure only from affiliate marketing, i.e. selling third party products on one of our sites. And for all of these products we entered rather late. You do the math about what happens when you enter early enough.
- Make a digital resource or a product of your own. This is something easier said than done; but still far from rocket science. You see, you can awake your creative spirits and put together something that will, in a way, complement the product that is about to launch.
The guys from the thing with StarCraft made the e-book; Darren (though I might be wrong assuming he didn’t) might have made an informative guide about Athens and how to get around during the games. We can make something similar to this- a short e-book with tips on how to make the most of the P90 workout, and lose more weight, build more muscle etc. (you have to deliver on your promise though). Or, we can make an app that will help you stay connected with others who are doing it, or a stay-accountable app or something within those lines.
You can- drumrolls please (and some firework) – combine all of these methods together, and then some. Use the best of your judgment, and see if there is a certain balance, or at least try to keep things non-intrusive.
4. All hail the king- content
This is the obvious line of progress. In order to enhance your review page, or your landing page, you will need some content to back it up. If you were to build a whole site around the product, there is no need in me telling you this- you will need more content. How much more? Well, it depends entirely upon the industry you are trying to compete in.
More content- quality, well researched, and carefully made content- usually attracts more links, mentions, shares, likes and more or less all the pretty stuff you can imagine.
And though sometimes past experience offers little clue to wisdom, and you can make all the traction by simply making a plugin or an application, writing articles that people would like to share is always going to beat anything else by a huge margin.
We are now creating articles about fitness that are casually going to mention the P90 workout. Then, we will place these articles on our site and interlink where it makes sense. What we hope the sum of this is going to amount to, is more relevancy, and then again more link juice being transferred to the main page of interest- the review itself.
Here are some content ideas, were you to make a site about an upcoming computer game (notice how I still don’t share any of my content strategy about the P90 workout? Well…)
- Couple of articles discussing sneak peak material (images from inside the game, trailers, the engine of the game…)
- Articles about the music, voiceovers, and who are the people involved. An article or two about the team and some of the statements they already gave to the press
- How this version of the game might compare to its predecessors if there are any, or then again how it might compare to other similar games
- What is the most innovative thing that this game offers to players
- Discuss the modes, campaigns, and give some forecast or some of your own opinion about it ( you will have to be well versed in this type of language)
- Interview some members of the production team- this is as close it can get to link bait
- Do a mash-up article where you ask some popular gamers from the genre about their opinion of the game.
- As soon as the game comes up, do as many similar pieces of content, and review as many aspects of the gameplay as you can.
5. Link building
I know we already named this step differently, but here is the thing- ranking, in the loose sense of the word, can also mean everything else you’ve done so far. This is to all of those who waited for the “SEO angle” in the story.
Everything that you’ve done so far goes a long way in making your targeted page rank high. Complement that with some intentional link building and you are cementing yourself on the first couple of places in the SERPs.
Let us make a small checklist now, shall we:
- Make sure you are descriptive enough when you are writing the page you want to rank. Use the lingo of the industry, place keywords where it makes sense, and try to be as much specific as you can.
- Pay a lot of attention to user experience, make the content visually rich (we are talking the whole of design, not just adding images) and hone your copy again and again.
- Interlink the relevant content where it makes sense
- Pay attention to technical details as site speed
- Remove any unnecessary clicks and steps
- Group similar content concepts in one single page
- Share the content on social networks
- Build some additional links
I’ve covered the link building aspect in my previous article and it is as simple as anything else thus far.
6. Witness the benefits of being first to rank
The model I just described is nothing more than common sense really; yet for all this, the staccato sequence of sites popping up months after a product is launched says otherwise.
No doubt, most sites hoping to make affiliate sales do nothing else but unceremoniously dumping reviews after a product becomes popular and makes a lot of sales. And I should know this best, for we’ve done the exact same thing for more than a year. And what happens? You make some bucks, sure, but the potential is limited at best.
In addition, you need more time to climb the first positions of the SERPs, and this means entering the game when it is almost too late, fighting for rankings, extinguishing one proverbial fire after another. By extension, the guys who made it first- well, how to put this now, they capitalized on the fact- for much of the mentions, shares, social media buzz and overall credibility came as a side effect of just being there first. This, for no surprise whatsoever, even further propelled them to the top.
If you take only one thing from this article, let it be this- pay attention to pre-launch marketing campaigns and track the market even before it gives birth to a new product. Oh, and please take this as well- third party products, though being great for affiliate marketing, can also build your mail list or sell a related product of your own- just mind the timing.