The End of Affiliate Marketing as We Know It

Affiliate Marketing

Content Farms.

The Google Panda Update.

Is the end of affiliate marketing here?

Selling high-quality affiliate products will always be a viable business model on some level.

But, what about niche marketing – finding low competition keywords, throwing up a “thin” website or sales page and targeting your keywords through SEO strategies?

If Google’s actions are any indication, niche marketing is facing some significant changes.

Content Farms

Let’s take a look at so-called content farms.

There is no easy answer for what constitutes a content farm. Some people say Ezine Articles is a content farm. Some people say eHow is a content farm. It all depends on your standards, I guess. I can tell you that I don’t visit either site to read the articles.

When I think about SEO, I always try to think about what works and what Google recommends. It’s a balancing act because what works isn’t always what Google recommends.

Nevertheless, I always consider these 3 guidelines straight from the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines.

1. Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.

2. Does this help my users?

3. Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?

The third one is where I find the most conflict. Search engines do exist, so you can’t ignore them. In a perfect world, internet marketers wouldn’t write crappy articles and distribute them to article directories (i.e., content farms) just to get backlinks, but the fact is that it works…for now.

Article Marketing

Article marketing is a common internet marketing strategy used by affiliate marketers to get backlinks. In general, it goes something like this – the more backlinks you can get, the more likely it is that your webpage will make it to the top of Google search results for whatever keywords you’re targeting.

I’m sure that there are a good amount of people that submit high quality articles to article directories, but let’s be honest, the majority of people use article directories to get a fast backlink using an article that isn’t good enough to be posted anywhere else.

I know that Google is against “manipulating” search results through SEO, but I was curious to know what Google thought about article marketing specifically. Article marketing is so common that it had to be acceptable from Google’s perspective, right?

Well, no need to guess. I asked Matt Cutts if Google recommended article marketing as an SEO strategy and this is what he had to say.

Does Google Recommend Article Marketing as an SEO Strategy?

Now, Matt doesn’t always give clear cut answers, but it’s pretty clear where Google is heading with respect to article marketing. Does it work right now? Yes. Will it work in 2012? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Let me clarify something. There is a big difference between writing an awesome article and posting it on a high quality website and writing a crappy article and posting it on a website that accepts any article as long as it has more than 300 words, or whatever minimum word count they use.

Even though article marketing and guest posting are essentially the same thing, the major difference is intent. With guest posting, the intent is usually to write an awesome article that will inspire people to link to your site, visit your site, and learn more about you. The intent is to get traffic to your website. The secondary benefit is a backlink that will help your SEO efforts.

With article marketing, the primary intent is to get a backlink. The secondary benefit is that you might get some traffic from the article. It goes back to one of my references from the Google Webmaster quality guidelines – would you do this if search engines didn’t exist? Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

For me, I’d write great articles and post them on great websites, but I wouldn’t write articles SOLELY for the backlinks.

But wait, there’s more.

Keywords in Domain Name

Not only did Google indicate they weren’t too happy with article marketing, but it seems as though they will be giving less weight to domains using keywords, as opposed to brand name domains.

He points out that there may still be some advantages to having keywords in your domain, but Matt indicated Google will be turning down the weight given to keyword domains in the search results.

Take article marketing and keyword domains out of the affiliate marketing equation and what does that leave? Quality? Long-tail queries? Social media?

I have noticed that Google is suggesting social media marketing more and more. If you look at the most recent information from Google, they indicate that social media is not only becoming important for marketing but it could also become an important signal in their ranking algorithm. Check out this article on how social media could save your ass (or cost you $4 million).

You can also check out this article on choosing a domain name (written before the Panda update).

How do you think affiliate marketing is going to change this year?

Internet Marketing Simplified



  1. Jules

    Great article Jeff.

    Just stumbled on you blog from Corbett’s site.

    I’m sticking with my quirky, personal name and on a .tv, hopefully it will stick in the mind.


    • Jeff

      I do like the sound of that –

      With the changes Google has in store, I think brand name domains, like yours, will have a more level playing field … depending on how much Google “turns down” the importance of keyword domains.

      As Matt Cutts suggested, it’s a little easier for brand names to rise above the competition, especially when you’re dealing with real people, as opposed to building niche sites to sell affiliate products.

Leave a Reply