How to Structure your Affiliate Business Better to Reduce Risks of SEO
One of the things I’ve realized recently is that SEO is a skill. Not matter where your sites are ranking at this exact moment, or how you were affected by a new penalty; the most important thing is your knowledge of SEO, experience and problem solving skills.
This is because SEO is constantly in flux. Rankings can change on a daily basis – however the thing that can’t change is your knowledge and experience in the SEO industry. These are tangible things on your CV that will determine where you go from here, and whether you outlive the next Google update.
What the Hell does that all mean for me?
My overriding point is that you can get screwed by penalties such as Penguin, Panda, over-optimization updates etc, but if you structure your business correctly, then your experience as an SEO marketer should see you through these things.
In many ways SEO is a learning curve. Google releases a new update, which takes time for people to adapt and problem solve their sites, and then they learn how to overcome these updates. This seems to be the standard pattern for SEO, and in some strange Darwinist way, the best SEOs seem to always scrape through, while the less prepared can get caught off guard.
How to Prepare for Different Types of Updates
There are a few things you can do to make your business more future-proof from future search engine updates.
I think firstly you need to solve your cash flow situation. If you’re re-investing all of your income back into your sites on a monthly basis, with no reserve, then losing a couple of your sites in an update could realistically destroy your business. This has happened to me quite a few times in the past (whether it’s a sandbox, penalty, Panda or Penguin penalty). If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s also impossible to put a time-line on your recover or even work out what went wrong in the first place which makes this even more scary.
This is why you need to prepare your business for these sorts of things in advance. I personally recommend saving up at least 6-12 months income for your business, which gives you plenty of time to fix your sites and survive from any future updates. The learning curve takes time (it also takes time for SEO blogs such as SEOMoz and SearchEngineLand.com to cut down raw data patterns and explain how the penalties affect sites). Furthermore, there are big, big rewards for planning ahead and surviving each update, as many of your competitors are put out of business.
If Panda hit your site for example, you could probably fix your site and restore your rankings within a couple of months. That’s if you know what you’re doing. However, if we remember when the first Panda update struck in Feb 2011, people had no idea what was going on, and recover time would probably be 6-12 months. Of course, building a great site, which is immune from Google updates helps, but at the end of the day most SEOs just do whatever’s working at the moment.
Revenue Share Earnings
A massive, massive advantage of choosing revenue share programs is that you can build a solid base of players earning you passive income 1-2 years down the line.
While CPA income is nice, if your site drops in Google then you can lose all of your income overnight. That’s why I always recommend going with a mix of CPA and revenue share programs. I’m sure there are affiliates out there who even if they lost all of their sites in an update, they’d still be earning 75%+ of their previous earnings from their revenue share players. Obviously you can’t bank on this happening, but it does help a lot, and it helps alleviate stress about money.
Having a Back-up Plan
I find having back-up plans, part-time jobs or a bit of SEO consulting on the side really helps in preparing or the future. Maybe you had a client who wanted you to build links but you said you were too busy. Maybe after your business is affected by an update you can do some part-time link building until your sites are fixed. This helps replenish much needed income.
Something else that I’ve been playing with is building mirror-sites with a much less risky link building strategy. For example, if you’ve been making a lot of money targeting a certain niche, just have a back-up site in place that’s aged over time just in case you need to start over.
Make Solid Investments in your Business
One of the things my friend James heavily recommends is investing in premium domains. The advantage is that if you know what you’re doing, you can make a solid ROI from investing in a domain and selling it down the line. Premium, one and two-word domains rarely drop in value, which makes it a great place to re-invest your profits and build a solid base for your business.
Content is another really good investment. I wish I had started doing this sooner (e.g. 12 months ago) but I think if you’re earning anywhere near $3-$5k per month then you should set aside $1k per month and invest in content on a big CPM/CPC site. After 12 months, that’s $12k in content, which is the equivalent of 500-600 pages of solid pages. This type of site could be earning you anywhere from $2k – $5k per month.
Good content is a low risk investment because it’s something Google will always value – it will never get penalized. In addition, even you have lots of content on a big site that gets penalized, you can no-index the site and recycle the content elsewhere. This is something you can’t necessarily do with links.