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5 Ways to Win at Affiliate Marketing

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Wirecutter has to be on every short list of websites that affiliate marketers look up to and try to draw inspiration from. Its impact on product choices from its in-depth reviews is so high that there’s even a term called “Wirecutter effect,” describing recommended products selling out quickly once the review goes live.

As of May 2022, the website drives almost 12 million organic search clicks in a month (spread across roughly 3,000 pages):

The website is now part of The New York Times, which acquired Wirecutter in 2016 for about $30 million. The investment most likely paid for itself within three years, as the Times made more than $20 million from Wirecutter in 2018 alone.

Wirecutter is simply a huge affiliate marketing success story that we can all learn from. We’ll go through the following five tips based on Wirecutter’s SEO efforts that you can apply regardless of your affiliate website’s size:

  1. Send great E-A-T signals throughout website
  2. Provide great user experience
  3. Leverage your category pages
  4. Keep your content up to date
  5. Have a solid content distribution plan

Let’s dive in.

1. Send great E-A-T signals throughout the whole website

E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It comes from Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, a 172-page document used by human quality raters to assess the quality of Google’s search results.

Google’s objective is to provide the most relevant and accurate results for every search query. If you’re looking up cat memes, then it doesn’t really matter which pages show up at the top. But it’s a completely different story when you shift to serious topics like finance or health.

This is where E-A-T signals come into play. It has the most impact on these YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics. And showing the world that you’re an authoritative and trustworthy expert source on a certain topic never hurts.

Now the importance of E-A-T for affiliate websites will differ. It likely won’t be that important for, let’s say, travel websites. But Wirecutter covers a wide range of topics, including some that fall straight into the YMYL topics:

Drop-down list showing Wirecutter's categories

So why did I bring up these E-A-T signals as the first point? Well, this is where I think Wirecutter stands out the most.

Let’s take a look at its review of the best electric toothbrushes. An input from dentists and relevant researchers is certainly useful here. That’s why even though the article was written by Wirecutter staff members, they made sure to get that input anyway:

"Why you should trust us" write-up"Why you should trust us" write-up

The whole article is structured in a way that makes readers confident that they’re reading a highly authoritative review:

Outline of an article about electric toothbrushesOutline of an article about electric toothbrushes

Their claims aside, I still decided to put the quality of information to the ultimate test, as my partner is a dentist. Her verdict? She scored this article and the research behind it 9/10, so that’s as good as it gets for a non-professional website in my book.

All of Wirecutter’s reviews are similar to this from the E-A-T perspective. This thorough coverage of one topic also allows it to rank for thousands of keywords with just one article:

Organic keywords report results for Wirecutter's article on the best electric toothbrushesOrganic keywords report results for Wirecutter's article on the best electric toothbrushes

Screenshot from Organic keywords report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

But it’s not only about the content. Links and mentions from highly relevant and authoritative sources are also important:

I took a look at Wirecutter’s backlink profile filtered to medical websites. And as you can see, even some expert sources refer to it:

Referring domains report results Referring domains report results

Screenshot from Referring domains report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Speaking of links, I also found that Wirecutter’s About page has one of the most prominent link placements across all of its pages:

"Learn More" anchor text contains link to Wirecutter's About page"Learn More" anchor text contains link to Wirecutter's About page

That’s right. Wirecutter creatively used the necessary monetization disclaimer on every page to link to its About page. This disclaimer, in addition to labeling sponsored links with the “sponsored” or “nofollow” attributes, is an obvious trustworthiness factor that every affiliate website needs to adhere to.

Linked Domains report results Linked Domains report results

Google recommends to label sponsored or affiliate links with the rel=“sponsored” attribute. The historically used “nofollow” attribute is also fine. Screenshot taken from Linked Domains report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

The About page itself is one of the best of its kind I’ve ever seen. The content and referenced articles tell both readers and search engines that Wirecutter is serious about establishing high E-A-T:

Excerpt of article stating Wirecutter staff will fact-check and consult various people and resources for all information on the siteExcerpt of article stating Wirecutter staff will fact-check and consult various people and resources for all information on the site

We could go on and on with all the different E-A-T signals, but the ones we just went through seem most important and interesting to expand on.

Is Google smart enough to take all of these signals into account when ranking pages from a particular domain? Maybe. It at least seems to be going in that direction. And does that help build trust with Wirecutter’s readers? Absolutely.

Learn more: What Is E-A-T? Why It’s Important for SEO

2. Provide great user experience

Besides getting commissions, most affiliate websites are also part of ad networks trying to build their email databases or sell their products. But if you combine all that together, you’re in for some bad user experience (UX):

Example of bad UX: pop-up on webpageExample of bad UX: pop-up on webpage

Example of monetization that leads to bad UX.

Wirecutter is the opposite. Its content is pleasant to read and has great images, GIFs, and videos. Most importantly, the content doesn’t contain any interrupting elements.

Its product recommendation boxes with affiliate links also look quite nice. Each box even has a “product saving” feature:

"Bookmark" icon in top-right corner where users can save the product to view later"Bookmark" icon in top-right corner where users can save the product to view later

I get it. Maximizing your monetization options is enticing and often makes sense from the business perspective. But I’m convinced that many websites are better off in the long term if they optimize and moderate these elements.

Think about it this way:

Better UX may make your website more popular and its pages rank better. More engaged visitors obviously lead to more commissions from affiliate links. People may also prefer to more often link to good-looking and easy-to-navigate websites.

All of these factors combined will likely be worth more than what you’d make from the other monetization options.

Google already uses mobile-friendliness and Core Web Vitals in its ranking algorithm. It would make perfect sense if it evaluated many other UX factors as well.

3. Leverage your category pages

Let’s check the statistics of another review page:

Site Explorer overview of Wirecutter's article on noise-canceling headphones Site Explorer overview of Wirecutter's article on noise-canceling headphones

We can see that all Wirecutter reviews are placed within the /reviews subfolder. But all of its reviews are properly interlinked and categorized in the site navigation and breadcrumbs:

Site navigation showing "headphones" article is under the Headphones category that's under the Electronics category  Site navigation showing "headphones" article is under the Headphones category that's under the Electronics category

This one is placed within the Headphones category that’s a part of its Electronics category. And as you can probably guess, these category pages also drive a solid amount of traffic:

Site Structure report results Site Structure report results

Screenshot from Site structure report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Those category pages only have a bit of intro text and then it’s just a list of reviews:

Short write-up about Electronics category; below, reviews in grid format Short write-up about Electronics category; below, reviews in grid format

This is one of the best things you can do for proper internal linking, as each page has its place within a given hierarchy. Then there’s the nice bonus of the traffic potential. Similarly, you can also create content hubs (also known as topic clusters) to cover high-level topics that can drive tons of traffic.

4. Keep your content up to date

No matter which affiliate niche you’re in, the business landscape, product development, and prices are constantly evolving. And you should reflect that in your content as well because some product recommendations can get outdated quite fast.

The ratio of updated vs. newly published Wirecutter reviews is almost 5:1 in the past 12 months:

This didn’t surprise me. The more you cover a certain niche, the more often you’ll come back to republish older content.

Wirecutter is already a big authority across many niches, so keeping those pieces up to date can bring quicker and more valuable results as compared to creating new ones. It also doesn’t require as much effort.

I dived deeper into the data and looked at year-over-year (YoY) organic traffic differences of Wirecutter reviews that were first published before May 9, 2021, and updated within a year from this date.

Here’s what I found:

Data sheet showing YoY comparison of estimated monthly organic traffic for Wirecutter reviews Data sheet showing YoY comparison of estimated monthly organic traffic for Wirecutter reviews

YoY comparison of estimated monthly organic traffic on May 9, 2021, vs. May 9, 2022.

That’s almost 2.8 million more traffic YoY for updated reviews alone. Of course, some of those reviews might have ranked better or retained traffic even without updates, and some could have started ranking worse than before. But overall, the benefit of republishing is clear.

Updating older content is apparently so important for Wirecutter that it’s even hiring writers whose main purpose is to keep articles within their niche up to date:

Last but not least, I really like how Wirecutter even keeps the prices up to date and tells you how they’ve changed since the review was first published:

Note below "price box" updating user on the previous price of the mattress Note below "price box" updating user on the previous price of the mattress

Learn more: Republishing Content: How to Update Old Blog Posts for SEO

5. Have a solid content distribution plan

Publishing great content can only get you so far. Even if your main traffic source is organic search, you need a solid content distribution plan to get every piece of new content in front of as many people as you can.

This isn’t just about sharing the link to the new content on social media. Everyone does that, and organic reach on many platforms declines over time. Even Wirecutter doesn’t get any impressive engagement numbers from this.

What I think Wirecutter does really well is its email marketing. Through that, the site shares all the new content and references relevant pieces that are older:

Excerpt of Wirecutter newsletter about the best drip coffee makerExcerpt of Wirecutter newsletter about the best drip coffee maker

What you can do on top of building and leveraging your newsletter is repurposing your content into formats that do better on a given platform.

Examples of such content formats are threads on Twitter or short videos that are pretty much everywhere. Here’s how Wirecutter repurposed its article about replacing household essentials into a TikTok video (that can be reshared on other platforms as well).

@wirecutter Here are some household essentials you should regularly replace. #cleaning #kitchen #lifehack #learnontiktok #water #germs #science #fypシ #zyxcba ♬ Lo-Fi Vibes – Wachilow

What does this have to do with SEO, you ask? The more eyes land on your content, the higher the chances you’ll naturally earn a backlink—or get any other earned media that may have an indirect impact on your SEO performance.

And there’s another, albeit more speculative, benefit. Many SEOs have found there’s a high correlation between the buzz generated by new content and its traffic from Google Discover.

I can imagine that Wirecutter gets a ton of traffic from Discover and has the best resources to try and optimize for that, given that it’s under the Times.

Final thoughts

Wirecutter also had to start somewhere. Founder Brian Lam already had great experience in publishing successful content, so his growth strategy was on point. But the thing is you wouldn’t have known that you were looking at a future affiliate marketing “unicorn” back then:

It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or you already have a well-functioning affiliate marketing business. Applying the five tips we’ve just gone through will help you get ahead in your SEO efforts.

If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, we have a whole category of articles dedicated to this topic.

Got any questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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Twitter Will Share Ad Revenue With Twitter Blue Verified Creators

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Twitter Will Share Ad Revenue With Twitter Blue Verified Creators

Elon Musk, owner and CEO of Twitter, announced that starting today, Twitter will share ad revenue with creators. The new policy applies only to ads that appear in a creator’s reply threads.

The move comes on the heels of YouTube launching ad revenue sharing for creators through the YouTube Partner Program in a bid to become the most rewarding social platform for creators.

Social networks like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat have similar monetization options for creators who publish reels and video content. For example, Instagram’s Reels Play Bonus Program offers eligible creators up to $1,200 for Reel views.

The catch? Unlike other social platforms, creators on Twitter must have an active subscription to Twitter Blue and meet the eligibility requirements for the Blue Verified checkmark.

The following is an example of a Twitter ad in a reply thread (Promoted by @ASUBootcamps). It should generate revenue for the Twitter Blue Verified creator (@rowancheung), who created the thread.

Screenshot from Twitter, January 2023

To receive the ad revenue share, creators would have to pay $8 per month (or more) to maintain an active Twitter Blue subscription. Twitter Blue pricing varies based on location and is available in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Eligibility for the Twitter Blue Verified checkmark includes having an active Twitter Blue subscription and meeting the following criteria.

  • Your account must have a display name, profile photo, and confirmed phone number.
  • Your account has to be older than 90 days and active within the last 30 days.
  • Recent changes to your account’s username, display name, or profile photo can affect eligibility. Modifications to those after verification can also result in a temporary loss of the blue checkmark until Twitter reviews your updated information.
  • Your account cannot appear to mislead or deceive.
  • Your account cannot spam or otherwise try to manipulate the platform for engagement or follows.

Did you receive a Blue Verified checkmark before the Twitter Blue subscription? That will not help creators who want a share of the ad revenue. The legacy Blue Verified checkmark does not make a creator account eligible for ad revenue sharing.

When asked about accounts with a legacy and Twitter Blue Verified checkmark, Musk tweeted that the legacy Blue Verified is “deeply corrupted” and will sunset in just a few months.

Regardless of how you gained your checkmark, it’s important to note that Twitter can remove a checkmark without notice.

In addition to ad revenue sharing for Twitter Blue Verified creators, Twitter Dev announced that the Twitter API would no longer be free in an ongoing effort to reduce the number of bots on the platform.

While speculation looms about a loss in Twitter ad revenue, the Wall Street Journal reported a “fire-sale” Super Bowl offer from Musk to win back advertisers.

The latest data from DataReportal shows a positive trend for Twitter advertisers. Ad reach has increased from 436.4 million users in January 2022 to 556 million in January 2023.

Twitter is also the third most popular social network based on monthly unique visitors and page views globally, according to SimilarWeb data through December 2022.


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AI Content Detection Software: Can They Detect ChatGPT?

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AI Content Detection Software: Can They Detect ChatGPT?

We live in an age when AI technologies are booming, and the world has been taken by storm with the introduction of ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is capable of accomplishing a wide range of tasks, but one that it does particularly well is writing articles. And while there are many obvious benefits to this, it also presents a number of challenges.

In my opinion, the biggest hurdle that AI-generated written content poses for the publishing industry is the spread of misinformation.

ChatGPT, or any other AI tool, may generate articles that may contain factual errors or are just flat-out incorrect.

Imagine someone who has no expertise in medicine starting a medical blog and using ChatGPT to write content for their articles.

Their content may contain errors that can only be identified by professional doctors. And if that blog content starts spreading over social media, or maybe even ranks in Search, it could cause harm to people who read it and take erroneous medical advice.

Another potential challenge ChatGPT poses is how students might leverage it within their written work.

If one can write an essay just by running a prompt (and without having to do any actual work), that greatly diminishes the quality of education – as learning about a subject and expressing your own ideas is key to essay writing.

Even before the introduction of ChatGPT, many publishers were already generating content using AI. And while some honestly disclose it, others may not.

Also, Google recently changed its wording regarding AI-generated content, so that it is not necessarily against the company’s guidelines.

Image from Twitter, November 2022

This is why I decided to try out existing tools to understand where the tech industry is when it comes to detecting content generated by ChatGPT, or AI generally.

I ran the following prompts in ChatGPT to generate written content and then ran those answers through different detection tools.

  • “What is local SEO? Why it is important? Best practices of Local SEO.”
  • “Write an essay about Napoleon Bonaparte invasion of Egypt.”
  • “What are the main differences between iPhone and Samsung galaxy?”

Here is how each tool performed.

1. Writer.com

For the first prompt’s answer, Writer.com fails, identifying ChatGPT’s content as 94% human-generated.

Writer.com resultsScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

For the second prompt, it worked and detected it as AI-written content.

Writer.com test resultScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

For the third prompt, it failed again.

Sample ResultScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

However, when I tested real human-written text, Writer.com did identify it as 100% human-generated very accurately.

2. Copyleaks

Copyleaks did a great job in detecting all three prompts as AI-written.

Sample ResultScreenshot from Copyleaks, January 2023

3. Contentatscale.ai

Contentatscale.ai did a great job in detecting all three prompts as AI-written, even though the first prompt, it gave a 21% human score.

Contentscale.aiScreenshot from Contentscale.ai, January 2023

4. Originality.ai

Originality.ai did a great job on all three prompts, accurately detecting them as AI-written.

Also, when I checked with real human-written text, it did identify it as 100% human-generated, which is essential.

Originality.aiScreenshot from Originality.ai, January 2023

You will notice that Originality.ai doesn’t detect any plagiarism issues. This may change in the future.

Over time, people will use the same prompts to generate AI-written content, likely resulting in a number of very similar answers. When these articles are published, they will then be detected by plagiarism tools.

5. GPTZero

This non-commercial tool was built by Edward Tian, and specifically designed to detect ChatGPT-generated articles. And it did just that for all three prompts, recognizing them as AI-generated.

GPTZeroScreenshot from GPTZero, January 2023

Unlike other tools, it gives a more detailed analysis of detected issues, such as sentence-by-sentence analyses.

sentence by sentence text perplexityScreenshot from GPTZero, January 2023

OpenAI’s AI Text Classifier

And finally, let’s see how OpenAi detects its own generated answers.

For the 1st and 3rd prompts, it detected that there is an AI involved by classifying it as “possibly-AI generated”.

AI Text Classifier. Likely AI-generatedAI Text Classifier. Likely AI-generated

But surprisingly, it failed for the 2nd prompt and classified that as “unlikely AI-generated.” I did play with different prompts and found that, as of the moment, when checking it, few of the above tools detect AI content with higher accuracy than OpenAi’s own tool.

AI Text Classifier. Unlikely AI-generatedAI Text Classifier. Unlikely AI-generated

As of the time of this check, they had released it a day before. I think in the future, they will fine tune it, and it will work much better.

Conclusion

Current AI content generation tools are in good shape and are able to detect ChatGPT-generated content (with varying degrees of success).

It is still possible for someone to generate copy via ChatGPT and then paraphrase that to make it undetectable, but that might require almost as much work as writing from scratch – so the benefits aren’t as immediate.

If you think about ranking an article in Google written by ChatGPT, consider for a moment: If the tools we looked at above were able to recognize them as AI-generated, then for Google, detecting them should be a piece of cake.

On top of that, Google has quality raters who will train their system to recognize AI-written articles even better by manually marking them as they find them.

So, my advice would be not to build your content strategy on ChatGPT-generated content, but use it merely as an assistant tool.

More resources: 


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Five things you need to know about content optimization in 2023

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5 Things You Need To Know About Optimizing Content in 2023

30-second summary:

  • As the content battleground goes through tremendous upheaval, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance
  • ChatGPT can help content marketers get an edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content
  • Making sure your content rank high enough to engage the target audience requires strategic planning and implementation

Google is constantly testing and updating its algorithms in pursuit of the best possible searcher experience. As the search giant explains in its ‘How Search Works’ documentation, that means understanding the intent behind the query and bringing back results that are relevant, high-quality, and accessible for consumers.

As if the constantly shifting search landscape weren’t difficult enough to navigate, content marketers are also contending with an increasingly technology-charged environment. Competitors are upping the stakes with tools and platforms that generate smarter, real-time insights and even make content optimization and personalization on the fly based on audience behavior, location, and data points.

Set-it-and-forget-it content optimization is a thing of the past. Here’s what you need to know to help your content get found, engage your target audience, and convert searchers to customers in 2023.

AI automation going to be integral for content optimization

Technologies-B2B-organizations-use-to-optimize-content

As the content battleground heats up, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance as a key source of intelligence. We’re optimizing content for humans, not search engines, after all – we had better have a solid understanding of what those people need and want.

While I do not advocate automation for full content creation, I believe next year – as resources become stretched automation will have a bigger impact on helping with content optimization of existing content.

CHATGPT

ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a powerful language generation model that leverages the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture to produce realistic human-like text. With Chat GPT’s wide range of capabilities – from completing sentences and answering questions to generating content ideas or powering research initiatives – it can be an invaluable asset for any Natural Language Processing project.

ChatGPT-for-content

The introduction on ChatGPT has caused considerable debate and explosive amounts of content on the web. With ChatGPT, content marketers can achieve an extra edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content. It offers assistance with generating titles for blog posts, summaries of topics or articles, as well as comprehensive campaigns when targeting a specific audience.

However, it is important to remember that this technology should be used to enhance human creativity rather than completely replacing it.

For many years now AI-powered technology has been helping content marketers and SEOs automate repetitive tasks such as data analysis, scanning for technical issues, and reporting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI also enables real-time analysis of a greater volume of consumer touchpoints and behavioral data points for smarter, more precise predictive analysis, opportunity forecasting, real-time content recommendations, and more.

With so much data in play and recession concerns already impacting 2023 budgets in many organizations, content marketers will have to do more with less this coming year. You’ll need to carefully balance human creative resources with AI assists where they make sense to stay flexible, agile, and ready to respond to the market.

It’s time to look at your body of content as a whole

Google’s Helpful Content update, which rolled out in August, is a sitewide signal targeting a high proportion of thin, unhelpful, low-quality content. That means the exceptional content on your site won’t rank to their greatest potential if they’re lost in a sea of mediocre, outdated assets.

It might be time for a content reboot – but don’t get carried away. Before you start unpublishing and redirecting blog posts, lean on technology for automated site auditing and see what you can fix up first. AI-assisted technology can help sniff out on-page elements, including page titles and H1 tags, and off-page factors like page speed, redirects, and 404 errors that can support your content refreshing strategy.

Focus on your highest trafficked and most visible pages first, i.e.: those linked from the homepage or main menu. Google’s John Mueller confirmed recently that if the important pages on your website are low quality, it’s bad news for the entire site. There’s no percentage by which this is measured, he said, urging content marketers and SEOs to instead think of what the average user would think when they visit your website.

Take advantage of location-based content optimization opportunities

Consumers crave personalized experiences, and location is your low-hanging fruit. Seasonal weather trends, local events, and holidays all impact your search traffic in various ways and present opportunities for location-based optimization.

AI-assisted technology can help you discover these opportunities and evaluate topical keywords at scale so you can plan content campaigns and promotions that tap into this increased demand when it’s happening.

Make the best possible use of content created for locally relevant campaigns by repurposing and promoting it across your website, local landing pages, social media profiles, and Google Business Profiles for each location. Google Posts, for example, are a fantastic and underutilized tool for enhancing your content’s visibility and interactivity right on the search results page.

Optimize content with conversational & high-volume keywords

Look for conversational and trending terms in your keyword research, too. Top-of-funnel keywords that help generate awareness of the topic and spur conversations in social channels offer great opportunities for promotion. Use hashtags organically and target them in paid content promotion campaigns to dramatically expand your audience.

Conversational keywords are a good opportunity for enhancing that content’s visibility in search, too. Check out the ‘People Also Ask’ results and other featured snippets available on the search results page (SERP) for your keyword terms. Incorporate questions and answers in your content to naturally optimize for these and voice search queries.

SEO-and-creating-content-in-2023

It’s important that you utilize SEO insights and real-time data correctly; you don’t want to be targeting what was trending last month and is already over. AI is a great assist here, as well, as an intelligent tool can be scanning and analyzing constantly, sending recommendations for new content opportunities as they arise.

Consider how you optimize content based on intent and experience

The best content comes from a deep, meaningful understanding of the searcher’s intent. What problem were they experiencing or what need did they have that caused them to seek out your content in the first place? And how does your blog post, ebook, or landing page copy enhance their experience?

Look at the search results page as a doorway to your “home”. How’s your curb appeal? What do potential customers see when they encounter one of your pages in search results? What kind of experience do you offer when they step over the threshold and click through to your website?

The best content meets visitors where they are at with relevant, high-quality information presented in a way that is accessible, fast loading, and easy to digest. This is the case for both short and long form SEO content. Ensure your content contains calls to action designed to give people options and help them discover the next step in their journey versus attempting to sell them on something they may not be ready for yet.

2023, the year of SEO: why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

Conclusion

The audience is king, queen, and the entire court as we head into 2023. SEO and content marketing give you countless opportunities to connect with these people but remember they are a means to an end. Keep searcher intent and audience needs at the heart of every piece of content you create and campaign you plan for the coming year.

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