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How to Become an Affiliate Marketer (5 Steps)



How to Become an Affiliate Marketer (5 Steps)

Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to create a passive income, work from anywhere, and create more freedom in your life.

But how does one become an affiliate marketer? Does it cost anything to get started? How long does it take to actually make money?

I’ve been in affiliate marketing for nearly a decade and have built three separate affiliate marketing businesses, two of which make six figures…

And today, I’m going to teach you exactly how to become an affiliate marketer, just like I did.

Let’s start with the basics.

How do affiliate marketers make money?

Affiliate marketing is about promoting someone else’s products or services using an affiliate link, then making a commission if the person who clicked on your link buys something.

Most affiliate marketers promote their affiliate links on various channels, including their website and blog, YouTube channel, or social media channels. They may create content that talks about the “best vacuum cleaners for pet hair” and link to the vacuum cleaners they discuss.

YouTube affiliate marketing example

Once the consumer of that content clicks through and buys the vacuum cleaner, that company then sends the commission payment to the bank account of the affiliate marketer—typically at the end of the month after accruing and accounting for all the sales of that month.

But you can do more than simply review products. One of the beautiful things about affiliate marketing is that the ceiling is as high as your own creativity. 

You can place affiliate links in nearly any piece of content you create, whether that’s promoting a VPN service on a video about starting an online business or sending the link to your friends any time they ask where you got your cool shirt.

But that begs the question—how does one find affiliate programs to join and promote?

Where to find affiliate programs

There are three main ways to find affiliate programs:

  1. On affiliate platforms
  2. By performing a Google search for [company name] affiliate program
  3. By reaching out to companies directly and asking them

The first method—affiliate platforms—is by far the easiest and fastest way to find a lot of options. Some of these platforms include:

Simply create an account on these platforms, head to their “merchants” section, and start browsing what they have. Many of them allow you to browse based on category, as you can see in ShareASale below:

ShareASale affiliate dashboard

Most affiliate dashboards work in this same way or very similarly.

But if you can’t find anything that interests you or have something specific in mind, you can always do a Google search to see if a company has an affiliate program.

Google search for iKamper affiliate program

As you can see, the company iKamper has an affiliate program page on its website. But not every company will have an affiliate program advertised on its website anywhere.

In these cases, there’s still hope—some companies either don’t openly advertise their affiliate programs or can be convinced to start one for you.

Pick up the phone and call the company whose products you’ll like to promote. Ask a representative if they have an affiliate program. You’ll probably need to be redirected to the company’s marketing manager or even the owner—depending on how small the company is.

Tell them you want to partner with them and send them traffic and sales in exchange for a small commission on each purchase. It’s a win-win—they get more sales without spending anything, and you get money in the bank.

How to create and track an affiliate link

As an affiliate marketer, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with how affiliate links work. These are your bread and butter.

Most affiliate links contain your unique affiliate ID. Sometimes, you can choose what this is; other times, it will be a randomized string of numbers and letters. This is just the code that associates clicks and sales with your affiliate account.

For example, one of my affiliate links looks like this:

You can see the portion aff_id=1064. That ID is what links the sale to my account.

In addition to your affiliate ID, you may also be able to add some advanced tracking to help you know where any clicks on your link came from. This is a good practice to get into, as it will help you determine which pieces of content and which products are generating the most money for your business.

This advanced tracking typically includes a “Source,” which is the location of the link. Examples of sources may be “email-newsletter” or “best-vacuum-for-pet-hair-youtube.” It helps you understand where the clicks and sales came from.

So if I were to add a source to my above link, it would look like this:

Now you can see the &source=ahrefs-article. If you were to theoretically click that link and rent an RV through it, I would receive a commission and know that you found my link from this article, thanks to the added source.

You can often also include sub-IDs, click IDs, and many more. But that’s a bit too advanced for this guide. Check out this guide to affiliate link tracking with Google Analytics for more info.

Is affiliate marketing worth it?

This is the big question: Is it worth getting into affiliate marketing right now?

The answer, in my eyes, is a resounding yes. I’ve built my life, my career, and my freedom on affiliate marketing.

The benefits of affiliate marketing are that you don’t have to carry any inventory, deal with customer service, ship anything, or make any of your own products or services.

All you have to do to make money as an affiliate marketer is research and promote the products and services you love. That’s it.

It’s one of the best business models to create recurring, passive revenue. 

So if you’re someone who doesn’t mind a steep learning curve and working hard to grow an audience, affiliate marketing is definitely worth it. It just takes time and dedication.

How to become an affiliate marketer in five steps

So you’re ready to become an affiliate marketer? Here are the five steps to get started:

1. Choose an affiliate niche

The first step is deciding on your niche. That is—what category do you want to talk about and promote?

Examples of affiliate niches include hobbies, broad topics, lifestyles, or pretty much anything. If it’s something someone’s interested in, it can be an affiliate niche.

Some niches are more lucrative than others. Any niche in the finance space will often have very high-paying affiliate programs, for example. But it’s also an extremely competitive space.

Historically, I’ve chosen all my niches purely based on personal interest. 

To succeed as an affiliate marketer, you will need to create a lot of content around a topic, probably for years to come. If you choose something that doesn’t interest you—no matter how lucrative its affiliate programs may be—you probably won’t succeed.

That said, obviously, this is your choice. You know yourself way better than I do. If you think you can research and create thousands of pieces of content about something you’re not interested in if it means you make a lot of money, then by all means go right ahead.

To think of a niche, ask yourself:

  • What am I interested in learning about?
  • What do I know a lot about?
  • What do other people tell me I’m good at?

The overlap of your answers can help you decide what to talk about.

But before you commit to a niche, take it to step #2.

2. Analyze the competition

I will caveat this section by saying that you can succeed in any niche with enough dedication.

However, not all niches are created equal. Some are highly lucrative—and competitive—while others are less competitive but may not make as much money.

A lot of your decision will depend on how much money you need to succeed in your own personal goals. Do you want this site to take over as your primary income or just become a small side hustle?

Either way, analyzing the competition of your potential niche is easy. Just head over to Google and search for some broad keywords you think you may want to get traffic from.

For example, let’s say you want to start a blog about mountain biking. A lucrative keyword in this space may be “mountain bike gear.” If we look at the search results, we can quickly assess how difficult it may be to rank on Google for this keyword:

Analyzing competition for mountain bike gear on Google

As you can see, the #1 result is from REI—a highly authoritative business.

If I scroll down, I also see Amazon, Trek Bikes, and many other high-authority websites also ranking for this keyword. At a glance, this tells me the competition is steep.

To back this up with better data, you can install Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar and see the Domain Rating (DR) of competing sites, as well as a score of how difficult it may be to rank for a given keyword and how many people search for that keyword per month.

Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar data

This data allows you to quickly glance at information showing how competitive a keyword (and, potentially, a niche) is on Google.

Alternatively, you can also use our free keyword difficulty checker to check this information. 

KD score of keyword "mountain bike gear," via Ahrefs' free keyword difficulty checker

This KD score of 29—on a scale of 0–100, 100 being the most difficult—is actually fairly easy in comparison to most keywords. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

For a brand-new website, this will be a hard keyword to rank for. Search engine optimization (SEO) takes time and effort.

If you want to learn more about how to do keyword research and determine competitiveness, check out our full guide here.

For now, what you need to know is that if you want to rank for high-value keywords on Google (that bring you free, recurring traffic), you should look for niches with keywords that each have a KD score of less than 20.

If you can’t find that, it doesn’t mean you can’t use that niche. It just means it will take more time, effort, and learning than a lower-competition niche.

Here are some guides to help you determine competitiveness on channels other than Google:

3. Pick your affiliate marketing method(s)

Once you’ve determined that your niche isn’t too competitive for your liking, it’s time to choose which methods you’ll use to promote your affiliate links.

There are five main methods most affiliate marketers use:

  1. Build a website and do SEO
  2. Start a YouTube channel
  3. Grow a following on social media
  4. Craft an email newsletter
  5. Make a podcast

Which method(s) you choose will depend entirely on how you prefer to create and share content. 

If you’re a good writer, a website and SEO may be your best bet. If you love photography, social media is probably your game. If you’re great on camera, think about doing a YouTube channel. If you love to talk, start a podcast. 

I’ve seen successful affiliate marketers using each of these methods. Rather than trying to explain how to do each individual one, I’ll just show you examples of successful affiliate marketing for each method and link out to guides for that method.

Websites and SEO

There are TONS of examples of successful affiliate marketing websites. In fact, we’ve done case studies on a lot of them. Here they are:

YouTube channels

YouTube, like Google, is a search engine. Which means it’s also a great source of free, recurring traffic. Here are some helpful articles if you want to take this route:

Social media channels

While this is my least favorite method of affiliate marketing because it requires constant learning and content creation, it is still an option. Here are some useful resources:

Email newsletters

While email newsletters are better as a supplementary channel to your other channels, it’s possible to have ONLY a newsletter—like my friend, Mike, does with his channel The Tonic. He uses a combination of affiliates and sponsored ads to monetize his list. 

Here’s what to know:


From “The Tim Ferriss Show” to “Entrepreneurs on Fire,” there are LOADS of examples of successful podcasts that monetize with affiliate marketing and advertising. Here are some resources to get you started:

4. Create and share world-class content

Regardless of which channel(s) you choose, if your content isn’t good, you simply won’t succeed.

Becoming a successful content creator means honing your craft, going the extra mile, and putting out content that’s better than everyone else’s. The better you get at creating world-class content, the more money you will make as an affiliate marketer.

I can’t teach you how to make amazing content for every possible channel in this one guide. That’s what the links in the last step are for—to show you what’s working and how you can do it better.

What I can tell you is what it takes to create great content—regardless of the channel.

In my opinion, all content needs to do one of two things: entertain or inform. If you get good at one of these, you will succeed. If you get good at both of them, you will thrive.

To create better content, ask yourself:

  • What is my goal with this content?
  • How can I give the most amount of information in the least amount of time and effort on the part of the consumer?
  • Can I take anything away to make my point clearer?
  • Can I spin this in a way to make it more interesting or entertaining?
  • What points can I make that my competition is missing?
  • How can I make this more fun?

If you go through these questions every time you write a blog post or film a video, you will improve the quality of your content over time.

Here are some examples of what I personally consider to be world-class content:

  • Tips for How to Film Yourself: In this video, Dunna uses excellent video editing, great organization, and entertaining cuts to explain how to film yourself better. He focuses on education and usefulness first, making money second.
  • Julian Shapiro’s Guide to Writing Well: This is one of the most well-done guides on how to write non-fiction that I’ve ever read. It is put into digestible chunks, well formatted, and to the point. Again, the focus is on value first, monetization second. 
  • How to Rank on Google’s Front Page in Less Than 3 Months: This is a podcast episode I did with John Lee Dumas from EOFire. While I didn’t personally monetize it with affiliate offers, I gave high-value information in order to gain SEO clients.

5. Continue to grow your audience

Affiliate marketing doesn’t end after you create a few pieces of content and start making some money. You have to continue to scale it up.

At first, you will be doing everything. Creating, editing, uploading, publishing, and marketing all of your content. Coming up with ideas. Reaching out to people for promotion.

But eventually, as your affiliate links begin to bring in a profit, it’s a good idea to reinvest these profits to scale up your ability to create.

Examples of this include hiring writers or video editors, spending money on paid ads, and even building an SEO team

Don’t rest on your laurels as you bring in passive income. Take it from me—I got lazy after one of my websites blew up, and it eventually crashed 60% because of it. Keep on top of your game, and your affiliate business will continue to feed you for years to come.

Final thoughts

Starting an affiliate business is one of the most lucrative ways to earn recurring, passive income.

However, it does take a lot of time and dedication to learn how to do it and create all the content you need to be successful. You will likely have to work for a long time with little income to show.

If hard work and a steep learning curve don’t scare you and you want true financial freedom, I can’t recommend this business model enough.

Have questions? Message me on Instagram.

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How To Become an SEO Expert in 4 Steps



General SEO

With 74.1% of SEOs charging clients upwards of $500 per month for their services, there’s a clear financial incentive to get good at SEO. But with no colleges offering degrees in the topic, it’s down to you to carve your own path in the industry.

There are many ways to do this; some take longer than others.

In this post, I’ll share how I’d go from zero to SEO pro if I had to do it all over again. 

1. Take a beginner SEO course

Understanding what search engine optimization really is and how it works is the first state of affairs. While you can do this by reading endless blog posts or watching YouTube videos, I wouldn’t recommend that approach for a few reasons:

  • It’s hard to know where to start
  • It’s hard to join the dots
  • It’s hard to know who to trust

You can solve all of these problems by taking a structured course like our SEO course for beginners. It’s completely free (no signup required), consists of 14 short video lessons (2 hours total length), and covers:

  • What SEO is and why it’s important
  • How to do keyword research
  • How to optimize pages for keywords
  • How to build links (and why you need them)
  • Technical SEO best practices

Here’s the first lesson to get you started:

Lesson 1: SEO Basics: What is SEO and Why is it Important? Watch now

2. Make a website and try to rank it

It doesn’t matter how many books you read about golf, you’re never going to win a tournament without picking up a set of clubs and practicing. It’s the same with SEO. The theory is important, but there’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and trying to rank a site.

If you don’t have a site already, you can get up and running fairly quickly with any major website platform. Some will set you back a few bucks, but they handle SEO basics out of the box. This saves you time sweating the small stuff.

As for what kind of site you should create, I recommend a simple hobby blog. 

Here’s a simple food blog I set up in <10 minutes: 

A blog that I set up in just a few minutes. It's nothing special, but it does the jobA blog that I set up in just a few minutes. It's nothing special, but it does the job

Once you’re set-up, you’re ready to start practicing and honing your SEO skills. Specifically, doing keyword research to find topics, writing and optimizing content about them, and (possibly) building a few backlinks.

For example, according to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, the keyword “neopolitan pizza dough recipe” has a monthly traffic potential of 4.4K as well as a relatively low Keyword Difficulty (KD) score:

Keyword metrics for "neopolitan pizza dough" via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerKeyword metrics for "neopolitan pizza dough" via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Even better, there’s a weak website (DR 16) in the top three positions—so this should definitely be quite an easy topic to rank for.

Page from a low-DR website ranking in the top 3. This indicates an easy-to-rank-for keywordPage from a low-DR website ranking in the top 3. This indicates an easy-to-rank-for keyword

Given that most of the top-ranking posts have at least a few backlinks, a page about this topic would also likely need at least a few backlinks to compete. Check out the resources below to learn how to build these.

3. Get an entry-level job

It’s unlikely that your hobby blog is going to pay the bills, so it’s time to use the work you’ve done so far to get a job in SEO. Here are a few benefits of doing this: 

  • Get paid to learn. This isn’t the case when you’re home alone reading blog posts and watching videos or working on your own site.
  • Get deeper hands-on experience. Agencies work with all kinds of businesses, which means you’ll get to build experience with all kinds of sites, from blogs to ecommerce. 
  • Build your reputation. Future clients or employers are more likely to take you seriously if you’ve worked for a reputable SEO agency. 

To find job opportunities, start by signing up for SEO newsletters like SEO Jobs and SEOFOMO. Both of these send weekly emails and feature remote job opportunities: 

SEO jobs in SEOFOMO newsletterSEO jobs in SEOFOMO newsletter

You can also go the traditional route and search job sites for entry-level positions. The kinds of jobs you’re looking for will usually have “Junior” in their titles or at least mention that it’s a junior position in their description.

Junior SEO job listing exampleJunior SEO job listing example

Beyond that, you can search for SEO agencies in your local area and check their careers pages. 

Even if there are no entry-level positions listed here, it’s still worth emailing and asking if there are any upcoming openings. Make sure to mention any SEO success you’ve had with your website and where you’re at in your journey so far.

This might seem pushy, but many agencies actually encourage this—such as Rise at Seven:

Call for alternative roles from Rise at SevenCall for alternative roles from Rise at Seven

Here’s a quick email template to get you started:

Subject: Junior SEO position?

Hey folks,

Do you have any upcoming openings for junior SEOs?

I’ve been learning SEO for [number] months, but I’m looking to take my knowledge to the next level. So far, I’ve taken Ahrefs’ Beginner SEO course and started my own blog about [topic]—which I’ve had some success with. It’s only [number] months old but already ranks for [number] keywords and gets an estimated [number] monthly search visits according to Ahrefs.

[Ahrefs screenshot]

I checked your careers page and didn’t see any junior positions there, but I was hoping you might consider me for any upcoming positions? I’m super enthusiastic, hard-working, and eager to learn.

Let me know.


You can pull all the numbers and screenshots you need by creating a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account and verifying your website.

4. Specialize and hone your skills

SEO is a broad industry. It’s impossible to be an expert at every aspect of it, so you should niche down and hone your skills in the area that interests you the most. You should have a reasonable idea of what this is from working on your own site and in an agency.

For example, link building was the area that interested me the most, so that’s where I focused on deepening my knowledge. As a result, I became what’s known as a “t-shaped SEO”—someone with broad skills across all things SEO but deep knowledge in one area.

T-shaped SEOT-shaped SEO
What a t-shaped SEO looks like

Marie Haynes is another great example of a t-shaped SEO. She specializes in Google penalty recovery. She doesn’t build links or do on-page SEO. She audits websites with traffic drops and helps their owners recover.

In terms of how to build your knowledge in your chosen area, here are a few ideas:

Here are a few SEOs I’d recommend following and their (rough) specialties:

Final thoughts

K Anders Ericsson famously theorized that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a new skill. Can it take less? Possibly. But the point is this: becoming an SEO expert is not an overnight process.

I’d even argue that it’s a somewhat unattainable goal because no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn. That’s part of the fun, though. SEO is a fast-moving industry that keeps you on your toes, but it’s a very rewarding one, too. 

Here are a few stats to prove it:

  • 74.1% of SEOs charge clients upwards of $500 per month for their services (source)
  • $49,211 median annual salary (source)
  • ~$74k average salary for self-employed SEOs (source)

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter X

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A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI




A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

Today, ChatGPT celebrates one year since its launch in research preview.

From its humble beginnings, ChatGPT has continually pushed the boundaries of what we perceive as possible with generative AI for almost any task.

In this article, we take a journey through the past year, highlighting the significant milestones and updates that have shaped ChatGPT into the versatile and powerful tool it is today.

ChatGPT: From Research Preview To Customizable GPTs

This story unfolds over the course of nearly a year, beginning on November 30, when OpenAI announced the launch of its research preview of ChatGPT.

As users began to offer feedback, improvements began to arrive.

Before the holiday, on December 15, 2022, ChatGPT received general performance enhancements and new features for managing conversation history.

Screenshot from ChatGPT, December 2022ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

As the calendar turned to January 9, 2023, ChatGPT saw improvements in factuality, and a notable feature was added to halt response generation mid-conversation, addressing user feedback and enhancing control.

Just a few weeks later, on January 30, the model was further upgraded for enhanced factuality and mathematical capabilities, broadening its scope of expertise.

February 2023 was a landmark month. On February 9, ChatGPT Plus was introduced, bringing new features and a faster ‘Turbo’ version to Plus users.

This was followed closely on February 13 with updates to the free plan’s performance and the international availability of ChatGPT Plus, featuring a faster version for Plus users.

March 14, 2023, marked a pivotal moment with the introduction of GPT-4 to ChatGPT Plus subscribers.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, March 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

This new model featured advanced reasoning, complex instruction handling, and increased creativity.

Less than ten days later, on March 23, experimental AI plugins, including browsing and Code Interpreter capabilities, were made available to selected users.

On May 3, users gained the ability to turn off chat history and export data.

Plus users received early access to experimental web browsing and third-party plugins on May 12.

On May 24, the iOS app expanded to more countries with new features like shared links, Bing web browsing, and the option to turn off chat history on iOS.

June and July 2023 were filled with updates enhancing mobile app experiences and introducing new features.

The mobile app was updated with browsing features on June 22, and the browsing feature itself underwent temporary removal for improvements on July 3.

The Code Interpreter feature rolled out in beta to Plus users on July 6.

Plus customers enjoyed increased message limits for GPT-4 from July 19, and custom instructions became available in beta to Plus users the next day.

July 25 saw the Android version of the ChatGPT app launch in selected countries.

As summer progressed, August 3 brought several small updates enhancing the user experience.

Custom instructions were extended to free users in most regions by August 21.

The month concluded with the launch of ChatGPT Enterprise on August 28, offering advanced features and security for enterprise users.

Entering autumn, September 11 witnessed limited language support in the web interface.

Voice and image input capabilities in beta were introduced on September 25, further expanding ChatGPT’s interactive abilities.

An updated version of web browsing rolled out to Plus users on September 27.

The fourth quarter of 2023 began with integrating DALL·E 3 in beta on October 16, allowing for image generation from text prompts.

The browsing feature moved out of beta for Plus and Enterprise users on October 17.

Customizable versions of ChatGPT, called GPTs, were introduced for specific tasks on November 6 at OpenAI’s DevDay.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, November 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

On November 21, the voice feature in ChatGPT was made available to all users, rounding off a year of significant advancements and broadening the horizons of AI interaction.

And here, we have ChatGPT today, with a sidebar full of GPTs.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, November 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

Looking Ahead: What’s Next For ChatGPT

The past year has been a testament to continuous innovation, but it is merely the prologue to a future rich with potential.

The upcoming year promises incremental improvements and leaps in AI capabilities, user experience, and integrative technologies that could redefine our interaction with digital assistants.

With a community of users and developers growing stronger and more diverse, the evolution of ChatGPT is poised to surpass expectations and challenge the boundaries of today’s AI landscape.

As we step into this next chapter, the possibilities are as limitless as generative AI continues to advance.

Featured image: photosince/Shutterstock

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Is AI Going To E-E-A-T Your Experience For Breakfast? The LinkedIn Example




Is AI Going To E-E-A-T Your Experience For Breakfast? The LinkedIn Example

Are LinkedIn’s collaborative articles part of SEO strategies nowadays?

More to the point, should they be?

The search landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, blurring the lines between search engines and where searches occur.

Following the explosive adoption of AI in content marketing and the most recent Google HCU, core, and spam updates, we’re looking at a very different picture now in search versus 12 months ago.

User-generated and community-led content seems to be met with renewed favourability by the algorithm (theoretically, mirroring what people reward, too).

LinkedIn’s freshly launched “collaborative articles” seem to be a perfect sign of our times: content that combines authority (thanks to LinkedIn’s authority), AI-generated content, and user-generated content.

What could go wrong?

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What are “collaborative articles” on LinkedIn?
  • Why am I discussing them in the context of SEO?
  • The main issues with collaborative articles.
  • How is Google treating them?
  • How they can impact your organic performance.

What Are LinkedIn Collaborative Articles?

First launched in March 2023, LinkedIn says about collaborative articles:

“These articles begin as AI-powered conversation starters, developed with our editorial team, but they aren’t complete without insights from our members. A select group of experts have been invited to contribute their own ideas, examples and experiences within the articles.“

Essentially, each of these articles starts as a collection of AI-generated answers to FAQs/prompts around any given topic. Under each of these sections, community members can add their own perspectives, insights, and advice.

What’s in it for contributors? To earn, ultimately, a “Top Voice” badge on their profile.

The articles are indexable and are all placed under the same folder (

They look like this:

Screenshot from LinkedIn, November 2023LinkedIn content

On the left-hand side, there are always FAQs relevant to the topic answered by AI.

On the right-hand side is where the contributions by community members get posted. Users can react to each contribution in the same way as to any LinkedIn post on their feed.

How Easy Is It To Contribute And Earn A Badge For Your Insights?

Pretty easy.

I first got invited to contribute on September 19, 2023 – though I had already found a way to contribute a few weeks before this.

Exclusive LinkedIn group of expertsScreenshot from LinkedIn, November 2023Exclusive LinkedIn group of experts

My notifications included updates from connections who had contributed to an article.

By clicking on these, I was transferred to the article and was able to contribute to it, too (as well as additional articles, linked at the bottom).

I wanted to test how hard it was to earn a Top SEO Voice badge. Eight article contributions later (around three to four hours of my time), I had earned three.

LinkedIn profileLinkedIn profile

Community top voice badgeScreenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023Community top voice badge

How? Apparently, simply by earning likes for my contributions.

A Mix Of Brilliance, Fuzzy Editorial Rules, And Weird Uncle Bob

Collaborative articles sound great in principle – a win-win for both sides.

  • LinkedIn struck a bullseye: creating and scaling content (theoretically) oozing with E-E-A-T, with minimal investment.
  • Users benefit from building their personal brand (and their company’s) for a fragment of the effort and cost this usually takes. The smartest ones complement their on-site content strategy with this off-site golden ticket.

What isn’t clear from LinkedIn’s Help Center is what this editorial mix of AI and human input looks like.

Things like:

  • How much involvement do the editors have before the topic is put to the community?
  • Are they only determining and refining the prompts?
  • Are they editing the AI-generated responses?
  • More importantly, what involvement (if any) do they have after they unleash the original AI-generated piece into the world?
  • And more.

I think of this content like weird Uncle Bob, always joining the family gatherings with his usual, unoriginal conversation starters. Only, this time, he’s come bearing gifts.

Do you engage? Or do you proceed to consume as many canapés as possible, pretending you haven’t seen him yet?

Why Am I Talking About LinkedIn Articles And SEO?

When I first posted about LinkedIn’s articles, it was the end of September. Semrush showed clear evidence of their impact and potential in Search. (Disclosure: I work for Semrush.)

Only six months after their launch, LinkedIn articles were on a visible, consistent upward trend.

  • They were already driving 792.5K organic visits a month. (This was a 75% jump in August.)
  • They ranked for 811,700 keywords.
  • Their pages were ranking in the top 10 for 78,000 of them.
  • For 123,700 of them, they appeared in a SERP feature, such as People Also Ask and Featured Snippets.
  • Almost 72% of the keywords had informational intent, followed by commercial keywords (22%).

Here’s a screenshot with some of the top keywords for which these pages ranked at the top:

Semrush US databaseScreenshot from Semrush US database, desktop, September 2023Semrush US database

Now, take the page that held the Featured Snippet for competitive queries like “how to enter bios” (monthly search volume of 5,400 and keyword difficulty of 84, based on Semrush data).

It came in ahead of pages on Tom’s Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, or Reddit.

LinkedIn computer hardware installation collaborative articleLinkedIn computer hardware installation collaborative article

collaborative article exampleScreenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023collaborative article example

See anything weird? Even at the time of writing this post, this collaborative article had precisely zero (0) contributions.

This means a page with 100% AI-generated content (and unclear interference of human editors) was rewarded with the Featured Snippet against highly authoritative and relevant domains and pages.

A Sea Of Opportunity Or A Storm Ready To Break Out?

Let’s consider these articles in the context of Google’s guidelines for creating helpful, reliable, people-first content and its Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

Of particular importance here, I believe, is the most recently added “E” in “E-E-A-T,” which takes experience into account, alongside expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

For so many of these articles to have been ranking so well must mean that they were meeting the guidelines and proving helpful and reliable for content consumers.

After all, they rely on “a select group of experts to contribute their own ideas, examples and experiences within the articles,” so they must be worthy of strong organic performances, right?

Possibly. (I’ve yet to see such an example, but I want to believe somewhere in the thousands of pages these do exist).

But, based on what I’ve seen, there are too many examples of poor-quality content to justify such big rewards in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The common issues I’ve spotted:

1. Misinformation

I can’t tell how much vetting or editing there is going on behind the scenes, but the amount of misinformation in some collaborative articles is alarming. This goes for AI-generated content and community contributions alike.

I don’t really envy the task of fact-checking what LinkedIn describes as “thousands of collaborative articles on 2,500+ skills.” Still, if it’s quality and helpfulness we’re concerned with here, I’d start brewing my coffee a little stronger if I were LinkedIn.

At the moment, it feels a little too much like a free-for-all.

Here are some examples of topics like SEO or content marketing.

misinformation example 1misinformation example 1

misinformation example 2misinformation example 2

misinformation example 3Screenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023misinformation example 3

2. Thin Content

To a degree, some contributions seem to do nothing more than mirror the points made in the original AI-generated piece.

For example, are these contributions enough to warrant a high level of “experience” in these articles?

thin content example 1thin content example 1

thin content example 2Screenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023thin content example 2

The irony to think that some of these contributions may have also been generated by AI…

3. Missing Information

While many examples don’t provide new or unique perspectives, some articles simply don’t provide…any perspectives at all.

This piece about analytical reasoning ranked in the top 10 for 128 keywords when I first looked into it last September (down to 80 in October).

Missing Information exampleScreenshot from LinkedIn, November 2023Missing Information example

It even held the Featured Snippet for competitive keywords like “inductive reasoning examples” for a while (5.4K monthly searches in the US), although it had no contributions on this subsection.

Most of its sections remain empty, so we’re talking about mainly AI-generated content.

Does this mean that Google really doesn’t care whether your content comes from humans or AI?

I’m not convinced.

How Have The Recent Google Updates Impacted This Content?

After August and October 2023 Google core updates (at the time of writing, the November 2023 Google core update is rolling out), the September 2023 helpful content update, and the October 2023 spam update, the performance of this section seems to be declining.

According to Semrush data:

Semrush data Screenshot from Semrush, November 2023Semrush data
  • Organic traffic to these pages was down to 453,000 (a 43% drop from September, bringing their performance close to August levels).
  • They ranked for 465,100 keywords (down by 43% MoM).
  • Keywords in the Top 10 dropped by 33% (51,900 vs 78,000 in September).
  • Keywords in the top 10 accounted for 161,800 visits (vs 287,200 in September, down by 44% MoM).

The LinkedIn domain doesn’t seem to have been impacted negatively overall.

Semrush dataScreenshot from Semrush, November 2023Semrush data

Is this a sign that Google has already picked up the weaknesses in this content and has started balancing actual usefulness versus the overall domain authority that might have propelled it originally?

Will we see it declining further in the coming months? Or are there better things to come for this feature?

Should You Already Be On The Bandwagon If You’re In SEO?

I was on the side of caution before the Google algorithm updates of the past couple of months.

Now, I’d be even more hesitant to invest a substantial part of my resources towards baking this content into my strategy.

As with any other new, third-party feature (or platform – does anyone remember Threads?), it’s always a case of balancing being an early adopter with avoiding over-investment. At least while being unclear on the benefits.

Collaborative articles are a relatively fresh, experimental, external feature you have minimal control over as part of your SEO strategy.

Now, we also have signs from Google that this content may not be as “cool” as we initially thought.

This Is What I’d Do

That’s not to say it’s not worth trying some small-scale experiments.

Or, maybe, use it as part of promoting your own personal brand (but I’ve yet to see any data around the impact of the “Top Voice” badges on perceived value).

Treat this content as you would any other owned content.

  • Follow Google’s guidelines.
  • Add genuine value for your audience.
  • Add your own unique perspective.
  • Highlight gaps and misinformation.

Experience shows us that when tactics get abused, and the user experience suffers, Google eventually steps in (from guest blogging to parasite SEO, most recently).

It might make algorithmic tweaks when launching updates, launch a new system, or hand out manual actions – the point is that you don’t know how things will progress. Only LinkedIn and Google have control over that.

As things stand, I can easily see any of the below potential outcomes:

  • This content becomes the AI equivalent of the content farms of the pre-Panda age, leading to Google clamping down on its search performance.
  • LinkedIn’s editors stepping in more for quality control (provided LinkedIn deems the investment worthwhile).
  • LinkedIn starts pushing its initiative much more to encourage participation and engagement. (This could be what makes the difference between a dead content farm and Reddit-like value.)

Anything could happen. I believe the next few months will give us a clearer picture.

What’s Next For AI And Its Role In SEO And Social Media?

When it comes to content creation, I think it’s safe to say that AI isn’t quite ready to E-E-A-T your experience for breakfast. Yet.

We can probably expect more of these kinds of movements from social media platforms and forums in the coming months, moving more toward mixing AI with human experience.

What do you think is next for LinkedIn’s collaborative articles? Let me know on LinkedIn!

More resources:

Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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