Affiliate marketing has really changed over the last 12 months or so. In fact it is safe to say anyone who has a keen interest in making money online (whether it be affiliates, SEO’s, ecommerce or lead generation) will have felt that change – and if you havent yet, you soon will!
At first glance it didn’t appear to make much sense really. Many even felt it would be short lived; a simple jiggle to natural SERPS that would settle after a few weeks. After all we had seen this before a million times so it was nothing new right?
Panda is a machine learning algorithm that evaluates websites based on a far wider spectrum than ever before. A mixture of user metrics and social signals which let Google measure a sites worth not only on its content and inbound link profile but also on its users behaviour.
For the first time ever things that were once deemed not so important from a pure SEO point of view (the look and feel of a website for instance) suddenly had the capacity to directly impact a websites natural ranking. A poor CTR (from serps), low browse rate and high bounce rate [indicators of a poor user experience] could all negatively impact a sites percieved value.
With the emergence of social tools such as Twitter a greater emphasis was also placed on popularity; if a website is being actively shared, liked and tweeted then this is a substantial indication that that website is useful and relevant to its audience in some way. And let’s not forget useful, relevant content is something Google craves to offer its users in its natural search results.
By analysing these social signals, user metrics and behaviours Google was able to build a detailed model of what a ‘good’ website looks like. And once it had this model Panda gave it the ability to release and scale it. Quickly.
By applying this model to its search index it could recategorise websites instantly. Those that ticked the right boxes were given lift. And those that triggered warning signals were dropped. And dropped hard.
+1 buttons started to appear in search results and we knew this was more than a slight algo tweak. And then came what i belive to be the final piece of the jigsaw.
Suddenly it all made sense to me. The arrival of Google+ indicated a new direction for Google – and the value of user behaviour and social signals became apparant.
All of Googles products would soon be brought under one roof – giving us a one stop shop to search and share – and Google needed a way of tapping into this and influencing serps accordingly.
No longer were a websites backlinks and content alone enough to justify it being the result users wanted to see – Google needed to show them sites that their peers liked (or +1ed) or approved. After all recommendations and sharing have a huge impact on consumer behaviour online today. We are far more likely to listen to our friends when making a purchase decision than the review of strangers.
As Google+ extends it reach (there are already an estimated 10 million users) so I believe we will see the influence of Panda increase. I think more emphasis will be placed on social factors with the very social ‘circles’ [pardon the pun] we mix in directly influencing the results we see in natural search results (if signed into Google of course)
The power of Facebook to marketers has always been the ability to target a very narrow demographic based on all kinds of criteria (interests, gender, location, age). Now Google will be able to apply a similar paid model to its own traffic – but with much more clout.
When people search Google they are specifically looking for something – be it a product, solution or service. You could say they are in a ‘buying’ mood. The same cannot be said for Facebook.
Facebook marketers often have to adopt a very different strategy in order to entice users to click ads and leave their social environment.
With Google that is not so much an issue.
Therefore the release of Panda coupled with Google+ opens up a whole world of opportunities to online marketers if we adjust our strategies accordingly.
No longer is unique content and inbound links alone enough to grab top spot in organic search results. We need a strong social presence and to connect with our users more than ever before.
A website will now be judged on its perceived value amongst real people. Users who are more than ever happy to share and recommend the things they like. And users who are happy to leave a website at the drop of a hat the moment they see something they don’t.
This ability to tap into and connect with users gives smaller affiliates a much more level playing field with larger websites no longer able to rely solely on their brand to dominate their chosen niche.
This coupled with the fine tuned demographic targetting surely on the horizon for adwords hints that there could be another golden opportunity for savvy affiliate marketers to grasp.
Get it right and you are effectively printing money. Get it wrong and you are dead in the water.
Agree with my thoughts? Am I talking absolute rubbish? Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments below.