I had an interesting discussion today with one of our search experts. It started with some personal advice about a new website I'm starting (more to come). I wanted to be sure that I had every SEO fundamental in place and soon realized that I needed to reconsider the domain to ensure that it was search friendly in places other than Canada.
The discussion quickly evolved to affiliate programs and the power of them for someone with a bit of knowledge about search. I recently joined the Amazon Affiliate program and was very impressed with the simplicity of the process - simply sign in, find links, insert them into your site and if someone makes a purchase from your site (as a referral), you get a percentage of the revenue (in this case 4% with an upward moving scale based on sales). It's incredibly simple to implement and if you're site starts to gain any amount of traffic, the money can (albeit slowly) start to flow in.
But how do you find the right terms? And how do you decide what categories to focus on?
I started from a content-creator perspective. I had an idea about a new blog and worked from the content-type out. Many search experts, though, start from the keyword out. Using the Google Keyword tool, they look for 'attractive terms' (3-14K monthly searches) and then try to buy the .com domain for that term. Once it's purchased they join a relevant set of affiliate's programs, create a site with a few dozen pages and wait for the clicks to come in.
Chances are you've been to a link-baiting site before. It typically looks awful, is full of Google ads and doesn't answer your search query. Link baiting, like email scams, is a game of numbers. Get enough volume and any user will respond. If the volumes are high enough, those responses can generate real cash from affiliates.
The problem is, the quality of the experience is poor. And, as a result, the web gets polluted. Especially with public companies like Demand Media generating mass volumes of content specifically designed to answer medium volume search queries.
But still, what interested me is starting the content generation process from the pre-existing demand vs the passion of creation. For those people, the content is a means to an end - an answer that leads to a referral. For content creators, it is the attraction and the desire to be heard, to create something that people will - eventually - want to search for.
The key is to remember that the web is a spectrum. From one search query to thousands of blog posts, success not only depends on the quality of content produced but also the demand for it once it has been published. Using free tools (like the Google Keyword Tool) help to understand pre-existing demand for a content type is a great step for any content creator looking to find their niche.