The other day I posed a question on Twitter; “If you could learn more about one aspect of affiliate marketing, what would it be?” and a large portion of the responses I got back as a result were about using affiliate datafeeds. Even more specifically, several of them revolved around datafeed usage and duplicate content in regards to SEO.
I’ve used (and still use) a lot of datafeeds in the construction of my affiliate sites and have learned quite a bit in regards to using them over the years. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pass along some of what I’ve learned to help a few Twitterkin out.
Information for Merchants
The first and foremost rule merchants need to follow to protect themselves is that you should never, EVER give your affiliates an exact copy of the datafeed you use on your own site. While Google does their best to figure out who is the original owner of duplicate content when they find it, bottom line is that a lot of it comes down to site age and strength.
What that means is that the older and stronger (in regards to quality links) a site is, the better the chance it has of winning out as the “original source” of the content, and as a result, being the page to appear in the search results when that content is deemed the most relevant for the users query.
Top affiliates have been at this game a long time and as a result, many have aged, strong sites. If you give them an exact copy of your own feed, you could end up knocking your own site out of the search results for your terms.
Does that mean you shouldn’t offer a datafeed to your affiliates?
Datafeeds are a valuable tool for affiliates, and one you should be offering if you have a large inventory of products. The key is to provide affiliates with a datafeed without potentially harming your own rankings. And that means creating a separate, rewritten datafeed for your affiliates to use with rewritten product descriptions.
And no, you don’t need to create a separate feed for EACH affiliate. You simply need two versions of your feed. One for you (the merchant) and one for all of your affiliates to use. They’ll find some tips on dealing with their own potential duplicate content issues with other affiliates below.
And while I have the attention of a few merchants, here are some additional tips on creating happy, profitable affiliates.
Information for Affiliates
Now, you’ll have to respect that I can’t give you EVERY tip I’ve learned over the years about using datafeeds… a girl has to keep some form of a competitive edge. But I can share a few things with you and folks can feel free to leave more tips in the comments below if they’d like.
Accept that the feed isn’t “plug and play” when it comes to SEO
Using an affiliate datafeed acts as a solid foundation of content for your individual product pages and is not “your content” if you want to do well with SEO (and aren’t the “strongest” affiliate site using the feed). You’re going to need to create additional fields in the datafeed and fill it with unique content.
That content can be additional information about the product or uses of the product, additional information that describes the product or anything else you can dream up. But you need to value add to make the content “technically unique” AS WELL AS “conceptually unique“.
Switch things up
Don’t display things in the same order that they appear in the feed. If there are 8 different fields describing the product, switch up the order in which they appear from the feed or randomize how they appear from the feed if you have the programming skills to do so (we’re talking height, width and depth type fields here and not placing the height above the description).
Change up the image names
I don’t ever leave the images on the merchant’s server. I always download the images to my own site (and size them properly, if they aren’t already) and give them new naming conventions. It helps separate you from every other affiliate site out there using the same feed.
Change up the affiliate links
Even ignoring the duplicity of the datafeed, you should be running your affiliate links through redirects in a blocked folder for your own tracking purposes.
Every time I say this phrase in regards to affiliate marketing, a Googler gets their wings. But you need to add some additional value to the feed if you want your site to pass a hand review (even if you’re not in a competitive – aka “watched” field, you never know if your competitors agree with me or not).
This might be giving visitors the ability to leave reviews, this might be giving users the ability to compare prices between different merchants, this might be a lot of things. But differentiation on a true scale, in addition to the technical differentiation listed above will put you a long way ahead of your competitors that are too lazy to do so.