Photobox Spring April Fools 7 Months Early? You Gotta Be Kidding Me Guys!!

Affiliate Annoyances 11 Comments »
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It’s rare I post about merchants changing their commissions, I don’t usually feel strongly enough to complain. After all, merchants have to bear their margins in mind. However, this change from PhotoBox has just been so badly done and has left so many questions I’m afraid I have to make my concerns public.

E-mail Title: Commission change

Hi Kirsty,

I have been reviewing your site performances for the month and currently we are paying out more commission than revenue generated.

We won’t be able to operate like this moving forward as it makes no financial sense.

Looking at the sales figures the repeat purchase sales for your site are well below our programme average so I will need to change the commission we currently offer you.

I will be changing your commission as follows:

£2 for new customers orders
12% on repeat orders (was 8%)

I will make the changes on Friday at 1pm

Should you wish to discuss this in more detail please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

Jamie

The return mail address is noreply@affiliatewindow.co.uk so alas my polite reply asking for more information simply bounced back. Not an e-mail address in sight either. This led the already irritated Miss McCubbin to decide to simply blog about it instead of asking Jamie what this decision was based on.

I’m Deeply Concerned About The Implications of This on Programme Integrity.

  • To be fair, the site I have the links placed on is a free photo printing type site, so perhaps it does encourage freebie hunters. However, the majority of the traffic I send is general photo printing terms rather than freebie traffic. It is all highly targeted PPC traffic so I know there are no quality issues. Why my traffic is poor has me stumped.
  • From my interpretation, they’ve based their decision on the performance in the current month alone? Surely I’ve read that wrong. For a decision of this nature looking at historic performance figures over say 12 months would be a fair metric to use. I’ve only sent them 22 leads this month, how many customers would repurchase within a month anyway? Not really a reasonable data sample on which to base the conclusion that I’m seriously under performing? Actually, even the 226 leads I’ve sent for this whole year isn’t entirely a decent data sample from which to conclude a lack of performance. I’m sure some Photobox affiliates generate that many in a few days.
  • Some more information about exactly which metrics of rubbishness my traffic is displaying and how it differs from the “programme average” would have been appreciated too. It might just have given me some insight into how it could improve and made me feel Photobox were being totally transparent in their dealings with me.
  • 48 hours notice? That’s just a little quick, isn’t it? Its not the way you’d treat a “mainstream” business partner. I find myself asking the question “why is it OK to treat affiliates this way?” May I be so bold as to suggest that 30 days notice along with an advance e-mail explaining the process and detailed reasons would be a more appropriate way to deal with this.
  • Here’s the most important bit – Why is there not a general announcement going out regarding changes to programme terms? It concerns me deeply that rather than creating a transparent set of rules that affiliates can see before they join the programme, this merchant is choosing to create a new set of unpublished performance rules.
  • For example, from the information within the e-mail I’m having my lead rate reduced and there is no threshold at which it might be increased again? Is this something that Awin have agreed to? If changes like this are made it should be within the broad terms of the programme, catered for with Awin technology. To have your commission reduced privately with no publicly agreed threshold for increase doesn’t seem terribly fair.

Let me make this very, very clear here – I’m not going to dispute the right of the merchant to make changes to the terms of their programme. The whole point of affiliate marketing is that the merchant should make a profit!

However, if Photobox are going to pursue this policy of assessing what happens after a lead is paid out it should be made absolutely crystal clear within the terms and conditions of their programme. For that matter, if they are finding a lead based renumeration is not working generally, wouldn’t it make more sense to alter the whole programme accordingly?

The overall tone of this e-mail just gets under my skin somehow. Perhaps it is the lack of notice, perhaps it is because it makes it clear Photobox don’t value me at all as an affiliate. There is no “I hope we can find a way to move forward” or “Perhaps you and I could explore ways to improve things”. It’s a case of “Like it or lump it”.

Well Photobox, I’m not a big affiliate of yours. My average 23% conversion rate doesn’t seem to impress you, nor did you seem inclined to check the outside possibility I might be able to increase volume or quality in the future. This year I’ve generated just 226 leads and last year it was only 319. Those sales come from a mini test site I set up and didn’t do a lot with.

I’ll simply say this Photobox. You’ll have 320 less leads in 2009. I’m pulling your links right now. The way this has been actioned has eroded my trust in your business ethics.

I will leave you with this quote from the Photobox programme page on Awin…

“we believe our affiliates are valuable investors our business”

Hmmm…

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Getting Past The Google Over Optimisation Filter – Hurahh!!

Google 12 Comments »
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I wanted to wait a little while longer to make this follow up post about my progress with the Google filter my affiliate site has been suffering from. I’d have liked to gather a lot more data before declaring the process I’ve been through a success. However, I’m moving house on Friday and going home to the UK the following Tuesday, so if I don’t make this post now it might never happen!!

OK, so for those of you that don’t know about the issues you can catch up here, here and here on the Google filter fun I’ve been having with my site.

To Cut A Long Story Short – It’s Working!

I’ve just spent the most boring 4 weeks of my life visiting each and every page of my site and reducing the mentions of product brand names and other key search terms. I was starting to think it was all for nothing as there wasn’t a lot of improvement. Paranoia and stress are the companions of the Google filtered affiliate! This week, I have really started to see the benefit of those changes. In my previous post I was starting to see a few pages popping back into the index. This few pages have turned into several, and this increases every day. Basically I’m now seeing a lot of the pages I altered right at the start of this process returning to the index.

What Have I Learned

  • Unlike the duplicate content filter, the over optimisation filter takes a few weeks to be lifted. Whether this is because of any time penalty Google applies to your site (which Matt Cutts has more or less said can apply in certain scenarios) or is simply reflective of the time it takes Google to spider and re-evaluate your site content – I don’t know. I read somewhere that when there has been a filter such as this applied to your site, it will be re-calculated the next time Google decides how much optimisation is too much. If you have a filter like this on your site, I would say allow 6 to 8 weeks for your changes to be taken into account.
  • This is an algorithmic filter, not a manual penalty.
  • This filter was in relation to on page factors rather than off page factors such as link building.

My site has now already returned to getting roughly 30% of its traffic from organic sources. This was the proportion I was getting before the initial problems manifested late in May. This is terribly exciting because the majority of the affected pages have not yet returned. Hopefully what this means is that my site will be better and stronger than ever because of the revisions I have made.

A Side Effect of This Process Was..

That I realised the cross linkage between a lot of the pages on my site was really poor. I had written over 200 product based articles to compliment the main sections of the site. For the last 3 months not one of them has been generating traffic. I realised this wasn’t big bad Google, but the fact that the previous / next links within the article categories hadn’t been working for a while. This means a lot of them have been de-indexed and those that remain are linked to from perhaps only one page on the site. I implemented improved cross linkage and a sitemap on the blog, so I hope that means further growth is still to come when Google re-includes them.

Anyhoo…

The whole point of this post was – those changes I’ve described in all my posts did the trick.  I’ve gotten out of Google jail and am back on the SEO highway.

This has been a very positive learning process for me. It is very important to me that I get a significant proportion of my traffic from organic sources to protect my income from the ever increasing competitiveness in the PPC arena and all those other margin squeezing factors affecting the industry today.

Thanks to everyone who has commented or sent me a message, they all really helped me focus on what the issue was.

Woo hoo!!!!! Getting married, moving house, and escaping from a Google Filter in the same month?  What a charmed life I lead ;)

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Google To Remove Inactive Status on all Adwords Ads

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People who’ve had apparently endless issues with the Google Adwords quality score might get quite excited by this headline. However, in the usual style of our good friend Google, they will be replacing the current system with one they say will create a fairer basis for evaluation.

Basically, they are going to tinker with the quality score once again. The new system is an attempt to create a more accurate quality score. As all us affiliates know, the QS is less than perfect and I’ll welcome an improved version. However, forgive me Google if I silently quake in my PPC boots in case you’re about to knock down my affiliate house of cards once more! It’s difficult not to get anxious when the big G-meister announces an all singing and dancing shake up to the status quo.

The Changes in a Nutshell: -

  • The new quality score is calculated each and every time an ad is served in response to a Google search query. Google will use this data to work out which queries your ad is performing best for. Google says the data collection will mean your ad is more likely to show for relevant queries and less likely to turn up for irrelevant search strings.
  • An end to keywords being marked “inactive for search”. This won’t mean a PPC free for all, so try not to get too excited. Google says that despite this, keywords which have been previously marked inactive for search are unlikely to get much traffic. According to them, their combined per query quality score and bid levels are unlikely to result in a good placement.
  • Minimum bid is also up for the high jump. As Inactive for search is being scrapped, there’s no need to display a minimum bid for ad activation – that will already have happened. Instead, there will now be a “first page bid”. This will do what it says on the tin. Tell you what you need to shell out to get your ad on the all important first page.

What does this mean? Well, at first glance it just seems like Google is tweaking things to try and tighten up the relevance of their results. I also welcome the first page bid metric being clear, it will help me to judge how much I should be bidding over large groups of keywords and ads.

However, I’m interested in what will happen in the scenario where there are very few or no ads in response to an extremely niche search query. If I were Google, I’d recognise that accross all the millions of keywords falling into this category there’d be a significant hike in ad revenues from making sure Adwords ads were more likely to be served. Paranoid? Well, perhaps… but I will be really interested to see what happens with this one. I’ve often read anguished tales from affiliates who have had keywords of exactly this nature switched off who said they had excellent ROI from some golden niche they’d stumbled upon, only to have them slapped.

More reading here in this article on the subject by Barry Schwartz

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Ask Kirsty – My Site is Sticky and Looking Up – What Now?

Ask Kirsty, General 8 Comments »
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I had a very intriguing mail from Ray Theakston earlier today letting me know he has a bit of a question for me about how to monetise his increasingly popular site. Uniquely, he’s asked me the question by posting it publicly on his blog. However, I’ve reproduced his post below for your reading convenience.

Dear Kirsty,

I’ve just relaunched a site that was badly neglected. It regularly had thousands of visitors daily peaking at 125,000 and I didn’t think anything of it but only recently that figure dropped to a lowly 200.

I’ve removed all of the original content of the site and I have spent the first few weeks of August re-building up the pages based around my previous most popular keywords and images.

After it’s redesign launch four weeks ago, I’m now attracting 1,000-4,000 unique visitors daily looking at between 5,000-22,000 pages and this figure is climbing daily.

August Statistics approximate
I’m not quite sure of the traffic as Servage, Statcounter and Google Analytics are all giving me different results. This may be down to how I am presenting the content. The graph above displays the lowest figures of the three, so it’s looking promising.

Speaking of Google, they have been in touch to say that I can’t promote Google Adsense on the site. You see the content is a bit risque, as you’ll soon tell from my most popular pages:

/drunkcelebs/drunk-celebs-upskirt/
/drunkcelebs/drunk-celebs-see-through/
/drunkcelebs/drunk-celebs-flashing/
/drunkcelebs/drunk-celebs-nipple-slip/

I’m wondering how I can monetise the site. I don’t want to fill it with full adult porn adverts, so is there anything more subtle I could do?

I’m sure many merchants in the affiliate marketing space won’t want to be associated with a site that focuses on drunk celebrities and includes the odd not-safe-for-work image. The site has profited in the early days though from promoting the likes of Figleaves and JackpotJoy with traditional banners.

I’ve also spotted that a link from my Befuddle home page to an rss feed of my shopping site ShopCodes is ranking highly for some voucher code related keywords. So whilst that page was created as an experiment, I think the site has the potential to exploit the retail market.

Google certainly seems to like the influence of it’s status, being eight years old with a PR4 and it’s WordPress formatting.

My pages are being indexed within hours of posting. The quickest I’ve spotted is two hours between page creation and the page to be indexed by Google on page 1 and for someone to search for a celebrity and land on my site.

The site is on page 1 of Google for the following terms if not the #1 spot itself.

# drunk celebs
# drunk celebrities
# celebs
# uk celebs

Who or what can I promote? You’ll see there’s an advert on there for an adult dating site but that is merely a place holder as I want to see what click-throughs it receives. (At the time of writing, it’s got a CTR of 1.02%)

I also know I’ve got a worldwide audience. Visitors from 147 different countries have visited just recently and this is broken down as such …

The UK appears low at 8% but Analytics says the UK accounts for 33% of my traffic and the visitors spend an average of 4.5 minutes viewing content. They seem to stick around :)

All the best. Cheers,
Ray

Greetings Raymond!

What an interesting site. I saw it prior to your re-launch and the new design definately makes it way more user friendly and “sticky”.

I suppose the issue that you have is as Adsense says – the content is a little on the “naughty” side. It’s tabloid naughty though, not terribly XXX adult. It probably is just risque enough to put a few merchants off, however it clearly brings you in a lot of traffic. Getting rid of it is therefore not an option!

I could agonise over who will and won’t let you promote them, but lets do this from an optimistic point of view. In an ideal world where anyone and everyone you apply to accepts you with open arms.

There Are A Lot of Obvious Product Areas of Appeal To Your Users

For every one of your celebrity names, I’d create a shopping section / category. Link to it from your drunk celeb categories and make “shop for celeb gear” part of your main menu structure. Given your varied demographic, I might create a page or pages that features offers from your top 2 or 3 countries. If it became worth your while later on you could use some IP detecting technology to send your visitors to the right pages for their country of origin.  You can then use these pages to punt the following: -

  • Any products your celebs are currently putting their name to. All the usual things celebs get involved with, perfumes, aftershave, own brand clothing labels. David and Victoria Beckham are an excellent example of celeb branding gone mad.
  • Any products they have been seen to be wearing.  Or products that look a lot like some controversial / popular outfit a celeb has recently been papped in. Merchants are always quick to talk about when something they’re stocking has been seen on a celeb or featured in a glossy. Sign up to their newsletters and use their info to help you quickly and efficiently place up to the minute, relevant products on your pages.
  • Any products celebs have said they use.  For example, loads of Hollywood types are squeezing themselves into SPANX knickers to make themselves look slim on that red carpet.  Also celebs are often dropping names of skincare products such as Zelens (Cat Deely and Thandie Newton use this product).
  • Products celebs are being paid to advertise. Beyonce is currently advertising L’Oreal products, David Beckham is or has been on Nike products, and lets not forget Dita Von Teese being the current face of wonderbra.
  • Less excitingly, there’s always the old biography and autobiography book sales plus any albums currently on release by your featured celebs.
  • Push subscription offers to celebrity gossip and style magazines.

Less Directly Related:

  • Add a general shopping section with offers and product articles of interest to your demographic.
  • Use your advertising space to promote particularly irresistable discount code offers and current merchant sales.
  • As you’ll have already worked out, a bit of bingo type stuff is a decent fit for your audience.  I have no idea what the conversion rates would be like.  I’m suspecting less than stellar.
  • Start gathering newsletter subscribers as soon as possible and push the odd irresistable offer at your members.   Could bring you in a nice dump of money every now and again if you choose your offers wisely and don’t pollute the subscribers with too much marketing rubbish.
  • General designer clothing offers could be a good fit.  Merchants like Yoox give a good opportunity to help wannabe celebs find some discount designer bling.

Equally, anything and everything from the above sets of ideas could simply be added into a fully integrated shopping area of the site without cluttering your celeb pages at all.  Adding quality, unique content relating to these product areas would probably lead to some pretty fine search engine positions given the trustrank your domain probably has.

Loads of people online search for products they’ve seen on TV and celebs.  If you get your SEO right and make sure you keep up to date with what Oprah is talking about or what bra GMTV have just recommended, you could get some really sweet sales.

Whilst We’re Here, You Can Further Develop Your Traffic Through The Addition Of: -

  • Celebrity news articles focusing on your users’ area of interest. Mainly documented drunken antics (of which there are many), gossip about what they *might* have done, and also celebrity trainwreck type stories. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan could probably populate a site all on their own. Stories such as the hilarious Ralph Fiennes incident involving a Qantas air hostess and an airplane toilet would have your users returning again and again.

I hope this has given you some ideas Ray.  To be honest I sort of envy you this site, I’d really love to have something like this to have a bit of a play around with.  I think that with the right content, product placement, and SEO you will have an extremely valuable bit of internet real estate on your hands.

You may even be able to give me back that fiver you whipped out from under my nose in Newcastle!

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Local Affiliate Kid Does Good – R.O.EYE Get Into Bed With Ebay

Affiliate Networks No Comments »
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Hot off the presses at R.O.EYE towers they’ve scored a massive business partner in the form of the recently launched Ebay partner network – the auction giant’s very own affiliate platform, replacing its relationship with Commission Junction.

Ebay R.O.EYER.O.EYE say their “objectives are to further develop the network through servicing the needs of the existing affiliate base, including their effective optimisation and recruiting more publishers. We are also working with eBay to maximise activity from new affiliate business models, which are at the cutting edge of affiliate marketing and are beginning to generate significant volume. “

Grand objectives and corporate chat aside, I have to say that I’m geniunely delighted for the team at R.O.EYE. If you’d asked me yesterday who would be associated with this huge brand name I’d have said “I dunno, some faceless big London agency who don’t actually have a clue about affiliate marketing or how to deal with the affiliate base. No doubt they’ll have fed Ebay a load of branding and corporate nonsense and blinded them with their association with other big names like Sony or Apple.”

How wrong could you be?! I apologise humbly Ebay, for underestimating your good judgement.

I’ve always held the Manchester based team in very high regard. The account managers there have always been very responsive, knowledgeable, and most importantly – gosh darned nice people to deal with. I think the fact a big name like Ebay have chosen a team who actually have decent, in-depth knowledge and good relationships with their affiliates bodes really well for the future of the network in the UK (and says something about the way Ebay want the programme to be run).

It’s a long time since I have done anything with Ebay, but I think having a contactable team in the UK with a proven track record within the UK scene will do wonders in terms of my own inclination to work with them. I’d like to think that this attitude will be fairly representative of a number of my industry colleagues.

Pretty exciting times at R.O.EYE and I’m really looking forward to seeing the direction they take the programme in. In my very humble opinion decisions like these are very positive for our industry and I look forward to seeing the affiliate centred developments to the Ebay network in the coming months and years.

Congrats guys, it’s great to see some fellow Northerners doing well ;)

Oh, and the shiny new Ebay team are Chris Worthy, Ben Friedman or Pooja Kashyap. Give them a shout if you’d like to find out more about how you can work with them and Ebay. Contact number can be found on the R.O.EYE website.

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Improve Cross Linkage on Your WordPress Blog

Wordpress 5 Comments »
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Just a bit of a quick post as I have found a couple of really nice ways to increase the cross linkage / passing of link juice between posts on a WordPress blog. On one of my blogs all the posts in one particular category have stopped ranking at all. When I thought about it, I realised the cross linkage between the posts was dire. Todays exciting project was therefore to try and find some different ways to make sure my posts are “seen” by Google!

As usual there are a some plugins that I can recommend for this task (where was I before they invented WordPress plugins, eh?): -

Similar Posts by Rob Marsh – I’ve recommended this one before in my WordPress 102 post, however I think it is worth mentioning again. It really is a very clever wee tool and has lots of different matching perameters to display any number of posts containing similar content.

Dagon Design’s Sitemap Plugin – This isn’t a plugin for a XML sitemap that only Google will see. Rather it will generate a page or pages containing lists of all your posts by category. It has an option that lets you choose the number of links per page, how all the pages link to each other, and what order links are displayed in. It is disgustingly easy to use. Just create a page, pop in a bit of code, and Boof!! - a sitemap. Nice work lads.

I also had a bit of a gander through the WordPress Codex (great bedtime reading guys) and discovered a handy dandy wee bit of code you can pop in to create “next” and “previous” links at the bottom of all posts. I can’t code to save myself, but I’m a demon cut and paster. Love it!

I also read a blog article on ways to improve your cross linkage and thought it was a good checklist. Worth a read, and definately worth actioning some or all of the points in the article.

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Google Filters – An Update on the Recovery Process!

Google 7 Comments »
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I promised I would keep a bit of a log on this blog about the process I’m going through to try and sort out some Google filter issues my lingerie website has been suffering from. I’ve now spent almost a week working my way though the site and have altered about two thirds of the content. As I’ve gone along I’ve made loads of test searches which helped focus on the issues that were present.

Some interesting developments have happened in the last few days. I’ve got screenshots of this, so I thought it was time for another post!

My (Slightly Revised) Theories on The Causes

As I worked my way through the site I discovered a distinct pattern to those pages that were still ranking – they had 100% unique content on them. These would have been the pages that immediately bounced back into the index after my initial problems. I found that loads of the pages filtered out had inadvertently used the same or very similar content via a combination of the blurb I place on each page and similar post excerpts that were also on many other pages.

However, I am now sure there was a second filter being applied… perhaps one for keyword stuffing / over optimisation. If it had been entirely dupe content, I think I’d have seen a more even spread of Google “picking” inappropriate pages to rank. However, a number of pages were also behaving in a different way and were either not in sight in the index or were ranking Waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy back.

There’s also the small matter not mentioned previously – I have a second site affected which has no duplicate content. It’s just been shoved right back in the results as per some of the lingerie pages, and shares the same site structure. This is what convinced me two things were happening on my lingerie site.

So Here’s What I Did

I am visiting each and every page on my site and: -

  • Removing the similar output from the top of every page and replacing it with a paragraph of unique text which then links to the brand description further down the page via a named anchor (not an optimised one I might add!).
  • Making sure that each and every brand description is completely unique.
  • Removing any pages that don’t need to be there. i.e. if one page can cover the swimwear and lingerie lines for a specific brand, I’m consolidating my content.
  • Manually altering each and every similar post output so that each post excerpt is only ever featured on one brand page.
  • Removing any unnatural looking repetitions of my target keywords in the body text.
  • Reducing the amount of header and anchor text that mentions target keywords.

Now For The Interesting Bit. What Effect Has This Had?

Well, it’s still early days as Google’s cache for the pages I’ve altered has still not updated. And yet I’ve started to see something very odd over the last couple of days. Something that MIGHT back up my keyword stuffing / over optimisation theory OR could just be a Google funny that has coincidentally happened this week. I can see other sites showing similar symptoms today including ASOS… so I’m not totally sure this is related to my filter issues.

Some Pages Have Started To Rank Again – But Not All The Time… and Still Not “Properly”

This is really fascinating actually. I first noticed this yesterday and have been grabbing a few screenshots. I know it was not happening prior to my changes as I have analysed each and every Google referral I’ve had for the last two weeks!

OK. Here’s my site ranking for “Manstore Mens Underwear“. This page was not ranking at all a couple of days ago, regardless of which search string used.

Manstore

As you can see though, Google is not showing the title in bold which I’ve never seen or heard of before (which makes me think it may not be entirely penalty related – but it sure is interesting!) The same page also ranks for “Manstore robot strip string” and “Manstore Underwear”

*update- I am now seeing this “title not in bold” issue manifesting itself all over the place – so its clearly Google fiddling around generally that is causing this rather than any kind of penalty.

For the search term “Manstore Boxers” which you could logically assume I should be ranking for, this is the page Google has chosen to place at result 50: -

Bjorn Borg

*update – this has changed over the weekend.  I’m now ranking number one for the term “Manstore Boxers

I’m seeing this time and time again over many pages. Some suffer from the “Non Bold” issue I’ve described above, others are fine. Here’s another interesting example that made me think a keyword specific penalty has been in place on the following page alongside a dupe content penalty (which again had previously been knocked out of the rankings altogether).

Here’s the page being ranked for “DKNY Nightwear” at result 10 (hurahh!)

But here is the search result for “DKNY Sleepwear” waaayyy back at result 82

I’m seeing the same on a Calvin Klein page I altered a few days ago. I’m ranking 15 for “Calvin Klein Nightwear” and again a “wrong page” is popping up for “CK Sleepwear

*edit - I’m now seeing the right page ranking for CK Sleepwear, around result 35.  Progress!

I’m seeing similar on other pages, but at the moment it is in a constant state of flux. Some that I checked right before writing this article had changed by the time I got to the end here, with the “right page” popping back up. So that makes me think: -

  • Some of my pages are being slowly forgiven.
  • Some of the pages are exhibiting a penalty for particular search phrases i.e. those containing “Sleepwear” because the page content was too tightly aligned with them.
  • I’m going totally and utterly mad and its time to move into the “Sunnyvale Home for Knackered Old Affiliates”.

Finally….

Well, that wraps up my thoughts for now. I hope it is helpful to anyone who is interested in this kind of stuff. This on its own is great fun actually. However the other site thats just been bumped to the end of the results worries me a fair bit, there’s much less to go on with it. All I’ve learned here will be a good place to start though.

Wish me luck :)

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Bridezilla & Google Woes – The Stress Kicks In!

General 4 Comments »
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StressStressed? Me? Well, I’ve never been one for melodrama but the Oxford English Dictionary rang up yesterday and asked me to write next years dictionary definition of “anxiety”. Apparently I’m an expert.

To my frequent detriment, I do have an extremely high stress personality. When I go off, its a little bit like a cross between the Cuban Missile Crisis and The Sinking of the Titanic going on inside my head.

Now, in a previous life when I used to work for a marketing agency I had a really great way of dealing with the old stress. It involved at least 5 double measures of some kind of evil alcohol and in cases of severe misjudgement would duly invoke a hangover from hades. Possibly even a spectacular outbreak of vomitisitis. Not a cure I’m considering this time.

I’ve not really had much in the way of stress in the last 3 years. My new lifestyle has seen to that! But this week the old stress monkey on my back has returned – and this time it’s personal! The stress of organising a certain wedding and having to completely re-work all my sites before the end of this month, staving off possible Google death has left me with that familiar old feeling.

I can’t sleep. I can’t think about anything else but weddings (specifically that perfect tiara that is STILL eluding me), and Google filters and their wily ways. I’ve got chest pains (see? I told you it was bad!). Finally, I’ve got insomnia.

Affiliate Stress – The Perfect Solution!

In the hope that it will have an effect broadly similar to vomit-inducing quantities of alcohol I’m going to deal with my stacked out schedule by…

Sacking it off!!!!!!!!!!

Bugger all this for a lark, I mean honestly who do I think I am trying to cope with all this stuff? Sir Alan Sugar? I don’t even have the beard for it!

So here’s my stress cure and I’m doing it first thing tomorrow: -

Hervey BayI’m going up to Hervey Bay for the weekend to go humpback whale watching. Basically I need to do something that will help me regain a little perspective, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than watching these magnificent creatures migrate.

Basically, I’ve a damned cheek being stressed out. What have I to worry about in the grand scale of things. Really?

“Oh woe is me, I can’t take a second longer of living in this awful year round sun!”

Hmmm.

So there you go… all you need to get rid of affiliate stress is a “bugger all this for a lark” attitude. Easy.

Finally…

I must apologise for a lack of decent posts this week. My ability to come up with creative and interesting stuff is hampered by my preoccupation. Tell you what, if you guys shout out some suggestions and it might help inspire me.

Note: things like “give us a comprehensive guide to affiliate feed sites!” and “tell us your conversion secrets!” are unlikely to help :)

See Y’all after the weekend.

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Dr. Kirsty’s Google Filter Diagnosis – More Site Problems!

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I’m sure many of you read my the post I made a while back as I was delighted I’d sorted out my Google Duplicate Content issues. My traffic rose nicely, and has remained at a reasonable level. However, after a few weeks of waiting for all of my pages to return to the index, I’ve been forced to an unfortunate conclusion – there was more than one problem!!

Doctor, Doctor… I Think My Site Has A Terrible Illness, It’s a Shadow of its Former Self!

*sigh* Many of my site pages are still being filtered out. Basically, for some of the site pages Google is ignoring my nicely crafted brand specific pages, and choosing to rank another less relevant page from the site in it’s place. A sure fire sign that Google is not happy with you. Here’s a really good example for the search term “Odille Swim“.

Odille Swim

I’ve spent the last 3 days solid doing test searches, looking closely at on page content, and analysing the difference between those pages that had recovered and those that had not. I’ve drawn some conclusions based upon a few consistent result behaviours and a generous helping of Google intuition. I thought it would be useful to share my thoughts on the issue with you guys so you can…

1 ) see my process (right or wrong) of working through a situation like this

and

2 ) so I can update you on how my efforts pan out!

So here’s Dr Kirsty’s diagnosis of her latest bout of algorythm-itis. A particularly nasty strain in my opinion!

The Symptoms

  • Many pages are being filtered and have less relevant counterparts ranked in their place.
  • Some unfiltered pages are sitting around result 50 when they should really be in the top ten.
  • Some pages rank fine for their target search terms. These are generally the ones appearing in the results in place of the filtered pages. This results in traffic getting to the wrong sections of the site, and reduced CTR.
  • My blog posts are no longer indexed instantly.
  • Just to make it interesting, some pages I’ve been monitoring have been penalised one day and fine the next.
  • The homepage cache date frequently “rewinds”.
  • I’ve written oodles of product-specific content around each brand on this site. They are included on the page via a wordpress plugin. The pages that are unaffected tend to have fewer brand relevant articles on them. They are more likely to have a few “irrelevant” articles about other brands.
  • Ouch.

My Initial Diagnosis (if these Google malaises actually exist!)

  • Several pages around result 50 to 60 does sort of point at a -50 penalty on some pages.
  • When I looked at my pages with fresh eyes and looked for a reason for a penalty / filter I realised the pages looked quite over optimised. Although people argue its existence, I’ve theorised this may be the over optimisation filter.
  • Alternatively, based on the fact that many of the worst affected pages had a lot of brand specific link text I wondered if Google might take umbrage at 1 ) there being too much link text on a page or 2 ) too high a proportion of link text being tightly aligned to a set of related search terms.
  • The plugin that places related posts on my pages repeats one article on each page twice, and the same excerpt is likely to appear on other site pages. This could trigger an additional duplicate content issue that has not manifested on the pages that have bounced back into the index.

Dr Kirsty’s Treatment

This is the list I will be working through step by step. In an attempt to identify what the issue really is, I’ll be altering a reasonable proportion of my site pages stage by stage to see what effect each alteration has. Therefore, the following steps are in order of “gut suspicion”!

  • The excessive link text is first up for alteration as it is the most consistent signal I’ve seen on affected pages. I’ll be reducing this on every page, but making sure the relevant articles remain associated with those pages.
  • The duplicate article excerpts will have to go. I’ll take steps to ensure that any article is only mentioned once on any given page and does not turn up in more than one place within the site.
  • Finally, I’ll go through each and every site page and reduce the “keyword density”, making sure the mentions of product brand names look natural and fall within a reasonable percentage range.
  • After that, who knows? Is it me? Is there an issue with Google? Have my 301 redirects to sort the previous problem caused some other mysterious issue? There will only be questions!

Phew! So there you have three days of my life. A lot of it has been conflicting and contradictory, but I hope I have pinpointed where the issues are at. I have to say this site was developed with a focus on Adwords traffic. My main concern was adding significant value. Which I am pleased to say has worked extremely. My pages have excellent QS. However, I now want to get the SEO sorted on these pages as they really had been bringing in a good amount of traffic (10K visitors per month and rising when they were slapped). Like any affiliate who gets what they want… I now want more!

I won’t be beaten Google, but why is it so difficult to keep both sides of the algo happy when you’re an affiliate?

Strangely though, I have sort of enjoyed the last few days. My once excellent SEO skills are terribly rusty, but SEO was my first passion before affiliate marketing. It has felt sort of good to re-immerse myself in it. At the same time, it has made me feel horribly inadequate – I have fallen behind with the Google times.

Any insight or observations would be welcomed from anyone who has had similar issues, or greater SEO knowledge than I.

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