One of the biggest questions we get asked when an affiliate first starts out is “what type of site should I build?”
The answer is always the same: “It depends”.
It depends on many things. How much time do you have? What other resources can you bring (money, experience, links etc.)? What are you passionate about?
Being a customer of your chosen market certainly helps, as you will already have an understanding about what consumers are looking for, what their demographic is, and where they like to hang out.
Using the fitness market as an example, here are three types of websites:
- Informational / Community Site
- Niche specific site
- Brand specific site
Informational / Community Site
This type of site is going to be the largest and can over time become an authority in the sector. This site will often come with community aspects like forums, member profiles, and interactive features.
Sticky content is key; you want to get people coming back with regular news updates, plenty of content, exciting newsletters and competitions.
On top of this you will want to create a strong social strategy around this brand; getting people on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and interacting with your content.
For an example of this, check out http://www.bodybuilding.com/
Niche Specific Site
This type of site focuses on a key sector of the market. For example, sports protein shakes or legal steroid alternatives. These sites have a specific keyword group.
The content on these sites will be much more specific to this topic and will include a range of product recommendations aimed at this demographic.
To do this correctly, you would still want to have a strong social strategy, email marketing strategy and some sticky elements.
Brand Specific Site
Finally, you have sites that have just one product in mind, looking for people who are searching for that specific product. This is often a much smaller site with the focus being on traffic generation, SEO, Remarketing, and Paid traffic.
This is simply a funnel to the merchant site, reassuring the consumer before purchase. This type of site would not benefit much from a strong social marketing campaign.
An example of this site might be: http://www.crazybulksupplements.com/
So Which Site is Best?
This takes us back to understanding the consumer buying cycle.
A consumer looking to solve a problem, e.g. to build muscle, will not know which product or service to purchase without first doing some research.
The first type of searches performed will be ‘generic’ research terms like “What are the best products to build muscle”, “Build Muscle Fast” or “How do I build muscle”
These are generic search terms and Google will try and show them generic results which answer their question.
These ‘generic’ search terms get the most amount of traffic. Targeting long tail search terms like “What are the best products to build muscle” would be pretty easy, but there are hundreds of thousands of variations of this.
The key is to rank for them all, so even if the user simply types “build muscle” into Google, your site ranks.
The next stage in the consumer’s journey is what we call Product type searching. For example, protein shakes or legal steroids. This is when the customer already believes they know what type of product they need to fix their problem.
At this stage, the consumer is starting to give off strong buying signals. If they are looking for products rather than content, they are moving from their research phase into the buying phase.
Finally, they might narrow their search to a particular brand or product. For example, D-Bal or Testosterone Max. This will normally be for reassurance that the product they have chosen is the correct one.
At this stage all you really need to do is reinforce to the consumer what the product does and how it works. If it’s the right product for them, they will buy.
Which site is best? The higher up the buying cycle you are, the more traffic and sales you will make.
- Informational / Community Sites will typically rank for all types of keywords: (Generic Search) + (Product Type Search) + (Brand Search)
- Niche specific sites will only rank for (Product Type Search) + (Brand Search)
- Brand sites will only rank for (Brand Search).
It takes much more work to build an authority community site. Most affiliates settle on the niche specific site, as this will typically generate a large amount of traffic and repay the investment over time.
My understanding of how large sites evolve is that they start off small; often niche sites grow to become authority sites over time.
Here is how the above looks graphically:
It’s worth noting that consumers will skip steps. For example if the niche site gives sufficient information that they don’t need reassurance, they won’t perform the brand searching.
If the consumer is more educated (maybe through offline research or past experience) they may skip the research phase altogether and head into the product type searching.
Personally, if I were starting as a new affiliate today, I would be focusing on one large site over lots of little sites. I would build a brand, incorporating social, email and remarketing campaigns.
I would start off with a niche site with the vision of turning it into an authority site over time. I would ensure it had community aspects and lots of good quality content.
Think bodybuilding.com. This is where I believe affiliates of tomorrow need to be.
Sounds like a lot of work?
Twist have some very exciting plans for 2015 which will help affiliates get a head start with this. Stay tuned for more details.