Monday, January 18, 2016

Perrin & Colleen Coaching Call #3: Branding, Content Strategy & Not Being a “Thin Affiliate”

Hey guys! Perrin here again, and, we are back with coaching call #3…

Before diving into the techniques and strategies Colleen and I explored in this coaching call, let’s do a quick recap of the progress she made in the last week or so.

We’ve got some exciting news…

No, I’m not pregnant. But Colleen did pick a market!

If you’re one of the hardcore Perrin & Colleen fans saying, “But I thought she already picked a market?!” you’re not wrong. In our second coaching call, Colleen surprised me by saying she’d settled on a market and was good to go.

And we were stoked! But the more we looked at it, the more it just didn’t sit right with us. Maybe it was that the market seemed a bit tough to monetize. Or maybe it was that parts of the market seemed totally saturated with major websites. Who knows. But there was just something about the market that didn’t feel right in my gut.

So we dove back into some market research…

…and Colleen found what we both think is an amazing market with some massive opportunities.

Of course, we’re not going to show it to you yet, but it’s got pretty much all the things we’re looking for:

  • Very easy to find low-DA blogs with high traffic (…almost too many)
  • A good mix of informational and product/affiliate blogs
  • Lots of the blogs were outdated, ugly, short… or all three!

Here’s a screenshot of some of Colleen’s data:

So that’s the big news: using a combination of market research and keyword research, we found what we think is a very cool niche that should be wide open for Collen to break into.

Now what?

Team Colleen is now changing gears…

We chatted, and we feel like we’ve got a good market, and we’ve got good keywords. We also have quite a few sub-niches, and we’re confident we know how our categories are going to pan out (at least the first ones; we can always add more later).

We have a few loose ends, but we figure it’ll be more efficient to tie them up as we go—that our time is better spent moving to the next step.

So, now, officially… today… Colleen’s site is live and online. She has a web presence, and all systems are go.

…of course, it’s empty.

So that’s the first thing we’ve got to fix. But before we start going nuts adding content, there are a few nuts and bolts to nail down first.

And that’s what we covered in this call. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the lessons learned.

You need good branding and good design.

Of all the mistakes I see people make, I’ve come to believe that the single biggest mistake for 90% of new site builders is bad design.

I’ve written about this elsewhere, it be bears repeating, especially if you’re following along with your own project and are getting ready to put up a site.

You need good design. If you don’t understand good design, hire a designer. I won’t go into all the fun details, but if you want a quick study of the impact good design can make, Spencer has a great write-up on the impact of his redesign of this very blog.

But this is 2016. There’s no excuse not to have a website that looks night. For us, it’s going to be incredibly simple: we’re just going to buy a nice theme.

Specifically, we’ll be looking for something that:

  • Is fast
  • Looks clean and/or simple
  • Looks nice and professional
  • Is easy to read

And that’s it! But it’s important! Good design converts better. Good design builds trust. Good design helps you establish yourself as a brand—even before you do any real branding.

So, as Colleen ventures out to flesh out her site, she’ll be looking for a great theme to build on. We’ll likely do some more in-depth branding as she grows, but for now, that’s really all we’re going to worry about.

You need to avoid being a “thin affiliate” at all costs.

Here’s the funny thing about SEOs: most of them will defend their strategies to the death, even if they’re risky, and, sometimes, even if their businesses get destroyed.

…I am not one of those people.

I only needed to get my business destroyed once to totally change the way I approached my sites (if you don’t remember, just read this blog post).

After that, I vowed not only to follow Google’s rules—but to create real, legitimate, high-value sites. I was kind of doing that before. The writing was good. But even then, I wasn’t creating the kinds of sites Google (and other powers that be—more below) really want to represent them.

Here’s another reality… Amazon is banning people left and right.

They’re banning people for cloaking links. They’re banning people for not having enough original content. They’re banning people for deceiving users. And, in some cases, their manual reviews are even—allegedly—banning people for stuff that’s not against the rules.

As far as I can tell, there is a serious affiliate crackdown happening right now.

…so I want to be as certain as I can that we’re following the rules.

The “classic” aPennyShaved-style site—the one I see emulated so often—really does not follow the rules. The site’s been taken down now, but if you remember, 95% of the pages on that site had affiliate links, and 90% of the articles simply rehashed Amazon reviews.

That’s not value. It’s just a poorly built money-making machine—one that sputters and threatens to fall apart every time it turns over.

Here’s a quick quiz I think everyone should be asking themselves:

  • Does almost all of my content include affiliate links?
  • Can the majority of my content be found (in different words) on Amazon product pages and/or in their review section?
  • Am I doing almost nothing besides trying to make money on my site?

These are important questions, and if you answered “yes” to any of the above, you might be at risk (P.S. Before you guys roast me in the comments, I know the definition of “thin content” is up for debate, and I know there are counterexamples—TheWireCutter, etc.—and I address this in the coaching call! Let me live!).

So, I want to make this as clear as I possibly can: Colleen and I won’t be building a site that only has affiliate content. This site will be chocked full of great information. It’ll have lots of different kinds of content. It will be monetized in a number of different ways. And, above all, it will provide value to its readers.

…and we’re going to achieve this mostly through our content strategy…

You need to have a robust, diverse content strategy.

And it doesn’t need to be complicated.

But here’s the general idea:

  • We want affiliate content to be a small percentage of our site’s content
  • We want to provide value and educate people
  • We want the site to be fun

To do that, we’re going to have two goals. First, we’ll be “launching the site” with about 60 articles, and only about one third of them will contain affiliate links. The rest will be either fun or educational.

Second, we’re going to push our fun, educational content—the stuff most likely to appeal to people simply browsing—to the front of the site, and we’ll leave the more specific affiliate content to people searching for it in Google, since these articles are often only interesting to the people asking that specific question. We’re not going to hide our affiliate content, of course. We’re proud of the value it provides. But we’re going to feature the fun stuff, which mostly means we’ll build a custom homepage that shows off the content we think is most engaging.

Lastly, you need to understand how to CREATE a good content strategy you can actually implement.

But I’m not going to tell you about that here..

…I have to get you to watch the video somehow, right?! So check it out:

If you would rather listen to the audio only, you can download it here.

Wrapping it up…

All in all, I’m super excited, and I hope Colleen is, too. To me, this is one of the most fun parts of any site: lovingly shoving it out of the next.

What do you guys think? Where are you at with your own sites? Let me know in the comments!

The post Perrin & Colleen Coaching Call #3: Branding, Content Strategy & Not Being a “Thin Affiliate” appeared first on Niche Pursuits.

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