As website owners and affiliates seek to improve the quality and quantity of their organic traffic, many are attempting to expand their search engine optimization efforts. The two biggest obstacles that novice SEOs face are the constantly changing trends dictated by clandestine decisions of the search engine companies, and the simple fact that most people who claim to be SEO experts actually turn out to know little or nothing about the methods that will cause a site to rise in the listings of major search engines. For that reason, XBIZ sat down with some of the top names in adult SEO and asked for current trends or tips that website owners might find useful while evolving their own search traffic strategies.
The people quoted in this article are real SEO experts. They have ranked major sites on the first page for top terms, raised the profile of sites and companies by continually outranking others and generated significant revenue simply by being listed above their competitors on a consistent basis.
SEO is about much more these days than just getting ranked. It’s about ranking for the right terms in an everchanging market and having the resources needed to adapt to trends which rise or drop with news cycles.
Some pointed out a growing chasm between the goals of content owners and the goals of the affiliates promoting their websites. “Content producers focus on their core business, which is producing content” said Charles Hentrich, president of Wildline! “Not many of them build their websites with SEO in mind. As a result, they often rank below affiliates in the search engines for brand terms. That’s been acceptable for years, but not anymore. The adult industry is caught in a squeeze as margins tighten and content is commoditized by the tube sites. Paying affiliates for sales from brand term traffic is no longer a responsible course of action.
‘The SEO trend among the smart content producers is to take control of their own brand. They are using SEO to reclaim valuable SERP [Search Engine Results Page] real estate on brand queries. The result is increased direct sales, higher margins and greater profit because they are paying affiliates for sales on long tail queries instead of the brand terms they should be ranking #1 for anyway.”
No doubt a recent trend has shown more companies denying affiliates the chance to buy brand name PPC traffic, utilize brand-infringing domain names or attempt other promotional ideas that dilute the potential of direct sales via search and other organic media. Many affiliate program terms of service are now quite clear about restrictions on affiliate usage of branded terms for promotional purposes. That new level of internal competition between some sponsors and their own affiliates has caused a fair amount of public angst on industry message boards but seems to be a trend gaining momentum.
Some SEO experts were only willing to comment on the record if they were allowed to do so anonymously. One in particular pointed out a growing trend toward link trading communities and away from wide-spread singular trades or link purchases. In past years webmasters routinely found dozens of trading partners or purchased links from hundreds of site owners. Now, with more intelligent hosting options easily available which allow experts to mask the identity of a site’s ownership, it is becoming easier to trade 500 links with one link vendor who has feigned search engines into erroneously believing his sites are each owned by different independent webmasters. That means much greater efficiency and easier to track relationships among link traders who no longer have to suffer through a continuous cycle of links being dropped, sites being sold and commitments being disregarded by unscrupulous link trading scammers.
Filling the void left by the demise of other once-popular link trading services, well-known webmaster and SEO guru Jdoughs has recently launched a new more feature intensive trading tool that can be found at www.linkspun.com
LinkSpun allows webmasters to list their sites, make individual trades or authorize multiple-site stacked trades with all of the tracking and confirmation work automated by a dynamically updating custom system built from the ground up with serious link traders in mind. The site is already attracting some of the big link network owners and has gotten very positive feedback from many well-known webmasters who participated in a lengthy beta process.
For Jdoughs and others, it’s about maximizing revenue more than traffic these days. “I would say that the biggest change I’ve saw personally is that it’s not as simple as ‘taking over a SERP’ and making money off it anymore” Jdoughs said. “Webmasters can no longer just target a high volume niche term and rake in the converting traffic, instead we need to strategically map out the sites and text work in order to maximize the long tails and focus on converting traffic optimally. Getting 20 sales on 10,000 uniques is better than getting 10 sales on 100,000 uniques. I am always surprised how many people fail to grasp that fact.”
“It’s no longer about who gets the most search clicks each day, it’s about what terms are targeted, what niche, what place in the top ten and what resources are needed to rank in a particular time frame before a term cools off,” Jdoughs said. “I’ve found myself frequently revisiting old sites to clean them up and make sure I wasn’t leaving money on the table.
“There just isn’t any extra time or resources to waste in modern SEO work if you want to keep your profit margins healthy.”
The notion of keywords cooling off and chasing more rapidly changing traffic patterns was another concept echoed by many experts as a recent trend in the evolution of SEO. In prior years being top ranked for a major term and staying on top was the primary goal of many, but as search engines changes and social media advances create a more fluid environment for surfers to move through, getting in front of the trends can be much more important because a term that was considered hot a few weeks ago may not be nearly as profitable a few weeks into the future.
“Over the last few months Google has changed the way their algorithm calculates popularity” said Brad Gosse, SEO expert and speaker from BradGosse.com “With the advent of Google Buzz, they are able to track Social media mentions and even shortened URL redirects to your domain. This is an attempt by them to clean up the current mess surrounding link popularity.
“Gone are the days of just buying high page rank link backs to your domain in an effort to boost your Google ranks. It’s time to get smarter when it comes to link building. Gallery submissions, blog directories, review sites and link trades are all still fair game but your efforts should be even broader than that.”
Mixing media is a way for webmasters to push their sites from multiple sources at once according to Gosse. “YouTube is now the number two search engine on the Internet. This creates a huge opportunity for people utilizing the right feeder videos. Google also now includes videos in its main search results.”
Other experts also expressed a strong interest in alternative sources from the advent of social media. “Internet marketers now have to think beyond search more than ever. It’s no longer simply making your sites findable to searchers; it’s integrating your placement with their online lifestyle through contextual advertising, social networking, incentive offers and competing with the all mighty ‘free’ lure” said Cyndalie, marketing director, 12ClicksCash.com.
‘It is especially challenging for adult marketers to leverage the right balance between privacy and interactivity. People love to network and interact but want to do so on a level of anonymity — without leaving breadcrumbs all over the internet leading to their sexual interests and activities online. With links being replaced by “tweets” and “likes” and users online time being drawn away from traditional search into the social circles and internetworks. Ultimately those able to bridge the gap will become the premiere places to advertise adult media as well as the examples for others to mimic for their own in-house efforts.”
Speaking of in-house efforts, another continuing trend is the effort by some adult companies to bring independent SEO experts in-house as part of a movement toward salaried search management results and traffic leads with less reliance on affiliates or commission-based consultants. Suzi Thomas is the in-house Traffic Development Coordinator at PinkVisual / TopBucks, a position that was unlikely to exist at most affiliate programs a few years ago but now has become common to the adult space as programs hire qualified SEO managers to amplify their site rankings and organic traffic capabilities internally.
“The emergence of social media optimization offers an incredible opportunity to create natural links and promote our brand” said Thomas. “Sites like Twitter and Facebook have introduced a whole new world of opportunity for Pink Visual to reach our target audience, as well as build relevant links and create brand recognition. The trick is to keep updating with unique and interesting topics that our visitors find useful while using relevant keywords without being spammy.”
SEO is about much more these days than just getting ranked. It’s about ranking for the right terms in an everchanging market and having the resources needed to adapt to trends which rise or drop with news cycles. Social media, video search and more time spent researching keywords than attacking them are all part of a smarter, costeffective approach to organic traffic that is developing quickly. As you read through these comments by some of the best SEO experts in the adult market and start to feel more confident in your own strategy, keep in mind that search engines are owned by multibillion-dollar companies who employ a large staff of experts with the sole purpose of confounding anyone who tries to game their systems.
“One of the other major changes over the last several months is that the same search entered by two different users may see two completely different result sets,” Gosse said. “This is due to Google testing hundreds of different algorithm variations at once. A team of engineers and hand reviewers are constantly tweaking the result set to ensure a good user experience.”
SEO work has gone from the cottage-industry infancy it once was to a booming market of true professionals who tweak and test new schemes and tools on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour or month-to-month basis. Making matters more daunting, SEO is a competitive field, one in which each of the experts who lent their time to this article battles all others for positions at the front of the right lines. Some, who have demonstrated an ability to make traditional SEO methods work consistently, now plan to focus on what has already been working for them and see these newer approaches as somewhat unnecessary if what you are already doing is achieving your goals.
‘Alot has changed but SEO still comes down to text and links” said MarkE4A, a noted SEO guru with a long track record. “That has not changed really. Yes, engines are becoming aware of social networks, videos and time on site qualitative statistics — but if you have a massive amount of high quality links and properly written text you are still going to rank very well. If you lack quality backlinks, all the other things mentioned are mostly a way to add a new traffic stream instead, rather than to bulk up your search placements.
“I am all for generating traffic in as many ways as possible, but anyone who comes to you with a fancy plan to improve your SERPs and starts blabbing about a new approach without including backlinks at the top of their list — is probably someone who failed at the old approach already.
“Where most people fail with SEO isn’t on a complicated secret way to do things, they simply get lazy and don’t bother doing the many vitally important basic things one hundred percent of the time. The smallest details must be carried out with complete consistency.”