Unless you’ve been sleeping at the wheel, the last couple of weeks have been turbulent ones for many PPC affiliates, especially Adwords users. There’s been a spat of account bans (as discussed in my internet marketing forum), and even though Nick Fox told Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz that suspended Adwords advertisers can send an email to initiate an “appeals process”, the anecdotal evidence suggests that aside from canned email responses, affiliates suspended from Adwords can do little more than post a bitchy post on their blog, or create a complaint thread on one of a number of public and private marketing forums. So is this the beginning of the end of PPC?
It’s easy to go the Fox Mulder route and assume that they’re out to get you (which isn’t paranoia if someone is really out to get you…). I think it has to do with the natural process of evolution. Let’s look at search engine optimization (SEO) for a second.
Remember the old days (ie: the early 1990s) when SEO meant you stuffed a bunch of keywords into your title tag, meta tags and had a keyword density of about 10% or higher for your money keywords? Where content consisted of engaging reading like “Payday loans can be a source of ready financing because payday loans give you an opportunity to get an immediate cash advance, and payday loans” (you get the idea).
Keyword stuffing has long gone out the window, leading some to throw it and go the MySpace bulletin spamming route, while others starting focusing more on their link buying and still others used trackback spamming, referrer spamming and other assorted goodies.
A small proportion of webmasters, however, looked at the writing on the wall and focused on auditing their key audience’s burning needs, then set about creating an easy-to-use content-focused website which also featured advertising or affiliate products addressing the problem.
While the SERPs aren’t perfect by any means, they’re a heck of a lot better than before. And with Google’s decision to incorporate real time results from the likes of twitter and other social media, there’s a small window for gray or blackhat SEO marketers to exploit any loopholes before they’re closed up again.
So what’s happening with PPC? Aside from the Adwords shitestorm, it looks like the heat is gradually spreading to other PPC networks too, with MSN/Bing reportedly sending out warning shots and in some cases suspending accounts.
Again, it looks like the PPC networks are wising up and possibly attempt to drop arbitrage and thin landing page affiliates from their network. Is this a wise move? Is there a slew of traditional businesses lined up ready to fill the vacuum once the affiliates are kicked out? I don’t think so.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Google is “anti-affiliate”, else their purchase of Performics (renamed the Google Affiliate Network or GAN for short) would be like stabbing themselves in the left kidney – painful and not smart.
I’d report on GAN’s affiliate offers and promotion strategies, but I don’t have an account there yet.
What I do know is that I’ve run direct link offers on adwords, relatively thin landing pages, as well as sent traffic to high authority sites within my portfolio. I probably can’t guarantee I won’t get banned anytime in the future, but I think my chances of keeping my nose clean are pretty good.
An experienced affiliate mentioned that Adwords might be devoid of all affiliates within the next 12 months. Let’s see if his prediction comes true.
With the negative buzz surrounding PPC, a proprtion of affiliates have hopped on the PPV bandwagon, lured by the thought of paying $0.01 – $0.015 per impression. With the flood of new affiliates pouring into the network, popular keywords have seen their prices spike to $0.50 per impression or higher, making these offers far less attractive than they were a year ago.
Some PPV networks have modified their terms of service to exclude certain types of promotions. Will they eventually do some type of Adwords style clamp down in the future? It’s hard to tell now, but if it does happen, you should not be too surprised.
With all this paranoia in the market, plus new legislation like the FTC’s “guides” which regulate the use of endorsements, testimonials and disclosure requirements, it’s easy to fall prey to a Chicken Little “The Sky is Falling” syndrome.
Sit. Breathe. Relax.
What’s likely to happen from this set of challenging circumstances is that affiliate who expect to build a business based on setting up a campaign in 5 minutes, are going to find a tougher time making their business work.
You might actually have to work to get a campaign up and banking.
On the plus side, internet users could stand to gain from a better experience, click more, buy more. But only if the stuff is being promoted effectively.