You can't just grab an affiliate datafeed, shove it online and hope to get traffic from search engines. I interviewed affiliate datafeed veteran Gary Marcoccia to get an insider's view on how to go about it.
Gary is a network rep for the affiliate network AvantLink, “The Datafeed People”. Here are the questions I asked him and his answers.
I'm interested in your experience using datafeeds. Can you tell me about that?
I started using datafeeds as an affiliate several years ago. Since, I have worked to build web service management systems, and functional distribution practices of the flat files. I have also had a keen interest in promoting the responsible use of merchant data by affiliates.
How do you recommend an affiliate get started with datafeeds?
Using datafeeds responsibly is crucial. For one, if affiliates don't use them responsibly they won't make any sales. To take a merchant's datafeed and put it behind a new domain with no unique value-add content is basically spamming the search engines. This does nothing for the affiliate, the advertiser or the affiliate marketing industry.
Datafeeds must be coupled with relevant content, preferably content that has been published and unique online for years. Non-related affiliate marketing content (such as articles, interviews, etc.) should outweigh affiliate marketing content (datafeeds) 2 to 1.
For example, if a datafeed is producing 500 pages of content on an affiliate's site, there should be 1,000 pages of unique content published under the same domain.
The power of the datafeed is to get product group/detail pages deep crawled and indexed for relevant searches in the search engines, and in order to do so the site must already rank for that relevancy.
A stand-alone datafeed site is not permitted in AvantLink, as this alone will not win favorable SERP (search engine results pages) placement.
Do you recommend WebMerge or some other software? Why?
WebMerge is a great application for publishing static HTML pages from a flat database file. There are other applications that are just as valuable. The key is, however, creating a system with the use of WebMerge or similar (or your own scripts) that allows you to customize the data at some level.
In other words, you don't want to re-publish the merchant's database exactly as you've acquired it. Search engines are too smart now, and they will filter out exact replicas of a merchant's site content.
Even something as simple as changing the link names in the navigation can do wonders in differentiating the publication of your datafeed from others. Other options inlcude adding content includes, unique descriptions and/or image captions.
AvantLink has a dynamic datafeed web service that allows affiliates to publish unique, spiderable content that can be easily modified from one affiliate site to the next.
How important do you think it is that affiliates create pages that are different from pages created by other affiliates?
I think the above explanation addresses this question thoroughly. It is crucial that affiliates take steps to customize what they're publishing. SERP traffic (ie, people searching a search engine for the products they want to buy) is some of the highest converting traffic on the web. The only way affiliates have a chance at ranking in the SERPs for products is to customize their outputs.
Just how different do they need to be?
As unique as possible. The more creative the affiliate is with the output, the more likely they'll win organic placement for relevant terms.
What are some good ways of making sure that pages will escape Google's duplicate content filter and won't be regarded as “thin affiliates”?
On how to address duplicate content, please read above. Additionally, to escape “thin affiliate” status it's important that your site has a value-added element and user stickiness.
For example, creating a network effect through a forum or other user-driven content is a value-add to a site using a datafeed. Also, publish articles, and other unique content on a regular basis. If you've built a site about a topic you're passionate about this shouldn't be difficult, and it's a key element in harnessing high-converting search engine traffic.
Make your site an authority so people start linking to you naturally,
not through solicitation. If people link to you, in time you'll win rankings and the sales will follow.
Datafeeds are not a quick money making tool for affiliate marketing. Be committed to responsible use and the long haul and in time you'll be grateful you were patient, persistent and passionate!
Affiliate datafeed resources
WebMerge from FourthWorld
WebMerge is software which lets you export your database to HTML, generating static web pages from database files.
Golden Can allows you to add large datafeeds to affiliate sites very easily and quickly. There are two kinds of merchants available – “4th click” and free. With “4th click” merchants, 25% of the traffic and subsequent commissions go to Golden Can.
Synthasite is an affiliate website builder, a browser-based tool which allows you to build affiliate websites with no programming skills required. More than 100 million products are available through multiple affiliate networks. The tool is still in beta. It's suitable for “semi-technical” people.
Datafeeds 101 – A Beginner's Primer
An introduction to affiliate datafeeds by Linda Buquet and Chris Ditty.
Some affiliate networks providing datafeeds