Sustainable Growth

SEO And Affiliate Marketing | Commerce Media Fundamentals

Let's start with the definition of search engine optimization — aka "SEO" and affiliate marketing applied to commerce media revenue:

Search engine optimization ("SEO") is the process of improving a website’s infrastructure (technical) and content (editorial) to improve its visibility in non-paid (i.e. "organic") search engine results.

Search engine optimization ("SEO") is the process of improving a website’s infrastructure (technical) and content (editorial) to improve its visibility in non-paid (i.e. "organic") search engine results.

Nota bene: "SEO" differs greatly from "SEM," or "Search Engine Marketing." SEM describes the practice of bidding for paid ad placements on Google's search engine result page listings (fwiw — this all comes down to high quality content paid arbitrage for low quality content is known as publisher purgatory, aka the chum box).

Dissecting a Search Engine Results Page (short-handed = "SERP")

The most fundamental value creation lever for seo and affiliate marketing is the SERP. Let's break down the various elements of the all-important Search Engine Result Page, or "SERP" for short. 

  • Um...SERP? more than likely, the first time you hear the term "SERP," its definition will remain "yet to be defined" (i.e. said by an insider SEO person without context).
  • Don't get intimidated. "SERP" stands for Search Engine Results Page, and it's the interface you use to click from onto other domains with relevant information for your search query.
  • Remember, Google ranks the sites according to how likely Google thinks the sites contain the information being searched. Google wants to please searchers, so that they keep searching. 
  • That means that, even for Google, "the customer is always right" —> and thus the amount of time people spend on the site visited after a Google Search click matters, a lot.
  • Longer visit times equate to happier visitors (provided overall site speed remains as fast as possible) and Google will continue to send similar search query traffic to these high-performing pages (as Google should).


Example listing types, e.g. Google Shopping ads, SEM, and SEO

  • Google Shopping Ads: One of the interesting developments of the past decade-plus is Google owning more and more real estate on search engine results pages.
    • In the past, Google linked more to sites, but now you see more and more evidence of Google pulling more information onto Google —> so people keep, well, Googling.
  • Paid listings: In our experience, success in Search Engine Marketing boils down to a dedicated process of A/B testing. By honing in on alignment of ad copy, content, and search terms, you then convert audience to a landing page you own and analyze to increase click through rate (see below, but SEO>SEM around 4% of searches go to SEM links vs. ~90% to the first three organic search results).
  • Organic results: Earned through a combination of optimized website infrastructure, as well as the strength of a site's backlink profile.


  • E-E-A-T = Expertise, Experience, Authority, Trust: in other words, does the site have a solid codebase, does the site's codebase connect well with Google's, and do other reputable websites link to the site's domain — thereby verifying its experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trust.
  • E-E-A-T = Google's GuidanceE-E-A-T is the de facto guidance given by Google to publishers about how to improve their search engine rankings (i.e. "improve your E-E-A-T and your sites will rank higher in search engines"). 


Components of a specific search result 

  • URL / Meta title: that blue/purple text that people click on to get their content. Since your domain is locked, good editors make their money with effective titles that convert to clicks.
  • Publish date: Google values more recently published content. That's why detail work such as link management matters so much.
  • Codebase connectivity into Google matters: attributes such as On-page headings, Images, Meta Description, etc. aren't exactly straightforward for non-technical users to create. The benefit is that solving for Google ensures content renders correctly in Google Search Results Pages, which results in free traffic to a site. 

This is why optimized codebase architecture and site taxonomy can drive significant value for publishers that want to sustainably grow. 


More recently added components of search engine results pages

Google is solving for users, according to their codebase: all of these newer, specific entries on a search engine result page (e.g. "People also ask," site links)  have to connect into Google's codebase to render correctly. Improving the way a site's codebase talks to Google dramatically impacts SEO success. 
Own the full funnel of searches: for an affiliate publisher to win, they have to write for and rank highly in bottom-funnel searches (e.g. "best car wax, buy now").
In order to do so, however, affiliate publishers also have to cover the entire funnel of searches (e.g. "best car waxes for sunny climates," "best car waxes for old cars," etc.).

To win in affiliate you need to commit to a (call it) volume of quality — where scale comes from satisfying the demand of voraciously-searching consumers interested endemic, expert product content. 

How to increase your ranking in SERPs (i.e. "improve SEO")

There are essentially three ways to improve SEO and affiliate marketing together: 

  1. Keyword research: identify the "magic quadrant" of content interest for a given endemic audience: i.e. relatively high-trafficked articles, with low competition for those keywords.
  2. Codebase technical improvement: prune underperforming content, optimally connect content infrastructure into Google's codebase (i.e. better "crawl-ability"), improve site speed, as well as overall user experience (i.e. A/B test to solve for longer average time on page)
  3. Iterate: the key to SEO being that you need to constantly refine your content strategy according to average SERP rank for those strategic buckets of authentic-to-the-brand topics.

One example from the home endemic category — saw an opportunity to find users via category searches for " lime green paint." This increasingly-relevant topic for design-minded consumers became a way for Domino to use its design expertise to earn new visitors, and educate them about how to best deploy this color to various rooms and items in a smartly and savvily- designed house. 

A note about taxonomy overhauls — "the library" analogy

Think of Google like a library: the best way to understand taxonomy is to think of Google Search as a Gigantic G-Library:

  • The person looking for books/information = the person searching
  • The librarian retrieving information for the person = Google
  • A site with proper taxonomy has all the books organized on shelves = shout out to the dewey decimal-like system. 
  • A site with poor taxonomy has no shelves and books strewn all over the floor 

If the librarian (Google) has a choice to recommend a resource to the person searching, the librarian will always select retrieving information from the well-organized bookshelves / proper taxonomy (go Dewey!).

SEO Fundamentals Glossary | Affiliate Marketing for Beginners 

  • Domain Authority (DA): measure of a site’s authority, based on the quantity and quality of backlinks to the domain (NB: "Domain Authority" does not automatically guarantee increased search position rank, however there is a strong correlation (which I would argue becomes causal with the additional technical infrastructure upgrades)).
  • Average position/rank: for a given keyword, where does an article rank on the SERP —> i.e. the top organic search result = #1, the 2nd #2, the 3rd #3, etc.
    • #1-10 = first page, #11-20 = second page, etc.
  • Search volume: the amount of monthly traffic driven by searches for a given keyword, or category of keywords
  • Organic sessions: total amount of visits to a site generated by SEO
  • Link equity: amount of "SEO juice" that gets passed from one site to another via link sharing (fwiw, black hat SEO practices never work; do not do them).
  • Striking distance keywords: opportunity keyword categories for a site's editorial/SEO team, given the site's current organic traffic profile
  • URL Rating: similar to domain authority, but at the page level
  • Keyword Difficulty: amount of competition to own traffic for a given keyword; ideally you want to target content toward searches with lower keyword difficulty.

The All Powerful Google Search Console For SEO and Affiliate Marketing

Google Search Console: Google’s official SEO analytics platform, used to track a site’s visibility in Google, and remain up-to-date on any potential technical or other issues:


Example comparison of various organic search result conversion rates, according to search position (i.e. #1-ranked article returns 40% of total traffic; #2 = 19%).

Long story short, you have to get in the top 3 to be successful at earning maximum value from SEO, or at the very least the first page)

Key Takeaways for SEO and Affiliate Marketing, from a commerce media perspective

Consider that in the U.S. alone, there are more than 250 million Google users. These users post ***hundreds of billions of searches every single month***

#1 - High-traffic website owners who satisfy this demand will be more successful than those who don't

There's too much value in growing audience for free. Imagine a consultancy that dependably received hundreds of billions of advisory service requests every single month without having to spend a cent marketing —> That's the opportunity that Google represents for publishers. Free traffic, which you can then convert to recurring visits, readers, and revenue to reinvest in your media business. 

#2 - Endemic publishers will be more successful than generalists

By 2030, Google will send most of its traffic to expertise-laden publishers who can satisfy  consumer interest authentically. Alphabet maintains that they invest in servicing their customers (i.e. searchers) with high E-E-A-T content — expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trust. 

So, high traffic websites who can authentically speak  to endemic categories will win in the end — which means great news for automotive mechanic gearheads, Masters of Wine, design-savvy minds with exquisite taste, YouTube creators re-imagining their favoriate shows, and less so for blanket-sports coverage, generalist news, or (call it) "chum box fluff". 

The modern Internet is eradicating what are called "third-party cookies." Compliance with policies such as GDPR, Consumer Protection & Privacy, etc. will only become more stringent, preventing sites and technologies from tracking consumers wherever they go. As a result, advertisers will have to place their bets with publishers who can provide reliable and consistent access to endemic audiences. 

#3 - Endemic publishers should consider SEO content from two perspectives: beats and breaks 

Consistent access being the key to servicing demand — and that's where SEO and editors need to collaborate. Consider the search demand for anything in an endemic category, e.g.  "launch of the Nintendo DS" vs. "Best games for the Nintendo DS. You have news that drives traffic in a single day or month, vs. ongoing interest that drives traffic for months, quarters, and years.

Point being, editors and SEO teams satisfying two news cycles, if you will, with their SEO content analysis — 

Beat: 12-month time horizon that drives maximum ongoing/recurring traffic
Break: 1-month time horizon that drives maximum traffic in one day/week

For example, millions of monthly searches will continue for terms like "5 drawer dresser" for the next 10 years, at least. The current data trends show momentum that's too strong to suggest otherwise. So media publishers that can own that entire funnel of discovery, learning, evaluation, decision, feedback due to their in-category expertise stand to gain tremendously from the erosion of third-party cookies.