Last month we announced a new initiative with affiliate interviews to help our partners be even more successful, and today I’m pleased to share the first interview from our series. Jonathan Griffin is one of the most active content creators on our program. He has been blogging actively since 2011 and maintains the website besthostnews.com. His website is the authority source for hosting industry news, where he analyzes the hosting industry development, writes reviews, and provides supplementary content like tutorials and guides. As you’ll see from our conversation, he has some amazing insights into content marketing and why you should adopt it too.
1. Jonathan, your website is focused mainly on providing news from the hosting industry and SEO. One of the major challenges that beginner affiliates/bloggers are facing is organic ranking of their websites. What is the most important thing for having high SEO rankings?
Looking back, my first foray into SEO was both a success and a disaster. I was heavily influenced by “black hat” techniques and automated low quality backlinks at the expense of any decent content on my site. Unfortunately, this worked well for a while, but it didn’t last, and with the introduction of Google penalties such as Penguin or Panda I went through a few websites, before I settled on my latest site, which I have been running for about 18 months now. I consider the whole process a great success as it finally showed me that “white hat” SEO was the way forward for long term SEO gains. My success has been derived from a mixture of great on-page SEO, great site structure, and “content marketing” by promoting news, tutorials and other guides in addition to the web hosting reviews. I try to focus on articles people actually want or need, rather than articles just for SEO purposes, and I think this is important. There are many factors taken into account for SEO, including off-page SEO (i.e. backlinks) and on-page SEO (i.e how you write your content, site structure). On-page SEO and site structure is perhaps the easiest to master, as it is completely under your control and there are many excellent guides and other resources to point you in the right direction. I think where many people struggle is the offsite SEO, because when done incorrectly, it can lead to penalties and it can be difficult to know how to attract those good “links”. This is especially true when you are creating very promotional content, such as reviews or other pages containing affiliate links, as not many people like linking to those. If I can give one great piece of insight in this interview, it would be this: “Not all content is created equal, and not all content should have the same aims.” To demonstrate what I mean by this, here’s an example on how you could (note there are many different ways of constructing your SEO campaign… this is just one example) have different types of content on your site:
- Money pages/Converting Content - This could be content such as your Review pages or other call to action type pages. These are designed to convince the reader to buy the product via the affiliate link and are usually more difficult to rank for in Google, but are frequently the best keywords to rank for.
- News/tutorials/guides - These are designed to provide value to the reader, keep him updated with the latest events, or just help him do something (i.e a tutorial). These will naturally rank in Google for lower competition/long tail keywords and produce traffic, but not for necessarily Money/Converting Keywords.
- Link Building articles - These are usually very in depth news, or more often very high quality tutorial or article posts. You may have spent a week writing one of these articles as it will be well researched and significantly more helpful and more detailed than anything else you will find in Google. They are often not promotional at all, as webmasters usually do not link to promotional content.
- Fun articles - These will probably rank very poorly in Google, but might generate a lot of Social traffic.
As you can see, not all articles are built to attract links, and you can feed the “link juice” to your Money Pages by linking to them internally from your Link Building articles (i.e. focus on site structure). To get an example of what I mean see my article on W3 Total Cache. All traffic can potentially convert into a sale, and it will be down to your site structure/ingenuity as to how you achieve this. So, in answer to the specific question, I would say that the most important thing for having high SEO rankings is to stay “white hat” and focus on on-page SEO, Site Structure, great quality content as well as think about what you are trying to achieve with that particular piece of content.
2. We have many affiliates who write just one review about SiteGround and that’s the one thing that generates all the affiliate traffic and sales for them. While you, on the other hand, post SiteGround-related content periodically. Why do think making that extra effort is important?
I think many readers are starting to realize that review sites (especially the top 10 review sites with very little extra content) can be fake or untrustworthy. I believe readers are looking for extra signals to show they are genuine, show credibility, and want “real” insight about a host. It is not always easy to get people to leave user reviews, especially on a smaller site, and that is why we took another approach and now try to report on new features/news relating to the hosting providers we review. We feel this gives the user value, trust in our brand and reviews, as well as authority on the subject, which in turn increases our conversion rates.
3. What is the value of reviewing multiple hosts (you have reviewed 18 in total) and recommending one over the rest?
In order to gain the trust of your readers and be seen as an authority on the subject (in our case, an authority on web hosting) it is important to give an opinion. When it comes to SiteGround, we support the overwhelming view of our readers that it is the best, and as such we clearly rank them as our number one recommended hosting provider. We find many of our readers are not really sure what they are looking for when they start searching for hosting. If you give them a recommendation it helps filter the traffic to your chosen hosting provider. We find that if you combine your recommendation with a choice and even allow them to compare the different hosts, or refine hosts by a certain feature it gives them comfort about choosing one (they will see SiteGround is the best, without you being overly promotional) over the other. This allows them to make a decision then and there, rather than searching elsewhere for answers or reassurance (meaning you do not gain the affiliate sale).
4. What are the three things that make SiteGround your favorite host?
I must admit that when it comes to web hosting I get a little jaded. Many advertise features or a certain level of support but just don’t deliver. In the last 2 or 3 years I must have used about 20-30 different hosts for various projects and with many of those hosts I sought a refund within the first week. From an affiliate perspective this is incredibly important, as you do not get paid if your referral cancels, or the hosts get a bad reputation around the web. SiteGround is great because they DO deliver, which is made clear by their very low number of cancellations. When you combine this with their incredibly fast support, very competitive feature list (i.e. Supercacher, Developer Features, HVVM on Cloud), and great reliability, then SiteGround becomes a very easy host to promote. I use SiteGround Cloud for my own site because of all the things I mentioned above. I think that doing so gives my recommendation to host with SiteGround instant credibility. Of course it is nice to get support ticket responses in around 5 minutes, have a fast website and not have to worry about downtime either, so it is a win win situation.
5. When someone is searching for a review of a specific host in Google, what do you think they are trying to find? In other words, what do you think a good hosting review should include?
From experience, we find that our more detailed reviews which have supporting articles detailing in depth on exciting features the host offers, have a significantly higher conversion rate than reviews of hosts that have very few extra features. This shows us that people want more information than just “your opinion”. They want to feel excited about a host. They want to know that it is fast, has great support, and also believe that the user reviews are real. A review should demonstrate this and of course with SiteGround that is easy to do. I think also readers want to see what features a host has at a glance and be able to compare this with other hosts. For that reason, all our reviews are filterable by feature, with us highlighting recommended features that they may wish to consider in order to help them form an opinion.