Our Accidental Experiment
We set up an example website for our Unstoppable Affiliate training course. It was one we set up just for people in the course, just to show them exactly how we created our sites. It wasn’t supposed to be a site we had that was already making money, just an example of exactly what we do in a real scenario.
We set it up targeting a real affiliate offer and with our real aff links in there, real (quality) content & monetization… the works.
But we didn’t start SEO on the site. It wasn’t meant as an example of our SEO campaign, just of the site layout & structure. I’m not aware of any backlink we built to it at all.
This was a NEW domain name too.
Fast forward about a month…
We noticed the site had made a couple of sales.
It didn’t surprise us much. We knew the market it was in well (we’d been in it before) so we knew the offer converted. We figured we’d somehow picked up rankings for a long tail keyword and had pulled a couple of high converting visitors just with our quality content and by having the keyword in the domain name.
But then things started to get weird…
Sales kept coming.
In one month the site made something like $300. We still hadn’t built a single backlink.
In November so far, the site’s up to $583 earnings, it’s bringing about a sale a day, and there’s still a week to go in the month.
We’re ranking on page 1 for the main keyword, plus a host of others, and bringing in a great volume of traffic. We’re outranking sites with hundreds of backlinks that have been around for much longer than ours.
Oh, and we still haven’t built a single backlink.
Question: How the HECK is this possible?
Now, I can’t confirm this, but here’s our hypothesis… (keep in mind it’s easier to analyze what’s had an effect here because we’ve done so little on this site… there’s not much to choose from!)
We know that Google takes data from web surfers. Not just data about your Google searches but about your browsing habits in general if you have Google toolbar or you use Chrome. Probably in other ways too.
And we know that data about how people interact with your site is an increasingly large part of the judgment of quality of your site.
When we listed the site in UA, it got a lot of traffic. People from the course went to our site and checked it out. Google saw that.
What’s more, they didn’t bounce, and they stayed on the site for an average of 2 minutes 30. A pretty long time for a site like this (and in this market given it’s nature). People were checking out the site to see what we did with it. Of course they stayed a long time!
That’s the only thing that’s happened to the site (including it’s solid content, on page optimization and a keyword in the domain) that could warrant a ranking. A site with JUST solid content, on page optimization and a keyword in the domain is not ranking in this market after a couple of months. We’ve tried it.
So you make up your own mind…
What Does This Tell Us?
Before you go out trying to recreate this scenario: don’t. I’m going to assume that this is an overcompensation towards these new ranking factors that’s a part of the algorithm now, and as more people game it, it’ll get leveled out. If in fact it is a real thing, (our humble one case study doesn’t prove much) it won’t last long.
But this does tell us something very important. Google is VERY serious about this bounce rate/time on site/user experience stuff.
There aren’t many factors that can compete with backlinks when it comes to determining your rankings, but this case study tells me that – at least right now – those experience factors can and are approaching that level of “weight” in the algorithm. Remember, our 3 month old site with no backlinks outranked sites that had all other factors equal (content, keyword in domain, on page optimization) AND were older and more established. That is a BIG deal.
What do you take from it?
Where you can improve your content, lower bounce rate, and keep people on your site for longer while still having them click your affiliate links… do it.
There’s a fine line there for affiliates. The longer people stay on your sites the longer they’re NOT clicking your affiliate links. So it’s a very fine balance to strike. But it’s possible.
We’re going to do more and more testing with regard to this and we’ll be sharing the results with you in the coming months.
In the meantime, I hope this provides you some food for thought
Every time Google makes an algorithm change it takes a little while to see how things are changing. After Google Fresh hit us about 2 weeks ago, I have seen a pretty nice rise in traffic and also a huge change in my bounce rate.
My bounce rate before Google Fresh was around 60%, which I was trying to get lower obviously. Almost immediately after Google Fresh hit my bounce rate was cut in half. Today, my bounce rate for the month is absolutely crazy, 26.05%. The only time that I have seen better was when I was consulting for a local church and was getting a bounce rate of about 11%.
Not all of my sites have seen such a drastic change but I definitely think that this says something about the new correlation between increasing traffic and lowering your bounce percentage.