Search intent in affiliate marketing with Victor Karpenko
Welcome to the affiliate BI podcast. I have a special guest here, Victor Karpenko. He's the founder of SeoProfy and also LinkChecker.Pro. I'm going to pass it back to you, Victor, to tell us what you do, your experience in SEO and everything you do in business.
I basically run SeoProfy agency, about 200 people. It’s an SEO agency that focuses only on SEO, so it's all-in-one SEO from link building to content, to technical SEO, to tools. The other half of my time, I invest in my own projects, grow them and make money as an affiliate.
What is your story? How did you get into SEO and what brought you in? What was the intriguing thing?
It was like 2004-2005,I was buying domain names and I was selling them on different auction platforms like local and .com. org. net. and I wanted to sell more, so I was curious about how to create a website.
So I started my first website, it was in Ukraine and I ranked it in three or four months for the keyword, like buy domains and stuff. That's how I started.
I noticed that you have been a speaker at many SEO conferences and I just went through my notes and I found the one from 2019 in Chiang Mai. The slide is from zero to a hundred thousand per month in the casino niche. I wanted to ask about your process for building basic, like spreadsheets, and analyzing keywords, and using the data and trying to find what the top-ranking sites do. How to decompose it and create this low-hanging fruit of what to target.
So I'm wondering, is there something you'd do differently today? Like I know it's been a short period, but would this be the same recipe you'd want to create?
No, I think a lot has changed. We grew a bit, but I can't talk anymore about the numbers. I mean, it's good, but not good because the conferences, people won't like some meet some like a real-life story.
I would definitely change how I built the team cause all these spreadsheets, data, whatever, it's all about the process of the people that work for you. If you have smart people who understand enough and are involved enough in this process, they will get you good results. So, from the point when I was doing this presentation, we've got pretty good results and we grew next year pretty good, but I definitely would build a team a little bit in a different way, just cause with the right people, you can, some people run, cause I show it's not just like quick low hanging fruit sprint, it's a marathon, you need to rank and to be there a consistent time to make a decent money.
So the team is like number one priority. All other stuff is… it makes sense but this is the way you organize the process.
I guess it goes without saying, Matt likes to have guests at CMSEO where they can share stories and even talk about the failures and not just show that, hey, in one month, I made the success, but the common message I hear amongst a lot of SEOs is that exactly what you said, this is a marathon, this is not a sprint. I think too many people go into this space wanting the lottery ticket, like they want to make all that money in the first month and it just doesn't happen that way.
Yeah, but you just need to be consistent, and put more execution, not just research. And I did fail. Many times, even in that presentation. We built one website, and I invested like a couple of hundred K and it failed. I built another website and it failed, but out of every loss we got something good from it. We built tools that track backlinks that systemize the process of how I would prefer people building links for me with the right KPIs, and we built an outreach department that can build links consistently and the links I want, not the ones people offer. So every time you fail it's pretty good because you can get something valuable out of there and use it as an advantage in the future.
Exactly. I mean, that's just compound wins where you get that little edge and then you just keep compounding it over time.
As someone who prides himself on being a data-driven SEO, can you share some compelling data stories that you felt were profound or things you've learned over the last short little while and said, wow, this has really changed my outlook or changed how I do business and SEO.
Yeah. That's why I stopped writing the newsletter.
Here's one thing I can tell you, which can be like, wow, for your audience. For example, people looking for hidden links, even if they found them, they still need to replicate them, right? People look for hidden redirects, but they need to see them. But here's the one type of redirect link that people don't use and even consider as a link. It's rel canonical redirect. So let's say it is a parasite SEO, right? You created an article and you have this super trusted domain with the 1000 reference domains, nice profile, that already with the content and ranking top hundred for your-money keywords. You post this parasite as your article and you do rel canonical to this page without redirecting. So your rel canonical says this is the right page.
If you find it, it's cool, but probably the problem is people don't find it because you are also on your own domain where you redirect, you do reverse DNS and clocking. So when you go and check, aha, let me see this rel canonical, it will show you the normal rel canonical, but for Google and all the IP networks of Google, it will show that this article is actually ranking.
And then you like going to Ahrefs or whatever tool and see, wow, this article kicks off. I should probably optimize my content and it will rank for sure. But you don't know about this. We find a lot of things like this, we use it on our own projects because you need to analyze and implement.
It sounds sneaky and it's very clever, but at the same time, you're right. I think it'd be very difficult for people to reverse engineer and discover what that is. You almost need to start looking at source code to find that rel canonical.
The service by code, it can find a lot of things, but even our hidden link finder can find your rel canonicals. As long as we see it by analyzing the top and it was an alert, it wasn't like yesterday, right? Because people use it all the time, but this is the way just to see that there can be many other tricky things that you don't consider in your strategy and then you fail because you don't know what's going on.
So the takeaway tip is to get yourself a hidden link finder.
No, it's not going to help. Just try to correlate everything possible. Not just one like H1, H2, H3, or this table of contents or all of these elements or like the structure of the page or density or like partial keywords or whatever. You can do it through Surfer or other tools, or technical, you can do it one time.
You just need to see everything. Is the offers right? Do you have an advantage if you have a review website? Does this website have a competitive advantage in offers? Do they have people talk about it? Okay. I do not believe in all this EAT thing, but when all your competitors in the top are doing it, you also should do it just because it's a signal to Google.
So, some might have driven as your approach just to try to correlate any information possible. It's not just one thing, it's everything.
And then it's up to you to put a weight factor behind that and go, what is the contributing factor? And I guess at the end of the day, it's like when you start studying all that data, it's a lot of data, but it's up to you to make your own conclusion. But I think if you take a lot of the points, you're probably going to have success. And then. Whatever you don't have success with, you just keep testing.
Yeah. We just do with the sprints, every hour, like an internal affiliate team, every week a sprint, what we plan for a month, how we move, what they need, where they need help, and just do the work, that's what helps.
I think that's probably another podcast topic for another day about your systems and processes.
I'm not the best in this, like our CEO is good, in the company, but I understand the KPIs and dashboards that they should have in front of them, like every day, just to go to the main company goal, what they need to achieve.
We've been chatting for some months and I wanted to get you some interview questions to do on a blog post, and this is obviously for me to ask you like all these different SEO questions because our audience is affiliate marketers and you basically look at the questions that maybe we can reframe them so they can help you and then you gave me a story where you said like you had this client that had high-end vacuum cleaners and you gave a story about how to put a concept out there that's going to pull in traffic where it's not the intended traffic, but it's like getting in front of people in the right way that's eventually going to be not only sending traffic eventually your way, but having it in a more profound way. I'm just wondering how you are able to replicate this. Or would you say this is a case-by-case basis when you look at a company and go? How do you come up with these ideas?
I mean, what problem do you solve, right? For example, if someone is recovering websites, they just can't sell SEO services. They need to show how they recovered websites, what you need to do to recover, checklists if it relates to SEO. But with his story, it's pretty good, because no one wants a vacuum cleaner for $12,000, right? It's pretty expensive. However if you show how you can make money with this vacuum cleaner, show how you can finance this vacuum cleaner, and by doing car detailing or other stuff and rank with the keyword. How to start a car detailing business and include this vacuum cleaner and say without this vacuum cleaner, your business will fail, it's like product-led marketing. Look at the Semrush, they bought Backlinko and rewrote the post that was their product. They can solve this problem, right? So people who are newbies and they're searching for some solution, but how to do this, they show that with Semrush and step by step.
Ahrefs does the same, how to check backlinks, how to do technical analysis. So, it's pretty cool because most of the people just target money keywords. But here's, for example, with the solar example I showed doing solar SEO for a company. The search volume is like seventy. We used to rank number one for the website, no leads at all. Or you can, what's actually a business owner looking for? They are looking for leads. They don't care about what you do. They want more leads to make more business. So you need to tell them how to generate solar leads and just write down the process and tell everything, like what it will take them to achieve this goal. And they're not going to do this in most cases, that's why these articles work, but you rank this article, you get some outreach to this article, you rank, people come, see, refer, and they already come to you knowing what to do and they just want you to implement it.
That is the beauty of it, with that strategy, it's not just leads. They are ready to buy. You've taken SEO to another level.
I will just add, it was a tool, I Forgot the name. Maybe it's still there, where you can look at the 20 previous searches that the user before they used to Google your keyword. For example, some people who are looking for car insurance before they look for car prices, like whatever stuff, and you can catch them there already by creating articles related because you can see what they searched in Google before.
Yeah, that would be very useful. We're going to definitely dig for that after this call. So, changing gears. I want to ask, how important do you think design and user experiences are for SEO?
It's super important and we mostly do not use templates. We do intent design, answering design. First, we do the structure, then the content and then design for this content. I know it can be complicated, but if you take one of your tools in a gaming industry, and it's hard to compete there.
And you need to find the way how you can be better than the top websites, right? So it's not like you will write a text with Surfer Seo or other tools and will be better. You need to find what users actually want, and first we're trying to understand the intent, what they are actually looking for. Is it offline, or online, or what do they want to see there? And then we're thinking about the design of the page, but it's super important.
For example the biggest problem in the casino niche it's on the page with the bonuses. Everyone puts the same bonuses as for payment options or whatever, but you need to actually give a bonus, tell how much you need to deposit, what the value you will get, in what slot you will play, and with what payment methods you will deposit this. If you're, for example, Bonus CA from Gambling.com, they just give a clear vision, they have a really good conversion, and they're ranking way high.
Yeah, you're right, because with them, when you go to some of those websites, you're not seeing a list of bonuses, which is almost standard, you're actually seeing a field that says, what are you looking for? And it's all about the intent. They set it up on a platter to say, we know you're coming here for bonuses, whatever link you clicked on, or if it came from Google, you know you're on a gambling bonus-related website. And it's what are you looking for? Put in a couple of data fields and we'll give you some interaction.
Correct. And this is the design, right? So you first need to understand what they want to see, right? What will make their life easier by coming on your page or whatever review and they know where to click and they don't need to come back to look for other offers because you already solved this problem.
I think the key takeaway here is to focus on intent, which is literally the same thing as design, and let that be your driving force of the SEO. What are your thoughts on building SEO dashboards using tools like Looker Studio? And if you support it and how should users best configure this for their business.
I do support it. Some of our teams have it like, Google Data Studio, Google Looker Studio.
But you can get basic information from Google search console, from Google analytics I'm not sure because I do not use it on my small website analytics, I use Piwik. You just can create your main metrics that you want to see. For me, it's clicks, it doesn't show bounce rate, but from search console, clicks, average position, keywords, like how many of them appear for a landing page and for the whole website and overall we take, for example, from this week to next week, what changed? Especially when it's a new website, you can't measure a big volume of traffic. You can measure like 200 keywords, now it's 1000 keywords or whatever, average position changed, yes, we are doing the right thing. But it's many templates with this Looker Studio and it's up to you.
I'm not a big fan of Looker Studio. I do my own dashboard where I have main metrics for affiliate websites. As an SEO, in the morning, I want to see how many FTDs (First Time Depositors) I have, what's the revenue, if it's not, because you already know how many FTDs you on average should have, right? If it's less, something went wrong, you go to the positions, it's next to the dashboard, and then to the traffic, and then you see what's going on, and then the third one is tasks. How the task flow goes, because without all this doesn't mix, doesn't matter. You still need to rewrite or update pages, build links on them, and improve them. And it's not just once, it's all the time
I'm taking notes here because we're looking to see if we want to build with our tools, like the same affiliate marketing data that you have of your FTDs, your clicks, your sales and go. Do we want to export that out so you can put it into Looker Studio where you already have an API to export your affiliate marketing data? We're thinking about maybe doing it inward where maybe your Google Analytics and your Google Search Console can be coming in. But it goes without saying, I think what you said is probably on point that everyone's situation is different, but maybe your one campaign is correlated to a single page so you can actually look at that from a single data stream point of view.
Affiliate network programs hate this, when you need to mark up your website, and I don't know, for one page, you have three different types of reference links. Then like for a website, you have like hundreds of reference links for the same offer. But it makes sense because then you actually see where FTD came from, and remember I told you about rel=canonical is a really good way to look at what keywords actually convert if you are like just starting is to start with PPC, even if the niche is great, you still can start PPC, there are a lot of teams that can appear in any market. It doesn't matter. And just with the postback, you get the data of the first-time depositor, right? But you also get the right data, which keyword converts after you spend some amount of money, and then you can focus only on these keywords by doing your SEO.
It's a smart strategy, but I'm pretty sure everyone is not going to do that. If you love data, and if you're comfortable playing with these advanced link-tracking tools, then these are definitely great ideas.
The next question is in two parts. What do you think data science and analytics are going to do for affiliate marketing? And then the same question for what it'll do for SEO.
I mean, help yourself to understand what's going on faster. I think this is the main thing you need to have so you can make important SEO or affiliate decisions faster, so you can make more money faster, right? So you can see problems faster. So you can see improvement faster.
That's the only thing that tools are supposed to give you. For example, when I created one of our internal tools, we realized we were wasting so much time on routine things, and now we do research like a hundred times faster. This is the only advantage, if you did niche research, faster, better, with right data, then you can implement it and you most likely will get some results, and faster than other guys that will be slow. They will think a lot, but while they think we already will try many times, that's what data-driven analytics tools should give you, so they just help you to make your business efficient.
The next question I've got is like a self-serving one for me. I'm curious to know. I like asking people what AI tools they use, ChatGPT, and what are the ways you're using them. Not just for pure SEO, but how you're trying to automate systems in your business and just try to improve your daily workflow.
I do not. Why do I need teams of smart people to use chat GPT if I can have teams of smart people who can use whatever tool they want? As long as they do everything, like write, implement, and deliver. Of course, I see prompts and I talk with SEOs where they show pretty good ideas, but they are the ones if, for example, product owner of the tool, here are these ideas, they can implement it. It's good. We have our own tool, you can generate a lot of stuff and it can even give you a conclusion about what you need to do. But this chat GPT is not like something, AI definitely helps and it's probably undervalued right now. A hundred percent. It's like people just do not understand. But what I see, we get in better and better with our tools and AI can just speed up some summaries according to the data that we have on the servers. But I personally tried as everyone used I don't know for naming purposes like finding brand names or whatever. I stopped.
I think what you're doing that's probably different than a lot of people is I think you've been focused more on the business intelligence aspect for a long time, like you're more focused on data, and I think when you do that you're probably gaining more insights where you have those insights now, and maybe people won't even get them with using any of these AI tools.
I think there's always an interesting correlation between AI and business intelligence that it'll always be there. But if you just focus on business intelligence. You might touch upon AI, but you don't have to.
We just do it not because we just like to analyze stuff. I do like to analyze, but we do it because imagine you rank number one for a super good keyword, you get into sustainable revenue all the time and here's a new guy that did this cool strategy. But if I would do it on my own. I probably will do it in one month, maybe never will do it, maybe we'll just talk and try to implement and then you still need time.
I have a team that is responsible for this project. We just discussed and put this task in the sprint. So I know in one week we'll change something. In two weeks we'll change even more. In three weeks we probably will get back to the number one position and we'll use this strategy. I can identify it, but to implement it, it's more important than to identify.
I think the key takeaway here is it takes time to become a good analyst and you pretty much need data to get good at that. And you also need to have a really good understanding of what you're looking at in the first place. Just looking at tables of data, yeah, you can put it through ChatGPT or code interpreter and say give me some insights. But you can't replace your 10 years of background in affiliate marketing and SEO with just AI, it's just not really going to happen.
I think it works mostly where, for example, team lead has equity or percentage in a project. When they make some money, and they drop, they look for everything possible just to go back there. Also, I want them to fix it. And then you just try to correlate everything possible.
Like, they have more content? Let's write more content. They are more optimized? Let's optimize them more. They did this, let's do this too. But the end result is still like why we do this or what, just to keep ranking. And I don't know.
Accountability will solve a lot of things and AI is not going to solve accountability.
The last question I like to ask everyone is what do you see of the future of affiliate marketing as it intersects with business intelligence?
It's a really interesting question. I think the more people grow as team companies, the more they will start to analyze, the more they will start to see where they are spending money, where they're losing. Should they not at all do this stuff. And with these analytic tools, basically, that's the answer. Just track things. They will start tracking everything possible like from the business. For example, we have a dashboard in the agency for every department with the PNL for every team lead. So they know, for example, the head of project says, I want to do this team building, I need 5k. And now they go and see if can we afford 5k to do this team building or we should postpone it later and figure out this in a different way, because they see the numbers, as long as you like tracking the numbers, you can do some changes if you don't track, come on.
Data is everything. You're right. And it sounds like you guys track more than the average company. And I think what might happen in the next few years is as more people start seeing not just case studies, but when they see other companies grow, and they realize what's behind it, and it's not necessarily AI tools, It's a lot of business intelligence tools. I think what you're saying is very true. It's the people who take the time to look at data and say, how can I use this data to make smart, better decisions? You can't make better decisions if you're not using any data or not measuring anything at all.
Awesome. Victor, how can people get a hold of you if you want them to get a hold of you?
Just go to datadrivenseo.com and subscribe. I'm not promising regular newsletters, but I will definitely continue sometime soon.
Awesome. And also includes some links in the show notes for maybe LinkedIn as well as SeoProfy and LinkChecker.pro.