As an SEO through and through it pains me to say this but affiliate marketers are better at SEO than search marketers whether they work in-house or agency side.
I don’t think this is because they understand engines any better, or because they are more inventive or creative; it’s because of some of their strengths and opportunity they are more effective at their job.
But why are affiliate marketers better at SEO
Take bigger risks – if you do SEO for a living, the chances are you don’t ‘own’ the websites you work on. Agency or in-house the chances you are the best you can hope for is to be a pretty big stakeholder. Lots of affiliates have complete control over their site so can take bigger risks or make the full scale changes that efficient SEO often requires.
They don’t have to have their decisions approved by clients or their bosses so can respond quickly and take advantage of opportunities while search marketers are dealing with red-tape.
Genuinely understand ROI – if you only get paid every-time you make a sale and you can track that sale back to a particularly combination of marketing techniques you’re only going to invest your time and money in what works.
That’s not to say SEO’s don’t get ROI, but very few of us live and die by the sword in the same way and affiliate does to make a living.
Tracking is second nature – search marketers appreciation and understanding is growing no end, everyday I read a post in the SEO blogosphere about a new metric or hack to Google Analytics.
But hardened brazen affiliates have always had access to numbers and stats from their network so in many cases are much more confident, competant & canny with their tracking solution of choice.
Have to do more to stay level – Google’s fairly recent Vince update isn’t the only way search results favour those who are old school big-boys. The whole page rank and link building paradigm is skewed in such a way that if you already have a share of mind and attention it doesn’t require as much effort to carry out SEO techniques. If you’re an agile one man affiliate empire you’ve got to run fast to stay still.
Many of the clever and inventive techniques used by affiliates if they were applied to bigger sites would absolutely decimate the search ranking results pages.
Right level of focus – there’s two main SEO roles. in-house or agency. If your in-house there’s a good chance you’ll only work on a couple or small number of sites; there’s a chance you’ll get caught up in minute of the site or worse still struggle for inventive new ideas. Agency staff have a different problem, the fact is they’ll be working on a large number of campaigns, if they’re not careful they won’t have enough time or attention to give a site the thought it deserves.
All that being said I think SEO’s do a great job, and it’s not easy which means when you consistently deliver results (which most of us do) it’s even more impressive given the challenges you have to deal with.