16 June, 2022
Influencer Marketing made authentic
SCCG Management Founder Stephen Crystal writes for Trafficology on the role of micro-influencers in affiliate marketing
In 2021, global retail ecommerce reached nearly $5trn. This growth wasn’t a spiky overnight success story triggered by significant shifts in demographics, such as the transfer of boomer wealth to younger generations. Even the Covid-19 lockdowns didn’t meaningfully affect the stable upward trend. The growth of retail ecommerce is a resilient, systemic trend projected to increase to $7.4trn by 2025 – a further 50% growth on 2021.
The growing value of the ecommerce marketplace will continue to drive extreme competition among affiliate marketers, upon whom it continues to rely – another resilient factor complicating the work of affiliates and networks.
Most affiliate marketing will continue to rely on SEO optimisation, looking to jump the ranks of Google’s AI algorithms for attention. We continue to advocate for additional use of messy, asymmetrical marketing tactics that better serve intent personas focused on specific goals.
The argument against this kind of effort is straightforward and compelling. Building backlinked content sites loaded with high-relevance keywords and all the structural metadata needed for today’s Google crawlers to easily recognise them is the industry’s core competence. They’ve been doing it for years, if not decades. It’s their comfort zone.
The problem is that this is a low barrier for competition and the key reason why Google continues to refine its ranking algorithms as an ongoing process. The algorithms view you as a threat, seeding the internet with synthetic traps and false signals, which drive content seekers away from objectively relevant content.
As Google moves away from mapping keyword relevance to focus on concepts, and as we as marketers focus on what searchers want to do, rather than who they are, we have an opportunity to focus on service rather than redirection.
In service of this mission, we propose adding a robust roster of micro-influencers as part of a powerful, holistic set of tools for affiliate marketing. Micro-influencers, with around 100,000 followers, have high value as they tick three significant boxes for driving traffic.
Authenticity: Micro-influencers are more frequently perceived as authentic, which is highly important to Millenials and Gen Z consumers.
Engagement: Influencers with smaller audiences tend to be more tightly engaged with their audiences at a personal level -- speaking with them, not to them.
Economics: Niche players are often engaged under terms that provide better economics for the process than macro-influencers; who may have the traffic, but lower conversion rates, pound for pound, than our preferred micro-influencers.
You are adding micro-influencers to your affiliate marketing infrastructure positions. This track of work, to connect intent personas who want to do something (or learn about doing something) with authentic, subject matter experts, can help to satisfy their needs.
Micro-influencers help low-information customers, serving as trusted guides who help them through a new purchase experience. These purchasers benefit from the expertise of a trusted third-party expert by de-risking a complicated transaction, proactively providing guidance that could create a transaction defect in the purchase process. They can also offer the simple confidence that they’re making the right choices and give them permission to move forward and choose your product or service.
Micro-influencers also tend to be highly effective for high information customers, who see most SEO-focused content blogs as painfully rudimentary; and in the worst case, wrong. People deep into a particular subject tend to immediately focus on factual or cultural errors in the way they communicate to the reader and immediately invalidate their authority.
In the case of both high and low information customers, micro-influencers solve a significant relevance ranking risk – pogo-sticking, where readers quickly bounce away from your content, back to search. The nature of micro-influencer content coming from a place of current, relevant authority tends to make viewers linger longer.
Now, let’s move from text-based blog content, which affiliate marketers typically feel more comfortable with, to video content, specifically platforms like YouTube.
We understand and acknowledge today that videos on platforms like YouTube are not easily optimised for SEO like text-based websites. That said, Google is extremely good at using its concept-driven AI search to drive “how-to-ers” to YouTube videos. YouTube has become a de facto authority for people trying to understand how to do something and, more importantly, value something.
Let’s look to the future. Google MUM launched in May 2020 as its latest added AI-driven technology to their algorithms family. On May 18, 2021, Pandu Nayak, Google Fellow and Vice President of Search, updated us on MUM, or Multitask Unified Model, and its powerful future benefits.
Have you ever been asked a question that sounded simple but was pretty complicated because the answer was dependent on multiple other factors? That’s the first mission of MUM – to help answer a question that has numerous steps or considerations. Here are three fun things to understand about MUM:
MUM doesn’t just understand language; it generates language for searchers to answer or drill down the question posed.
This is pretty exciting, as MUM handles multiple threads of intent. In Nayak’s example, he suggests that if a searcher were to ask what to do to prepare for a trip to hike Mt. Fuji, MUM would understand that there were multiple considerations here. For example, are you fit enough to do it? Do you need fitness training? Do you have the proper equipment or know what you need to take with you? Do you understand the seasonality of hiking Mt. Fuji? For example, do you know the relative difficulty of hiking Mt. Fuji relative to other mountains like
This is powerful stuff for affiliate marketers who will have richer opportunities to help connect the results from MUM with products, solutions, and subject matter experts, such as our micro-influencers.
MUM is trained across seventy-five different languages.
This is an easy, obvious value as it dramatically increases reach.
For example, our previous search for Hiking Mt. Fuji might have a lot of information for the searcher, but much of it might be in Japanese. MUM can solve this by bringing that information to the searcher in their native language.
MUM is multimodal, understanding text, images and, soon, video.
That last step is particularly notable, closing the gap between our ability to optimise text for SEO optimisation and the unsearchable black-box nature of video content. In closing, nothing in this article suggests an upheaval in how affiliate marketers do their work, but rather, we recommend adding micro-influencers to your toolbox today. This, and other future-proofing strategies, should keep you in the vanguard of affiliate marketing firms seeking to differentiate from your competitive masses – insisting on being great and not just good enough.