An interview with Kendal Clarke
Who are you and what are you currently working on?
I’m Kendal Clarke and I lead the commerce team at VerticalScope. I’ve been with VerticalScope for four years as we’ve grown our commerce business from primarily earning revenue from within our 500+ forums to expanding into building out review sites. Within our portfolio of brands, we range from niche sites on treadmill reviews to mattress reviews to automotive reviews.
How did you get started in affiliate marketing? What keeps you excited you about it?
I came into affiliate marketing through a less traditional route because my background is in corporate strategy and development. Initially, when I joined VerticalScope, I was managing our relationships with Amazon, eBay, and our other large networks, and we saw that affiliate marketing was an excellent area for growth. Affiliate is exciting because it is the best form of marketing to keep the advertisers and publishers wholly aligned. We both want to drive sales together and grow each other’s businesses. Also, it is exciting because our sites continue to evolve and change alongside manufacturers and retailers.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to a newbie affiliate marketer? And what is one piece of advice they should ignore?
You don’t need to cover every product. Do your research! Write about what products are the best, what people are interested in, and what you think people should avoid. Also, avoid all black hat SEO tactics. Through our acquisition work, we have seen many affiliate sites that have been built using a variety of tactics. We’ve found that sites that have grown using white-hat tactics have great sustainable value. We stay away from all black-hat tactics and are very cautious of talking to any marketer who has grown using black-hat tactics. One piece of advice that should definitely be ignored is that you can offshore content to low priced writers. It is important to find really knowledgeable experts for every topic who can do a great job reviewing each product and then distill down information to what really matters to readers. Algos are getting better at natural language processing so you can’t get away with broken language.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress in your affiliate marketing?
We didn’t revamp and improve the core infrastructure on The Sleep Judge because we were worried about negatively affecting site performance. However, because of that, Google lowered our ranking on some important pages, such as the Nectar mattress review, because our pages were too slow. Now we try to stay ahead of optimizing our user experience to ensure that we provide the best user experience possible. We initially had lengthy and bloated pages in order to have longer word counts. However, we have realized that we need to lighten these pages to have better page speed and allow users to get to the editorial insights more efficiently.
What is one piece of software or a web service (besides Geniuslink) that allows you to be more effective as an affiliate marketer?
We have started running more contests using Gleam, which has been great in helping drive user engagement, get newsletter and social signups and build closer relationships with brands. Gleam has been easy to use, relatively affordable and flexible with the contest signup actions.
How do you continue to educate yourself as an affiliate marketer? What are some of your favorite resources for learning?
I enjoy talking to my peers in the industry and hearing about what they are doing and seeing. As most people operate in very different niches, I find the industry tends to be very collaborative. Lynda Mann from Digital Trends and Bryce Widelitz from CNN Underscored are amazingly collaborative and insightful peers. I also follow DigiDay and Search Engine Journal to keep up with the latest news.