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Affiliate-Driven Content Sites and Link Building with Sandeep Mallya (99Signals)

Affiliate-Driven Content Sites and Link Building with Sandeep Mallya (99Signals)

Is it possible to do affiliate marketing without losing your soul? According to 99signals founder Sandeep Mallya, it is. And while there’s no shortcut to success, there are key principles to embody along the way. Enjoy our conversation with him.


  • Be authentic
  • Being critical to your affiliates
  • How to become an affiliate marketing expert
  • The importance of being organic in your writing
  • Don’t be afraid of competitors
  • The secret to great SEO content
  • Revisit and update your content
  • AI content creating tools
  • The important of finding your voice
  • Get feedback

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Key Takeaways:

Be authentic


Being authentic is something that works for Sandeep.

“What I have found to be working for me is to be authentic. And that’s something that a lot of affiliate marketers don’t do unfortunately, because when they write, when they create content for their affiliate partners, they’re mostly puff pieces where you’re talking about the strengths. The benefits of using that tool, but you don’t explore the weakness.”

Being critical to your affiliates


Be measured and fair when publishing affiliate posts.

“In the affiliate space and it’s not in the marketing space whenever I read an affiliate article, and whenever, it sounds a puff piece, readers can make that out. They’re not stupid and if you are trying to promote a product over some of their competitors, and it it comes across in their writing and the inauthenticity comes out. And that’s when you know not to trust the person who’s writing about it. It’s important for you to be critical about the affiliate partners that you’re writing that you’re creating content for. And that’s not something that every affiliate out there does. They think if you criticize the product even a little, you’re going to lose out on affiliate sales.”

How to become an affiliate marketing expert


Learn an industry before attempting to monetize it.

“And that’s why I feel anyone who’s serious about affiliate marketing should start slow. They should first become an expert on the tool that they’re using. They must master all the features and only then they should move on to another tool that they can promote. They have to start slow rather than promoting 10 different marketing products. Focus on one that you love. And you can create tutorials for the same product. You can create how to guides you, you can create comparison posts if you want. That’s what you should focus on. And those are my essential lessons through affiliate marketing.”

The importance of being organic in your writing


If irrelevant links are inserted into the content, readers will catch on and know that the writer is not being authentic.

“ There should be an organic flow in the way you write. If you insert irrelevant links in your articles, in your content, then the reader is going to catch that. They’ll know that you’re not being authentic. It’s important for you to be organic in terms of how you place your affiliate links. You shouldn’t be overly promotional.”

Don’t be afraid of competitors


Some brands are reticent to mention their competitors in their content.

“But some brands are gonna be reticent. They’re gonna be I don’t wanna mention my competitors, but if they’re writing about how to build a email newsletter or how to create an email newsletter and they sell an email newsletter tool, it’s it’s in the service of the reader to, to mention that to use your tool in the tutorial when you’re talking about how to do that thing. And that’s the ultimate way to, to build engage in content for the reader while also interweaving your product into it. You have a chance to make that aware and sell the product.”

The secret to great SEO content


Create content that resonates with the audience by targeting the right search intent.

“ SEO boils down to two things: great content and authoritative backlinks. Without having great content, you may build any number of links, but your content will not rank because it’s not resonating with the audience. How do you create content that resonates with the audience? One is targeting the right search intent, because if your content doesn’t align with the search intent of the keywords that you’re targeting, then you’re not going to rank. At the same time, create long form content. In most cases, unless you’re working for media, news, or entertainment long-form content is the type of content that’s ranking these days. When you create long form content, that’s like 3,500 words or 4,000 words, your chances of ranking in the first three results are much higher. You also create 2x or 3x content this way.”

Revisit and update your content


It is important to revisit and update existing content, as this can be just as effective as creating new content.

“It’s important for us to keep revisiting our content and keep updating it. And I feel it’s as important as creating a new post rather than creating a new post. You can probably invest the same time and energy into updating your existing post, which is already giving you enough traffic, which is already ranking high and which is also, ranking for all the right keywords or important keywords. You can focus on updating content a few weeks of your month. And that’s a hygiene check that I guess all bloggers should do.”

The rise of content marketing tools


There are different AI tools that you can use in creating your content.

“Evernote is a tool that I use a lot for jotting down. Any thoughts that I have. When it comes to marketing, any ideas that I have, Evernote is pretty good, and since it syncs up on all devices, it’s helpful to have also Grammarly is a tool that you can use from time to time. It’s good when you’re editing your articles. I said, editing is a huge process and I procrastinate a lot on editing. I’m good at writing. I’m good at writing all kinds of junk. But when it comes to editing, that’s more where you’re committed to, each and every sentence that you’ve written and you can get, and you can get micro scoping about that when it comes to, how what you put out there and Grammarly can help you. And there is also this Hemingway editor that you can use. Hemingway was a writer who believed in having brief succinct sentences and it helps you make your writing more clear and crisp. That’s again I’m trying to think which are the tools that I use. Content creation. I rely on two tools Semrush and BuzzSumo. Ba Sumo is again, a good research tool. If you want to know what’s trending in your industry if you’re out of ideas, then BuzzSumo can help you come up with topics in your field.”

The important of finding your voice


Having deep domain knowledge that can’t be replicated by machines is going to be increasingly important for SEOs

“Having specific knowledge, having deep knowledge in your domain cannot be replicated by an AI machine.Google is already creating algorithms to detect AI content much better. And the only differentiator is gonna be you. People are going to follow your own unique style, research, and whatever you bring to the game. Having your own voice in the SEO industry. There are a lot of SEOs who have already done that, who have already achieved that. They have a lot of followers because of that. Going forward, that’s going to be important because everyone is using AI content tools, but they can’t replicate content created by humans.”

Get feedback


Update posts after hearing from your readers.

“Getting feedback from your readers. That’s I’ve updated many posts after receiving feedback from the readers and when I write about a specific tool, obviously when I write about HFS or Zembrush they’re passionate supporters of these tools and a lot of changes that I’ve made as per the feedback that I’ve received they would’ve been certain details that I got wrong. It’s important for you to get feedback from your own community and that’s how you change. But you said, if it’s in the draft section, no one is going to read it and you’re not going to get any feedback and you’re going to procrastinate over it.That’s something that won’t work for you.”

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Alex Birkett

Alex is a co-founder of Omniscient Digital. He loves experimentation, building things, and adventurous sports (scuba diving, skiing, and jiu jitsu primarily). He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit.