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There are thousands, if not millions of people who want to start a small blog to start raking in a bit of money on the side via affiliate commissions. But beyond a certain point, real strategy and marketing need to step in.

The best-in-class SEO powerhouses have an intelligent marketing strategy, and SEO is just one part of that.

This includes big players like:

1. NerdWallet

2. Healthline

3. WebMD

They certainly gain from SEO and are really good at it, but the point is that SEO is a substantial portion of an overall strategy.

Smaller sites in this area that are trying to hack the system with an SEO-only approach are living on borrowed time.

The overall lesson here is that SEO should be a holistic part of a larger strategy.

In my opinion, too many big brands don’t dedicate enough time to SEO – but there are many very intelligent people looking at the numbers and making that decision.

Example: Airbnb vs VRBO & HomeAway

VRBO and HomeAway are better at SEO than AirBnb.

Airbnb is much better than both of them at brand and overall marketing strategy.

Who is winning? Airbnb.

Used Car Brand Wars is a used car SEO behemoth. But does anyone talk about them? What’s their market share?

I hear people talking about Carvana, Carmax, and TrueCar instead.

What does that say?

Counterpoint: Small Affiliate and Lead Gen Plays

There is still plenty of room in the frontier-lands. There are still small affiliate and lead gen plays that can make a decent amount of money. But looking longer-term I don’t see any of these becoming a billion-dollar company.

The Points Guy and Student Loan Here are stand-out sites started by smaller teams, but again these layered on SEO, but they had a higher purpose of good writing, constant publishing, and acted more like smart publishers than just SEO dudes.

Joe Robison

Founder & Consultant
Joe Robison is the founder of Green Flag Digital. He founded the agency in 2015 and has been heads-down scaling content marketing and SEO services for clients ever since. He is an occasional surfer, fledgling yogi, and sucker for organized travel tours.
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