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May 16th, 2012, 06:30 PM #1Google Penguin Update And Affiliate Programs
So G is telling affiliates they have to be content writers, is that the new SEO (or the original)? And datafeed sites need to engage their readers?
Just add some value and keep it fresh
In continuing our looks at Google’s quality guidelines, it’s time to talk about affiliate programs.
Google, as you probably know, recently released the Penguin update, targeting sites that violate its quality guidelines. With that in mind, it seems wise to examine what those guidelines actually are, and look for things to avoid (and of course, things to do right).
Here are some articles from this series:
Google Penguin Update: Seriously, Avoid Doorway Pages
Google Penguin Update: Don’t Forget About Duplicate Content
Google Penguin Update: A Lesson In Cloaking
Google Penguin Update Recovery: Hidden Text And Links
Recover From Google Penguin Update: Get Better At Links
Google Penguin Update: 12 Tips Directly From Google
Google Penguin Update Recovery: Getting Better At Keywords
Google lists one of its specific guidelines as:
If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first.
So what does Google mean by unique and relevant content? That links to the page for “little or no original content” we referenced in the article about doorway pages.
To reiterate, Google says, “One of the most important steps in improving your site’s ranking in Google search results is to ensure that it contains plenty of rich information that includes relevant keywords, used appropriately, that indicate the subject matter of your content.”
“However, some webmasters attempt to improve their page’s ranking and attract visitors by creating pages with many words but little or no authentic content,” Google adds. “Google will take action against domains that try to rank more highly by just showing scraped or other auto-generated pages that don’t add any value to users.”
The first example Google lists is “thin affiliate sites”.
“These sites collect pay-per-click (PPC) revenue by sending visitors to the sites of affiliate programs, while providing little or no value-added content or service to the user,” Google says. “These sites usually have no original content and may be cookie-cutter sites or templates with no unique content.”
The company later adds, “There is no problem in being an affiliate as long as you create some added value for your users and produce valuable content that gives a user a reason to visit your site. For example, you could create product reviews, ratings, and product comparisons.” Emphasis added.
Google has another page in its Webmaster Tools help center specifically about affiliate programs. On this page, Google provides four specific, important tips for affiliate sites.
1. Affiliate program content should form only a small part of the content of your site.
2. When selecting an affiliate program, choose a product category appropriate for your intended audience. The more targeted the affiliate program is to your site’s content, the more value it will add and the more likely you will be to rank better in Google’s search results and make money from the program. For example, a well-maintained site about hiking in the Alps could consider an affiliate partnership with a supplier who sells hiking books rather than office supplies.
3. Use your website to build community among your users. This will help build a loyal readership, and can also create a source of information on the subject you are writing about. For example, discussion forums, user reviews, and blogs all offer unique content and provide value to users.
4. Keep your content updated and relevant. Fresh, on-topic information increases the likelihood that your content will be crawled by Googlebot and clicked on by users.
I’d pay special attention to that last one, given the increased focus Google has put on freshness in general. That hasn’t changed, either, with April’s big list of algorithm changes.
Beyond that, the more you can do to distinguish your site from other affiliate sites, the better.
Jeff Slipko, SEO Strategy Manager for Expedia’s affiliate network wrote a good post on the Expedia Affiliate Network blog recently. He notes that affiliates shouldn’t add content just for the sake of adding content. In other words, don’t create worthless content.
“Worthless content will be general, boring, duplicated from other sources, and will be written for the search engines best interests instead of your users,” he writes. “On the other hand, content that adds value and will truly make a difference will be unique, interesting, problem solving, and tailored to your user base. Avoid write content that’s only purpose is to rank for certain keywords and fails to help your user base get the most out of your site. If your content is done properly, your site will rank for more keywords, bring in more traffic, satisfy your users, and ultimately increase revenue.”
Other suggestions he offers include: don’t stuff keywords into your content, be careful of overly optimized link anchor text and avoid being a thin affiliate. So basically, stick to Google’s quality guidelines.
May 16th, 2012, 06:59 PM #2
According to G the Penguin update was a success:
Early this morning, Google Fellow Amit Singhal was interviewed by Danny Sullivan at Chris Sherman on stage at SMX London, the sister conference of Search Engine Land. Singhal discussed a variety of Google search-related topics.
We were hoping to get a some in depth discussion about Google’s recent Penguin update, but apparently that wasn’t a major point of conversation. Daniel Waisberg liveblogged the discussion at Search Engine Land, and Penguin only came up briefly. Here’s the relevant snippet of the liveblog:
Danny talks about Penguin and asks how it is going from Google standpoint, are search results better? Amit says that in the end of the day, users will stay with the search engine that provides the most relevant results. Google’s objective was to reward high quality sites and that was a success with Penguin. One of the beauties of running a search engine is that the search engines that can measure best what the users feel is the one that will succeed more.
From Google’s perspective they use any signal that is available for them, more than 200 of them. They have to make sure they are accurate and good. They will use any signal, whether it is organic or not.
Google’s Matt Cutts also recently said that Google has considered Penguin a success, though plenty out there disagree.
If you want Google’s advice on Penguin recovery, check out these videos Matt Cutts says to watch, these tips he endorsed on Twitter, and of course Google’s quality guidelines.
May 16th, 2012, 10:45 PM #3
Google results are a pile of crap for the most part. They've thrown so many worms into the can at this point that there is no way for them to be able to serve up a quality set of results. They just can't.
May 16th, 2012, 10:53 PM #4
Was playing devil's advocate here! If G wants all affiliate sites killed off in favor of advertisers they should have the balls to state that. They won't because it could cause enough of an uprising to force an alternative. As with every empire there is a paradigm shift and wondering how long G has before there is one.
May 17th, 2012, 01:54 AM #5
May 17th, 2012, 10:42 AM #6
May 17th, 2012, 11:03 AM #7
Google results are a pile of crap for the most part
- Join Date
- April 6th, 2006
Of course they're going to say it's a success, but these guidelines don't reflect the actual search results - they are serving up spam and doorway pages on page 1. Write content, sure.. then have it scraped and outrank you.. they forgot to tell you that part.
May 17th, 2012, 11:49 AM #8they should have the balls
The "Google hates affiliates" sentiment around here has reached (quite some time ago) the "crackpot conspiracy theory" level. If Google wanted to "kill affiliate sites off", they could do it in a heartbeat. And it would be the easiest of all filters to implement... and probably the most efficient and effective. "Ooooh look, this page has a bunch of outbound links to anrdoezrs and linksynergy!!!! KABOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!!! See ya!!!!!!"
May 17th, 2012, 12:44 PM #9
- Join Date
- April 6th, 2006
I don't think Google hates affiliates, I've seen other good sites suffer. The problem with affiliate sites is that it has become quite easy to launch a thin site using datafeeds & various web services (storefronts, APIs, etc). So they WILL be the first ones hit with any algo change as they contain bucketloads of outgoing links, and some of the time, very little content. If you have enough content, you should get ranked.. but that's not what I see happening.
My beef isn't with affiliate sites, it's the search results which are littered with crap.
I get really p*ed when I read guidelines about content, as those guidelines have NOTHING to do with what currently ranks. If I can easily find doorway pages & sneaky redirects ranked on page 1, that doesn't say much about the algo.
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