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  1. #1
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    Angry Google Calls us "Thin Affiliates" and Penalizes Us as "Offensive"
    Are we all in big trouble? You guys be the judge. I for one am very worried about the revealing of this landmark revelation from the bowels of Google:

    The following is from the AssociatePrograms.com Newsletter form Allan Gardyne (link to the full Google report towards the bottom):


    ASSOCIATE PROGRAMS NEWSLETTER 263
    June 24, 2005. Subscribers: Over 24,000



    Are you a "thin affiliate"?

    If so, Google doesn't like
    you - and that's putting it
    mildly.

    A journalist has discovered the
    facts in a confidential Google
    report.


    CONTENTS:

    1. "Thin affiliates" are offensive, Google says
    2. Video clips from Yanik's seminar
    3. Thought for today: The secret of life


    ===============================================
    1. "Thin affiliates" are offensive, Google says ===============================================

    Journalist Henk van Ess has caused a flurry of excitement on blogs and forums.

    In his blog he revealed that Google uses teams of humans all over the world to evaluate the accuracy of Google's search results.

    These "international agents", who are paid $10 to $20 an hour, were recruited mainly through universities. They're paid to check search results at Google every day.

    Here's one forum where you can read about it:
    http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/...?threadid=6028

    Don't be distracted by the debate over whether Google should be doing this.

    Of course it should. It's just a form of quality control.

    Google can use the evaluators' findings to tweak its algorithms and reduce search engine spam.

    What affiliates need to pay careful attention to is Google's "Spam Recognition Guide for Raters", which Henk revealed.

    If you're a "thin affiliate", beware.

    Although the report is a year old, about 80% of its contents are still being used by Google's evaluators, Henk says.

    The confidential document gives us an unvarnished look at Google's attitude to affiliates.

    If you're using any of the "manipulative techniques" Google describes, this report will probabaly encourage you to take a hard look at your website.

    I hope you're not silly enough to be using hidden links or hidden text. Not surprisingly, Google teaches its "raters" how to detect them.

    Are you creating pages without much content with the aim of collecting pay-per-click (PPC) revenue? Google's raters are taught to mark such pages as "Offensive", and gives examples.

    Google secret guidelines spend some time discussing different ways in which some affiliates display results from pay-per-click search engines, so if you're doing that, you'll definitely want to study this report carefully.

    Are you displaying ads disguised as search engine results?
    Google finds them offensive.

    Are you adding a dmoz.org feed to your site with the aim of earning PPC revenue? That's "offensive", too.

    Google says:


    "We differentiate between affiliates that produce
    extra service, value, or content, and those that
    simply are duplicates of other sites, set up to
    boost traffic to other sites and earn a commission
    for it. The former ones are not Offensive and
    should be rated on the merits to the query. The
    latter ones are Offensive...

    "Thin affiliate doorways are sites that usher
    people to a number of Affiliate programs, earning
    a commission for doing so, while providing little
    or no value-added content or service to the user.
    A site certainly has the right to try to earn income;
    we're attempting to identify sites that do nothing
    but act as a commission-earning middleman."


    To Google, affiliate links such as qksrv.net, bfast.com and myaffiliateprogram.com - on the page or in redirects - "strongly suggest"
    that the site is a thin affiliate.

    Are you using an affiliate datafeed? To Google, that's another warning sign.

    However, if you offer a comparison of prices between different online merchants, you're OK, you're not a thin affiliate.

    Google provides an incredibly tough guideline, which hundreds of thousands of affiliate sites fail to meet.

    Google says:

    "Do not call a page affiliate spam when an
    affiliation is only incidental to the message
    and purpose of a website. To determine whether
    participation in affiliate programs is central
    or incidental to the site's existence, ask
    yourself this question: Would this site remain
    a coherent whole if the pages leading to the
    affiliate (merchant) were taken away?"


    That probably counts out most affiliate sites.

    In summary, if you want to be friends with Google, make sure you provide extra value or content.

    I've quoted only parts of the report. Any serious affiliate will want to study the whole thing carefully.

    You can read the full report on Henk's blog here...

    http://www.searchbistro.com/spamguide.doc



    If the link doesn't work, go to http://www.searchbistro.com , find the June
    5 entry and click on the "spam guide" link.

    Note: A Google employee broke a non-disclosure agreement by revealing this report. I don't know how long it will stay online. You may want to do what I did - put a copy of it on your hard drive.

    Now we know what Google really thinks of affiliates. You've been warned.

  2. #2
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    The massive thread about this is here:

    http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread.php?t=59877
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  3. #3
    ABW Ambassador Jane's Avatar
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    We aren't all in big trouble, only the thin affiliates. The fat affiliates will just get fatter. Time to start cooking more if you want to eat and get fat.

  4. #4
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Thin is fine with me.

    The fat ones often have their pay links buried under their site's own c*ntent-flab and then wonder where the sales are!
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  5. #5
    Super Sh!t Stirrer SSanf's Avatar
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    Well, at least something about me is thin!

    Hey, you gotta count your blessings where you find them.
    Comments are opinion unless otherwise noted. Remember, pillage first. Then burn. Half of all people in the world have IQs under 100. You best learn to trust ol' SSanf!

  6. #6
    "An Englishman In New York" TJ's Avatar
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    Wonder what their NEXT line of thinking will be once all the "comparison scrpit" driven sites start flooding g**gle?
    Rosey Bear Boutique
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  7. #7
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJ
    Wonder what their NEXT line of thinking will be once all the "comparison scrpit" driven sites start flooding g**gle?
    LOL
    I can see it now:

    "Comparison sites are to be marked 'Offensive' because it adds no value to the index to have so many of them. Often these sites are just repackaged thin affiliates..."
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  8. #8
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    Don't under-estimate the power of CONTENT!

    The right content on your site, can convert the browser to a buyer BEFORE they click the link to go to the affiliate site.

    If you can design content which makes BUYING NOW a STRONG NEED, you can both meet the google requirements *AND* increase your conversion rates.

  9. #9
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by promosoft
    Don't under-estimate the power of CONTENT!

    The right content on your site, can convert the browser to a buyer BEFORE they click the link to go to the affiliate site.

    If you can design content which makes BUYING NOW a STRONG NEED, you can both meet the google requirements *AND* increase your conversion rates.
    Oh, sorry, I didn't make myself clear with my anti-content crack.

    SALES SPIN like you describe (or "sales copy/text" if you have something against the word spin) is always good! I've been in favor of *that* myself.

    The "flab" kind of content I was referring to is the "info-content" stuff that's too busy talking about something else besides the product to make a sale (for instance, a site talking about how to do photography rather than talking about why to buy Camera X NOW, and buy it from Merchant X). Or, a "free games" (entertainment-based) site as opposed to a site dedicated to selling game controllers.

    My comments were directed against the selling ability of that educational and/or entertainment type content, not true sales-oriented sites.

    But, sales spin doesn't appear to be what Google thinks of as adding "thickness" to a site. Unfortunately you'd have to be thick in the head to put that DMOZ-approved type of stuff on a sales site IMO!
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  10. #10
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    Moving this thread out to Search Engine Insight-->Google. Turns out no posts are incoming.
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  11. #11
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Personally, I agree with Google. Sites or pages that add value are the ones that should be displayed most prominently. 1000 sites showing exactly the same datafeed-generated "content" don't add value.

    Think about GoodBulbs.com. What type of affiliate site do you think people would find most useful? A site that mirrors GoodBulbs.com exactly (perhaps with some thin "value added" features like ratings and reviews), or a hand-crafted site with all of this:

    1) Tips for selecting colors that will coordinate well (along with links to the relevant bulbs).
    2) Tips for spacing, planting, storage, and a tool to help you calculate how many bulbs you will need.
    3) A place for people to submit pictures of their tulips (along with links to the appropriate bulbs).
    4) A forum for people to ask questions and share information about bulbs.
    5) A list of promotions and coupons from GoodBulbs.com.
    6) Planting times for various parts of the country, with links to buy plus planting instructions if it's currently in season and storage instructions if it isn't.

    Something useful like that would not only pass Google's reviews, but it would quickly become a popular resource. It would get many bookmarks, return visitors, unsolicited links, etc.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  12. #12
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    **Google Calls us "Thin Affiliates" and Penalizes Us as "Offensive"**

    The use of the word "us" in that title may offend some of US

    imo

  13. #13
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Talking
    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    Personally, I agree with Google. Sites or pages that add value are the ones that should be displayed most prominently. 1000 sites showing exactly the same datafeed-generated "content" don't add value.

    Think about GoodBulbs.com. What type of affiliate site do you think people would find most useful? A site that mirrors GoodBulbs.com exactly (perhaps with some thin "value added" features like ratings and reviews), or a hand-crafted site with all of this:

    1) Tips for selecting colors that will coordinate well (along with links to the relevant bulbs).
    2) Tips for spacing, planting, storage, and a tool to help you calculate how many bulbs you will need.
    3) A place for people to submit pictures of their tulips (along with links to the appropriate bulbs).
    4) A forum for people to ask questions and share information about bulbs.
    5) A list of promotions and coupons from GoodBulbs.com.
    6) Planting times for various parts of the country, with links to buy plus planting instructions if it's currently in season and storage instructions if it isn't.

    Something useful like that would not only pass Google's reviews, but it would quickly become a popular resource. It would get many bookmarks, return visitors, unsolicited links, etc.
    Screw all that as a new program needs SE spammers to get traction in the SERPs. The top cookie setting keywords should be "discounted Light Bulbs" as Google can't tell those from Daffydill Bulbs.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  14. #14
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    Personally I don't give a flying fundango about all that stuff, Michael--if the affiliate can't bring in the sales, they aren't adding any value to the merchant they're affiliated with.

    Think about GoodBulbs.com. What type of affiliate site do you think people would find most useful? A site that mirrors GoodBulbs.com exactly (perhaps with some thin "value added" features like ratings and reviews), or a hand-crafted site with all of this:

    1) Tips for selecting colors that will coordinate well (along with links to the relevant bulbs).
    2) Tips for spacing, planting, storage, and a tool to help you calculate how many bulbs you will need.
    3) A place for people to submit pictures of their tulips (along with links to the appropriate bulbs).
    4) A forum for people to ask questions and share information about bulbs.
    5) A list of promotions and coupons from GoodBulbs.com.
    6) Planting times for various parts of the country, with links to buy plus planting instructions if it's currently in season and storage instructions if it isn't.
    As a merchant, I'm not looking for sites that just want "benefit people" and maybe sell a few bulbs. I'm looking for sites that want to SELL BULBS, and in huge numbers!

    1. Cross-selling suggestions are included with some bulbs on my site. Plus, most bulbs will go well with each other anyway.

    2. That's in my FAQ. An affiliate who "provides" that, just gave their viewers a reason to not click to GoodBulbs. That benefits GoodBulbs, HOW?!?

    3. I've got pictures of what I've got for sale, on GoodBulbs. Having people playing around being sociable elsewhere may indeed benefit GoodBulbs--by eating someone else's bandwidth. But, taking away people's incentive to come to GoodBulbs to see the pictures they want to see, benefits GoodBulbs HOW?!

    4. People yakking on a forum instead of buying benefits the merchant HOW?!??!? Forums have been notorious nonsellers since at least 1999!

    5. That's a good one. But, full-price sales are nice too! What happens when there isn't a sale/coupon running? Then, what can that section do for the merchant~?

    6. Needs to go into my FAQ. People shouldn't be going to some other site to find that out. And, I only ship at planting time--no storage needed. But, like with the other "features" you suggest: EXACTLY HOW does that benefit the merchant/sales process?!?

    That has to be one of the most comprehensive lists of anticonversionary elements I have seen in years. It takes away darned near every reason a person has to click over to the merchant site!

    Those kinds of sites you describe are welcome to join and try to prove me wrong by generating GoodBulbs sales, of course. If they can outdo a datafeed site over a period of say, 3 months, then I will have to eat my words and have Crow dinner. Needless to say, I don't foresee "word" or "crow" being part of my diet in this case.
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  15. #15
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    Screw all that as a new program needs SE spammers to get traction in the SERPs. The top cookie setting keywords should be "discounted Light Bulbs" as Google can't tell those from Daffydill Bulbs.
    LOL Mike I never thought I'd be beaten in succinctness by YOU of all people! :roflmao:

    But, I don't want cookie-stuffers stuffing my cookies onto Light Bulbs spam. That sure wouldn't generate sales!
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  16. #16
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I would be tempted to build a site like I described just to make you eat crow, but I have much bigger value-added sites in mind.
    Michael Coley
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  17. #17
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    It'd be hard for you (especially YOU) to make me eat any crow, considering all the years I looked at your THIN MALL SITE listings in Google.

    The idea that, because of a Google algo change that hurt those listings, the psychology of millions of people has suddenly changed with it so that the unconversionary will now convert is untenable IMO.
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  18. #18
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    This whole argument could be resolved by a head-to-head posting of traffic stats. Both before the most recent Google update and after.

    You two game?

  19. #19
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    This whole argument could be resolved by a head-to-head posting of traffic stats.
    It really wouldn't resolve anything. Our argument isn't about what Google likes (ie, raw traffic), but about conversion ratio/selling ability!
    I'm saying, that to do what Google wants = death to sales. It may well bring in boatloads of (nonbuying) traffic.

    Plus, I've said plenty about what would happen if their algo was cracked--and that it's possible to re-crack it (it's still just a stupid program so it is possible by definition)--but not that I had done that re-cracking.
    Due to my belief that "what they want" = "committing total sales suicide," though, you can guess what I'm NOT going to do to get ranked higher there!
    Last edited by Leader; July 5th, 2005 at 02:51 PM.
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  20. #20
    Domain Addict / Formerly known as elbowcreek Thomas A. Rice's Avatar
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    Following everyone else is a GREAT way to become average.

  21. #21
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I would put my conversion stats up against anyone's. I have over a 5% aggregate conversion ratio and have conversion ratios above 30% on several merchants. (That's with enough clicks that the conversion ratio isn't a statistical anomaly.)
    Michael Coley
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  22. #22
    Troll Killer and best Snooper!
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    My point is that it doesn't matter how great the sales pitch is, you can't sell a thing if you don't have any traffic.

    Google's algo will always be a work in progress of increasing complexity. I see no point in trying to "crack it" every few months. My time is better spent working on my sites. In fact I suspect that Google might actually assess penalties to sites that appear to have cracked the algo, assuming the algo can in fact be cracked. If I was Google and I didn't want my algo cracked I'd apply some degree of randomization to the process. So not only would you need to be a heck of an investigator, you'd need to know some pretty slick statistical tricks to identify and remove the noise.

    I see a great deal of value in making my sites unique. I see a lot of value in making my sites sticky. I see tons of value in making sites that generate unasked for (and unreciprocated) links. Content coexists with sales on my sites. So far it's worked very well.

  23. #23
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leader
    It'd be hard for you (especially YOU) to make me eat any crow, considering all the years I looked at your THIN MALL SITE listings in Google.
    The "thin mall" pages you probably saw were never intended for search engines, although Google really had a heyday with them for about six months. I didn't complain when Google gave or when Google took away. I'm not going to base my livelyhood on temporary results. Good quality sites produce consistent, long-term profits.
    Michael Coley
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    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  24. #24
    Content $ Queen Ebudae's Avatar
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    I'd like to ask a question - and really not picking or starting a fight...

    Leader - I think I saw where you said that you did not want your affiliates using your descriptions from the Good Bulbs site.

    Ok, if you believe that "thin" datafeed sites are no problem, then it really wouldn't matter if there were 10,000 or 100,000 or more sites exactly like your Good Bulbs site.

    So, why not let them all duplicate you?

    Just a thought on something I have been wondering about...
    Ebudae


  25. #25
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    I have over a 5% aggregate conversion ratio and have conversion ratios above 30% on several merchants.
    And isn't that from your "thin" mall site? The one in your sig?

    It's got some categorization and which coupons are "hot," and I see a newsletter option, but that doesn't strike me as all that "thick." More of a proof that a pure sales-oriented site works just like I say it will, and that adding coupons to the mix makes a sales site do even better.

    My CR's about 2% on average this year. But it seems that adding coupons would jack that right up there. I have one site that's at 6%, though--that one's got limited-time deals on it.

    "Buy now or you're screwed" is the only real key I'm seeing here...

    My point is that it doesn't matter how great the sales pitch is, you can't sell a thing if you don't have any traffic.~Rhea
    And MY point is, it doesn't matter if you have a billion visitors/day, if they don't buy. The amount of "chaff" traffic on a content site is out of sight. But that doesn't pay the bills.
    Better to have 100 visitors/site/day and have one be a buyer, than have 10,000 people just milling around.


    In fact I suspect that Google might actually assess penalties to sites that appear to have cracked the algo, assuming the algo can in fact be cracked.
    ALL algos can be cracked, by their vary nature. An uncrackable algo is like an unkillable human. Just comic book dreaming.

    As for sites that appear to have cracked it but are penalized: If they're getting penalized, then they haven't really cracked it!

    So not only would you need to be a heck of an investigator, you'd need to know some pretty slick statistical tricks to identify and remove the noise.
    As for statistics, Michael seems to be pretty good at that. Personally I'm better at looking at the "swirling seas" and finally spotting out a pattern. But, that takes longer. Then there's the matter of coding up a match despite not knowing the ?php in PHP code until a few months ago.
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

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