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Affiliate tracking URLs being indexed damaging to affiliate sites
It may not be the engines having deliberate bias
Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 2:05 am on Dec 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's recently come to light that many thousands - in the case of Live Search & Yahoo! Search, an average of 3 million - of network tracking URLs have been crawled and indexed and are replacing the affiliates' pages that those links are on in the index. That means that the page on the affiliate site cannot compete and/or rank - it'll be gone and replaced by the tracking links.

Example:
>>One of your pages was once ranking #2 for "fine widgets."
>>Your site and page are example.com/fine-widgets.html
>>Your page title, H1 and text include "fine widgets" and the page is relevant enough to rank well - maybe even #1, #2 or #3.

Page title: Buy fine widgets online
Meta description: Find fine widgets for any room of the house or for your garden at the Wonderful Widget Store.
Page text: Includes relevant original text, part of which is included in the snippet.

Enter the search engines indexing the affiliate URL in the page HTML code <a href="trackingurl" >link</a> instead of your page. It will appear in the index as:

Title: www.affiliatenetwork.com
Description: the search term (sometimes maybe, sometimes not)
URL: affiliatenetwork.com/tracking/php?redirect?&number999?affiliateid=999&?merchantid=999&?productid=999

You're gone, and that cannot remain ranking for you. First, it is not your site, your page is gone for the search term, and what factors are there in a phantom, script generated page to stay ranked?

Then: if the page slips out entirely, there goes your IBL credit for your internal navigation, including PR, backlink credit, semantic connectivity, theming and anchor text, among other sitewide factors.

It's been suspected by many that all the engines are deliberately trying to hit affiliates sites and downgrade them. It may not be prejudice, after all; it may be a failure in proper site management and technology on the part of either of, or both of, the networks and the search engines.

For those whose affiliate sites have gone south that you know aren't "thin" or "crappy" or autogenerated, duplicated pages or "spam", take a look and see if you can find if this is happening to you.

 

jomaxx

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jomaxx us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 4:39 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Don't you mean the DESTINATION site is at risk of having Google think the tracking URL is its actual homepage URL? I've never heard of the linking site being hijacked in this way.

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 6:32 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Nope, it's the pages the links are on that are being taken out of the index, with the engines treating the tracking URL as if it were the page.

It doesn't hurt the network at all, they've got over 3 million URLs showing in the index, some with thousands coming up for certain keywords with a site: search. Of course, tracking URLs aren't pages, they're generated by scripts but those are what's being erronously indexed.

Try it yourself:

site:example.com
site:example.com keyword

or in the case of the network that uses a subdomain for tracking, do a site: search on that. MSN shows it most graphically. Those all represent affiliates' pages that have been replaced by those "phantom" URLs.

jomaxx

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jomaxx us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 10:59 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Can you give us an example of "example.com"?

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 11:06 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

I really don't know if it's compatible with the TOS to give any specific , so I'd prefer not to name names.

But there are 3 *big* networks around and one smaller one that's popular and frequently mentioned. It's not affecting the 4th one that I've seen, but URLs from the other 3 are appearing in the SERPs, especially so for one of them.

jomaxx

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jomaxx us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 3:39 am on Dec 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

I just looked at the MS Live forum and noticed that the only person to report this is you, starting over a month ago. Maybe there's a different explanation for why your page or pages were dropped from the index.

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 3:55 am on Dec 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's many, many, many other people as well whose pages are being affected th same way (a few I know of personally, but most don't ever speak up anyplace or even know). It has to be a LOT of sites, with over 3 million of those URLs in the SERPs for just that one network alone.

People post there (Live) generally to find out why they got dumped, BTW, not to report bugs or crawling problems.

>>starting over a month ago. Maybe there's a different explanation for why your page or pages were

Actually, I figured out what was happening before October 6th, early October is when I first started noticing it.

My sites didn't fall out (except for one with a downtime/DNS/hosting 302 issue), and neither did sites of a few other people I know of.

BUT like for one certain search, for example, I've been #2 for ages - and now, instead of my page, it's the tracking URL that's sitting at #2. So no Adsense clicks/income for the page, no traffic to send to other merchants on the page, since traffic to my page never gets there for the search - and that merchant the link is going to isn't converting from that link in the SERPs.

It hasn't happened to all pages 100% (which is slightly peculiar, it's an algo quirk or two I've spotted), but bad enough to kill MSN traffic for affected pages - like for one that was getting constant, steady monthly sales from a merchant on another network.

Added: Yahoo has 2,660,000 of those URLs indexed, for just that one network. Unfortunately, the networks haven't kept bots out of areas they shouldn't go to, though I put up a couple of jump links to test, and one of my jump links got indexed (verbatim), so they're getting them off the aff pages they're crawling.

I didn't post to "whine" - not at all. I posted as a heads up, so that if it's happening to other people, they'll know to look and see if it's the case for them. It may not be engines deliberately picking on affiliate sites, as many have suspected.

[edited by: Marcia at 4:05 am (utc) on Dec. 12, 2007]

TravelSite

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 9:35 am on Dec 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure if I understand this.

Is this about affiliates actual landing pages that contain links through to a merchant site? And that wherever the page would normally show up in the search engine, now it just shows a link straight to the merchants site (and without your affiliate id)?

If so that's worring. But what happens if there's affiliate links to several merchants on the same page? And what happens if you've set up internal links that redirect you to the appropriate merchant program when clicked on?

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 9:53 am on Dec 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>Is this about affiliates actual landing pages that contain links through to a merchant site?

No, not the landing (or content) pages, just affiliate tracking URLs.

>>And that wherever the page would normally show up in the search engine, now it just shows a link straight to the merchants site (and without your affiliate id)?

Yes, that's what's showing, but it's got the affiliate id in the URL.

>>If so that's worring. But what happens if there's affiliate links to several merchants on the same page?

Sure it's worrying. If they pick up just one link off our page and show it in the SERPs, the user never sees *your* page, they end up at the merchant that link is redirected to (by the network).

So if it's the OTHER merchants (or other products) on your page who convert, the user didn't come to your page, so they have no opportunity to see your other links - or your Adsense, if you're running it.

>>And what happens if you've set up internal links that redirect you to the appropriate merchant program when clicked on?

I found a jump script and tried it on 2-3 links, they fetched a jump.php? link. ;) But, I haven't tested more to see if robots.txt exclusion (or maybe a 403) will have any effect.

southernmost

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 5:16 am on Dec 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi All,
Thanks Marcia for trying to explain this problem...but I still don't understand.
I did a site:affiliatenetwork.com search and saw their pages indexed normally.
I tried adding keywords to the search but came up with nothing.
could you elaborate on how to duplicate this problem?
Thanks!

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 5:40 am on Dec 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't want to give a specific, but since it's common knowledge and most if not all have been mentioned in posts here, let's just say that the major and/or popular and/or better known affiliate networks, in the US, Canada and UK, are not limited to, but include:

Commission Junction - which uses some other garbled domains for tracking
Linkshare - which uses linksynergy.com
Shareasale - which uses shareasale.com
Avantlink - which uses avantlink.com
Affiliate Future - which uses affiliatefuture.com
Share Results - which uses shareresults.com

Try other networks you know of too, and if you find them add your keyword(s) to the search and dig in a few pages into the SERPs since the listings have on some tend to drop down some.

CopperMint

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 9:43 pm on Apr 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

So this has been interesting. It's been a few months now, what's the latest on this?

Did you find a fix, or did the engines stop doing it?

Eric in Tennessee

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3523820 posted 6:55 pm on Apr 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

I was thinking the same thing:

DID THIS GET RESOLVED?

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