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|Does Google intend to destroy affiliate marketing?|
Search terms that include a brand name are now completely dominated by the brand name owner's pages, even though many of these (in the products I handle, at least) are scarcely relevant to the query. Affiliate sites, even those containing masses of good, relevant content can hope for no better than 5th place. I'm now hearing more and more complaints from people whose Adsense accounts have been closed because G sees them as containing bridge pages which exist just to send the visitor to another site; in other words they are affiliates.
Now on the face of it this is perverse logic; most of the Adsense ads in my sectors are placed by affiliates and banning all of these will reduce Google's income to an enormous degree so why are they doing this? Is this the biggest corporate suicide this century - or is there another reason?
Google, with their purchase of boutiques.com is now, itself, an affiliate. Perhaps they intend to drive the rest of us out of business, and replace us? Surely not, they 'do no evil'.
I will say that in general when someone searches for a brand name they will see that brand name site rank high. If I search for a brand name I strongly suspect that most of the time the official website is going to be more helpful to me than an affiliate site. That is why I and many other people use Google. When I search for something on Google, they return relevant matches.
For over ten years I have been and still am a very profitable affiliate. I do not think for one second that Google is trying to destroy affiliate marketing. Google has taken steps to push down lower quality sites. Sometimes there is collateral damage. Overall these changes have simply shut down tricks that I and many other affiliates have exploited for years.
Nowadays my affiliate strategy focuses more on building quality sites. My quality affiliate sites have thrived the last few years to the point that my sites have become trademarks of their own.
A few times a month I am contacted by companies because one of my review sites outranks them for their company name in Google. If for nothing else that shows that with the right strategy you can score higher in the google algo than your competition (even for their company name).
We can spend more time talking about how google likes or does not like affiliate sites. I think it would be more productive for everyone if instead we talk about what real research we have to show what google is doing and how we are reverse engineering the algo. IMHO that is better and much more profitable.
I accept that we have to keep positive, and not get too engrossed in conspiracy theories; my own sites indeed produce more income than they have ever done in the 12 years I've been trading online. However, what bothers me is: why are affiliate sites being blocked from Adsense, when they probably produce the majority of Google's income?
Google's responsibility is to uphold shareholder value, not act as an arbiter of the shape of the Internet. So just what is going on? You may be right, and the company may smile on affiliates benevolently but there are a lot of businesses that will disappear as a result of the Adsense move, and many more that are at Google's mercy if they move further into territory that was once the province of small affiliates.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to spread doom and gloom and there are ways of adapting but if the solids are indeed going to hit the fan I for one would like some notice of it.
|why are affiliate sites being blocked from Adsense |
You basically answered this yourself in your original post:
|G sees them as containing bridge pages which exist just to send the visitor to another site |
If that's the affiliate's entire strategy -- "Click here to buy" -- then Google doesn't want that, never really did. The value add is the most important strategy to be able to survive as an affiliate these days, has been for a number of years.
Just as an aside, there's one thing you have to keep in mind about this:
|Google, with their purchase of boutiques.com is now, itself, an affiliate. |
Google actually introduced the commission model for some Products advertisers last year, so the somewhat affiliate-looking aspect of this is actually old news. I might be right, though most probably wrong, but I'm looking at boutiques as a model for a new Google Products on steroids.
people tend to shop around when they buy stuff anyway.
if i search for "apple laptop" and apple's own site appears top of the serps then, okay, they are bound to get a lot of traffic. but how many customers are going to buy straight from there without at least checking out the prices on the other sites below? not many. so it's not as if the brand name is sucking up every scrap of traffic.
[edited by: londrum at 4:15 pm (utc) on Nov 22, 2010]
It's a known fact among affiliates that have been in the game a while Google would rather not have them in the index and they do what they can to get them out.
That said, there are always ways around what Google is doing. They like to think they are so clever yet it's quite easy to use their uber arrogance against them.
goodroi is spot on with what he said:
|We can spend more time talking about how google likes or does not like affiliate sites. I think it would be more productive for everyone if instead we talk about what real research we have to show what google is doing and how we are reverse engineering the algo. IMHO that is better and much more profitable. |
Who cares what Google thinks of affiliates. There are many ways for affiliates to make money using Google and other search engines.
|There are many ways for affiliates to make money using Google and other search engines. |
|Google would rather not have them in the index |
Well that depends on what the affiliates are doing.
|Nowadays my affiliate strategy focuses more on building quality sites |
That is the way forward for savvy affiliates.
I think they're trying to weed out lower quality ones, sure. (Hopefully that includes Bizrate.com..)
But I'm sure that they're more than happy to include quality affiliate sites in their rankings. After all, if they add value to the user, that's what Google wants.
I've no problem with them weeding out poor quality sites but their latest Adsense TOS means they will reject pretty well all affiliate sites, good quality or not. The only ones immune (at present) are those that have the entire buying process on their own sites, in other words the very biggest. Quality, content, usability etc appear to be irrelevant.
I'd be fareful not to mix up Adsense with organic rankings. And don't confuse the actions reported in a few cases with some kind of Google-wide corporate policy, either. What we don't know about individual cases could be immense - both on the Google rep side and the website's side.
I know there have been issues with AdWORDS accounts being blasted for bridge page / affiliate issues, but this is the first I've heard of AdSENSE accounts being dumped for that same issue. Have I just missed something, or is there some confusion here?
Apologies, I used the term Adsense instead of Adwords, advanced age has it's drawbacks! It has a few advantages too, I've seen a lot of profitable markets disappear almost overnight in my time so perhaps I'm more cynical than most, a policy that's been very good to me so far.
Goes without saying you need quality sites, but if you're using adwords and running an affiliate site, sooner or later you will get the dreaded email because your site no matter how good the content is, is in fact intended to get people to click to another site so you can make money. Otherwise, why would you spend money on adwords to send people to your great site? Just so you could inform them about how great your niche is?
Google don't like affiliates no matter how great your content is no more than they like SEO's.
If the algo don't whack you, then one of their quality reviewers sitting in India might just be having a bad day and then your domain is toast.
People who still think Google is their friend really need to put down the Kool-Aid. The SEO crowd is the worse for keeping the faith and quickly forget how the two founders of Google likened SEOs to the equivalent of somebody poking a sleeping bear in a major magazine article. That was before they went people so if anything they have taken a harder stance.
All you have to do is look at all the changes they have done over the last couple years to combat SEOs err I mean spam.
It's not only the affiliate site's , it's really anything that forms a bridge between a brand & bricks and mortar business and Google.
Google see's more revenue by dealing direct with the principles of those business'. Better bid prices on Adwords . Better recurring directory fees.
Aggregators of data have little more than Google could achieve. In mature markets like travel , realestate , restaurants , news , shopping, entertainment etc. Google has access to all of the data via it's acquisitions and partnerships. It has a lot of the tools e.g. maps, comparison engines etc. and of course it's strongsuit - brand.
So with a lot of the key activity presented under Google , now available directly to it , why not effectively sell direct. I mean call it advertising dollars , but it's positioning itself to replace referral income with a fee for retailing - isn't it? It's easy enough to switch the cost of sale calculations around to fit any business model. It boils down to the same thing in the end Y/N ?
The interesting balancing act to observe is how they effect that strategy, potentially destroying meta search / OTA's , Yelp's , and all aggregators of intermediary common data along the way. Because for now the revenue shift to the new order is finely balanced.
How to go along with this change ? Hmmm - listening / watching.
Smart affiliate's , maybe , but in what volumes ? Niche players maybe , that can get their smart options into the SERP's in large quantities.
I'll bet Google makes a mint out of affiliates on Adwords AND Adsense so IMO they're going to try and find the balance between providing value to the searcher and their revenue streams. IMO an affiliate will continue to prosper under Google if they provide value-added content.
Example: brands often don't supply a good cross-section of honest product reviews (or they prioritise the better ones!) while an affilite can be more up-front. That can add real value for a user and it makes sense for Google to use it. Which, TripAdvisor, Sidestep etc...all virtually indispensable affiliate sites.
The way it looks to me is that the value needs to be primary - then affiliate links work. But it's a hard row to hoe if you start with a pile of affiliate links and try to "add" value.
I see a lot more affiliate marketers working Facebook now. Things like health products and certain niches can perform very well there.
People are going to tend to be attracted to any place that seems like an authoritative destination. In the case of Facebook, when 1000 people like something, it means something to some people. And when you can read what people thought about it, that is another bonus.
Put 10 people into a group and let one person tell them about something, and you have the birth of a marketer.
Not that my opinion would be considered, but if I had any advice for Google, it would be to send traffic to competing social portals like Twitter (and I think they are doing that) to prevent that market from getting dominated by Facebook any more, and then try to work their way in.
And of course, figure out where Facebook is making money, and dilute that market directly, or through Twitter, Digg, Reddit, etc.
The one thing that hit's me is that we don't need Google - and therefore neither do affiliates. Now that sounds weird because for most of us that's where our business originates , and like a monkey's hand in the jar , we can't release ourselves - to our potential collective demise.
But any affiliate ( or other site / business owner ) - consider this. In 2000 you spent your whole day accessing information , surfing on the web. Now you don't.
If you're like me , you now have a routine of a small number of sites you routinely visit. You have a bunch of friends / acquaintances you regularly communicate with and network through . You know where to go to get the info you want and who to ask if you don't.
Then consider this , I recently helped a Uni graduate with an e-marketing strategy document - nothing mind boggling or beyond ABC for most experienced webmasters, marketers and business owners. Word of mouth , in their research sample of over 500 persons , is still the overwhelming method of communication. IP based methods simply facilitate. Phone , Facebook , Email , Twitter , Linked In , networking meetings and all the traditional methods are still the stickiness that keeps things together. and people are lazy - why surf to find the result when you can ask someone.
Now you've found it , or you can find someone who knows. The power of referral is the most potent form of marketing, and brand is most often facilitated via this. Google doesn't build brand - people and their experiences do.
How often do people go to a restaurant because of the internet. Hmmm - it's usually because you've watched people gorging happily through the window or been referred. Online directories may only trigger a minority of the actual business to the majority of such places or experiences.
My guess is that Google is as nervous about it's future earnings as affiliates are about having to respond to changed methods of marketing focus away from pure SEO . If affiliates think they have a problem , spare a thought for Google who need to keep increasing their share price infinitum.
The people have the information - now they want what they've lost - good service and human contact.
We're all in this together :)
|Google doesn't build brand |
That's a good point. Google doesn't build brand - they only measure it.
Exactly , and i bet there's people in these forums who generate millions of searches and many of their visitors couldn't recollect their business' as a brand.
So there's no loyalty there. There's no relationship. It's as dead as a Do Do and for those that used it and didn't capture it , it's been wasted.
The information age is probably largely over in it's exisitng cycle. The next line is the re emergence of service and relationship building , something that lazy opportunitists ( cough - like me ) , probably neglected in the halycon years of the web. Great call centres that actually understand your language and needs , people that see you , better telephony, greater creative presentation,
You don't need Google. Letting go is another story and my guess is they'll be around for a loooong time. but it may be another Microsoft story as they have to compete further from their core.
Affiliate's have to rethink how they do business away from Google. Google isn't in the business of destroying people or business. It's focus is on how to make money. If you're going to be a casualty , don't blame them. The lion has to eat , many of us have to run.
|Google is as nervous about it's future earnings |
Agree'd, most of what does not make sense to long time webmasters is the sudden drastic change but logically what has happened is thier priorities have changed... They once had to care and cater to webmasters to build their company from the ground up... Now they have to care about shareholders and Wall Street...
All corps use tricks during earning season but not all corps have an algo which can be tweaked with drastic results on revenue practically overnight without any regulation what so ever which is interesting to say the least.
Right now what is drawing in investors towards G is that online advertising is on the upswing... The ability to inflate those numbers short term , draw in investors and move forward in their other areas which they invested heavily in this year has my attention now. Wall Street has their eyes on Internet advertising currently and Google has posted ressesion-resistant earnings the entire year...
Short term inflation's on paper for their PPC makes total sense right now...
I've been running a 5 - 10k adwords spend since 2003 and over the last two weeks Google shut down all of our domains due to bridging. Since then I've had at least 6 emails from a guy in India (I guess) telling me exactly what his ideas are on how my website should look so that it complies, with each email we are getting closer but still not quite there.. I've already started sourcing traffic from other places and its working, its a big internet out there so open your eyes people, Whitey is right you don't need Google. to my friendly and polite reviewer in India I have not responded to your last directive because I'm spending my money on destination websites and getting results and I will be helping my clients to do the same.
|Google shut down all of our domains due to bridging |
Kidder - Can you clarify what you mean by this phrases ( i think i know - but wanted to check ).
[adwords.google.com...] Even though we have 10's of thousands of members and classified adverts we are still deemed to be "thin" ... Its ridiculous.
|It's focus is on how to make money. If you're going to be a casualty , don't blame them. The lion has to eat , many of us have to run. |
Which is why you would think for adwords at least, they would not mind good affiliate sites spending a lot of money with them. If the CTR is great and the affiliate is earning, then the ad is spot on for what searchers are seeking.
But, for some reason Google does not see it that way. They would rather affiliates not use Adwords which I'm sure this year is costing them quite a lot of money since I'm not seeing half the ads I normally do for Christmas stuff. It's mostly big names and many times there are no more than 5 on a page.
The next earnings report should be interesting.
Can you imagine print or tv media telling its advertisers how to arrange displays? LOL
Rest assured OP - google are hell bent on destroying affiliates and have been since the Florida update.
I've been pondering some more on this from a different angle and semantics .
Since the advent of the internet people have been jumping about with concerns over direct distribution opportunities , which fuelled hysteria leading to the dot com boom and bust. The distribution chain is still as long as ever 13-15 years on. How has Google changed that - probably not , they've just polarised search distribution and do it better than anyone else did.
The question is, i suppose , is Google dependent on intermediaries and affiliates to deliver it's future revenues , or can it grow profits from this by cutting through middlemen and exercising it's portfolio of tools and acquistions.
But how exactly ? That is the question that leads to the response strategy.
|is Google dependent on intermediaries and affiliates to deliver it's future revenues |
I believe G would kill all affiliates instantly because they pull in zero revenue from them. BUT the problem is that if "user experience" is their goal then affiliates meet the standards. In other words, if Google just allowed Adsense webmasters into the first page but all Adsense users were crap sites they hurt their results, user experience and good name.
Google can't just kill affiliates because many affiliate sites provide some of the best information that users want. So in a sense G is dependent on intermediaries and affiliates to deliver it's future revenues because if those sites supply the demand of the user they cannot just discredit them, even though they make no money directly from them.
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