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Affiliate site problems - demoted in Google

Affiliate site problems - demoted in Google



4:15 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have a site that has been number 1 in its search keyword since 1998. Its search keyword is also the domain name.

The problem is this. Recently Google replaced the top listing of the search keyword (my site) with the site of the manufacturer of the products I was affiliate marketing. They moved me down to 5. None of the new sites listed have ever been listed under this search keyword before this problem arose. None of the new sites even have this search keyword on their site. The manufacturer does not use this search keyword.

The way I see it the only way the new number one site could have got in the search key word results at number one is apparently Google has snooped my page, done a lookup of the affiliate links and put that company into top position on that search keyword regardless of if it was the actual search keyword the user typed in. Or manual manipulation is going on at the manufacturer's request.

I complained to Google. Shortly afterward the order was restored and I was 1 again. Six weeks pass. I am back to 5. I complain again. Order restored again. Demoted again, quicker this time. Then I change some text on the site and back to 1 I go. Next day the results had been manually manipluated to favor the large manufacturer again. This has been going on since mid September.


For an example of how the search keyword used to work look up "fords".

Ford Motor Company is not at the top of the list. "Ford" and the Ford Motor Company are a suggestion made by google after displaying the "fords" results. If Google were consistant with what they did to my site then "Ford" Motor Company would have been promoted to the first listing, "ford's" would be next and "fords", the actual search keyword, would be last.

In this example the next part is an example of how things would work if fords.com were my website name and search keyword. I use a fictitious site "fords.com" that is not in the above mentioned search listings. It is used for illustration purposes only.

Let's pretend the first guy under "fords" has the name fords.com and makes money selling ford automobiles in an affiliate program. So what if his site is really hundreds of pages about his surname "Ford" and family tree. He got some traffic looking for Ford automobiles and made a little money forwarding them on to Ford. He became an expert on Ford automobiles and got a reputation for adding value to the sale. He added several Ford automobile links and became good at selling them. His sales increased. He moved his extensive family tree site elsewhere. Many people link to his site. He is not just an affiliate link farm site but a value added reseller who uses affiliate programs. He also sells stuff for Fords that Ford Motor company does not sell.

Then Google manipulates the results to get Ford Motor Company to appear at the top of the search keyword results. Based on the traffic going to fords.com, Google decided that the folks typing the search keyword "Fords" were looking for Ford automobiles.

Forget the fact that folks were getting to the Ford automobiles just fine by going through fords.com. Forget the fact that the searcher typed "fords" which could mean a variety of things. Forget that the search "fords" would normally would bring up fords.com first. And forget the fact that the Ford Motor company does not use the word "fords" as a ketyword and no links to them use that text.

The thing not to forget is that Ford doesn't have to pay a commission to fords.com anymore. Also fords.com is forced to buy Google ads to stay visible. Google and Ford, win-win. Users and affiliates, loose-loose.

Something doesn't smell right. Has Google and the Internet been hijacked by large companies with large advertising budgets? Does Google's "Do no harm" apply only to big business?

Any ideas? Is the Google Guy listening?

from fustrated web guy


5:00 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google does adjust the top-ranked sites for many searches. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they have been paid off. They may have found that what MORE searchers for that keyword want is the manufacturer's site, not your site. They're giving them what they want....

A possibility, anyway.


5:05 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

do you add any value to the affiliate links?


6:48 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

An interesting question could be 'why would Google send their traffic to you when they can send it straight to the real guy'? If you can offer 1 valid reason...

Another consideration is that forcing yourself to number 1 in the face of Google's apparent resistance may pose great risks... It really doesn't matter whether sites are surgically placed or the algo doesn't respond as it used to. The facts are in front of you.


6:51 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Two good points.

One, the search user was getting to what they wanted via the affiliate site. To juggle a site to the top because an affiliate is have good sales is not what I would expect from a search engine. I expect to be shown an exact, literal result of my search, not what Google thinks I am looking for. Remember the site Google substituted does NOT have the search keyword on it, just the successful product. It is scary to me to think Google knows better than me what I am searching for.

Two, yes we added value to the site and offer other products from other sources that compliment the main product. Something you can not get on the site that was juggled to the top.

But what alarms me most is the statement that Google does manually adjust some of the top listings. As I suspect in my worst paranoia, is there a backroom of manual manipulators who do not have to answer to the people who produce the web sites? They apparently have flagged this search keyword and manually adjust it everytime an update is made. Who do they answer to? The only one benefiting is the site that has been manipulated to the top of the listings.


7:10 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I know nothing about manual manipulations of searches. In fact, everyday I discover I know nothing about search in general...

> the search user was getting to what they wanted via the affiliate site.

You are not a real user. You are the webmaster trying to capture traffic. You are on the sell-side offering something. Google could be taking sides with users of their service -not webmasters-, just as Walmart sides with their customers squeezing wholesalers. If they indeed do this you can't blame them. And as I see it, you have answered your own inquiry. It is the other site that has "just the successful product". Isn't that what users were looking for in the first place?

Like you, I also took a big hit in the past with similar circumstances. I spent countless hours looking for a technical answer until I realized it is what it is. That day, I started only working trying to provide a reason for users to come to my site first. Maybe this is a lost battle, since affiliates do not have the resources a program owner has...

I don't think Google is necessarily opposed to affiliates. "Make users an offer they can't refuse". Then, Google won't either.


7:23 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

the site Google substituted does NOT have the search keyword on it

If I correctly understand the example in your first post the difference between the two keywords that you're talking about is that one is the plural form of the other.

Up until a couple of years ago if you searched for [widget] you didn't get results for [widgets]. Similarly, [widgets] wouldn't return results for [widget]. Google then started to give some weight to other forms of the search term. So now [widget] will return some results for [widgets] and vice-versa.

Is it a possible that G recently updated its "plural dictionary" and is treating the keywords you're talking about in this mannner when before it hadn't?


7:37 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

How many returns do you get when you search fords? (the real term your talking about)

Must admit I searched fords just to follow your example and certainly found it interesting, and somewhat reassuring, ford.com was not first.

[edited by: randle at 7:40 pm (utc) on Nov. 15, 2006]


7:40 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Good points again. Give the user what they want. Deep content. and so forth.

My site has enhanced value. We sell products that enhance the primary product. We sell the primarly product for the exact same price as the manufacturer. We do not hurt the consumer or trick them. It is a very straight-forward, simple site. It has been optimized over the years to be simple and quick. That may be the problem. It does not have page after page of meaningless dribble intended to put more pages in the search engines and links to the site. It is a simple, one page site. Get the user to where they need to go.

So the new line up is this: manufacturer of the product at position 1. Then there is a blog, 2 for local restaurants for various unknown towns, and a writer.

So there I sit. Position 6. With the manufacturer at 1, meaningless blog noise and local restaurant sites sitting between me and the manufacturer.

Then the weird happens. I just did a search for the keyword and low and behold there I am at 1 again. I have other people checking and seeing the same results. Sometimes we are there, sometimes not.

So for the purposes of this discussion let's assume I have great content and I am helping the user. There is no reason to penalize me.

Let's try to figure out what is going on with the Google listings. Why are they juggling these sites without exact search keywords in and out of these listings?


8:46 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I agree, the "fords" listings are interesting and make me have faith in Google. I am offered the exact match first, then offered some other popular matches on down the page.

On the other hand, I wish I could show you the gerrymandering that has been done on the other search keyword. I will say this. If "fords" were like my word a search would list Ford at the top, possibily with an authoritative listing, then a couple of more listings that are not exact keyword matches, then the actual search keyword match.

To me it is important for a search engine to not monkey with the results. They should not be an interperter and second guesser. It should be like the the card catalog at the library.

It would be allright if the sarch engine described itself as a "second guesser search engine". But this is Google, the big engine we are supposed to be able to trust.


9:24 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just a question.... are you using this keyword in your affiliate links to the site in question?

If you are using the keyword in your links and sending a lot of traffic for that keyword along with other affiliate sites, the site will become known for that keyword even though they don't have this keyword on the page. At least this is something I am seeing lately.


9:38 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

To me it is important for a search engine to not monkey with the results.

It's Google's results SERPs (and property) to monkey with to their liking...and they are going to base this on the data that they are looking at (their stats)...not yours...

If they decide that "affiliate" sites (or in this case.. a single page)..are cluttering up "THEIR" SERPs ... then you may need to rethink your approach...and actually build out more pages that represent a "site" ...

From Google's perspective...(and this could certainly be a human editor reviewing and then making adjustments)....
..affiliate sites may not be adding the right kind of value to their current standards (for creating the right value in the perception of the general user base... not the webmaster user base)...and, of course, for their own revenue goals..

Another poster noted that if you play the game of trying to force Google to your view of things...you will probably end up getting nailed...

And why is the top site showing number one without the keyword phrase you talk about (but don't mention)? ....if it's a manual adjustment...then it won't matter...if it's the algorithm...then it's inbound links doing this...


9:39 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

No that's not it. Thanks anyway. Keep looking.
Meanwhile the site is going in and out of first place like a yo-yo. Unpredictable on every search.

And to answer a previous post, yes it involves a plural of the word. Like fords is to ford. The 5 getting put above me are singular and "aprostrophe s" (which I am told Google treats 's as singular). But, if they were putting all singular versions above me I would be number 500 or so in the listings.

I am cursed with a logical mind and I need some logic to wrap my head around. Even fuzzy logic would do.

[edited by: trotline at 9:54 pm (utc) on Nov. 15, 2006]


9:45 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

As for your perspective, yes I agree, Google is and should crack down on sites that are simply a page of links. I should not have to put up with clutter like that in a search engine or in the card catalog at the library. It is a difficult task.

Google does own the listings and can do what ever they want. If they are trying to anticipate what I "really mean" instead of what I "really typed" that makes things different. I just believe they should have to call it what it is: "second guess searching". It's a valid concept and some like it.

Thanks for the analysis. It's something to think about.


10:00 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

trotline, just get more links to your site and wait.
i see nothing weird in site going back and forth it happens.

as for manipulation - well, i am not really that sure. hard to believe for me. on the other hand, google search belongs to google inc. so it is them who decide what to do with it.
as long as they can sleep with what they do...


11:14 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Any real evidence that this was a manual, not algo demotion?


11:30 pm on Nov 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

Plural vs. singular used to be a critical issue, but that changed when Google started using stemming toward the end of 2003.


12:11 am on Nov 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It is scary to me to think Google knows better than me what I am searching for.

Google's had that attitude for a long time and who knows, maybe according to their data they do know better than you do. Look back at any number of past threads and you'll see hundreds of complaints such as yours relating to both SERPS and PPC.

The fact is that it's google's algo and they can do whatever they want. That sucks if you're on the "wrong" end of it, but probably good if you're on the other end. The way google ranks things the manufacturer is considered THE best/main site most of the time. That's just a fact.

To me it is important for a search engine to not monkey with the results. They should not be an interperter and second guesser. It should be like the the card catalog at the library.

That argument doesn't hold water at all. There are generally only a finite number of books in the library and it grows relatively slowly. They're arranged alphabetically, author, and subject in the card catalog. (OK libraries haven't used card catalogs for years but I'll go with your analogy.)

Plus at the library you don't have authors changing the titles or words of their books so that they have a better placement in the catalog.

How else would you expect a SE to list pages if they didn't "monkey with the results"? "Interperting and second guessing" is exactly what they do by design. There has to be some criteria for rankings. That or google would end up having results like MSN ;-)

As a marketer I hate google and their heavy-handed ways, but as a searcher they are the engine I use. It's a double edged sword.


1:33 am on Nov 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

More great advice. I am realizing more and more it's all fuzzy logic. It's hard to be on the cutting edge like Google and get everything right the first time. Experiments have to be done, data has to be gathered.

I realize that folks might be searching for the product I sell as an affiliate and that is the entire basis of my on line business. I rely on them to type in the plural version of the name. But, as I have said, I sell other complementary products to make my site have more value than the manufacturers site.

Some would like it if the search engine would just take them to the manufacturer if they type anything that resembles a product name or description. Searching is too hard for them and they need assistance.

On the other hand others want to see literal search results. Searching for these folks gets harder if they have to keep fighting a search engine that keeps second guessing them.

Maybe there should be a toggle on the search engine page to switch between these modes of searching.


1:57 am on Nov 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

I'm not saying that Google has an overall fondness for affiliate sites, and unfortunately many good ones get stereotyped along with the bad, but it doesn't appear that there's any hard evidence that the OPs site was demoted because of being an affiliate site. There are too many subtle nuances in the algo, and besides, there are sites that drop a few spots that are NOT affiliate sites at all.

One of mine has had top 5 rankings for many years, and is now dropped several spots (to around 8 I think); it is definitely not an affiliate site, but it definitely IS out there in the midst of sites competing against other sites, all vying for top position who are probably actively promoting their sites.


2:19 pm on Nov 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hang on a minute - complained to google, got a reponce how when where?
They listened and changes were made, I'm impressed.


2:35 pm on Nov 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It turns out they are rotating the results page. The manufacturer and I come up at 1 on a rotating basis with me dropping below 5 when I am not 1. They move around from 1 to 3. This happens at datacenters worldwide.

I am pretty sure the rotations were not due to my asking for an explaniation from Google. When I started this thread I thought the email had a chance of having had an effect. Data gatherd since then has us thinking the reordering is random.

To clarify what I sent to Google: I stated the case and asked under what circumstances did the manufacturer suddenly starting appearing in these listings? Listing where they had never been. I asked how they got to 1. I got a canned response, the standard "link building" chant and a suggestion I get busy building links.

Random rotation moving the product in and out of number 1 to see what the people like. Moving the affiliate above and below the manufacturer to see if people still click it. Problem is they don't share the data with me.

Great for merchandising. Bad for the other searchers who are not looking for product manufacturers to have a higher rankings in the listings than other information.

The new Google.


2:47 pm on Nov 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member annej is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Your situation doesn't sound like a human came in and adjusted your page's position. It sounds like the bouncing around I've seen in the last couple of weeks or so. I think they are making slight shifts in the algo then trying them out.

Since you are still on page one make sure your meta description is such that people will want to choose to look at your site over the others. Google often uses it for the result's description.

Be sure the desc has the key words in it but make it original and interesting. I think you have about 150 characters to have it all show.


3:07 pm on Nov 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

The problem with that is Google is using an out of date DMOZ description.

DMOZ appears to be broke. I haven't been able to get them to make adjustments to any sites for 2 years or so. I get the feeling they are about to loose their reputation. They have already lost it with me.

Luckily the other search engines use the meta description.

Why does Google use the DMOZ?


4:29 pm on Nov 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

use the NOODP meta tag to get around this:
<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="index,follow,noodp">

or whatever.

But it kind of sounds to me like you think you're somehow entitled to be permanently lodged in the #1 spot, even ahead of the manufacturer. Of course YOU think you're the most relevant and best return for that search. But there are no doubt plenty of others who think the same thing. Moreover, as I have said before, Google does not consider itself primarily a sales tool, it considers itself an information tool. There IS a difference.


4:37 pm on Nov 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Many thanks for the meta tag. Sometime the obvious is too obvious.

Yes, I would like to think I am entitled to the corner store on the Interstate off ramp but I wouldn't say I carry it that far. I have a great name but cyber real estate is nothing like real real estate. I just wish the guys in the back room at Google would give us a heads up when they start monkeying. Of course that would skew the data in their experiments so don't expect that.

If it were easy then everybody would be at 1.


5:03 am on Nov 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member annej is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

works too doesn't it?

Master Reader

1:47 pm on Nov 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Just be patient, work for your web users and results will come and you will be fixed at first place again


8:26 pm on Nov 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

OK gang. Thanks for all the help.

The description will get updated to use my meta tag on next Google update thanks to "noodp". I am glad to get the dmoz monkey off my back.

We are adding deeper content. The single page site is being replaced by a very deep site we have been developing for a few months. We just rushed the project up and will have it online soon.

Patience is a virtue. I will report back later with results. Probably within a few weeks.


5:44 am on Nov 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

This is what Matt Cutts wrote earlier concerning an affiliate site that sells T-shirts that had been demoted in the SERPS.

The question I’d be asking is why anyone would choose your “favourites” site instead of going directly to the site that sells T-shirts?


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