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Google rankings and affiliate links post-Panda

   
11:32 am on Oct 18, 2011 (gmt 0)



I have started this thread after noticing that pages that rank well despite the site is Panadalized are those pages without affilite links. On the site I have a large percent of low-ranked news posts about new products found on online stores, with aff links, but I have also posts with links to other no-e-commerce sites and these are not affected by Panda. Regarding quality of the posts, its the same on both pages with and without aff links.

I've checked Google's guidelines and found paragraphs specially dedicated to aff links:

"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..."

"If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value..."

Because they don't have paragraphs about "thin Adsense sites" and "if your site participates in Adsense program" or similar, I assume that affiliate links have a special place in the algorithm.

I'm thinking about ditching the use of affiliate links in order to regain rankings, so I would like to know:

What is your experience with rankings of pages with affiliate links versus similar pages without them?
1:15 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Where can I download this "2011 Google Quality Raters Handbook"?

The link above just goes to potpiegirl's page that talks about the handbook...but unless I'm totally missing this, doesn't link to specifically.
1:33 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)



@smithaa02
Google has requested that the link to the document was removed. It was in PDF form so someone is sure to have a hard copy of it.
2:57 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Such results should be flagged as Spam, even if they are related to the query and helpful to users.


People need to think about that statement.
3:01 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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@courier
Anybody have a link to the pdf :)
3:08 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Well here's a brief summary of that doc as it relates to spam:

They insist their raters use Firefox, and the reason given is that Firefox has the "Web Developer" add-on, which allows you to disable javascript and CSS.

They disable everything and then look for hidden text, hidden links, keyword stuffing, "sneaky re-directs", 100% frames, and cloaking with javascript.

(I'm pretty sure that pageoneresults was banging on about looking at your page in pure text mode, back in March, and kudos to him as that is how the raters look at things)

They then check for hidden text in CSS, in the blank areas and the far right of the page.

Re keyword stuffing, they also look for multiple mis-spellings of the words, keyword stuffing in the url.

With re-directs, they check the whois and domain registrants - if the page is being re-directed to another with the same owner, they think this is OK - it's the normal outcome of merging/upgrading websites. If the redirect is going to a page with another owner, they think this is doorway stuff.

They check for copied text, and text taken from feeds.

Finally, they give an example of a doorway page:

hair-removal-hair-laser.com

Hope this helps
3:12 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



(Imagine seeing a bunch of non-search-engine traffic coming to your [probably already penalized] doorway page, and wondering why the heck that was happening... only to [maybe] find out later it had been included as an example in the quality ratings guidelines! Heh, I know what *I* would do in that situation)

Google has been quietly asking people with links to the PDF to take them down; I suspect if they keep going on, Google will start demanding instead of asking.
3:13 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



netmeg - do you think I should remove the doorway example?
3:20 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Well it's already going around in the document; doubt the searches here are going to make that much difference. I wasn't commenting on you posting it, just that the person who owns it must be seeing some might weird stats this week (and going back to March when that document was originally dated)
3:24 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)



I personally wouldnt dare place any affiliate links on any of my sites. I would worry that google would punish the site for that. I get the feeling they dont like affiliates (ive had that for the last 9 years)
3:34 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Well none of mine have been hit yet. But I try to make it look more like a regular ole website that happens to have a few affiliate links on it, rather than affiliate site that happens to have some information on it. Maybe that helps, I dunno. Doesn't sound like it from that quote from the Guidelines, tho.
4:09 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)



The guide needs to be public... Hopefully, someone makes it available again, or sends a copy to the NY Times.

Just because it states "Propietary and Confidential - Copyright 2011" at the bottom of each page should not exclude it from being found. Google itself indexes more than 4800 pages with the exact phrase...

MH
4:11 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)



I understood that there are two separate but linked things in their Handbook:
- about thin affiliates and
- about use of sneaky redirects

They talked about aff links in one part of the document and sneaky redirects are explained in another part. Accidentally or not, for a sneaky redirect example they used a CJ affiliate link (which does redirect).

As far as I understood if you use a sneaky redirect link, you do web spam for sure, but when it comes to affiliate links you can be a thin affiliate (bad) or not thin (not bad).
4:18 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



whatever gave you the idea that any US corp would act any different from any other US corp

EXACTLY! Please, everyone, Google is NOT your friend ~ they are a for-profit, publicly traded worldwide corporation that serves its stockholders first; its executives second; it's users third; its lower level employees forth; and you barely at all. That is the reality and all the "Google is not fair" commentary that they hear will change nothing, as they are clearly determined to unfold their long-term business plan, which is total domination. Fairness has not been an issue with them for many years (at the very least since the IPO) ~ it is profit and profit alone that drives the company, and that, as Leo said, should not be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention.

Re the OP, I definitely sense a connection with affiliate links but cannot get a handle on how deep it runs. I have a few affiliate links on most pages, along with other more useful content, and have been crushed by Panda. Is there not enough "useful content" in relation to the links? Is there a ratio I need to uncover?. Do not know. It's confusing because some people here are using affil links with no loss of traffic; others are using them minimally with huge losses. It's a mystery to me, like everything else with Panda. The bottom line is, I'm happy with my sites and feel they are good for my users. If I could determine changes that would make Google happy without my surrender to their penalty-obsessed philosophy, I would do them. In other words, I would have to find those changes to be reasonable. But I'm not playing their stupid-@ss games anymore ~ I did that for too long, and I've had enough.

.....................
4:21 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)



From what I understand...

When you have PPC ads prominently displayed on a webpage, it is also a strong sign that the page is spam.

I wonder how many adsense publishers know that little tidbit of info?

Of course, I also understand that is says something like... not all pages with PPC are spam.
4:56 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Took me a while because google pulled this from their site, but I finally found a download link to "2011 Google Quality Raters Handbook". (if you wait like a minute you can get a free download)

[crocko.com...]
5:02 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Well none of mine have been hit yet. But I try to make it look more like a regular ole website that happens to have a few affiliate links on it, rather than affiliate site that happens to have some information on it. Maybe that helps, I dunno. Doesn't sound like it from that quote from the Guidelines, tho.


exactly - my sites are the same, all of the pages are not thin and offer quality information, with option to buy the product. Most pages have 400-1500 words that are all coded by me and my sites have gone through panda and rank fine - G doesn't have a problem in ranking quality pages
5:14 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



It's not that G doesn't like affiliates. They are getting into the game themselves.

[google.com...]

Under the credit card section it read.
"Google is not currently being paid for these listings."

I'm sure that will be changing soon!
5:29 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)



Click around a little...

Are these loan offers sponsored?
Yes they are. Google is paid when you contact a mortgage lender through Google Advisor. We work directly with the lenders to provide you with details of available offers, and a better experience. By default, we show offers with the lowest APR at the top of your results.
5:38 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Are these loan offers sponsored?
Yes they are. Google is paid when you contact a mortgage lender through Google Advisor

mhansen, you have showed us the future, and it ain't pretty.

.........................
5:42 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



In the handbook they also point out "these are affiliates are not spam" - and they give a few urls of the large shopping mall type sites - like shopping.com . So they don't say that all affiliates are bad, just the thin ones.

I am surprised to see that they actually use humans to rate sites. I have heard it before but never believed it since it seems so labor intensive. This doc sure goes into detail what to look for. But basically you have to think users first and monetizing later. You especially come under scrutiny when you are sitting on page 1 of the SERPs. Better have the ship in order to stay there.
5:54 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Oh they use humans alright, I know of at least two exes. (ex raters, not ex humans)
6:12 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Someone should start a blog...

"Confessions of Ex-Google Raters"
6:17 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

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



Google's patent for Human Editorial Input [webmasterworld.com] was granted in 2006.

The thing that I find important in their system is that no one person on their own has the ability to trash or boost a site. It takes a consensus of independent raters.

Google uses quality raters for a wide variety of projects - including QA on proposed algorithm changes, or the current SERPs for a variety of keywords. Last I heard there were over 10,000 of these folks at work.

Recently I read that behind the scenes Google runs many thousands of proposed algo changes, but only about 500 of them ever go live. That kind of system uses both statistical assessment and human QA.
6:32 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I've also noticed a box called a "Comparison Ad" above the adwords for searches like "credit cards". Google Advisory becomes the first link on page.

Basically when the "user" does that search their entire screen is covered in ads with "no" organic results until you scroll down...

1 Comparison ad
3 adwords
sidebar ads
7:11 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)



Soren - that post there is all that matters really (the one about the no organic results until you scroll down.

I dont think anyone here really sees how important that is - people keep on about ranking and stuff but all that is dead now.

It amazes me how there are ANY topics here other than the fact that the organics are going off page. I am flabergasted at the lack of interest in the fact we have been shunted out.

I dont know - but maybe most people here are just adwords users and not doing SEO anymore? Dunno.
7:42 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



I am flabergasted at the lack of interest in the fact we have been shunted out.

MrFewkes, believe me, that issue has not escaped anyone's attention and HAS been discussed here. Like you, I consider it to be a primary reason that so many of us have seen our traffic cut to a fraction of previous levels. I myself have ranted about the shrinking real estate. But as I said in my previous post, they are a for profit corporation and they intend to get every penny available ~ one way or the other.

.........................
11:30 pm on Oct 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Has anyone else noticed that you only get sites with affiliate links after page 1. On all the top "tech/shopping" search's I do, you only get affiliate links from 11 onwards.

Only only noticed this after the latest panda update on the 14th.
10:23 am on Oct 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



@smithaa02
Thanks for the new download link.
11:39 pm on Jan 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



I have lots of ebay on my site, and some affl relationships with AvantLink, ShareASale, CJ, and others. My ebay links go through redir.php, while all other affl links go through refer.php. For each, I log data from the CGI variables, then grab (or format) the URL, and redirect to that page. In each case, ebay and affl, that next link is itself a redirect, of course.

Well, I put redir.php and refer.php in my robots.txt file so that googlebot would ideally not crawl them. Unfortunately, I made a typo in the file, so googlebot did crawl them. They actually are really slow since CJ in particular redirects really slowly. So in Google Webmaster, my site speed was slow b/c of those links.

I fixed my robots.txt file, and figured after a few months, my site speed score would not include redir.php and refer.php as example. Nope. They are still there.

In light of everything I'm reading here, I'm thinking about making a change. I'll rename both the scripts, so that I'm essentially starting over with the redirects on my site. I'll make sure that robots.txt is correct. Of course, other bots ignore that file and crawl anyhow. But to specifically make sure googlebot doesn't crawl those links, I was thinking to block it in my .htaccess file.

One might say, I should not block google from seeing what users see. But the thing is, google should not crawl them, via my robots.txt setting, and I also put rel="nofollow" on every single link as well. By blocking googlebot (and other bots I identify) from crawling them, could that safeguard my site against being seen as an ebay/affl site?

I don't think this is black hat, by the way, not at all. If I have 20,000 pages, google can crawl and index all 20,000 pages. I just don't want my redir links crawled or counted. Since they do not appear directly as ebay or affl links to google, that might/should help out my site. I'd think, at least.

In the meantime, yes, I need to continue to add content and value to the user beyond just having links to products. I get that. If I continue to be pandalized b/c I don't add content, I think that's fair enough by their rules. I just don't want to get additionally penalized just because of my redir links.

Any thoughts on this?
12:11 am on Jan 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



sftriman, create a subdomain, and use it for redirection. Google uses visitors data to measure page speed, and as long as those pages are accessible to visitors, they will be included in page speed stats for that domain.
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