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Googles Curse on Affiliates

     
9:22 am on Sep 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I have a site that once sang high from the top of Google, no matter what I done it seemed to only do better, then just before the official relase of Panda (February 2011) for the UK my site dropped and was given a -60 penality as it was called then.

There had been a few things happen that could have caused this:

1. I had an SEO building links (approx 100 per month)
2. I was an affiliate of a large brand, they began with Google ads and asked me to put a double click link within my affiliate link to track the performance of both modles.

The site stayed with the -60 until the EMD penality came about, it then dropped into the back of beyond. However recently I have been doing very small parts of work to it, mainly at first with internal links. This seemed to make an improvement, I have been gradually changing the content and where pages sat at below page 20 they now sit a page 10 and better. Still poor but an improvement.

I have began putting new pages on once again, these are making the best improvement, although briefly. After I make a new page I fetch as Google in WMT.

    This is the important part:

I can get the new pages up to as high as #3 for a day, the next day I am down around 5 positions and the large brand I am an affiliate to is where I was.

The positions I once held pre 2011 are all held by the large brand I affiliate to, this has been the case from a few months after I dropped.


When I check the downstream almost all visitors go to the large brand next. Is Google now seeing my site as nothing more than a landing page for this Large Brand? If they are how do I change this, or is it even possible?

Is the downstream information instead of links being used by Google promote other sites, this would perhaps explain the rise of large brands?
7:49 pm on Sept 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Is Google now seeing my site as nothing more than a landing page for this Large Brand?

courier, that's a fascinating interpretation, and it may be an accurate one.

Does your site have any independent reason for being? I mean, there are a bunch of affiliate sites I visit and read often, as they are excellent sources of information in their market areas. One of them in particular is probably the best site in its field. I've also had a number of successful affiliates as clients.

But, if all your content is doing is funneling visitors to those affiliate links, that does seem to fit the landing page/doorway page interpretation.

I know that the affiliate model by itself is not the problem. What Google wants is for the site itself to be unique and compelling enough that it can attract genuine recommendations (aka links) from its users.

How unique is your content from the brand's content? By that, I don't just mean that some words have been changed. Is it conceptually unique, and does your site have its own reason for being? Eg, if you were a widgets affiliate, do you provide, say, a unique overview of the entire widgets field... enough perhaps to attract a community of widget-users from around the world?
8:17 pm on Sept 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Is the downstream information instead of links being used by Google promote other sites, this would perhaps explain the rise of large brands?

It could be, especially if there's a correlation they can draw between the link [even if they only use the href to "make a connection" between sites rather than following it] on your site and the brand(s), for example, if you have their advertiser number in your source and they have it in their's (possibly via floodlight?) then I would think they could make a connection between your site and the actual seller and quite possibly determine people buy from the brand instead of you, say via shopping cart code the "brand" would have, but you wouldn't.

Is Google now seeing my site as nothing more than a landing page for this Large Brand? If they are how do I change this, or is it even possible?

Off the top of my head the only things I can think of you might be able to do are: Javascript the DoubleClick code onto the page from a disallowed .js file or run everything for DoubleClick through an iFrame, which would likely also need to be disallowed, but with either of those "solutions" I think you would be really close to cloaking, so I don't know if I'd advise them or not -- Their use likely depends on the level of "risk tolerance" any given site owner has more than anything.

Edited to make some additions and clarifications
8:41 pm on Sept 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Is the downstream information instead of links being used by Google promote other sites, this would perhaps explain the rise of large brands?


I like this connection. It makes valid sense.
11:25 pm on Sept 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The advice Robert gave is the accepted wisdom when it comes to affiliate sites.. you can't just regurgitate what the merchant has on their own site. There is no value adding in that and Google has no interest in ranking your site.

However.... IMO Google has now turned its dislike of affiliates into a crusade and in my niche the entire sector of small, independent affiliate sites was rubbed out of the SERP's. I'm not bemoaning just my own sites, everyone was wiped out and it seemed to have little if anything to do with site quality.

It's too much of a coincidence that a whole industry sector all fell foul of an algo shift at exactly the same time. The ground rules changed and I suspect that Google might be treating small affiliates as expendable. This fits with your comments about the merchant site now filling the spots you once held.... ie keep the merchants, flick the affiliates.

In my case, I develop content-rich destination guides and my flagship site pre-dates Google by quite a few years. Over a period of time I was approached by merchants to help them sell their products.. ie I became an affiliate. For years Google had no issues with this and loved my site. In the latest upheaval all the info pages remained untouched. Every page selling merchant products was slammed.

Coincidence?. I don't think so.
1:08 am on Sept 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

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In the latest upheaval all the info pages remained untouched. Every page selling merchant products was slammed.


In your "content-rich destination guides," do your info pages have affiliate links? Or do you have two types of pages: content-rich information pages, and affiliate sales pages?
7:41 am on Sept 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

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The latter.... content pages with the usual navigation link schema that are non-commercial, except for a scattering of Adsense blocks in the white space.

Merchant products appear on separate pages that have the same presentation and navigation where the content is custom written unique descriptions (plus photo galleries, video, locality maps) of the merchants products with each one having a call to action "book here" button that calls the affiliate link.

Its all very plain vanilla stuff....
8:30 am on Sept 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

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In your "content-rich destination guides," do your info pages have affiliate links? Or do you have two types of pages: content-rich information pages, and affiliate sales pages?

Brilliant insight/observation by EditorialGuy.

Makes total sense with regard to Panda... ie, that you're essentially no stronger than your weakest page.
9:12 am on Sept 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@Robert Charlton
The main affiliate merchant on the site is who took my place in the SERPS. I have in my opinion good interesting and unique content, in more detail and years of my own personal experiences.

@JD_Toims
The merchant is via an affiliate companny and not direct, the merchants site is accessed via a search form, which I am considering putting on a sub domain and blocking access to break the connection, would this be a good idea?

@frankleeceo
I like this connection. It makes valid sense.
This would explain so much

@austtr
dislike of affiliates into a crusade and in my niche the entire sector of small, independent affiliate sites was rubbed out
If Google are checking the downstream info from sites to see where users go next it would be easy to see that affiliates could be said are acting as nothing more than a 'middle man' so promote the merchant site to corrospond with that search.
11:40 am on Sept 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

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If Google are checking the downstream info from sites to see where users go next it would be easy to see that affiliates could be said are acting as nothing more than a 'middle man' so promote the merchant site to corrospond with that search.


In a major vertical I'm interested in the big brands are the affiliates. They dominate the SERPs whilst the sites of the merchants whose products they promote are nowhere to be seen.

Nope, it's just brand bias, pure and simple, IMO.