The affiliate challenge for 2014 and beyond
Published 7th November 2014
Over recent years, we have seen Google increase the intensity of their efforts to try to weed out low-quality websites from their search engine results. This has increased the importance of adding value to the Internet, but the question as to what Google would classify as representing “value” still remains open.
With regular Google Panda updates trawling through the search engine organics, and the threat of Google Penguin taking an algorithmic look at your backlink profile, affiliates now face a virtual minefield to navigate, while also battling against black-hat techniques which continue to dominate some of the most competitive online niches.
Google frequently makes a point of releasing information around any sanctions or penalties imposed on ‘spammers’ or other guideline-breaking entities, however these isolated examples merely serve to mask the activities of hundreds of others who continue to break the rules in pursuit of profit.
As an affiliate, competition can act as a healthy and focus-building drive that can push you to new heights, or just as easily see you fail to keep pace as others move further ahead. However, this becomes a whole different battle when Google fails to deliver on their repeated threats of punishing those who dare to manipulate their organic results.
The voucher code niche is an example of a fiercely contested niche that has been overtaken by spam, with many sites built with little more purpose than wide-scale manipulation of the search results for financial gain. Looking at some of the biggest commission terms, we can see that one entity owns more than six websites sitting within the first two pages of the search results, with real cloak-and-dagger activity going on across the board.
This is a prime example what affiliates are up against every day when it comes to establishing themselves within profitable areas of the affiliate market. When coupled with the lingering threats Google presents to your site and their apparent inability to punish the majority of those who break the rules, this of course regularly begs the question of whether you should also stray from the straight and narrow road. Temptation is an awful thing, and it often takes a strong will to resist altering your approach to achieving organic ranking, particularly when you have had a small taste of the financial rewards the spammers are getting, while you continue to invest time and money into generating the sort of content that you believe adds value to your “brand”.
Google is failing you now – but just wait I understand that seeing sites built on black hat techniques ranking above you for a prolonged length of time is frustrating, especially when you know that have left footprints through the whole process that Google should have been picking up on, but trying to replicate what they are doing is only going to cause more pain in the longer term for your site.
At the time of writing this article in mid- September, Google has already revealed they are working on Google Penguin 3.0, and due to the delay between this and the prior update, are looking into ways of speeding up the frequency of their linkbased algorithm checker.
With the algorithm thought to have been intensified and an increased possibility that the release could take out some of the bigger names within your market, thanks to the blurred lines between negative SEO and low-level link building, this theoretically leaves the top 10 positions open for your site to step into, as long as you are delivering the value that Google believe is worthy of ranking in their place.
Making sure that your site is ready for this is not an easy task, particularly if this is the first time you will be looking at your on-page SEO in line with Google Panda and your back-link profile with Google Penguin in mind. But this becomes vital if you are looking to hold rankings for a sustained period of time, because passing through the algorithmic updates is just part of the battle you will face for maintaining those revenue generating search positions.
Website auditing and back-link clean-up has become a large business within the SEO world, and that’s because site owners just like you are reading the signs and stepping up their efforts to avoid falling prey to some of the strictest websitedampening effects Google has been seen to
dispense, especially in the case of Google Penguin, given that you still need to allow for a refresh of the update to be able to recover from the actions. Just ask those still affected by Penguin 2.0, which last ran back in October 2013!
So what can you do to clean up and reduce your risk?
With Google known to update Panda on a monthly basis, the day-to-day threat level from Google’s algorithms and the need to ensure that your on-page elements fall within the Google guidelines on that front is much greater than with the lessfrequently- updated Google Penguin update.
However, the potential impacts Google Penguin can wreak on your site and their duration make it harder to recover from in a timely manner.
Both algorithm updates require a site to pass through another run of the updating cycle in order to have actions lifted and ranking capabilities restored, and as mentioned earlier, Google Penguin has not run in almost 11 months, so could deal a potentially crushing blow to any moneygenerating
It’s therefore vitally important that your site:
- Offers unique, quality content which is informative and gives users the information or service they are looking for.
- Does not have a wealth of toxic or lowquality backlinks pointing to it, such as directories, guest posts or article submissions. A manual audit is much more accurate to assess this, however, can be time consuming on larger profiles.
- Displays content to both the search engines and the users in the exact same format.
- Offers a diverse keyword density level within content, titles, meta descriptions and link profile.
- Creates a brand focus within your link profile and avoids over use of keyword anchor text.
- Has a correctly formatted Google disavow file in place against any links that you fail to be able to have removed, after identifying them as the sort of links that you would rather not have within your backlink profile.
- Avoids blackhat techniques in content display, link building or general marketing practises.
Remember that prevention is better than having to find the cure to a Google-inflicted action against your site, and once they finally release their third generation Google Penguin update, those spammers that currently hold the rankings above you look set to fall.