More on Google's Secret Review Labs & Why Google Hates Affiliate Sites

Henk posted a couple more posts about his interactions with GoogleGuy on WebmasterWorld, as well as explaining his reasonings for creating the Search Bistro site:

The published insights are not that spectacular. But insight in Google's evaluation of websources is rare. I wanted to forward the details to the web community to get some discussion. Why? People should know how a search engine works. Basically, it's a stupid thing. Intelligence has to come from the user. If he/she doesn't ask a smart question, he/she gets a stupid answer.

Spam Guidelines:
In my last post about Google Search quality evaluators I also forgot to post a link up to the Spam Guidelines document (doc) that Henk posted.

GoogleGuy requested that the documents not be posted, so they may get removed. Downloading copies for internal use and training may be a good idea. The spam guidelines document goes on to show a number of sites deemed as search spam and how / why Google would evaluate them as such. Since affiliate marketing or reselling pay per click ads are the usual forms of search spam most of the examples fall into those categories.

When comparing spam sites to good sites the document states:

To appreciate the difference, ask yourself this question: would any user want to go to rather than directly to Barnes & Noble? To rather than to Amazon? The answer to the former question is Yes, because at Barnes & Noble, the user would not be able to see any direct price comparison between the B&N’s price and competitors’ prices for any given item; the answer to the latter question is No or Indifferent between the two.

They also bolded the following statement:

To determine whether participation in affiliate programs is central or incidental to the site’s existence, ask yourself this question: Would this site remain a coherent whole if the pages leading to the affiliate were taken away?

They also go heavily into reviewing hotel sites, stating IAC properties are whitelisted, and showing many spam sites, offering additional tips such as:

One cannot both be an affiliate of others and offer affiliation opportunities. So the presence of the link to become an affiliate is your hint that the site has its own booking functionality and can complete transactions for its visitors.

Automation VS Unique & Useful:
As a summary, most search spam sites are heavily automated and provide little useful, unique, or compelling to the end user.

Recently Rand did a review of a paper about link spam as well, stating

The paper also notes the common achilles heel of spam pages - automatic generation.


It is also the opinion of the author that link spam will eventually require such sophistication and effort that it lose its ROI and become a less effective tactic than attempting to obtain natural incoming links through quality content and legitimate promotion.

Why the Spam Guidelines Document is Useful:
Google's reviewers may not be used to directly effect search results, but at the very least they are used to help train the relevancy algorithms. By seeing how Google trains them you get to see what Google wants. If you know what they are looking for it is far easier to give it to them.

Just like pay per click, SEO is a game of margins. Search engines aim to decrease the margins on both fronts so they can extract maximum profits.

Automation can bring great returns until it is caught. Algorithms, editors, search reviewers, and other webmasters who may link to you all look for reasons why people should WANT to visit your site instead of thousands of competing sites.

Due to a lack of sophistication (especially within the young MSN Search) many people are still making large sums of money from low quality bulk affiliate or AdSense websites.

Owning a few of those types of sites might be a good call for creating passive revenue streams, but most webmasters who like the web would do well to create at least one great site about something they were passionate about.

Further coverage on the Google search review labs:

Published: June 7, 2005 by Aaron Wall in google seo tips


June 7, 2005 - 10:38am

Aaaron, a great summary and thanks for your insights again!

I totally agree that the humans are a very rare resource and just as explained in the TrustRank papers need to be used as "seeds" in the algorithms, not as "ranking method"


Joe Hollinger
July 27, 2006 - 11:35pm

My wife and I are hard at work builfing a site for the purpose of providing software products. We will only sell those products that provide protection for computer users that connect to the Internet and/or other networks.

The products that we are marketing and will market are currently those from publishers with whom we have established affiliations.

We started this project to build a one stop shop for software products that provide protection from spam, spyware, viruses, trojans, keyloggers, and all the other forms of malware to which we are each exposed every time we log on to a network and/or the Internet.

I don't understand why Google frowns on people like us that bust their butts learning how to build web pages, research products and their need, learn SEO, and otherwise do our best to build a quality site to sell products that folks need.

Our site is not finished yet and probably never will be with all the changes that continue to take place. We are determined to make it one of the best available for finding the best solutions for a customers protection.


Joe Hollinger

June 8, 2005 - 3:00am

It all depends on the intent. If you have a few affiliate links because they enhance the value of your website, then Google does not bother. I think the problem is with those websites that have only affiliate ads and nothing else that is meaningful.

January 5, 2007 - 7:51pm

I have lost ranking and traffic because of affiliate program.Anybody knows how to hide affiliate url from googlebot

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.