It’s official, Google DOES like affiliate sites! It really aggravates me anytime I read a forum post or blog article touting that “Google hates affiliate sites!” Well no, they don’t. Google hates low quality affiliate sites, but they like to rank high quality affiliate sites. I’ve been saying this for years, but finally we have confirmation from Googles John Mueller. Here’s exactly what John Mueller said when asked about affiliate sites during the last Google Webmaster Hangouts session…
How can affiliate sites rank well? Does Google trust them? Any tips? What should we do?
So, of course affiliate sites can be really useful. They can have a lot of really useful information on them and we like showing them in search. But at the same time, we see a lot of affiliates which are basically just lazy people who copy and paste the feeds that they get and publish them on their website. This kind of lower quality content, thin content, is something that is really hard for us to show in search, because we see people taking the same affiliate feed, republishing it on their website, and of course they’re not going to all rank #1 for those terms. We really want to see unique, high quality content and that’s something that we do like to rank. So, it’s not something where we say that an affiliate site is bad, we just see a lot of bad affiliate sites because there are people who try to find a fast way to publish content on the web, which, sometimes being fast is also good, but you also really need to make sure that you have a good website, where people want to go to your website to get the information that they can’t find anywhere else. And if you have affiliate links on a website, that’s great, that’s not going to be something that we would count against a website.
Check out the full Google Webmaster Hangout video below. You can start the video at 19:25 for the part where he talks about affiliate sites.
Now, what I’d like to do is dissect John’s statement so we can get a good idea of how Google views affiliate sites. I’ve been touting this stuff for years, but it’s nice to get some verification from a higher-up at Google.
“Of course, affiliate sites can be really useful”
Yes, Google recognizes that affiliate sites can actually be helpful to people. It may seem obvious, but there is your first clue on how to rank your affiliate site in Google. Make sure it is useful and actually helps people! So many affiliate marketers only do what they think they have to in order to rank well in Google. Ironically, the best way to rank well in Google is to provide real value. Unlike 10 or 15 years ago, it is much more difficult to “trick” Google by using black hat SEO tactics or spamming the web. Google is able to track user behavior and uses more than 400 metrics to decide which websites to rank for certain keywords. You can spend your time trying to trick Google into believing your website is high quality, thus ranking highly in search results, or you can spend that same amount of time just building something that’s actually high quality. The choice is ultimately yours, but I highly recommend you create something useful.
The question is, as an affiliate marketer myself, do I practice what I preach? Yes! I’ve been doing this for years. This website that you’re on right now is a good example. I have hundreds of pages on this site and I’m adding more every week (almost daily). These aren’t thin content articles, either. Most of my articles are between 1,000 and 3,000 words with some embedded videos, too.
You can also check out my dog food review website. It’s actually useful to others because I help break down individual ingredients in dog food and help dog owners choose the best type of dog food for their dog. It’s not just a digital brochure for products I’m pushing, it actually provides real value.
But, GASP! Didn’t that take a lot of work? You betcha. Affiliate marketing isn’t some get-rich-quick easy money-making system that anyone can do. It’s a business that takes just as much work as any other business. Many seem to be under the impression affiliate marketing or building an online business is somehow easier. While there are many advantages to building an affiliate marketing business, it’s not necessarily any easier or harder than any other business. It takes work!
“We like showing them [affiliate sites] in search”
FINALLY, someone at Google said it. They actually “like” to show affiliate sites. This is coming straight from a top guy at Google.
Google understands that website owners need to earn an income in order to be motivated to keep building. Some website owners make money by selling their own products and services, some sell display advertising, and some sell other people’s products and services instead. The best sites use a mixture of all 3 of these.
The main thing to take away here is that affiliate marketing is not automatically looked down upon by Google. They “like” affiliate sites as long as they are truly helpful to website visitors. It’s as simple as that.
Think of it this way… Google has a business to run. They are the top search engine in the World and they want to stay that way. How do they stay that way? By showing the most helpful and highest quality search results to people who are using their search engine. If you help Google by providing great information that helps THEIR users find the information they are searching for, than Google will return the favor by sending you more traffic. It doesn’t matter if you have affiliate links or not. If you’re truly helping others, you win, Google wins, your website visitor wins, and your affiliate partners win.
“We see a lot of affiliates which are basically just lazy people”
Bravo John Mueller! Bravo! I couldn’t have said it better myself. As an affiliate marketer, my competition is always limited because, quite frankly, people are lazy. The vast majority of affiliate marketers are not interested in helping others or putting in the time required to build a quality website. Most new affiliates only think about how to make money FAST and how to rank in Google RIGHT NOW! This leads them to do things like copy and paste low quality content, create very thin articles centered around certain keywords in the hopes they will rank, etc.
I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but you must provide real value to others if you want Google to rank your affiliate site. In order to truly provide real value to others, you need to have a ton of awesome content on your site that people can’t get anywhere else (or you simply do it better). In order to build something that is truly unique, high quality, and helpful to others, you must put in quite a bit of time and effort. There are no shortcuts here. If you can’t work really hard for 6 to 12 months without any financial returns or high Google rankings than you might as well not be an affiliate at all. You have to give before you can receive. That’s just how it works. If you try to take shortcuts, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Of course, for those of us who do put in the time and effort required to create real value on our affiliate sites, those lazy people are our best friends. It keeps the competition low and our sites ranking high.
“We really want to see unique, high quality content and that’s something that we do like to rank”
Do I really need to go further here? I’ve already hammered this point home, but I wanted to make that quote big. Before you ever start a new affiliate site, you should ask yourself these basic questions:
- How will my site be unique from all others in this niche?
- How will my site content be higher quality than everyone else in this niche?
- How will my site content help other people?
Most new affiliate marketers never give those questions any thought. They ask things like “how long does it take to make good money as an affiliate marketer?” Or, “how can I rank my website fast?”
Time and time again, these affiliate marketers learn the hard way. If you’re not providing real value and helping others, you’re not going to see long term success.
I guess I’ve driven that point home about as hard as I can at this point.
“There are people who try to find a fast way to publish content on the web”
Now, notice that he said that it isn’t necessarily “bad” to be fast, but the point he’s trying to make is that speed often times has a negative impact on quality. Let me give you a personal example…
I’m a huge fan of outsourcing. Once a website is profitable, I like to re-invest those profits by paying others to grow my site for me. In fact, I’ve done that on this very website. That lead to a big problem, though. This site started to lose the unique “voice” that I had created. It became less unique and became more like a generic copy and paste site. This was not good and I had to put a stop to it.
Sure, outsourcing content works on some of my sites, but not this one. It may be faster and easier for me to have other people write for me, but this site relies on people knowing that they are getting their information from ME. On other sites, it doesn’t really matter and I can get away with outsourcing content, like on my dog food review site.
The point is, just because something is faster and more efficient doesn’t mean it will lead to higher search rankings. The opposite could even happen.
There is nothing more important to an affiliate site than awesome unique content. Go for quality instead of quantity. In the end, Google understands that building a high quality site with uniquely written content takes time. That’s something you should understand, too.
“If you have affiliate links on a website, that’s great, that’s not going to be something that we would count against a website”
This is some good news to hear for affiliate marketers. Affiliate links are NOT going to count against a website. If your site is high quality and people love it, Google is not going to penalize you just because you have some affiliate links. On the other hand, if you have a site that provides almost no content but affiliate links everywhere, this would clearly be a problem, much of which the Google Panda update would take care of.
Some Final Thoughts
The main point you should take away from all of this is that Google does NOT hate affiliate sites, nor would they penalize you just for having affiliate links. They hold affiliate sites to the same standards as almost every other website. If you help Google by providing a great website for THEIR searchers, you will be rewarded over time. You must scratch their back before they scratch yours, though.
As I’ve always said, affiliate marketing is not a way to make easy money. It will take some time to truly succeed and provide a helpful, unique, and high quality website. These days, ranking an affiliate site isn’t about performing the best black hat SEO, having private blog networks, or using other tricks to rank highly. It’s all about creating a fantastic resource that both people and search engines love. Those of us who are doing that can sleep a little easier tonight because it’s been confirmed… Google likes us! 😀