Affiliates have been complaining for a long time that Google keeps changing the rules of SEO. Most of the time it claims that it is doing it for the benefit of its users, but often it seems Google is just taking care of its own web properties. Recent Google algorithm updates have punished “thin” content sites, yet somehow the scraped content that appears on so many of Google’s own pages stay high in the SERPs.

Google has just release new webmaster guidelines that place an even stronger emphasis on original content. If and when Google follows through on enforcing these guidelines, it will permanently change the way that many affiliates make money.

According to the new guidelines:
“Our Webmaster Guidelines advise you to create websites with original content that adds value for users. This is particularly important for sites that participate in affiliate programs. Typically, affiliate websites feature product descriptions that appear on sites across that affiliate network. As a result, sites featuring mainly content from affiliate networks can suffer in Google’s search rankings.”

Just to rub the point in, the guidelines go on to say:
“Google believes that pure, or “thin,” affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users.”

Now that Google has decided what is and is not good for the user, everyone must agree or their site will not show up in SERPs:
“Pure affiliate sites consisting of content that appears in many other places on the web are unlikely to perform well in Google search results and may be negatively perceived by search engines”.

Linking strategies, a favorite tool of professional affiliates are also addressed in the updated guidelines:
“Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme. Manipulating these links may affect the quality of our search results, and as such is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
  • Excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”)
  • Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank
  • Building partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site

Even ordinary bloggers who encourage comments could end up as collateral damage, if the responder includes a link to his own website in their comment.

Doorway Pages are also on Google’s hit list and make it very clear that, “Google may take action on doorway sites and other sites making use of these deceptive practices, including removing these sites from Google’s index.”

Some examples of doorways include:

  • Having multiple domain names targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
  • Templated pages made solely for affiliate linking
  • Multiple pages on your site with similar content designed to rank for specific queries like city or state names

There’s even a Webspam Content Violation video. But maybe you should see it all for yourself.