It was only a matter of time before this happened. Google’s algorithm is in the midst of a massive “cleanse” and it now has its sights set on affiliates and syndicated content.

In a recent blog post, Google stated:

[quote] “If your site syndicates content that’s available elsewhere, a good question to ask is: “Does this site provide significant added benefits that would make a user want to visit this site in search results instead of the original source of the content?” If the answer is “No,” the site may frustrate searchers and violate our quality guidelines. As with any violation of our quality guidelines, we may take action, including removal from our index, in order to maintain the quality of our users’ search results.” [/quote]

In addition, Mr. Cutts warned his followers about this update as well. If history has taught us anything, when Matt tweets, action happens:

tweet matt cutts thin affiliate sites

A Quick Example

So what exactly does this mean for webmasters? Let’s use this example that I found in literally 10 seconds:

I ran a Google query for “buy garcinia cambogia” one of the top affiliate products right now and copied the first sentence from the first listing then pasted that sentence in quotes into Google.

Over 50 results using this exact sentence verbatim:

spam affiliate site

This example is just a tiny fraction of 1% of the content being “syndicated” or just outright copied right now.

Porn Tube Sites Go Down the Tube

Google gave the example of porn websites that use syndicated videos as the prime offender in this update.

Obviously I’m not going to paste any pornographic screenshots in this blog post, but if you dare to search any “tube” related porn query, you will undoubtedly see the same videos over and over again.

Just take a look at just one of the popular WordPress “tube” plugins and you will see that they openly promote video syndication on their sales page.

google algorithm tube penalty

New Update or Just Panda Refresh?

This was the first question I asked myself when I first read Google’s latest blog post. It seems as though they are just penalizing sites that use duplicate content, right? Maybe, but probably not.

It seems as though this is a targeted algorithm update that is targeting thin affiliate sites specifically.

So while the principle behind Panda and this new update might be the same, this latest update looks like it will be focusing on affiliate sites with content syndicated from another source.

Thin Affiliate Sites, Defined

According to Google, a thin affiliate site is defined as:

Google believes that pure, or “thin,” affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users, especially if they are part of a program that distributes its content to several hundred affiliates. These sites generally appear to be cookie-cutter sites or templates with no original content. Because a search results page could return several of these sites, all with the same content, thin affiliates create a frustrating user experience.

Some examples of thin affiliates include:

  • Pages with product affiliate links on which the product descriptions and reviews are copied directly from the original merchant without any original content or added value.

More to Come

We are definitely going to keep our eye on this update. As search marketers, it is frustrating for us when we try to promote legitimate products only to be beaten out by these “thin affiliates” in the rankings.

It is good to see Google doing their part and continuing to clean up their side of the street.