Google Spam Update and Its Impact on Affiliate Marketing

The recent update to Google’s Site Reputation Abuse Policy is set to shake up how consumers interact and engage with Voucher and Coupon sites. In this post, we examine the changes and their impact on affiliate marketing.

Google Spam Update: Millennial man making an online purchase

The monetisation of news outlets isn’t new. When print was king, advertising sales kept the news in business. As newspapers moved to digital, marketing tactics evolved, and consumers followed. Now, instead of clipping coupons from the newspaper, consumers across the globe head to the coupon section of their favourite digital news site.

The recent Google Spam Update threatens this behaviour by deindexing or slashing the SEO rankings of news sites that work with third-parties to host and manage their publications’ coupon and voucher sections.

What changes have been made:

To improve the quality of its search results, Google has updated its Site Reputation Abuse Policy. The policy now sees news sites that host coupons provided by a third-party as spam. The changes were made with little oversight or involvement from the hosting site.

The policy states that coupons that are listed with close involvement of the hosting site are not considered site reputation abuse.

When did these come into effect:

On May 5th, Google began with manual actions, sending notifications to impacted sites. Since the update, most new sites’ coupon directories have disappeared from Google search results, with some publications shutting down their coupon pages entirely.

Why is Google doing this:

Google has long emphasised the importance of quality content and a positive user experience. The Site Reputation Abuse update specifically targets websites that prioritise monetisation over offering visitors genuine value. This includes websites that display third-party coupons and affiliate offers without providing unique or helpful information.

The Google Spam Update and Affiliate Marketing  

The true impact of this update is still to be seen. Like other updates to Google’s search results, some publishers will benefit from the change, while others may see a decline in traffic and results.

Similarly, the effect of these changes will vary from brand to brand. We recommend brands work with their account managers to monitor program and partner performance. Take inventory of your publisher mix and diversify partnership opportunities to minimise risks to performance.

Recommendations for Publishers: 

Our network quality experts recommend publishers implement the strategies below to help them stay visible:

  • Enhance Content Quality: Create unique, valuable content around coupons and deals. Provide insightful information that adds genuine value to the end user and avoid copying content from other websites.
  • Update Coupon Listings: Review and update coupon listings regularly to ensure accuracy and relevancy and promptly remove expired or invalid coupons.
  • Diversify Content: Do more than list coupons. Consider incorporating helpful guides, reviews or tutorials on products or services offered through affiliate links. By diversifying your platform, you can improve the overall quality and usefulness of the site.
  • Improve User Experience: Prioritise user experience by optimising site speed, mobile responsiveness and navigation. A seamless and enjoyable browsing experience encourages users to engage with your site and reduce bounce rates.
  • Provide Transparency: Clearly disclose affiliate relationships and sponsored content to users. By being honest, you build trust and authenticity. People appreciate knowing when something is an ad.
  • Focus on the Long Term: Build a sustainable, long-term strategy for your site. Create evergreen content that will be useful for a while.

Navigating the Changes   

At Rakuten Advertising, we’re uniquely positioned to help publishers and brands navigate this change. Our dedicated publisher team is actively working with our partners to monitor and assess the impact of the changes on their business. The team are providing strategic recommendations and optimisations to help our publishers remain visible and competitive.

Our global analytics teams are monitoring our network to identify how the update impacts consumer behaviour across news and non-news sites. We’re arming our clients with the insights to build tailored strategies.

Despite the update, many coupon sites remain unaffected. There are lingering questions about how or when we’ll see the full impact of the changes come into effect. Our team at Rakuten Advertising is here to support you. We will continue to analyse consumer behaviour and monitor the performance of our global coupon, sharing learnings and strategic recommendations.

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