April 24th, 2012 saw the birth of “The Penguin.”
A colleague just posted on Facebook that today (4/24/15) is the third anniversary of Google’s “Penguin” Algorithm update. That update began to change the scope of search results – weeding out poor quality and/or redundant sites – to make the results better for people looking for content on the internet. It was meant to level the playing field among people and companies marketing on the Internet.
Many affiliate marketers complained because “Penguin” negatively affected traffic to their websites. But maybe there were problems with their websites – such as poor content, copied content, a rehash of products offered by an actual merchant in hopes of gaining affiliate commissions, or whatever. Overall it was a good thing – good for the consumer/end user – and good for us. It was good for us because we never tried to duplicate someone else’s efforts and our websites offer unique content and/or merchants’ products with an “added value” component.
The next major step will be to clean up the myriad ads that blur the real content/results whenever someone searches. Some people/merchants are “cheating” by masquerading and duplicating sites from the same company – to get around the Search Engine Terms of Service which (supposedly) allow only one company per search result. For true variety and relevance to the end user that needs to be enforced. I believe it will – eventually. Google and Bing/Yahoo need to produce truly relevant results for the public or they will lose market share to “other” entities. Can anyone say “Facebook search?”
The general consensus on PPC bidding is that it should not be permitted. The rational being that a brand is already known so a merchant should not pay commissions to an affiliate who is also bidding on that brand. All of those sales would end up with the merchant anyway.
Really? What about competitors? The search engines allow ANYONE to bid on a brand or trademark. If you have a popular brand you will see competitors appearing in the paid search results. Don’t believe it? Just try a Bing search for “Under Armour” and look at the variety of PPC ads that appear. Now narrow it down even further and try a search for the exact domain name, underarmour.com – and look at all the PPC ads that still appear. Most companies that prohibit brand and/or trademark bidding proactively monitors PPC violations and comes down hard on their own affiliates who don’t follow their stated terms. Doing that does cost money in resources and time (I have no axe to grind with Under Armour – they are a fine company and have a fine affiliate program and am just using them as an example. I could just as easily have picked “SkullCandy.com” or other known brands.)
An alternative might be to allow PPC bidding on their brand by any active affiliates. That might help knock their competitors out of the search engine results pages (SERPs). So, what’s better – paying a commission to your own affiliate for a sale that you “might” have made without that affiliate’s PPC ad -OR – or not losing that commission percentage at all because THE SALE WAS LOST TO A COMPETITOR?
That is a question that you need to answer for yourself. We are about to launch a new program in the business checks vertical and we will launch with an “Open PPC Policy.” We don’t have the time or the expertise to effectively promote via PPC – so we will let our more knowledgeable affiliates do it – for themselves and (ultimately) for us. YMMV