How Google's New Site Reputation Abuse Policy Affects Affiliate

May 14, 2024
Written by CJ

For years, many major publishers have entered into revenue-share partnerships with third parties to publish curated coupons and offers.

These agreements allow news and other content publishers to deliver additional value to site visitors and earn more money. For the leasing companies, these pages have enabled them to reach more people and generate more commissions through strong ranking in SERPs. 


Google’s Recent Spam Policy Change

As of May 6, Google has now classified pages on content and news sites shared with third parties as a form of spam, which they call “site reputation abuse.”

From the Google Webmaster site:

Site reputation abuse is when third-party pages are published with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, where the purpose is to manipulate search rankings by taking advantage of the first-party site's ranking signals. Such third-party pages include sponsored, advertising, partner, or other third-party pages that are typically independent of a host site's main purpose or produced without close oversight or involvement of the host site and provide little to no value to users.

Currently, Google is implementing 'manual actions' to de-rank pages and subdomains. This means that a human reviewer at Google has concluded the pages on a specific site do not comply with Google's spam policies. They've also announced their intention to integrate site reputation abuse enforcement into their search algorithms in the future. Consequently, many of these pages have experienced a significant drop in search visibility for coupon and discount terms, leading to big decreases in affiliate traffic.

Google's new policy does not categorize all discount coupon pages on news and other content sites as spam. They assert that site reputation abuse occurs when third-party pages are published with little or no oversight or involvement from the hosting publisher’s team. In their perspective, such publishing agreements are specifically crafted to manipulate search results by 'borrowing' the strong reputations and domain authorities of host sites.

This policy and enforcement change should not impact sites that curate and discount coupons themselves, potentially leading to a more fair and balanced digital marketing landscape. Moreover, while the immediate impact is challenging, it's crucial to note that these domains could recover and continue to offer significant value through different models and strategies.

In our data and reports from other industry participants, it appears that the change mainly affects the USA, UK, and Australia at the moment. It’s not yet known how it may affect other markets. In the European Union, stricter competition regulations may make the impact of this measure less significant than in other parts of the world.


Effects on the Affiliate Industry and Marketing

Here’s how Google's recent changes are affecting the performance marketing industry:

  • Brands: Many brands work with third-party companies that curate and manage coupon and deal content delivered on content and news sites through third-party managed sites pages. Traffic and conversions from many of these partnerships could drop.
  • Content and news publishers: Google's policy targets content on sites managed by third parties. The policy shift jeopardizes their ability to deliver their users the best deals and offers and cuts off a major content monetization channel.
  • Coupon and deal platforms that shared pages: Google’s policy changes will likely dramatically reduce their affiliate revenue until they find new ways of collaborating with publishers and brands.


What CJ is Doing

CJ is closely monitoring this move as it affects some of our partners worldwide. We believe this is a complex issue and is not as simple as Google’s rationale maintains. In many cases, generalist sites partner with third parties through revenue-sharing agreements, enabling them to provide more and better information to users. A news site, for example, is unlikely to hire a large team to curate deals, but may well want to help its customers find the best value.

Third-party managed sites have also enabled publishers like news sites to generate needed revenue to support the enormous costs of quality content development. Some news and content sites make millions from such agreements. Multiple revenue sources are particularly important in an environment where tech giants like Google capture almost two-thirds of all digital marketing investment.

CJ is committed to fostering stronger collaborations between publishers and brands to adapt to these changes. This initiative aims to involve host publishers more deeply in content creation, thereby adapting to the new Google enforcement, improving the quality of information, and making coupon and deal presences on their sites more appealing and effective for user engagement and conversion.


Ensuring Quality and Consumer Value

Since our founding 25+ years ago, CJ has led the charge in the industry by advocating for content quality and user satisfaction. These are fundamental pillars for ensuring the health and vitality of our industry and the long-term success of our brand, agency, and publisher partners. Only by delivering maximum value to consumers can the partnerships industry deliver the win-win-win we hope to achieve with every customer touch in the customer journey

We're confident that these companies will find new ways of delivering scale and value to consumers, publishers, and brands. Together, we'll respond in ways that enhance consumer value and strengthen the channel's effectiveness. We will always stand by our partners as they work to deliver maximum value to consumers.

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