Affiliate programs

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, because they do not have enough unique content that differentiates them from other sites on the web.

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.

An example of a thin affiliates includes:

  • 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.

Not every site that participates in an affiliate program is a thin affiliate. Good affiliates add value, for example by offering original product reviews, ratings, and product comparisons. If you participate in an affiliate program, there are a number of steps you can take to help your site stand out and to help improve your rankings.

  • Affiliate program content should form only a small part of the content of your site.
  • Ask yourself why a user would want to visit your site first rather than visiting the original merchant directly. Make sure your site adds substantial value beyond simply republishing content available from the original merchant.
  • When selecting an affiliate program, choose a product category appropriate for your intended audience. The more targeted the affiliate program is to your site's content, the more value it will add and the more likely you will be to rank better in Google search results and make money from the program. For example, a well-maintained site about hiking in the Alps could consider an affiliate partnership with a supplier who sells hiking books rather than office supplies.
  • Use your website to build community among your users. This will help build a loyal readership, and can also create a source of information on the subject you are writing about. For example, discussion forums, user reviews, and blogs all offer unique content and provide value to users.
  • Keep your content updated and relevant. Fresh, on-topic information increases the likelihood that your content will be crawled by Googlebot and clicked on by users.

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. Unique, relevant content provides value to users and distinguishes your site from other affiliates, making it more likely to rank well in Google search results.