The Future Of Product Review And Other Affiliate Websites
Google has been waging a war against low quality sites (which may include duplicate content, shallow content, scraped content) since December 2010.
The first changes were not so drastic as only a few webmasters here and there got a shock when they checked their traffic stats. Some even returned to almost previous levels with their traffic after 3 months.
The second wave of cleaning up their index came with the February 9th algorithm change and then the famous Farmer Update happened on February 24th. Many well known sites lost their rankings while some miraculously kept their rankings.
This is just a quick overview of the things currently going on around the Web and what Google is up to – in case you weren’t familiar with them.
The Product Review Websites
Product review websites became more and more popular in the last 3 years or so. When some of us started with a product review website in 2005 or 2006, we didn’t know the effectiveness of such sites.
I was definitely surprised at how well such a site earns relative to the amount of daily visitors.
But after a few years, the idea of product review websites as your own ATM machines became very popular. Bloggers, SEO guys, Clickbank sellers and others shared their views on how to make the most money with a product review website.
The “product review site” gold rush began.
Most webmasters looked for short-cuts – they simply copied the layout and site structure of successful websites, copied parts of text of those websites and just changed the product name (if they targeted a different product).
What those webmasters are not aware of is how easy it is for a search engine (Google at the moment) to identify such thefts of the content.
Here’s how Matt Cutts explains to a webmaster how Google finds copied content:
Matt Cutts: “If you read both articles, while the wording may not be exactly duplicate, there are very strong similarities.
First sentence from your site: “The Prince serenaded Leighton Meester during his concert at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night (Jan. 18).”
First sentence from Just Jared: “Leighton Meester gets serenaded by the legendary Prince during his sold-out concert at New York Ctiy’s Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night (January 18).”
Note these phrases: “serenaded,” “New York City’s Madison Square Garden,” “Tuesday night (Jan[uary] 18)”
You can read the whole discussion here.
Second, try this Google search based on a part of a sentence from a homepage on one of my websites:
Funny, isn’t it? There are 973 results and the sites are remarkably similar – in fact, you could probably find many more parts of the sentences shared among those sites.
Coincidence? I don’t think so.
And Google can see that too – except that in much more detail. And all those copied parts definitely raise red flags in Google’s ranking algorithm.
As Paul Kedrosky found out, “To a first approximation, the entire web is spam when it comes to appliance reviews”.
Those of you who are doing product review websites, keep in mind that Google knows about you. Take a look at only your niche and you’ll see that there are tens if not hundreds of sites based on the exact same system as yours.
The problem right now is that even though our content might be original, Google is getting harsher and harsher and the difference between really useful content and some outsourced articles for $5 per 500 words is not so clear to Google.
There have been tons of good sites taken down basically as collateral damage and it’s really hard to tell what the reason is.
So in order to survive with product review sites, I have only one advice: review the products.
Really review the products so that you’ll be a different kind of site compared to the rest.
Your content will not be comparable to the outsourced and rewritten content on gazillion other websites.
Keep in mind, that Google has also guidelines on sites that earn money with affiliate programs and their main advice is this: “Affiliate program content should form only a small part of the content of your site. “
Therefore your articles / review need to be fairly long – I’d aim for at least 1500 if not more words and very few affiliate links.
With lots of images, your own Youtube channel, Facebook page and a Twitter account you should be able to distinguish your site from millions of other crappy websites that have now clogged the web and are pulling all of us down in the same mess.
The game has become harder. In fact, don’t think of an internet business as a game where you’re going to make money, but think of it as a serious business in which you’re going to invest a significant amount of money, time and effort in order to benefit from passive income.
And if you’re considering a product review website but you’re not going to go all the way, then I personally advise you not to start such a site. It’s not going to work in the long term.
There are literally thousands of people thinking and doing exactly the same as you and sooner or later, Google is going to clean this up – perhaps in a similar way as Blekko did.
The search will become more social and search engines will become smarter. If your site if crap, they’ll figure this out much sooner than they did in the past.
It’s not even worth trying.
Build a site based on your passion if you’re not willing to build a great online business on something else and that passion will most likely help you succeed online.