Another leaked version of Google's Quality Rater Guidelines appeared online late last month, which I finally took a look at this morning.
The guidelines are for Google staff who evaluate landing pages and rate whether those pages are quality, vital, useful, relevant (or not), off-topic, not spam, maybe spam and definitely spam.
In his latest newsletter, Allan Gardyne talks about an “alarming section” that pertains to affiliates and the use of ‘sneaky redirects' to qualify a page as probably being spam. You'll see it on page 38 of the report under the title “Recognizing when redirects are sneaky or non-sneaky“.
The example within the Quality Rater Guidelines of a sneaky redirect shows how a specific Commission Junction affiliate link redirects to a page on the JC Whitney site.
From an affiliate standpoint, I don't find that assessment the least bit alarming. Google is not referring to affiliate links on a bona fide affiliate page, ie. a link within a product review.
The point is that Google doesn't want affiliate pages that automatically redirect to merchant sites coming up in the search results. They also don't want keyword stuffed pages, frame pages used to cloak affiliate links or pages that contain hidden text and links. In a nutshell, they don't want to see pages that are designed and optimized merely to lure visitors.
From the perspective of a search engine user, that seems fair enough to me.
Once again, Google stipulates which pages do and do not rate as ‘thin affiliates'. Here is a quote directly from the report:
If a page offers some value in addition to its links to the merchant, then it is not a thin affiliate. For example, if the affiliate offers price comparison functionality, or displays product reviews, recipes, lyrics, etc., it is not a thin affiliate, and, therefore, not Spam.
In the report's Final Notes you'll find:
When trying to decide if a page is Spam, it is helpful to ask yourself this question:
If I remove the scraped (copied) content, the ads, and the links to other pages, is
there anything of value left? If the answer is no, the page is probably Spam.
A very good guideline for affiliates to follow indeed!
You may still be able to pick up a copy of the Quality Rater Guidelines here.