Avoiding Google penalties and being a "Thin Affiliate"
A "Thin Affiliate" is a term coined by Google and refers to websites that promote affiliate products but offer no extra value to the visitor.
Read on to learn how to avoid your stores being given a "Thin Affiliate" penalty.
Thin Affiliate penalties are extremely rare, and you will only receive one if your store has no unique content.
What is a Thin Affiliate Site?
If you have ever seen or created a website that contains only adverts and affiliate links, then you have seen a Thin Affiliate site. Google uses this phrase to label a website they don't believe deserves good rankings.
"Thin" refers to the lack of unique content on the site.
Google defines Thin Affiliate as follows:
"Thin affiliate pages are 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."
Sites with no unique content, auto blogging, poorly generated content, etc., can all be classified as Thin Affiliate sites.
Why does Google penalise Thin Affiliate sites?
This type of site offers nothing of value to the user. The products they would eventually buy can be found elsewhere, and nothing else is added.
Visitors to these websites are frustrated by the adverts, low-quality content, etc., which reflects poorly on Google.
If Google allowed this type of site to rank well, the search results would be filled with this type of site, and the users would soon start looking at other search engines.
How can I tell if my store has been labelled Thin Affiliate?
Traditionally, Google issued a "-50" penalty to thin affiliate sites. This means that for any keyword, your site is automatically listed 50 places below the top position and can only be found beyond page 5 of the search results.
You might also see a penalty inside your Google Search Console account for that store. It will give you more details, and they may email you about it.
How to Avoid the Thin Affiliate Label?
Simply add value to your store. Add some unique content, some reviews and helpful advice. The act of organising your products into useful categories is adding value, but on its own, it may not be enough for Google.
Adding content and value is not just about articles. You can also add value with videos, lists of recommended products, product comparisons, images, downloads, or anything in between.
Use good, unique content; don't copy content. Check any content for errors, and ensure your content is well-written and informative.
Add at least five pages of unique content when creating your store. Keep your store unpublished until it is ready to show to Google and the world.
You only get one chance to give Google a good first impression.
If you are reusing an old domain, it may have previously received a "Thin Affiliate" or other penalty that is still active. This is common with dropped/expired domains.
The Content-to-Page Ratio
It is helpful to think about the number of unique content pages you have in your store compared to the total number of pages.
If you have many thousands of products in your store but only three unique pages of content, then this ratio is very low.
The lower the ratio, the less likely it is that Google will rank your store. If the ratio is really low then you risk a Thin Affiliate penalty.
Will good SEO and link building prevent this?
Not by itself. You also need to add good content to your store.
If your site has a "Thin Affiliate" penalty, no amount of SEO or link building will remove it.
If I have been labelled a Thin Affiliate, what can I do?
The first step is to fix your site.
Add some good content and follow the suggestions in our Success Training guides. Then, submit a reconsideration request via your Google Search Console, admitting that you were not offering value but have now fixed it.
In your message to Google, be apologetic in tone. Show that you have read their guidelines and now understand them fully.
Finding out more
This article explains more about Thin Affiliate sites from a technical point of view and is well worth a read: What is a Thin Affiliate Site?
Google now has a wealth of information about SEO, how Google works, Google Search Console, etc., and these pages are all relevant to this topic:
- Introduction to all Google guides about search: https://developers.google.com/search/docs
- Thin Affiliate Spam Policy: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/essentials/spam-policies?hl=en#thin-affiliate-pages
- Creating great content: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/fundamentals/creating-helpful-content