Tips For Affiliates Hit By the Penguin Penalty


It’s no secret that many – if not most – affiliates were hit hard by Google’s Penguin update. This week at Affiliate Summit West, Sarah Bundy explained why this update to Google’s algorithm caused so many problems for affiliates, and what tactics affiliates can do to help them rebound and keep earning those commissions.

Sarah explained that the Penguin update sought to bring down the rankings of sites that had poor user engagement, paid links, and duplicate content. The sites whose rankings weren’t affected, she found, had great unique content, videos that helped users, and an average on-site time of 4-5 minutes.

Penguin especially penalized sites that placed links in unnatural ways – such as in unrelated forums, or forum topics. Sites that included purchased links were hit hard, Sarah said. The worst, however, is when a site aggregated data, such as from PopShop, and the affiliate didn’t add any unique content to this data. Sarah explains aggregating data isn’t bad in and of itself. The sites that just scraped this data tanked in search results because this essentially created duplicate content. However, affiliates that changed the description and added more dynamic content (such as reviews and videos) tended to fare much better.

The key takeaway from this is that ultimately an affiliate should strive to create engaging content, not get links from irrelevant sites, and should build product pages that are relevant. As Sarah says, “otherwise Google’s algorithm will think you’re trying to game the system.”

Sarah explains that when it comes to recovering from Penguin, or avoiding future penalties, “don’t use other people’s copy, don’t create duplicate content, and if you’re copying and pasting and adding your own opinion – elaborate more. Capture your audience, continue to put your own quality content and be consistent.” Consistency is especially key to improving your ranking on Google, and Sarah has found that one post a week, as well as adding additional pages (and not just updating them) can be very beneficial in a post-Penguin world. She adds that even comments are considered new content, which emphasizes why engaging content is so important.

The bottom line? “Strive to build a business, not make money,” as Sarah says. Affiliates who build engaging content and a community around their content will survive much better in a post-Penguin world and find it much easier to not only rank better, but rely less on Google entirely for traffic.

Kelly Clay

In addition to writing about emerging news and trends in the performance marketing industry, she is a columnist for Forbes, covering the intersection of technology and society. She can be can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, or her personal blog... and usually with a cup of coffee in hand, too.


    very insightful, thank you.

  • Pamela

    Thanks Kelly for writing this article it would be a great help. Yeah many sites were hit badly by the Google Penguin update that causes a dropped of ranking and traffic. In fact, I’m not an exemption on it but still I was able to recover. I know this is uncommon but I did.

    I can’t do this all alone thanks to Eric and his course Penguin Breakthrough which is embodied in the Panda Breakthrough recovery method. After participating in his recovery method, I was able to detect why I was penalized. I found out that I have links that were penalizing me. Also, Google probably thought that I was over-optimizng on my page because of numerous on-page issues. However, I manage to correct it.

  • Sarah Bundy

    Thanks for the great write up Kelly! Some other things for affiliates to consider:

    – Diversify your anchor text (don’t use the same keyword to get back links)
    – Diversify the landing pages you’re back linking to – don’t just drive everything to the homepage
    – Select a domain that can be branded or is memorable – not ones that you chose just for the keyword combinations – Google doesn’t give priority to those anymore.
    – Capture and own your audience. By doing this you can extend the lifetime value of your site traffic and increase your ROI.

    Thank you again for your great write up! Really appreciate it :)

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