Affiliate Marketing Contributing to Substandard Search Results: Study


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Users’ complaints about the decline in the quality of search engine results hold some truth, according to a recent study published by a group of academic researchers.

“All search engines have significant problems with highly optimized (affiliate) content,” researchers from the University of Leipzig, Bauhaus University Weimar, and ScaDS.AI, all in Germany, concluded.

In his article titled “Is Google Getting Worse?” “A Longitudinal Investigation of SEO Spam,” the researchers found, by monitoring Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo for a year on 7,392 product review queries, that although they could not predict where individual pages would rank, they could infer that “pages with Higher ones are, on average, more optimized, more monetized through affiliate marketing, and show signs of lower text quality.

One problem with the study is that it is limited to product reviews.

“Think of it this way: If you walk down one aisle in a supermarket, you will miss a lot of other things in the store,” said Nazm Hasan, founder and CEO of Microtres, a digital services provider. Marketing and software development services.

Google is Getting Better

“This study looked closely at the content of product reviews and does not reflect the overall quality or usefulness of search for the billions of queries we see every day.”

Google spokesman Ned Adrians said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld.

He continued:

“We have released specific improvements to address these issues, and the same study indicates that Google has improved over the past year and is performing better than other search engines.”

As part of their study, the researchers examined whether changes made by search engine companies improved the overall quality of results.

“Google’s updates in particular have a noticeable, though mostly short-lived, impact,”

they wrote.

“Google’s results appear to have improved somewhat since the beginning of our experiment about the amount of affiliate spam,”

they continued.

“However, we can still find many spam domains and we also see a general downward trend in text quality across all three search engines, so there is still a lot of room for improvement,” they added.

Promoting Conspiracy Theories

Adriance also confirmed that several third parties have measured search engine results for other types of queries and found that Google has much higher quality than the rest.

For example, in an article titled

“Where the Earth is Flat and 9/11 is an Inside Job: An Algorithmic Comparative Audit of Conspiracy Information in Web Search Results,”

Researchers from the University of Zurich, the University of Bern in Switzerland, the Leibniz Institute for Sossenschaften, and the University of Konstanz in Germany found that

“All search engines, except Google, consistently returned results promoting conspiracies and returned links to conspiracy sites in their top results, although the proportion of this content varied across queries.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported,

“For many terms, Bing and DuckDuckGo detected more untrustworthy websites than Google, when the results were compared to website ratings from the Global Misinformation Index, NewsGuard, and research published in the journal Science.”

“Google search results also include some untrustworthy websites, but they tend to be less common and located at the bottom of the search page.”

he added.

Generate Clicks, not Quality

The Leipzig and Bauhaus researchers also found that only a small portion of product reviews on the web use affiliate marketing, but the majority of search results do.

They also point out that there is an inverse relationship between the use of affiliate marketing and the complexity of the content and that all search engines fall victim to large-scale affiliate link spam campaigns.

“Affiliate sites want to generate clicks,” explained Greg Sterling, co-founder of Near Media, a news, commentary, and analysis site.

“You could argue that higher-quality sites generate more trust and will ultimately be more successful,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“But many affiliates seem to quickly create sites and pages to rank and generate clicks rather than focusing on creating high-quality content over the long term, which takes time and money.”

“Imagine if you were paid for every word you wrote for a project. You may write a lot, but not everything will be great.

Nazmul explained that this is what some affiliate sites do.

“They create a lot of articles so people can click and buy things through their links to make money.”

“They are more interested in selling than giving you the useful information you need,” he continued.

“It’s like those annoying ads that come out promising great things but don’t deliver results.”

Artificial Intelligence Contributes to the Problem

Researchers also note that the line between benign content and spam in the form of content and link farms is becoming increasingly blurred, a situation that is sure to worsen in the wake of generative AI.

“AI will destroy the system because the writing component of it is weak, and even the research side has proven it wrong sometimes.”

noted Baruch Labonski, CEO of Rank Secure, a website development and SEO company, in Toronto.

“This will continue to reduce text quality and at the same time lead to more spam,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The amount of low-quality text will continue to pollute search engines until you decide to raise the bar and set new ground rules.”

Sterling explained that vast amounts of “palatable” content can be created and developed quickly using artificial intelligence.

“It’s cheaper and easier than using humans or trying to build a brand,” he said.

Nazmul added that artificial intelligence can be used to quickly generate articles.

“This can lead to more web pages that may look good to search engines but don’t help you much,” he explained.

Vigilance is needed

Sterling argued that search engines should always care about the quality of their search results.

“They have to adapt their algorithms to quickly deal with sophisticated spam tactics,” he said.

“Google has this capability and will use AI in the background to achieve this goal.”

He continued: “But”

“There also needs to be a human editorial dimension, like Google’s ‘quality raters.’ That’s partly why we’re seeing Google leaning more toward forums and social sites, like Reddit, in search results, as a way to ensure more reliable results.”

“Low-quality content and spam will continue to be a big problem in the future,” he added.

“That’s why some people turn to TikTok and Reddit to get information directly from real people instead of using search.”


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