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Affiliate Genocide In the 21st Century

Affiliate Genocide In the 21st Century

Moved to from on August 3, 2008

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Note by Carsten Cumbrowski
Original Post by Carsten Cumbrowski from March 03, 2007 at Search Engine Journal.

Follow the link to get to the edited Version of the post. The post was edited, because it caused a lot of political and social misunderstandings that where elaborated and great detail in the initial comments.

This spin off from the main post topic was not intended and the discussion that was sparked is not appropriate for a Blog like Search Engine Journal.

SEJ is not about polititics, except search engine politics of course.

I recommended to Loren Baker to move the post and comments off SEJ to my personal website to allow people to engage in the affiliate marketing related discussion at the SEJ blog and be able to see the other discussion and the cause of it here at my website.

This edit was done with the interest of the SEJ community in mind and does not expresses an opinion of SEJ and its Editors about the content of the post, also not an implied one.

The content is provocative, historically relevant and very sensitive. I personally suggest to you to read it and think about it.

You can provide comments at this post at my personal blog which I created just for that.

Original Post start...

... history has the tendency to repeat itself over and over again. No, humans do not learn from past mistakes of their ancestors. They might learn from their own past mistakes, but that will be gone and forgotten by the next generation already.

I wouldn't be surprised if this little introduction raised an eyebrow or two asking what this is all about.

Before I return to older history, let me only go back in time for a bit over a day and a few months after that.

Andy Beal from MarketingPilgrim talked with Adam Lasnik from Google this Friday about Google's stance on paid links and the discussion about the usage of the nofollow attribute.

What Google looks for are patterns that suggest money is being exchanged for links. ....

... However, links from one relevant site to another, would not likely cause a reaction from Google (although they would still prefer you to use a nofollow tag).

Loren, here at SEJ reported about it and I left a comment which was followed by a very similar one from a fellow affiliate marketer with the name Wendy Piersall who earns money from affiliate marketing on her "eMoms at home" site and blog.

I find Google's attitude both dangerous and based on faulty logic. Just because a link is paid for on a site, certainly doesn't mean that it should be valued less. What about an affiliate link that points straight to a site? What if the site I'm linking to is relevant?

I deserve to be compensated for the benefit that my advertising client gets for the traffic that I send over.

I PAY to get these visitors to my site in the first place (via PPC, advertising, or long hours spent on content creation, PR and promotion).

Is there something wrong with advertisers wanting to earn better rankings from paid links? Google certainly benefits from this business model, why shouldn't advertisers?

I wrote more than once about the problems with the nofollow attribute, what links are and what they are not and why I supported the nofollow tag in the case of Wikipedia, actually pushed for it for months although I became a complete opponent of the nofollow attribute over the past 15 months and actively call for the abolishment of the use of nofollow by Search Engines.

I also provided ideas and recommendations how to come to a solution for the problems.

No, I have not developed a new algorithm that will solve all the problems. I only pointed out things that should be considered in one way or another by any attempt for an alternative method of how to evaluate and treat links.

During the whole discussion did I notice something.

Google does not get it or does not want to (I think the latter is closer to the truth). Also Search Marketers have a problem of grasping the complete magnitude of this.

The SEO community freaked out over statements by an unimportant PPC/SEM that SEO is not rocket science and by statements from a VC who is a Web 2.0 evangelist that SEO's are (for the most part) scumbags and worthless.

They had at least the curtsey to say that to the SEO community straight into the face and not by talking about you in third person to somebody else while you are standing right next to them.

That is what Google is doing about affiliate marketers with statements like this. The core and origin of affiliate marketing is about generating income from your site by providing content and information about things you like or know and receiving a commission for referring a customer to a merchant or service provider who sells the stuff you are talking about.

Not passive Ads sitting in a separated section of the site where you can say:

"It's advertising so I don't have an opinion about it. It might be crap or it might be great. Find out for yourself and leave me alone".

No, grass root affiliate marketing is about taking the responsibility for WHAT you promote or advertise and HOW you do that.

Sure, you can make a quick buck by recommending crap to people, but you can only do that once, because your reputation is down the drain. Not such a good way of building a long term affiliate marketing based business, I guess.

Let me use some SEO terminology which might helps the search marketers to understand the core of the problem.

Affiliate marketing has also the problems, just like SEO that black sheep's or BLACK HATS that use questionable methods to generate money via the affiliate marketing channel give the whole industry a bad name, but the existence of those Affiliate BLACK HATS does not make all Affiliates bad and to black hats as well.

Making an affiliate link nofollow (a WHITE HAT affiliate link), is like you optimizing a clients site perfectly for search engines and then have the search engines come along and forcing a User-agent: * and Disallow: / to be added to the robots.txt file.

Confused? Yeah, search engines would not spider the site anymore. They think its junk before even looking at it, because an SEO optimized it, so it must be junk. They don't say that of course, but have the site owner add the little tags to the mostly unnoticeable little .txt file in the website root.

Now if that would happen and I would be a SEO. What would I think about this?

I can't speak for other people but I would be pissed and that is an understatement. Burning the treacherous and snake tongue speaking SE's to the ground and beat the crap out of them are ideas that start crossing my mind.

It's already bad enough if somebody comes up to you and tells you right in the face that he thinks that all SEO are the scum of the earth and the most worthless human beings that walk the planet and no matter what a SEO touches must be useless junk that should be thrown into the garbage can without even spending a second looking at it.

Anybodies blood already cooking?

Hey at least you got it said right into your face and indirectly during a conversation between the Search Engines and an Advertiser where you are physically present but treated as if you are not in the room, because the SE would not even lower themselves to even acknowledge your basic existence.

The Advertiser can let himself down to that if he thinks that is necessary, but the SE don't care about that at all.

This is what is happening here. If "selling a link" means receiving ANY rewards or financial gain from the existence of the link, then every affiliate link must be using the nofollow attribute in the eyes of Google.

That on the other hand means, that an affiliate has to give up its own integrity and authority to degrade a link to something that the link is not.

Google can not tell that easy which affiliate is a scumbag and in for the quick buck not caring about its reputation and long term damage from doing dis-honest referrals and the honest affiliate that stands behind the referral with its entire authority and reputation put on the line.

So the solution is to f*ck the honest affiliate and its authority and reputation and treat it as a scumbag right from the start or have the affiliate "admit" that it is completely worthless and a lying bastard by flagging their own votes as dishonest and only having the monetary reward in mind.

A couple decades ago did a group of people force another one to mark themselves with a symbol to indicate that they belong to that group of untermenschen that are greedy and try to rip you off and get to your money whenever they get a chance for it. We remember where that ended.

I hope this time does it not end with a couple million people dead and killed for nothing.


Jeremy Luebke on Mar 3, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Just think of it this way. Affiliate Marketers are Google's biggest competition. Google wants everyone to use Google to find what they are looking for on the web. When an affiliate marketer provides useful information that enables users to find what they are looking for, they are in turn letting the user circumvent Google. They want to send the traffic to the originator and get the money that the affiliate marketer would have once gotten.

CarstenCumbrowski on Mar 3, 2007 at 12:49 pm

I got that, but they are beating around the bush (again) and don't just say it.

Btw. Guess who helped Google to become what it did?

"Pay Per Click? What is that? Go to Google and do a search. Look to the right. See all those Affiliate Ads? That's Pay Per Click"
This could have been a true quote from a conversation in 2000-2002.

... "thanks guys and sorry that we now have to kill you. It's not personal, honestly, it's just business... you know."

It's cynic Saturday today I guess ;)

Wendy Piersall on Mar 3, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Thanks for the mention. I've been mulling this idea ever since the first post I read here yesterday.

There is a world of difference between a spammy paid link, and a quality ad buy. Media buyers spend just as much time finding relevant ad space as we do creating quality content.

That either of us should be penalized for this is like punishing a town because one criminal lives on main street.

If Google required the use of 'nofollow' on all paid links, it would put a company like Text Link Ads out of business, which is by and far one of the best sources of revenue for bloggers - and Google l-o-v-e-s blogs.

It certainly represents quite a contradiction in priorities, imho.

Matt Cutts on Mar 3, 2007 at 2:32 pm

"A couple decades ago did a group of people force another one to mark themselves with a symbol to indicate that they belong to that group of untermenschen that are greedy and try to rip you off and get to your money whenever they get a chance for it. We remember where that ended.

I hope this time does it not end with a couple million people dead and killed for nothing."

Carsten, by using the term "untermenschen" you're clearly comparing affiliate marketing to the holocaust, right down to using "genocide" in the title. That's really amazingly offensive. For someone born and raised in Berlin, I would have expected a lot more sensitivity about making such a comparison.

CarstenCumbrowski on Mar 3, 2007 at 3:51 pm

Hi Matt,

I first hesitated, but then decided  for it to make it part of the post. I would not have done it if I would be living in Germany, because Nazism and its methodology is a taboo topic which is actually a bad thing.

People might start believing in a epidemic disease that caused all this unimaginable horror, but nobody was either sick nor crazy.

The same principles used by the Nazis to manipulate and control the crowds were used by the Stalinist regime and are even used today to get masses to do something they would not have done as individual or if they had the time to just think about it.

Those methods can also be used to do good things. The idea to have a company T-shirt that cost $10 and is being worn by everybody in the company including the CEO to create this unified ueber thingy that can take on any challenge is such an example.

There is another principle that was used by the Nazis which is also still used today by people to push an agenda which I made my analogy to in my post. The consequence I referred to is extreme but it was not happening from one day to another. The horrible end was a result of a progression of things taken up one level at a time.   

If you see those tendencies emerge be alarmed, yes, because you don't know how far the progression will go. I am sure that it will not end in such an extreme way as it did 62-66 years ago, but 74-75 years ago would also nobody have expected how far things go as they did in the years that followed.

I recommend to read the story "The Wave" (original author is Morton Rhue I believe) about real events in an american high school in Palo Alto in 1969.  It is about a social experiment gone bad when a teacher engaged in an experiment to demonstrate the roots of fascism and its social principles to his students (without telling them)

Wikipedia Entry to "The Wave"

He wanted to show that the roots of fascism can be found and nurtured anywhere and he was quite successful to say it mildly.

What he did in his desperation to stop what was already out of his control for the most part was ..mhhh... shock therapy?! Well, he used the extreme analogies to the final stages of fascism in Nazi Germany to illustrate where the students were heading. Well, the whole thing collapsed and despite some emotional issues Shrinks had to take care of and some bruises was nobody permanently injured.

I was engaged in so many discussions about this within the search community from the perspective of an affiliate marketer and I always saw how the mark was missed, except maybe the discussion that went on at Michael Gray's Blog where I believe that I got Jeremy Zawodny to realize the dilemma for Affiliate marketers.

Unfortunately did some issues with Michael's blog cause the loss of a bunch of comments to several blog posts, including the one I am referring to much made me quite mad, because it was a very detailed and good discussion which is now lost forever.

My Google Desktop did unfortunately not record it properly either so I have no copy of it and the Google cache did also not show it, because the post was only a few days old when Michael got the problem.

Here is the post btw.

I obviously got the attention of somebody that matters when it comes to this issue which is good. I also hope that the post or maybe my comment now makes you think about it in a more broader sense to see the point I am trying to make.

Matt Cutts on Mar 3, 2007 at 4:19 pm

"I obviously got the attention of somebody that matters when it comes to this issue which is good."

Yup, your analogy to the holocaust definitely worked to get a reply. In your post, you say

"They had at least the curtsey [sic] to say that to the SEO community straight into the face and not by talking about you in third person to somebody else while you are standing right next to them."

I'm not sure what you're trying to say with that? Google has tried to communicate with webmasters more than any other search engine, in my experience.

For example, we've said for years for affiliate marketers to look at the value-add that they deliver to users. There are tons of great sites that monetize in different ways (including affiliate marketing); the criteria for good sites is the same litmus test that searchers use: if you do a search and get a bunch of cookie-cutter sites with little or no value-add, that's a bad search experience because it hurts the diversity of the search results. That's why we've always recommended looking at what unique services, resources, information, or other hooks you can provide on your site (whether it is an affiliate or not).

I don't think other search engines have talked much about their advice or opinions for affiliate marketers, but I'm happy to admit that I could be wrong.

Comment made at my personal Blog as of August/2008

Brian said... on Thu Apr 19, 2007 09:33:00 AM PDT's_law

"Godwin has argued that overuse of the Nazi/Hitler comparison should be avoided, as it robs the valid comparisons of their impact."

Carsten a.k.a. Roy/SAC said.. on Fri Apr 20, 2007 05:11:00 PM PDT


I pretty much never use the events at Nazi-Germany for comparison purposes.

The reason I used it in that particular case was that the things talked about in the post have severe negative impact (financially and personally) on a lot of people. Google does actively avoids to talk about to specify how and if certain things apply to affiliates.

They keep statements so vague that it seems to apply to affiliates as well, but leave out to the details what affiliates should or should not do.

This is not the first time. It happened multiple times in the past already. It would be less of a problem, if Google would not at the same time penalize in an unfaithful manner affiliates that play by the rules and do nothing different than other groups of webmasters who seem to be okay in Google's eyes.

That p*sses me off to say it quite frankly. There is no rational reason for Google to do this. It almost seems like a subjective form of hatred towards affiliates for unknown reasons.

The comparison of METHODS used by the Nazis (and others before and after them) to the METHODS Google used and is still using are valid. The same PRINCIPLES are applied with affects that are generally speaking the same. The only difference between the two are the things that lead to extreme end results in the case of Nazi Germany and not so extreme ones in case of Google.

I don't compare the end results that came about as a direct cause from applying these principles and methods and I am sure that they will not lead to the same results for Google.

The methods used by the Nazis are well known. The methods to manipulate, motivate or intimidate masses are very powerful and effective which makes them dangerous if used for the wrong reasons. A lot of them can be and are used for good purposes.

Let me provide you a specific example that shows the principle of motivating and unifying groups of people to make them feel as one and able to do extraordinary things because of it. No single hero's being depicted. Everybody is the hero and did/does his part to succeed at the end.

The Example
The use of "Uniform" like apparel for everybody who is part of the group to wears, which is the same regardless of age, superiority, background, wealth and title.

Use 1.
Used by the Hitlerjugend - HJ (Hitler Youth) and Bund Deutscher Mädel - BDM (League of German Maidens (or Girls)) in Nazi Germany.

Hitler Youth
League of German Girls

Bund Deutscher Mädel

Use 2.
Used by the Jungpioniere (Young Pioneers), Thälmannpioniere (Thälmann's Pioneers, after Ernst Thälmann) and the Freie Deutsche Jugend - FDJ (Free German Youth) in the former East Germany.

Freie Deutsche Jugend

No entry for "Pioneer Organization" in the English Wikipedia. They are not to be confused with the Pioneers of the military)

There is an entry for Ernst Thaelmann, the person the organization was named after.

Pionierorganisation Ernst Thälmann
Freie Deutsche Jugend

Use 3.
Corporate Identity in form of company outfit (T-Shirts and that sort) and use of the outfit in mostly social events where the T-Shirt is worn by everybody in the company, the clerk, manager, VP and CEO.

Corporate Identity

The same principle is used in all three cases and have the same effect. The purpose and end goals differ between all three though.

This also demonstrates what I compared in my post and what I did not compare.

Back to my example here. I obviously did not compare the HJ to the FDJ or HJ with any corporation that uses company t-shirts for corporate Identity with neither the Young Pioneers nor the BDM.

I hope this makes sense.

Although there were no comments at my blog for over a year, remain comments still open, in case somebody reads this and feels like commenting on this subject. You are still welcome to do so.

If you would like to comment on this subject, please visit the special post at my personal blog which I did, just for this purpose.

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