Why Google HQ Loves Thin Affiliates

Despite what you may have read, Google secretly has a love affair with thin affiliates. Like a techie and Gizmodo, Google can’t get enough of affiliate marketers who build sites with no value add. If Google has its own internal Twitter, Eric Schmidt would tweet, “I heart affs who rely on search to power their business model.” Why?

Google loves thin affiliate sites because they:

1) Are lazy.

2) Lack brands that would cause people to be loyal to them.

3) Give Google their AdWords data.

4) [Sometimes] do Google’s testing for Google. [NB: A high converting lander doesn’t lift you above the status of thin affiliate.]

5) Repeat what’s in a datafeed verbatim, making it easier to pinpoint key data in the absence of a Google base feed. For those of you in this boat, read Rae on how to handle affiliate datafeeds properly.

All of this enables Google to launch affiliate sites like its mortgage comparison tool, which sells traffic on a cost-per-lead basis. Aaron Wall has also pointed out that Google’s getting into retail affiliate marketing, which will increase as universal results become more widespread.

Google loves thin affiliates because they’re no competition. They’re disposable.

I told you guys over a year ago that Google aims to be the world’s biggest affiliate. Thin affiliates are a lovely source of competitive intelligence.

What’s the takeaway for internet marketers?

Google is progressively taking all the value in search traffic for itself. If this trend continues in the long term, search will gradually become a lower-and-lower ROI marketing channel as competitors bid the traffic/leads etc into the stratosphere.

And that’s not just for affiliates! Google is taking on Amazon too, though that battle should won’t be as easy as picking on thin affiliates. What’s the difference?

Amazon has:

  • A huge brand. Even if Amazon blocked Googlebot in its robots.txt, people would still visit Amazon to shop online.
  • A first-mover advantage in ebook readers with the Kindle.
  • Other marketing channels, including its affiliate program, public relations etc.

While it’s trite by now, Internet marketers – both affiliates and merchants – would do well to imitate Amazon. Developing a brand, a first-mover advantage, and non-search marketing channels are going to be increasingly important for online businesses to minimize their risk.

Sadly, this suggests that we’ll see a swing back from permission marketing to interruption marketing. Not tomorrow or even in 2010, but very slowly over the next few years. Wonder what Seth Godin would think of that?
photo credit: Photomish Dan

(While comments are closed here, you can tweet feedback to me via @GabGoldenberg. You can also check out my blog’s affiliate marketing posts.)

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