It used to be so easy in the old days: all you need to do was to create a basic review site, place 3 or more similar offers, compare them to each other and insert your affiliate code to each one of them. Whether it was option A, B or C, you would have to get your commission. Simple, proven and successful landing page, with only one “small” problem – no added value to the visitor…
After some time, you just couldn’t click on an ad without seeing the same comparison format over and over. It was just a matter of time before Google have realized that this model alone is responsible for a growing number of websites that has no real value to the visitor since they don’t offer anything new or unique. What has started as a small PPC problem, had become a huge issue for the traditional (organic) search results, since many small review sites had found their way to the first and second page in Google. Many niches have became infested by comparison shopping sites, such as the travel industry, where travel aggregation became the norm.
Eventually (and i do thank Harlan Kilstein for giving us an early warning in June 2009, before the slap) they have pulled the plug and this profitable method became history. Myself, i always preferred to use an honest one product review site, other than three products comparison shopping site, but others who used it had to find out a way to recover their model. This is another example of how following Google’s policy guidelines (even before the become solid rules) is the most profitable way. While others had to reinvent their business, i have tripled my traffic.
Currently, Google AdWords prohibits the promotion of comparison shopping websites and any violation of this policy may result in a range of actions, such as disabling your domain, disapproving your ads, suspending your AdWords account and if you try to set up a new one, you may find yourself banned from AdWords.
So what are comparison shopping websites?
Google AdWords describes as comparison shopping websites, any website that provides a low-quality experience to users and usually has some or all the following characteristics:
* A consistently number of merchants to compare from when a user searches for products (or, in the worst cases, three products of the same one merchant).
* Minimal or no additional features, content, or value-added functionality for the user.
* Websites that primarily send users to other shopping comparison services rather than merchants.
Even more, comparison shopping websites usually do not give enhanced site functionality, such as the ability to search, sort, and filter. They seldom have any unique and valuable content, such as original user reviews, product descriptions, and ratings. Such websites even damage Google’s traditional core business (search results), since they serve as bridge pages to the product owners and sometimes even point traffic to other shopping comparison services.
However, Google still allows review sites to promote their services, if they offer real value to the visitor and usually have the following characteristics: enhanced site functionality (including, but not limited to, searching, sorting, and filtering), original user review, product descriptions, product ratings and a variety of merchants. Please don’t forget that Google slap bridge pages, so avoid from creating a complex review site, just to be banned because of your affiliate activity.