Monday, December 06, 2004

Affiliate tags in search engines

Rayg (from Feedster) asks, "If search engines are so willing to pimp their space to sponsored links, why ... [not add] an affiliate ID in the [search result] links?" Ray goes on to argue that the move would largely go unnoticed and wouldn't damage credibility.

Jeremy Zawodny (from Yahoo) disagrees, saying that this would blur the lines between sponsored and non-sponsored results too badly. Even if the relevance rank is unbiased by the affiliates revenue, the perception that some links are paid would damage the credibility of the search engine.

I have wondered if Yahoo and Google have considered adding affiliate links, not to their search engine, but to their metashopping searches (Yahoo Shopping and Froogle).

But Jeremy's point that probably applies to shopping search as well. It would look like a conflict of interest and potentially damage credibility, even if the affiliates revenue did not influence their relevance rank.

2 comments:

Jason Dowdell said...

Jeremy's right Greg. That's one of the reasons guaranteed inclusion programs are almost extinct. Users didn't understand which results were paid for and which ones weren't. So they didn't know how to begin formulating their emotions about the results they were presented with.

"Should I look at this result with the angle that they're paying to be in front of me and they're trying to make money off of my search or should I look at it with the viewpoint that it's a site with information that's relevant to what I'm seeking and quite possibly isn't even making money?"

Its amazing how many users still don't understand the difference between sponsored (ppc) listings and natural results. Adding affiliate tags to search results would definitely blur those lines and cause more confusion. However, Overture's sitematch program does the same thing as the old guaranteed inclusion program but it's hidden from the end user.

When they launched it in March of this year the seo industry was in an uproar. Then Yahoo compensated by sending their crawler out in an incredibly aggressive fashion and have continued to aggressively crawl the web since then. But they still have Overture's SiteMatch program out there allowing people to pay to be included. I think there is definitely some blurring of the lines with that approach as well but since most users don't know about it their vision isn't blurred.

Hmmm, I can summarize it in one line.

The line isn't blurred but if you look really close it'll start to get blurry.

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