Google Slaps Again!

February 23, 2011 , 15 Comments

In January, a post on the official Google blog addressed the issue of low-quality “spammy” sites in the Google search results. This is a bit of a two-sided issue, at least for anyone likely to read this post. On the one hand, there’s the problem of low-quality, affiliate-link laden, crappy websites showing up in the top spots for many search terms in Google.

On the other hand, us online marketers are often the people who own such sites and make money from them…

Slap: The Second Coming

It’s not too long ago that Google deindexed thousands of “MFA” (made for AdSense) websites and closed AdSense accounts of webmasters who were essentially spamming the search results with extremely low-quality sites, targeted at very specific, long-tail keywords. This might have cleaned up the search results to a certain extent, but it didn’t entirely solve the problem, of course. As indicated by the “search engine spam” blog post mentioned earlier, that first slap was only the beginning.

By now, the second slap has already happened (or is, perhaps, still happening) and once again there are many stories of de-indexed sites and decreased rankings circulating IM forums and blogs.

No one knows exactly what happened, although Dan’s post about the micro-site business model and Ben’s post on how not to make money online provide some useful insights. From talking to many fellow marketers about this and from asking my newsletter subscribers about it, I learned that this most recent slap seems to have affected far fewer sites than one might initially think, looking at all the buzz around the topic. It’s clear that whatever Google did, it didn’t affect thin, low-quality affiliate sites in general. Too many of those remain un-affected. For the record: I also have a few remarkably thin, low-quality and non-unique sites in my portfolio and none of them have suffered a slap.

My suspicion is that AdSense sites were the main target and the reason for that is simple: Google has lots of data on AdSense sites. In fact, any changes made to remove crappy sites from the SERP are most likely to affect sites linked up to AdSense, Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, before any other sites, simply because Google has the inside scoop on sites using their services. My second suspicion is a point that Ben also brought up in his post: having too many sites in your AdSense account puts them all at risk. It’s pretty reasonable to assume that one webmaster is unlikely to own 200 websites and fill all of them with quality, unique, relevant content, after all.

Niche Marketing is Dead (and all that…)

So, is this the end of AdSense sites? Is it the end of niche marketing or affiliate marketing all together? Of course not, despite the panic that tends to spread whenever Google makes any significant change.

Google’s main objective (apart from making bucketloads of cash) is to show the most relevant, useful results possible to it’s users. For example, for many search terms for physical products and product names, Google shows shopping results:

This doesn’t make owners of affiliate marketing sites for physical products particularly happy, but it is a great way for Google to serve it’s users better and connect them more directly to what they are looking to find.

Building small sites targeting long-tail keywords still works. Building all manner of spammy backlinks to these sites also still works for getting them ranked in the top spots. Basically, everything you already know about niche marketing still works. But, I believe that building thin sites is a short-term strategy, no matter how you look at it.

The Long-Term View

The long-term strategy is to build sites that provide the best, most relevant result for the keywords you are targeting.

This may mean that you have to go a bit further than grabbing some generic PLR and using it to fill five pages on a micro-site, as little more than a vessel containing your affiliate links. But it also means more earnings potential per site.

And let’s take an even-longer-term view: Building micro-sites and SEO’ing them is a low-leverage activity. It’s grunt work. It’s a fantastic way to get started, in my opinion. It’s a priceless way of learning some of the fundamentals of online marketing and of generating a good bit of income. In fact, it’s a great way to break away from a 9-to-5 existence and become financially independent (disclaimer: you’ll probably be working longer hours than at a day job to achieve this, but that’s not the point).

However, it’s not something you want to keep doing indefinitely. Sooner or later, you’ll be looking for ways to grow your business further. This could mean hiring some people to do the site building and SEO for you. Or it could mean building out bigger and better sites and services online and using your SEO and marketing experience to get them noticed.

What if you created a website that become a central hub of activity in your niche, because it provides real, unique value and doesn’t just act as a bridge-page to get the visitor to a product via your affiliate link? What if you offered a service that people in your niche just can’t live without? Do you think that will ever get slapped by Google? And if it did, how much of a difference would it make?

Understand that I’m still talking about niche marketing here. You don’t have to try and create the next facebook or the next zappos. If you can provide something real and unique to even the tiniest of niche-markets, that could be enough to build a very profitable business on. You know how they say that 1000 true fans are all you need to have a successful business? From my experience, I’d say that, if anything, that number is too high.

How are your niche-sites faring, since the latest Google slap? And what’s your long-term view for your online business? Let me know in the comments!


About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Shane, very interesting read. And you’re totally right about how we could make our website a center of attention for the niche we’re targeting. For me, even if it’s a niche site, we could build authority sites that way, and that is most likely to give us a long term income, or success, whatever you want to call it.

    Very good, it got me thinking about the niche sites I’m doing.

  • Hi Shane, thanks for your very informed take on Google’s recent activities.

    I think you are right that Google does not ‘have it in’ for IM’ers, they just don’t want to serve garbage results to their customers (and why would they want to?) I think it’s up to us to start providing better quality material when we’re submitting articles etc. For example, I now only use ‘sentence spun’ articles because I think no matter how careful you are with ‘word spinning’ you end up mangling the English language. I don’t have any small niche sites, but I think have a tendency towards ‘high volume / low quality’, but you’re right: it’s possible to create better quality niche sites & you’d rank much better in the SERP’s as a result.

  • PS: thanks for the heads up on this Pingback Power WordPress Plugin – This looks like it’ll save a lot of cutting & Pasting…

  • Great post, Shane!

    Couldn’t agree more – not only are tiny micro-sites vulnerable, but the amount of effort required builds with each new site. And simply banging them out with no further effort insures any gains will be short-lived.

    And really, who wants to build and manage 100 $3/day sites anyway? ;)

    The “writing is on the wall” is getting clearer and clearer – if you want to build a long-term, sustainable business, build long-term, sustainable websites.


  • Excellent post Shane and very timely (as always! :-)

    This is not the first Google slap and it won’t be the last. I’ve seen several major slaps during the years and the ONLY time I was ever affected was with one site which was basically filled with spun junk articles.

    Low value spammy sites are gone from the index? Excellent! It makes more room for valuable authority sites that actually add value to the Internet. Michael Campbell has been saying the same thing for years “add value and you’ll have a business”.

  • Our site is a comedy site based around the unique ramblings of various characters out of the head of Manchester comedy writer Bury Bob. We put the site up a week ago and about 4 days ago I added the meta keywords which I found in secockpit….the site went from nowhere to number 2 and 3 under the search “bury bob”. the next day the site has completely disapeared from the listings…..we have a yourtube page which is intended to be a page of funny but terrile sites on the net such as fish training…i laced this page with the top typos for you tube and i am wondering if this is why the site has been effectively banned overnight.
    Our listing is still in the top ten for sites linked to suck as our youtube and linkedin and unclejoebloggs.blogspot sites but its very frustrating to be punished for being clever…..i got the idea when attending your webinar a few weeks back.

    any suggestions for what I should do to get those 2 an3 placings back…..I also put a .co and version of the site up and im wondering if this had an effect.



    • Hi Ian

      The fact that your site is new will see it moving around all over the place for a while.
      So don’t be surprised about that it’s called the Google Dance:)

      Just keep adding content and ethical backlinks and it will find it’s rightfull level.


  • Too new to internet marketing to comment on Google slapping. I agree that Google needs to moderate. Yes, find something you like and get good at it. Then share it!

    Thanks for the read.

  • I make most of my money from adsense and I saw no change, actually my traffic and ecmp seems to have gone up since 2 days ago so I guess it’s been helpful for me. They are also linked by webmaster tools/analytics. However, I have under 8 websites or so in that portfolio which is making me ~$100 a day, mostly from 3 websites.

  • Shane for some reason I stop receiving your email newsletter from richquickreview site (10/17/2010) and no one told me that you have moved to new site.

    Dude… at least send email alerts to your old subscribers that you are moving to new domain. I don’t mind receiving emails from honest people like you.

    BTW, new site layout looks good. Wondering if you purchased it from some premium wordpress library or this is a custom design.

    I know you have wealth of information so I want to ask you a question!

    How and where I can research/collect to data to know which products are in demand or people will more likely to buy it if someone offers better version or solution of it?


  • Because Google slapped those thin sites, my content site is up. How about that! Adsense income dubbled in Februari. Thanks you Google!

    • well THAT’S good news now. Congratulations man!
      Btw, what do you use, or how did you learn how to do Adsense sites? I’d love to get into that sometime soon.

  • I’m actually glad that my fully loaded keyword coded SEO’d site finally out-ranks the ONE Ezine article I posted – that’s a good thing!

    I am wondering though about building backlinks, which is also what Google wants. Is it still going to be valuable to build backlinks from Web 2.0 sites (like Squidoo and Blogger, etc.) I heard HubPages took a big hit, and as an Article Marketer, I’m at a loss as to what to do next.

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