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One of the questions we asked in the UK Affiliate Census (published this week) was whether or not respondents believed that 'Google was damaging the affiliate marketing industry'.

A third of affiliates (34%) agreed with this statement compared to 26% who disagreed.

It is worth asking why so many affiliates have got a bone to pick with the king of the search engines when many of them have piggy-backed its success so successfully, either via natural or paid search expertise.

Well, one of the most obvious gripes is Google's efforts to devalue and demote many affiliate sites down its listings in its attempts to improve the user experience.

The assessment of landing page quality in the Quality Score for AdWords has not helped many affiliates especially if sites are not much adding much by way of valuable content.

It is hard to sympthasise with publishers if they are priced out of Paid Search unless they are being discriminated against when providing genuinely useful information, for example by helping users make a more informed purchasing decision through reviews or comparison tables.

At the same time, affiliates deserve a fair crack of the whip and there is a perception that regular changes to Google's algorithms and policies, for natural and paid search, make their lives unnecessarily difficult.

Looking only at the responses of day-job affiliates (excluding part-time affiliates), the proportion of respondents who believe that Google is damaging affiliate marketing increases to 47% (compared to 26% who disagree).

This breakdown is important because it is these people whose livelihoods are more likely to be on the line.

Anti-Google feeling is likely to have been exacerbated by its beta-testing of a Cost-per-Acquisition model, something which Jess Luthi of Affiliate Program Advice believes is a double-edged sword. "Google's move into CPA adds credibility to the industry but the flip-side for affiliates is the increased competition."

It will be fascinating to see what impact Google's adoption of CPA, coupled with Google Checkout, has not only on affiliate marketing but also on the whole e-commerce and digital marketing landscape. Let's see how affiliates respond to this question in a year's time.

The UK Affiliate Census, published in association with Affiliate Program Advice, is free to registered E-consultancy users.

See also the related Affiliate Census blog post outlining 'Lessons for Merchants'.

Linus Gregoriadis

Published 24 January, 2007 by Linus Gregoriadis

Linus Gregoriadis is Research Director at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn or Google+.

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