According to experts from Leipzig University, Bauhaus-University Weimar, and the Centre for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, the rise in affiliate marketing has damaged Google Search, as has low-quality content that may be called spam.
For a year, the researchers examined 7,392 product review searches on search engines Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo to better understand how these platforms handle information that has been intentionally optimized to appear higher in search results and receive more clicks.
“Our findings indicate that all search engines have major issues with highly optimized (affiliate) content more than is representative for the entire web, according to a baseline retrieval method on the ClueWeb22. Focusing on the product review genre, we discovered that just a small percentage of product reviews on the web employ affiliate marketing, although the bulk of all search results do,” according to a paper published this year.
Affiliate marketing enables individuals, such as social media users, to review/market a company’s items while earning money from others’ purchases of these products. According to the research, Amazon Associates was the most popular network in this area.
The researchers discovered that as information is designed to serve such marketing reasons, the complexity of media decreases; this means that content is full of links but has little value for genuine readers or internet users.
Consider generic filler text about health and well-being authored by a chatbot for the sole purpose of promoting Amazon products endorsed by an influencer. Filled with links and relevant or trending keywords, these pages frequently trick search engines into displaying them first to viewers rather than more valuable medical information matching their query, so hurting the user’s search experience.
However, we note that the border between innocuous material and spam in the form of content and link farms is becoming increasingly blurry—a problem that will undoubtedly worsen in the aftermath of generative AI. “We conclude that dynamic adversarial spam in the form of low-quality, mass-produced commercial content merits more attention,” the paper stated.
The study observed that this new form of “SEO affiliate spam” requires further investigation as more people attempt to monetize it, including AI techniques.