Wow, you guys are awesome. This forum is the greatest invention ever. First, please understand that this affiliate program was set up with no rules by a third party. My client has substantial legal and financial penalties for breaking the contract, so firing specific affiliates is not an option. We are in the process of making substantial changes, but they will take time to implement. And when I talk about blackhat, I'm talking the worst I have ever seen in my 14 years as an SEO. Hacking sites like children's hospitals to insert hidden links in the footer. To answer some of the questions:
1. +Ashley Berman Hale
"Why not require affiliates to use nofollow"
We do require affiliates to use nofollow. Many of them have implemented it, but not all.
"or link to an interim page that is blocked by bots/noindex"
As I understand it from +John Mueller
, pages blocked by noindex and by robots.txt can still accrue PageRank. And since the destination URL is always something like http://www.site.com/1234
, it's already on the domain.
2. +Wissam Dandan
"Why just dnt u use the disavow file ?"
We did. Four times. And each recon request failed because there are 40-50 new signups or new links per day - and a lot of them are black hat as mentioned above. We are talking very high volume. Think an affiliate program on the scale of Amazon's.
3. +Jennifer M
"Of all the sample links I've seen google show, I've yet to see an affiliate link in the samples."
All of the biggest links showing in Google belong to affiliates. Not sure why they don't understand these are affiliate links since they all follow a similar pattern, but they don't. And they do list them - hundreds of them.
4. +Andrew Smith
"since we've heard nothing from Google about conditional 404s as a method to cut the connection (links) between your site and a bad site I'd say it's not the right thing. "
We are definitely not setting anything conditional. The 404 response would be for all visitors. The only thing I was concerned might be shady is showing the visitors essentially a copy of the home page so that the human visitors could continue to navigate.
" I would do a 302 to a noindex, nofollow page"
We tried that first, and it did not work. I assume because the 302 can pass PR and because the noindex, nofollow can still accrue PR as well. Our long term plan is to take the affiliates to an entirely different domain, but we can't do it right away.
6. +Brian Ussery
" the problem is unnatural links tend to point to pages where this can't easily be implemented. "
Fortunately in this case, ALL affiliate links point to this one page. So 410/404 is an option.+Enrico Altavilla
and +Russ Jones
thank you for confirmation. I think we will go with this strategy. I will be sure to update the group if it works! Understand, everyone - our intent is not to deceive the search engines in any way, merely to disassociate ourselves from some particularly "talented" affiliates.
Thank you all so much, and if anyone else wants to comment, feel free. The thread isn't closed or anything. Happy Holidays!