Google´s most recent algorithm update resulted in penalizing specific forms of content. The Google Core Update September 2019 hit many subdomains hosted on well-known high authority domains. Several sources are speculating about Google´s goals and intentions. Google maybe wants to limit with this change a business model called subdomain leasing, Whitelabel affiliate marketing or Whitelabel leasing.
Search Engine Journal emphasizes, that “this trend has most recently involved coupon sites that use a subdomain of well-entrenched media outlets, but could potentially be applied to any number of industries”. SEJ then asks if subdomain leasing is a legit alternative revenue strategy or get-rich-quick scheme?
The Concept Of Subdomain Leasing
The idea of this business model is kind of a win-win situation for two partners.
On one side you have companies looking for new leads or customers. They rent webspace on subdomains of big authority sites, that for their part are interested in creating revenues.
The reason why advertisers decide to go with big names has been the authority and ranking value of the big names´ domains. Google transfers the calculated value of a domain partially to the respective subdomains or subdirectories. This was correct according to the algorithm so far.
“This, in turn, gives the third-party content a questionable advantage over competitors in the search results, which may lead to more visitors and more revenue, which is then split with the main domain owner. This strategy has mainly been applied to coupon sites but could potentially be applied to any unrelated third-party content.”(1)
But Google obviously filtered as part of the Core Update the values so far attributed to this kind of websites. In former times experts talked about PageRank in this context but this parameter has become obsolete. Interestingly enough this happened without Google penalizing the main domains at the same time. SE-News shares more information in their members area.
Measure Against The Deploit Of A Google Loophole?
So the measure works more against the business model than against the individual web presence itself. Often the domain owning companies split revenues with the advertisers. In other cases, the advertisers may pay directly for the webspace.
Whitelabel revenues allegedly are not only contributing to the companies earnings. Sometimes they even represent a substantial percentage among all revenue streams.
Coupon Pages And Price Comparison Pages
Two widespread ways companies use to monetize subdomains and subfolders are coupon pages and price comparison pages.
A very active Twitter user called LoisH has been informing Google over a long time about this use/abuse of rankings. According to his observations, this must be a loophole in the Google search algorithm.
Apparently, the user competes with some of those advertisers. LoisH even tracked the results before and after the Google Core Update. He so gave insights, how seriously the change affected the website traffic of some of the involved companies.
Here is the link to the document that LoisH shared on Google Docs.
German portal omr.com reported about the disaster. The website referred to the numbers of respected SEO company Searchmetrics. The website counts more than 50 affected companies working with the Whitelabel affiliate marketing model. Above all, they all saw dramatic losses in their daily traffic. Sistrix already signalized in June which consequences the Core Update could entail.’
Manager Carina Laudage of Gruner+Jahr confirmed substantial cuts in the earnings from the Whitelabel partnership using their flagship brand “Stern”.
Brands as Focus, Süddeutsche and Autobild probably are also concerned.