Q: I have two questions for you – what is an affiliate program on the Internet, and when might an affiliate program compromise the quality of search engine results?
A: According to Affilipedia, an affiliate program is when a merchant who pays a commission to a third party for generating clicks, leads, or sales from a graphic or text link located on the third party’s (affiliate) site.
As far as affiliates compromising the quality of search engine results, there are two types of results to consider.
There are the natural results, where the search engines always aim to provide the most relevant results. Some affiliates use black hat methods to get into the natural search results, which serves nobody but the affiliate.
Fortunately, the search engines are clamping down on the junk, which should discourage future affiliates that hope to game the system.
As far as the paid results in the search engines, I suppose the quality of the results depends on whom you ask. Since it’s paid placement, the advertisers are able to target keywords and show up under certain searches. This is not unique to affiliates by any means.
If you look at it from a merchant perspective, it’s something that needs to be addressed – will you permit affiliates to bid on certain terms to promote your program or not?