Impact of affiliate links on SEO

Do affiliate links affect SEO and page rank?

With Google cracking down on sites with tons of irrelevant links to manipulate the search algorithm you might be wondering if affiliate links on your website have a negative impact on SEO.

Well, let’s hear it from the folks at Google and understand what they have to say about this.

John Mueller from Google says that the number of Affiliate links on a web page has no impact on SEO, positive or negative. He says that the quality of content is what Google focuses on.

When asked if there was a ratio of links to article length to maintain on a page he said that it was totally irrelevant.

John stressed the need to have original content that would add value to the user’s experience. As an example, he said that if the content on the page was copied directly from a retailer’s site then there was no reason for Google to consider showing the page to users.

In the above video dated August 6, 2021 at timestamp 38:20 you can find him answering a question put up by a webmaster in the office hangout session.

The question:

“How many affiliate links are safe or good to have on a single page? Is there a perfect ratio of links to article length to maintain here?”

SEO guidelines for affiliate-based pages and websites:

Although the number of affiliate links on a page does not pose a threat to your website’s SEO ranking, there are some things that can make or break your affiliate niche websites or any affiliate product review website for that matter.

Here’s what your affiliate-based websites should and shouldn’t be about:

  • Your affiliate niche site should not just be about product reviews. If you have 100 pages on your website and every single page on the site is about product reviews then it is going to come off as spammy to users.

If doing this is going to affect user experience then you can be sure that Google is also going to have a problem with that.

  • You can try and ensure a balance in the type of content that you offer. For example,
  • 20% of your content can be about product reviews.
  • 50% can be about helping users solve their problems. This can be in the form of response posts – Answering questions like “How to wear a raincoat properly without getting wet?” or “What is the best way to join two wooden planks together?”
  • 20% percent can be content in the form of Guides or How-to instructions.
  • 10% can be in-depth product comparisons.

There is no hard rule as such for the content mix that should be put up on websites that run affiliate links. But generally speaking, the above mix can improve your user’s experience on your website and stop them from thinking that your site is spammy.

  • Avoid setting up affiliate product review sites that copy a generic template. These kinds of sites clone the content on other websites with little to no addition of value. Google considers these sites as thin affiliate sites that destroy the user experience. Such sites never rank.
  • Sites that copy product descriptions from retail websites and just paste in on their pages offering no original content end up on Google’s naughty list.
  • Google also does not like pages with product affiliations where the bulk of the website is just focused on affiliations containing very little or no content with added value.
  • If you own a website that uses affiliate marketing by providing users with valuable product reviews that are unique, information on how to select a product carefully, or one that gives product comparison reports, or information on issues that users of a product could face, and things like that. Google is going to love you!
  • Generally, the content on your website needs to be in sync with the affiliate products that you are going to target on your website. Another way of saying that is “Never forget your niche!”. For example: 

Picture a website on recipes trying to write a product review on computer RAMs. Now think about how that’s going to look.

Instead, if you are going to review a non-stick frying pan it could be a lot more niche related and hence targetted.

  • If your content is going to add a lot of value by providing more details of the product that you are marketing than the original supplier of the product then there is a chance you could rank for specific keywords related to that product. In other words, you could beat the supplier at ranking for his own keywords. If this happens it’s a sign that your content is unique and provides a great user experience.
  • Keeping your content updated and relevant can help you retain or improve your page ranks. Every time you update your content to include relevant information Google bots are more likely to take notice of this and end up crawling your content. 

For example,

Let’s assume that your post published last year is ranking on top for the keyword “Embroidery guide for beginners”. You might want to add some more points in that guide that are more relevant this year. This way your content will remain fresh.  

Affiliate link guidelines by Google :

Affiliate links fall under the category of those links that are obtained in exchange for money. This is perfectly normal and Google does understand and approve of it. BUT… There are some conditions that you have to keep in mind as a website owner.

Those of you who have some experience dealing with affiliate links know for a fact that Google is very particular about the type of external links that you use on your website.

This is because normal links can pass PageRank to the pages that they are linked to. PageRank is essentially a way of measuring the importance of web pages based on the type of links that a page receives.

That being said all external links are not the same. Links marked with “nofollow” or “sponsored” do not pass any PageRank (link juice) to external websites. The only thing it does is just give a signal to Google to better understand what the page is about.

For better clarity just hear it from Matt Cutts, the former head of the webspam team at Google.

Remember this,

Any affiliate links on your website should strictly be “nofollow” or “sponsored”. That being said it is better to mark this link as “sponsored” keeping the future in mind i.e Google currently accepts all links as either “nofollow” or “sponsored” without making much distinction.

That being said Google has mentioned clearly on their affiliate link guidelines page that affiliate links need to contain the rel=”sponsored” attribute.

How to manage attributes of Affiliate links in WordPress:

If you are on WordPress then changing the attributes on your website is not going to be too hard. You could achieve this in two ways:

  • By using plugins 
  • By changing the link attributes in the hard code of the page.

If you are doing it manually then consider adding rel=”nofollow” and rel=”sponsored” attribute to the <a> tag.

There are many plugins out there that can help with presenting affiliate links as “nofollow” or “sponsored”. They can be both free or paid but the thing is they sometimes come with additional features like link cloaking.

Link cloaking is not something that will affect your SEO rankings or something that might attract Google’s attention but there are many affiliate programs out there that see link cloaking as a violation of their affiliate policy and Amazon is one of them.

If you have got the time and patience you can go through Google’s Webmaster Guidelines on affiliate programs and understand pretty clearly the do’s and don’ts for affiliate-based websites.