How Affiliate Links Impact Your Blog’s SEO

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]

There are a number of varying viewpoints and perspectives when it comes to using affiliate links for a blogger’s affiliate marketing efforts (for a reminder on what this is go here!) and you could spend a few minutes (or hours) researching them if you wish.

But, if you’re interested in my perspective (and I think you are) and to expedite your research then here’s what I know: Google and their Webmaster Guidelines are explicit about their recommendations to affiliate website owners – in fact, they are pretty darn explicit:

Google believes that pure affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users, especially if they are part of a program that distributes its content to several hundred affiliates. Because a search result could return multiple sites, all with the same content, they create a frustrating user experience.

So here’s what they advise:

  1. Create original websites with original content.
  2. Create websites that provide value for users.
  3. Affiliate program content should form only a small part of your site.
  4. Choose affiliate partners and relationships that closely tie with your intended audience. The more targeted the more value that it will bring to your audience and readers.
  5. Use your website and blog to build community. Create loyal readers who trust you.
  6. Keep your website and blog updated regularly with fresh and relevant content.

What happens if you don’t have the above? Here’s what Google says:

Pure affiliate sites consisting of content that appears in many other places on the web is unlikely to perform well in Google search results and can cause your site to be negatively perceived by search engines. Unique, relevant content provides value to users and distinguishes your site from other affiliates, making it more likely to rank well in Google search result pages.

Wow, would you need much more than that?

So What Does This Have to do with Links?

Everything actually. Even if your blog isn’t a “pure affiliate” website it still can be interpreted as such, especially if you don’t heed the six recommendations listed above.

As a result, the links that you throw into your blog content, when read by a search engine bot or a search engine crawler, can place you in the affiliate category if you aren’t wise about it.

The penalty for being listed and labeled as a poorly created affilate blog? You could drop in search engine rankings or be dropped entirely from the index (which means you don’t “exist”)!

Not interested in that happening? Neither am I.

Two easy ways to stay way above board in regards to your URLs and links to affiliate products and services is to do the following:

  1. Add rel=’nofollow’ to your affiliate link urls. Read more about the nofollow attribute here.
  2. “Hide” your affiliate links by adding a redirect (via 301 redirect).

This isn’t too hard if you know what you’re doing and I’m looking into creating a simple WordPress Plugin that can help you do this better.

The bottom line is this: Continually create unique, compelling, and valuable content for your users while choosing affiliate programs and partners that closely align with your growing community, audience, and content while creating the right types of links when referencing them!

Hopefully that helps!

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]