Can Using Affiliate Links in Content Hurt Your SEO?

Published Apr 18, 2014 by Dan Virgillito in SEO
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An easy way to make money online is to promote products as an affiliate. Any time someone purchases a product after clicking your link to that product, you will get paid a commission. Typically, affiliates will promote products by placing links in blog posts and through social media. Can you hurt the SEO value of a particular blog or website by placing too many links on one page?

The Answer Is Maybe

There are a variety of factors that determine where a page is ranked in the search results. Having too many links in general could cause a site to drop in the rankings or not be listed at all. The best thing that you can do is test your site to see where it ranks before affiliate ads are placed and then checking where your site is ranked after the affiliate links are placed.

If your site ranked higher before the affiliate links were placed on a particular page, there may be a connection between placing affiliate ads on your site and overall SEO value of that page or your site in general. However, it is important to understand that correlation does not mean causation. Let’s take a look at some factors beside just the affiliate links that could cause your site to suffer in the search results.

The Links Themselves Are Shortened

There is evidence that suggests that using shortened links can cause traffic to drop for a given page. In some cases, search engines may not like the way a shortened link looks or think that it may be obfuscating a link that could be spammy or harmful in some way. By using the actual affiliate link that you are given, it could restore the SEO value of your page even if you have affiliate links on them. If you absolutely have to change the way that your link looks, there are many plugins that can give you a clean link without making it obvious to readers that you are using affiliate links.

Your Page Has Too Many Links

Google has made it clear that quality content is the number one aspect of a site that ranks highly in the search results. Advertising should be kept to a minimum, and it shouldn’t effect the ability of the reader to learn something or want to share the content with others.

A page that has too many links is almost like a page that tries to stuff too many keywords into a particular blog post or static page within a website. The best thing to do is read your content to yourself as if you were visiting the site for the first time. Would you want to continue reading or searching through the site?

If the answer to that question is no, you have a good idea as to why your site is not doing well. It isn’t that you are using affiliate links, it is that you are using too many of them. As a general rule, it is best to limit yourself to four or five links per page.

The Links Are Spam

The-Links-Are-Spam

No one wants to click on a link that is misleading or could take them off the site that they are on to a third-party site that may have security or other issues. A link could also be considered a spam link if there is no context to that link.

For instance, if you were promoting an affiliate that sells tickets to sporting events, you would want to have links that point to the product pages where people would buy goods and earn you a commission. However, if the keywords used to link to that page had nothing to do with sports, users may feel mislead and file a spam complaint with Google or other search engines.

If your site gets too many complaints from users, it could be buried in the search engine results or simply delisted until the links are removed or changed to fit within the content of the page.

It Should Be Clear That You Are Using Affiliate Links

The truth is that people don’t mind going to pages where affiliate links are used in an effort to make money for the person who created the page. However, readers want to read something that helps them learn about a product or service that will add value to their lives.

This means that if you were an affiliate of a company that sold cameras, you should take the time to describe the camera, its benefits and its drawbacks. Even if you haven’t used the product before, it is easy to find information about the product or get a general idea of what it can do by reading reviews from customers who have tried the product.

If you simply create a page that has a bunch of fake testimonials, poor content and a bunch of affiliate links, it offers the reader nothing except a shallow sales pitch that may or may not even make sense to the reader.

How Old Is Your Site?

Google likes older sites as opposed to newer sites. Therefore, if you have just created a site on a new domain, the site is going to suffer in the rankings at first. New sites that have a lot of affiliate links on them could suffer because Google doesn’t know whether or not the links are part of an unnatural linking scheme until it has had time to look at it. While not all new sites are going to be slapped with a penalty or manually reviewed, it is natural that they will get more scrutiny than older sites that have a track record.

Where Are the Links Being Placed?

Links that are placed below the fold are generally scrutinized less than those placed above the fold. Placing content above the fold means that links are being placed where the reader can see them without having to scroll down the page. Search engines like sites better when they don’t have a lot of confusing ads or links that readers may click on accidentally.

Is Your Content Spun?

It is never a good idea to create a page that has spun content and many affiliate links. This is what Google refers to as shallow content and it will be slapped with a penalty. In this case, the problem is not he links themselves. Instead, it is the spun content that comes off as gibberish or spammy.

In some cases, sites with spun content have been used as nothing more than a device to lure victims into a scam or as a way to unknowingly infect the computers of those who go to the site. If your computer isn’t infected simply by visiting the site, clicking on one or more of the supposed affiliate links could harm your computer and infect other computers in your network.

Will using affiliate links hurt your SEO? As with anything else related to optimization of content, you can’t be sure if it is the affiliate links or if it is something else keeping your site down. All you can do is test, test and test some more to find if affiliate links are somehow holding your site back.

Written by Dan Virgillito

Dan Virgillito

Dan Virgillito is a freelance content strategist with a passion for good storytelling and all things digital. He lived in the Netherlands, Poland, England and Sicily. Say hi on Twitter.

  • Ben Engle

    Thank you for this. I’ll be sure to sprinkle them in sparingly… I always underestimate how smart Googlebot is!

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