Google’s John Mueller shared in the 2021 Google Search Central SEO Hangout that the number of affiliate links on one page is irrelevant as long as the main content is helpful to searchers.
However, this still propels questions like:
What is the perfect affiliate link ratio on a single page?
Can affiliate links affect SEO ranking?
What is the best way to use affiliate links for search engines?
Do affiliate links hurt SEO?
These questions are understandable as affiliate marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) have similar features in that they both revolve around links, traffic, and revenue generation.
In the past, there has been speculation about the good or bad influence affiliate links can have on SEO and Google rankings. So, we’re going to unpack our thoughts. In this article, we will explain how affiliate links and SEO can either help or hurt one another, the balance between affiliate-based sites and SEO, Google’s affiliate guidelines, and how to build links for search engines.
What Are Affiliate Links?
An affiliate link is a unique URL that includes the affiliate’s ID or username. Advertisers in affiliate programs utilize affiliate links to track traffic and drive revenue to their websites.
According to typical affiliate agreements, the affiliate is responsible for setting up its affiliate link and ensuring it connects to the advertiser’s website.
Overall View Between SEO and Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate links do not directly help or hurt your page’s SEO since they are not regarded as backlinks by Google. The primary benefits of these links are to drive financial rewards and increase the site’s visibility, traffic, and conversions. People register for affiliate programs and insert their links on the pages. As readers click the links, the links direct them to a landing page or payment platform.
If many people interact and engage with your affiliate links, it may produce an indirect positive impact on your search engine ranking.
Now, search engines see this act as a good web design practice and reward in return. But on the contrary, if you stuff your pages with spammy affiliate links and add them irresponsibly, it will affect your SEO scores. Most importantly, affiliate links that do not sync with the content on your website attract penalties from search engines.
For instance, Google strives to satisfy its users consistently with the best search result. This is why it rewards sites that meet users’ intent better on ranking pages than sales-driven ones.
So, how do you balance these two traffic and revenue pillars?
The Balance Between SEO And Affiliate-Based Pages
Although there are no standards for the number of affiliate links on a page, some factors can make or break an affiliate-niche website.
Let’s consider a few of them:
A thin affiliate is a site that promotes products or services to drive sales or traffic but offers little information or value compared to other sites. These are alternatively known as the moneymaking spam technique. For example, a thin affiliate is a website that copies and pastes the affiliate product descriptions from the retail website.
Often readers easily detect when a site is a thin affiliate. Such sites appear not to have any connection with the affiliate products/services. Painfully, such a practice will increase the site’s bounce rate, which is a significant SEO factor.
According to Google Search Central, Google believes that pure, or “thin,” affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users, especially (but not only) if they are part of a program that distributes its content across a network of affiliates.… Because a search results page could return several of these sites, all with the same content, thin affiliates create a frustrating user experience.
Google rejects pages with product affiliation where most of the site contains less-than-par original content.
Type of Content on Your Site
Some websites appear spammy to the users. For instance, a site with 50 pages and 50 product review pages will seem spammy.
If this act can affect the site’s user experience, then you should expect nothing less from search engines.
Ensure there is a balance in the type of content you have on your site. This practice is one of the SEO ranking tips top-ranking sites optimize to retain their position.
A balanced affiliate-based site content type looks like this:
- 50% of your site’s content can be how to solve your audience’s problems. For example, how to wear a waterproof jacket during snowfall, neutralize and fight bacteria in shoes, and much more.
- 20% can be product reviews.
- 20% can be product guides or how-to content.
- 10% can be product comparison content.
The above content mix is not the standard requirement but can help increase your site’s user experience and prevent search engine penalties.
The Use of Affiliate Links
As mentioned, affiliate links only negatively affect your SEO effort if misused and with a poor domain. Search engines understand the importance of affiliate links and won’t penalize you for using them. However, search engines do not want search engine ranking pages to be influenced by affiliate links.
With more priority on value-based content for users, search engines reward sites that provide helpful content. With that in mind, use affiliate links on a small scale, particularly in a way that resonates with your content and readers (I will discuss this aspect better in the later part of this article).
Affiliate Link Keywords
To encourage people to click on your site, you need to target the appropriate keywords and create SEO-optimized content that can increase the rankings. This gives you greater exposure and increases customers’ likelihood of using your affiliate links to make purchases.
Let’s face reality, how many people check the second and third-page search results?
They should be less than 10%.
The affiliate keyword research you do, alongside the quality of your content, determines where your site ranks on SERPs.
In addition, you need to track your keyword ranking to know your affiliate keyword performance and when/how to update your content. You can do this by using any of the available SEO tools.
Keyword.com, for example, takes the burden off your shoulder. This is one of the best keyword tracking tools that provides accurate SEO rank tracking, keyword suggestions, and insights to outsmart your competitors.
Type of Affiliate Program
Prioritize your affiliate partnerships based on the authority and quality of their content. You need to check their domain authority and confirm if their content will be helpful to your users.
In a report by Google Search Central, Google believes that affiliate websites feature product descriptions that appear on sites across that affiliate network. As a result, sites mainly featuring content from affiliate networks can suffer in Google’s search rankings because they need more added-value content that differentiates them from other sites on the web. Added value means additional meaningful content or features, such as additional information about price, purchasing location, or product category.
In addition, you need to consider your affiliate partners’ audience size and reach.
Google’s Affiliate Link Guidelines
Matt Cutts, a former distinguished engineer at Google, shared how Google handles affiliate links and what website owners should do when worried about their affiliate links.
As explained by Matt in the video below, Google does not have an issue with affiliate links. However, there are some factors website owners need to consider when using these links.
For site owners with experience in affiliate links, you know Google sternly considers the type of external links you use on your website. Why?
Normal links pass PageRank to the sites they are linked to. PageRank is a way to gauge a web page’s importance depending on the connections it receives.
Not all external link is the same. “Nofollow” and “sponsored links” do not transfer PageRank (link juice) to external websites. It signals to Google to help it comprehend the website’s purpose.
Note: All affiliate links on your website should strictly be “no follow” or “sponsored” to be accepted by Google.
For clarity, watch the full video by Matt.
In addition, Google stated on their affiliate link guidelines page that affiliate links need to feature the rel= “sponsored” attribute.
In other words, your affiliate links should be similar to a format like this – “<a rel= “sponsored” href=https://pasta.example.com/angelhair_pasta”>angelhair</a>”
This practice will help Google bots differentiate the types of links on your pages and optimize them for their purposes.
In Conclusion: Are Affiliate Links Good for SEO?
Yes, if used appropriately. Affiliate links do not directly impact rankings, however, you can rely on them as additional help for generating traffic and revenue for your site. Ensure your affiliate links don’t serve as a distraction and don’t affect the value you are providing to your readers.
For more on how to track your affiliate keyword performance, sign up for Keyword.com.
Get a free trial and start tracking today!