Debunking the Myth: Why Affiliate Links Do Not Affect SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to generating organic traffic and ranking high on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Businesses go above and beyond to support their SEO strategies and maintain high rankings. Sometimes decision-makers are so concerned about protecting their rankings that they buy into SEO myths in fear that certain activities will undermine their position on SERPs. In doing so, they can inadvertently deprive themselves of revenue.
Affiliate links are a perfect example. There’s a common misconception that adding affiliate links to a page will negatively impact SEO ranking. In reality, they have no impact on your SEO.
Here’s everything you need to know about affiliate links and their SEO implications (or lack thereof).
What are affiliate links?
Affiliate links route users from an affiliate’s website to the advertiser’s site.
Third-party affiliates use these special links to earn a commission for driving traffic to an advertiser’s site and promoting their service or products. Each affiliate is given a unique link, which allows the advertiser to track which marketing partners are delivering results for the business.
How does SEO work?
SEO is the process of optimizing a site’s content, earning inbound links, targeting keywords, and enhancing website performance for the purpose of improving rankings on SERPs. SEO is a complex undertaking that requires website owners to address everything from page load speed to image and meta tags.
It’s well-known that websites can improve their rankings by earning inbound links, which are links coming from another site to your webpage. These links build your authority and boost your ranking. Linking out to other sites, like an advertiser you’re promoting, increases their authority and can help their rankings.
The relationship between affiliate links and SEO
Links for SEO purposes are something of a double-edged sword.
When you add outbound links that route users to an advertiser’s site, you’re lending that platform some of your SEO equity, sometimes referred to as “link juice.” Providing them with this equity can improve their ranking.
At the same time, you have a financial incentive to link to the website.
In these instances, Google recommends applying markup to affiliate links, which prevents you from passing link equity to the other site. Specifically, Google suggests tagging the link as a “sponsored” attribute but states that assigning it a “nofollow” tag is also acceptable.
Google’s recommendation is what spawned the myth that affiliate links negatively impact SEO. However, the company has publicly stated that it won’t “manually penalize” a site for publishing affiliate links without the appropriate tags. That said, you should always follow Google’s SEO suggestions to keep your rankings high.
Best practices for using affiliate links
Now that we’ve put the myth to bed, let’s recap some best practices for using affiliate links. They include the following:
1. Disclose affiliate partnerships
Be transparent about your affiliate partnerships. Include a brief disclaimer on each page informing consumers that you’ll make a commission if they purchase something using one of your affiliate links.
2. Avoid link overload
Packing a page with links, affiliate or otherwise, can negatively impact your rankings and overwhelm consumers. With that in mind, try to limit your total number of links to no more than one per 100–250 words.
3. Use appropriate tags
While Google won’t manually penalize you for including affiliate links without markup, you should still take the time to add a “nofollow” or “sponsored” tag. Doing so will protect your link juice and demonstrate the legitimacy of your site.
How AP can help you master affiliate links
Affiliate links play a valuable role in your partnership marketing strategy. As you now know, they also have no negative impact on SEO. To get the most out of this useful tool, it’s vital that you know when, where, and how to incorporate them into your content.
If you need a little guidance or want some assistance revitalizing your affiliate program, Acceleration Partners can help.