NoFollow Affiliate Links? What Bloggers Need to Know to Save PageRank

[This post is part of a series on Exploring Affiliate Marketing.]

While learning how to be an effective affiliate marketer, you might read about how Google penalizes your blog’s PageRank if you don’t “nofollow” paid links. Since search engine traffic is key for getting commissions from your affiliate links, you can’t afford a hit to your blog’s ability to be found by search engines.

I had to wade through a lot of confusing information about nofollowing affiliate links. Here’s a break down of the issue so you don’t have do all the slogging I did.

Nofollow Your Blog's Affiliate Links

Licensed under Creative Commons.

What is nofollow?

I’ll let Wikipedia tell you:

nofollow is a value that can be assigned to the rel attribute of an HTML a element to instruct some search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index.

So when you create a nofollow link to a site, you’re telling search engines not to use that link as a factor in figuring out the site’s rank in their search results.

Google devised the nofollow value to fight comment spam on blogs. The idea was that if links in comments couldn’t affect PageRank, there would be less incentive for spammers to post comments.

Why Google doesn’t like paid links

Paid links are links that appear on a blog because someone paid you to put them there.

Because a site’s search rank is partly based on the sites that link to it, Google doesn’t want paid links affecting its ranking. Makes sense right? Otherwise, websites with huge budgets would dominate search results.

Instead, Google wants a site to rank high because other bloggers linking to it believe its content is relevant and useful to their readers. Google allows bloggers to be paid for links as long as bloggers use the nofollow value in the paid links. If they don’t, Google will lower the bloggers’ rank in its search results.

The problem for Google is that they have a hard time detecting paid links. If I gave you money to put a link to my blog on yours, Google can’t distinguish it from a link selflessly posted because it was valuable to your readers. This is why they want to you to nofollow paid links: to help them know when a link exists for monetary purposes.

Google also asks people to report sites that try to increase PageRank using paid links.

How does nofollow apply to affiliate links and banners?

Does Google consider affiliate links and banners paid links? In a word, yes.

In an interview with Eric Enge, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team said of affiliate links:

“…the link is essentially driving people for money, so we usually would not count those as an endorsement.”

Later in the interview, Cutts specifically says that Google doesn’t “want advertisements to affect search engine rankings.”

In other words, Google feels affiliate links benefit the site owner more than its readers, so they don’t want those links influencing your blog’s search results.

Will Google penalize your blog if you don’t nofollow affiliate links?

Probably not. Matt Cutts has said that because of the way affiliate links work (redirection, affiliate IDs in the URL), “Google does a pretty good job of detecting and handling things like affiliate links or banner ads.” So they’ll automatically remove those links from their PageRank algorithm without penalizing your site.

However, if you stuff your site full of affiliate links and they’re not relevant to high quality content, then your PageRank will suffer.

How to make your affiliate links nofollow

If you typically use WordPress’s visual editor, switch to the HTML editor by clicking on the HTML tag.

Wordpress Visual Editor

Find the anchor tag (it starts with <a), and inside the closing angle bracket insert this text: rel=”nofollow”.

WordPress HTML Editor

This might become tedious if you use affiliate links often. When my next post in the affiliate marketing series talks about link cloaking, I’ll show you a more convenient way to make sure that search engines don’t follow your affiliate links.

Conclusion

To ensure you don’t hurt your blog’s search engine results, you should nofollow all your affiliate links and banners. It’s really a no-brainer. After all, your merchants don’t need the boost in PageRank. You’re already giving them what they really want: their products promoted on your blog.

Article by Bryan Kerr

I love breaking down the techie side of blogging into easy-to-understand tutorials. That's mostly what you'll find here on The Hobby Blogger.

Comments

  1. Definitely something people who have affiliate links should be aware of, it’s meant to make quite a difference.

    Do you have any experience with these backlinking schemes which a lot of people are using at the moment. It’s something I want to experiment with to see how effective they are, people are reporting good results. However, the one I’m considering effectively works by letting you submit articles of around 150 words to sites with a reasonable page rank and lets you include a link to a site of your choice.

    The reason I ask is that in most cases you have to pay for credits in order to do this, could this be construed as paying for links and therefore be detrimental to ranking? I assume not or the case studies I’ve read wouldn’t have been so successful…

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      I don’t have any experience with those backlinking schemes, Ben. It sounds like they are trying to “game the system,” in that those sites exist specifically to facilitate (and profit from) PageRank manipulation.

      If the service was free, Google would likely frown on it. But given that it’s a paid service, it seems like a lead-pipe cinch that Google would/will devalue the backlinks and maybe even the sites to which they point.

      I’m skeptical of the “case studies” and wonder whether they are planted by employees of the companies offering the service. 150 words is pretty thin by Google’s standards, and articles that short don’t have a lot of value for them.

      If the services are indeed becoming successful, then it won’t be too long before Google takes notice and starts to crack down on them. And the companies won’t care. They’ve probably already made a ton of money.

      I’d recommend avoiding those services like the plague.

  2. I agree, though I’ve heard of success from people I trust so wondered what your thoughts were. Speaking of gaming the system though its a very gray area. Take guest posting for example, I fond ot hard to believe that many people would write them if ot wasn’t for the link they receive, and the owner of the site receives a free article which they can generate money from. In effect they’re still paying for a link.

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      The difference with guest posting is that there’s an editorial process. Most bloggers won’t publish substandard guest posts. It’ll hurt their brand and earning potential. And I’d argue that the guest blogger isn’t buying a link, but is actually earning that link by contributing something meaningful to the host blog in return.

      Plus a link back to a guest poster’s blog is a high-quality link. His/Her site has, or at least should have, been vetted by the host blogger. So by virtue of accepting and publishing the guest post, the host has essentially vouched for the quality of the backlink to the guest’s blog.

  3. I can this is not only important for affiliate marketer this also for bloggers to build a better blog. Look like guest porting idea is the best idea for blogger to try

  4. I’ve looked into them. The biggest one I’ve found is Social Monkee. You are required to “spin” your article snippet and they can list it to up to 100 sites that have great PR and Alexa ranking.

    Although it’s not technically black hat .. it isn’t necessarily legitimate either as your masking the link as multiple people submitting the link to the sites in question.

    I did it one time to see how it worked.. and it does – though I don’t recommend it. Because as these sites get reported you will end up suffering in the long run.

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      Thanks for that passing that on Jason.

    • I totally agree with Jason. This sounds like a bad idea. If you are going to build backlinks then do it right. Submit quality content to blogs and web 2.0s like Hubpages and Blip.tv. Don’t mess with buying low quality links. It is just a waste of money and time in the long run. Personally, I hate spinners and I don’t want my name associated with that kind of low quality content.

  5. Hi Bryan,
    Great stuff here on making links no follow. I was going to suggest cloaking them and making them no follow that way but it looks like you will touching that topic on your next post.

  6. Howdy Bryan,

    Good article. I just want to make sure that by adding rel=”nofollow” it does not mess up the link and result in a loss of affiliate commission?

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      Yes that’s right, Sam. Only search engine bots pay attention to the nofollow attribute. Using nofollow won’t affect your commissions because those are tracked using cookies.

  7. Thanks so much for this post. I’m glad I found one later than Penguin/Panda (even though 3.9 just happened) regarding this.

    I have the latest version of SEO Pressor and it doesn’t look like it ads it for you. For a while I had not been adding them to the affiliate links I have in each blog post….guess its time to go back and do them all!

    When my keyword research was done right, it didn’t really seem to affect the rankings, but maybe I’ll jump ahead a bunch if I do go back and do this. I have 2-3 affiliate links in each 1200 word blog post for my niche.

    Thanks again bro!
    David

  8. I appreciate you Bryan for writing this little but useful tutorial. I have applied this technique throughout TechPuffs.

  9. Thank you for this very clear definition of the no follow tag.

  10. Hi firstly thanks for a concise and informative article.
    We have been having ranking problems for a while now which even resulted in us redoing our sites a few time. It seems that with a new site after a while our site ranking goes down. This may be the reason and we will start the tedious task of adding the rel=”nofollow” to all our affiliate links.
    A point of interest is that we added a lot of affiliate banners to our sites and thinking retrospectively it did coincide with the drop in rankings.
    Oh well here goes thanks again

    https://plus.google.com/111470861333437632091?rel=author

    • No problem Al. Yeah, the affiliate banners might have been a problem, especially if the ratio of banners to original content is high. Thanks for reading.

  11. Thanks a lot! Had no idea this was an issue and you made it super easy to understand!

  12. Google hates these links because with an army of affiliates you can get first on Google in any niche you want, and Google knows that people hate also to find a sales page in the first choice

  13. Excellent information, was not so clear yet, now I’ll work on it. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Such a confusing subject, but you really did a great job of explaining it. well I have some work to do now :)

  15. Thank, i am always confuse between follow/nofollow. Thanx for this article…

  16. Great info! I found you through SITS and love your explanation of no follow. Do I need to go back through my archives and put the “no follow” in all my posts that were sponsored? Or am I safe just using it going forward?

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      Thanks Stephanie, and welcome. If the links were sponsored, then you’re better off converting them to nofollow. Since they’re not affiliate links, which Google seems to just ignore, your pagerank might be getting penalized. Thanks so much for visiting.

  17. I’ve beed reading a lot about follow nofollow lately and I reached the conclusion that I have to start the tedious task of going round my blog and ad the nofollow atribute to the aff links. I wonly worry that some affiliates do specify that the publishers shall not fiddle with the code… I still want to get paid when a link converts a customer follow or nofollow. Also I think that advertisers should provide their html codes for the affiliates with the nofollow already included, don’t you?

    • Bryan Kerr says:

      Thanks for your input, Ally. I’m curious as what some of those affiliates specifically say about modifying the code. I doubt they’d prevent you from nofollowing their links. Unfortunately, advertisers don’t have any incentive to nofollow their links. It can only help them, and they aren’t penalized if you dofollow their links, but your PageRank might suffer.

Speak Your Mind

*