Affiliate Marketing and SEO: What to Do with Affiliate Links

How to
Affiliate Marketing and SEO: What to Do with Affiliate Links

Monetizing a website with affiliate links is one of the most effective ways to monetize quality traffic. According to the recent study in the blogging industry, 19% of bloggers say that affiliate marketing is their top revenue source in 2020. On the flip side, affiliate links are external links when a large number of external links on your site can affect your SEO performance badly and, in some cases, impede the search engine optimization progress.

To that end, in this blog post, you will learn how to treat affiliate links, so they do not have any side effects on your site’s SEO.

  • 1. Are Affiliate Links Harmful?
  • 2. What to Do with Affiliate Links
  • 3. Do You Need to Hide Affiliate Links?
  • Wrapping Up

If your site has any external links, including affiliate links, this won’t cause any trouble. The Internet is built on links, and there are external links on most websites. Therefore, the basic idea is ‘no problem.’

However, if you have several hundred external links on a 10-page website, even though all of those links are useful for your audience, it may create a faulty signal for search engines.

Links that your audience clicks on are generally considered useful and not harmful to your website. Of course, it’s no denying that a negative effect takes place if a click occurs one second after someone enters your site, with the immediate closing of your site.

Nevertheless, if you earn on affiliate marketing, and share the affiliate links on your site, you can help prevent all risks.

If nothing wrong happens around existing affiliate links on your site, skim this point just FYI. If you do have problems, or you think that issues may arise due to the number of affiliate links, then there are several solutions:

  • Tag all affiliate links with the nofollow attribute.
  • Use a link shortener service.
  • Set up a redirect through your own domain.

Choose a method according to your SEO strategy and technical capabilities. If your site does not suffer a negative effect, then leave it as it is and do nothing with affiliate links. That doesn't mean leaving an affiliate marketing campaign in the lurk. Remember to do affiliate marketing tracking to know its progress. Affiliate networks can add to the whole campaign effectiveness.

2.1. Nofollow

Nofollow tag example

A nofollow tag is perhaps one of the most wide-spread tags in link building, even among those who are just starting with SEO. A link with this tag does not affect search ranking.

If your site is powered by WordPress, you can use free, ready-made plugins like ultimate Nofollow or External Links.

Plugins in WordPress

For most other CMS, there are also ready-made solutions. If your site runs on HTML, you can manually substitute the tag to any link.

It is important to note that when a link is closed with a nofollow tag, the search robots still see that the page has an external link. The only change is that it is not taken into account in the ranking.

2.2. Sponsored

To identify paid links on your site, Google recommends using the sponsored attribute – rel="sponsored". According to the official guidelines, sponsored attributes should be used to identify paid links on your website that were created as part of compensation agreements, such as advertising or sponsorship.

A sponsored attribute on the affiliate links is optional since such links are not paid – you place them as a sales generating tool. As a rule, the nofollow tag will be enough.

2.3. Link Shorteners

Having many external links to a single domain is not the same as having many external links to different domains. For example, if you use many different travel affiliate programs, it may result in your site referring to various domains. You can reduce the number of domains using services to make links shorter, for example:

  • Bitly
  • TinyURL

In this case, the search robot will see only one external domain, but many links.

Alternatively, you can combine this method with the nofollow tag. In this case, such links will not participate in the search ranking, but it’s a great way to reduce the number of domains to which your website links.

2.4. Redirect Through Your Domain [Self-Hosted Shortener]

As a rule, developed websites with a large number of external links configure 301 redirects for the affiliate links through their own domain.

For example, on, the link is placed, which leads to an external site. When this link is clicked on, the script redirects the visitor to an external site for hotel reservations.

In this case, the search engine perceives the affiliate link as internal, and so do the users, which in some cases causes problems. When you use such a self-hosted shortener and redirect through your own domain, it would be only right to hold a user aware of a subsequent redirect.

There are ready-made solutions for WordPress, for example, Pretty Links.

Ready-made solution in Wordpress

There are similar solutions for other popular CMS.

You can also configure a redirect on the server: 'Redirects: Which Redirect Code to Use and How to Set It Up.'

Should you hide affiliate links from search engines just because those links are affiliates? Usually, this is not required. Search engines don’t frown upon the links posted for people.

If your SEO strategy includes tagging all external links nofollow, you can safely close affiliate links with the nofollow attribute, or set up a redirect. The nofollow tag does not change your final affiliate marketing income, as it, most importantly, it does not impair the user experience.

Affiliate link redirects, as a rule, do not violate the rules of affiliate programs. However, it’s always better to get abreast of possible consequences before modifying the links. The main problem with a redirect set up through third-party services is that some affiliate programs won’t be able to track the original referrer page.

A 301 redirect can affect the conversion if a person who clicks on the link does not expect to go to an external website, or if the redirect is misconfigured and is carried out with a long delay.

An affiliate link opening in a new tab is the best practice that won’t flame indignation. It will help to improve behavioral factors and such metrics as bounce rate and time on the page. Until the users close the original page themselves, it will remain open in a separate browser tab.

To recap, there is no strict rule for hiding or modifying affiliate links. However, it is better to be guided by your common SEO strategies and apply the same rules for affiliate links as for any other external one.

Wrapping Up

So the main takeaway is that affiliate marketing, at its nature, won’t do much harm to your site performance, unless your website is bursting at the seams with external links. Bear in mind your SEO strategy when placing affiliate links on the website. So here are the rules of thumb if you spotted any side effects:

  • Close affiliate links with nofollow tag.
  • Use link shorteners. These are the life-savers for the sites with links to various domains. By making the links shorter, you can reduce the number of domains.
  • Redirect through your domain. The users won’t cringe at redirection to the external domain if you make it crystal clear for them about forthcoming redirection.