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Affiliate Links May Be Penalized By Search Engines

I need to research this more, but I thought I’d give you a heads up. I just got this information from an affiliate (advertiser) I work with on one of my full WordPress sites:

If it hasn’t happened already, it appears that some of the search engines may start penalizing affiliate links, categorizing them as paid links. This is one of the reasons that [affiliate programs have] decided to make changes to their link structure that was announced today.

According to the news I was given, if you put a “nofollow” relationship attribute in your affiliate links, search engines won’t follow the link, therefore will ignore it, and it won’t be held against you and penalize you. An example would be:

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

I’ll try to dig up more information on this. If you know more, please jump in. I’m still on the road traveling, so Internet access is precious and scarce some days.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen


  1. Posted May 26, 2006 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    The “no follow” technique seems a good idea to deal with this issue. But many affiliate programs do not allow modification of the ad code as per their terms.

  2. Posted May 26, 2006 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    According to my information, the affiliate programs are requesting you make this change manually, or update your links with their new versions, which include the nofollow. Check with your own affiliates to find out what their policy is, or will be, on this subject.

  3. Posted May 26, 2006 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Do you think the Google Adsense referal links will get penalized? They are really affiliate links also.
    Actually, this could be good for publishers. There will be fewer links used to increase page rank of the affiliate advertisers. Sites that provide content and then link to a releted affiliate should be able to do a bit better in search engines.
    I may be way wrong on this though.

  4. Posted May 31, 2006 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t seem clear to me, Google will penalise the page that creates the link or the page that recieves the link? The linker or the linkee, or both?

  5. Posted June 1, 2006 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    I believe that it means it will penalize you for having “paid” links on your site. Not the site linked to. By putting “nofollow” on the link, it instructs the search engine to ignore it. After all, the link credit would go to the linked site, not necessarily to you for linking to their site. And since they are paying you to link to their site, that’s not a very good “recommendation”. Check out a better explanation in this article on how Google ranks websites. I’m traveling so I haven’t had time to do much digging on this, but it’s on my list.

  6. Posted June 2, 2006 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    According to information my brother and others have recieved, many of the big affiliate networking places are switching to javascript links. He was rather stumped as to why they’d do such a crazy thing… you think the two have anything to do with each other?

    I’d like to have a directory based search engine that doesn’t accept submissions from any sites that use advertising, click-throughs, sponsored links, or any type of affiliate networking. I loathe the advertisement driven model of the web today as I find it to be one of the rudimentary reasons it’s all such a mess. But that’s just me.

  7. Posted August 24, 2007 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    With the big hoopla around Text Link Ads moving their site, I guess I am ignorant on this whole affiliate issue and why you have to cloak your link URL’s. I have been trying to understand it. So let me ask this. It’s OK for Google to sell link ads via Adsense? You can put Adsense on your site but you can’t have other paid links or ads on your site without fear of penalty? This is a sincere question. I think that there must be something I am missing. What about Amazon associate program or Auction Ads? Will you get penalized for them? Can someone clear this up for me?

  8. Posted August 24, 2007 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    You will have to ask someone who knows more about advertising on blogs.

  9. Posted May 26, 2008 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    What about meta redirects with a no-follow? I guess Google won’t be able to pick them up.


  10. Posted June 1, 2008 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    @ Ajith Edassery:

    Meta redirects? I don’t understand your question. Can you be a bit more clear about this?

  11. Posted December 11, 2008 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    It is a bit of a conundrum it seems to many.

    Im not so sure google would penalise all across the board for having useful relevant affiliate code on your website. These are not paid links for the purpose of manipulating the search results. That is allll Google is trying to do of course. It wont drop the ‘correct’ results for a name or brand or phrase based just on this, it just wouldnt be sensible for them.

    I have been penalised in the past for being naive and adding several paid links to the home page, they were useful to our visitors sp I thought it was fine but in reality I ‘was’ actually helping the linked to website manipulate things. That is why I was punished, not for the ‘advertising’ per se.

    So basically look at the purpose of not just why you are doing it but also why the linked to website is doing it.

    The most logical thing for google to do is recognise quality affiliate links and simply not pass on any of that page rank to the linked to website. I would imagine that follow or no follow wont really change that detection.

    So, the same general rules apply. If the affilaite link is for a quality site/product and remains in context and is useful for your visitor then dont worry about such things.


  12. Scotty Mack
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I am in the process of adding nofollow attributes to all of my affiliate links. It seems like it is better to be safe than to be sorry!

    Fortunately, this particular site is a new one, although I already have numerous affiliate links on various posts and the process is rather tedious and time consuming.

    I have not set up any Google Adsense on the site at this point because I know for a fact that Google ironically penalizes a site for it. Only after the site is well-established and positioned highly, is it advisable to add AdSense.

  13. Hussam
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Thanks alot,finally i can understand what is the usage of nofollow links,i searched for it because i thought my website was penalized bc of using nofollow links,but now i think its ok!


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