Do Affiliate Links Hurt SEO? – Not If You Use Them Right!

do affiliate links hurt seo

Every blogger knows just how fickle Google can be about content, links, page speed… and just about anything, really. Sometimes it seems that sneezing on your keyboard will ruin your SEO.

Since a lot of those bloggers are also affiliate marketers, it’s only natural that they use affiliate links. Which leads us into the subject of the post: do affiliate links hurt SEO?

Like everything Google, there’s a huge difference of opinion. Some say that affiliate links are rank-killers. Others freely drop them in their posts. So which side is right?

The short answer is… the link users. Affiliate links on their own don’t hurt SEO. But there’s a lot more to it than that, you see. At least a few hundred words worth.

I have to rank too, you know!

Google and Affiliate Links


Contrary to popular belief, Google doesn’t look down on affiliate links themselves. What it does look down on, though, is low-quality content.

Hear me out.

Back in 2011, Google rolled out its Panda update, which really did a number on so-called “thin” sites. You know, the sites with tons of ads, almost no quality content, and you guessed it, heaps of affiliate links.

The Panda update made it so that quality content is closer to the top of the search results. That said, it’s obvious why sites filled to the brim with affiliate links (and not much else) are killed off so efficiently. It’s not the use of the links themselves.

Here’s what Google engineer Matt Cutts had to say about affiliate links in an interview at SMX. It’s a little dated, but it’s straight from the horse’s mouth:

As you can see (er, hear), they’re fine with affiliate links.

Still, it is pretty old, and Google changes very often. So here’s an excerpt from a Google Hangout with another Google engineer, John Mueller, in July 2015 (via thesempost.com):

 …if you have affiliate links on a website, that is great, that is not going to be something we would count against a website.

It’s clear that using affiliate links themselves isn’t gonna hurt your rankings. Of course, the links can still hurt you if you misuse them.

How Not to Use Affiliate Links…


By now we know that it’s not the links that cause trouble, but the site that overuses them.

Many beginner bloggers love the idea of monetizing their site, and so they quickly lay out the banner ads, the sidebar… ads, and the affiliate links.

They do this even before they have much traffic to speak of, if they have any at all (you’d be surprised).

Let’s go back to that interview again. Yeah, when it comes to sources, I’m as diverse as corporate America.

…it’s not something where we per se say that an affiliate sites are bad, we just see a lot of bad affiliate sites because they are people who try to find the fast way to publish content on their web, which sometimes being fast is good is also good, but you really also need to make sure you have a really great website where people want to go to your website to get the information that they can’t find anything else.

Mueller is basically saying that the people who rush their site development and post links are the ‘bad’ affiliates.

It’s what I said before the quote. You can’t just write a few short, hundred word posts and call it a day, then begin to monetize your site.

I’ve seen many months-old websites where advertising is everywhere: on the header, in the sidebar, between paragraphs (something I refuse to ever consider)… but the content is thin. Sometimes barely existent in the first place.

Then the owners had the nerve to complain that their “hard work” had been useless!

When you care more about making money than providing value, you won’t make money at all.

So what should you do to avoid this? Don’t add tons of affiliate links on every post and page, and create quality content! This applies even more to newer websites, which really should be focused on growing rather than monetization.

… And How to Use Affiliate Links


Some people would say that it’s better to hold off on even posting affiliate links in the first place, and that you should wait till traffic starts coming in.

I won’t say this is a bad idea. Actually, it’s a great idea if you wanna be safe.

But if you’re careful, you can use affiliate links from the start. The key is to… well, there’s several keys.

Restrain Yourself

Affiliate links shouldn’t be taken lightly. You should only put a couple of links on each post (if the post calls for it).

A good rule I like to follow when I need to use links in a post is to use one at the beginning and one at the end. Never more, sometimes less.

However, I make sure not to include them in every post. Like this one, for example. If every post you write is a sales page, you’re doing it wrong.

Create a Funnel Leading to a “Main” Product

This is something I learned in the training in my #1 Super Program.

Basically, you base most of your promotion around one product. Take a laptop review site for instance.

You could review 50 laptops and include 50 affiliate links across them all…

Or you could use an affiliate link in one of them, and link all the other reviews to it. It would have to be a better product, and a well-made page, but it’s a hugely effective strategy.

The shoestring-budgeted graphical aid explains it perfectly:

sales funnel with affiliate links
One of these is not like the others…

This way, you direct traffic into one area. It means you don’t overuse affiliate links, and you’ll have a better chance to convert your leads.

As your site authority and traffic increases, you’ll be able to add more and more affiliate links.

Provide Value

The best thing you could do to balance out your links is to simply make your site worthy, like Thor is worthy of Mjolnir.

As I said before, content is probably the most important factor that Google uses in its rankings.

If you only care about quick money, it’ll show in your content and the overall look of your site. But if you care about helping people, your content will be a lot more valuable.

Don’t make your whole website a sales page.

Do Conclusions Hurt SEO?


That’s just a witty headline. This is actually the conclusion.

quick buck
It’s punny!

Affiliate links have their uses. It’s how an affiliate marketer makes money, after all. But lot of people miss how important providing value is in affiliate marketing, and try to make a quick buck. You don’t need me to tell you not to do that, right?

Don’t be paranoid and avoid the affiliate links entirely. You need to convert, after all.

But on the other hand, be sure to make your site worthy of its rankings. You really have no choice. Either you make it valuable, or your rampant over-advertising kills your site.

No pressure!

What’s your affiliate link philosophy? Do you use ’em generously? Or are you the cautious type? Leave your thoughts below!

And if you liked the article, please share it on social media!

Your amigo in affiliates,

-Makki

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25 thoughts on “Do Affiliate Links Hurt SEO? – Not If You Use Them Right!

  1. Hello Makki,

    Great topic – I sure can resonate with it, being an affiliate marketer.

    And thanks for clearing that up – that placing affiliate links in posts do NOT hurt SEO. I guess that’s the reason why I still find some of my posts ranked in first few pages of Google.

    I believe the key is not to over-do putting links in your articles. I like your analogy of a laptop site. Promoting 50 laptops doesn’t mean you place 50 affiliate links. That’s inviting trouble!

    Aside from Google though, as we try to build backlinks, I also realize that there are some websites that don’t allow affiliate links altogether. Hmm…avoid those sites, I reckon.

    1. For sure. The links themselves aren’t very harmful. As with everything in life, moderation is key. Unfortunately, I see many “50 link” sites. And most of them aren’t very old either. The pursuit of money is the biggest obstacle to actually earning it.

      Lots of sites block affiliate links. That’s totally understandable. You just gotta be careful where you post them. Thanks for reading Zailinah!

  2. Very informative post! I even took a few notes! Haha!

    I feel like as my site is new, I sort of use them when it feels “natural” to, if that makes sense. For example, I have a few posts on my (very new) that don’t have any links, but I have one that is focused on “starting a Christmas list for your dog early”, so I posted quite a few links! If I’m writing a topic and I end up bringing up a product that I’ve used and really like, I’ll just put the link photo next to the content. This way if the reader thinks “ok cool I’ll use that” they can click on it right there.

    Would you say it’s better to mention the link? (if you want this product click here, type deals) Or would you think it’s better to just talk about the product and then put the link photo next to it?

    Thank you for the amazing information!

    1. Hi Liz! I’m glad you found the article useful.

      You’re definitely on the right track. It’s better to be subtle with the links. Spamming “click here” isn’t a good idea (though it really does work when used right). As long as your content is good, the links shouldn’t be too bad. But I still wouldn’t put more than one or two in a post.

      Personally, I use a call to action like “click here” once in a post. I know many others who use more and aren’t affected by it. It’s just a personal taste. I like subtlety, so just having the link photo beside is good for me. It’s best to try out both and see what works. Hope that helps!

  3. Hi Makki,

    Y’know, this is great advice for ANY form of sales. I’ve been in that field in various forms for about 15 years, and I can tell you that when I genuinely help people and lead with common courtesies, the results come. Why should web work and affiliate marketing be any different? But, just like in all other aspects of life, there are always going to be people lined up who want to jump the process. Even if that blind squirrel does find a nut, it’s almost sure not to last, as they’ve not developed the healthy habits and attitude for sustained success (in my experience and opinion, at least).

    In sales, my best customers have always been those who buy a little bit but keep coming back. Over time, little becomes big. You cannot buy trust, or fast-track the process of earning the benefit of the doubt. You might fool somebody once, but trying to fool the same person over and over again is a recipe for exhaustion. Better to help out, do it right, take the time and build it over time.

    As always, another great article. Keep it up!

    Best wishes,

    Kevin

    1. Very well said as usual Kevin! I know some lucky beginners who make a sale right at the start of their website. Some of them take it as a signal to keep with the over-advertising mindset. This stuff takes time.

      I agree, trust is an important asset for a salesman, and bloggers as well. Once they actually help people out, and make their site user-friendly, they will indeed get the clicks they want so bad. It might be a while, but that’s business.

  4. Good stuff Makki! I am beginning to think that being knocked back by Amazon and a couple other networks may have been a bit of a blessing, I now have to make sure my site and it’s content is of a standard before re applying.

    1. Sometimes you have to make a mistake to learn not to do it again. There’s been times when I knew I was doing something wrong, but I stupidly kept doing it. Of course, once I suffered for it, I learned my lesson. Punishment is a good thing in times like these. Here’s hoping your site rebounds again Stan!

    1. Hi Brenda, that’s a hard question to answer. In my posts, I always aim for a maximum of two to be safe. I’ve used three before though. It all depends on how good your site is overall. I guess more than like, five is stretching it for me. And I make sure not to use affiliate links in every post. That’s important. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Hi Makki,

    I found this quite fascinating. I also use the funnel system to a certain degree but of course there is cases where there is no option BUT to use affiliate links on a post. That said, I like your idea of one at the top and one at the bottom, or waiting until your page is ranked for example. The bottom line, if it’s a quality-content site then I think you are onto a winner. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Exactly Craig. That’s the message I conveyed. Sometimes, you have to use links, and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is overusing them. The best way to prevent them from having negative effects is to keep your content quality high. It’s not rocket science.

  6. VERY good info. As an affiliate marketer myself of several years experience, I would say your article here is BANG ON… ANY budding ‘Internet Entrepreneur’ would be well advised to read this.

  7. Hi Makki, this is great stuff!! I’m new in affiliate marketing so I know very little! I have a question, if I do review of photography equipment, which is like a lot particularly lenses, I provide a link that leads to the specific gear so I have a lot of links in one page! Good thing is, I only do my review on one brand, the only brand I have been using so the laptop diagram above doesn’t quite apply to me. What’s your thoughts on this?

    1. Hi Jennifer! As the article said, having a lot of links won’t hurt you in themselves. It’s your site that will. If your site is new and you’re overloading it with links instead of quality content, you’re gonna be hurt.

      I browsed your site, and I noticed the digital camera review page is not the best idea. If all those links are actually affiliate links, it’s a really bad idea. You have like 100 in there. Plus, the page is too long. It’d be better to do separate reviews instead of having them all on one page.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Hi Makki. Thanks for the wonderful information. I actually wondered if affiliate links hurt website rankings and thanks to you my question is answered.

  9. Hi Makki,
    Nice write out. I see sites with lots of affiliate links and ads and came out high ranking basically because they are trusted sites. But if you have lots of links the search engine ranks you low. Content does matter and traffic to the site is be the key, I think. It does takes skill to write and also creating a good web content with appropriate amount of affiliate links and ads.

    Ian

    1. I know what you mean. Authority is extremely important to Google. It’s why the big sites can have all the popups and affiliate links they want. Especially those terrible clickbait sites. For the little guy, though, caution is of the essence. Just because the big fish can mess around doesn’t mean the small ones can. The best thing to do is to create valuable content.

  10. I am very new to affiliate marketing, and I am just getting started with a couple of sites. I think your post and its thoroughness are very valuable for me. On my product reviews I have sparing on the links, but my latest post is a checklist – so I included more than I usually do. I will revisit the post and my site considering all your advice. Thank you for the insight and all the information.

  11. I agree with your take on Affiliate links. I don’t think they hurt our site, as long as we are building genuine contents that are engaging our audience. In fact I’ve got a couple of pages lurking on page 2-3 of Google Search results. And yes, they have affiliate links in them. After all, the big boys like Amazon won’t be having Affiliate programs if Google is frowning upon affiliate links for no valid reason.

    1. The fact that a company like Amazon has an affiliate program is a great case to make as well. The links aren’t the problem. Poorly-run sites are. Seeing as how you have good rankings so far, you obviously have great content, Kenny. The site looks great too! Thanks for sharing.

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