Should you use lots of affiliate links in your website?

The question has always been there whether you are running a website or blog, or if you are an affiliate team manager: how much is too much when it comes to affiliate links?

Obviously, it would be best just for optics to not swamp a blog entry with so many underlines that a user would go cross-eyed reading it, but is there any harm to adding more than one or two?

When it comes to analysing the effect of affiliate links, this is an important point for marketing managers. And it seems Google themselves have an opinion on the matter.

Google’s update

Google is the main centre around digital marketing since it is the number one search engine in the Western world. Therefore, it is at the centre of Search Engine Optimization and is a vital component of affiliate marketing.

The search engine company has recently rolled out a link spam algorithm update in July of this year, which is designed to make algorithms more effective by penalizing sites that are placing untagged affiliate links. Google asks site owners to qualify their links appropriately when they are linking out to other sites. Links that aren’t tagged will be deemed untagged as they aren’t qualified with rel=“sponsored”. This is required whether the links were manually or dynamically. Due to reading between the lines of Google’s announcement for the update, it seems there will be particular emphasis on targeting links from sponsored, guest and affiliate content.

But this update has led digital marketing managers to ask whether too many qualified affiliate links will be considered spam by Google and therefore removed.

Is less more?

Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller is the authority on all things SEO and has recently spoken to clarify some aspects of the new updates.

When asked if there is a limit to how many affiliate links can be added without penalization from Google, Mueller confirmed there is no limit.

“From our side, it’s not that we’re saying that affiliate links are bad or problematic,” he said. “It’s more a matter of, well, you actually need to have some useful content on your page as well. So that’s kind of the angle that we take there.”

“The amount of affiliate links that you have on a site is totally irrelevant. The ratio of links to article length is also totally irrelevant.”

So, it seems the point from Google’s end is that they favour quality over quantity, but there is no reason to remove quality affiliate links. He went on to add that Google will need a reason to show a site in their search results.

Quality content

Qualifying your affiliate link is simple enough, and it is the content that will prompt Google to support it. Mueller added that tagging your affiliate links with rel=“sponsored” will flag your affiliate link as genuine, but more of an attempt to optimise these links would be “wasted effort”.

“But essentially, what we need to find is a reason to show your site in search for users who are looking for something. And that reason is usually not the affiliate link but the actual content that you provide on those pages” he said.

“So, from that point of view, trying to optimize the affiliate links or trying to hide the affiliate links, or whatever you’re trying to do there, I think is almost wasted effort because that’s not what we care about.”

If Google doesn’t consider the content of a site valuable, it won’t rank. This will be the case regardless of if the site has a number of affiliate links or none at all. An example of bad content, according to Mueller, would be a site that simply contains content copied from the retailer’s site.

“What we care about is the content and kind of why we would show your pages in the first place. And if the content of your page is essentially a copy of a description from a retailer’s site, then there’s no reason for us to show your site even if you had no affiliate links.

“So, you really need to first have that reason to be visible in the search results. And then how you monetize your site, or what links you place there, that’s essentially irrelevant.”

Essentially what Mueller is saying is to not put your cart in front of your horse. The point of marketing is to infiltrate what someone is already looking at. If your customer isn’t interested in the content, then they are not going to look at your affiliate link embedded in it.

For more information on managing an affiliate team, you can take a look at our Affiverse guides. Or for a more personalised experience, book a free call with a member of our team for more assistance in this area.

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