How Google Treats Affiliate Links SEO

How Google Treats Affiliate Links For Search Engine Ranking (rel= “sponsored”)


One of the primary concerns of most Affiliate marketers is dealing with affiliate links from the SEO perspective.

One way to make sure your affiliate site grows and doesn’t get penalized due to affiliate links is by making sure you are adding value to your layer of content. An affiliate site should also be promoted and maintained like any other high-quality site.

I have one Webhosting affiliate site and most of the time, I have 1-2 affiliate links in every blog post. Somehow, with the recent YMYL update, traffic increased and now it’s ranking in the top 10 for many money keywords. Lucky me, but to make sure Google doesn’t penalize me for using affiliate links, I take care of a few things, which I will discuss below after the video.

Now, those who keep an eye on SEO and Google search update must be knowing Google’s engineer:  Matt Cutts.

At a recent, SEM Expo conference, Matt Cutts talked about how Google handles affiliate links and what should we do if we are worried about such affiliate Links.

Though this video is short, after the video read my technique to avoid any SEO penalty due to affiliate links.

As mentioned by Matt in this video, in most cases, Google handles affiliate links without any issue, as they know about the majority of affiliate networks, but if you are still worried, you can add a nofollow link or sponsored link to such money links.

Now, if you are new to the nofollow term, you can refer to our earlier guide on How to add nofollow tag to a link. For adding rel=sponsored link, read on…

In the past 13+ years, I have tried many best WordPress affiliate plugins, and I have found the one that works best in all situations, including handling SEO. There are many paid and available free Affiliate plugins, and one of them is ThirstyAffiliates. You can get detailed information about this plugin in one of my earlier posts:

In the plugin settings, you can add a no-follow attribute to all links cloaked using this plugin, which will help you to stop passing link juice to affiliate links.

2021 update:

In a recent update, the Google search central team has made it clear that “We ask sites participating in affiliate programs to qualify these links with rel=” sponsored”, regardless of whether these links were created manually or dynamically.”

If you are not adding rel= “sponsored” then “our systems might also take algorithmic actions. Both manual and algorithmic actions may affect how we see a site in Search, so it’s good to avoid things that may cause actions, where possible.”

You can read the guidelines here and more about rel=sponsored here.

How to add rel=sponsored to all your affiliate links?

The steps vary based on the different solutions you are using to mask your affiliate links. Here I’m sharing settings for the two most popular affiliate plugins:

Thirsty Affiliates: Adding Rel=sponsored to all links

Head over to Thirsty Affiliates > Settings > Link appearances and search for “Additional rel attribute tags”

Here simply add “sponsored” which will add rel=sponsored to all the affiliate links cloaked using the Thirsty affiliates plugin.

Pretty links:

If you are using Pretty links, head over to Pretty links > Options and enable sponsored.

Using the above method, you will be able to add rel=sponsored to all your old affiliate links and make your blog compliant with the new Google outbound links rule.

Anyhow, I suggest you use any plugin like Thirsty Affiliates or any other to mask your affiliate links, as default links look ugly and might lower down CTR. If you are new to Affiliate marketing, you should start reading:

How do you handle your Affiliate site and which method are you using to take care of SEO of your such money links?





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