Affiliate vs. Natural Links in SEO

Post by Meghan Ryan, Senior SEO Specialist

Affiliate links are directed to branded websites where bloggers are able to receive some kind of financial incentive. Financial incentive varies from network to network, but generally the blogger receives compensation when someone clicks through to the site. These links are tracked and marked as “no-follow,” meaning search engines will not follow the link nor pass any link equity to the receiving page.


Affiliate links don’t have any impact on the search optimization of a website since search engines won’t pass any link equity to the receiving page. Link equity is what boosts a page’s ranking authority and helps the page rank higher for relevant search queries. When a link is marked as “no-follow,” the receiving page sees no link equity and no boosted rank authority.

The purpose behind “no-follow” affiliate links is to separate them from SEO. From a search engine’s point of view, an affiliate link is similar to a paid link, and buying a link for the purpose of affecting page rank is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. In fact, when Matt Cutts was head of the web spam team at Google, he made the following recommendation on affiliate paid links:

“If you’re a site owner, one rule of thumb I’d recommend is that if you’re being directly paid to place a link, that link shouldn’t affect search engines…. The fact is that many affiliate links go through several redirects and don’t flow PageRank, so Google wouldn’t be concerned with such links at all. However, if your affiliate link were a direct static link that passes PageRank and you get paid for even placing that affiliate link on your site whether or not someone clicks on it, that would look pretty close to a paid link to us” (Search Engine Journal).

Affiliate links are a way for brands to get visibility across the web and to boost traffic and conversions. They’re not a way to boost organic ranking. In order to avoid penalties in search engine ranking, brands should ensure that all affiliate links are no-follow either by adding the no-follow tag or by having these links go through a 302 redirect.

To learn more about affiliate links, contact Performics today.

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