Linking To Affiliates? Better Nofollow Those Links or Google Will Penalize You

Sep 24, 2009 • 8:47 am | comments (22) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

A Google Webmaster Help thread has one webmaster who runs a home construction resource complaining that his rankings tanked. After some back and forth, Googler, JohnMu came in and said:

I browsed your site's reviews a bit and most of the links are either affiliate links or links to the companies without nofollow. This doesn't seem to match your reply regarding the use of nofollow. Perhaps it would be good to double-check and submit a reconsideration request should you find something that could be improved.

Yes, this webmaster dared to write a review or an article and decided to link to related products within the article, via a straight link, to the affiliate. Google likely automatically found the links, felt the site was abusing their paid link policy and slapped them with a penalty for it.

So, if you have affiliate links that you have not nofollowed, you better nofollow them. If you don't, well, then you join the ranks of sites link the one in the thread or like this site. Yes - before you all comment that we don't nofollow our paid links, I admit it, we don't. I am one of the few bloggers who decided that this blog's sponsors are not just "advertisers" but also extremely related to the site's content and can be useful to ALL of our readers. Hence, I decided to take a hit on this site's PageRank and ranking - to stand tall. Don't get me wrong, I believe this was a smart move by Google, and I totally feel they have every right to do this. Doesn't mean I don't have a choice to take a hit in the Google rankings for it.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Previous story: Yes, Google Is Showing Deeper Sitelinks In Different Formats



09/24/2009 01:00 pm

"most of the links are either affiliate links or links to the companies without nofollow" So does Google dislike links to companies that aren't nofollow?

Barry Schwartz

09/24/2009 01:24 pm

Google dislikes paid links. Even if your link isn't paid, but looks to be paid, they will dislike it.


09/24/2009 01:27 pm

I'm just getting started. If I connect to an affiliate sales page on my blog,...something about nofollow. Could you explain?


09/24/2009 01:34 pm

I don't understand what is nofollow How do you do it?

Martin M

09/24/2009 01:45 pm

I own several vertical business directories. NONE of the links out to the business' websites are nofollow - ALL of the business listings are paid...are you saying I better hurry and add NoFollow to ALL the outgoing links?

Barry Schwartz

09/24/2009 02:25 pm

More details on the nofollow link at


09/24/2009 02:30 pm

So now Google is saying to NoFollow links to all commercial businesses. WOW "I browsed your site's reviews a bit and most of the links are...links to the companies without nofollow"

Ian Miller

09/24/2009 03:31 pm

It might be the punctuation, but I initially read the Googler's reply as seperating the affliate links from "links to the company without nofollow". I didn't read it as equating nofollow requirement (best practice maybe, but not requirement) to affiliate links. Looking at that thread, people highlight how his reviews were basically text link sales and hadn't put nofollow on them. Perhaps he tripped a filter because of the straight links and the aff ones don't help his case by perception of intent, more than whether they're nofollowed.

Michael Martinez

09/24/2009 03:48 pm

The thread is incoherent, filled with gibberish from "Ashley" about "domain farms". However, it looks like the guy was SELLING links and Google nailed him for that (because he had a rate card on one of the sites).


09/24/2009 04:02 pm

After reading through the comments here I see a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. What this refers to is "Affliate" links not normal links to companies or any other page for that matter. Okay an Affiliate Link contains a tracker code at the end of the normal URL. For example, It is the "?af=0001" part that identifies this as an affiliate link. This code will be given to you when you join a website's affiliate program and will tell them when one of their visitors has come from your site (or the page where you post this link code). If that visitor buys something from them they will then pay you a comission. This is why Google will see this type of link as a paid link. So unless you have joined an affiliate program and have this type or similar tracking code included in the links on your blogs, verticle directory pages, or other websites you do not need to use the nofollow feature. If you are using an affilate link then it doesn't really matter if you use nofollow as its the page with your link that you want indexed and found not the sales page you're linking to. However, remember to make your page something that adds value to your readers otherwise you may still get a Google Slap. A review page is perfect providing you do a good job and actually review the product you're linking to. If you want to add nofollow just add rel="nofollow" to your link code after the href="" but before the >. Hope this helps you guys.

David Iwanow

09/24/2009 05:46 pm

It does make sense to generally no follow affilate links, but as you pointed out if you are willing to cope a punishment for the sake of your advertisers they need to understand the extra value and risk. The other side of the issue if you are running affilate programs you have to ensure your affilates are not pushing too many of google's spam buttons.

Michael Martinez

09/24/2009 07:21 pm

Well, Barry, it looks like you've launched a new SEO myth. The sites that were penalized were penalized for selling links. Now we're going to have put up with 2 years of SEO blogs talking about putting nofollow on affiliate links (which is not necessary). This is why the typically bad analysis in the Google Groups so disgusts me. It gets picked up and passed around so quickly.

Drew Stauffer

09/25/2009 01:33 pm

So if you take part in sites like ReviewMe or Sponsored Reviews, do you think Google would automatically see those as bad paid reviews? Obviously, technically your getting paid to write the post so I see that connection, but if you happened to only write posts where you actually used the product and would in most cases write a post anyway...Do you think Google would still slap you with a penalty if you didn't no-follow the link? If you added a disclaimer that said."this was a sponsored post from...." or something along those lines...would that help at all?


09/25/2009 06:03 pm

Did you try to surf the site in question? It's absolutely loaded with advertising and links masked/obscured via javascript. Go to the site, and look at all the crap in green with two lines underneath it... look at all the paid ads... revel in the near vacant content... basically, this is a link-farmer who got dinged.


09/25/2009 08:01 pm

I'm the owner of the website that all of your are speaking about. I'd like to plead my case if you will and share my thoughts. First of all, my site does have ads on it. I won't refute that or feel I should. I'm trying to make a living as most people are. However, I take offense at the idea of bad content. If you actually take the time to read my site and the 800 articles you'd discover it's full of tons of original content on DIY and construction topics. In fact, I run a construction company and I built my own home. The site is full of tutorials, photos, all that stuff. My professional reputation is very strong and companies send me tools to review all the time. I have my crews use them and I write product reviews. I even write ones that say some products arean't any good. Why is it such a crime to offer affiliate links and make money doing that? I don't make much money off my site but it does help pay the bills. Anyone that read the rate card completely would have seen the "NO FOLLOW" that all links receive. I think the "filter / penalty" came from google because of the affiliate links and that seems very unfair to me. I don't have all the answers, just stinks that google thinks they are the only one that should profit from the internet.


10/03/2009 12:13 pm

I'm a bit confused reading all the comments. What is the conclusion here? Is it OK to have many affiliate and paid links if I use rel="nofollow". Or should I limit the number of links at all costs. Thanks.


10/03/2009 04:57 pm

Okay I've just had a look at the site in question. Todd, there is nothing wrong in trying to monetize your websites and content, its the way you go about it. Now I only looked at the first blog post, but if this is typical of all your posts then I'm not suprised you're running into difficulties. I counted 2 adsense widgets (8 links), an amazon widget, a private ad widget, 8 infolink ads in the content and an additional 4 amazon affiliate links also in the content. That's 22 affiliate links on one page. This is way too many and just makes you look like a spammer. Also the content, whilst original and useful, does not support the links and so this would be seen as a thin affiliate site. What I mean by that is you should be writing content about the product you are linking to not just puting an affiliate link in a tutorial with appropriate anchor text. One idea you could try is to write the tutorial or tips article. Now think of a product essential to completing that job and that you are an affiliate for. Now try to identify 4 more of the same product that are made by different brands (if you can get an affiliate link for one or two more of these products all the better). Okay after your tutorial either link to or add at the end a review of these 5 products and at the end of each reviewed product give a link to the page where your readers could buy that product. Only put one link per product and only use a maximum of 3 affilate links in 5. I know there are many courses and ebooks etc out there that are teaching the method that you employed Todd. However many of these are presented by internet marketers who aren't looking to build sites with longevity and just need to ride the honeymoon period and get quick highs during seasonal peaks. Ninja tactics are as the name implies Get In Quick, Hit Fast and Hard, and Get Out as Quickly as Possible Without being Seen.


11/09/2009 10:52 pm

this is a good post. i've been going through my site looking for links i need to nofollow. i'm glad i found this post. Thanks


02/18/2010 02:16 pm

I hadn't thought of this before and you're absolutely right- just hope i'm not too late in adding some nofollow


07/12/2010 03:14 pm

I hadnt even thought about nofollowing the links - I'll have to go through all my sites and nofollow them now. Thanks to BoxFish over at A4U for pointing this out.


12/03/2011 01:57 am

Making affiliate links not to be followed by Google is a revelation to me. Thanks for this input.


03/05/2014 09:36 pm

Truth be told, the only reason why Google penalizes affiliates for using do-follow on affiliate links is that they don't want affiliates be ahead of them with their competitors since Google makes a majority of their money with Google Ads and AdSense.

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