How to make sure your affiliate program passes PageRank & SEO benefits

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  • December 12, 2008

Search engines are not quite decided on whether they class affiliate links as paid links or not. If you take the time to set up an affiliate program why not use it to generate thousands of high value links to your product pages?

This post will tell you everything you need to know about maximising the SEO value of your affiliate links.

Easy: Don’t go through a 3rd party

Search engines won’t count your affiliate links if they go via a third party affiliate network. Either go with a network that allows you to use your own links or run the program in house.

Easy: Allow deep links

Most people do this already but it’s important to make sure your affiliates are linking to your product pages not just the homepage.

Harder: Consolidate your links

Most affiliate programs have links like
http://www.site.com/category/product.html?aff=123

This causes duplicate content problems – the way to fix the issue is to set an affiliate cookie and then redirect to the normal product page http://www.site.com/category/product.html

Really clever: Don’t make it look like an affiliate program

Any URL with the parameter aff=123 clearly looks like an affiliate link. Amazon is smart and uses tag= as their parameter. Why not try some of the following as affiliate links?

http://www.site.com/page/123/
http://www.site.com/product-name/page123/
http://www.site.com/blogpost/123/product-name.html

Confuse Google by using a non-standard nomenclature for your parameters.

Really clever: Intelligent use of cookies

Do you name your affiliate cookies affid? Just because Google doesn’t accept cookies doesn’t mean it doesn’t see what cookies are being sent in the header information.

When Google sees an affid cookie being set followed by a 301 redirect to strip out parameters it’s a fair assumption the link is an affiliate link.

Try calling your cookie something random like “visitor” or even cloaking the cookie so that it isn’t sent to search engines.

Super clever: Don’t use URL parameters

A few sites have started tracking based on referrer headers, this gives a clean link and search engines have no way of knowing the links are affiliate links, unless you are stupidly telling everybody about it.

My favourite trick is to use links in the following format:
http://www.site.com/#john
http://www.site.com/product-name.html#steve

Search engines view urls with different # tags as the same page so you can have as many of these as you like without coming across duplicate content issues. The way to handle tracking is to use JavaScript to parse the # tag and use it to populate a hidden form field which is posted to your shopping cart when the “add to cart” button is pressed.

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

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